Interview with Troy Paiva: Night Photography Show at 111 Minna Gallery

 Troy Paiva - Planet Claire (2014)

Troy Paiva - Planet Claire (2014)

Troy Paiva has been photographing abandoned places under the light of the full moon since 1989. The colorful light painting style featured on his website Lost America has been highly influential. Troy and I have been friends since 2005. He’s having a big art show next month at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco. Twenty-nine of Troy's night photos will be on display in sizes up to 6 feet wide. If you're in the Bay Area, don't miss it!

The opening party is on Friday, March 4th from 5pm-11pm. The photos will be up through March 26th. The show will feature work from Troy’s 25-year night photography career, as well as work by photographer Peter Samuels. In the following interview, Troy and I discuss the details of preparing for the show at 111 Minna Gallery.

Getting a Gallery Show

Joe: How did you get the show at 111 Minna Gallery? Did you have a connection introduce you, or was it just old-fashioned self-promotion? Did you show them a print portfolio in person, or just send them work online?

Troy: 100% self promotion. I contacted them in late ’14. This was coming off my successful appearance in a summer group show at Heist Gallery in Kensington, London, where they sold everything I gave them: four 14"x22" archival inkjets I had left over from that show we did at the University of Kentucky. They sold for $1100 each, unframed. They told me “Hit of the show, coulda sold more, we want to give you a big show” etc. So I was also in the throes of preparing a big solo show at Heist.

I was feeling pretty confident when I sent 111 Minna curator Micah LeBrun that e-mail. He gave me a show on the spot, based solely on my work online. Unfortunately, the next open slot was 14 months away! But when he said “I never give anyone a show on the day they first contact me!” I knew he believed in the work.

I dreaded the day in the spring of ’15 when I had to tell Micah that the Heist solo show had vaporized, but he’s been relentlessly upbeat and positive that this show is going to be something totally unique. 

Photography Portfolio

Joe: Do you have a print portfolio to show curators? What size are the prints, and how is the portfolio put together? What do you use for leave-behinds?

Troy: Ha, no I don’t have any of that stuff. I use the online profiles and websites to break the ice.  Prints come later.

Up to this point, I’ve never really done any self promotion to galleries.  Selling prints is not something I’ve ever really pursued directly. Until I accidentally fell into the Heist show, I had no idea that I could sell prints for prices like that.  

If this show does well, I’ll parlay that success into something else and grow it that way. But I doubt I’ll ever really promote myself in a traditional manner, do cattle call reviews and all that.

 Troy Paiva - Second Floor Landing (2007)

Troy Paiva - Second Floor Landing (2007)

Editing for a Photography Show

Joe: How on earth do you whittle down 25 years worth of photographing abandoned places at night into 29 prints? Are there particular themes or locations, or is it a sampling of everything? What was the editing process like? Did you make any test prints or just look at images on the computer? How much input did the gallery have into the selections?

Troy: Yeah, it was a long, difficult process. It took months. As curator, Micah wanted a lot of input. I had to resist of some of his choices on technical grounds, but was careful to choose my battles: one of the reasons for my fail with the Heist show was that I flat refused to agree to some of their selections. So I was much more diplomatic and willing to compromise this time.

We both agreed that doing an overview of my career was the right approach to introduce my work to his customers. The earliest image is from 1992, the most recent was shot last fall and inserted into the show as a last minute change when one image wasn’t printing well.

Micah really wanted to feature super bright and colorfully lit work. There are no straight moonlight shots in this show. I know there are images in this show that are going to make long-time followers say “Really? That one?” but there are plenty of others that are known favorites, and things I’ve successfully shown before. The two 6 foot prints are images shot in early 2015 that I’ve never shown publicly before.

Micah started by combing my Flickr stream, which is the one place where you can see every single night image I’ve put online since 2005. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, it’s all there. I also sent him a stack of about fifty 4"x6" test prints, done on the metallic paper I planned to use.

He compiled a list of about 50, some from the 4x6s, some from Flickr and my website. After still more test prints, lots of lobbying and compromise on both sides we culled to this show near the end of 2015.

 Troy Paiva - Bobby Peru's Room (2013)

Troy Paiva - Bobby Peru's Room (2013)

Printing Night Photography

Joe: What kind of paper/process are you using for printing? What lab? How many different sizes are you printing? Are you doing smaller test prints before ordering the larger prints? Did you experiment with other labs or types of paper? Are you happy with how well the color and tone matches your monitor?

Troy: Printing my work has always been really hard. I use colors that don’t exist in the CMYK universe and I’ve seen some horrible reproductions of my work over the decades. I used to love the pearly Cibachromes back in the film era, but that costly and toxic process disappeared 15, 20 years ago. I didn’t print much until around 2009, when I found a maker of archival fine art giclee editions of paintings who made beautiful rag-paper prints of some of my work. But the color gamut, especially in the purples, just wasn’t there.

This show is printed on Kodak Endura Metallic. The color gamut of this paper is the largest I’ve ever seen, cleanly reproducing super the intense reds and purples in my light painting. The metallic finish gives the prints a pearlescent quality reminiscent of the old Cibas. Under direct light the color screams off the walls.

This is one of the reasons why now is the time for this big show: I’ve finally found a printing process that can actually reproduce what my work looks like on an LCD screen.

I’m using WHCC for printing. I’ve used them off and on for years.  But I wanted to do this right, so I ran some tests last summer, sending the same images to about 6 different labs and seeing what I got back. The best looking 2 were WHCC and another lab, but the other lab fell down on customer service. If there’s a problem, WHCC fixes it immediately.

 Troy Paiva - Mac's Red Nose (2011)

Troy Paiva - Mac's Red Nose (2011)

Framing Your Photos

Joe: How are you presenting each size of print -- are you framing the prints or mounting them? Is the lab doing this work, or a custom frame shop? Are you working with a standard size so this work can be re-used in a future show?

Troy: They are framed. Black wood, about an inch. No mattes. The images are all dry-mounted to gatorboard for rigidity.

I’m using a custom framer in San Francisco, Dave Fallis, who was recommended by Micah at 111 Minna. Dave’s work is super clean and very reasonably priced.

Yes, all the work in this show is printed to standard paper sizes, mostly various extrapolations of the 4x6 aspect ratio. There will be a salon-wall cluster of 8"x12" prints, mostly of ancient film work, and groups of 16"x24" and 24"x36" prints. There are a couple of 36" wide prints in panorama format, as well at the two 4x6 footers.

Print Pricing and Editions

Joe: How did you arrive at the pricing for the prints. Has your previous success moving into a higher price bracket affected your online print sales? What kind of editions are you using for each size of work. 

Troy: I followed Micah’s lead on pricing and editions, factoring in the production costs: 

8" x 12" - edition of 10 @ $300
16" x 24" - edition of 10 @ $800
24" x 36" - edition of 8 @ $1,250
48" x 72"- edition of 6 @ $5,000

Each image will be available in multiple sizes. My online sales have always been flat. But again, I haven't really pursued these type of sales - I usually just print when people ask me to. This show is for the collectors market, not casual online viewers.

 Troy Paiva - Postmarked By The Moon (2012)

Troy Paiva - Postmarked By The Moon (2012)

Marketing an Art Show

Joe: Besides the web and social media, are you doing anything special to promote the show? 

Troy: I’ve called in all my favors, tried to throw water on all those burning bridges, etc.  I think pretty much everyone I’ve ever met has heard about this by now. The press releases have gone out. It’s really up to the gallery to bring the buyers, and I know they have a strong, large database and solid media connections. 

Atmosphere

Joe: I’m getting my cumberbund pressed so I look sharp for the show. Anything special we should know about the atmosphere. Will there be a DJ playing jazz-rock fusion? There’s going to be lots of beer, right?

Troy: I just picked up a stack of promo postcards yesterday and the music is listed as “DJ Bald Elvis”, so maybe we’ll get some Dread Zeppelin, I dunno. The place is a bar, expect to buy drinks, don’t bring the kids, it’s gonna be a party!

What's Next

Joe: What’s next for you in 2016. Any special travel plans or shoots coming up?

Troy: I’ve basically taken the winter off from shooting. Virtually every nickel I have, all my focus, is going into this show. Again, the future’s all kinda hinged on this show. How, what and where I shoot in the future is TBD.

Joe: Thanks for taking the time to talk about the show. I hope everything goes well and I'll see you there!


Troy Paiva & Peter Samuels
Opening Reception on Friday, March 4th, from 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
On display through March 26, 2016

111 Minna Gallery
111 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Monday - Friday 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. | 21+
Happy Hour from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Facebook Event Page

 
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Pier 24: About Face Portrait Photography Exhibit Time-Lapse

Pier 24 is a free photography museum in San Francisco, and one of the premier venues for viewing fine art photography. This time-lapse of the current About Face exhibition shows some of the almost 1000 portraits on display. The photos range from 19th century to current. The video condenses a 2 hour gallery visit down to a little over 3 minutes. Book your own appointment to see this show on the Pier 24 website.

The time-lapse was created using a GoPro HD Hero worn around my neck on a shoestring and set to take one photo every 2 seconds. The almost 3000 resulting images were processed in Adobe Lightroom. I used the virtual copy feature to make duplicate frames of the photos that I wanted to pause on. Then I exported the images at a smaller size, which created extra jpg files to alter timing of the video.

Next I used QuickTime Pro to assemble the images into a video at 12fps. The titles and music were added in iMovie. The song is "Loss" by A Certain Ratio. From about 41-48 seconds the camera freaked out due to the lighting, or possibly because of the powerful wall of Lee Friedlander photos. What an amazing show.

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UK Rasdall Gallery Show: The Highway - A Lost Culture

Something very large fell from the sky (like a safe in a cartoon) -- by Joe Reifer
Something very large fell from the sky (like a safe in a cartoon) -- by Joe Reifer

The University of Kentucky Student Activities Board (UKSAB) contacted me last year about participating in a photography show themed around lonely roadside scenes at night. I invited my ol' chum Troy Paiva along for the ride, and our night photography show runs from March 29 - April 19, 2012 at the University of Kentucky's Rasdall Gallery. The show is called The Highway: A Lost Culture. We're both showing ten 14" x 21" prints in 24" x 30" frames. Unfortunately, due to our busy work and teaching schedules we'll be unable to attend the opening. If you're within an easy drive of Lexington, Kentucky, check out the exhibit. And thanks to the wonderful folks at the UKSAB for making it all happen!

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Epson R3000, Canon Pro9500 Mark II, Canson Rag Photographique

Epson R3000
Epson R3000

From 2007-2011 I had access to a Lightjet printer at my job. The Lightjet uses a color darkroom process that exposes the paper with RGB lasers, and then runs through color chemistry. The resulting continuous tone prints are very high quality, but the equipment can be hard to calibrate consistently and the paper options are limited. During my last year of enjoying the use of an on-site lab, I was also able to print on a Canon IPF 8100 inkjet printer. I was extremely impressed with the Canon's dynamic range, consistency of color, and on-the-fly profile conversion. We tested a lot of different media, and decided on primarily using the Canson papers.

Canon Pro9500 Mark II
Canon Pro9500 Mark II

Epson R3000 vs. Canon Pro9500 Mark II

After I changed jobs I wanted to get a 13" inkjet printer for making my standard 12" x 18" prints at home. I narrowed the choices down to the Epson R3000 vs. the Canon Pro9500 Mark II. I didn't consider the Canon Pro9000 Mark II (currently $199 after rebate) because it uses dye-based inks instead of the more archival pigment inks. The Epson R3000 is currently $599 after the $200 rebate (although the rebate was $300 last year). The Canon Pro9500 Mark II is currently $399 after rebate. I ruled out the Epson R2880 because the R3000 was only $50 more at the time that I made my purchase.

Canson has ICC paper profiles available for both printers. I ended up going with the Epson R3000 because I've been using Epson printers for years, the droplet size is 2 picoliters to the Canon's 3 picoliters, the R3000 can work over wifi, and there are generally more paper profiles available for Epson. I can also make small test prints at home on my R3000, and then rent time on an Epson 11880 printer at Rayko Photo in San Francisco (although they also have a Canon IPF 8300).

Canson Rag Photographique 310
Canson Rag Photographique 310

Canson Rag Photographique 310

Before I discovered Canson paper, I occasionally enjoyed printing on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308. The Hahnemühle features very rich blacks, but the transition from the shadow details into the blacks can block up when printing night photos. And on some images the paper had a bit too much texture for my liking. I did a test print with Gallery Street in Atlanta on the Breathing Color Elegance paper that my friend Troy Paiva uses. The dynamic range looked better than the Hahnemühle, and the colors were superb. However, the Elegance also has a noticeable texture, and I wanted a paper with a smoother surface.

Enter the Canson Rag Photographique 310. The RP 310 has a similar weight and dynamic range as the Elegance, but with a much smoother surface. Plus saying Photographique all of the time is fun. I downloaded the RP 310 ICC profile from Canson's site, and made some test prints directly from Lightroom. The results have been amazingly close in tone and color to my profiled monitor.

Remember these words of wisdom if your prints match your monitor -- don't touch anything!

I'm currently printing for a show in April (more details on that soon). Stay tuned for a fun, affordable print offer within the next few weeks.

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Night Photography Gallery Exhibit: Mare Island Nocturnes

Mare Island Naval Shipyard: Home of The Nocturnes -- by Tim Baskerville
Mare Island Naval Shipyard: Home of The Nocturnes -- by Tim Baskerville

Mare Island Nocturnes August 3 - September 15, 2011 Mare Island Historic Park Foundation Museum Located between 8th & 9th on Railroad Avenue, Mare Island [Google Map] Reception: Sunday August 14 from 2 to 4 p.m.

The Nocturnes is an organization dedicated to the art of night photography. This exhibit of fine art photography is part of the year-long celebration of their 20th anniversary. Mare Island Nocturnes features long exposure night images by photographers from all over the Bay Area. A portion of proceeds from print sales benefits the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation and its preservation, education, and outreach programs.

Museum Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the 1st and 3rd full weekends of the month.

Exhibiting Artists Harvey Abernathey Tim Baskerville Mike Browne Tamara Danoyan David Dasinger Andy Frazer Lenny Greenwald Alan Grinberg Ed Hamilton Amy Heiden Steve Jackson Kim Kulish G Dan Mitchell Shawn Peterson Joe Reifer Deb Rourke Greta/Manu Schnetzler Marla Showfer Richard Stough Cassandra Wright

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Pier 24 Photography Exhibit Time-Lapse

This time-lapse documents a 2-hour visit to Pier 24 in San Francisco to see the Here exhibit that features over 700 photographs of the Bay Area. Visiting Pier 24 is free, but you need to make an appointment online a few weeks in advance.

Time-lapse technical details: Still photography is allowed inside Pier 24, you just can't use a flash. I asked permission before making this time-lapse. I used the string from a sweatshirt to hang a GoPro HD camera around my neck (Flavor Flav style). The camera took a photo every 5 seconds. The time-lapse was assembled at 6fps in Quicktime 7 Pro. Titles and music were added in iMovie. As the show is Bay Area focused and has suburban themes, I thought music by The Residents would be appropriate.

I hope you enjoy the time-lapse tour, and that you are inspired to book a 2 hour time slot to visit Pier 24!

Update: Thanks to Blake Andrews for spreading the word about my tour of Pier 24.

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23 epiphanies: Ramblings on artistic influences

Power plant accoutrements -- by Joe Reifer
Power plant accoutrements -- by Joe Reifer

My presentation at last week's Mono Lake Night Photography Festival was about the value of cultivating a diverse set of artistic influences. You are already doing this informally. The idea is to talk or write about your artistic input, as a playground for better understanding how these things are influencing your artistic output.

I had 45 minutes to talk, and spent just under 2 minutes talking about how each of these artists has influenced my night photography. As the presentation was both fast and media intensive, I've reproduced the list of artists below for those who attended the conference.

I encourage you to make your own list of influences. This could be a desert island list of your favorite films, photography books, novels, museum exhibits, dance performances -- whatever you're into. Making a list is the first step -- the epiphanies are born out of process of articulating why you love this work, and how the work has influenced you. The writing doesn't have to be lengthy -- start with one sentence for the why, and one for the how. Have fun, and feel free to share your list.

  1. Gordon Matta-Clark: Conical Intersect [video on UbuWeb] [photos & bio on artnet]
  2. John Divola: Vandalism Series [photos on divola.com]
  3. Roger Ballen: Outland | Shadow Chamber | Boarding House
  4. John Pfahl: Altered Landscapes
  5. Draw on your image: To be discussed in a future blog post
  6. Gaspar Noe: Enter the Void [Netflix]
  7. Matthew Barney: Cremaster Cycle
  8. Werner Herzog: Of Walking In Ice
  9. Mark Rothko: Rothko's Rooms[Netflix]
  10. William Vollmann: Imperial
  11. Michelangelo Antonioni: Red Desert [Netflix]
  12. David T. Hanson: Waste Land
  13. Flotation Tanks
  14. Haruki Murakami: A Wild Sheep Chase
  15. Ikeda Carlotta: Butoh Dance
  16. Yasujiro Ozu: Tokyo Story [Netflix]
  17. Master Musicians of Jajouka: Apocalypse Across the Sky | Pipes of Pan
  18. Lotte Reiniger: The Adventures of Prince Achmed [Netflix]
  19. Caspar David Friedrich [friendsofart.net]
  20. John Hind: Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight
  21. Chris Verene: Family | Chris Verene
  22. Jacques Tati: Playtime
  23. Erik Kessels: In Almost Every Picture #9 Black Dog

Note: Book and movie links go to Amazon, and help put a few extra pennies into the epiphany research jar.

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