Neg­a­tive per­sua­sion

Pasatiempo - - Onstage This Week - DaviD Schein­baum — Paul Wei­de­man

David Schein­baum’s per­sonal his­tory of pho­tog­ra­phy starts with his first cam­era (a Ko­dak Brownie 127), pro­ceeds to a 15-year re­la­tion­ship with the em­i­nent pho­tog­ra­phy his­to­rian Beau­mont Ne­whall, and then ad­vances to his cur­rent project doc­u­ment­ing hip-hop cul­ture. He is chair­man of the pho­tog­ra­phy depart­ment at Santa Fe Uni­ver­sity of Art and De­sign and di­rects the Mar­ion Cen­ter for Pho­to­graphic Arts at the school.

Be­fore mov­ing to Santa Fe from Brook­lyn in 1978, Schein­baum taught pho­tog­ra­phy at LaGuardia Com­mu­nity Col­lege and Pace Uni­ver­sity, both in New York City. In his own pho­tog­ra­phy, he was us­ing a view cam­era to cap­ture land­scapes and fin­ish­ing a 35-mil­lime­ter project in Florida; the re­sults of the lat­ter were pub­lished in his 1990 book Mi­ami Beach: Pho­to­graphs of an Amer­i­can Dream. His other books in­clude Bisti (1987), Stone: A Sub­stan­tial Wit­ness (2006), and, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with his wife, pho­tog­ra­pher Janet Russek, Ghost Ranch: Land of Light (1997) and Im­ages in the Heav­ens, Pat­terns on the Earth: The I Ching (2004). Through Schein­baum & Russek Ltd., the cou­ple col­lect and sell fine pho­tog­ra­phy and of­fer con­sult­ing ser­vices.

Schein­baum ini­ti­ated the hip-hop project in 1999. “It’s still hap­pen­ing,” he said. “First it was all 35-mil­lime­ter, black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy, and about two years ago I had a show of that work at the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery at the Smith­so­nian. Then about three years ago, I started also shoot­ing in dig­i­tal, in color — my first dig­i­tal work and my first color work ever. I’m also still drawn to stone. I’ve been to Cam­bo­dia twice, and I’m plan­ning to go back to Easter Is­land in May.”

He does a good amount of globe-trot­ting, but dur­ing the school year, Schein­baum has re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in Santa Fe. He has been a pro­fes­sor at Santa Fe Uni­ver­sity of Art and De­sign (for­merly the Col­lege of Santa Fe) since 1979. He feels good about its re­cent change to a for­profit school run by Lau­re­ate Ed­u­ca­tion, Inc. “In my opin­ion, the col­lege, and specif­i­cally the pho­tog­ra­phy pro­gram, is po­si­tioned to ful­fill the dream so many of us here have worked for,” he said. “It feels like we’re con­tin­u­ing some­thing that was started long ago — for me, 30 years ago — but at the same time there’s a feel­ing that it’s a new school, and we have about 75 in­ter­na­tional stu­dents at the uni­ver­sity now. There’s a dif­fer­ent feel­ing. It’s ex­cit­ing.”

He lauds the school’s pho­tog­ra­phy cur­ricu­lum as “prob­a­bly one of the few com­pre­hen­sive pro­grams left in the coun­try” be­cause it teaches not only dig­i­tal im­age-mak­ing but tra­di­tional, wet-process pho­tog­ra­phy, the his­tory of pho­tog­ra­phy, and gallery and mu­seum stud­ies.

“As much as we’re in the 21st cen­tury and, of course, the stu­dents need to be well-versed in 21st-cen­tury technology, I find again and again that when they learn how to de­velop film and make prints, then move to Pho­to­shop, they go there with an in­creased vo­cab­u­lary and a depth of knowl­edge you don’t get when you start there.

“These are all just tools. Is your end re­sult a news­pa­per page or a wall at the mu­seum? Is it about an ex­hi­bi­tion and some­thing that has to have am­bi­ence and depth and emo­tion, or will it be a reproduction on a screen? Again, the ad­van­tage of learn­ing ev­ery­thing is the ad­van­tage of know­ing which tool is best for what you want to do.

“In my gen­er­a­tion,” Schein­baum said, “it was al­ways, ‘Do you work in color or black and white?’ and ev­ery­one had to align them­selves with Ansel Adams or Eliot Porter or Garry Wino­grand or Henri Cartier-Bres­son and a cer­tain tech­nique. These stu­dents can go out with a view cam­era and shoot a neg­a­tive, then go into the dig­i­tal lab and scan that and make a big ac­etate im­age or go into the non-sil­ver lab and make a 19th-cen­tury emul­sion and print in the sun. They just use it all to do cre­ative work, with­out get­ting hung up on la­bels and cat­e­gories.”

David Schein­baum: Marsh, Abiquiú Lake,

1993, toned and waxed gelatin sil­ver print

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