wo amenities come together. Photographic
arts and coffee join forces with their unique super powers to fight
apathy. Chronicle photographer Josh Caldwell’s exhibit of
black-and-white photographs,“Empty,” graciously fills
space on the back wall of A Cup of Joe coffee house. The show runs
from Aug. 1 to Aug. 31.
isn't a photo of the RED stairwell, but rather one of Josh
Caldwell's excellent, intimate and precise photographs on
display at A Cup of Joe.
Caldwell began as an exploring architecture student at the University
of Utah, but soon found he had a strong response to photography
and a precise talent. “When I began shooting, I started noticing
all of the things I was doing in architecture,” Caldwell explains,
understanding his fate.
The minimalist theme to his artwork, he believes, lends space and
quiet to the viewer. “We are always exposed to so many things
at once,” says Caldwell of his goal to infuse pensive simplicity
back into everyday lives.
Arcane imagery projects from the white space. No matter how many
people hum around the coffee shop, these pictures vibrate with the
observances made by the photographer alone. Bare elementary school
walls and pencil sharpeners resonate the fear of being pushed at
recess or being the only one without a jump rope. Soon, the door
will open and you will be found out in the hall without permission.
An image titled, “Bed” depicts perfect crisp linen.
The pillows may have never been used, just watched by an insomniac
too afraid to sleep without a recently deceased lover.
These images relentlessly ask you to define your relation, footprint
and breath on the unmitigated surfaces. Visually, we understand
the sounds of the represented environments.
“Fountain,” a white porcelain drinking fountain on a
white wall, is difficult to represent honestly with black-and-white
film. Caldwell spoke about the importance of reading his photographs
like they would be seen in real life. He is not an illusionist and
the white balancing on “fountain” still causes him some
amount of stress. He tries to be as technically precise as the medium
allows. Much of Caldwell’s work has a high contrast, but that
does not strictly confine him. He will shoot grays and the difficult,
He shoots with 100-speed film and uses a tripod to insure everything
in the frame is as sharply as possible. The shutter speed varies
as much as from one second to an indulgent five seconds.
Each piece is evenly spaced at roughly the width of the frame. The
methodical images are all square, hung in simple, white rectangle
mats. The frames are 16 inches by 20 inches. Caldwell finds that
this contrast of shapes adds to the gallery appeal, instead of putting
the square images in square panes. He did all of the framing and
matting himself. If he sold all of his pieces, he might just barely
break even for material costs.
“I would rather make my photography available than make a
profit,” Caldwell says. This illustrates an attitude that
keeps most artists out of business school.
Caldwell explains he started shooting 35-mm with a vertical addiction.
(Most photographers feel more comfortable shooting horizontally.)
As his luck would have it, he found a 20-year-old cubish Mamiya
C330. The twin lens reflex camera shoots film that is 2.25 inches
by 2.25 inches square negatives. He prefers to print full frame,
allowing just a little room for the mat. The photographer’s
esteem comes from planning the perfect shot and capturing the image
without needing to crop it.
The photos in the show are particularly archival. He uses Illford
fiber-based paper, which lends to the softness of the images because
it is not covered by a high-gloss plastic coat so it appears almost
semi-glossy. The matte board is a type of cotton called rag mat.
All of the adhesive for mounting and taping is also time durable.
He finishes his prints with Selenium tone, which keeps the color
from fading, especially in areas where there is a lot of sulfur
in the air.
This particular exhibit shows his obsessive love of right angles.
“I print with the edges in mind.” Caldwell chuckles
a little nervously as if he is realizing his OCD traits for the
first time. “The lines have to run parallel to the edges.”
Caldwell pushes himself in and out of his structured limitations.
His work as a photo journalist for RED and The Chronicle has been
no exception. He can shoot horizontally or vertically with majestic
results. He is a comfortable, laid-back person, but I will bet all
of the books on his bookshelves are unrealistically straight.