Portraits, Jesuit-Guaraní Sculptures

Columns, South Wall, Mission San Ignacio Miní, Argentina

Baroque Column Details, South Wall of the Main Church Ruins, Mission San Ignacio Miní, (1632) Argentina.[1a]

After first establishing a mission at San Ignacio Guazú, Paraguay, in 1609, the Society of the Jesuits would go on to build 30 mission settlements called reductions among the Guaraní people in the fertile river valleys of the Parana and Uruguay Rivers, a region today spanning the countries of Southern Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. [1] This isolated region at the edges of the Spanish Colonial Empire,  the Jesuit Province of Paraguay, would become the most successful and controversial collaboration between European colonists and an indigenous people. At extremes, critics view the Jesuit reductions in Paraguay as benevolent, enlightened interaction, a Lost Paradise, or as rigid master-slave exploitations of native populations. Pope John Francis, a Jesuit and Argentinean Pope, recently labeled the Jesuit-Guarani Missions as “the most significant experiences of evangelization and social organization in history.” [2] The French writer Voltaire, who was trained by the Jesuits and traveled in Paraguay said the “Jesuits have indeed made use of religion to deprive the inhabitants of Paraguay of their liberties” and “…those of Paraguay have no slaves to till their lands, or hew their timber, as the Spartans had; but are themselves slaves to the Jesuits.” [3] By all accounts the reductions provided the Guaraní protection from Portuguese slave traders and exploitation from the excesses of Spanish encomieda system. [4] With the exception of a few intact buildings still in use, the reductions in the Jesuit Province remain only as spectacular ruins which only hint at the once vibrant and complex communities.


Sleeping Statue, La Santisima Trinidad de Paraná, Paraguay

Sleeping Statue, Church Nave, La Santisima Trinidad de Paraná, (1706) Paraguay


Operating as an autonomous indigenous state, individual reductions were tightly controlled by the Jesuits as separate communal societies, yet wholly integrated with the Guaraní. The reductions were politically and economically isolated from the neighboring Spanish and Portuguese colonies and here, the Jesuits ruled from a position of moral and intellectual superiority, and approached mission work with the conviction of their moral rightness in protecting Guaraní from the abuses of Spanish and Portuguese colonial practices [5]. The Jesuits supervised the daily life of the mission, ensuring the Guaraní attended mass and worked in the farms and fields. Containing no more than 7000 Guaraní, each reduction was led by only a single Jesuit priest and his companion, and with few exceptions for the exchange trade goods, Europeans where not allowed access within the reductions. Prior to joining the Jesuit reductions, the Guaraní lived in small semi-nomadic communal groups. The Jesuits built upon the Guaraní’s prior communal cultural practice, and worked through Guaraní elites who performed administrative and religious tasks. [6] The Guaraní were required to provide communal labor, approximately 6 hours per day, and they received regularly distributed shares from their contributions of labors. [7] In 1732, the reductions reached their population zenith of 140,000 Guaraní with no more than 100 Jesuits supervising the reduction social experiment. [8] These numbers suggest that the Jesuits gained the respect of the Guarani and relied heavily upon their willing cooperation in all aspects of their daily and religious lives. [9] The reductions were vibrant and successful towns, and here, the Guaraní were taught Jesuit Christian doctrine, as well as reading and writing and trades. The reductions possessed well supplied libraries which housed leading treatises on the arts and architecture. With an intensive focus on education, the reductions became the first fully literate communities in the Americas, publishing the first books in an indigenous language based on grammars and vocabularies compiled by the Jesuits. As a lasting legacy from the Jesuits, the Guaraní language is the majority language of Paraguay, officially given equal importance with Spanish, and taught in every school.



Tourists taking selfies at the Ruins of São Miguel das Missões (St. Michael of the Missions), (1632) San Miquel, Brazil, a UNESCO Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis World Heritage Site. (composite panorama).

When the reduction population peaked in 1732, the Jesuit Province contained over half of the total population of the Rio de La Plata region. With an average population of 4, 700 inhabitants, the reductions were the most populous missions in the Americas. Organized by a uniform grid plan, each reduction was constructed around a central plaza, which held all of the community’s inhabitants and a large cathedral sized church. Surrounding the church and plaza were living quarters, hospitals and workshops. The Guaraní owned their own dwellings and a small plot of land for personal gardens and livestock, and actively participated in shaping the mission communities.  The Jesuits successfully integrated Guaraní economic, political and ritual traditions in the hopes of creating linkages with Catholic teachings. [10]  Each reduction had workshops for the construction of furniture, printing, metal works, traditional crafts, painting and sculpture, however some reductions excelled in specific and highly sought after media and artists and apprentices were actively exchanged between reductions. [11]



Under instruction of the Jesuits, the Guaraní  produced sculpture on a large-scale. The Jesuits used workshops as factories for art for the adornment of the reduction churches and for embedding religious ideas, using images and three dimensional art in support of prayer. Basing teachings on the St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, the arts were central the Jesuits practice of Christianity.  Hundreds of sculptures adorned Jesuit and non-Jesuit churches throughout the Rio de La Plata region. Lacking a tradition in figural art, the Guaraní largely copied European examples, still the Jesuits synthesized Guaraní religion with Christianity and allowed local artists to express Christian ideas according to local customs. With most remaining Jesuit-Guaraní sculpture datable to the 1740’s and 1750’s, these striking examples produced by Guaraní artists encourage maker and viewer to use their imagination in prayer and in life; [12] Jesuit-Guaraní statues are still used liturgically today in religious festivals. Like the mission experiment, Guaraní-Jesuit sculpture is an extraordinary example of the amalgamation of two distinctly different cultures, the Guaraní and the Jesuit Catholicism. Referred to as “Hispano-Guarani Baroque,” [13] the Baroque of the 1600’s is deeply expressed in Guaraní religious art and sculpture. Viewing the sculptures a close range, the physiognomy of Jesuit-Guaraní portraits reflects mixtures of indigenous features and combine Guaraní and Jesuit faces.


Portraits from the Museo Diocesano de Artes Jesuiticas Collection, San Maria Del Feye, Paraguay.


The Jesuits employed art as a vehicle for the transmission of the religious teachings and devotion. [14] The prestige and autonomy of the individual artist was secondary and only the smallest portion of Jesuit-Guaraní sculpture is signed, as not even the Jesuits signed their artworks. [15] Guaraní artists worked in small groups of fewer than 10 under the supervision of a Jesuit, and these Guaraní artists are responsible for the production of the vast majority of the reduction sculpture. Similar to European practice, artists worked on paintings and sculptures based on their individual skill level. With no tradition of wood or stone craving prior to the arrival of the Jesuits, Guaraní artists under the tutelage of the Jesuits demonstrated extra ordinary aptitude for figurative sculpture. Jesuit-Guaraní sculptures as Gauvin Alexander Bailey states were “consistently creative and original” and “possess a formal beauty and spiritual presence that rank them among the great works of world art.” Often carved from a large single block of  wood or stone,  these characteristics are best seen in the examples from the Museu das Missões Collection at the Mission São Miguel das Missões, Brazil (below), sculptures which manifest direct connection to the unique features of the original materials. [16] Equally, Jesuit-Guaraní sculpture as a testament to indigenous creativity and enlightened cooperation and adaptation, rank as one of the most compelling examples of arts education in the history of art.


Portraits from the The Museu das Missões Collection, Mission São Miguel das Missões, Brazil.



Ravaged by war, political jealousies, court intrigues and ongoing epidemics of small poxes and measles, the reductions experienced a severe decline in the 1750’s. Following the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1768 from Paraguay and the New World, the Jesuit-Guaraní social experiment was placed under secular authority. The missions would survive on the initiatives of the Guaraní for another fifty years, however, by 1810 all of the Jesuit-Guaraní reductions were in ruin. Beginning in the 1980’s, government and private organizations undertook efforts to rescue the remaining ruins. Today, the most important ruins exist as UNESCO World Heritage sites, preserved as significant tourist and cultural destinations.


Portraits from the Museo Diocesano de San Ignacio Guazú Collection, San Ignacio Guazú, Paraguay.



David Arnold


Note on the photographs: Two large collections of Jesuit-Guaraní sculptures recovered from the reductions are housed in restored mission buildings at the Museo Diocesano de Artes Jesuiticas, San Maria Del Feye and the Museo Diocesano de San Ignacio Guazú, Paraguay. The Museu das Missões, Mission São Miguel das Missões, Brazil is equally impressive and contains sculptures and artifacts rescued from the ruins. All of the photographs for this article were captured with a Sony A-900 full frame digital camera. All of the portraits of the Jesuit-Guaraní sculptures were taken using a vintage 1960’s era vintage Asahi Takumar F/3.5-55mm connected to the Sony A-900 body with a lens adapter. Given the low light conditions present in the mission museums, all photographs were captured with a high ISO setting of 6400, which produced the very pleasing soft grain texture present in the images. The photographs of the mission ruins were taken with a Tamron F2.8 28-300mm lens with an ISO setting of 250. [17]


Notes / Citations:

[1a] Traveling in the Jesuit Province in late December and early January 2016, my wife Margaret and I were guided by our friends Eduardo and  Pelusa Argüello de Brajkovic of Abratours of Posada, Argentina. Their lifelong knowledge of this region was an invaluable asset of our travels and greatly enhanced our enjoyment and understandings of this fascinating region.

[1] The first reduction was established in 1609. In the linguistic context of the early 1600’s, Reduccione (derived from the Latin reducer) means to bring people together. Hildegard K. Vieregg, Jesuit Reducciones in the Context of UNESCO World Heritage, MUSEOLOGIA E PATRIMÔNIO – vol.I no 82 1 – jul/dez de 2008, p. 1.

[2] Ines San Martin, “Pope praises Jesuit missions in the New World for ending hunger, oppression,” Crux, July, 11, 2015.

[3] Voltarie, quoted in Julia Sarreal, The Guarani and Their Missions, a Socioeconomic History, p. 273.

[4] First enacted in 1512, an encomienda was a grant by the Spanish crown to a colonist for a specific number of Indians living in an area whom they received tribute. In exchange, the colonist was required to educate and protect the Indians under his control. The encomienda system was designed to regulate and protect Indians from enslavement, but in practice, the ecomienda legalize the enslavement of Indians and the appropriation of their lands.

[5] Barbara Anne Ganson, The Guarani Under Spanish Rule in the Rio De la Plata, p. 34.

[6] Guillermo Wilde, “Imagining Guaranis and JesuitsYesterday’s History, Today’s Perspective,” Revista, Harvard Review of Latin America.

[7] Julia Sarreal, The Guarani and Their Missions, a Socioeconomic History, p.4.

[8] Julia Sarreal, The Guarani and Their Missions, a Socioeconomic History, p. 1.; See also Massimo Livi-Bacci and Ernesto J. Maeder, “The Missions of Paraguay: The Demography of an Experiment,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, xxxv:2 (Autumn, 2004), 185–224.

[9] Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Art on the Jesuit Missions in Asia and Latin America, p. 152.

[10] Julia Sarreal, The Guarani and Their Missions, a Socioeconomic History, p. 39, 36.

[11] Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Art on the Jesuit Missions in Asia and Latin America, p. 162.

[12] Kelly Donahue-Wallace, Art and Architecture of Viceregal Latin America, 1521-1821; Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Art on the Jesuit Missions in Asia and Latin America, p. 162.

[13] Josefina Pla, quoted in Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Art on the Jesuit Missions in Asia and Latin America, p. 153.

[14] Ramon Gutierrez and Graciela Maria Vinuales, “The Artistic and Architectural Legacy of the Jesuits in Spanish America,” John W. O’Mailley, S.J. and Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Ed., The Jesuits and the Arts, 1540-1773, p. 297.

[15] Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Art on the Jesuit Missions in Asia and Latin America, p. 161.

[16] Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Art on the Jesuit Missions in Asia and Latin America, p. 163-166.

[17] See Experiments With Digital Noise for an extended discussion of the Sony A-900 Asahi Takumar F/3.5-55mm lens combination.

Statuary Portraits, Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Designed by a French engineer Próspero Catelin, the Recoleta Cemetery is Buenos Aires most compelling tourist attraction. Mirroring the sprawling metropolis outside the large stonewalls of the Recoleta, over 6,400 statues, stone coffins and burial vaults are crammed into the labyrinthine 14-acre cemetery. Opened in 1822, tall concrete, marble and black granite mausoleums in every conceivable architectural style line narrow walkways. Fueled by a dynamic agricultural export market, Argentina became an economic world power during the 19th century. In the 1880’s the Recoleta was redesigned and extended to its current configuration. At this time, Argentina’s political, military and business leaders built large French and Italian inspired homes in the neighborhoods near the cemetery. As a lasting sign of their wealth and influence, Argentina’s elite imported materials and architects from Europe to adorn their massive mausoleums lining the walkways of the Recoleta with stunning funereal sculptures. [1]

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 9.51.51 PM

Google Earth satellite view showing the large, tightly packed mausoleums and the maze of walkways in the Recoleta Cemetery set into the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aries, Argentina. 

Visiting the Recoleta Cemetery in December 2015, I was especially taken with the diversity of artistic styles displayed in Italian and French inspired sculptures. Wandering the narrow walkways through the cemetery on a cool morning, I photographed the life-sized statues guarding at the front, sides and rear and in some cases on the tops of the mausoleums. With over century of exposure to weather and urban pollutants, these haunting sculptures maintain their striking and expressive details.

Photographic techniques control how information is read in photographs. By using a tilt-shift lens, I was able to adjust the focus in the image, and established a hierarchy of focus and attention over the image. I was able to draw attention to the facial detailing of each statue and pull the sculptural portraits from the maze of details in one of the world’s most extravagant burial grounds. The soft focus draws the viewer attention to selective details of these extraordinary statues.



The Sony A900 with the LensBaby Composer Pro with Sweet 35 Optic: The lens is mounted on a ball socket which easily rotates side to side and up and down adjust focus across the image.


David Arnold

[1] Barbara Cansino, Cemetery For the Elite Of Argentina, New York Times, 1.10.1999.
See also: The Recoleta, The Offical English Website of Buenos Aires.
See also: AfterLife, a blog dedicated to the Recoleta Cemetery




Luminances, the Ceramic Portraits of the Recoleta Cemetery, Asunción, Paraguay

Angel, Recoleta Cemetery, Asunción, Paraguay

Photographs possess the remarkable ability to close distances of time and space and bring forward the person, place or thing which stood before the lens. Referred to as “photography’s transparency,” this quality remains photography’s most distinctive feature.[1] In 1843, shortly after the appearance of the first photographs, Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning upon seeing early daguerreotype portraits expressed a longing to possesses

“…a memorial of every being dear to me in the world. It is not merely the likeness, which is precious in such cases – but the association and the sense of nearness involved in the thing…”[2] [3]

Just over hundred years later, the French theatre critics André Bazin would extend Browning:

“The photographic image is the object itself, the object freed from the conditions of time and space that govern it. No matter how fuzzy, distorted, or discolored, no matter how lacking, in documentary value the image may be, it shares, by virtue of the very process of its becoming, the being of the model of which it is the reproduction; it is the model.” Bazin found photography’s capacity to capture “the model” charmingly present in family albums, those “grey or sepia shadows, phantomlike and almost undecipherable” photographs which “embalms time.”[4]

In Camera Lucida, the French theorist Roland Barthes suggests

the “photograph is literally an emanation of the referent. From the real body, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me…I am delighted (or depressed) to know that the thing of the past, by its immediate radiations (its luminances), has really touched the surface which in its turn my gaze will touch…[In this way] the photographed body touches me with its own rays.” [5]

Certainly, a photograph is not as Bazin states “the object itself,” yet, we feel a unique closeness to the subjects of a photograph and even subjects who are strangers  separated by cultures and long distances of time and space.


 Green-Cross. Walkway. Recoleta

Green Cross, Recoleta Cemetery, Asunción, Paraguay

While walking through the sprawling Recoleta Cemetery in Paraguay’s capital city of Asunción, I felt a strong affinity to photography’s distinctive phenomenology—this notion that photographs possess a trace of the subject and these traces or “luminances” which touch the surfaces of those photographed in turn touch us. The Recoleta Cemetery resembles a small city with mausoleums and tombs built in various sizes and architectural styles. With burial records dating back to 1842, the cemetery entombs much of Paraguay’s history. As the final resting place for former presidents, military officers, writers, musicians and leading businessmen, the cemetery mirrors the chaotic development of the city at large, and contains luxurious mausoleums next to neglected and plundered graves.


 Blaces Crosses.Walkway.Recoleta

Black Cross, Recoleta Cemetery, Asunción, Paraguay

In the Recoleta the tombs of the deceased are aligned along narrow walkways and are identified by family name. Many tombs prominently display bronze plaques to identify the deceased and still more are adorned with bronze plagues embedded with ceramic images of the deceased reproduced from family albums. The practice of firing photographs on enamel and glazed surfaces first appeared in the 1850’s. The highly durable and permanent process lent itself the expanding industry of gravestone design.[6] [7] Firing photographs onto ceramic surfaces is an experimental process which creates an exceptionally luminous image with depth and clarity, effectively transferring “luminances” through time and space. Echoing Browning, Bazin and Barthes, the small photographs on the tombs of the Recoleta Cemetery bring the deceased powerfully forward into present moment and touching those who wander the narrow pathways of the Recoleta Cemetery.



David Arnold


[1] Kendall L. Walton, “Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism,” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 11, No. 2, (Dec., 1984), pp. 246-277, The University of Chicago Press
[2] Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from a letter written in 1843, quoted in Patrick Mayard, The Engine of Visualization: Thinking Through Photography, p. 232.
[3] Novelist and critic Susan Sontag quotes the Browning passage her seminal On Photography. Sontag makes the distinction between photographic and painted depictions. She refers to painting as an interpretation of the real and a photograph as a trace of the real. She claims that a barely legible photograph of Shakespeare would be more precious than a Holbein drawing of him. Susan Sontag, On Photography, p.183.
[4] André Bazin, “The Ontology of the Photographic Image.” Hugh Gray Film Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 4. (Summer, 1960), pp. 4-9.
[5]Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, pp. 80-81.
[6] Joy Neighbors, “Faces From the Past, Ceramic Memorial Plagues, A Grave Interest, May 18, 2012.
[7] Woodrow Carpenter, Enamel Photography, from Glass on Metal, Vol. 4, 1985. http://www.enamellers.nl/enamel-photography/. Feb. 2016.



Sunflower Field, Andalucia, Spain

Sunflower Field, Andalucia, Spain (Polaroid Image Transfer)


In the arts and printing, transfer means to convey an image from one surface to another. By merging analog photographic process with digital tools, the Transfers Series experiments with instant film image transfer processes as a departure point to comment upon the concept of change through time.  The multiple processes of the Transfers Series poses questions about place, event, memory and the certainty of photograph processes used in the creation of the image.The Transfer Series juxtaposes objects found and placed within unique landscapes. Offering the viewer multiple readings, Transfers is also suggestive of how we scan a landscape, moving across a scene to areas of special interest.



Each image in the Transfers Series begins as a color transparency. The color transparency is exposed onto a single sheet of instant film, but before the emulsion can fully develop, the negative emulsion is transferred onto moistened watercolor paper. The watercolor paper accepts the moistened emulsion irregularly and unevenly, breaking and tearing, to create a unique positive image.  Each unique positive image is digitally scanned and enlarged, and then merged using image editing software with the original slide used to create the final Transfers image. Selections from of the Transfer Series were first exhibited in 2004. The concepts and processes employed in the Transfer Series remains an area of active interest and experimentation.


David Arnold, June 2015



Stones and Trees



At elevations from 200 to 1200 feet, the Spenceville Wildlife Area in Yuba and Nevada County, California features rolling hills of blue oak and gray pine characteristic of the Sierra Nevada Foothills. Once part of Camp Beale, a massive World War II era training base, the area features numerous creeks, water falls, and from the western extension, stunning views the Central Valley, the Coast Range and the Sutter Buttes. Geologically, the Spenceville Wildlife Area is part of the Smartsville Complex formed on the western edge of the North American continent about 160 million years old.[1] The formation of the Smartsville Complex, named after the historic gold mining town of Smartsville, remains an area of active geological research.[2] Most intriguing, geologists suggest an eastern moving island archipelago originating some 600 miles out into the Pacific Ocean rafted into the North American plate, and forced into the North American Plate, the island archipelago left a long belt of ocean crust on the North American continental slope which would become the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. [3]



Scattered throughout rolling hills of the Sierra Foothills and found in abundance in the rolling oak woodlands of the Spenceville Wildlife Area are eroded remnants of metamorphosed volcanic rocks. Reminiscent of the megaliths found in Britain and northern France, as “the product of undersea volcanoes of 140 million years ago, now upended and changed by mountain-building forces”[4] the largest schists rise out of the thin soil 20 feet into the air. Given their thin and upright shapes, miners referred to these outcroppings of metamorphosed volcanic rock as tombstones.[5] William Phipps Blake, a geologist who surveyed Gold Rush era mining operations in the Mother Lode offers one of the first written accounts the unique rock formations and of the characteristic landscape of the Sierra Foothills:

“On crossing the river [Stanislaus], and rising on the opposite bank, abundance of round, weather-worn masses of basaltic rock were found; they are probably from a dyke or overflow. The old metamorphic or Azoic slates crop out a sort distance beyond. They are talcose and chloritic, and are nearly vertical; standing out in high slabs, arranged in lines like gravestones. They are called grave-stone slates by the miners; and in fact, are the tombstones of the past ages. The road extends nearly at right angles to the trend of these slates, and I traversed a vast thickness. The country is open and undulating, and there are but few trees.”[6]



Beginning in the spring of 2013, I began to photograph grave-stone schists within the Spenceville Wildlife Area, creating large multi-image panoramas with a Panasonic Lumix G-3 micro-thirds camera converted to capture the infra-red spectrum. The Panasonic Lumix G-3 was equipped with a Lens-Baby Tilt-shift adapter mounted to a 20mm Nikon full frame lens. I focused my explorations along the ridge lines atop the first sets of rolling hills overlooking the Central Valley. Here along the ridge lines and west facing slopes, I found unobstructed afternoon sun and the largest clusters of grave-stone schists.  I focused on photographing during the spring months from March through early May, before the onset of the hot summer. In early spring the grasses are vibrant green and the faces of gravestone schists are covered in soft mosses and slouches of lichen, which shift in infra-red capture to the gold tones characteristic of late summer. In this undisturbed pasture land, I found stones and trees in an abundance of sizes and shapes, and occupying this unique landscape in solitude.



The Lensbaby Tilt-shift adapter encouraged experiments with differential focus and as a means to suggest how our eyes scan a landscape. Equally, my experiments with infra-red capture are suggestive of the search into the regions unique geological past, and highlighting the continuing fascination with the “tombstones of the past ages” first noted by William Phipps Blake in his geological reconnaissance into the Sierra Foothills in 1853.

David Arnold, May 2015



[1] Martin Menzies, Douglas Blanchard and Costas Xenophontos, Genesis of the Smartsville Arc-Ophiolite, Sierra Nevada Foothills, California, American Journal of Science, Vol. 280-A, P. 329-344.
[2] Unger presents a good summary of the geological theories concerning the formation of the Smartsville Complex and the Sierra Batholigh: Tanya S. Unger, Mesozoic Plutonism in the central Sierra Nevada Batholith: A review of works on mineralogy and isotopes in relation to models for batholith formation, University of Colorado.
[3]John McPhee, Assembling California, p. 85-98. McPhee presents an engaging retelling of tectonic plate research by Edridge M. Moores.
[4] Mary Hill, The Geology of the Sierra Nevada, p. 170.
[5] The gold, copper and other mineral deposits in Mother Lode region formed as a result the “Cretaceous emplacement of the Sierra Nevada batholith”[2] with erosion producing placer gold deposits in the rivers and streams. Bruce Pauly, Geologic History of the South Yuba River State Park, South Yuba State Park Natural History Guide, University of Californian, Davis.
[6]  William Phipps Blake, Report of a geological reconnaissance in California: made in connection with the expedition to survey routes in California, to connect with the surveys of routes for a railroad from the Mississippi river to the Pacific Ocean, under the command of Lieut. R.S. Williamson, Corps Top. Eng’rs, in 1853United States. Army. Corps of Topographical Engineers, 1858 (p. 254).

Morning Glories: Lumen Print Making

Morning Glories, a series of lumen prints

Lumen print making is one of the most fascinating camera-less photographic processes. Lumen prints begin with silver gelatin photographic papers, the traditional photographic paper used in the making of  black and white prints since the late 1870’s. Silver gelatin photographic papers are conventionally used in a darkroom under safe light conditions. Lumen prints are made by taking sheets of unexposed black-and-white or color photographic paper and placing objects or negatives on top of the paper in the same manner as making a camera-less photogram. Instead of using an enlarger, the lumen print making process takes silver gelatin paper out of the darkroom and into the bright sunlight to produce camera-less photographic images. Being able to move from the darkroom and into the bright sunlight is the most exciting aspect of lumen print making.

To make a lumen print you will need the following materials:

• Any black and white or color photographic paper
• Objects and materials to place on top of the silver gelatin papers (translucent and organic materials add depth and visual interest to a lumen print)
• Contact print frame, contact proofer, picture frame or sheets of plexiglass
• Bright sunlight or strong UV source light
• Film changing bag or large thick black plastic bags to protect exposed prints from further exposure to sunlight
• Scissors, tape, and clear plastic wrap to hold objects onto the paper

Lumen Print Set-ups: silver gelatin paper exposed to full sunlight.


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Lumen Print Making Steps:

1. Prior to taking silver gelatin paper into the sunlight, assemble lumen print materials.
2. In a room with subdued lighting, place photogram materials on top of photographic paper and into a contact frame.
3. Place contact frame in the bright sunlight (time varies from 30 minutes to hours depending on light conditions and paper).
4. When exposure is complete, place paper to light tight bag until ready to scan or fix.
5. Scan your lumen print prior to fixing your lumen print as the colors will shift in the fixing process.
6. Fix your lumen print in photographic paper fixer for 2-4 minutes.
7. Rinse and wash paper for archival requirements.
8. Optional: tone or colorize your lumen print using any silver gelatin print toner or print coloring agents.

Out-of-Date Silver Gelatin Papers.


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Photographic papers are divided into two types: developing out papers and printing out papers. With printing out papers (POP) a photographer places a negative over a sheet of photographic paper and exposed the negative and print to sunlight. The photographer monitors the slow conversion of the silver halide to metallic silver. Once the image reaches the desired density and tone, the paper is fixed to halt further development. No developer is needed with printing out papers. Printing out papers were used extensively in the 19th century and prior to the widespread use of silver gelatin papers.[1]

With developing out papers, such as silver gelatin papers, upon exposure, photosensitive materials capture a latent, invisible image which must be developed-out in a chemical bath to be viewed. These papers require a very short exposure time and require the addition of a developing agent such as Kodak’s Dektol print developer to bring forth the latent image in the developing solution. Lumen prints, a rarely used printing process, relies upon the principle that any photographic paper, if exposed to enough sunlight, will produce an image without a developer. Once fixed, the image is permanent. The lumen printmaking process uses developing out papers as printing out papers to achieve wholly unpredictable results.

Lumen prints work well with old or fogged silver gelatin papers. All of the prints in the Morning Glories Series were created with very old silver gelatin papers: a package of Kodak F-2 Kodabromide with an expiration date of Dec 1, 1947, a package of Oriental Seagull G2 bromide paper, and a package of Ilford Ilfobrom Velvet Lustre, both from the 1980’s. Exposure times in most cases was fell into the one-two hour range in full sunlight.  Each silver gelatin paper used with the Morning Glories Series responded very differently to the same materials and conditions, producing reds, blues and yellows color shades, and again with black and white printing papers. If left unfixed, the ephemeral colors of lumen prints will continue to darken; once fixed, the colors of the lumen print will change significantly, often ripening to rich browns and golden yellows. The results with lumen prints vary with environmental conditions, material selection, exposure times and paper choices. The simplicity of the lumen print making process opens us to the core of photographic process. Each lumen print is a unique photographic event.

©David Arnold



[1]Mark Osterman, “Printing out vs. Developing Out Papers,” Notes on photographs, George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography, Rochester, NY.


Experimenting with Infrared Digital Capture

Using a Lumix G3 Mirrorless Camera for Infrared Capture



David Arnold, MS Aurora Docked on a Dead End Road, 2013.

Constructed in 1955, the MS Aurora was the first ship wholly made in German shipyards following World War II. The MS Aurora began service as a day cruiser named the MV Wappen Von Hamburg, serving the ports of Hamburg, Cuxhaven, Heligoland and Hornum in the North Sea. Later the ship was sold to new owners who converted the ship into a small cruise liner serving the Greek Islands.[1] Since 1960’s, the MV Aurora has gone through 7 name changes with 9 different owners. The current owner, Chris Wilson, purchased the ship since 2005, in bad repair, and has been working to restore the ship. Since being renamed the MS Aurora, the ship has berthed at several locations in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Delta and in San Francisco Bay. In February 2013, a tug towed the MS Aurora from Pier 38 in San Francisco to the ship’s present location at Herman and Helen’s Marina on Little Connection Slough in the San Joaquin Delta, about 10 miles west of Stockton, California.[2][3]


In route to photograph the Venice Ferry, a small cable ferry which crosses the Little Connection Slough, I noticed the MS Aurora hugging the top of the levee. Making the turn in front of Herman and Helen’s Marina, I stopped to take a series of photographs of MS Aurora, berthed beside the road. Gleaming in the late afternoon light, the MS Aurora dominated the landscape. I photographed the MS Aurora with several camera systems but finally settled on using a Lumix G3 converted to infrared capture. I felt that the infrared capture best accentuated the intense visual contrast and the juxtaposition of visual elements which I felt as I approached the ship—the white cruise liner set against the blue sky and empty road was stunning.


Our decisions with what is termed photographic syntax—the decisions we make with equipment and processing, directly influence the look of our images. William Crawford, in his seminal Keepers of the Light, an early history on 19th century photographic processes, first introduced the term photographic syntax. Crawford uses the metaphor of a net to refer to photographic syntax—the shape and size and efficiency of the net allows the fisherman to catch specific types of fish.[4] By extension, our decisions with our equipment and processes allow us to create a specific kind of image. The equipment and processes we select, our photographic syntax, directly influences the work we create. If we make a photograph using an iphone and then use a large format view camera, the images will have a distinctly different look and feel to them.



I used the Lumix G3 to photograph the MS Aurora. The Lumix G3, is equipped with the digital sensor modified to capture the infrared spectrum along with portions of the red spectrum.[5] The Lumix G3, a mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera system (MFT), features a large sensor size in a very compact body with full manual controls, and is equipped with an electronic viewfinder that permits a real time preview of the infrared spectrum in the viewfinder as well as on the rear screen. To photograph the Aurora, I mounted a Lensbaby Tilt Transformer with a Nikon f/2.8 20mm lens attached onto the Lumix G3. The Tilt Transformer is a perspective control adapter made for Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the Lumix G3. Using the Nikon f/2.8 20mm lens with Lumix G3 sensor effectively doubles the focal length, the 20mm lens becomes a near normal 40mm lens in 35mm equivalents.



David Arnold, the Lumix G3, a Lensbaby Tilt Transformer and a Nikon F2.8 20mm lens.


MS Aurora Docked on a Dead End Road is a composite of 9 images, which were later assembled in Adobe Photoshop using photomerge action. Starting at the upper right corner, I captured the scene in a grid pattern, overlapping each section. The scene was first captured with each section in focus, followed by a second set where the lens was titled to optically blur portions of the image.  Composting multiple images permitted me to experiment with creating regions of visual interest in the scene. I’m fascinated with the paradoxes of seeing and in particular the differences between how we view a scene compared with how a camera records a scene. By capturing multiple images with a tilt shift lens, and once composited in Photoshop, I generated different levels of sharpness in the image, and in much the same manner that we might scan the scene with our eyes. Through my use of multiple images, I experimented with a method to create a dynamic visual experience. In addition, I wanted to call attention to how we generate composite or mental pictures of powerful visual experiences. My working methods in creating MS Aurora Docked on a Dead End Road is suggestive of how seeing is a reconstruction of a scene through information supplied by our eyes rather than a matter of recording light as happens with our sensors or with film capture.


David Arnold



Experimenting with a Telephoto Lens

Experimenting with a Telephoto Lens


Depth of field, or the area of acceptable focus within a photograph is influenced by three factors: the aperture of the lens, the subject to camera distance and the focal length of the lens. Our expectations for photographs are that they transparently represent the subject of the photograph. Each of the three components of depth of field offers exciting opportunities for experimentation and with challenging our expectations for a photograph.

Focal length measures the distance from the sensor or film plane to the tip of the lens, which is the distance from the point where light converges on lens to the film plane or sensor. Focal lengths also determine the angle of view of the lens. A telephoto lens reduces the angle of view, or by definition an angle of view less than 15 degrees. A wide-angle lens increases the angle of view of a scene or any lens with an angle of view greater than 55 degrees. Changes in the angle of view with both telephoto and wide-angle lens produce apparent distortions: a wide-angle lens causes objects close to the lens to appear larger than surrounding objects; a telephoto lens makes objects within the scene appear closer, or compressing space, the opposite effect that we see with a wide-angle lens.[1] Wide-angle and telephoto lens are said to distort perspective, however this is a misconception. Perspective is influenced by your relative position or distance from a subject. The choice to use a wide angle or telephoto lens may force you to change your location will influence the perspective of the photograph.[2]



Lumix G3 with Tokina 150-500mm: Shown here is the Tokina 150-500mm f/5.6 SD telephoto lens mounted onto a Lumix G3 Micro Four Thirds format camera. The Tokina is a manual focus telephoto lens. The lens is huge (about 5 pounds and 13 inches long) and is mounted directly on a Bogen tripod head. The Tokina is a highly regarded 3rd party lens which was manufactured between 1986-2000. The Tokina is considered an optically excellent telephoto lens.

Focal length designations vary across camera formats, and have become more complex with the introduction of new formats such as APS and Four Thirds sensors. Focal lengths for a 35mm film camera traditionally have been used to establish the baseline for focal lengths. Focal lengths for each camera format is determined by the diagonal measurement of the camera’s format. In 35mm equivalents, the diagonal for 35mm film or a “full frame” sensor is 50mm. A wide-angle lens therefore is defined as any focal length lower than 50mm, for example a 35mm, a 28mm and the popular 24mm are all considered wide-angle lens. A wide-angle lens provides a wider angle of view than a normal 50 lens. A telephoto lens is defined as any lens longer in focal length than a normal lens, and typically a telephoto lens begins with a focal length of 135mm and longer. Lens focal lengths between 50mm and135mm are considered telephoto lens, but they carry the special designation of a “portrait” lens.[3] Telephoto lenses generate a much smaller area of focus than a normal or wide-angle lens. Wide angle and normal focal length lens appear to shrink objects in the distance relative to objects in the foreground of the photograph, where as telephoto lenses, because of the angle of view will appear to normalize the relative size of objects in a scene compared with human vision [4]



Lumix G3 with Tokina 150-500mm: Shown here is Tokina 150-500mm lens attached to the Lumix G3 using the LensBaby Tilt Shift Transformer adapter. The Tilt-Shift Transformer accepts accepts all Nikon F mount lens and works only with Micro Four Thirds camera and is one of the primary reason I purchased the Lumix G3. With the focal length conversion to the Micro Four Thirds format, the Tokina 150-500mm lens becomes 300-1000mm telephoto lens. As a tilt-shift lens, the Tilt-Shift Transformer also offers perspective control corrections, which are especially useful with the spacial compression issues associated with telephoto lens.[5]


Decisions regarding focal length dramatically influence the representation of subjects within a scene. Long telephotos have traditionally only by wildlife photographers and sports photojournalist, but experiments with depth of field, compression and layering of distant objects and the distortion of scale offer great opportunities for expressive photography. Wide-angle lens have long been the preferred lens choice for landscape photographers, however long lenses, including “super” telephoto lens present opportunities for highlighting graphic relationships in nature.


 DA. Donner Lake, Sierra Nevada, Ca. The Donner Lake photograph was created with the Lumix G3 and the Tokina 150-500mm lenses. The lens was set at f/8. The photograph is a composite of 24 separate photographs taken in a grid pattern from the top to the bottom of the image. The images were assembled in Adobe Photoshop using the photomerge action. By incorporating the shallow depth of field associated with telephoto lens and in particular super telephotos lens like the Tokina, varying degrees of sharpness where generated across the image to create an more dynamic visual experience. The composite of smaller images also generates larger image for print output, the final image size is approximately 25 by 60 inches. 



DA, Barn and Reflection, Yuba Rice Fields, Yuba County, CA. Barn and Reflection, Yuba Rice Fields was created using the same techniques discussed in the Donner Lake image. Again the Tokina 150-500mm lens was attached to the Lumix G3 using the LensBaby Tilt-Shift Transformer. The Tilt-Shift adapter permitted a slight tilt of the camera body forward to compensate for the tendency of buildings to appear as if they are bending backwards.



[1] Henry Horenstein, Russell Hart, Photography, p. 79.

[2] David Falk, Dieter Brill, David Story, Seeing the Light, Optics in Nature, Photography, Color, Vision and Holography, p. 115.

[3] Henry Horenstein, Russell Hart, Photography, p. 83.

[4] David Falk, Dieter Brill, David Story, Seeing the Light, Optics in Nature, Photography, Color, Vision and Holography, p. 115.

[5] Ken Rockwell, Tokina 150-500mm Lens.

See also: Cambridge in Color, “Using a Telephoto Lenses” for an excellent discussion of telephoto lenses.

Digital Brownie


Digital Brownie—Using the Vest Pocket Kodak as an Experimental Lens



DA, the Vest Pocket Kodak doublet lens.
The Shutter is on the upper left, the aperture dial (#2) is on the right,
the shutter setting, T for “timed” and I for “instant” are found on the top.


By introducing a camera that could be taken anywhere, and used by anyone, the Brownie camera series revolutionized photography. Released in 1900, and selling for one dollar, the Brownie introduced the world to not only mass photography, but also to mass marketing.  The Brownie’s “target market” included children and woman, and even the Queen of England, Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII. Alexandra used the Brownie to take portraits of the royal families of Europe before World War I.[1] During the 80 year production run for the Brownie, nearly 100 different camera models were sold under the Brownie name, [2] and Brownies continues to turn up at rummage sales and an active Brownie market runs on eBay attests which attests to the Brownie’s popularity with collectors. The Brownie series is also popular with experimental photographers who adapt the camera to contemporary film stocks. As we will see, the heart of the Brownie, the soft focus meniscus lens, can be adapted to work with interchangeable digital camera bodies.


 DA, The Vest Pocket Kodak, Model B, Autograph model, (note the stylus on the left), serial # 27325, circa 1925.

I recently discovered a Vest Pocket Kodak Model B,  a very popular variant of the Brownie series manufactured from 1925-1934 [3] and recently explored  experimental options with this beautifully designed camera system. Touted by Kodak’s marketing as “You Don’t Carry the Camera, You Wear It”, the Vest Pocket Kodaks were produced from 1916-1934 and sold for as little $7 dollars. The Vest Pocket Kodak was “always ready for the unexpected that is sure to happen.” [4] Designed for use with 127mm roll film, and producing a 4 x 6.5cm negative, the Vest Pocket Model B series featured a simple “Kodak Droblet” lens[5] with a rotary shutter and rotary aperture with four settings. Autographic Vest Pocket Kodak was supplied with a stylus, similar to those found on smart phones, which allowed the user to etch notes onto the paper back of the 127mm.[6] The Vest Pocket Brownie Model B is folds up small enough to fit into a pocket and is a little over an inch thick when folded. [7] Like all folding Brownies, the camera contains a bellows unit, which in the case of the Vest Pocket Brownie completely detaches from the film holder. The detachable lens bellows permits interchanging with contemporary camera bodies. Once the bellows unit is detached from the film bed, the Brownie’s lens can be fitted over the lens opening of any interchangeable digital camera body, and simply held in place with your hand to take photographs with this 88-year-old lens. [8]


The Vest Pocket Brownie bellows unit moves on a track, which guides the lens into the film bed when folded. When detached from the film bed, moving the lens on its track permits focusing of the lens when attached to a digital camera body. The shutter features two settings: “I” for instant or between 1/25th and 1/50th of a second and “T” for timed exposures. Placing the shutter on “T” means the shutter will remain open until manually closed.



DA, the Vest Pocket Kodak, Model B lens/bellows unit removed from the film bed
and place over the lens opening on a Sony A900 full frame (digital). 

Using the Vest Pocket lens/bellows unit on an interchange lens digital camera body is relatively easy. No elaborate modification is necessary, and no damage is done to your highly collectable Vest Pocket or your digital camera body.  Here are steps for converting your Vest Pocket Brownie into an experimental soft focus lens:


1. Remove the lens from the digital body.

2. Set the Vest Pocket lens to “T”; trip the shutter;
turn the rotary aperture ring set the adjust the depth of field

3. Next set the Vest Pocket lens/bellows over the opening for the lens.

4. Set the digital camera on manual and take your first exposure.

5. Depending on your camera model, you may need
to set your digital camera shutter to fire without a lens attached.

6. Use the LCD readout to adjust your shutter speed up or down to dial in your exposure.

7. Good to go!



 Margaret Arnold, DA holding the Vest Pocket Kodak over the lens opening on the Sony A900.
Note that the lens is retracted about half way down the  track to focus the lens.

DA, Bill’s Restored T-Bird, with the Vest Pocket Kodak lens and Sony A900.
The aperture was set at wide open, and note the soft bokeh [9] produced by the lens at the the edges of the frame.
DA, Morning Glory. The Vest Pocket Kodak lens works well as a macro lens.
David Arnold, 7.2.2013

[4] Eastman Kodak Company Advertisement, 1920.

[5] See Charles Edward Kenneth Mees, The Fundamentals of Photography, p.20-32 for a lively discussion of Brownie Camera Lens types.

[8 127mm roll film is still available from Freestyle Photo.biz and from other suppliers including B & H Photo. 35mm roll film cassettes must be modified to work in the Vest Pocket Brownie.

[9] Bokeh refers to the out of focus area of a photograph.


The Experimental Condition


The Experimental Condition is dedicated to presenting new approaches to the medium of photography. Photographic experimentation, the blending of unlikely materials to produce new photographic processes and new photographic devices is a permanent feature in photography’s short history. The tradition of experimentations continues into the present day with computer programs, silicon, and optics and with combining the new photographic processes with old processes. Where once there were no photographs, today photographs inhabit every public and private space so that no place and no event are beyond the reach of photography. Let us hope that the vast quantity of photographs which covers our world underscores as much what we still do not know about the world, and launches new searches into the unknown. The Experimental Condition is dedicated to the magic of photography, found in the combining of new and old processes.

David Arnold



David Arnold, Sand Bar, Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe.

 Sand Bar, Kings Beach, Northshore Lake Tahoe illustrates the principle of merging new process with old process, and that each step is an important link to new discoveries.  The blue/magenta tone in Sand Bar, Kings Beach, Northshore Lake Tahoe was produced by developing out-of-date Fuji Super HG 400, color negative film from the 1990’s, which was developed in Kodak D-76 at full strength, a developer designed for black and white negative film. After scanning the negatives on a Nikon 9000 film scanner, a set of three overlapped images where merged into the panorama format using Photoshop’s “photomerge” action. The Photoshop file was then output using a Epson 4800 printer onto fiber-base ink-jet digital printing paper.

©David Arnold, 2013.