An Imax digital film documenting world renowned photographers Michael A. Smith & Paula Chamlee's photographic expedition to Iceland.
I first met Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee in 1990 at a benefit auction for the Houston Center for Photography. I was there as a bidder. They were there as donors of their photographs. They were on their way west, the start of their first photographic expedition together. For many years Michael had made these yearly trips solo–six months on the road followed by six months back home in the darkroom, developing the negatives and making contact prints from his trip and fulfilling orders made by the many patrons he would stop and see during his travels.
But this year was very different. He had met and wed Paula, the love of his life, and together they had packed up their “Woodstock” style, firehouse-pickup-truck/camper with all their survival needs along with their cameras and headed west together on a honeymoon photographic expedition.
Since that time Smith and Chamlee have become a rare photographic couple who have established their singular and collective vision in most every major photographic collection and art museum in the world. It is safe to say that their methods are so unique that they are almost impossible to duplicate by any living photographer today. They are the last of the last.
They photograph with view cameras ranging in size from 8x10 and 8x20 to the mammoth plate 18x22—Michael’s specialty being the 8x20 and Paula’s the 8x10. They photograph on Super XX, a film manufactured by Eastman Kodak that was discontinued in 1994. At that time they purchased the world’s remaining supply from Kodak, had it cut to all their sizes and built a walk-in freezer to house the huge inventory. Later as Kodak discontinued the Azo paper they use to contact print their images, they purchased all that remained and also sourced a supplier in Europe to manufacture the paper specifically to their needs. After more than five years of research and development, they were able to offer that same paper for sale to photographers worldwide, a feat they were told was impossible.
The net effect of this attention to detail regarding their materials is a photographic print, so tonally varied from the deepest shadow details through the highlights, that it cannot be duplicated by any other means.
Since that time they have continued to expand their reach to document a world beyond the American West for which they have been widely known, to include several trips to Tuscany and to Iceland. The result of these trips is not only their fine silver prints for exhibitions and collections, but also high-quality books of their photographs printed by the finest printers. Personally supervising each printing, the standards that they demand from their printers are exceptional, with that same exacting quest for deep shadow detail, rich blacks, and crisp detailed highlights that exist in their prints. These books are at the limit of print technology, using a unique combination of high-end pre-press technology, modified inks and presses and carefully selected papers—no easy task.
Michael A. Smith’s photographs have been collected by over 125 art museums. His commitment to the medium has resulted in over 200 exhibitions, including a twenty-five year retrospective at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in 1992. Smith has twice received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and he has been the recipient of major commissions to photograph five American cities. In 1981, the first of his five books, Landscapes 1975–1979, was awarded Le Grand Prix du Livre at the Rencontres Internationale de la Photographie in Arles, France. He is currently working on two books—landscape photographs from Iceland, and a series of portraits made in Sheriff Joe’s 4th Avenue Jail in Phoenix, Arizona.
After beginning a career as a painter, Paula Chamlee discovered photography and quickly found direct involvement with the world outside the studio to be irresistible. Her photographs have been widely exhibited and can be found in over thirty-five museum collections and innumerable private collections. Chamlee has been the recipient of several grants, including one from the Leeway Foundation for “Excellence in Photography.” Of the second of her six books, High Plains Farm, one critic it “one of the genuinely significant contributions to photography and landscape study in many a year,” while another described it as “epic in its vision and intimate in its humanity.” Currently, Chamlee is working on a book of her photographs from Iceland, a series of the Texas Panhandle from the air, multi-screen-projection videos, filmed in Iceland, and is also back in the studio drawing and painting again.
As one who has been a photographic collector for many years, and who has had works in my collection by such names as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Imogene Cunningham, Walker Evans, Arnold Newman and Margaret Bourke-White, among others, I am in a position to say with some authority that the works of Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee are without equal.
While both Smith’s and Chamlee’s photographs are technically outstanding, their respective visions reveal their connection to the broader rhythms of life and are the reason their work connects to a broad audience. They have a shared aesthetic but they each approach their subject with a very different vision, in such a way that even when photographing the same scene, the result is quite different and speaks to different sensibilities in the viewer.
Although their views are socially and environmentally conscious, this dimension to their work is neither the focus, nor the motivation for, nor an influence for the selection of the images, but one of the many subjective results a viewer may draw from the objective presentation of the subject, which for each of them is but a form upon which to hang their higher purpose.
Above 2 photos by Michael A. Smith
To that end, what we are about to undertake is to document their next trip to Iceland by filming them for a digital IMAX presentation using multiple RED Epic cameras, capturing their working methods with the only state of the art digital camera that can reproduce more tonal range than current color films.
The documentary will focus on these two renouned photographers who have been going about their singular mission for years, creating a legacy of lasting images, taking their experience beyond expensive photographic art and limited edition books to a wider audience, whose interest and values reflect those embraced by these two remarkable, romantic adventurers.
Funds will be used for expenses relating to production that include travel and shipping, crew salaries, equipment rentals, vehicle rentals, hotels, meals and airfares for a month long expedition to Iceland and for periodic shoots in Pennsylvania at their home and darkrooms.
In the early 20th century Edward Sheriff Curtis realized that the American Indian was in a critical transition and that their way of life would soon cease to exist.
Photo by Edward Sheriff Curtis
He made it his mission to document the various tribes and published books and prints documenting their cultures.The published works were sold to backers on a subscription basis. Today, those rare collections are a priceless and lasting legacy of a time long gone. As we face the next century, global warming threatens our planet and unique areas such as Iceland may become just a memory. Michael and Paula are engaged in documenting this rare and beautiful landscape in all its richness and preserving its memory for generations to come. This is your opportunity to help support their mission and bring it to a wider audience and to receive as one of many thank-yous an original print of Iceland, a lasting investment in a museum quality image that will grow in value over the coming years.
To properly document the rich detail of their work and the complex landscape of Iceland we will use multiple RED Epic cameras and the finished film will be available to museums and IMAX theaters to complement their exhibitions in a variety of HD deliverables as well as in DVD and BluRay for their giftshops and to television networks as an independent documentary after its release on the museum circuit.
The trip is scheduled for the summer of 2013 and delivery of the BluRay (or DVD) reward can begin only after the editing is complete, which may be as early as October 2013.
As this is the fourth Icelandic Expedition, books and prints will ship much earlier. Books will be printed in February of 2013 and shipped by the end of March.
Donors can immediately select specific images from 50 images (25 of Michael's and 25 of Paula's), original. signed silver-chloride contact prints, that will be reserved for rewards. These prints will be shipped no later than June 2013.
Posters will be the last to ship, as printing will not occur until the premiere of the film late in 2013.
Consequently, there will be multiple reward fulfillment shipments to each donor.
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Michael and Paula have made this trip before and have a system for shipping their vehicles and cameras and living for extended periods in the field in remote and wilderness areas. We will join them in that quest by replicating their methods and adding a few of our own.
Digital film production requires power and our rental vehicles will not only have to have 4-wheel drive and sustain us in the field but must also support our camera and sound gear, keeping it warm and supplying electricity to charge the batteries and run the laptop computer and storage drives and the "rough-cut" edit system used to review footage. Our vehicles will need to support a crew of five for 30 days in the most remote parts of Iceland, areas that have been either beyond Michael and Paula's previous reach or unknown to them at the time. We will travel as a team with them, using their previous experience and expertise to reduce risk and will document the outcome, whatever that may be. Many obstacles will occur and to be sure, that will all become part of the documentary. If this were not an exceedingly difficult trip it would have already been done, but to do it in this way just ups the ante, as these cameras, both theirs and ours are far from the point-and-shoot variants that are common to all. Be assured that every effort is being made to make this film of the highest quality available, so as to pass on a lasting record of "The Last Of The Last".
For the last ten years I have been a consultant to Panasonic Broadcast and have traveled extensively for them. Four years ago I was sent to Alaska to train the Versus camera crew on the use of their digital cameras and to travel and film the Iditarod race for their marketing efforts. I have lived in the wilderness and worked in bitter cold, so I am well aware of the difficulties we face in Iceland. However we will be going there at the best time of year, not the dead of winter.
I have managed a film production company and a photography business for almost 40 years and have worked the last 10 as a cinematographer and a digital technician. In 2010 I produced and directed a feature film I wrote titled "The Black Dove" starring John Savage, Sean Young, David Della Rocco, Red West and Lou Beatty, Jr. which you may review on IMDB.com. This film was shot on the RED One, the predecessor to the EPIC.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
pledged of $150,000 goal
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Funding Unsuccessful This project reached the deadline without achieving its funding goal on December 16.
Nov 16, 2012 - Dec 16, 2012 (30 days)
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A personalized digital (email) thank you from the director and the photographers for supporting this important work, with a frame grab from the documentary.Estimated delivery: Oct 2013
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A personalized hand written thank you on the official Icelandic image postcard from the director of the film sent to your home address.Estimated delivery: Mar 2013
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A limited Edition DVD of the completed filmEstimated delivery: Oct 2013Add $15 to ship outside the US
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A limited edition BluRay of the completed film.Estimated delivery: Oct 2013Add $15 to ship outside the US
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A signed limited edition book of Michael and Paula's Icelandic photographs.Estimated delivery: Jun 2013Add $25 to ship outside the US
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Limited edition book of the completed photographs signed by the photographers and the limited edition BluRay.Estimated delivery: Oct 2013Add $30 to ship outside the US
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Limited edition book of the completed photographs signed by the photographers, the limited edition BluRay and an invitation to the Premiere and party.Estimated delivery: Oct 2013Add $30 to ship outside the US
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Signed poster of the film and exhibition, limited edition book of the completed photographs signed by the photographers, the limited edition BluRay and an invitation to the Premiere and party.Estimated delivery: Oct 2013Add $45 to ship outside the US
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One signed original silver print by Paula from this expedition (a $2,000 value), Signed poster of the film and exhibition, limited edition book of the completed photographs signed by the photographers, the limited edition BluRay and an invitation to the Premiere and party.Estimated delivery: Feb 2014Add $60 to ship outside the US
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One signed original silver print by Michael from this expedition (a $3,000 value), signed poster of the film and exhibition, limited edition book of the completed photographs signed by the photographers, the limited edition BluRay and an invitation to the Premiere and party.Estimated delivery: Feb 2014Add $60 to ship outside the US
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One signed original silver print by Michael from and one by Paula from this expedition (a $5,000 value), signed poster of the film and exhibition, limited edition book of the completed photographs signed by the photographers, the limited edition BluRay and an invitation to the Premiere and party.Estimated delivery: Feb 2014Add $60 to ship outside the US
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0 backers Limited (50 of 50 left)
Two signed original silver prints by Michael and two by Paula (a $10,000 value), a "Thank you" letter from Michael and Paula and a "Thank you" in the film credits, signed poster of the film and exhibition, limited edition book of the completed photographs signed by the photographers, the limited edition BluRay and an invitation to the Premiere and party.Estimated delivery: Feb 2014Add $120 to ship outside the US
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0 backers Limited (12 of 12 left)
A deluxe 10 print limited edition portfolio (5 from Michael, 5 from Paula, a $25,000 value), a "Thank you" letter from Michael and Paula and a listing in the film credits as a co-executive producer, a signed poster of the film and exhibition, limited edition book of the completed photographs signed by the photographers, the limited edition BluRay and an invitation to the Premiere and party.Estimated delivery: Feb 2014