Thursday, June 24, 2004

House of Coffees, Park Meadows, Bedfordview

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Service: * * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * *
Babe Count: * * 1/2
Phone: +27 11 622 3869

I'm in this part of the world cos I'm going to the portrait circle tonight, and that's at the Spaza Gallery down the road. On the way here, I phone Bianca. "Coffee before portrait group?" I ask.

"House of Coffees, across the road from Eastgate," she says.

Lightning quick sketch of Barney Edwards, to show Dennis how I actually work. "Looks like you!" Dennis says to Barney. "Impressive," says Barney.I've just spent an very enjoyable hour or two at Dennis da Silva's photographic studio. He's a master printer, and two buddies have recommended him to me. Guto Bussab, the dude I co-produced my short film with (he co-produced and directed, and I co-produced and wrote) is a photographer, and Dennis has just started printing for Guto. Roger Ballen, the world renowned photographer responsible for the amazing book, PLATTELAND, has had Dennis print every single one of his photos from the very beginning of his career about twenty-five or thirty years ago. His wife, Linda, recommended Dennis to me too.

He has some serious hardware in his studio, which allows him to print huge versions of photos in black and white or colour, onto conventional art paper. He uses the very finest archive-quality inks, which means that a print from his studio will last around 200 years, even if it's exposed to everyday light. (Most ink from an inkjet printer will last less than a month in sunlight.)

He gives me a tour of his studio, and shows me some of the images that he's printed. He's got piles of prints that aren't up to scratch. The discard pile. They're all breathtaking. Every single one of them. And these are the ones that Dennis, master-printer, has decided are below par.

And he's got top British photographer, Barney Edwards, working with him now too, so this is an art-filled operation. Dennis himself is a hot photographer. He shows me some of his pics, and frowns when I marvel at them. "I'm not an artist," he says. "I'm just a technician."

"Rubbish!" says Barney from the darkroom. "You're a photographer!"

Dennis says, "He's been working on me, trying to get me to admit it." There's only the tiniest hint of a smile under his moustache. I can see he's proud to be thought of as a big leaguer. And hell, he really should be thinking of himself like that.

This is Helen. She used to be a press photographer, and snapped one dead baby too many, and decided she needed out of journalistic work. So she's in Dennis's studio, having told him that he had no choice but to employ her.I show him my portraits, the ones I've originated on my palmtop. "I want to print these around A1 size, I tell him. "Problem is that the resolution is ULTRA low. These printouts are basically the biggest I can get them without them getting fuzzy and pixelated." (The printed images are about 5cm by 6.5cm. Tiny, in a word.)

He examines a printout of mine under a magnifying glass. "I think we can work with this," he says.

We choose two images for him to play with, and he tells me he'll have something for me to look at next week.

If we can crack this, I'll be exhibiting big versions of my work very very soon, and I may even start making real money as an artist.

Bianca arrives at the coffee shop. We'll only see each other for an hour, cos I've got to skeddadle soon. But hey. That's cool.

We both order the triple chocolate cheese cake. Yummmmmmmy!

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