CFM Gallery
.138 West 17th Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10011 (212)966 3864.
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Lisa Lichtenfels
Realism in Fabric
April 2011

Don and His Deardorff
Fabric Sculpture

In the early 1990’s, I purchased my first serious camera. I needed good photographs of my work, but was at a loss – how does one learn the art of photography? You can easily get swallowed up in seas of conflicting technicalities trying to learn it on your own, and photographers are well known to guard the secrets of their trade. Not so with Don Smith, a very sweet and capable man who came to my aid like a knight in shining armor. For years, I would call him with some mystery, or seemingly insurmountable problem and he would patiently guide me through it. Since his passing, I have felt adrift, and the world seems a lot harsher without his gentle presence.

His camera of choice was a Sinar, a wonderful and elegant tool, based on cameras first built in the 1870’s, but with modern machining and a few high tech advancements. But for this sculpture I wanted Don’s companion to have an appropriate personality – not something standardized and factory built. Of the many wonderful and funky old cameras out there, my favorite has always been the Deardorff. Richard Avedon’s camera is a Deardorff and I love the way he leaves the shadow of the film holder in his published photos – maybe an act of respect to his partner in the creative process. The earliest Deardorffs were built entirely by hand, each part carved in wood or uniquely machine tooled for that specific camera. Often customers would have a difficult problem or unusual task in mind and the camera would be invented as a solution. Laben Deardorff displayed a genius for strikingly innovative bellows and movements, and the story is told but not proven that he suggested the idea of roll film to his old boss George Eastman. I imagine Don’s camera to be one built in the 1920’s – before “Gramps” Deardorff and his sons had to use mass production techniques to fill their growing list of orders.

As film images get scarcer, eclipsed by the new digital age, large format camera techniques appear ever more strange and exotic. Who would believe it could take 2 to 3 hours to set up a shot, exposures are calculated with pencil and paper, and focusing isn’t accomplished by turning a lens but by moving the back wall of the camera forward and back?

CFM Gallery
Exquisite technique coupled with artistic vision defines our user-friendly presentation of figurative fine art paintings, sculptures and original graphics. Contemporary symbolism at its apex in the traditions of Bosch, the Italian Renaissance, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, the Viennese and German Secession and the symbolist movements with an edge of surrealism.