Thursday, February 21, 2013

Russian Photo Community and Rayko Photo Center

  This update is going to be much shorter than it really deserves to be.  I am in dire need to dive into all the Lantern Slides I'll be showing tomorrow, organize them, make sure that the ones I had to modify work well, repair a few by adding pull-tabs to them and so on and so forth....   I do think that the events of the past few days deserve a post and if I don't do it now I'll probably never get to it, or when I get to it I will forget all the neat things that happened and that wouldn't be good either.

  Santa Barbara was not my cup of tea this time around.  I'll skip the nastiness and just say that I left there rather promptly on Sunday morning and headed up highway 101 in the direction of Santa Cruz.  The drive went well, though I have to try to limit the time driving in the future to less than 6 hours at a time.  By hour 4 muscles start to ache and tighten considerably due to the seat having been made with much shorter trip times in mind.  I am not going to replace it though - it's vintage green and in perfect shape, so no matter how much my body might appreciate an air-cushioned truckers chair, my mind will never forgive me if I get rid of the last big piece of original interior. 

  Santa Cruz is home to a few friends of mine and I knew I would be able to find a parking spot for Gilli.  Indeed a lovely photographer by the name of Carmina did come though with that and we had the bus park behind a really neat little diner at the very top of highway 17, which runs between Santa Cruz and San Jose.  The diner is owned by her roommate, a friendly young chap by the name of Ben.  The food there is great and I highly recommend stopping by there when you are in the area.  It's called 'The Drive In Diner' and its address is 23111 Santa Cruz highway.  While having a meal there do check out the wonderfully provocative cyanotype photograms by Carmina in the main dining hall.  Knowing that Gilli is safe and sound I spent the next day in San Jose visiting my friend Julia Kamoroff.  We stopped by to see her sister Chrystal Kamoroff who is a wonderful conceptual artist living in Santa Cruz, and checked up on Gilli on the way.

  Then, on Tuesday morning, I was off once again to Pacifica to go meet a photographer by the name of Kirill Krylov.  I met Kirill online in one of the Facebook photo groups and really admired his bold image style, not to mention that he shoots primarily on film cameras.  Pacifica is a really quaint little town located just below San Francisco.  Kirill offered me to stay there for a night and I was eager to accept that offer as we are having a cold-spell here.

  When I arrived I felt right at home.  That was due not only to Kirill's classic Russian hospitality, but also to the fact that his house contains a plethora of fascinating photo equipment which (like in my home) is tossed about in a rather random manner all over the place, so wherever you may look you will see something film related.  Here is Kirill with a wonderful little gem that made me all warm and fuzzy on the inside.  Some of you may know that I have a strong affinity toward Rolleiflex TLR cameras and this gold edition GX is a beauty!  Someday I hope to have one of these or a model F in Usuri finish (hint to anyone reading this - it's a perfect gift...).

  Also his house can be toured as a gallery - I did not count how many framed prints large and small are present on his walls, but I would venture to guess over 100.  Here is but one wall.
   One thing that was a pleasant surprise for me was that Kirill appears to be an unofficial center pin in a rather active community of Russian-born photographers in the area and I met a few other members of that circle.  Most of them shoot film and it was great to get a chance to bone up on my conversational Russian skills with people who speak my language in more than one way.  I recommend taking a look through their work.  I think you will find a consistently strong and distinct felling in all their work, especially when it comes to black and white.
Edward Kotovski
Kirill Khanenkov
Alexey Bochkovsky
Elena Zhukova

  On Wednesday we also visited a wonderful exhibit at de Young Museum.  Currently they have two stunning exhibits - Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis and Rembrandt's Century.  Both were a treat not to miss and there I definitely had my fill of fine engravings and oil on various surfaces.  We must have spent at least two or three hours meandering the rooms and being amazed at the craftsmanship and vision of the old masters.  Not being an expert in this area I will leave it to others to write a more cohesive review of those shows and move on to our next activity, which was a visit to Rayko Photo Center.

  For those of you who are not familiar with Rayko Photo Center I would like to say that it's an awesome place for any photographer film or digital.  It is their commitment to darkroom photography that impresses me the most.  They have a great educational program, a fine facility for printing both black and white AND color (you don't see that very often these days in rental labs) and their rates are very reasonable.  Here are a few of the images from Rayko.

 Rayko Photo Center - located in downtown SF for easy public transport access.

 Greeting you in the front room is a large collection of vintage equipment (and there's even a 'for sale' case).  The camera at the bottom of this image is a Gowland - I have never seen one of these beasts live before and it definitely put the fear in me...  I mean this thing is MASSIVE!

 There are a few private darkrooms for those who like to work in solitude.  This one features a Durst 8x10 enlarger and is set up for mural printing.

 For those who don't mind communal spaces there is a darkroom with plenty of well-kept Omega enlargers.

 Film processing room is fully stocked as well with both steel and plastic tanks to suit your preference.

Print drying area.  Perhaps this is not my place, but I will indeed suggest that if anyone from Rayko Photo is reading this they may want to consider an Arkay Dual-Dri and perhaps an Arkay RC Dryer.  I swear - they are a worthy investment and your patrons will love you dearly as they will not have to come back the next day to pick up their dry prints AND will walk out at the end of the printing session with FLAT fiber prints.  Therefore they will not have to spend time flattening them in the dry-mount presses, which will also save Rayko on electricity costs as I think the presses take more juice than the dryers.  Plus, Arkay is a great company - super friendly on the phone, ready to ship parts for all the dryers dating back a few decades and are just a pleasure to deal with.   But, really, I have both of those dryers in my darkroom and I will not go back to drying on screens...  just sayn'...

The cherry on top though is this gorgeous 50in wide color printing machine.  I would love to come back and put some prints through it - largest I have ever printed in color was 30x40in and it was so much fun that I can't imagine what a thrill it would be to print from a 50in roll, provided I can actually buy something like that on today's market...

  Aside from what is pictured here Rayko has a spacious studio for shooting, a full digital lab and printing facility, an area where prints by their patrons can be purchased at a decent price and an exhibit area with plenty of images to get inspired by.  I truly recommend stopping by there next time you are in San Francisco and bring your negatives!

  I did meet with a few of their staff and now am keeping my fingers crossed that something may be arranged within a short period of time for a Magic Lantern Show and a visit from The Photo Palace Bus to Rayko.  It's a shame that even the darkroom manager didn't know what a Magic Lantern is (though she young and it was indeed before her time), so I think the entire community can benefit from a comprehensive Lantern show.

  Today I started on the road pretty early and The Photo Palace Bus crossed the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time ever.  Here is that momentous occasion as captured by my iPhone while trying to stay within the rather narrow traffic lanes.

  The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful and I am currently in Sebastopol at the house where many years ago I saw the Magic Lantern slides taken by Mr. Rahill.  I am glad that the first full-size show will have his granddaughter present at it - I think it will complete a very important history circle.  Now, as I mentioned in the start of this 'short' post, I do need to get some serious work done or the show may not turn out as smoothly as it should be.

Anton Orlov


  1. Thanks for all the detail, Anton!

  2. Love Rayko...stop by there every time I'm in San Francisco just to look, and every one on here should too...