Giveaway: Robert Alexander Williams catalogue

Want to win a copy of Jump Mountain by Robert Alexander Williams? Don’t Take Pictures is giving two copies away!

Robert Alexander Williams’s beautiful photographs were featured in issue 2 of Don’t Take PicturesJump Mountain, published by The Kiernan Gallery, presents a series of ambroytpes depicting his home in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley at the base of the mountain. Eerie and still, Williams’ ambrotypes contain both the solitude of his surroundings and his familiarity with each shift in the land. Although the compositions often lack a formal subject, each image exemplifies the quiet spirit of the countryside and the looming presence of Jump Mountain.

If you’re looking for something to hang on your wall, Williams’ limited edition varnished silver gelatin print from a wet collodion negative is available through our print sale

Rising Mist, Maury River, 2007

Rising Mist, Maury River, 2007

To enter the giveaway, share this link on your Facebook wall or tweet this link to @DTPmagazine. Two winners will be randomly selected on September 2.

Critical Mass 2014 Pre-Screening Thoughts and Observations

Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 200 was released on Monday. As a pre-screening juror, I reviewed hundreds of submissions over a couple of weeks. With so much mystery surrounding juried competitions, I wanted to take a few moments to write down some of my thoughts and observations about the review process.

In addition to the photo portfolios themselves, Photolucida provided the following information:

-       Artist’s name
-       Image titles
-    Size and print medium of photographs
-    Price of photographs
-    Artist statement

Artist Names:

The number of unfamiliar names and bodies of work submitted was refreshing. Even some photographers whose names I did recognize submitted work that I had not yet seen. As someone who professionally reviews photographs, I was familiar with more than a handful of the artists, but tried to remain as unbiased as possible.

Print information:

When looking at images online, I often visualize how they appear as prints. Viewed electronically, it can be difficult to determine whether a photograph is printed in silver gelatin, platinum, or as a digital print. Additionally, I might assume a print to be large scale, when the artist has actually elected to print much smaller. Having this information readily available allowed me to form a more complete understanding of the work before voting on the portfolio.


I found the listing of prices distracting. While I understand and appreciate the use of this information by other jurors who may be in position to purchase or exhibit the work, it made me think about where the artists consider themselves fitting in with the current market, which distracted me from the work itself.

Artist Statements:

I have always strongly valued artist statements. I understand that not everyone finds them important or necessary (a different discussion altogether), but for me it was important that the photographs reflected the statement, and vice versa. That connection shows that the artist has a clear understanding of their portfolio and what they are trying to communicate.

From the portfolios and these criteria, I was instructed to rank the work on a scale. This method allowed for flexibility in voting, rather than a binary “yes” or “no” decision. I was able to advocate for work that I felt was strong but not fully resolved, give a higher rank to work that wowed me, and a lower rank to work that just wasn’t for me. It is important to note that there were some portfolios which received my highest vote, but were not selected as finalists. It goes to show that art is subjective.

Ultimately, I just looked for great work. I held no bias towards or against any particular genre, and all were given a fair shake. I think Critical Mass provides a great platform for photographers to have their work seen. In all, I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the submissions and am looking forward to revisiting the top 200 finalists as I, along with 200 other jurors, vote for the top 50.


Kat Kiernan is the Editor-in-Chief of Don’t Take Pictures, and served as a pre-screening juror for Photolucida’s Critical Mass 2014.

Some Assembly Required: Stephen Takacs

This series focuses on those who take the making of pictures a step or two further, creating their own photographic tools.

Paul Simon, made by Brownie in Motion

Paul Simon, made by Brownie in Motion

Stephen Takacs, Columbus, OH

Stephen Takacs is currently on a road trip across the Western United States. Like many photographers, he has his camera in tow. Unlike those photographers, his camera of choice is large enough to stand inside. Making his way through the States, Takacs photographs artisans and craftspeople who practice trades that are on the verge of disappearing due to technological changes. Fittingly, he is implementing his own craftsmanship on the verge of disappearance with a large camera obscura, dubbed “Brownie in Motion.” The unique design of the camera requires Takacs to physically place himself inside to make an image, using his body as a shutter.

The prototype was designed three years earlier using drywall and 2 x 4’s. Although the concept has remained the same, the original camera was far too heavy and impractical for travel. Thanks to funding provided by Ingenuity Cleveland and the Ohio State University STEAM Factory, Takacs was able to bring his prototype to life. The resulting device is a camera obscura 17x the size of a Kodak Brownie.

The camera’s construction is similar to that of a tent. The frame is made from aluminum pipe and scaffold-type fittings, and the walls are made of a single sewn piece of marine-grade vinyl. The vinyl velcros to the frame and allows the camera to remain light-tight and house its own darkroom.

While the simplistic design of a traditional camera obscura does not require a lens, the Brownie in Motion uses an old 17-inch Grundlach view camera lens to project a 20-inch diameter. This allows Takacs to create large-scale portraits up to 30” x 40”. He records these projections on large pieces of ortho film and rc paper to create negatives. Until its recent discontinuation, Takacs also used direct positive paper to produce the portraits.  

Depending on the situation, the Brownie in Motion functions as a camera, a darkroom, and an interactive installation. It was featured at the 2013 Midwest SPE Conference, Ingenuity Cleveland, and as it journeys across the West, it serves to educate passers-by on photographic history and its role in today’s art world.


Brownie in Motion at Ingenuity Cleveland.

Brownie in Motion at Ingenuity Cleveland.

Learn more about Brownie in Motion and follow Stephen's journey on his blog.  

Have you made or modified your own photographic equipment? Let us know at

Farm to Plate Exhibition

Don’t Take Pictures is pleased to announce the results of our online exhibition, Farm to Plate. 47 photographs by photographers exploring food production were selected and will be on view through November 23. Visit the gallery to view the entire exhibition.

Brussels Sprout Hill, James Cooper

Brussels Sprout Hill, James Cooper

The farm-to-plate movement has become increasingly popular in recent years. Consumers want to know where their food originated and how it was treated before arriving in on their table. As inherently curious people, photographers too wish to know more about their food production—and they bring their cameras along.

Preparatin of the Meat for the Holy Spirit Soup, Island of Corvo, Azores, 2005, Paulo Monteiro

Preparatin of the Meat for the Holy Spirit Soup, Island of Corvo, Azores, 2005, Paulo Monteiro

Don’t Take Pictures strives to present photographers who are actively involved in the creative process of making photographs. The photographers in this exhibition have constructed still lifes, documented production, and dirtied their hands alongside their subjects to show the various stages in which our food exists before it is restaurant-ready. Photographers from around the globe submitted work for this exhibition, and we are pleased to feature this collection of images that is as “free-range” as the edibles it presents.

Red Beets, Lindsay Lochman & Barbara Ciurej

Red Beets, Lindsay Lochman & Barbara Ciurej

Don’t Take Pictures holds free, quarterly calls for work for online exhibitions.