Carlton Way Suite Debunking (1 Viewer)

jordan

lothario speedwagon
Can anyone speak to the history behind the Carlton Way suite? From what I could find online and on this site, the publisher put out two copies out of what was supposed to be a 26-copy edition of this suite of photographs in 1982. Then, in the early 90s, they released 3 more copies, and Scott Harrison had something to do with it? I even read that Harrison arranged to have Bukowski sign and caption the photos on his deathbed, which seems like yet another myth.

It all seems very weird - who was the publisher, and how did they miscalculate the cost to produce the edition such that they could only produce two copies? Why did they produce 3 more in the 90s? And if the original edition was supposed to be 26, why are the copies from the 90s numbered to 50? I know the prints from the later printing have handwritten captions on them by Bukowski - did the original two sets also have captions, or is this unique to the later sets?

It all seems confusing and fraught with hearsay and lore, so if anyone here knows the real story behind this one, I'd be very interested to hear it.
 
sorry, no info from my side available.
I haven't seen ANY of these (nor proofs or other related pre-work) when I was going through the MM-estate in 2010.
But then - the few days I've been there weren't enough to see Everything that there is. Countless boxes had to remain unopened.

My first idea to ask for such a thing would be our chronic.
Next would be people like David, cire, Purple and then some, you know the whole bunch anyway. Their turn now.
 

mjp

Founding member
how did they miscalculate the cost to produce the edition such that they could only produce two copies? Why did they produce 3 more in the 90s? And if the original edition was supposed to be 26, why are the copies from the 90s numbered to 50?
If some are numbered x/50 there would have had to have been 50 in the edition, since photo paper could only be numbered and signed after it was exposed. If fewer copies had come out of the darkroom I would assume they would number them x/[smaller number], since that would make it even more "rare."

Also, it seems unlikely to me that the prints would have been made as a set twice. Prints are not expensive to make if you have your own darkroom (depending on the size, from one to two dollars each in the 90s - I only know that because I happened to have a black and white darkroom back then), so cost isn't a likely factor. And if you've ever made black and white prints, you know you can spend a lot of time getting an exposure just right in the darkroom, and trying to recreate it later is a chore. You have to start over from scratch. So once you find the magic combination of exposure, burning, dodging, filtering, etc., you generally make as many prints as you think you're going to need.

That's my general two cents, not knowing anything about the set specifically.
 
[...] could only be numbered and signed after it was exposed. [...]
still very possible, that there haven't been all the photos exposed (even if they intended to make 50) when this one was numbered.

[...] I happened to have a black and white darkroom back then), [...] and trying to recreate it later is a chore. You have to start over from scratch. [...]
You're so damn Right. That's one hell!
I was able to work the b/w-darkroom of a friend (in fact the bathroom of the place where he lived with 3 other 'artsy' kids) in the 90s and not a single exposed pivture of mine is exactly like the other even when I did them in a row.

But pros like MM didn't do this in their bathroom. There were machines to grant that the result would be exactly as you wanted it to be. Repeatedly.

Some of us may have seen proof-photographs (there are some famous ones around by deDines and Newton) that show, how they make tiny circles in certain areas of their photos to mark that there should be a lighter or darker tone JUST INSIDE this circle or even a different color-tendency. (The circles were accompanied by exact numbers like +2Y or something) This goes to show, how EXACT you could be with these things. I've seen this sort of marked proofs at MMs.

But exposing yourself the photographies you've made was a thrill, I must admit!
 
Last edited:

mjp

Founding member
Well, my darkroom wasn't in a bathroom. It took up half of a two car garage. I developed black and white film and prints for more than 20 years. But the process is fundamentally the same in a bathroom or a professional's lab. The equipment is more expensive in a professional's darkroom, that's about it.

Manual manipulation of the light or dark parts of the print still have to be done by hand and arrived at through experimentation. There is not a machine that can automatically do it for you. A notation like "+2Y" would probably be for color balance, and wouldn't apply to black and with prints (I don't know, I never worked with color). But even those kinds of marks on a proof are indications that someone has to go in there and lighten or darken only that area, and that is a manual process.

If you start with an even exposure you don't have to do much dodging or burning. But it's a rare negative that has even exposure, where every part of the frame is perfect. Most of the analog photo technique is extinct now anyway. You can dodge and burn in Photoshop, yo.

This is all just blather anyway, since we don't know the specifics of the "suite." Yet.
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
here's where i got some of the information i referred to upthread: http://www.charlesagvent.com/shop/agvent/016712.html
First produced in 1982 as a portfolio of 12 photographs with an intended edition of 50. In fact only 2 sets were produced then due to lack of interest at the set price. In 1993, at the bequest of The Abandoned Planet Bookstore, 3 other sets were produced making a total of only 5 published. These 2 photographs (16" x 20") have each been SIGNED by Bukowski and Montfort and are numbered 3/50. In addition, Bukowski has annotated each photograph in red ink. The images are: 1) Bukowski seated in his apartment before a table full of alcohol remnants and wildly gesturing captioned "Living the Good Life" and 2) Bukowski lying down in a cemetery before a grave stone captioned "Just Kidding." Laid in is a letter from the bookseller explaining how he got Montfort to print these photographs and Bukowski to sign them in the hospital where he was dying of leukemia.
maybe someone who hasn't been blacklisted by scott harrison would care to contact him for info as well?

note that the original suite of prints was issued in a hardcover folder and lettered, not numbered. also, the signatures are very obviously from different time periods.

1993:

016712.jpg

1982:

bukowski2.jpg
 

mjp

Founding member
First, it looks like Montfort numbered that, so it still seems unusual to me that he would write 3/50 unless he had 50 prints made. Not impossible, but odd.

Second, if Scott Harrison did send anything to Bukowski to sign while he was in the hospital "dying of leukemia" he's a bigger asshole than I though he was. How devoid of humanity would you have to be to do that? What kind of money-grubbing piece of shit would even conceive of it?
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
that's why it sounds fishy to me. especially some of the captions - like the one on the photo of him lying on a grave site that says "just kidding." seems weird for a dying man, even Bukowski, to write that. also, the handwriting is pretty neat for someone on his deathbed.

it definitely does look like there were 50 produced, which is why i want to know where the claim that there were only five spread across two print runs came from. otherwise, this bookseller is massively overclaiming the rarity of the photos in his listing. and why would you number it to fifty (or instruct the photographer to do so) if you only had three? it could be that only three were signed/captioned and the rest were unsigned. but, given the quality of the photos and their large size (16" x 20"), you'd think they wouldn't be so rare if there were 50 of each one. i mean, you *never* see these, and bukowski photos like this are about as good as you can get.
 

mjp

Founding member
No, you certainly don't see them. That, along with the fact that Montfort wrote the limitation as 50 right next to his signature makes me think that the other 47 are in a box somewhere. One of those boxes roni couldn't get to.
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
Second, if Scott Harrison did send anything to Bukowski to sign while he was in the hospital "dying of leukemia" he's a bigger asshole than I though he was. How devoid of humanity would you have to be to do that? What kind of money-grubbing piece of shit would even conceive of it?

Exactly! That's why I think the "dying of leukemia" bit may be a lot of salesman's hype. Maybe he visited Buk in the hospital at the early stages of Buk's leukemia when Buk was still fairly fit and undergoing tests or chemotherapy. Later when he was selling the photos he decided to put in some hype about Buk signing them when he was "dying of leukemia". It's just a theory I have, nothing more, but I doubt a dying man would have the energy or inclination to sign photos for a book seller.
 
"First produced in 1982 as a portfolio of 12 photographs with an intended edition of 50" is definitely wrong, the cover clearly states an edition of 26. I own this particular copy, and as mjp pointed out, can't see a reason why it would have been too expensive to make 26 of these. That is unless "too expensive" means "not profitable enough", which would be a different story.

If 3 additional copies of this portfolio were made in 1993, why were they broken up (only 2 of 12 photos for sale)? Has anyone ever seen a full 1993 version, cover and all?

cover.jpg
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
i couldn't find any records of a complete suite from 1993. i'm surprised anyone would be willing to break up the set to sell the photos individually, to be honest.
 

mjp

Founding member
can't see a reason why it would have been too expensive to make 26 of these. That is unless "too expensive" means "not profitable enough", which would be a different story.
Well, it seems that he was having the prints made commercially (it says so right on the prints in jordan's images), so it could be that he announced the set but only made a few initially, then planned to make the rest "to order," but the orders didn't come in. That seems like a strong possibility.

Though that doesn't explain why the second printing is numbered, rather than just being a continuation of the first lettered (and presumably unsold) edition.

Odd that he didn't make his own prints, but now that we're discussing it I do remember that when he did the show with Mat Gleason at Coagula in Los Angeles they had a commercial lab make the 5x7 prints for the press kit.
 

hank solo

Just practicin' steps and keepin' outta the fights
Reaper Crew
Moderator
Founding member
Odd that he didn't make his own prints, but now that we're discussing it I do remember that when he did the show with Mat Gleason at Coagula in Los Angeles they had a commercial lab make the 5x7 prints for the press kit.
While I never discussed darkroom versus live imagery with Michael (we worked on two projects together), what I do vividly recollect is that he was primarily focused on the image itself - the moment of its capture. We never had a conversation about exposure, darkroom technique, etc. Like you, MJP, I had a sophisticated darkroom set up and did my share of darkroom "corrections" of imagery. For me, the darkroom was an almost alchemy of imagery. But, I suspect, not for my late friend Michael. For him, it was all about being there in the moment - and capturing the magic of that moment. So it therefore wouldn't surprise me that he would have a lab print from his negs. I don't think that aspect mattered as much to him as the image itself, captured in a nanosecond of time - forever.
 
I can confirm this. Among his archived photographs were numerous envelopes of the printing houses he used to get them exposed. Everything there is, looks like he usually gave them away to have the proofs printed, then - depending if it was for a specific project, like 'Poop' or just to have prints - made more or less detailed comments about what should be exposed differently, sometimes written on the proof-print itself.

He was archiving his work very carefully and often kept even some of the lesser-quality prints or proofs or variations (e.g. you'd find dozens of different prints from the pic of Hank with Faye Dunaway and Mickey Rourke at the wired fence).
[...] think that the other 47 are in a box somewhere. One of those boxes roni couldn't get to.
Perfectly possible that he had a few of them anywhere, where I haven't looked. But I doubt, there would be as many as 47 or anything close: for whenever he still had a larger amount of his own books or projects left, he had them all stored together in one place. So if there'd been that many of this big-size product, it's unlikely I wouldn't notice them.
 

mjp

Founding member
it's unlikely I wouldn't notice them.
Yeah, I was just speculating. You were there.

Knowing now that he didn't make his own prints (or even have his own darkroom with some assistant making the actual prints) kind of changes everything as far as possibilities go. I think the idea that they were "made to order but the orders never came" is the most likely scenario. Based on how few of these things have ever been seen.
 
[...] just speculating. You were there. [...]
I've just been very seriously re-thinking about the stuff I've seen and explored there and must admit:
it definitely IS possible, that there have been lager amounts of items that I didn't get at that time. So, in a certain way, we're back to zero.
 
Knowing now that he didn't make his own prints (or even have his own darkroom with some assistant making the actual prints) kind of changes everything as far as possibilities go. I think the idea that they were "made to order but the orders never came" is the most likely scenario.
I think that this is a very reasonable hypothesis, MJP.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top