timothy wells


  • I should have listened (Adventures in processing film)

    I should have listened…

    I had today booked in my mental calendar as “process film day”. It was the only day I had that didn’t have anything else booked, allowing me to take my time and not feel rushed. 

    Yes, I understand this is Super Bowl Sunday. I felt fine processing film and not worrying about watching the game.

    Maybe I should have been like the rest of the US and focused on the Super Bowl.

    I went to the lab and got started setting things up. I should have listened at this point. 

    I wasn’t feeling the ’process film’ mood but hoped once I got started, the mood would flip.

    I was processing color film today so I got the Cinestill Temperature Control System going getting the hot water bath started.

    I got the water heating up.

    I went into the film loading room and loaded up two rolls of 120 film.

    This, to pay myself on the back, was the one thing I did right today.

    I had four rolls, two rolls from two different shoots. I can only process two rolls at a time. I did manage to remember to load up one roll from each of the shoots, in case something went wrong. I’ve processed hundreds rolls of film and have never really messed any of them up.

    I have earned that merit badge now.

    I got the two rolls loaded up, no problems.

    I go into the processing sink and realize I hadn’t put the chemistry in the beakers and the beakers into the now 120 degree tub of hot, circulating water. A lot of good the hot water bath does if the chemistry isn’t warming up.

    I quickly get the chemistry jugs out and pour the developer into the developer beaker and the bleach into the bleach beaker. Unrelated, I was using the Cinestill C-41 developing kit chemistry.

    I put the beakers into the hot water and wait for them to get up to temperature (102 degrees F.) I was standing there looking at the chemistry and felt something wasn’t right but ignored that back-of-the-brain feeling.

    The developer reaches temperature, I put it in the Paterson Multi-reel developing tank, secured the lid and did the agitation dance. As I was nearing the end, the lid for the tank ‘burped’ and chemistry blurbted onto my shirt. What? Why did that happen?

    I take the lid off so I can pour the developer back into the beaker and it’s changed from clear (back of the brain feeling re-triggers) to black-blue. I look at the jug and realize I’ve used the stablizer and not the developer.

    Slumping of shoulders and foul words.

    I rinse out the tank and figure, I might as well go ahead and process the film. Who knows! Maybe I’ve invented a new process!

    Which, in theory, I did.

    Fast forward… Rinse the now stable film a bunch of times as I wait for the actual developer to get up to temperature. I resisted looking online to have the internet predict what will happen.

    I process the film, mix up a new batch of stablizer.

    I rinse the film. Take a quick peek at the at film. It has indeed stabilized. It was devoid of anything. Just the plastic that usually holds images.

    Ok, lesson learned. At least I now know stabilizer before processing and bleaching will erase your film.

    Luckily, I had ordered a backup set of chemistry. I wasn’t going to risk the stabilizer contaminating the developer and bleach. They were about at end of life anyway. (I tell myself.)

    I mix up all new chemistry.

    I go into the film loading room, thankful for having one roll from each shoot left and hoping they have something useful on them.

    I rush the film loading process (I had not learned my lesson) and realize I have my C-41 film next to my B&W film. I had one C-41 roll in my hand. I get it loaded on the spool, put it in the tank and realize, crap! How will I know if I’m grabbing the C-41 roll or a B&W roll. (For non-film processors out there, film is loaded in complete darkness so I couldn’t just look at the label to look.)

    Now you may suggest, “Put the lid on the tank so the loaded roll is protected, turn on the lights and find the C-41 roll.”

    Which did run across my mind. Until I couldn’t remember where the lid was and couldn’t find it as I ran my hands across the surfaces…

    I then vaguely remember the C-41 roll was a little away from the B&W rolls. If I could gently located the film and not bump them all together I would have a good chance of finding the slightly away from the rest C-41 roll.

    I did!

    I loaded it up and then spent a few minutes located the tank lid that had rolled under a shelf.

    Feeling like maybe things had taken a turn for the better, I get the chemistry up to temperature, making sure I did have the actual developer this time. These were the last two rolls from the shoots and really didn’t want to lose those too.

    I develop the film. Pour the developer back into the beaker.

    Pour the bleach into the tank and begin the process.

    Agitate four inversions every 30 seconds for 8 minutes.

    Going along fine. And then..

    Boosh! The pressure burps the lid again.

    And bleach burps out of the tank…

    Into the developer beaker.

    More foul words.

    I finish processing the rolls.

    They turned out fine.

    But now I no longer have 1000ml of bleach and my developer is now contaminated with the bleach that no longer is part of the 1000ml.

    At that point, I decide, “Done.” I had many rolls of B&W I was going to develop but I got the message. This was not a day for film processing.

    So now I’m preparing snacks so I can watch the Super Bowl. Like the universe apparently wanted me to do.









  • A new year. 

    A new year. 

    A website is something we all wish to keep up to date and active. I always have the intention to update photos and content. It's perpetually on my to do list. 

    A new year is a gentle reminder to move 'update the website' up toward the top, you know, to at least update the copyright year. (:

    I download 'how to blog' articles, read websites, listen to podcasts, and yet, often find myself lacking in something interesting to write about. As Julia Cameron suggests in The Artist Way  just sit down and write. And if all you write about is how you have nothing to write about, at least you're writing. Getting started often sparks ideas and thoughts.

    So, I'm writing.

    I updated the photos on the home page with some recent images posted on my instagram account (@timothywellsartandlife). I'm more active on instagram at this point than other social media sites.  

    I updated my summary who I am to better reflect who I currently see myself.

    2018 saw a lot of projects in motion, mostly in the arts adminstration and a new project. I started Proscenia Film Society as a way to increase arts education and awareness beyond the visual arts I've spent the last many years building on.

    I took a watercolor painting class.

    I continued working with alternative processes and started processing my own color film. After being told for many years that color film processing is hard and tempermental, I learned from listening to podcasts that it isn't really that hard at all. And it isn't. This new skill has complicated my photography as I now carry color and black and white film to load into my 35, 120, large format regular, lomo, and pinhole cameras.

    2019 looks to be as busy as 2018. Turning Proscenia Film Society from an idea into an actual company / nonprofit organization, continued teaching college photography classes, workshops, community art projects, making new art, and learning new artmaking skills are the top level initiatives.

    Stay tuned as it all unfolds.





  • RIP Gene Wilder. Pure Imagination is more than a song in a kid's movie

    I’ve been writing this entry in my head for quite awhile and the announcement of Gene Wilder’s death prompted me to write it down. While this entry is focused on one song in one movie, his acting across many movies and plays etched its way into our cultural granite. 

    I remember being a child sitting in a movie theater and watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for the first time. The somber tone of the first part of the movie highlighted by Wilder as Wonka walks out of his factory limping with a cane to welcome the lucky golden ticket winners at the factory gates. He falls! The fall turns into a sumersault and a triumphant ta-dah and a smile. We then enter the factory, filmed as if we were one of the guests. Strange things begin to happen and we're crowded into a tiny optical illusion filled room. And then the door opens and we see the chocoloate room as the song "Pure Imagination" kicks in. 

    Wonka teases the guests as they proceed down the stairs, as they have to pay attention to his pauses, stops, whipping cane, and goose steps all the while wanting to focus all their attention on exploring the fantastic chocolate room opened up in front and around them. The eagerness, anxiety, and pure happyiness all playing across their faces. And there's Wonka who not only still enjoys his chocolate room, but also enjoys showing it off to them.

    Forty or so years later and the movie and this clip continue to impact me and the teacher I am becoming.

    I teach photography – digital, darkroom, and alternative processes (weird, odd, arty, processes created in the 1800s, blending digital and darkroom techniques, toy cameras, instant film, etc) classes. In all of the classes I teach, I try to bring a sense of fun and creativity to the class – sparking the childlike sense of wonder and excitement and exploraiton to the class that is captured in this one song.

    I’ve been known to show the “Pure Imagination” clip from the 1970s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” in class, telling them I am Willy Wonka introducing them to the wonders and fun of the photography chocolate room. I’m there to open the door to their sense of wonder and fun.

    Wilder's performance introducing the visitors to the chocolate room is much like the first day of class teaching. There's the sense of excitement, tension, apprehension, anxiousness of exploring something new and unknown. The way he leads them down the stairs, starting and stopping, making them pay attention to their progress while at the same time they want to scan the room to take in the wonders there.

    In the classroom, the students have an energy and excitement. I am eager and excited to introduce them to the wonders that are in front of them as they explore photography. I don't tire of looking across the photography lab and I gain energy from their energy. It is the first day of class. 

    The movie also contains other lessons such as sometimes you run into situations where there are unwritten rules that can cause you problems in life. I try to remind the students, and myself, of the risks of just jumping into the chocolate river because you’re so excited to drink from it, drinking too much fizzy lifting drink, wanting to try new technologies, etc, without thinking about the risks or consequences. The antcipation and energy of exploring the new with a slight pause, like Wonka leading them into the chocolate room, is lost and forgotten later in the movie.  In life, we find ourselves rushing ahead without remembering the lesson to sometimes slow our entrance into the chocolate room. 

    The childlike amazement isn’t confined to the chocolate room in Wonka’s factory as the sense of playful experimentation and exploration permeates the entire Wonka factory. They can permeate your entire world and day. The world and your day are filled with places where it’s ok to smile, have fun, and let your inner child shine. It's ok in life to find and bring that same sense of exploration, the removal of the serious masks we wear in our everyday worlds, to smile and have fun, the permission to skip and laugh and hold a bunch of balloons, the asking of “What if…?” while at work or making dinner, to watch the clouds and find shapes, to log roll down a hill and not worry about getting grass stains on your clothes and knees and elbows. 

    It is in finding this zone of exploration where the self-censoring editors are put aside, our tendencies and habits are suspended, and the creating from the inner self comes through and out. Where we put aside the "am I doing it right?" anxieties and let our true uncensored selves come out, explore and create, and be seen by ourselves and others.

    Pure imagination to change the world if you want to. There's nothing to it.




  • Sign on the gallery door #tellmeaboutpaducah



    I am working in the A.I.R. Studio for the month of July.

    I am making work inspired by the history and culture of Paducah.

    I need your help.

    Please come inside and talk to me about Paducah.

    The open hours are Monday – Saturday 2 – 7 PM and whenever the “Open” sign is out.

    Come in, head down the hallway to the studio, and let’s talk. I want to learn about Paducah and bring that information to life in my work.

    I’ll be posting information on facebook and instagram using #tellmeaboutpaducah.

    I also have a daily projection story every night. The ongoing story is taped onto the studio windows and each night’s projection will be on from dusk until around midnight.

    You can follow along with my adventures in Paducah on my website / blog


    Step inside and let’s talk!

  • Asking for help

    As I prepare and plan for each day's Daily Projection, I know I need to start moving the focus to the installation part of my residency now that I've introduced myself to the community via the projections and meeting people. It has been interesting in talking to folks and mentioning I'm the artist in residence at the A.I.R. Studio and I'm doing nightly projections, how many of them have seen the projections and stopped to read them.

    One of the many books I am reading is Amanda Palmer's "The Art of Asking". I've never been fond of asking for help as I have that mid-west work ethic of "if you want it done, do it yourself" and "don't bother people" (over-simplifying things a bit for the sake of blogging), but Palmer's book has inspired me to ask people for help when I need it. I used what I've learned from that book in getting the exhibit for my students' work in Michigan and when I needed help for the frames and matting, and help getting the work finished and delivered to the gallery since I was going to be out of town. And you know what? I asked for help, and people helped. And now 13 students have 38 images hanging in a gallery in Michigan ready for an opening reception on Friday.

    I decided and discovered I can't do this Paducah installation come together in less than a month without some help and input from the community, so I'm asking for help.

    Last night's (Tuesday, July 5th) Daily Projection set the stage for me asking for help.

    Tonight's projection, I'm letting them know how they can help.

    I'm going to start to have daily open hours where the community can come into the studio and #tellmeaboutpaducah. I'm hoping to gather stories, history, rumors (not about people, but about ghosts, speculation on historical events, etc), where to eat, where to visit, what to see while I'm here, etc that I can somehow use to pull together ideas for a mural I'll be constructing on the studio wall.

    I'm planning on having an open door/open studio time of 2 - 7 PM Monday-Saturday, and by appointment (ie, if the lights are on and the closed sign is up, knock on the door and let me know you're here. Let's talk. I may work while we talk, integrating the conversation into the mural or I may sit down with you and have a conversation.

    I'll be using the hashtag of #tellmeaboutpaducah on facebook and instagram throughout the month to post about progress of what's growing in the studio.

    Plus the #dailyprojectionspaducah will be used to continue posting the daily projections as that story evolves.

    So, Paducah come by A.I.R. Studion at 621 Madison St and #tellmeaboutpaducah


  • Branching out

    As I've settled into the space and getting things set up, I decided it was time to start branching out and exploring Lower Town. First stop was the David Carson exhibit at the Paducah School of Art and Design.


    I've been a fan of Carson's work since I first started my creative journey 13 years ago. His work had fallen off my radar over the last few years and I was excited to get a chance to see his work in person (vs online and in books) and the gallery is in easy walking distance of the A.I.R. Studio.

    It was a great inspiration for me to see his work. Even though is work is partially based on collage and photographs, and those aren't the focii of my time and work while here, I still walked away inspired and seeds and nuggets of ideas for other projects.

    I then stopped by a few of the galleries in Lower Town and meeting some of the local artists to discuss art, Paducah, business, etc. Paducah's Artist Relocation Program is such a great idea and a wonderful way to inject and support an artist community.


    I really enjoyed meeting Michael and Victoria Terra and chatting with Michael about art, the world, Paducah, and so much more. You should check them out if you're in town or at any of the art fairs they are part of.




  • Start of the first Paducah installation

    My first day in Paducah, I wanted to get started on things. 

    Based on a conversation I had with some of my new neighbors as I was unloading after a long 8.5 hour drive (that the GPS promised me would only take 6.5 hours), I realized that the neighborhood knew this space was used by visiting artists but there wasn't a good or easy way to introduce myself to the community. So I decided that the first installation would be a series of night-time projections on the inside wall of the front part of the space to introduce myself and my work to the community. Thus started my "Daily Projections" project.

    Each night, I create a new transparency in a series of transparencies and project it on the wall. I'm taping the series of previous days' transparencies on the front windows so people who have missed a day can catch up on the story.

    I'll post snapshops of each day's "page" on my facebook and instagram pages.



    So, feel free to follow along as the story evolves.



  • Paducah Residency

    I arrived in Paducah on July 1 for a month-long residency at A.I.R. Studio at 621 Madison St, part of the Lower Town arts district of Paducah.

    I proposed and came prepared to focus on installation art part of my art practice during this residency. I came in with some seeds of ideas but no preconceived ideas of what I was going to create here. I find exploring an area and feeding off the vibe, spirit, history, and culture to fuel my installations leads to more exciting and inspired work.

    Researching Paducah from afar had so many seeds to explore.

    Its history and connections with the expansion west of the US, its neutral role in the Civil War.

    Personally, the fact my family has a long history of living along the Ohio River offered potential to explore. And in doing research, there is a connection between Paducah, KY and Ypsilanti, MI (the city where I live) as part of the history of the "Hillbilly Highway" - the I-75/US-23 roads connecting Appalachia with Detroit as the workers migrated from Appalachia to Detroit and surrounding areas in the early 1900s to work in the automotive industry. One person I talked to mentioned there was a bus that ran from Ypsilanti to Paducah on Friday afternoons to bring the men home from the car plants and the aircraft bomber plant for the weekend and drive them back on Sundays.

    Paducah offers such a rich and fertile history, cuturally and personally, to dig into and explore for installations. 

    I'm looking forward to digging in fast and deep to create.

    In packing up the truck with supplies for the residency, I had a tough time limiting myself. One, the drive was too long to think, "I can always drive back and get more stuff if I need."  This was a once here and once back kind of trip so I had to be selective about what I thought I'd need and what I thought I'd work on while here. If you've seen my studio space and know how I work on multiple projects at once, this was a challenge for me to try to stay focused.

    I embrace that challenge. One month isn't very long to dig in, create, and then pack up. 

    On Sunday, I went to the Maiden Alley Cinema in Paducah to see "Miles Ahead", Don Cheadle's movie about Miles Davis. The reviews fo the movie were mixed and the interview he did with Rolling Stone all gave me pause. But it seemed like a movie I wanted to see in a theater. And I'm glad I did. The movie was interesting in a good way. I'm not all that familar with Davis' music as I've never taken the time to study it. And I know the movie is a fictionalized story of the years that Davis stopped making music. As a creative, the "what happens when you run out of things to say" is a giant ledge you don't look forward to standing on. Cheadle's idea of making a movie about a movie that Davis would have wanted to be a lead in is actually pretty entertaining. And if I'm correct, it would seem that the "modern day" scenes were filmed digitally but the flashback scenes were filmed on film. Which if is true, was a subtle technic that was genius.

    Anyway, Miles Ahead. If you have a chance to see it. Go, but go with the idea of being entertained. It's not a documentary. It's a different kind of story than you've seen before. 

    And when you're in Paducah, make sure to check out the Maiden Alley Cinema for movies or concerts. It's a great, intimate venue.


  • Missing....

    So, there have been blog entries since March's review of Zootopia but apparently I somehow didn't upload them correctly. Missing content is simply missing.  But a quick run down of things since March.

    I taught Alternative Processes class at a local community college. The semester was condensed into 7 1/2 weeks. The students got the same amount of class time and lab time as they would in a normal 10 or 15 week semester, but we just got all that lab time in a shorter period of time. I think that was beneficial to everyone. It gave us two days a week, 4 hours a day, working in the labs which gave them the ability to stay aggressive with their work. I'll consider this format again if I get to teach the class again. And I was able to get an exhibition of the work they created at a local gallery. The whole thing came to be in a short period of time and I'm grateful to 22 North Gallery for trusting us to get work together on short notice and to the faculty at staff at Washtenaw Community College for supporting this opportunity for the students to have their work seen in a gallery setting and learn a little about what is involved in making work for galleries.

    I have work up in the Ann Arbor Art Center's Real American exhibit. 

    I'm currently doing an artist in residence at A.I.R Studio in Paducah, KY. My focus is on site-specific installation art creating work based on the history and culture of Paducah. But if you're reading this, you've probably already been through the blog posts covering my time in Paducah.


  • Movie Review: Zootopia

    Movie review.


    I went to go see Zootopia tonight. I didn't know what to expect and the trailer didn't make me feel like it was a movie I wanted to see.


    However after all the good reviews and word of mouth, I decided to celebrate getting a fair chunk of long term and nagging to dos off my list.


    I'm glad I did. The movie was funny, intelligent, quirky, surprising, and amazing eye candy animation. There is a lot to like and love in this movie.


    It was refreshing. After seeing at least two trailers for upcoming movies that featured fart and poop jokes for humor, the humor in Zootopia to not stoop to that level. They skirted it and pushed up against a few other boundaries, but for the most part the humor was intelligent, witty, appropriate for all ages, and clever.


    And did I mention the story was interesting, the message was nice, and there were a lot of surprises (even the ones I saw coming didn't go where I thought they were going to go?)


    Disney animation is on quite a roll with their movies over the last few years.


    I did feel a little "oh gheeze" during the closing scene thinking "this is just setting up a moment at Wonderful World of Color water spectacular at Disney California Adventure." But that's a really tiny tiny thought and one only noticed by the Disney die-hards.


    Other than having a theater full of people who don't have an attention span long enough to not have to check their phones every 5 minutes or who taught their kids it's ok to crawl over the furniture and treat the theater like a playground, it was an enjoyable adventure. And those elements of social skills evaporating are not the fault of the movie, but the movie theater and people who shouldn't be spending their money going to movies.


    Hint: There is NOT an easter egg/moment after the credits.


    Did you see this movie? What were your thoughts?