Who is behind the BLACKJACKET(TM), "the focusing cloth with sleeves"?
As the manufacturer of the BLACKJACKET™I am pleased to join the ranks of sponsors of Analog Photographry Users Group (apug).
I am acquainted with many apuggers as customers. In fact, it was apugger/customer Thom Hoskinson that first brought this site to my attention. Some might recognize my signature of “kswatapug” from my occasional postings, though I never formally introduced myself to the community. I’ve contributed where I can and have enjoyed the banter and gleaned a lot of useful information from the membership. Since we have now joined the ranks of sponsors, I’m taking Sean’s suggestion to heart and baring all, so to speak.
I am a photographer (at the minimum, by Jorge’s definition) who has worked almost exclusively with color transparency film since I purchased my first 35mm camera in 1984. My analog equipment now includes 35mm, 6x7cm, 4x5 and SX70 film cameras. My darkroom experience is for the most part limited to work I did as a volunteer for the National Park Service copying old nitrates onto safety film to create working negatives for the research library. To produce my own prints, film is scanned and optimized by me prior to output.
That first camera purchase in 1984 occurred just prior to quitting my job in New York City to take a cross-country motorcycle trip. The trip ended three months and eighteen thousand miles later in Yosemite National Park which is when I began to seriously pursue a career in photography by taking the best job available to a person of my credentials (economics degree, typesetter for graphics company making the transition from hot metal to cold type, and thirteen years of experience in a fine restaurant). I got a job polishing porcelain in the employee housing restrooms. Looking back, it was probably the best position I held while in the park, since it was a guaranteed 40-hour work week and I lived in a tent cabin in the middle of Yosemite Valley. I expected to be there one winter. When I finally checked, fourteen years had gone by and I had progressed to become the head of public relations and interpretation for the major park concessioner.
As most are probably aware, Yosemite is a Mecca for photographers/y. We (my wife, Annette Bottaro-Walklet is also a skilled photographer who served as the Workshop Coordinator for the Ansel Adams Gallery for five years) thrived by rubbing elbows and sharing burritos with a mind-boggling collection of artists. Between my position as the primary media contact for the concessioner and hers heading up the workshop program, we were fortunate to interact with practically every professional photographer who made the journey to “Nature’s grandest classroom.”
We founded our business QuietWorks Photography in 1989, to deal with the revenue stream that came from selling our images for publication. By 1993, the business had grown sufficiently that Annette left her position with the Ansel Adams Gallery to devote full-time to QuietWorks, selling stock and fine prints out of our modest 600 square-foot cottage on the Ahwahnee Meadow.
In 1999, anxious to abandon my 100-hour work-week for a full-time career as a writer, photographer and instructor, we swapped roles (with Annette now working as a corporate paralegal) and moved to Boise, Idaho. In between authoring two books on Yosemite, I devised the idea for a focusing cloth with sleeves, now known as the BLACKJACKET™. The idea was the direct result of my own frustrations of working with my Toyo 4x5 in the field, particularly in windy conditions.
I put a lot of thought into the initial design and secretly field-tested the concept for four years before I went into production. Its public debut was in the “What’s New” section of Outdoor Photographer October of 2003, followed up with in-person demonstrations at the View Camera Conference in Monterey. These focusing cloths are well made with quality materials that should outlast even the most active photographers.
Since the ORIGINAL 4x5 went on sale, the line of BLACKJACKET™s has expanded to include two styles; the ORIGINAL and a waterproof/breathable HYBRID for warmer climates. The necks sizes are designed to work with DSLRs to 4x5, 5x7, 8x10 (that can also be used with 4x5) and I’m working on some special orders for larger cameras as we speak.
I’ve been recognized on this site for my customer service, for which I am grateful. I have been fortunate that my suppliers and fabricators have been responsive and my product has shipped promptly upon receipt of an order. Many of the improvements I’ve made to the product were the result of direct feedback from my customers, so I love to hear from folks long after the sale is made. It gives me immense pride to help make photography a little easier and more pleasant. I am not an aggressive sales person. I think the product really speaks for itself, and as more and more people discover its benefits, I have to speak even less.
As for apug, I have a tremendous appreciation for the passion that the membership of this organization has for perpetuating the art, skill and community of traditional photographic methods and I look forward to continuing my own contributions to that end. For more information, visit us at www.quietworks.com.
Keith S. Walklet, owner