Archive for January, 2010

27
Jan
10

a view from the Nation

The Navajo Nation.  From an outsider’s viewpoint, it seems to me that the Navajo people exist in several worlds at once, perhaps uneasily.  I’ve traveled to the Chinle, Arizona,  area many times now and have made good friends there.  On several occasions I have been taken to areas to photograph petroglyphs and pictographs that aren’t generally accessible.  I’m delighted by this as I have a deep interest in the history and cultures of the Southwest, but I am also puzzled as I know the Navajo have an incredibly strong taboo or set of behaviors around death and dying. Many of the sites I have seen incorporate death or the depiction of death/dying/suffering…but I am left with the feeling that these depictions and sites are reaching forward in time to reveal commonalities in the human experience. 

There are modern scenes there as well that offer insights and ask more pressing questions.  An American flag woven onto a fenceline signals fierce patriotism against the backdrop of appalling abuse and neglect from the U. S. Government and citizens.   Rodeos are centers of cultural activity and practice goes on year ’round in preparation for the big events in Window Rock….yet the horse and the cowboy way of life are relatively recent additions to the Dine’.  Coal and minerals mining provide jobs that are desperately needed, but these industries have pernicious effects.  The water table is dropping creating crop failure and many springs and wells are poisoned, which causes Dine’ families to drive 40, 50, even 60 miles for water for their sheep and other livestock.  Grandmothers survive in hogans miles from anyone….sometimes dependent on help from various groups… while braving cold winters with little warmth and no electricity. 

I’m humbled by the generosity of spirit shown to me by my friends in Chinle. With their assistance, beginning this spring, I’ll be visiting the area to launch a photographic project that has two phases.  I’ll create a personal body of work that I hope to have published in order to create awareness for the second part: I would like to create an ongoing project that involves the children of Chinle and other communities.  With the help of a couple of photographic “stars” my goal is to launch a program that the communities will then take over that encourages children ages 10 t0 16 to look into their lives, their culture, and express the difficulty, triumph, love, sadness, hope, and myriad challenges the Nation faces.  I’ll keep you informed of my progress.  Projects live and die by funding.  If you have contacts or ideas, please email me.  I’m on my way, but additional help is welcome.

23
Jan
10

on shepherds and breathing life into art

Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.
Winston Churchill   

Family and close friends know that I am an ardent admirer of Winston Churchill.  Aside from his magnificent careers in politics and literature and that little matter of holding the candle for the free world for a time, Mr. Churchill was  a prolific and accomplished painter.  He had the ability to stop whatever he was doing and totally focus on his painting when he felt the need to step back from his tremendous burdens.  It was a comfort and a tonic to him his entire adult life.  Photography and writing give me that gift….now I’m going to add some bubbles. 

I’ve written about the impact that painting has on my photography and the way it opens my eyes and heart to see things new.  The visual history and legacies that have been left to us by artists since time began can inform and help to shape new work.  While reading a poem by Pablo Neruda, I saw an illustration today that I liked very much.  It has triggered my desire expand my thinking when I am photographing to consider subjects for other uses; for example textures as overlays, or patterns to give structure…and images, like poetry, as allusions.  This is not revolutionary, but it will help me to widen my field of view and express something that is new to me.   With Uelsmann and Caponigro and other masters in the field as shepherds, I’ll breathe some more life into my own journey. 

These are my first attempts to see with the idea of joining elements.

20
Jan
10

carrying the water

As a photographer I have dreamed of creating the kind of work that Damon Winter, James Nachtwey, Lynsey Addario, Ron Haviv, Colin Finlay and many other amazing people do every day.  Perhaps one day I will.  But for now, these folks are carrying the water…doing the heavy lifting to show the world the indelible face of tragedy, suffering, and loss on a scale that we struggle to comprehend.  I follow this blog daily:  Lens: The New York Times Photo Blog.  Take a look.  Visit their sites.  Involve yourself in a reality far removed from our own…but in the most important way, inextricably linked, as we are all human.  Now, let’s show some humanity. 

Visit Partners in Health, Doctors without Borders,  and help, please.  It does make a difference.  And if you do, email me.  I’ll send you a 10×15 print of any image from this blog to say thank you.  I’m not a registered 501(c)3…..I just want to help in the biggest way possible.  (Empty hands, but full heart….) 

with deep respect,  Keron

keron AT tanatyva.com

17
Jan
10

the editing process

I am engaged by photographs that elicit an emotional response.  I want my own photographs to meet that standard and yet I realize that it is totally subjective.  What one viewer finds sorrowful or joyful will likely be different from another’s view.  But still, if we (as the photographer) are moved by a scene, a moment, or an event then it is likely that our audience will catch on to something that pulls them in.   So the question for me, when helping clients or friends edit their work, is this: Am I engaged?  Am I taking some extra time to really see the photograph or is it a ‘one look’ photo, a photo that might be graphically stunning but is one-dimensional? What are you trying to communicate as a photographer?  Anything? What is your point of view?  Do you have one?  Or is it simply a picture of  a pretty scene, thing, event?  What does the photograph say about you, the photographer?  Are there clues or is the mystery part of the appeal?  In short, to paraphrase Sam Abell: Is it involving? 

Of all the challenges to creating a successful or engaging photograph, among them lighting, technique, composition, setting, and gesture, the communication of feeling is for me the most important. Here is a small gallery with a wide array of subjects for you to critique. 

A note about Sam: Over 1,000 people attended the opening of his new show, Amazonia, at the University of Oregon on Saturday, January 16th.  Sam, along with the wonderful Danish photographer, Torben Nissen, spent months in the headwaters of the Amazon and came back with compelling, thoughtful images that tell the story of one of earth’s most precious resources.  I hope you’ll get to see the show.

10
Jan
10

words and photography, initial thoughts on bookmaking

I generally prefer to look at photographs without any distraction on the page.  I enjoy clean lay-outs, devoid of the mark of the designer (though it was probably well designed if there are no distractions from the image). However, just as a good musical selection can add layering and fullness to a slide show, some texts compliment photographs so perfectly that the sum is greater than the parts.  This is a difficult thing to achieve so I have set myself the task of doing just that.  In addition to the projects that I have working currently, I am creating a book of the poems I have written that were inspired by photographs.  I have often had the experience where words or a phrase will rise up from an image and will not go away until I’ve written them down, or worked out a poem from those initial sparks.  It’s a very scary prospect, but I will be posting a few images and poems here on the blog.  Allow me to say this: I know NOTHING about poetry other than what I like…..so please don’t recommend this blog to a poetry professor!  (Or if so, find one capable of compassionate criticism?)  I did include several poems in the book I collaborated on with Dominique Barbier, Meditation for Two.  The response has been remarkably positive and I am encouraged to develop the work.

Here are a couple of  images and excerpts of poems; the first from The Chapel of St. John in the Tower of London, circa 1080, and the second from the Dunker Church on Antietam Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland, circa 1852.

….Cries of Princes, wail of lovers,
thoughts of Saints, and many others…
All these you´ve heard and sealed in stone.
Held in that light, that
glorious, golden tone.

SILENCE
No blast of rifles or
burst of cannons
No shouted orders or
pleas in desperation
pleas for life and for home

SILENCE
No clattering of wagon´s wheels
bearing shattered young men
No drips or splatters from the
surgeon´s work…the
rasp of steel on bone

SILENCE
No cries of mothers or daughters
of fathers and sons or wives in agonizing
frenzied search.

blessed silence

in this humble church.

01
Jan
10

new images from looking back

For the last couple of years I have made sure that I photograph first thing in the morning on the first day of the new year.  This morning was no exception, but it had a little twist.  I have been driving by this particular scene each day, twice a day, for over a year and today was my day to stop and photograph it.  The delay is due mostly to the fact that it is only accessible from a busy on-ramp in the Washington Park Arboretum.  But today being a holiday, and one that had many people sleeping in, I was able to park off to the side of the ramp and photograph undisturbed for long periods of time.

Tony Sweet, Eddie Soloway, and William Neill (among many) are doing marvelous impressionistic work.  It’s fresh, engaging, and their work is expanding the boundary of our vision, much as the Impressionist painters did in the 1860’s and 1870’s.  It took decades for their revolutionary way of seeing to catch on with the public and then with the art collectors.  Things haven’t changed a great deal.  During a layover in Denver International Airport on Tuesday, I looked up and saw Ernst Haas’ image of a toreador and bull in motion advertising some service or product….to which I paid no attention. But the image stuck. These were some of the first, and still most engaging, images of movement in color and they are from the 1950’s!  Freeman Patterson carried that particular baton a long way with his dedication to impressionistic vision and experimenting with layers of images and other darkroom techniques.  Tony, Bill, and Eddie are standing on his shoulders and reaching new heights and hopefully, new collectors and buyers.

Are my images radically different?  Not at all.  Then why make them, you might ask…..I make them to refine my vision, to teach me to see more deeply and to know what my camera will see when I am using a different technique.  I make them to understand what it is that is pleasing or intriguing about a given image.  In this way I might be able to teach with more clarity or to open a door to further exploration of the subject.  And finally, I make my images to know myself, to stay engaged in the conversation of living.

There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are”
Ernst Haas

 

 




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