Archive for October, 2011

17
Oct
11

Vineyard Harvest, stretching creatively

Which do you prefer? Black & White or Color? Why? This is an ongoing discussion among photographers of all levels and the best answer I have ever heard is this: Which would you hang on your wall and live with every day? There are a few color photographs that I could live with day in and day out, but there are many black and white images that I’d be happy to see each day. Why? I think there is an intimacy and quiet that exudes from a good black and white photograph that allows the viewer to rest in the image. It invites you to stay for a while not by blaring color and clamoring for your attention, but by its essence and structure, dignity even. Good color photographs have all these qualities of course. But what makes the difference?

I am a firm believer in color photography as fine art (I’m not a black & white elitist), and I most often choose to work in color.  So as an exercise I developed these images in both to see if there was a clear favorite. The processing is very different, but retaining the qualities of luminosity and subtlety were my guides for both. I’d be delighted to have you join the conversation.

I am also trying to expand my abilities by choosing to photograph people. I don’t often do this unless there happens to be a rider on a horse. As I am leaving for the Czech Republic in November to continue my work on a personal project I thought it would be a good idea to spend the next couple of weeks photographing as many people as possible.  I am nervous about this self-assignment, but determined to master the fear and settle in to make the best images I can. I’ll process those images in color and black and white. It will be interesting to see which has the most impact….but quiet impact with, I hope, a timeless message.

 

 

15
Oct
11

“…the rhythm comes back” ~ Bruce Davidson

The Widow of Montmarte, Mme Fauche ©Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

Wow. Sometimes the synchronicity of existence stuns me. This morning I was reading my favorite photography blog (Lens, NYTimes) and the words of Bruce Davidson jumped off the page. While speaking of making a group of photographs nearly forty years ago, he said  “What’s great about looking at your work is the emotion comes back. The emotion comes back. The rhythm of what you were photographing comes back. It’s almost like a musical score.”

I had just come in from photographing the actual harvest of the grapes and was considering an edit to yesterday’s post on rhythm. Before I jumped into the edit I decided to stop and breathe a bit and open up the NYTimes Lens blog. There it was, my thought and emotion, my INTENT reflected in Mr. Davidson’s words. To celebrate the publishing of his retrospective, (“Outside Inside,” a three-volume, boxed set — published by the master printer Gerhard Steidl.) James Estrin and Josh Haner conducted this deeply thoughtful interview at Mr. Davidson’s home.

There is no way I could/would ever compare my work to Bruce Davidson’s, but I recognize the similarity in how we work and how we feel about what we do. This is incredibly affirming to me. I’ve always been grateful for the artistry and humanity of his work, now I feel just a little closer to it. Thank you, Bruce Davidson, for the images, your humility, and your thought.

Click here to read the entire interview and see a bit of his stunning imagery. http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/28/showcase-177/ It is a bounteous harvest.

Outside Inside, ©Bruce Davidson, 2011

14
Oct
11

Rhythm and Harvest

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. This year for the first time I’m in California during the grape harvest. Instead of watching the maples and oaks of Eastern forests clothe themselves in ruby and gold, I’ve been watching the grapes ripen. Tasting a few dew-covered purple sugar gems has been the morning’s highlight. Watching the leaves change color and listening to the local growers discuss the intermittent rain, the sugar content of the grapes, and whether the skins are still firm, has deepened my appreciation of the tenuous nature of all farming, of living close to the earth. I know nothing about their harvesting, but I’m enjoying language and rhythms of the grapes.

Learning the language and feeling the rhythm. Hmm.  I think this may be a metaphor for living a good life. As we learn the language of our endeavor, be it photography, classical dressage, grape growing, or any other pursuit, we broaden our awareness and deepen our knowledge. It makes us fuller, more interesting humans. Now layer in the rhythm of life. We have all felt it when we are with the rhythm…..and maybe felt it a little stronger when we are out of rhythm. I’ve been practicing my ability to stop and appreciate when I am in it and stop and breathe when I am not.

Harvest (of any task or effort or sowing) has it’s own rhythm. Previously I have thought that it was an endpoint, a gathering of fruit from labor. Now I am seeing that the gathering clears the way for new effort. And that effort is most likely a result of your harvest, whether it has been a success or failure.

This fall has seen the release of my first book. It is very gratifying, but it is also a time to re-double the labor to ensure that the work that has gone into getting it this far will only be the platform for a greater bounty. So I have to immerse myself in the language and rhythm of promotion and publicity. (This is the real (read: unglamorous) life of a photographer.)

And along with this effort I am launching into the second phase of my personal project in the Czech Republic. I’ve written before on this blog about how I prepare for taking a photographic journey. My process remains the same. I read literature of the place and that place in time that I want to photograph. I listen to music and recorded books in the language of the destination. I slip into the feel and sound of my journey long before I arrive. I do not look at imagery as I want to see things new. To be successful at this I’ve learned that I must begin the process with an empty mind, an empty cup. There’s no room for expansion when your mind/cup is already full. No room to reap the sounds, smells, scenes when you have preconceived notions about your destination.

I’ll spend the next several weeks in hyper-drive to prepare for my trip and sow the seeds for greater promotion for Meditation for Two. But I’ll stop every so often and remember the dew on grapes, their luscious sweetness, the bite of the skins and crunch of the seeds, and the sounds of birdcalls in the early morning of the vineyard. Next time I see the vineyard the grapes will be gone and the vines will be pruned. The earth will rest for a time before offering new growth. This rhythm is eternal. Stepping into this rhythm and harvesting the memory of the light and softness, the delicious fullness of earth’s bounty, has expanded my world.

A note about the images: I used my favorite Fly Paper Textures to illustrate the juiciness and softness of the mornings here in the vineyard.




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