Archive for September, 2013

27
Sep
13

playing in the light & a gallery show!

I am happy to say that I am back in Portugal for several weeks. I’ve been feeling a little ‘down’ about not photographing enough, so I did something about it!

Photographing in an indoor arena is always tricky. And knowing we were going to visit Senhor Manuel Braga to photograph horses in his picadeiro gave me more than my usual apprehension. I remembered that the footing in this particular arena is nearly black. Oh well….nothing to do but try! When I arrived I had a big surprise though…just the week before, Manuel had replaced the footing and now there was a lovely white reflective floor!

It was late in the afternoon so the light was slanting and a little warm. Horses were presented and ridden and photographs were made. I was generally happy with the result when in came a gorgeous young black stallion. Manuel turned him loose for me to photograph him in liberty, saying “he is very expressive”. This was an understatement!  The horse was a fabulous mover and he loved playing with Senhor Braga and Pedro. I was a very happy photographer.

There are some straight shots, a black and white conversion, and two with my favorite Flypaper Textures! Enjoy….more from the last several weeks coming soon!

If you are in the West Virginia/Maryland/Virginia area, there is a great photography show coming up in Martinsburg at the newly minted Berkeley Art Works:  October 3 through October 27 in the gallery at 116 North Queen Street.  I’ll be showing proudly but humbly with Mark Muse, Frank Robbins, Rip Smith and Robert Clark. I’ll miss the reception, but just manage to see the show when I return to West Virginia after some work in Brasil! I can’t wait. My fellow photographers have taught me a great deal and I am a big admirer of their work.  Passion for learning, for printing, and capturing the light unite us though our visions are wildly diverse. Go see the show!

18
Sep
13

considering the portrait

I visit the Whidbey Island County Fair each year during my week with Sam Abell at Pacific Northwest Art School. It’s a highlight for our students and a highlight for us. It is a place that is familiar, but full of surprises each time we go. This year, I fulfilled a promise that I make to myself each year. I went back to the fair after class was finished. That’s a luxury for photographers…the go-back. I am always so inspired by the work that the students produce, and this year was no exception. I was filled with ideas and creative fire, so off I went.

After photographing a number of subjects that were on my list I took a walk through the animal barns. I found this little girl, sitting in the pen with her pygmy goats, with no sign of parents or relatives nearby. I stayed for a while and made a number of images, trying to talk with her a little, offering to show her the picture on the back of my camera, but she remained in her own world. I thanked her and walked away. About twenty minutes later I decided to go back and see if she was still sitting all alone. She was. I asked her if I could make a few more pictures, to which she nodded her assent. That was the only interaction she offered the entire time.

So my thought process in making the images became this: how can I show her in the isolation and detachment that I feel? It’s not that she wasn’t animated, she was quite involved in her own story….talking on a (pinecone) cell phone, acting out the entire conversation, and alternately hugging and scolding her goats. But she was totally detached from the adults, adolescents and children walking past, some trying to talk to her, others reaching to pet her goats. It was unsettling.

Here is a small selection of images…the last being the one I chose to pull as THE portrait. Now I am undecided. I’ll come back another month from now and look at the images. Emotional detachment in the editing process is a good thing.  Emotional detachment at a fair? Well, it was certainly photographically intriguing for me.

Comments, as always, welcome and appreciated. And if you like this post (or others) how about sharing the blog with friends? Thank you!

16
Sep
13

“you must have something to say about the world” ~ Paul Strand

When I teach I tell my students that in order to have a viewer care about or become involved with their image, the photographer must care about the image they are making. But I like the way Paul Strand says it, that we must have something to say about the world if we are to create photographs.  In other words, what are we trying to communicate? What do you want the viewer to know, to feel, to ASK? What implications are there in your photographs? Is your photograph suggestive, documentary, or literal. A combination of these? Perhaps all three?

I think about these questions unceasingly. I have come to the realization that I want to create photographs that transcend the literal, yet do not deny it. (borrowed from Sam Abell). What does this mean?

Consider the photo below of the sea stacks off First Beach on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s a straightforward photograph of a landscape, yet, it is suggestive of the eternal. The sea, the fog, a voyage to an unknown land, all evoke timeless existence, timeless desire. So, yes, it is a photograph of a seascape, but it communicates more because we, as humans, are wired in our DNA to look at the ocean with a sense of wonder. Where does the wonder come from? From a time when anything apart from the land was unknown, mysterious and dangerous? Perhaps from a time when a journey across the water meant freedom or opportunity…even servitude. Certainly it meant danger, but an ocean voyage could mean riches and fame as well.

James Island and sea stack, Olympic Peninsula

James Island and sea stack, Olympic Peninsula

Consider the image below….far different than the peaceful contemplative issue of the sea.  But look deeper…there is solitude, and the image of a single candle to light the darkness. The eternal flame. It is a simple image of an interior, even a detail of an interior, but it is evocative of consciousness, thought, searching, and for me, hope.

Convento dos Capuchos, interior

Convento dos Capuchos, interior

For thought and discussion far more cogent than mine, check out the video. It’s part one of six on Paul Strand. It’s worth the time to hear the great master in his own words. And the catalog/book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s show Stieglitz Steichen Strand is a revelation.

The book that was published for the exhibition of masterworks by the photographers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The book that was published for the exhibition of masterworks by the photographers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Here’s a review of the show. Sadly, I missed it, but now I have the catalog to bring the imagery even closer. http://www.photography-collection.com/exhibitions/alfred-stieglitz-edward-steichen-and-paul-strand-at-the-metropolitan-museum/

15
Sep
13

favorite books from childhood

Picking up on the theme of important books (a’ la Robert Frank’s The Americans)I have been thinking of the books from my childhood that live strongly in my memories.

There are books that mirror and strengthen experiences. There are books that supported my passion for horses and there are books that helped shape who I am. But there was one book that spoke to me about what was important in life.  First the books that paralleled my life at the time: From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Harriet the Spy.

My Mother took me to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York when I was 12 years old. I had read the book by E. L. Konigsburg (…Files…) and was excited to visit the very place where two children had their adventures. I saw the bed that they slept in, the armor and paintings that impressed them so much, and the fountain where they gathered coins to buy food. The book had the effect of engaging me in a museum that otherwise would have been challenging for a twelve-year-old tomboy from the countryside of West Virginia.

Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, is a story about an introverted young girl that ‘spies’ on her friends and family. It wasn’t so much a parallel (I wasn’t a spy) as it was a book that made it ok to be the introverted and introspective girl that I was/am. I was always shy, but my mind was never quiet. It was challenging to fit in, but Harriet made it a little easier. I suppose it’s that ages-old story of a child seeking affirmation.

The books that supported my passion for horses were all of Marguerite Henry’s books along with Walter Chandoha’s A Foal is for You, and Mary O’Hara’s My Friend Flicka. A Foal is Born was a gift from a great-aunt who was loved, but feared. In addition to being a tender, loving book about a baby horse, the gift of this book showed me she had a softer side and that she cared for ME. My Friend Flicka opened up a world of adventure and emotion for me. The Wyoming ranges and meadows came to life, just as the possibility of loving something, someone, so fiercely that you would give up your life to care for them. This resonated so strongly with me…especially as it was about a horse! But throughout the book danger and beauty were intertwined. The lesson I took from that was to seek beauty, to value beauty and love and caring, but to understand that you must hold these things lightly. They are fleeting and delicate.

Finally, the most important book I had was Frederick by Leo Lionni.  This slender book was filled with beautiful images of a humble field mouse in his home. His stone wall, the meadows and fields around it with their wildflowers and bounty, the blue sky above and the warmth of the sun were food for Frederick’s imagination, for his soul. In the dark days of winter while his family and friends were huddled deep in the stones, seeking shelter, warmth, and nourishment where there was little to be had, Frederick recounted his impressions, the things that filled his senses and gave him sustenance. The other mice realized that when they thought Frederick had been daydreaming rather than gathering corn, he was seeking, and storing, strength and inspiration. The entire mouse community was inspired and ‘fed’ by Frederick’s quiet introspection and subsequent offering of his feast of the senses. At eight or nine years old the message in this book was shockingly, deeply resonant. There was no one in my world to tell me that this was a way “to be”. The possibility that value could be placed on the thoughts that swirled around in my head was profoundly encouraging.

My path to becoming a photographer and writer was circuitous in the extreme, but Frederick was always there to light the path. Even when my feet were planted firmly on another road, on tiny mouse tiptoes he would slip quietly into my consciousness to remind me to sit and feel the warmth and color around me. His enormously round liquid eyes would look into mine and say “see the world around you”.

Look quietly, and deeply.  And read good books.

 

05
Sep
13

great interviews: Sam Abell and David Alan Harvey

Click on this link for a great interview with my friend and mentor, Sam Abell.  And here’s another: Story Matters. Thank you to Jonathan Blaustein and Story Matters for the interviews. And thank you to Honey Lazar (click this link to see her amazing project, Loving Aunt Ruth, along with a stunning body of work) for bringing the first to my attention.

I continue to be inspired and stunned by the creativity and quality of photography being produced around the globe. This week I came across a great Street Photography site (on Facebook) that has me itching to shoot in Lisbon. My biggest question is how do I fit it in to an already overloaded schedule? I struggle with this each day while remaining grateful for all the opportunities that stretch out before me.

Enjoy these links…I’ll be back in a few days with a discussion about a portrait series….stay tuned…and go make some photographs!

Oh! one last one: David Alan Harvey interview in Vice. Here’s the link to David’s burn. online magazine.

new work from Sam Abell

new work from Sam Abell

 

an old favorite

an old favorite

 

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Filipe Correia, Portugal, from Streetview

David Alan Harvey from Visura Magazine

One of my favorites from Honey Lazar's Loving Aunt Ruth project.

One of my favorites from Honey Lazar’s Loving Aunt Ruth project.

 




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