Posts Tagged ‘impressionism

20
Mar
14

in the footsteps Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Bonnard

Long before I became a photographer I was a lover of art. The Impressionists were my first love and though I have expanded my list of favorites to include the renaissance and Dutch masters, modern expressionists and a number of great American painters, I continue to return to the vibrancy and searching feeling that I see in much of the Impressionist’s work.

Because of this it was a great pleasure for me to have several days in the South of France to take in the landscapes of Cezanne, Van Gogh, Bonnard, and many others. The artists were attracted to the light of Provence, but I think they must have been attracted to the shapes in the land. The fields in the valleys are covered in ancient gnarled olives and tiny, hardy grape vines. They mirror the twisted shapes of the olive trees in miniature. The miniature iris were blooming, hinting at the explosion of color to come. And the almonds were just coming out…the peach trees were in full bloom.

The weather here can be difficult; too hot, sometimes icy cold, often windy, ever changing. The wind comes from the north carrying moisture and cold, or from the south with a fierce heat, or from the East or from the West. Each of these Mistral (meaning ‘masterly’) winds has its own name. Basically, it’s windy. But the winds clear the atmosphere of dust and other matter and lend the luminous quality to the light. Think about what the light looks like on an early evening after a terrific afternoon thunderstorm. This is the light of Provence for much of the time.

I visited the Chapelle Saint Sixte (12th century) on a calm evening without a cloud in the sky. This area in and around Eygalieres was painted many times by Van Gogh. I was happy to know that I was walking the same ground as the Masters…seeing the same forms…and seeking to create my own vision of this storied landscape. But that night my vision was a darker, more nuanced one….so I created the images below.

16
Nov
10

storing memory

I am writing from California while looking at the late afternoon sun falling over the vineyards.  It is warm and golden with the sweet sounds of birds in the olive trees. After a long summer the grass has turned green again following late October rains.  It is a peaceful place for a pause before I begin the rest of my journey to the East. It reminds me of my favorite story, Frederick The Mouse. I’m storing the memory of the warmth and light and scent. This way I can use it to sustain me over the winter and as a guidepost for my return.

After four years I have left Seattle. Work and family cares are calling me to the East Coast for a time so I am driving across the country. I’ll be taking a southerly route and making notes of all the places that I’ll want to visit and photograph on a return trip. Driving south from the Oregon/California border was torturous at times because I could not stop. The light in the olive groves on the fresh green grass was arresting.  The patterning, the color, the softness in the atmosphere….thinking of it all now brings the pain back of not being able to photograph it.  I think I will have many bittersweet moments like that on this trip. As a photographer I know well the law that demands we “photograph it now”. We can never duplicate the light we see or the emotion generated by a scene when we first discover it. It’s a life lesson isn’t it:  Carpe Diem….do not procrastinate…etc. But as it can not be helped, I will make the notes and plan to return.

Here are a few images from my trip to Florida last week. Photographing for Cindy, Simone, and Rosemary was a joy and one that I actually KNOW can be repeated. I’m looking forward to being in Florida again in February. I’ll harvest again the scent of the ocean, the call of the gulls and the chirps of the pipers while the atmosphere displays the orange, pink, purple and blue hues that announce the arrival and departure of the sun.

27
Sep
10

Thinking of layers

“We see things not as they are. We see things as we are.” — Anais Nin

This quote mirrors my thought that “we photograph as we are”.  As I am preparing to depart for a long trip through Eastern Europe, I am thinking about who I am and how that will manifest in my photographs. Because of my long interest in the history of World War II and the resulting human and cultural destruction, I will be visiting a number of areas that were filled with violence and hate.  This energy is the opposite of what I try to photograph.  So who will I be, and what photographs will I make in these locations?  The short answer:  I don’t know.  The deeper thought: I suspect that I will excavate a few layers in my seeing and in my soul.

In preparation for the trip, I’ve been doing some housecleaning of my files.  I came across two images from last fall….images I failed to appreciate at the time so they were marked for deletion. Looking at them now I find that I am enjoying the motion and the layers in the images.  The concept is not new, but I like the way the abstract nature brings forward the structure that underlies the scene.  In the second image I can sense a bit of the style of the brushwork in Cezanne’s series from Mont Sainte Victoire. Recognizing this prompted me to look again at an image of a reflection from later in that same fall. In the reflected image I had immediately recognized the resemblance….why hadn’t I seen it in the earlier images?

My thought is that we see things differently as we grow, age, change, mature….or perhaps, excavate layers.  I’m looking forward to fall as it is my favorite season.  This fall promises to be memorable.  The quote that opened the blog post has especially poignant meaning when viewed through the lens of history, especially the history of human conflict and war. I hope you’ll check the blog for images and the archaeology of my trip.

29
Jul
10

Please remove your shoes (I’m not talking about airline travel)

“Earth is crammed with heaven, Every common bush afire with God:

But only he who sees takes off his shoes.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

After three months of near constant travel and work I am back in Seattle for a week to catch my breath. I have a lot of work to complete and great events on the horizon, but I am going to stop for a bit and reflect on the heaven and bushes afire that I have seen during my latest travels.

The heaven brought forth was the meeting of dear friends in several spots in Europe.  I am so fortunate to have met and come to care deeply for people in many different places. Traveling to see them along familiar rail lines or unfamiliar highways through ripening summer fields was a source of great joy to me. Creating new memories while laughing, dining, or walking together will keep  us in an embrace until our next meeting or even if we are never to meet again. This, along with a few photographs, is my sustenance. The heart holds joy and after a while, will release suffering.

I often visit museums to see the same paintings time and time again. Viewing The Sower and the Place du Forum and one of Vincent’s self portraits with those piercing blue eyes felt just like greeting old friends, or perhaps the echo of those meetings…with a touch of wistfulness and the longing to talk again.

Van Gogh's self portrait from 1887

I had the great pleasure to see several really fine exhibits and one new (to me) museum.  In London I went to the brand new show at the Royal Academy titled Sargent and the Sea, and saw the Renaissance Drawings exhibit at the British Museum. Sargent and the Sea was a particular joy as it showed the artist in the beginning of his career, with paintings that exhibited vigor and freedom, what one might expect from a young man visiting seaside resorts around Europe. What was entirely unexpected was the quality and maturity of the work.  While we might be familiar with the glory of Sargent portraiture, the mastery of his early compositions is stunning.  The texture of and reflections in the wet sand that he created made me want to take off my shoes and wade into the painting. The side-light creating a corona around a child’s head made you feel the late afternoon sun, a feeling that you are caught between wanting to stay on the shore to take in the last rays of sun and warmth while beginning to think about dinner and rest.

Setting out to Fish, 1878, Corcoran Gallery of Art

The Renaissance Drawings exhibit at the British Museum was familiar territory for me as I have spent many hours in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. But there were delights: The painting of two cheetahs from about 1410 was a real surprise and it was eye opening to see the freedom of expression in the preparatory drawings that was rarely seen in a finished work. But to see the evolution of drawing from the early 1400’s to the height of the Renaissance was revelatory. The progressive refinement and use of perspective, texture, detail, and expression of movement and emotion all culminated in the masterpieces by Da Vinci, Titian, and Michelangelo that we revere.

Drawing/painting on vellum, c. 1410, Workshop of Giovannino de'Grassi

Where is the photography in all this? It’s in our awareness of every sight, every step, every line, every shadow, every bush afire. While looking at a canvas by Seurat at the Kroller-Muller museum I was thrilled to see three distinct compositions in one painting. While talking with my mother about the Sargent works I could see clearly the use of negative space, separation of elements, and side-light to highlight portions of the composition. This charged me, energetically, to go out and SEE more deeply. The inspiration I derive from the Masters of Painting and Sculpture feeds me and helps me to refine my ability to create whole engaging images. Having that experience while preparing for a camera club lecture provided great examples and re-ignited my passion for describing how we can expand our awareness by feeding our brains and our souls with the best imagery available to us.

The gift of awareness is the greatest gift we can offer ourselves.  Cultivate it.  Take off your shoes and touch the warmth of the soil and surf. You will reap an earth crammed with Heaven.

29
Jul
10

Meditation for Two now available on Blurb

Just a quick post to let you know that our book, MEDITATION FOR TWO,  is now available on Blurb (in case you really don’t want the gorgeous hand-printed, hand-bound volume with six limited edition prints….)….

I’ll be back later today with a regular post.  I’ve been traveling (and photographing) for a solid three months and am ready to sit and write.

Follow the link….

http://www.blurb.com/books/1432930

23
Feb
10

lunch with a friend and the business of photography

I had lunch today with Tim Grey, friend, author of many great books on image editing, creator of wonderful instructional DVD’s, and the Ask Tim Grey newsletter.  As always, it was great fun catching up and exchanging stories, but the crux of the conversation was this:  How does a freelance photographer/writer/educator make their way in today’s economy?  Most of the professionals I know have income streams in several areas.  These almost always include workshops, lectures, and product sales, either of their own, or a percentage of sales with sponsors whose products they use.  But our conversation kept drilling down to how best to allocate time.  As a former owner of a business (over 100 employees) I confronted this issue daily.  When we were terribly busy in the plant I would jump in to add my labor to make a deadline ~ but was it the best use of my time?  Tim’s confronting the same issues….as am I now, as a photographer.  Where is the balance between self promotion, shooting, teaching, keywording, stock submissions or making prints/books/dvds.

After thinking about the two photographers I know personally that are still thriving in this economy, I think the answer must be that more time is needed in self promotion.  Alain Briot and Tony Sweet have maintained their workshops, their product sales, and private teaching in a continually contracting market.  How did they do it?  Continual self promotion and of course, huge amounts of hard work…..all geared to offering a product (their knowledge) that has real value.  When I applied this thought to my own work as I am clearly not a photoshop Dream Team member (Tim) or a landscape photography master (Alain) or a Nikon Legend (Tony), I had to distill what it is that I know that may have value for someone else.  So here’s my self promotion:

I know books.  I know bookbinding, a fair amount about book design, I know about printing, both offset and fine art inkjet, and I know about publishing and distribution.  All of this came from nearly 20 years in the printing and binding industries in the Mid-Atlantic states and with several years now of producing fine art prints and books for consulting clients and for myself.   I have created a book in collaboration with Dominique Barbier of which I am very proud.  It is titled MEDITATION FOR TWO and is available on Dominique’s website.  From this book I have received several commissions for shoots and am anticipating that this market will grow as the book garners a wider distribution.   But I have also received inquiries about helping people put together their own books and assisting them through the process from concept to distribution.  I’m writing all this to illustrate how one endeavor can create avenues of work and further recognition.  Next time, when you are thinking about a project, try to envision the other areas that it could impact your work and hopefully, your income stream.  If the project is created from deep knowledge and love of your subject, coupled with a precise plan for getting the work seen, your likelihood of success is virtually assured.

Here’s an illustration of the front and back covers…and a few shots from inside.

14
Feb
10

glow….and Happy Valentine’s Day

As I type this I am struck by how awkward the word glow looks.  Yet the quality or attribute of glowing in a photograph is anything but awkward.  I’m talking about subtlety…not a plug-in or technique.  I’m not anti-plug-ins, the truth is I have very little knowledge of or experience with them.  But I’m talking about recognizing something in the light and tone of shapes and moments that translate into glowing photographs. This morning, I had a wonderful breakfast with my son in a favorite spot here in Seattle.  As is my habit, I photographed the setting.  A fleeting glance at the display told me that I might have a nicely glowing photograph.  It’s not a prize winner, but it is a sweet reminder of a glowing moment, and a reminder too, of many other happy moments in this spot.  And when I started to gather a few photos for this blog post I was struck by the happy memories that each called forth.  A coincidence?  No.  I feel very strongly that when we are in a glowing mood…the energy attracts the same.  We see how we feel.  It’s just another variation of my belief that we photograph as we are.

I’ll be back this week with some ‘serious’ photographs…but for now, Happy Valentine’s Day.  Wishing you lots of glow for your day, your life, and your photographs.

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

 

 

16
Dec
09

Road Trip, part 2

The most viewed images from the first road-trip post are the horse images…. so I thought I’d post a few more of my favorites.  The inherent beauty of the horse makes them marvelous subjects and it also makes it easier to create  a successful photograph.  But there are challenges as well.  I am terribly discerning with my horse photographs because I know what the correct postures are from an equestrian viewpoint, and I’m looking for meaningful gesture from a photographer’s viewpoint.  Then I want good lighting, dramatic lighting even…..and the last component must be the essence or the soul of the horse.  This is a tall order, but having access to Debra and Dominique’s farm makes it possible to have some success.

Visiting the farm is like going home for me.  My stallion, Fol Amour, lives there now to enjoy his retirement in his first home. He’s the old man of the barn now at 26, and while still active and working it is bittersweet to see him aging. I am just beginning to photograph him. I don’t have an answer as to why I haven’t been doing it, seriously, for all these years. It’s a regret that I must live with.  

Generally, I am happy with this group of images.  I was able to produce a couple different types of images in the midst of action and changing light.  We were there for less than two hours before we had to begin our trek up the coast.  But of course that bit of modest success fuels the fire to return!




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