Posts Tagged ‘southwest

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.

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.

31
Dec
09

Tenderness

Perhaps it’s the time of year and the time for looking back that has placed the word tenderness in my heart and on my mind.   Holidays, combined with thoughts of re-birth with the coming new year keep thoughts of family and friends present. 

I’ve been reviewing the year in pictures, both my own and the various collections spread all over the internet.  One of the best compilations of images comes from The New York Times  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/world/2009-decade.html#/intro. The ones that have stayed with me are the tender photographs.   The subject matter, in the case of The New York Times photographs, is often fierce, but the approach has been gentle and the respect for the dignity of the subject apparent.  These are the photos that I want to make in the coming year.  I have several personal projects under way that will demand attention to this objective: A story of the Navajo families in Canyon de Chelly and the life of the farm workers and inhabitants of several Lusitano fazendas in Brazil.  These will be challenging for me as I am unused to photographing people.  I’m looking forward to the deeper connection that this will bring to my life and my relationships with family, friends, and community. 

I wish you a very Happy New Year, with the blessings of good health and connection to loved ones.  And for photographers and non-photographers…..in the words of Irving King and Harry Woods by way of Otis Redding, try a little tenderness.

22
Oct
09

Early lesson

Alain Briot, noted Southwest photographer and founder of www.beautiful-landscape.com said to me “sometimes you can make a beautiful image in this bright sunlight”.  We had been walking all over Chaco Culture National Park, in JULY, and we stopped by this doorway.  It’s not in one of the big ruins (Casa Rinconada or Pueblo Bonita) it’s an outlier, perhaps Wijiji.  The point is this:  drop your preconceptions.  Learn to see like your camera sees….and experiment.  Magic happens.

Native American culture has played a large part in my fantasy life since I was a young child.  Wearing moccasins to school in West Virginia was a little odd, but I just wanted to BE what I thought an Indian was.  For a long while my exploration was limited to reading and combing through photography books (Edward Curtis for Native Americans).  Beginning in 2004, coinciding with the first serious pursuit of photography, I went to explore the Southwest.  It turned out to be a marvelous affirmation of following your heart.  Combine bad timing (leaving a landscape business in high season), really hot weather (105 degrees in the shade), and throw in a total leap of faith to contact Alain about private study, and BINGO:  New Life Path.Portal




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