Ever since the photographer Eadweard Muybridge was paid $25,000 in 1878 by Leland Stanford to help Stanford win a bet that a galloping horse has at some point, all fours hooves off the ground, the series has been near and dear to photography.
Professionally I synthesize information from disparate sources into something that makes sense to my customers. That same activity also touches this week’s series, which is also part of the umbrella project “Roadside Attractions”. Speaking of disparate sources here is a collection that are informing my current approach.
David Hockney brought cubism to photography through his use of Polaroids. When I think of Polaroids the fours words that come mind are quick, ephemeral, disposable, and time. There is also a sense of play to Polaroids that I enjoy. After all this art and photography arena should be enjoyable. The borders of a Polaroid are equal on the left, right, and top sides. The ratio of total width to total height is 1:31.
Hilla and Bernd Becher founded one of the two major photographic schools of the late 1900’s, The Dusseldorf School of Photography. The Bechers proposed, practiced, and taught a rigorous approach to photography that valued technical excellence and objectivity. The Becher’s collection of fading industrial artifacts are not instantly captivating. The patient viewer though is richly rewarded. The photos of world renowned Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky have roots in the Dusseldorf school. I have long been drawn to the conflict between beauty and subject matter in his work.
Though I enjoy the work of the people I follow on Instagram, there is something disturbing about the way images are presented and consumed. The medium, especially on a smart phone, is not conducive to thoughtful consideration. The medium promotes rapid scrolling through one’s feed and responding with one of 3 choices, do nothing, like, or comment. The quality of photographers I follow is high and their craftsmanship is visible. Instagram does not give photographers their due. The challenge is how does one arrest attention spans.
After my first photograph in this series I concluded that it would be immoral not to pick up the subject matter after capturing an image. I have also come to appreciate that walking along various verges with tripod, camera, gloves, and a garbage bag helps to accentuate the ephemeral nature of these particular images and photography in general.
You may conclude that all this sounds like pretentious bullshit. Depending on the day and hour I may well agree with you. I question and doubt myself constantly.
I mentioned the other day that I am working on a number of series. All the series fit under the broad banner called “Roadside Attractions”. I am currently calling today’s incomplete series “The Thin Line”. Though I have posted some of these in the past month, I thought it might be interesting to show them all together as a cohesive work in progress.
A week ago I found a location that had potential. Yesterday morning the alarm went off early, and once again I was bound for the Longview area. The intended destination was too far for the time allotted. I was tired and out of mental sorts for most of the morning. In fact, at one point I pulled onto the side of the road and went to sleep for half an hour.
The morning was not without its rewards. I did add to couple of series, and here is my consolation prize.
Last weekend there was no road trip. Instead, I experimented in the garden. Those experiments produced lessons for me but nothing I care to share. Earlier this morning, there were roads new and old to me. I slept through the alarm at 3:45, and only woke up at 4:20 when my wife asked me if I was still going for a drive. 10 minutes later I was out the door.
So, I have started to think in terms of series. All these photos were taken this morning, and are contributions to multiple series, except for the goat. The goat was for fun. He and his mate were near the middle of the gravel road and rather hard to miss. Though I was thinking of series this morning, I was also just reveling in the drive and the experience.
Rather than a collection of related thoughts, these photos and today’s posting are Works in Progress. The photos are numbered in the order they were captured.
Today, I drove South. I had an image in mind. I did not capture the envisaged image. That will have to wait for another day. Despite a couple of events that did not go well, the morning was rewarding. I hope the deer I clipped is ok.
The alarm was set for 4:00. I woke at 3:59. Initially, the skies were grey, and the land was without contrast. Sol, showed his (or perhaps she is her) face briefly.
Today’s quartet continue with the overtly stated ideas of last week. Into the mix, there is also my interest in fences both physical and metaphorically. For so much space we as Western Canadians have spent an amazing amount of effort establishing ownership over the land, often in highly ironic ways. Metaphorically we establish boundaries to our own thoughts and actions, for any number of highly debatable reasons.
Yesterday evening, I checked the weather and said to myself, “self tomorrow will be a good morning, and you should get your ass out of bed bright and early, drive just west of Drumheller, and explore an area on your list.”
4:30 this morning arrived. I turned over, saying to myself it’s too early. 65 minutes later I awoke again and 15 minutes later I was out the door.
I was thinking of cultural landscapes, as I drove. At its simplest cultural landscapes are vistas that recognize the human touch to the land. Later in the day, I was also thinking the photographic explorations I share with you are often all over the map. As a result, the photos appear disconnected. To be honest not only are the photos disconnected, but my thoughts are not always coherent. Today though, I have 4 photos exploring cultural landscapes. As well I wanted to let you know visually that these were roadside attractions.
By the time I reached my intended destination, I had become so distracted by the previous hours’ light, the best light of the morning was gone. These are some of the distractions.
Today, I have some lighter fare for you. The 3 high resolution photos are from my recent trip to the Yukon. Magic light and landscape. Photo no. 3 could print at over 52 x 18 inches at 300 dpi. Photo no. 1 is an early experiment in panorama. It is the result of older technology and a processing error. It makes me smile.
I could have just easily titled this “so, what is art.” This post is a continuation of the thread and response from yesterday (2018-04-04). Thank you Keith for your comment and taking the time to do so (so-what-are-you-trying-to-say).
First of all let’s address the easy question first. What to do about liking a photo in Instagram that has been split into more than 1 panel. The easiest answer is it doesn’t matter. The fact that you have visited and possibly found the image rewarding gives me great pleasure. The second slightly more difficult answer is to like the top left most panel. To that end I will add that as guidance to my Instagram account.
And now to the minefield. But before that I have an admission. For a host of neurotisms that I am slowing working through with a team of highly trained professionals I actually have trouble translating my thoughts into words. Musically and rhythmically I am a basket case. But, I do understand visual language. Which leads my back to photography and art, today (remember yesterday’s comment about contradicting myself) art is about the creative exploration of an idea or set of ideas. My tool for exploring ideas happens to be photography.
It took me a long time to get what the Cubists were about. In part they were trying to capture multiple perspectives in a single canvas. A classic example is Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”. Photographers have tried exploring that idea through multiple exposure techniques (oh I feel sleepy). There is though something that photography is very good at because it is fundamental to the technologies (regardless of simplicity or complexity). Time is inherent to photography.
Cartier Bresson went with the definitive moment and sought that single fraction of a second when time, form, and tension were in balance. Bresson helped make Leica famous. To this day I still lust for a Leica rangefinder camera, and I blame Bresson for that. There have been those rare times when that fates have favoured me and I have caught that moment. Bresson went with the single photo. Other photographers have explored time and ideas using series. Rather than collapsing a nude on the staircase into a single image, photography gives us the ability to explore that nude as a sequence or set of perspectives. When placed together we see that set as an exploration in a similar way to what the cubists were doing with painting.
My Instagram grid experiment began simply enough. I wanted to show an image larger than the Instagram format permits. Now I am not only stuck with the grid, but it also provides an opportunity to present the image as something more than the sum of its parts. The best of those using a grid actually have each panel strong enough to stand on its own (I am not there yet).
So at its simplest two or more images placed together are automatically related. When done well the relationship is discernible. Do all my blog posts have this intent? No. But whether or not I take the responsibility for the relationship, photos presented together are connected (the medium makes it so).
For your viewing pleasure I have a salute to Bresson (Fall 2015), and two images (March 2018) from my many year exploration of space. One was captured on a morning ramble south east of Calgary, and the other came from Whitehorse.
Since last I wrote here, I have had an extended weekend in the Yukon photographing the Northern Lights and the creamy daze of northern light. I also made a brief trip to England. This last weekend I finally responded to a friend’s request to comment on his photographs. This last event re-emphasized my responsibility to be clear about some of the ideas I am exploring with my photography. Here are some thoughts on that subject.
There are images technology records, but we do not perceive until we see the resulting image. For instance, photo 1 shows the results of a hand-held attempt at HDR. The light wasn’t great, but I enjoy the ghosting of figures that occur over the 3 photos taken in quick succession.
Space and form. There is space on its own, especially when ground and sky blur. These rare photos are both inviting and disquieting. Again there is an interest in perception. The viewer (ok me) tries to add a horizon that is not there. This past winter I had a couple of number 5s in this vein.
The idea of form is manifest in two ways. There is the form of land and line that define space. There is also the way human constructs interrupt space with shapes both smooth and jagged.
I am slowly going through the process of organizing a slide collection that goes back decades in preparation for having them scanned. Initially I was a little disturbed to see that form and space have been a long running interest. Now, I am taking comfort in that same observation.
Just so I don’t get too high on an intellectual horse, there are also images I try to capture because I get a particular kick out of colour, light, and form converging in a way that is pleasing to my eye.
As I have mentioned before, 3 or 4 years ago I started making individual books for friends and family. In recent months I have started thinking about collections in a much narrower light and engaging the viewer (admittedly a small number) by presenting a set of images which have small variation or have a very narrow focus.
Time, Perception, Light, and Colour.
Related to the above, I recently presented an “Exploration in White” on Instagram at ArtSpud80.
I of course reserve the right to contradict myself tomorrow.
Here are photos from a ramble around Oxford from early March. The first 5 photos are vertical and display correctly when you click on them.