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.
Just over 2 weeks ago I decided to participate in the Exposure Review. This is an event, part of the Exposure Festival, where a minimum of 4 people from the photography community spend 20 minutes each in one on one conversations with photographers. Yesterday was an interesting day. I had 5 conversations with reviewers and spoke with a number of participants.
Before I go further it may be helpful to share with you the names of the reviewers I met, and the portfolio I presented. Each photo has 2 numbers. The first is the order in which it was presented. The second is the number of stars on the Sean scale. Photos can have a maximum of 5 stars, and as I have written before a 5 is rare. The one photo without a score is the one that precipitated my signing up. Number 13 is and was a problem for me. On one hand I find it captivating. On the other hand, I feared it was too banal, and that I had stripped so much from the image I was on the verge of Malevich’s “White on White” (1918).
My general take these days on art in general, and photography in particular is that if the supporting essay makes more sense than the piece (whatever that is), then the expression of the idea is the essay and not the piece. While were on this small digression, I also believe it is good to see the original, when possible, rather than the copy in book or article. Invariably, the scale of a piece is important.
Unlike many of the people I spoke with, I was not particularly interested in finding marketing opportunities. My objective was to get some thoughts on where I can take some of my visual ideas.
Reviewers (They all deserve better introductions than I am providing here)
Caroline Loewen – curator interested in cultural geography, memory, cultural and natural landscapes
Su Ying Strang – artist, arts advocate, director of The New Gallery
Natasha Chaykowski – writer, curator and art historian
Thank you reviewers for you time and comments.
Portfolio Presented on my laptop as a Lightroom Slideshow
1 – 5
2 – 5
3 – 5
4 – 5
5 – 4
6 – 4
7 – 4
8 – 4
9 – 4
10 – 4
11 – 4
12 – 5
13 – ?
14 – 4
15 – 4
16 – 4
17 – 5
18 – 4
19 – 5
20 – 4
21 – 5
As in all conversations there is what was said, and what I took away. I can’t remember the first. So, here are the headlines from what I took away.
People / Works To works to check
Andreas Gursky; “Rhine II “; 1999; last sold for approximately $US 4.2 Million. Compare to photo 13 above. I had vaguely heard the name but did not know his work. 3 people suggested I have look at this piece in particular.
Wanda Koop; Winnipeg painter new name to me
David Hockney; I have enjoyed his work for years
Edward Rucsha; painter; I have seen his text work (sometimes I get it sometimes I don’t) before but did not know it was him. More investigation required. An initial check suggests that there is a point of reference from the 80’s.
Alfred Stieglitz; one of the pillars of photography. I know some his work. 2 people suggested I have a look at his series “Equivalents”. This series is new to me.
An ACAD student suggested Josef Hoflehner; some of his images are familiar. I didn’t know it was him.
Not everyone agreed with my 5’s but that is at it should be.
Things to Think About
In an age of visual saturation, how do you engage the viewer for more than a 10 second glance. I have some ideas that resonated with 2 reviewers. No, I cannot share those ideas yet.
Are you making a nice photo, a photo to sell, or exploring an idea. There is nothing wrong with any of those possibilities. The key though, is to be clear on the objective. PS if you have seen my work, then you probably recognize that the first and third options are the most likely possibilities for me 😊. The nice photo is a slippery slope, to cliché.
Strip out everything but what is of interest. Explore subtlety, minimalism, whitespace, image flatness. This requires intent, because anything in the image becomes very present. While we’re at it what about texture. Is it there, and do you or don’t you want it there? I knew 5, 6, 9 were 4’s, and now I can articulate why they didn’t make the grade. There is either too much, not enough, or they’re on the verge of the old Microsoft screen saver (oh horror).
Explore what is disquieting (see 13 above).
There were too many photos and too many ideas in the portfolio. Think about the subject, viewer, photographer triangle.
What are cultural landscapes?
What is the Dusseldorf school of photography?
I am part of an historical continuum. I knew this but I am out of touch. It was nice to hear that my garden path is contemporary.
So here are 3 from Saturday’s drive, 2 from last December, and 1 from March of 2016 to complete the set. I have nothing to write. I hope you enjoy the photos.
The first three are veritcals. They may not appear correctly in the grid but they do display properly when enlarged.
Not so long ago or once upon a time our son would only eat about 5 things, cheerios, bananas, bacon, crunchy fruit, milk, and mini wheats. On Saturday, Keith and I took the long way to Red Deer through the foothills northish of Cochrane.
At other times, I have referred to the large round hay bales that dot the prairie landscape, as sentinels of the land. The snow fell heavy last week. Saturday, those bales were all frosted and looked like mini wheats. Keith has a couple of posts, and photos from the drive.
Here is another photo that may make you question my sanity or at least perspective. I have kept coming back to it since it was first captured last weekend. The more I looked at it, the more I enjoyed it.
It is the result, in part, of negligence. I thought the shutter speed and aperture settings for the sunset photo earlier in the morning were a little strange. When I got home from that morning’s ramble, I realized that the photo below had been captured at an ISO setting of 1000. That is a substantially higher than I normally use. I think the grain works.
What do you think of the photo?
The second photo is one of the sunrise photos from that day that survived the digital cutting room floor. I like just the hint of sun rising to light the day.
PS Coming soon – a visit to the Exposure Festival.
Last week was the week of Blue Mondays. As I was feeling, bored, flat and disengaged, I went exploring. In the end I re-discovered some work by one of the greats of photography, Harry Callahan. The work of Chris Malloy (Calgary photographer) led me to the Patrick Joust (Baltimore Photographer) and Illsfoto (Instagram). Joust photographs Baltimore at night. The photos are gorgeous but Baltimore looks painful. Illsfoto led me to some Instagram ideas, which will have to wait for another day. The work of all 3 of these photographers have at least some of their roots in the work of Callahan.
Sunday morning, I was up at a really silly hour for a dawn drive. By the time I was driving towards home, Black Diamond was the busiest I had ever seen it. People were headed to church, and I was headed for breakfast.
I found a new location or two. Even though the photos are technically flawd, they are worth sharing, as a lesson in mindfullness. Though I know to check the focus after each change in settings, and to stabalize the tripod, I was not as mindful as I should have been. The photos suffered. The pink lasted seconds before clouds and haze erased them.
Well, I am still working on my list of digital maintenance tasks. The task I had not previously mentioned is the one that occupied much of last week’s spare time. My current computer is beginning to hold up orange danger signs, saying “Warning, Warning, dead electrontics graveyard soon. ” It has been a very good machine and paid for itself years ago. This meant I had a research project. I ended up purchasing a Dell XPS 15. When it arrived, It looked great and I started loading my suite of tools onto it. Loading software is only a little more interesting than watching dust collect. Things did not go well.
In the course of doing my research I realized that given the heat issues with some XPSs I should purchase the premium support plan. Dell also offered me a really good price for the plan. This was a good decision as the first computer sent to was deemed faulty by Dell. A new one at no charge to me is on its way. Yea Dell.
Last night I had visions of a Chinook arch forming over the Rockies, and pink peaks at dawn. This morning I got out of the house before 6:45. I was at a nearby Starbucks way before it opened and had to forego my morning hit. My standard hit is a quad grande Americano 3/4 full, no cream no sugar, just black starter fluid. I drove to my planned location without coffee until reached an Okotokes A&W. The coffee didn’t kill me. No Chinook arch. No pink peaks. On the drive home I did though, in dawn’s grey light, capture the photo below.
And so the year comes to an end, not with a whimper but a bang (apologies to TS Eliiot).
I have thoroughly enjoyed having a 2 week stay cation. I have had the opportunity to go on a number of photo rambles, some alone and some with company. All were a treat. I am particularly pleased with some photos. Other are like Air Canada (so what), and I will not burden you with those. I have also started to think again about the emotional and communicative elements of photography. Two days ago, I read the following article by Colin Dutton: http://www.manfrottoschoolofxcellence.com/2017/10/reading-photographs/. He proposes an exercise of describing photos you find strong, in a way that communicates some of the heart, content. and nuances of the image. I accept the challenge, and it is one that I will take up once I return. I have read Blake, and recent signs from the universe suggest it is time to re-visit at least some of his poems with now older eyes.
Yes, I will be leaving this blog for a week or two for two reasons. The first, is that I will be returning to work, and that will require my focus and concentration in the immediate future. As well I have some very dry and boring webmaster tasks to undertake. The site needs to be secured, there are some anti-spam referral tools to find and install, and I need to obtain some new domain names to protect my name.
I initially planned to spread the following collections over a number of posts. Instead, I present them to you all together.
Collection 1. I love winter light on the prairies. Earth and sky are at time indistinguishable. In that frozen sleep, there is both hope and beauty.