Saturday, May 23, 2015

Drafts

Over the years I have compared the images that come out of the camera as ‘drafts’ and written that no author worth his salt ever publishes a draft. I am always a little irritated when someone foolishly boasts that the photograph has no post processing--as though that is something to be desired. To me it rings hollow, like saying a monkey just typed War and Peace. It is letting a piece of mechanical equipment take responsibility for and command of what should be a very personal intellectual process of creating art. Yes, I know there is a human interaction with the camera, but not to the extent, in my not so humble opinion, to create art. Art requires greater intellect; greater responsibility on the part of the photographer. A lot of my friends don’t like to hear me say such things.

Anyway, at breakfast this morning I was reading duChemin and came across this:

“I wish I could previsualize my photographs, but I can’t and never have been able to. I read about people like Ansel Adams talking about visualizing the image and between you and me, and depending on my mood, I either think he was full of crap or I am the one photographer in the world who doesn’t’ have a clue what he’s talking about. Either way, it’s depressing. I don’t previsualize a scene. I feel it. And it’s from that feeling that I begin working with the elements in front of me and the choices available to me, and I move them around, try them on, discard them, and try something else until I see something in my frame that feels the way I feel… If you’d ask me to describe it before I put the camera to my eye, I’d use emotional words, or at best be able to talk in terms of sketch images and possibilities.

“Sketch images are the crap, the doss, the author’s lousy first draft. I make them unashamedly, knowing that no one will ever see them, and I make as many of them as I have to. Why? Because I don’t see the same way the camera does. I see in three dimensions; the camera flattens that to two. I see with peripheral vision and almost limitless focus; the camera allows me to frame out much of the world and focus only on what I want to. I see light in a way the camera doesn’t. So I put the camera to my face and ask it to show me how it sees what I am looking at, and I make frame after frame until the camera—with all its constraints--helps me see the world the way I am feeling it. Maybe that’s just me. It’s rare—very rare—that I see something, raise the camera, make one frame and call it a day, returning home satisfied with my work.

“Art is work… It’s called art work, not art screwing around.”

Am I Becoming a 'Flower' Photographer?


If so I’ll be on my knees tonight pleading for mercy. Okay, I jest. Oh, don’t tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. Just take a look around at all your best friends and try to say that again with a straight face.

But mostly I will need to be asking forgiveness from a lot of friends.

I marvel, for the mumpteenth-dozen time, at what in a photograph resonates or why a photograph resonates. It’s a very baffling. It’s like art, you just know it when you see it. The unfortunate is that is it as difficult to repeat, for me anyway, as it is to achieve.

I seem to be going off in all directions at once and can’t seem to stay on any one path. Recently, for a while I was into freaky toys, then I shifted to birds and the beach. And now Alcy is bringing flowers to the studio on her next off day, so yesterday I picked up an eighteen inch section of red painted bamboo from a Goodwill store for a couple of bucks. I wanted to use it as a temporary container for the flower photographs. Also picked up a couple of papers from Artarama that I thought might work as background. To test it out, I stopped at a couple of places to check out flowers but didn’t find anything that I thought would work with the bamboo so I settled for a silk flower that Alcy had left at the studio.

I know it actually doesn’t ‘work’ photographically because it is an artificial flower, Captain Kangroo no no for an acceptable ‘photograph’,  and the fact that the focus is on the background paper rather than the blossom—that part is bad. But I really like the design, the ambiance, the feel of the image. I might say that it strikes an aesthetic cord that feels good--resonates. Like a lot of the stuff I do it is an ‘image’—not inclined to call it a photograph because it is not the photographic quality that resonates—it is the graphic that I enjoy. Okay, it looks like wallpaper but what is wrong with wallpaper. Who is to say that a wallpaper designer—they are designed you know—is not as much of an artist as a painter or sculptor? Sure needs stronger staying power when you hang it all over your dining room.

The question is, can I repeat it later with a real flower? Probably not but I think that I am going to try.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ramblings...

I have got so much that I desperately need to do but I am not in a photographing mood--I am in a writing mood and that is always dangerous.

I know people tire of me writing about Ralph Hattersley but Ralph played a very big roll in my development as a photographer. I never met Ralph. I only know of him through his writings and when I share those writings with other photographers they are generally unimpressed or at worse repulsed. It seems at times that Ralph wrote what he did just me. His writings may be the only topic where Janet and I strongly disagreed photographically; well that and the overexposed photograph at the CAM of the woman on the beach.

Ralph wrote things that I needed to hear. I took much from Ralph photographically but I took one thing from Ralph that I probably should not have taken. I say that only from the standpoint that my life might have been more comfortable had I not.

He convinced me that as a human being I, along with everyone else, was terribly flawed and that my photography was going to expose all those flaws and I wouldn’t even realize it. It was going to paste them all right out there where everyone could see them. (and it did) Remember, it was the sixties and we were much more introspective. I just never outgrew that time--I still have the shoulder length hair, the Nehru shirt and the love beads--they may be invisible but believe me, they are still there.

Of course, my first reaction was to give up photography. I almost did.

He said that publically admitting to my shortcomings was a gift I could make to humanity, and to myself. Besides that it would help me to become more authentic in my photography.

My admission would allow others to accept their shortcomings, to realize that we were all in this together and all so very much alike. I still am not entirely sure of that point but hoping it was true have always publically aired my laundry list of perversions, insecurities and out right screw-ups over the years. I am pretty comfortable with it by now. Just wish I had been as comfortable with it forty or fifty years ago.

What has that to do with photography? Probably not much. But it has allowed me to photograph crucifix with price tags, discarded underwear and even dead fish and tire squashed frogs as if they had some greater meaning in the scheme of things. It has allowed me to write photographic scenarios that I will probably never accomplish or even share with others.

When I was young I wandered through many, many vacant farmhouses--many in Oklahoma that probably date back to the Dustbowl. Back then it was possible to trespass with impunity and no one thought much about it. I love abandoned homes. I love envisioning life there and wondering why it is no longer. I would write stores in my head of what had gone on when families lived there—from the daily life, the sorrowing and the love making. I wanted to bring in a white painted kitchen table, some chairs, some white pottery dishes and a few other items along with some people willing to accept the role of a ‘farm family.’ But most importantly there had to be a red and white checked oil cloth on the table. If you do not know what an oil cloth was then you will probably miss the concept of the story. And gingham curtains, red and white of course, and they had to blow in the breeze from the open window.  In the bedroom an iron bedstead (again, knowledge of what a bedstead is integral to the story). Like in the kitchen there was an element that could not be substituted—coiled springs—the open kind, not the innerspring mattress kind. Coiled springs squeak when you make love proclaiming the deed throughout the entire structure so that the kids covered their heads with quilts (no electric blankets or duvets here).  And on the window lace curtains that had to blow caressingly over entwined bodies.

The scenario could be expanded exponentially: a pine coffin set out in the parlor, a pump organ with a young girl in white ruffled pinafore, oil lamps, morners in button down collars… Almost any previous memory of home or homes could be re-envisioned.

Joyce Kilmar, remember, ”I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree” wrote a poem that I like much better, in all due respect to trees. It was “The House With Nobody In It”.

"But a house that has done what a house should do, a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.”

I never did the photographs. The logistics were insurmountable from getting permission to use the property, to collecting and moving in all the props, to getting someone willing to be the family. And each shot had to be done with all the props and people in place and then over laid with a shot with all the props removed. I think it would have been an interesting project but well beyond my means to carry off.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t still think of the project almost every time I see an abandoned farm house.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Resolution…

This is the piece that I mentioned in the addendum to the previous post. I don’t think I stepped on many toes so I will post it. The save data says this was last saved near midnight on Jan 2nd, which indicates that the previous post was probably written in December of last year.
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This is not the resolution I mentioned. It is still on the computer at the studio. But this is along the same line of thought.

Well, it is simple—work more on my own photography and less on trying to straighten out the world of amateur photography. It’s pretty much a backward step from where I have fruitlessly been heading but I have taken a couple of those in the past year and they haven’t been so bad so I’m hoping this one won’t be either.

As many know I am a huge fan of self-portraits. Many years ago I purchased a book of strictly self-portraits. Don’t know where it is now but I miss it. Anyway, there was a photograph in the book that stuck in my mind. The photo was a fairly ordinary unposed family snapshot. Just family members standing together for an informal photograph. There was a young man near the back of the group that was the ‘self’ of the self-portrait. He was cutting up in a way that today might be referred to as a ‘photo bomb.’ I loved the photograph. It was honest, it was family as I think family should be—individuals bound together within the frame of a photograph. [where else would my world exist?] But mostly I loved the title he had given the photograph, “What Makes Me Think That I Am the Center of the Universe?” I am assuming that you can guess why the title stuck in my mind. Anyway, I think it is time to revisit my teeny tiny universe.

It is going to be difficult. This morning as I went out to breakfast I grabbed Perception and Photography to keep me company. It is about Gestalt psychology and how it applies to photography. Gestalt psychology is a study of how we perceive visually. On every page there was something that I wanted to share, wanted to make other photographers aware of because to me it seemed important to try to understand. After I finished eating I sit for over an hour reading, lost in ideas. Okay, I have been trying to understand the connection myself for several years. I get the gist of the idea but the depth is a lot like Stieglitz—beyond my powers of understanding—okay I’ll admit it, probably well beyond my limited intellectual capacity to fully grasp. But I think it is important to continue to try. My mind reeled with thoughts of articles, thoughts of PowerPoint presentations—working out in my mind how best to pass on the information in the book, where to find illustrations that would best convey the concepts.

Then I had a reality check, no one is really interested and I, with my limited understanding, am not the person to pass it on anyway. I am going to make a concerted effort to have many more reality checks this year. No critiquing, no trying to explain things that no one really wants to know just because I think I would understand it better if I could find a way to explain it to someone else. 
 
Actually I am starting the year in pretty much an anti-photography mood. I am very tired of taking photographs that I really don’t want to take and not taking photographs that I do want to take. Still how to get to where I want to go eludes my best efforts and when that realization hits I always feel like giving up photography entirely. Haven’t posted many photographs lately because I haven’t taken many. I have got to find a way to move forward in a direction that I desperately need to go yet I have no idea what or where that is or how to do it. I don’t wish to alienate friends but my photography is suffering and I have got to find another path because this one ain’t working and I have got so very little time left to make a correction.
______________________________________________

Well, it is halfway through the year and I am nowhere nearer making the connection. I did write out a few scenarios, shared one with Alcy trying to read her response but failing even at that.

Over the years there have been hundreds, maybe thousands of scenarios that made it no farther than the scrap of paper or computer file—or maybe just tumbling around inside my head. Most were lost with dead computers or drives—some were actually acted on and turned up as portfolios. A few still follow that path.

In many ways it is depressing. In some it is just life and the way life is. The scary part is that the scenarios are coming with less frequency, less enthusiasm, but what is even scarier with less sense of urgency. Maybe that is just a part of getting old—if it is I don’t want to get old. I was never satisfied by just taking pictures and I really don’t want to be satisfied with that now. Yet, that is mostly what I do.

New Years Resolution 2015 (yeah I know it is June)

Well, this really isn’t a ‘manifesto’ although it actually is a manifesto. I am a little confused as to the degree a manifesto must go—as if manifestos are a matter of degree. When does opinion cross that line? So, even though I don’t think of this as a manifesto I probably should. 

I see it as simply something that I seldom do—a new year’s resolution that I wrote back in December or maybe January. I came across it on a hard drive this morning and was personally curious as to how well I have been able to keep it as we rapidly approach the mid point of the year. I think I have done fairly well, but I really need to keep it out where I see it more often—I blame my many failures on advanced age and short term memory loss… here it is…
______________________________________________

For the last several years I have erroneously thought that it was somehow important to express to others my personal opinions on photography, my photographic philosophies so to speak. I tried to convince myself that there was some altruistic reasoning behind that like maybe helping others advance their own work or maybe just helping them to see photography in an interesting new light—something beyond a craft.

I say erroneously because I was the only person dissatisfied with their work—they weren’t. They were quite happy. I shouldn’t say that I was dissatisfied. It was just that I thought they were capable of doing considerably better if they only thought about photography a little differently. What I did not understand is that it required more than me seeing the prospect of greater potential; it required that they see that prospect and desire the results of perusing that prospect. They were not yet to that point and I, obviously, was not capable of conveying the necessity in a way that they were willing to accept. And then again, maybe is it not really necessary to get to that point as long as the photographer gets satisfaction from the work they are producing. Maybe not every body needs from photography what I need from photography.

That leads me to the conclusion that as I have always known--there was considerable selfishness behind these efforts. I had hoped to find friends that had similar convictions regarding photography that I could connect with, mutually learn from. Whereas I was unable to find such friends I stupidly tried to create them as I create my own little world with photographs. That is a losing proposition on both sides.

I have concluded that I am in a cubbyhole all my own, and of my own making, and that no one else really cares how I see photography, nor should they. I have to admit that I have lost to craft and in doing so have lost much too much of the craft.

As a result my own photography has stagnated, withered, dried up, gotten terribly dull and I am depressed about that. For every forward movement there are two steps backwards. Sure, occasionally I get a somewhat decent photograph but it is the same photograph that I did last week, last year, five years ago. I am tired of repeating semi-successes. I need it to be more than that and my present path is definitely not going there.

I have decided that my ‘campaign’ is beyond ludicrous and terribly frustrating so I have done something that I almost never do—tendered a New Year’s Resolution. Here it is as simply as I can put it.

During the year of 2015, I am going to be considerably less involved in what other photographers do and devote my energies to my own photography.

As much as I believe in my philosophies; as needy as I am for a ‘support group’, this year I am going to drop all efforts. I will continue to answer questions but I will make no effort to teach or instruct. Everything that I need is in my extensive library. I will always be willing to share what little I know but only to those that make specific requests beyond "do you like this"; beyond "how can I improve this". I will, as I do on-line, require a statement of intent; then if I feel that I can, I will tell the photographer how well I feel the photograph is successful or unsuccessful. No more critiquing either in person or on-line.

Turning sows ears into silk purses is a difficult thing to do so this is going to be a difficult resolution for me to keep. But I do need to keep it so I am going to print it out and post it to the wall above my desk in the studio as a constant reminder.

Yes, I am crawling back into wherever it was I came from. As Millay wrote, "I shall be gone to what I understand, And happier than I ever was before... I shall find the sullen rocks and skies, Unchanged from what they were when I was young."

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Addendum: Later, on my computer at home, I found a piece where I expounded on this concept. If I have the nerve, I may post it when I get home. I'll read it through to see how much trouble I might be in first. Needless to say, I write a lot that is not intended to be shared, such as these two pieces. I concluded that resolutions are not resolutions if they are kept secret.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Another Trip to Galveston

Brazos Bend
 

 
 
East Beach
Recreational Use Only

Fort Travis


You Lookin' at ME?


Well, I'm outta here!

 
Birds from the Ferry





 
Murdocks and the Seawall
 

 Old City Cemetery
 
 

 
 Pleasure Pier

More Soap and Another Trip to Anderson, Texas

Soap
 

 
 


 


Another Trip to Anderson, Grimes County Courthouse 
 



May Open Studio at Aurora

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Anderson, Shiro and a Skate Park

Sorry about this but old people frequently retell stories.

Yesterday, Alcy, Clayton and I returned to Anderson, Texas, with the Northwest Houston Photo Club. Having been there two weeks ago I wasn’t excited about the trip but I always enjoy shooting with the club so l went along. Didn’t get much in Anderson, but we made a couple of stops on the way home.

The first was in Shiro, Texas, and the second at a newly built skate park near where Alcy lives. It is rumored to be the largest skate park in Texas or maybe in the U.S. Was pleased to learn that they are very photographer friendly. Which leads me to the retelling.

In the 1950’s Aaron Siskind did a series of photographs titled The Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation. I first saw them at the Dallas Museum of Art probably during a trip to the State Fair. I purchased the catalogue even though I really didn’t like the photographs much. They grew on me. Every time I have shot at a skate park they come to mind because I find the same thing in the skaters that Siskind found in the young men jumping off of pilings into the water of the Chicago water front. [I always thought that Siskind shot these photographs at the East River in New York City. Just recently learned that I have been mistaken all these years.] Anyway, I hope to get back to this new skate park with the right lenses in the near future and do more photographs.

It was late Saturday afternoon and there were not many skaters. I found the forms of the empty ‘arenas’ to be interesting enough in themselves. Which brings me to another oft repeated story—I am seldom interested in showing in my photographs what something looks like: I am more interested in showing what else something looks like. That is apparent in the processing of the photographs of the shapes. I know they are ‘over’ processed and someday I may redo them closer to how they actually appeared because I like those images also. But for now I am enjoying the richness of the colors and the almost etching feel of the images. I may continue with this series but my main intent when I return will be the skaters.
Shiro, Texas

 

 
 
 Skate Park
 
 
Skate Park Forms



Friday, May 8, 2015

Jaume Plensa, Tolerance Sculptures



For those who have photographed, or just enjoyed, Jaume Plensa’s Diversity sculptures or as they are now called Tolerance sculptures on Allen Parkway, here are two links to some of his latest works.
http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/jaume-plensa-together-exhibition-venice


http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/jaume-plensa-massive-new-head-sculpture

Friday, May 1, 2015

Back to High Island and Galveston

Debi Beauregard and I intended to spend a couple of days at the High Island rookery but on the way down changed plans. We went through Galveston to meet up with a friend of Debi's that would be doing a senior shoot the next morning. She asked Debi to assist so we canceled the motel at High Island and got one in Galveston. The same motel where Alcy and I stayed that had rooms with ocean view. We did not opt for ocean view and it was hardly more expensive than Motel 6, and much nicer.

We spent some time helping Diane find suitable locations for her shoot and I did my usual Galveston texture shots.




We did drive over to High Island for the afternoon light. Frankly Scarlet it wasn't very exciting. I have lots of rookery photos to process but I have been processing birds for two weeks so it may take a while to get more up.






We were on East  Beach well before sun up to begin the senior shoot. I took photographs of the shoot.  After sun up we moved to the Strand to finish the shoot downtown where I once again shot photos of Debi being a carbon based light support and entertained myself photographing textures and street lighting.