Thursday, April 28, 2016

April 28th, 1975--41 Years Ago Today

It wasn't as much "I do" as it was "I always will." She gave me my life in a way that no one before her had ever done or that I can imagine anyone else ever being able to do. Even in the most dire of times she did not think of herself but of only how to make my life as easy as possible. I will  always stand in awe of Janet. I will always love her. I carry her heart with me; I carry it in my heart.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

New Adventure

I remember when I used to work and one of my favorite saying was that the only thing that was consistently consistent is change. Stand still you stagnate. I do not know about other retires but I do not understand how anyone that is retired could stagnate. The only difference between this and real life is that now it changes faster.

I joined the Visual Arts Alliance yesterday. So now I am officially an 'artist'. They seem to have a lot of interesting workshops and events so I am looking forward to spreading my wings. But I have got to get a lot more artsy fartsy. Also went gallery hopping yesterday and talked to a few artists about gallery space. Nance Hardy, which is where I have always wanted to be would be great but I don't think that is going to happen until I get a smart phone so I am shifting gears and looking at JoMar and Summer Street Studios. I was surprised at the price of the galleries in Silver Street Studio, not nearly as much as I had thought. Don't know that I will move but interested in checking out the possibilities.

Lonely Words Fly Away Unsaid

Friday, April 15, 2016

Random Thoughts from Today

I am going to repeat myself so do not feel uncomfortable skipping over this very long post… (I was told today that I should not write long articles, which, of course, is correct but… I do)

You can even dismiss my opinions or laugh behind my back—either are acceptable. I have no credentials but I do have strong opinions about things I know nothing about—photography and art.
Whether or not you consider photography an art; whether or not you believe that I have any artistic abilities. It doesn’t matter. I am going to tell this story one more time because it illustrates something that I believe very strongly—if there is such a thing as art it comes from within the artist, not from doing what others do.
True, you will be more successful and receive more accolades if you can photograph the canyon lands, a sunset or the Taj Mahal the same pretty way that they have been photographed by dozens if not hundreds in the past. There is a familiarity in doing what other photographers have done; in presenting images in the way that images have been successfully presented in the past that is reassuring and acceptable. It gives a feeling of being part of, fitting in. It generates a self-acceptance and confidence that makes us comfortable with ourselves, our work.

This is my opinion, nothing more—doing it as it has been done is not art, it is imitation. Selling your artistic soul. I can also tell you that not doing it is a daily struggle with doubt, fear and trepidation. It is not easy seeing life differently.
Are the two photographs I am posting here art? I don’t know. But I do believe they come from where art comes from.

And now for the oft repeated story… In the 1960’s Ralph Hattersley Jr published a series of ‘lessons’ in a long running Popular Photography series called Hattersley's Class. I still have many of those articles. Several have been instrumental in forming my opinions on photography. But there was one that I could never get out of my head. It was titled Is Photography Your Religion. I had always thought that I understood ‘my religion’ but I also knew that I was totally hung up on taking photographs. The article gave me pause; made me reevaluate much of what I thought about both religion and photography.

Hattersley was an avowed atheist who not long before this article was written had converted to Christianity. Among my many interests is conversion, the hows and whys and what happened. I am interested in why people are as well as why they are not. Although I will never ask I am very interested in the path.

Hattersley was a somewhat controversial figure. For those that remember that time in history possibly remember that the Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg published a quartely magazine, Eros. The name says it all. In the fourth and last issue was a spread of photographs of a nude black man and a nude white woman. The U S Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, filed obscenity charges; the court agreed and Ginsberg went to prison. Today these photographs would not raise a single eyebrow; probably wouldn't have then except for the racial component. Ralph Hattersley was the photographer. Ralph had a way with that, shaking up the norm, making you see things differently.

Esquire Magazine hired Hattersley to do a series of articles for their Christmas holiday issue. They obviously wanted a controversial article that would ridicule the Christian beliefs. That is not what they got from Hattersley. Esquire never used the photographs. As far as I know they were published only in Hattersley’s Popular Photography article.

In the last forty some odd years I have reread Is Photography Your Religion numerous times. I have marveled at the photographs, but mostly I marveled at Hattersley’s concept for the photographs. Rather than the usual Christmas crèche, holiday lights, family gatherings—the familiar associations, Hattersley photographed a crucifix—totally the wrong symbolism, but so powerfully done.

The crux of the article as it was published in Hattersley’s Class was finding Christ in everyday life—using photography as a tool in that pursuit. In truth, the article was only partly about the photography. It presented a viewpoint on religion what was very new to me and my Southern Baptist bred thinking.

It wasn’t until 2007 that I started using religious symbolism in my photography. The delay was partly because I was totally intimidated by Hattersley’s photographs. I thought I would never be able to work with metaphor in any comparable way. Everyone has seem at least some of my attempts and none are anywhere close. The Crucifix Project, The Price of Christ, Small Manifestations and various miscellaneous efforts have ensued. I am nowhere near, but I will continue to work on it.
Another difficulty is that my approach to photography is considerably different from Hattersley's. Whereas he carried a beautifully crafted crucifix with him and photographed it in various every day locations, I prefer working with found objects--a very different approach created by my nature. I think that Hattersley's approach was wonderfully creative but that mine is much more difficult. Where he relied on himself seeing or being able to create the metaphor; I rely very heavily on another placing objects in a meaningful juxtaposition and sometimes very heavily on accident.
In these photographs taken in a Hispanic open market I love the religious symbols mixed in among the fruits, vegetables, the dried beans and a unbelievably large variety of hot peppers. They become a part of everyday life.
I love the way the people of the market are so much more open in displaying the symbols of their faith. There's no middle class white uptightness, uncertainty, doubt, guilt here. It is beautiful, it is open, it is thrilling to witness. It makes we wonder if I actually ever had such a casual relationship so easily accepted and lived.
These two photographs are not an entirely new approach. Over the past few years I have done photographs that are of a similar genre but it is not something that I have set out to concentrate on. Maybe that will change.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

April Open Studio Aurora

Just wanted to invite everyone to the Open Studio Event at Aurora this weekend, April 16th...

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Projects and Misteps

Paula Powers invited Alcy and I to attend a chamber music recital at the Silos. Love the symphony but not much into chamber music. As I wrote on Facebook, the last chamber music recital I sit through still featured the harpsichord. Although I couldn't resist a photo of the young man ahead of us with his ball cap turned backwards. Now we know how Johnny got mellow.

Each year Walgreens sponsors a promotion called Red Nose Days. They sell various silly items such as rubber red noses. The money goes to fighting world hunger for children. Alcy and I agreed to do a few shots that they could post on their website.

Sunday Alcy was signed up for a photoshoot at Brazos Bend State Park. It's not one of my favorite places but a couple of members of the meet up have done some pretty exceptional wildlife photos in that area lately so I decided to tag long. Drove over 140 miles and I shot one coot.

Because we had to stop by the studio for my lenses we arrived a half hour late and did not find the photography group. We were supposed to go to a café called Jays for lunch after the shoot. We didn't write down the address because we were thinking we could follow someone that knew where it was.

We put it in the GPS and the only Jay's that came up was located just off NASA 1 across from the entrance to Johnson's Space Center, some thirty plus miles away. We felt certain that was not the correct Jay's but since we didn't know where any other was we decided to give it a try. Actually, it was near Tookies where we do like to eat so we thought we would just drive by Jay's, take a photo, pretend we ate there and post the photo to the meet up group. Well, Jay's must have gone out of business because it was no where to be found. Went to Tookies then headed back to Houston.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Red Nose Day Comming Up

Have a few more rookery images to post. Slowly working my way through what I didn't discard.

But in the meantime Alcy and I did photos for Red Nose Day coming up next Friday. Once each year Walgreens sells red noses and other paraphernalia to raise money to fight world hunger for children. Alcy’s boss suggested that the employees do photographs that could be posted to a Walgreens web site. We went out today and shot a few. Friday we are supposed to photograph the employees in the store on FM2920 where Alcy works.

It’s kinda corny but sometimes corny works. And even if it doesn’t it can be fun…  You will notice there are no photographs of me posted here.

I do hope there are better blog sites out there for photographs. I don't know who wrote the software for BlogSpot but it is a damn frustrating disaster. If you are looking for a photo blog I sure advise looking elsewhere if you don't want to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to position photos each time you post and then giving up in sheer frustration.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

High Island Rookery Again

Yesterday, Alcy and I were on the road at 3am headed to the rookery at High Island. The lightening and thunder that filled the sky to the south  didn't bode well for success. From Spring it is probably ninety miles to the rookery so you have to start early to catch first light which is the only light worth having. Late evening light is flat and very unexciting.

Breakfast in Winnie put us at the rookery as the sun came up. The storms had abated and things were looking good. However the rookery is in total shadow until the sun rises enough to clear the top the hill. It was getting exciting. We were getting hints of backlighting and thought we were just minutes away from success when the sun went behind a cloud never to return. Well we gave it the proverbial college try anyway. Needless to say we shot photographs but not the photographs we were hoping for. Bird photography is like flowers--photography, pressing the button. The passion ain't there. I really thought that I was going to purchase a 600mm before we went this year and maybe--yeah I know the fallacy of this statement--a new piece of equipment that would make it more interesting. But eyesight won out and I guess seeing better for another year or so trumps a new lens.

A Matter of Disagreement is Observed
His de Niro Moment, "You Lookin' at ME?"
         A ferry ride across to Galveston, a few shots in the cemetery and pelicans on the fishing docks. During lunch at El Gusto Alcy got a call to come into work for someone that had called off. We ate and headed home. Not sure I am going to try the rookery again this year although there is still a weekend or two left.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Best Layed Schemes o' Mice an' Men..

Gang aft agley,

Well, sometimes. Sometimes it just rains when I really planned on cutting grass but I would just call that extremely fortunate. Thank you, thank you, thank you...

I have a project coming up that I am hoping I can convince those involved to let me do some photographs that I can process to emulate bromoils. It is a project that I would generally run the other direction from as hard as I could but this is for a friend so it is important to at least give it a try.

Anyway, I have been playing with Topaz to see if I can come up with something that has the stippling appearance of a bromoil print. Don't know that I am there yet but I will keep working on it. Now if I can only get the LensBaby to emulate a Pinkham and Smith Series IV I will be in hog heaven and can return to my proper place in this world.

In the meantime, I'm still working on Small Manifestations...

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter in the Cemetery

This beautiful life-size pieta is a family memorial in the Asian section of Earthman Cemetery
Some years ago I was told that you cannot make art by photographing someone else’s art. I don’t think it was a comment directed toward me specifically but rather a general opinion offered to a group of photographers. At that time I was working on a project that Janet and I were doing together, Art in the City. We wanted to document the plethora of art that was on public view in Houston. I thought about doing a book on the subject but soon realized that would be an overwhelming undertaking that I had neither the time nor the talent to complete. I still work on the project but with more realistic expectations.

I don’t know that I was as much interested at the time in creating art as I was in simply doing fairly decent documentations of the works on display. But in thinking about it I do a great deal of photographing other people’s art from sculpture, to architecture, to graffiti, to manikins in antique stores. Am I creating art, I am not sure that I am but in interpreting the works of others through my photography I think may be tilting it just a little in the direction of art. Frankly, to me it is immaterial. I photograph what I find interesting with little if any thought of it being art. Which is what I personally believe that artist do.

Of course, someone forgot to give that same lecture to Richard Prince (see previous article) and he is millions of dollars richer as a result.

I think there is a difference between what I do and what Prince did. It is up for interpretation but I don’t think I am appropriating the works of other as much as I am finding my message within their works. Yes, I sometimes document for my own purposes what I see for future reference but that is not my main goal. I simply want to show what I respond to.

This morning Alcy and I were at Earthman Cemetery in an area that is dominated by Asians of the Christian faith. They do not hold back. The statements regarding their faith is strongly written and displayed in their memorials. As Easter services let out they came to the cemetery almost in caravans to pay their respects. We moved to another section so as not to interrupt. There were scattered visitors around the cemetery, but nothing to compare to the Asian area.

I wanted to work on what may be my portfolio this October at Northwest. At the present it is tentatively being called Small Manifestations.  I am looking for artifacts that have been placed on the grave sites that draw a connection to either the deceased or to those left behind. Truthfully, I am most interested in objects that have a feeling of poignancy or objects that have a religious connotation. I have been doing photographs along this theme for a couple or three years but never really devoted time to it. Now I am.

I haven’t decided exactly how I will present the photographs, or even for sure the name of the portfolio. That will come as more work is done. I believe very much in letting the photographs take on their own life and it is best if I just follow along.