With the Fuji Mum Alcy finished her photographs for her portfolio review so I am at a loss for subjects. Couldn't even come up with a good excuse to go to the studio today. I posted to Facebook asking if anyone had anything they wanted photographed but didn't get any replies. Hope I am still good at thumb twiddling.
A couple of redos from today...
I may end up with as many versions of this image of Mariam as I have of the 1973 selfie in the shower.
[originally posted as "How Do I Rebecome a Hermit? Recluse is a much more accurate description of my desired state of being]
There is a good Southern term ‘sit me
on my ear.’ Not sure just how Southern it is or even exactly what it means
beyond what it means to me, but I recently had an experience that sit me on my
I read the other day some verses
written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. Always
the soul hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The
sentiment they instill is of more value than any thought they may contain. To
believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private
heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and
it shall be the universal sense; for always the inmost becomes the outmost —
and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last
Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we
ascribe to Moses, Plato and Milton is that they set at naught books and
traditions, and spoke not what men, but what they thought. A man should learn
to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from
within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he
dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of
genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a
certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for
us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with
good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the
other side. Else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense
precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to
take with shame our own opinion from another.
Yeah, I wish I had written that but I
didn’t. Ralph Waldo Emerson did. It is sometimes interesting to contemplate
things that have influenced our thinking. I seem to be attracted to some
strange mentors, Emerson, Hattersley and Michels. Well, maybe Emerson isn’t so
strange. I still have no idea what Transcendentalism is and if I ever find out
then I might consider him strange but then I would have to admit that I also am
Maybe all three are pushing photography
toward the metaphorical.
I freely confess that there is little
that I can find fault with Emerson.
No one has influenced my thinking on
photography to the extent that Hattersley has. On first encountering Hattersley
most of what he wrote was new to me but it was like seeing a light for the
first time, it resonated with me from the beginning. When I share Hattersley
with other photographers they are unimpressed and often repulsed. So I have to
question, how I got so far off course. How have I become so corrupted that I
can no longer see photography the way other people do. Surely they are right
and I am wrong—that is the point at which I go back and reread Emerson.
Michels is totally metaphorical. Or
maybe metaphorical is the only way that I want to see Michels work. He does
much of what I wish I had the talent to do photographically.
Addendum: Sorry I have to add to
the previous paragraph: There is a depth to Michels photographs—which includes
what he writes about the photograph since the two are one, inseparable. In one
sense it is universal and in another sense tremendously, wrenchingly personal.
As much as I want my photography to emulate this universality and personal
intimacy, it is a depth that I do not feel I am intellectually capable of
reaching but in many ways it is a goal I should work toward… but don’t.
I think the
attraction is… but here is the question. Is it really because we have similar
concepts about life or art or is it that their concepts have influenced my
concepts. Where is it that the individual begins and where is it that the
individual becomes the outside influences? I am not sure that I know.
I am still recuperating from the Duane
Michels lecture at the MFA last Friday. Still trying to sort out just what I
want to take from the lecture, if anything. I was excited to see and hear
Michels because he has been such a strong influence to my thinking on
photography. Excited enough to be sure that I made the drive back from
Dallas in time to get to the lecture. Now I am questioning how I can be so
greatly affected by someone that sees the world so differently. It is not that
Michels is gay. That doesn’t bother me. It is not that he photographs men sans
skivvies. That doesn’t bother me. It was the tirade against most everything
outside of photography that I believe that bothered me. Can I separate his
work from the toxic tirade that seemed to garner almost unanimous approval
and great applause from the audience? Is this a person whose work I want
to admire? Maybe more importantly, are these people that I should choose to
associate with? Those questions were weighing very heavily on my mind when I
left the museum. They still are. Along with, "How do I rebecome a
Back in Houston in time for the lecture at the MFA. Stopped in Huntsville to share a sunrise with Big Sam. The only photos I took on the trip. Had a good visit with family and friends and of course, with Sam.
Playing catch up. Went to the Gatorfest at Anahuac. Shot the gator hunt, Alcy preparing for an airboat ride though the marsh, some guys doing stunts on bicycles and then drove over to the preserve to see if any alligators were left...
Then Alcy and I went to meet my brother in Dallas. Stopped in Calvert on the way for a few pictures. Didn't get to see him but did visit with Otis and Carol Waddell who took us on a tour of the Botanical Gardens in Fort Worth.
Spent the night in Dallas and went to Whiterock Lake and the Dallas Arboretum before returning to Houston.
Had an interesting experience last evening. Debi Beauregard got tickets to the opening night at the Houston Fine Art Fair. It's a little up scale for this country boy but I enjoyed it very much. It was mostly galleries showing art for sale. Much of it was selling for multiples of the value of my house car and cameras. Didn't see a single Cezanne, Warhol or Picasso that was anywhere near twenty bucks. The highlight of the evening was meeting the Director of the South Texas Museum of Art in Corpus Christi. They received Dorothy Hood's estate when she passed away a few years ago. I mentioned that Janet had been Dorothy's photographer from about 1978 until her stroke in 1985. I still have all the 4x5 transparencies and possibly some black and white negatives and was curious if the museum would be interested in them. He said they would be. It is a possibility that Dorothy had copies of most of the photographs that I have and that the museum already has them. However, frequently we photographed in private collections as well as doing quite a few photographs for a PBS documentary on Dorothy. There might be some of those that she did not have. I have been concerned about what to do with Janet's work and this will at least take care of a part of it. I am not sure but what it might lead to an outlet for the pieces that I have. In all it was a productive as well as enjoyable evening, thanks to Debi.
I know that no one else that I know is as affected as I am
by Ivan Albright’s painting Into the
World There Came a Soul Called Ida. That’s okay. I have written about it
before so I won’t do that again.
Today I was watching a documentary on Dorothea Lange. There
were many of her photographs that I had never seen before. Hard to imagine as
much photography as I look at, but true.
I found a second Ida in one of Lange’s
photographs that I was not familiar with, titled Mended Stockings. Lange produced many powerful photographs but
this one really hit me.
Of course, understanding the power of this photograph requires a knowledge of the importance of silk or nylon stockings to a woman of that time period. I don’t know how anyone that has any understanding of that importance can look at this
photograph without having their gut twisted in knots. The 'repairs' are like sutures holding her dignity. self esteem and identity as a woman together. I couldn’t find a really
good reproduction of the photograph but here is a link to the documentary Grab A Hunk of Lightening
Addendum: I contend that photography is the art of
exclusion. You’ve read the explanation so I won’t repeat it. I just think there
might not be a better illustration of that belief than this photograph.
Lange could have shown the whole woman, giving her an
identity—completing the story. She didn’t. Instead the entire story of this
woman is written in a pair of crudely mended stockings. Lange gave the viewer
woman, not a woman. She captured the universality of this woman’s story by
leaving her anonymous. This was a time when women were different from men and
men loved them for that. They loved them for their small vanities done to make
themselves attractive for men. It was a time when women were still very special people.
The viewer writes this woman’s story because we have
all known this woman at some point in our lives—maybe more often than once. We transfer what we felt to this lady with the mended stockings.
I have not posted much lately that is educational or
instructional. I am trying to get away from that as previously mentioned. I
still come across stuff that I think is important to pass along but by the time
I get to a keyboard I have generally reconsidered.
It’s a lot like smoking—no matter how hard you try, for a
very long time you keep reaching for your shirt pocket out of habit. Someday,
even that is unlearned.
I am a sucker for quotes and in reading Joe Baraban’s blog I
came across one from Degas that Joe uses in his “Stretching Your Frame of Mind”
workshops. It is so applicable to photography.
“Painting is easy
when you don’t know how, very difficult when you do.”
Joe goes on to tie the quote to his workshop: “As my
students eyes becomes more refined, and they begin to see the how and why,
it becomes more and more difficult for them to take pictures. Now they see that
it takes work to create good photos… learning new things is a job, but the pay
off is a job well done.”
Tuesday a group of us got together to photograph the new gorilla habitat at the Houston Zoo. (Debbie Henderson, Jerry and Darnell Klumpp,
Paula Powers, Darby Donahoe and, of course, Alcy Neidlinger) Heavy rains hit
just at opening time so it didn’t turn out the way we had hoped. Most everyone
got much better photographs than I did so I have already informed all of them
that I will not shooting with them in the future. Okay, I’m just kidding.
I got a couple that I liked in the bird house and of
the lemurs. I am doing my first book in a couple of years so I did get some
textures to use as page backgrounds. Just didn’t get much to put over the
Alcy had a couple of days off so we headed to Galveston with the intentions of possibly shooting inside St Mary's Basilica and hopefully the white church across from the Bishop's Palace, Scared Heart. The Basilica was not open so we shot a few photos of the outside even though the light was not particularly good.
We skipped Scared Heart but did stop briefly at St Patrick's on Broadway.
Moving on, we found a colorful mural at the Hula Hut and then went back to a colorful restaurant on Broadway that Alcy had spotted. Decided to eat at El Gusto and would recommend it. The enchiladas were extremely good and reasonably priced. The staff was very friendly. We generally eat at Salsa's when we want Mexican but this is much more reasonable and might become our favorite. It was a good choice.
Stopped at a Black History Museum for some shots of the murals. Alcy stayed in the car where it was cool. It also provided, if needed, a faster escape mechanism from the two guys standing in their lawn across the street watching me take photographs. They were much more curious than threatening.
Both sunset and sunrise were pretty much non-events. After shooting so many of each in Galveston it is difficult to find a new POV especially when the event will not carry the image.
We met a man from Amarillo who was also on the beach photographing the sunrise. I mentioned that it was pretty unspectacular he commented that the people up north would never know the difference and kept right on shooting. I suppose he was right.
I almost forgot to include my best shot of the day. After we shot the Hula Hut we walked down the alley. Galveston's alleys are full of photo ops. Anyway around the corner we found this commode sitting in an open door--needless to say, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.
And this shot of Alcy taking a break from processing photos when she would much rather have been out walking along the beach. We did not fall for the "room with ocean view this time" and we did get back from shooting in time for me to have waffles. So, in all it was a successful trip even if it was very short.
Alcy had ordered a couple of flowers from a florist that we needed to pick up. They didn't have what she ordered so we got a Calla Lily and a Ginger. Went to the studio and ended the day shooting flowers for her portfolio. Of course after she left I snuck in a few shots of the Calla...