Thursday, October 27, 2016

Maybe getting back in the groove...

There is much I would like to write. I have been doing photography once again. It started rough but the last couple of shoots have been encouraging. The biggest events have been the two Portfolio Reviews, one at NWHPC and one with the Katy group.

I showed, Observations and Reflections, photos from a shoot at Via Colori last year. I had planned on doing Small Manifestations, photographs I have taken in the last year or two in cemeteries. I am fascinated with the artifacts left behind at grave sites. But in the process of getting the images together I saw something I had overlooked in the Via Colori folder. I realized that I had taken a lot of images where I included an artist drawing a human face or figure. It was a cold rainy day and all were wearing hoodies, mostly black. In all the images the artist was very secondary to the drawn image and the image seem more alive and seemed to be observing the artist or the spectators viewing the artist working. I immediately knew that was going to be my portfolio. I am pleased because it got very good reviews.

I planned on using the same portfolio at Katy. However, I knew one of the reviewers at NWHPC would also be there so I was looking for a different portfolio for him to review. This is where it gets a little tricky.

Over ten years ago I was doing a lot of photo manipulation using different software, different approaches and techniques. Well, I have a portfolio that I titled The Locus of the Last Lost Souls. It was a very dark time in my life and I was having horrific nightmares almost nightly. I love my nightmares. I find them fascinating. Many times after waking from a nightmare I would lie there partially awake, partially asleep, for what seemed like hours going over the details and attempting to rewrite it to a more favorable conclusion. I seldom have nightmares anymore. Scarcely can even remember if I dreamed.

The Locus was basically about my nightmares. I would layer images, using only the parts of each that I wanted. I would then manipulate the images, the colors, whatever I felt was needed then I would draw over the images freehand with a mouse. The lack of precision gave the images a very crude appearance. Some came out very good, some not so good. In all there were about thirty images. Of that I only have eight left and those only because I printed them out. The rest of the series is gone. The software would only write very small files and almost all of the images I used were scarfed from the Internet because I was not able to go out and shoot what was needed. Some, because I needed nudes, came from porn sites. I had written a few lines to go with each of the images. This was a time when I was doing a lot of very personal writing—examine my life, my fears, the world. I wrote short stories that were fictionalized from my life experiences—not stuff to be showing anybody, but just getting it down on paper because when it is on paper I seem to understand it better.

I shared a few of the images with a friend I met on the Internet who was teaching creative writing at Tarrant County College. Robbie was always encouraging but the images were very private so I had not shown the images again until the last few days when I was thinking about using them at Katy. Everyone seemed to like them and seemed to be able to overlook the fact that they were a little perverted.

In looking back I did frame them and hung them at the studio for one of the open house events. They didn’t get any comments. I felt safe there because studios are a little weird anyway.

Anyway, I took them, but I also took Via Colori—I used Via Colori except for the one reviewer, Rudy Hernandez. My last reviewer was the director of the museum at Katy. Anna always intimidates me so I am greatly surprised that I had the nerve to pull them out and ask her opinion.

She read through my statement several times then asked me to spread the photographs out on the floor. I did. She walked back and forth viewing the photographs and then sit down on the floor and carefully read and studied the images. She asked lots of questions and we discussed how the images being procured from the Internet prevented them from hanging in a show or being sold. I understood that and was fine with it because neither was my intention. Then she said something that thank goodness I was in a public place, otherwise I would have broken down. She said, “ I’m surprised I didn’t know this. You are not a photographer. You are a poet.” She encouraged me to start again with my own images. Wow. If I never ever get another review I am happy.

I am not likely to redo The Locus because my life has changed. I am not sure I can make contact with that darkness again and I will have to find something else to do. Thank you Anna.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Portfolio Review 2016

The world has moved in strange directions lately. Little photography accomplished, a planned trip to photograph the plantation homes along the Cane River in Louisiana got canceled. But life is good, actually much better but that is a another very long story.

Tomorrow night is Northwest Houston Photo Clubs annual Portfolio Review. Participating members will have their portfolios reviewed by members of the professional photographic community. It is always a great learning experience.

What follows is my artist statement and photos being submitted this year.

Observation and Reflection
I have been involved in photography for over half a century. When I was first exposed to the idea that photographs had the ability to reveal my subconscious, I almost gave it up. For a very long time I resorted to what I believe a lot of photographers do when they become aware that they are showing themselves in their photographs, hiding in safe zones of technique and mimicry. That held little enjoyment so I decided to do photography my way because frankly few would understand that the photographs were about me and not the subject matter.

Art creates an interaction between the artist and the subject matter as well as between the viewer and the created artwork. These photographs, taken during Houston’s Via Color, suggest a third type of interaction, that between the subject matter of the artwork—in this case, an inanimate, emotionally devoid figure drawn in chalk on course concrete—with the artist, the viewer or an adjacent work.

In these photographs, the subject matter, the inanimate figures, are more alive than either the artist or the photographer observing the artist working. They become metaphorically a mirror reflecting back my observations of my world at that point in time. 

                                        Gary Woodard 2016

Jeeze I wish someone would develop a blog site that would work for photos. This is a real struggle and one of the images is not here. Anyway...

I am a firm believer in letting the subconscious do it's thing within your photography. Yes I know that is a throwback to the Seventies but that's okay. The vast majority of my photography that I enjoy comes from that viewpoint. This portfolio was not planned. I simply examined the photographs that I had taken that day and 'discovered' a theme that at the time of the shoot I was not aware I was in anyway consciously perusing. I almost always take such a discovery as being of some importance. You might think of that as the opposite of previsualization. I don't see it that way. I see it more as letting something not totally under my control influence the photographs that I take. It is not random shooting; the shots were planned, seen at the time but I was not aware of how I was seeing the resulting images until after the fact. I was not aware that I was taking so many photograph in such a similar way. I take that as being of some importance to me even if I may not at the present fully understand what that importance is.

I processed the images to put the emphasis on the inanimate figures, downplaying the artist. The day was cold and many of the artists were wearing dark hoodies or coats. That made it very easy to place the emphasis on the figures. As many photographers have written, including the revered Ancel Adams, every photograph is about the photographer as well as te subject matter. That is what I see happening with these images.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Alcy had a couple of days off so we went to Galveston and stayed in the Tremount House.

As everyone knows the sun set behind the Island so sunsets are difficult to shoot. We generally go across to Bolivar but decided to shoot away from the sunset and I am pleased with some of the photographs. And of course we did the ferry a couple of times.

Being at the Tremont allowed us to do an early morning walk along The Strand before it got too active.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Briana and Black Tulips

A couple I did today using Topaz Glow, Adjust, Clarity, Impressions...

This is mostly Glow and then inverted. Don't know if Briana ever gets on the blog or not but if she does I have a number of photos from this shoot at Rod Flemming I would like to share.

This is the full enchilada; Glow, Adjust, Clarity and Impressions. I think of it as the black tulips shaking off all their color. Unfortunately because the new Glow 2 is so darn slow I did both of these on low resolution images so I won't be able to print them.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A New Book, The Rule of Thirds and SOOC

Received a new book today, Rick Sammon’s Creative Visualization for Photographers. No, I haven’t read it yet but in browsing I have found a few things that to me are interesting…

First, I have recently been considering the thought that photography is presently in a period somewhat similar to the period of time when the f/64 School came to dominate Pictorialism which actually died early in the second decade of the Twentieth Century but amateurs continued the practice until well into the 1940’s. Actually we have been in this new phase for a while, everywhere except in much of amateur photography.A similar time frame may not be required for the current changes. However, it just might.

I am not sure which I find the silliest, the Rule of Thirds or SOOC but they both have their diehard enthusiasts.

Sammons at one point, I can’t find it again to do a direct quote, briefly suggests that reality in photography is dead—well, what so many photographers think of as reality (it’s actually verisimilitude, an illusion of reality). He tells a story that was relayed to him by an assistant of Ancel Adams (a member of the original f/64 Group). Apparently Ancel received a letter from one of his fans that had recently visited Yosemite. The fan wrote that he owned all of Ancel's books and was very enamored with the photography. However, on visiting Yosemite he had become very disappointed—to quote—“…the park doesn’t look that way”. Of course, it doesn’t. Being a member of f/64 did not stop Adams from applying the creative processes to his photography. So as much as many would like to think of f/64 as SOOC, it was a long, long way from it. I own two Ancel Adams prints—they are dark and moody, just like a Woodard.

There is also a photograph Sammons took of an African lion approaching through a field of tall grass. The original image placed the lion on the Rule of Thirds—the ‘corrected, enhanced, final’ version is cropped to place the lion DEAD CENTER. Oh my, oh my the sky if falling, the sky is falling—a photograph so perfectly composed ruined by moving the subject matter dead center. If we were not approaching the end times already that is sure to cinch it. We must all crawl under the bed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Here I Go On Flower Photography Again

As most know I often take on flower photographs. Poor Alcy has to put up with my anti-flower photography tirades constantly because Alcy is and considers herself to be primarily a flower photographer.
I frequently use flower photography to illustrate what I believe is a big problem with much of amateur photography. I use flower photography as an illustration because everyone enjoys flowers, photographs flowers and can therefore relate to talking about photographs of flowers. It may be the closest thing to a universal them as can be found.
True flowers are naturally beautiful, they even sometimes smell good. But they do something that I find to be detrimental to the art of photography. They beguile the photographer. Nothing, short of a baby, can affect the mental capacity of a photographer as much as a flower (thank goodness there are not nearly as many babies around as there are flowers or photography as an art form would be totally doomed.
In my not so humble estimation a photographer has to be able to see a photograph, not a subject matter, but a photograph—there is vast difference between the two. It is almost impossible for flower photographers to get past the subject matter.
Now, I will admit that often Alcy gets a pretty decent photograph of a flower.  However, as much as she claims to want to do good flower photography, what she really wants to do is to document something she finds fascinating and quite beautiful—a flower. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It may even be laudable, enriching, life enhancing. But it flies in the face of her statement about photography. When it comes to Alcy photographing flowers, I have determined that the photograph will always be secondary to the flower and there ain’t nothin’ I can do about that.
How can I tell? It is much easier than you might surmise—just look at the area in the photograph surrounding the flower. I often say that when I look at a painting I want to see the bush or knife strokes because that is where I see the artist. In flower photography I don’t look at the flower; I look at what surrounds the flower and how the flower fits within the frame because that tells me whether the photographer is thinking about the flower or the photograph. I do not care about the flower; I care about the photograph.
I say that then I also have to say that I am the photographer that for two years in a row, and actually started a third year but didn’t finish—I spent six months of both years documenting the life cycle of a Magnolia blossom. The life cycle begins in April long before the bloom appears and continues into October long after it has faded. The blossom itself will only last for less than a day to maybe two or three days but that is only a single step in the process. I still have one photograph that comes at the end of the cycle which I have yet to accomplish. Hope is fading that I ever will since my neighbor cut down the Magnolia tree that did over hang my property.
The reason I do into this again is that last night at the camera club competition I came home with two first place ribbons. One was for something I dearly love—a street shot of people (I am not really sure that I consider a photograph that does not contain the image of one or more people--or something that looks like a person--to actually be of any value as a photograph). The other was for a photograph of a vase of dying flowers.
So, I am not opposed to flower photography—I am opposed to the general approach to flower photography. I am opposed to the general approach of much of amateur photography. Amateurs should be the freest the most adventuresome of all photographers but in many ways they paint themselves into a tenny tiny little corner and I find that very sad. Being a member of a camera club exacerbates the problem and you will forever after be fighting to get out of the bag. I know from personal experience, I’m still fighting.
Slowly Ending—after Alcy finishes with flowers I get to shoot. Actually that is okay because the are more interesting to me as they fade away. I do a lot of flower photography and this is one of my favorites.

The Critic—yeah, I stole the title from Weegee but I think it is appropriate. The most surprising thing about this photograph is that I took it. Street portraiture is easy for me. I have no problem sticking a 200mm lens in someone’s face from four feet away—I love it and I think I get some pretty good photographs. But this is imposing in someone’s personal life—that I find much more difficult. However, I think this photograph has more power and is much more ‘valuable’ than the street portraits that I do. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Glenwood Cemetery

I did something today that I almost never do any more--did a brief photoshoot by myself. I was helping Paula Powers deliver her images to the VAA juried exhibit and when I finished I was in the vicinity of Glenwood Cemetery. When I had passed earlier the light was interesting as there had been a recent rain and there were still clouds. By the time I got there the clouds had moved on and the light wasn't as interesting but still I wanted to give it a try. Instead of stopping on the west side near the Hill and Dunavant angels I decided to drive over to the east side of the cemetery and I am pleased that I did. The angels are not as impressive but I think I got some worthwhile shots. After all I have been photographing the Hill and Dunavant for what, ten years? It's about time that I tried something different.


Catching up again..

Taking photos along but few are making it to the blog...

Did a run to Galveston:




Antique Store on 2920

Galveston Church Tour



Alcy working in the stuudiol