Last night was the Northwest Photo Club's Portfolio Challenge review. The members that participate in the Challenge put together a portfolio of ten to twenty photographs in as professional a manner as they are able to do. The club brings in people from the professional side of photography including professional photographers, educators, curators, gallery owners. Lots are drawn and each participant gets three or more reviews. Because of the mixed backgrounds of the reviewers the participants get a mixture of insights from different areas of expertise. This is the reason that I belong to this particular club.
This is my third year to participate in the Challenge and each time I walk away with a bigger head than the year before. However, there is a downside—that is if I wish to continue to grow—I have to do better than I did the year before.
There is a common theme that runs through all of my portfolios so far—randomness. This is possibly my favorite photographic theme. I look for objects that have been arranged randomly—without conscious human input. I call it spontaneous design and it has played a big part especially in the portfolios the first year and in the one this year. Last years theme was more order/chaos which is a subcatagory of randomness.
|Tar and Stars--shot this week of the sidewalk|
across my my home.
|Another Totem of the same light pole that|
originally started to Totem project.
|Poster assembled from many of the photographs from the Forensic Evidence project.|
Here is the Artist Statement for Forensic Evidence Found in the Containers of a Life Past:
When I was young I thought a great deal about death. Now that I am old I think a great deal about life; not about prolonging life but about the whys and whats of a life experienced.
In this endeavor I find the pivot points of life to be extremely fascinating. What I call pivot points are the events that when they occur spin life so dramatically that life afterwards will never again be the same as life before. Graduating from school, getting married, having a child, losing a parent - these are all points where life is expected to pivot as though to almost begin again in another form. A financial disaster, a horrendous auto accident, losing a child, a diagnosis of a life threatening illness - these are among the unexpected pivot points that are frequently encountered with overwhelming ramifications for the future.
I experienced one such unexpected pivot point almost a quarter of a century ago at precisely 2:15 A.M., February 11th, 1986. My wife, Janet, suffered a massive stroke. In one brief second, life pivoted so abruptly that life prior to that moment was gone forever. It was so life altering that for over fifteen years I gave up the single consistent defining point of my life, photography. Still I hopefully clung to the relics of that past. No amount of hope will spin the world backwards.
What is left of that life past is, with little forethought, haphazardly crammed into boxes, drawers, coffee cans, peanut butter jars, even baggies - containers - all stored away in a ill kept and infrequently visited garage. In these containers are the remains of bicycle touring, wilderness camping, sailing, oil painting, woodworking, diesel mechanics, home maintenance, and a deeper involvement in photography - the passions of a life past which I once greatly enjoyed but in which I no longer participate.
This is a photographic study of those containers. I tried not to disturb the accumulated randomness created by the intervening years. No aesthetic rearranging, no removing the many layers of dust that blankets the containers as time blankets and dims the memory. I did intensify the colors to more closely coincide with the recollections of that past life as memory embellishes with exaggerated colorfulness the joys of the past.
The only intent was to reexamine and extract any thoughts that might come from these disheveled remnants of what had been. Each container is presented honestly without fanfare or pretense for as casual or as meticulous a scrutiny as the viewer desires. I hope that in these simple elements there are discoveries to be made about life, what life was, what life is and life’s response to pivotal years.
This photographic study contains the Forensic Evidence Found in the Containers of a Past Life.
All three of my reviews were extremely positive (as though I ever required an ego boost.)
Chuck Thompson did comment on the appearance of “newness” and pointed out a couple of the photographs where there was slightly more cross lighting and how that added to the theme of objects as being old. Of course that was the opposite of what I had in mind at the time I took the photographs. I was a little disappointed that I did not have a ringlight so that I could eliminate all shadows but Chuck convinced me that the cross lighting along with some of the items being almost hidden in the shadows not only added to the depth of the image it also gave the viewer the opportunity to pause to look harder into the shadows to identify objects. He also pointed out how the cross lighting increased the appearance of layering so that it gave depth to the object lying on top of objects. Chuck mentioned that after reading the Artist Statement that he expected to see much more of an accumulation of dust, more indication of the period of time when the containers where basically untouched. He gave me an entirely new way to see the photographs.
Dion McInnis and I discussed that I had chosen not to rearrange for aesthetic purposes the object in the drawers. My objective was to simply remove the containers and to photograph them as they had been rearranged at random over the years. He suggested that I comment on that in the Artist Statement so that it would be more clearly explained. He probably grasped the autobiographical nature of the photographs, or at least commented on it more, than the other two reviewers which dealt much more with the technical side. He made one comment that I greatly appreciated, that this was a man’s life, something that could not have been photographed by a younger person. I am pleased that came across because to me that is something so very important to what I want to do with photography—keeping it very personal, very much about what I experience, have experienced, see as important. It is good to know that at least on occasion I come close to that. He also mentioned that this was a set of photographs that would be seen very differently by a woman. Interestingly that is what I have actually experienced from the women that have seen the photographs. I have gotten considerable compliments from men, even thought I was going to have to take Larry’s son, Tony, a tool freak, home with me or give him the photographs Tuesday night, but not a single woman has commented very favorably on them.
Rudy Hernandez was encouraging to try Glicee or at least ink jet on watercolor paper which I think would be outstanding. He is emailing me a link to a gentleman in Texas City that he says does outstanding ink jet on watercolor very affordably. So who knows maybe there is more life in this series of photographs? Maybe I will even dig out the containers in the storage closet and continue the project.
Okay, I came away from Portfolio Challenge once again ego inflated and floating on cloud nine because people that I feel know what they are talking about seemed to get my photography, near genius, knew it all the time. But then again when am I not on cloud nine. That’s the real downside of being egomaniacal.