Sunday, June 15, 2014

Oh, the things we do in the name of art…

Sorry, this will be long. As you might already know I don’t know much. I talk a lot about things I think I know but in truth I have no idea whether or not I really know anything. So I am not much concerned about what I know about photography. I am concerned about what I believe about photography. Very concerned. In doing this for over sixty years I have developed some very strong beliefs (some people just call them opinions). Whether they apply to anyone else is not terribly relevant—they do apply to me. They apply to my photography.

Debi Beauregard has been working on a ‘project’ for the past couple or three years. I am a great believer in ‘projects’ or as I call them themes. Most well above average photographers have always over a period of time followed a theme, cycle, project or just call it a body of work that has a degree of consistency of possibly subject matter, meaning or style. Debi has been photographing a dress form that she has named Sophie.

Sophie resides in the trunk of Debi’s car and when an interesting location is found Sophie comes out and poses for photographs. As I mentioned, today I was invited to photograph Sophie.

Houston is fortunate to have an huge amount of ‘outdoor’ art. Now whether or not you consider graffiti art or not is up to you. Some of it in Houston is very impressive and we are fortunate to have a number of businesses that support the work of the better graffiti artists. One of those artists is Sebastien Boileau who goes by the moniker of Mr D.

A few weeks ago, Mr D painted the side of a business on Westheimer that is called the Biscuit Paint Wall. Alcy, Debi and I have photographed this wall on a couple of occasions and I thought it would make a great background for Sophie as Debi stuffs her with bright colored squares of tulle. Being Sunday, the parking lot was empty and we had full use of the wall.

Photographing the Biscuit Paint Wall—or any graffiti—calls into question ‘true color.’ I have no concern with true color. I don’t think such a thing exists. I am only interested in the color that seems right or appropriate to me. Often I am prone to totally change a color, to saturate or intensify a color or even use incorrect white balance. Color, to me, is simply an emotional statement within the photograph so it can be what ever I want it to be.

On most of today’s photographs of Sophie I greatly intensified the colors, which means that these photographs are very out of sync with Debi’s previous work with Sophie. In the past it has been the ambiance of the locations that Debi chose. These photographs are much more about color than they are about Sophie.

When I suggested the idea to Debi I presented it as Sophie doing an art crawl. I think today we barely scratched the surface. Okay, it is more of a mosquito bite, nothing near a scratch.  I do not know that it is a project that Debi will care to pursue. If it isn’t that is okay. If she should decide to the choices of locations is almost unlimited. In 2002, Janet and I started a project on Outdoor Art in Houston. I am still doing it. It will never be completed. I long ago gave up on doing the book we originally discussed—or even attempting to organize the photographs. 

This is my favorite photograph of Sophie. We had a little wind and Debi got the idea of throwing a piece of the blue tulle into the air and letting it float by Sophie. Seemed simple—wasn’t. I must have tried almost twenty photos and only got one that I felt worked—but in my opinion it worked very well. I love the tension in the angle of the dress form. I love the way the colors work together, the sheerness of the tulle that lets the background come through as layers. I love the mystery created by the wind blown fabric. There is almost an urgency to the photograph that, to me, gives Sophie life.  Okay, so maybe you don’t think it is such a great photograph. Maybe it isn’t. But I like it a whole lot and that is why I take photographs.

This is the best photograph I have of most of the wall. I generally work on details. It was taken a few days ago when Alcy and I were there. The wall had been vandalized and we wanted to see how it looked after the repairs. It is a shame that someone tagged the wall and it had to be reworked.Originally the rivulets of paint flowed smoothly from the top of the wall. Now there is a solid area where the wall was repainted and a new flow was started.

Sophie at the entrance to the business and below with Mr D's signature, the uppercase D with a flame for the upright.

I have a few more photos that I will eventually process and post to PhotoNet (link on upper right. Can't get on Flickr again).

Debi's photographs from today can be found at:
SophieJune 15 2014 
and the older photos at

This is a photograph of Sophie taken at a second location, an abandoned storefront on Tuam. Debi got several really good shots here but this was the best that I could do. As you can see Sophie takes after Debi and never saw a No Trespassing sign that she was able to read.

Our original intent had been to photograph Sophie at Mr D’s mural that is a take off of Michelangelo’s painting of God giving life to Adam in the Sistine Chapel. But we found it was fenced. Hopefully we will be able in the future to get inside and do that yet.

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