I'm all in favor of faith but when it comes right down to it, we can't really know from whence we came nor what comes after. We have this life. We have this body and mind and spirit and we definitely know that it occurs this once. Don't we have a responsibility to respond to it and manifest that somehow? I don't know which Mary Oliver poem it was but she said: "Instructions for a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it."
This camera stuff is one way I like to tell about it.
We've all done our share of exploring and when it's a site of long history all the better. But I never fail to come back with many images I'm not particularly moved by. Part of it is context. Everywhere is interesting if you are present. And so recording examples of where you are photographically, may later be of far more interest to you than to one that wasn't there. If there's time, I try to spend as much of it as I can contemplating a potential subject. I walked around this crucifix many times and went back more than once at different lights.
It became a matter of a millimeter to get it.
I love this shot because it's what can happen if you really go after an angle that excites the eye but also portrays the subject in a way that is appropriate.
I am drawn to so many things photographically that I have tended not to try and name them all. Upon review, many themes emerge. Sometimes they are immediately identifiable, sometimes not.
There is usually a focus on something physical, the form or light or arrangement of elements, but it often surprises me to discover images I have taken that make me wonder why I took them in the first place. Enlarging often brings back the intention although it may have been something purely emotional. I realize through this review that I am drawn to stillness a lot. I was tantalized in a huge way to the still life work of Joel Meyerowitz in his Cape Light series. Of course,
it helps to be using an 8X10 view camera, but his sensitivity to "atmosphere" is sublime. In this photo, I was drawn to the light from the window through the shower curtain, but that clothespin and it's teeny point of tension set off the quietude of the scene.
There's a rule in composition: Never arrange in halves.
I get it. Dividing down the middle is ironically out of balance. Ironic. I find myself doing just that a lot. There is a tension that gets set up, a vibration. It's not always right nor is it always wrong. Sometimes, to understand the rules it's necessary to break them.
Do your homework! Because, then, you are entitled to go against what is taught. I see great writers doing it all the time. In "The Road", Cormack McCarthy uses sentence fragments all the time. Taking risks often leads to magic.
Here, I was shooting way above Eagle Creek from a footbridge and I found the fern strewn embankment equally interesting as the tree shadow-dappled water and sun- touched creek bottom. I split the difference and it became a little hard to read what the image is at first, which I like. There's no scale which is also intriguing. I'll follow with a few more examples of how compositional problems became more interesting when using the centerline to advantage.
Since this post is about mystery (again), I'll give it away...it's a bowling ball used to play croquet with sledgehammers on the playa of the Alvord desert.
After the abuse of play, it looked like a planet resting on a celestially enormous desert. A bowling ball.
I have come to love placing objects in the frame in this manner. Weighted lower thirds, vertical orientation formal symmetry. Now, for you chaos freaks,
go ahead, get crazy. I like this recording approach where I am documenting chaos in the manner of a presentation.
For some reason, this theme has emerged in many of my works that didn't really present itself until I reviewed many pictures together. This is another aspect I love about photography. My psyche is at work without my conscious awareness and the process of framing and capturing manifests these underlying attractions. In a way, this phlogblog business has caused me to think about it more than I'd like, but it's long overdue to step back and consider what's happening and why, and to share it. Don't think too much, but take account once in a while.
Looking, looking, always looking. Breakfast at my friend Jrdn's. Cooking a big ol' slab of ham. For some reason I want a shot of that sizzling fry pan of meat. I go directly overhead, camera set to macro, snap. Steam. Damn. Wait a second...what's this? Can't quite make it out but yet, there's a clue...An excellent accident. The fogged lens. Usually, it's an immediate reject, but in this case another mystery. A conundrum from the most basic, the most common sight. Frying meat. And yet, it is transformed into another guessing game. Go with it.
This is a lesson from years of videography. You have a problem, maybe with the light or contrast? Not enough of it? Too flat? You can beat your head against the wall trying to solve it but it just won't fix. That's the time to step back, consider options, and then maybe use the problem to your advantage. This is the time when magic can definitely happen. Don't give up, use your head and pick a trick. Stash it away for next time. Keep a journal!
We just returned from Seattle where we saw the Alexander Calder show at the Seattle Art Museum. We are all familiar with one of the 20th century's greatest children and his invention of the mobile. And the stabile.
Have you seen his jewelry? Or his paintings? And his circus? Invention comes from necessity they say, but it also comes from pure playtime. There's that open heartedness thing again. There are no mistakes. There are no rules. Just play.
I got bored once and for some reason had this circuit board on my desk from the dismantling of something or other and it looked like it might be interesting to photograph. My finger inadvertently pressed the shutter completely out of focus and voila. A whole study of blur happened. I just decided to go with it and this is one of them. Now go play some more.
I have always loved architecture. In fact, I have always loved that imposing feeling from proximity to a large scale object. Scale is very difficult to capture photographically, or at least the feeling of immensity. After all, photographs aren't generally that big when viewing. And it's also fun when the reverse occurs- when massive objects become small. I love this distortion of scale. I am also on the lookout for irregularities in the time/space continuum which often reveals itself in reflections. Scale confusion and distortion are definitely on my radar.
In the movie Little Big Man, Dustin Hoffman's character learns to draw and fire a gun. He was taught to use "snake eyes" right before pulling the trigger. I laughed out loud because it's exactly what I do when I make a photograph.
It goes like this: I wander with my eyes wide open until something interests me.
I'll size it up, try it on, decide on a point of view, figure out whether there are any technical difficulties and whether they can be overcome. Then I'll frame it up.
Now, all of this can happen in two or three seconds, but it's the last bit that's evolved into the critical instant. Once I have it framed, I almost defocus my eyes, taking everything in the frame in, all at once, checking the edges, watching the horizon level and proportions-thirds, maybe fifths(I'll get into more of a discussion on rules and breaking them later). But at the very last, after checking these things, I make a little micro adjustment when it feels just so. "Yes, yes, that's it." Click. Very important.
What's seeing without light? Tropism is the reaction, in a definite manner, to stimuli.
I respond to light. I won't even begin to get into the different kinds of light here but when it works, it works. These examples are from a walk in an industrial area under a bridge ramp between two buildings. The late afternoon light was slotted between the ramp and a north facing wall. The rays were parallel to the surface casting these gorgeous shadows from some terribly beautiful protest posters. Each 1/4" peel threw a dramatic shadow down the wall. There was a moving feeling of vulnerability and fragility to these robust declarations to the world. It was late summer and I have been back many times since. They're all gone now and it's never looked this way again. Carry a camera.