In these economic times bartering can be beneficail to both parties. On my last birthday Vickie offered to buy me a bonsai tree. We had gone to another bonsai nursery before so we decided to go a different one this time. After I had picked out a tree ( Vickie picked one for herself too, that I’m happy to take care of ) we were talking with the owner before we left and he mentions that he is redoing his site and his photography is not too good. Well I happen to be a photographer I tell him. I ask if he is willing to do a trade. He is, and a barter is made. I have killed many a bonsai because I’ve lived in lofts for many years and was not able to put the tress outside during the winter for fear someone would take the tree thinking it was being thrown away. Bonsai trees are small but they are real trees and need to be dormant during the winter just like the big boys outdoors. Our barter was that I would shoot the trees he wanted on his site and in return he would give me two trees and two lessons. At this time we are both happy, that’s a good barter, when each party leaves feeling good.
If you have been following contemporary photography for the past fifteen years you probably noticed seeing a genre of photographic image making that seems all to prevalent. Photographs of people. They appear in the frame in a number of ways. It began as a single person indoors indoors in what looked to be upper middle class houses, but rarely facing the camera. Either they are looking away or in profile with subdued indoor light. They might be in the living room or bedroom, standing, sitting or laying. Of course never happy, mostly a sense of sadness, loneliness, certainly not contemplative.( Life style intrusive documentary as I refer to this work). It progressed to ‘portraits’ outdoors. Either individual people or groups of people in a front or back yard, driveway, or in front of a building, standing, but not side by side, seemingly distanced ( as in relationship) from one another . Mostly this work is color and large, very large, in the 2 x 3 ft size prints.
The photography of people has a long history in photography. It was one of the first genres in the history of photography. Photographers such as Irving Penn, photographing New Guinae tribesmen against a painted background or Richard Avedon photographing people of the American west against a white background. Even earlier August Sander photographing workers,( People of the Twentieth Century).
These current images of people seem to say there is a dislocation of feeling among these groups of people or individuals. It all seems pretty negative and sad in it’s view of their situation or the outlook they are portraying. Possible the breaking down of the family unit. Even though they appear to be residing in comfortable surroundings there seems to be a prevailing dissatisfaction in either the relationship of those in the image or where they reside or in their sense of self.
The difference between the current work and that of Penn, Avedon & Sander is that the current work has no individual style. All are utilizing an overall light, incorporating a feeling of environment and in color. If one was to look at 20 of these images by 10 different photographers you would not be able to tell which picture was taken by which photographer. They are all so similar as to be indistinguishable from one another. This brings up another point. Why photograph the same thing, in the same style, as 100’s of other photographers? Creatively, how can you justify photographing the same thing as hundreds of others while changing so little? As Alexi Brodovitch challenged Penn & Avedon,” When you look into your camera, if you see an image you have seen before, don’t click the shutter”. Where has that thinking gone? This is the greatest failure of what I see as trendy work.
For quite some time I have wanted to try an HDR image. Ever since Photoshop incorporated it into the program I thought it was a great idea, but hey, I procrastinate sometimes. It didn’t have that kind of importance at the time, so it was put aside. An artist friend ( OK my significant other) is having a show at a venue that would be perfect for an HDR, so this seemed to be the time. When we hang the show I knew this place would be a nightmare to light. An open hall with 30 foot ceilings, a number of galleries off the main area. A client would not want to spend the money this type of interior requires ( for that matter, clients now don’t want to spend any money………….. see royalty free images, but that’s another blog topic).
The day after we hung the show we returned to make sure everything looked OK. It would be nice if the folks there use a little spackel on some holes in the wall. I brought my camera & tripod and made 5 exposures. One ‘normal’, and bracketed 2 stops on either side. Even though I did a color balance when there, once I took it into Camera Raw a bit more was needed. No biggie. Then on to HDR in Photoshop. Just a little correction there, and on to Photoshop.
Now that is magic. What a great thing. Before HDR you would have had to make separate exposures & put them on layers with some critical masking. With HDR, just a little touch-up here and there.
If it’s October, then Atlanta celebrates photography. This city wide celebration of photography has been happening for a number of years in Atlanta with photography exhibitions & guest speakers all over Atlanta for the month of October. This year I’m lucky enough to participate with an exhibition of my ‘Birds in Portrait’ at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve on Oct 2 from 6-8, hope to see you there. I’ve been working on this project for over a year now & feel it’s just about complete. There is still another museum I want to visit that I know has a few interesting birds that I’d like to photograph.
Many artists work alone. This is a pretty common thing and I do it also. On occasion we’ll have someone over and take a few pieces out and ask, ‘what do you think?’. Well, if it’s a good friend they might tell you the truth, but most times the response is ‘oh yea, great work’. Does that really help you?
About a year ago I was invited to participate in a critique with some other artists. The way it works is about every two months we get together at someones house on the weekend (usually Sunday, during the NFL season I have to sacrifice the first quarter and a half) have something to eat, and then look at the first piece of art. The work can be in progress or finished, but what you receive is good, honest criticism from people who are genuinely interested in what you’re doing. Color, composition, what are your motives, how does that work in your piece, are some of the feedback you can expect. That is the type of feedback you want. Many times you’re so close to the work you’re unable to see what others can.
Give it a try if you can, it might help your work improve.
Below are two artists from the group. Vickie Martin painted the dress and Lance Carlson painted the abstract. You can find more of their work at www.vickiemartinarts.com and www.lcartist.blogspot.com
Last week I went to Houston to attend FotoFest. Actually I went there to have my portfolio reviewed by a number of curators and gallery owners.Very interesting experience. It gives you a broader view of your work than you might receive from your friends and acquaintances. If it’s possible to do I would highly recommend it. Didn’t see much of Houston as I stayed mostly at the hotel but did make a visit to the Rothko Chapel. Now that is something to see. Rothko is one of my favorite painters and this work doesn’t disappoint, hugh, meditative work. Beautiful.
As you know, I have been photographing birds. But I do like birds and have had
birds as pets. This Labor Day weekend I went to Cincinnati to attend a high school reunion and stayed with a friend and his wife at their farm. They aren’t farmers but have a number of rescue animals. If 17 dogs aren’t enough for you, they are for me. They also have birds, goats,two horses, and miniature cows that they raise. At the time I visited in June they had a cockatoo they had rescued. This trip I brought in back with me.
Here is a picture from about 1980. Yes that’s Ed Mcman and me. He was very nice man and large. He is consoling me after I was bumped from the Tonight Show. I had just set the Guiness record for doing 40,000 summersalts and was about to go on but time ran out.
Actually I’m kidding about the summersalts.
As promised here are a couple images from a new series about song birds. Interestingly song birds are protected, taxidermists cannot mount them From what I found out, this law was passed in the 30’s during the depression and is still on the books. This series is color but the other birds will continue in black & white
The week of June 8 I was photographing in Cincinnati at the Museum Center, which is the natural history museum. All the people I met were extremely friendly and helpful. A very successful trip, photographed a number of birds to add to the series, more on that later. Must say the drive was no fun as eight hours is pressing my limit. Good thing there’s coffee