Topic: Digital (100 posts) Page 2 of 20

Class Over

We have just finished a week of class in northern Iceland at the Baer Art Center in Hofsos. We had many field trips, refined our skills in Lightroom, went on a boat trip up the fjord, cooked wonderful meals of great fresh salmon and lamb, laughed and photographed all hours of the endless daylight into the nights.

Students finished with many RTP (Ready to Print files) to take back with them to print on their own or to hand over to a service bureau back in Reykjavik for I urged them to make prints, just as I urge you to.

The highlight of the week was when we piled onto an excursion boat to slide up the coast past Baer to the "Cape" where the cliff face opens up to reveal a near vertical rock wall of several hundred feet.  I'd photographed this in 2013 when I was here as a resident but this time the conditions were even better, calm seas with flat gray light.

Making pictures like these:

astounding, miraculous and somehow deeply moving, as though from a different planet.

A simply incredible rock wall several hundred feet tall.

This from the boat where we stayed at the Baer Art Center, very near the Cape. The studios are on the left.

I am on the road now for a few days, driving Iceland's Ring Road to the east with Mercedes, the workshop's most wonderful assistant (thank you, Mercedes!), and putting her on a plane later this morning to return home. I fly out later this week. I am planning on spending a few days along the South Coast. Last week had been mostly free from tourists. We'll see how I do as I enter back into Iceland's main stream. 

Topics: New Work,Iceland,Digital,Foreign

Permalink | Posted August 6, 2017

Step Back

If you read the blog regularly you know that I am now in northern Iceland teaching a one week workshop at the Baer Art Center outside of Hofsos.

Class started today.

Latest chaos: Priebus fired, earlier in the week Spicer resigning, a new Communications Director, transgenders out of the military, repealed Obama health care on and then off, McCain and cancer, on and on. 

Little or no Trump-created mayhem here, simply this:

taken this morning about 1 am. Or this:

which is quite literally the view out my bedroom window. No McConnell, no Kelly Anne Conway, none of them. In a different country, not so far from the Arctic Circle and so far from all that.

Do we realize how immersive this has been, this constant barrage of craziness we've been subjected to? It is a real pleasure to be able to step back from all the DC-based chaos. 

I am here because I applied for and was awarded an artist in residency in 2013. I was then asked back to teach for a week. 

We will talk about simplification, essentials, foundations, trust, boundaries and limits, goals and aspirations, form versus content, relevance, insecurities, barriers, accessibility, one's creative practice and a whole bunch of other things. We will break it down and build it back up, work to understand ourselves better through our work, to grapple with layers like peeling an onion, to go deeper, to confront time.

What I have in class is 9 seriously accomplished Icelandic women who are highly involved in the arts and culture of this country. Some are career photographers and  their work frequently exhibited. This, of course, sets the bar high on me as their teacher. Bring it on.

The trick, of course, it to speak from one's base of knowledge and experience. To address the issues at hand, the concerns and the obstacles confronted in one's own career towards an understanding of what obstructs and hinders others'. What do you want to achieve and can you address paths to get there? Here in Iceland can I help with that or is this a struggle they must solve on their own? One approach is to spend some time writing it down, your artist philosophy, if you will. Brief, maybe a paragraph. A life immersed in Creative Practice is to assume your own innate creative capabilities, the foundation of your aesthetic lives across a broad array of life's mundane activities, chores, jobs, family, relationships and so on. And as you well know, what are your inputs, your inspirations? Is it music, other visual arts, what you read or discuss. Here with this around us, is it where we are physically for the week?

We will see as the week's time together has just started.

Looking forward and stay tuned.

Topics: Color,Digital,Foreign

Permalink | Posted July 30, 2017

Louis Kahn Exeter Library

Ever hear of Louis Kahn? A few years before contemporary architecture moved into its Postmodernism, Deconstructivist, Post-Post Modernism, etc. phases
Louis Kahn, one of our most brilliant architects, designed late in his career a library for Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH in 1970 that stands as one of his greatest pieces.

A friend and I took the day and headed up there from Boston,  11/2 hours away.  Had a good lunch too, at the Green Bean Restaurant, right in town (highly recommended).

With some ideas from the Coliseum in Rome, the library, named the Class of 1945 Library, is a brick and glass cube that integrates with the other 19th century buildings nearby on campus, also in brick.

Minimal and understated, the exterior stands in service to the library's function, almost neutral, as a counter to what's inside.

Which is a tour de force of innovation, engineering, warmth and solemnity.

Huge supporting concrete blocks formed as large circles or openings letting in light, keeping the space open and spacious. Circles within a cube: simply breathtaking and elegant.

Look up and you find this:

With a prevailing palette of concrete, oak and beige carpet with a little hint of marble  thrown in for good measure, the building exudes quality, class and impeccable pedigree,  appropriate to this high-end and rather exclusive boarding school.

We were there in June so things were slow, virtually no students at all. But I can't imagine the library being raucous and loud, as it felt more like being in a tomb or place of worship to me. Whispers came almost without thought, in regards to the  place itself, a kind of reverence and respect for being in a place of  truly exceptional design.

I found a few of the details wonderful:

Yes, but Neal, I hear you asking, isn't this a Photo Blog? Well, yes, it is but in something like what I call a creative life (same category when I wrote last spring about Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water) inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. This is about input and seeing what happens from it and, mixed in, sheer joy. 

It is my pleasure to bring this to you. 

Want to read more about Kahn? There's a great piece in the New York Review of Books about him, here, written by Martin Filler. 

Topics: Falling Water,New England,Color,Digital,Architecture

Permalink | Posted June 24, 2017

Facades

I have had a preoccupation with facades, which, for me, includes fences and walls, for a very long time. In fact, in 1979 I made a series of pictures called Fences and Walls that was my first cohesive group of pictures after finishing graduate school in 1973. Fences and Walls was the body of work that formed the foundation for this way of seeing.

From Fences and Walls 1979

This same approach carried through to some of the mall work I did in 2009-2012.That series was called Mallchitecture and looked at buildings designed for a purpose and function practically devoid of an aesthetic.

Facades played a key role here. My earliest awareness of this interest was a show my work was in at MIT called, oddly enough, "Facades", about 1977. This was when Minor White was still alive. I met the white haired photographer and guru a couple of times and was in awe of his reputation and the depth of his approach. The fact that he had deigned my photograph worthy seemed as if from the hand of God at the time. In those days White curated a concept show every year or so with titles like Light (to the 7th power), Octave of Prayer, Be-ing Without Clothes. 

Photographs of facades, surfaces, fences and walls have been part of  my photographic agenda for a very long time. Was I aware in these early career years I was looking at the world through this specific lens?  That I was consumed by an agenda not on everyone else's list? No, I was not.  I wonder how many people new to the arts are so self aware they know their stock in trade or can access the uniqueness of their point of view in those earlier years? Few, I believe. I also believe this then becomes one of the primary roles teaching needs to play. To acquaint the student with just what it is they are doing, how their work fits into the overall scheme, what precedents there are and the relevance of the premise.

There is another prevailing aesthetic I can track over my career and that is what I call: "Planetality". I know, I've even made a word for it. This is the need, desire or prevailing characteristic of making pictures that exist in planes, most prominently in parallel planes. Stand in front of a building or flat surface, preparing to make a picture of it. Will you make the picture at an oblique angle or point up or down? What drives this in you? Do you not care care that lines converge or that one edge of the building will bow out or in? Or do you wish your pictures to reside in the relative neutrality of not having imposed a specific directionality to them? Again, stand in front of the building, keep your camera level and center yourself so the left and right sides are equidistant and parallel to you holding the camera and you have a picture that is far more neutral, thus allowing the building to dominate, not the signature of the picture of it. Imagine in current times this being a concern! But how you do this affects the outcome.  If the building is too tall or there is too much foreground in your picture? Well, that's what a view camera is for or, in these days in the digital world,  "lens corrections" in Photoshop or, last, a PC lens. The principle is to keep the camera parallel to the surface and shift the lens to raise, lower or slide left or right.

At any rate plane to plane is important to me, not always, but often.

Most of the photographs in this post are from the series called Mallchitecture.


Topics: Digital,Color,Northeast,Vintage,Analog

Permalink | Posted May 19, 2017

Delaware Water Gap

Looking for someplace to photograph? Consider yourself a landscape photographer? Live within reach of southern New Jersey or upstate PA? Take a look at the Delaware Water Gap, about 20 miles of exquisite river valley along one side of the Delaware River in New Jersey. Wikipedia is a good place to start your research: here.

I just came from driving along it, starting  from the South in the Poconos in PA heading home to Boston in the first week of May. After several days of rain, I can't imagine it being more beautiful.

The primary road is along the western side of the river, which allows frequent access to the water itself, with several campgrounds and put-ins for canoes and kayaks.

Hitting it off season is best for me as this is a very popular place in the summer and can get crowded. Rimmed on either side with high hills, cliffs and waterfalls, the whole area is a National Park so no strip malls, motels or gas stations. I have driven through it in the winter, spring and fall and they were all very beautiful.  

I find myself thinking of the Water Gap in terms like Eden, paradise, oasis, heaven,   utopia, and Shangri-La while being aware that these are reactions that may be a result of my post WW 2 birth, upbringing and education. Which, of course, calls into question just what our definition of paradise may be. For me, as a New Englander, it is the Water Gap. Who's to say what yours is? However, it is fair to say that the Water Gap represents a respite from present day USA and contrasts powerfully with the commerciality of the Poconos to the south and present day New Jersey with NYC close by to the north. My definition of paradise includes things like: respite,  quiet, serenity, privacy, beauty, isolation and even intimacy. Clearly a manifestation of things like getting a break from the: rat race, treadmill, production, deadlines, multi tasking, social networking, to say nothing of threats to our national parks and  walls on our borders. The other day while driving through it, and stopping frequently to photograph, I was in a sort of reverie or suspended reality, separated from the world that surrounded the park, early morning on a Saturday in early May. 

If you are a serious photographer and/or intentional it is worth being nearby with access to the park for several days. You'll need to bring your A game as it necessary to turn up your sensitivity to the light, the time of day, the air and the uniqueness of the time of year. Not for the feint of heart, real substantive landscape photography, for the majority is crap, over the top sensationalism these days, kind of like our current president. And so, I find the Water Gap a real challenge, to make pictures there that are expressive and evocative,  embodying a faithfulness to the content before me but also able to convey depth of perception and an acute sensitivity to our surroundings. On the other hand, maybe someone can point their smartphone out the window at the Water Gap at 50 mph, click the shutter and convey all that too. But not me. I need to stop, get the gear out, look around and slow the f___  down.

Postscript: After I'd shot the last frame of the day along the Delaware River, with my mind moving on to visiting my sick friend Keith Johnson in a rehab hospital in New Britain, CT that afternoon and then heading to BT's in Sturbridge for the region's best BBQ, then back to home, I looked down to find this:

staring up at me from the edge of a mud puddle.  I'd have to be brain dead to not regard this as a sign, a message from the photo gods shining down on me, approving of my efforts this early Saturday morning, rewarding me for making some good pictures along the Delaware Water Gap. I don't know if  I thought it to myself or said it out loud but out came a sincere "thank you!" I picked up the coin, put it in my pocket and thought, "Damn, this is good." Then second, "maybe this needs a blog".


Topics: Color,Digital,Northeast,New Work

Permalink | Posted May 10, 2017