Topic: New Way (3 posts)

Working Again

I don't know about you but making art has been a challenge for the past couple of months. However, I am working again and it feels very good.

Let's see: I'm not telling you anything you don't already know but Caronavirus 19 has killed almost 91,000 people in the US alone. Staggering.

On a more personal note, my older sister died in February, just before all this took place. Looking back at her death it seems like a kindness she went when she did. My daughter, granddaughter, two dogs, and I have left our two apartments and are now living together in a new home in Acton, MA; me in an apartment over the garage and them in the main house across an atrium. Moving during this pandemic has been difficult but we are healthy and happy with a large backyard, spring is sprouting up all around us, there are many boxes to unpack, yard work to do, lawn to mow, on and on.

I wrote earlier about the Mannequins work, here. Back when things were moving faster and I had much to do, the Mannequin pictures got left behind, as shows loomed and a new book was in design. But since my forced "retirement" the past two months, it is this work that has been on my mind. So, for no reason other than needing to get work printed and seen, I have been working on the Mannequin project.

Let me state at the outset, that all the old rules no longer apply. I'll explain. I was taught that there were protocols and systems for the presentation of photographs as art. This was art at the highest of levels, to be shown and collected in the best museums. Work that raised the level of consciousness of the medium of photography to new heights. Stieglitz, Walker Evans, Bernice Abbott, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Friedlander and Winogrand, Atget, Cartier-Bresson, Callahan Siskind, to name a few. Usually, a small photograph, most often in black and white, mounted on museum board with an over matt in a simple black frame or stacked in a portfolio. But with digital tools coming online earlier this century all this started to break down. 43 inch print with white surround and pink background? Sure, easy. An image as a poster?

Why not? If you can think it, you can make it.  What a tremendous concept.

Those old rules were valid at a time when photography itself still was relatively new, discoveries in photographic imagery were frequent and exciting. Now we have far more maturity, there is really little that presents as "never seen before". Yes, even true when digital is added in. So, therefore freedoms unheard of just a few years ago are prevalent now. As they should be.

The two mannequin pictures above are now being mounted and will hang on either side of a large TV in my new place. What a pleasure. A new place to live and a blank slate for an artist to make and show his art. All while social distancing and trying his damndest not to get sick.

Be careful and be well.

BTW: I will be speaking this Thursday, May 21at 5 pm about my Monsters work for the Gallery Upstairs, sponsored by Bob Korn Imaging on the Cape.

Topics: New Work,New Way

Permalink | Posted May 20, 2020

New Way 2

Fog. Yes, fog. That's what I worked with during several days of the two weeks I worked on this project. Fog, because it allowed me to work with the frame in a confining and reductive way and it alters the space.

If you try this way of working, this picking a place to shoot over and over again, try to pick something close to home or that you pass by every day. The benefit of having something very close by to where you are is enormous. My house is about 4 miles from Moshup Trail so I could be at home, take a look outside and be there in a few minutes.

In late spring/early summer the "up island" part of Martha's Vineyard is often  shrouded in fog. To be more accurate, it is really that this part of the island is in the clouds. The pictures of the area that I had surveyed from the air  were made in the early morning on a bright and cloudless day. I wanted the pictures made on the ground to be as different as I could make them, so chose to make them in low light with fog and in black and white:

When both ways of shooting here are considered, the aerials and then these from the ground, do you think this was effort to encompass the landscape I was shooting in a totality of coverage? To get at it in every way from every angle and every manner?

Not so much. It was an effort on my part to imbue the pictures made of the area with specificity of intent, to work with the location to mold it into what I wanted it to look like. Think for a moment about the staggering limitations of working within the idiom of landscape photography. There is tremendous history, lineage and countless careers built upon it. How does one extend the landscape rendered in photographs, move it and progress it while keeping it recognizable?

A primary motivator for a newly intermediate student of photography who seeks to be an artist is to find his/her "voice, a way to own their pictures. Easy enough; use a Holga  or a Lensbaby to blur them, do something abnormal to the tonal scale, color, print size or shape, point the camera in different ways, play with focus or shutter times, etc.While it may seem easy to do that, to "individualize" your pictures, most manipulated pictures don't provide a base from which the alterations were made. So, it seems important to me to work comparatively, meaning to give this "map"as in New Way (1) and then to show what I did with it (New Way 2).

The two above are just focus shift comparisons, perhaps difficult to see on a small display but of large importance when you see the prints which are 22 inches across.

So, does it work? Have I made pictures that convey something moodier and perhaps darker here, and has that effect been brought to the forefront more due to the aerials provided as a reference? Does this way of working make sense to you? And finally, will I do this in the future: make series pictures in this new comparative way? Can't say for sure, but probably. Wouldn't you?

Tech fact: I made the pictures in New Way 2 hand held in low light with the ISO set to 1600. They are entirely usable and excellent with very little noise. Amazing.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard,New Way

Permalink | Posted June 8, 2013

New Way

What if you wanted to photograph in a different way? What if you wanted to make pictures that spoke with concentration about varying interpretations and definitions from the same subject?  What if you wanted anyone looking at your work to realize it could be about it or it could be about what you did to it? What if you were in the same place for, say, a couple of weeks? More specifically, what if you assigned yourself to photograph along the same stretch of road again and again over that time period? What could happen through repetition? Could you break through to something far more significant? Or would you repeat that same material with minor variations ad nauseum? What would happen?

Well, I haven't been doing this approach that long, and have only worked in the same area for a two week period or so but I did establish a pretty strong foundation  by starting to shoot what I will show you from the air, then working to make pictures along the ground. It is an area on Martha's Vineyard called Moshup Trail and it is only a few miles long of road facing the south shore of the island. It is flat and mostly unbuilt upon. Perfect material for flat and boring landscape pictures. I wondered if I could transcend that. Let's take a look.

First up, I'll give you the aerials so that you can see the project's "foundation". I photographed in Aquinnah, very close to the tip of the island if Martha's Vineyard about a mile from the famous cliffs at Gay Head. These photographs are intended as a sort of survey of the area, the land and how it sits up against the beach and the ocean:

This big curve in the road is where the road has come out near the ocean from the interior of the island and parallels the shore. The area I was interested in starts here.

This is the south facing shore of the island with prevailing winds that are brutal in the winter so nothing can grow very high here. 

Although you can't park anywhere alongside the road and there is no access allowed with no trespassing signs, there are well worn sandy trails from the road down to the  beach.

In the image above you can see the the Moshup Trail road along the top of the frame. 

Okay, so that gives you the way the area looks. I made these pictures before I started making the pictures from the same area on the ground.

This plaque sits along the Moshup Trail road at the curve. Here's a blow up of the plaque:This simply states that the area is preserved as conservation lands, meaning nothing can be built on it.

Google Maps show us the area like so:Hopefully I've set this up to show you how the area looks from above as a kind of survey or a map. In the next post I will show you work I made when photographing along the same stretch of maybe a couple of miles of road while on the ground.

I have some newer friends on the island, and some of them are in the arts or into photography. It is challenging to bring these friends into my work as they don't have a long term history with it or me. One of them, a great guy named Sam, said one morning over coffee that I really ought to get into books as my series work would be perfect in book form. It took me a couple of days as he went off island, but when he returned, I gave him a copy of American Series, my black and white book from 2006. He now has stopped saying I should get into books. 

I am often asked if I am still into series work. My point is that yes I am, but that how I make series pictures and how they look has changed drastically. I would hate to think that the idiom hasn't changed for I try to grow as an artist. Earlier my series were pretty straightforward, pictures next to pictures, hinged or contrasted through a sequence, very often simply a walk through a neighborhood or a place, but often contained within a structure that was predetermined but relatively consistent. Same print size, same tonality in the prints, and so on. But more recently I can feel the form changing and growing, almost on its own, which is a little weird, but I am so far trusting it, allowing for things like black and white and color to coexist or for the pictures to be more about the thought contained in the work than about the place I am photographing. These new pictures take that track, to speak more about what I  chose to do to the things I was photographing within the context of still staying recognizable as place, an area, a couple of miles of flat land between a road and the ocean on an island. Love that! The ability to control the outcome by what we choose to include and deny. 

Next up New Way 2.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard,New Way

Permalink | Posted June 6, 2013