This week my project has headed in the aimed direction. I had the hardest time incorporating my ‘Fences’ into the abstractions. The fence in the work was still to prominent, too denotive and needed to get it out of there but did not now how.
When sending of an image of the ‘Lone Cypress’ to a photo competition in Carmel, I was notified by the Pebble Beach Company, attorney, that if I submitted an image of the Lone Cypress, or used any of the words ‘Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, it would become an issue, because the ‘Lone Cypress’ is trademarked and may only be used under license. Something like $10,000.00 a year. No image of the cypress tree may be used commercially or creatively and sold without licensing.
I have been working on abstracting my images for a while now, on my series fences, wanted to move on and did not have an idea where to go. The Lone Cypress came to my aid. I made and abstract of the tree and submitted it to the photo competition in Carmel. Everything alluded to Lone Pine but no representation or words are used in that context. I will see if it’s selected in the competition and of course I am going to sell it, because the tree is abstracted and not the same as in real life.
As a result of the cypress experience, I decided to abstract the physical fences out of my images. Thus the fence is connoted and alluded to. The past is gone, a new day dawns in the direction of my work. I feel I have finally ‘Cut the fence’ and crossed over into my work as art, instead of working as a mechanic.
In the next module 705, all my work will be abstract. A dream I have had and pursued since the beginning of the MA. Everything I have learned on the course, my tutors, and from research, becoming more informed plus the experience in my own life has been become aligned. It’s only at the threshold, but I have crossed over, and hope never to return to the old way. It’s done!
As the MA progresses, I am working on a process of image destruction and re-construction. This process of having a hand in the creation of an image is giving me great creative satisfaction. This has come about in this module, before this time I was just a ‘hunter’ of images, now I have become a ‘farmer’ of images and take the approach of the farmer and grow my images.
I remember hearing a story many years ago (no reference, my apologies, so it could be an old wives tale) about a baking company doing a test to see what sold best. A cake mix where milk alone was added, or one where eggs, milk, and sugar was added. The one where the baker had to add the eggs, was the better seller, because the baker felt more involved in the process. Whether this is true or not, I cannot say, however, I feel the same way about being more involved in the image making process, so I understand and like the analogy.
An Agent for change:
I don’t think photography can provoke change. Negative events have been shown since the days of Daguerre and nothing has changed. Ingrid Sischy in states in Good Intentions: “In the history of photography, there are many who have tried to use photojournalism to change the world, as well as capture it, and a few have had some effect. Others have been naive – even deluded.”
I think that shocking material should be censored, as we do become less sensitive to it. (a stimulus after a while, is no longer a stimulus) so the media escalates it, as our feelings become dull. They do it by making the content more shocking and more brutal. I have become very sensitive to this type of material as I get older and stopped watching television over 19 years ago because of it. (and do admit, avoidance is not the answer to it either) I prefer sites like Amazon and Youtube where choices can be made by me as viewer. However, it’s very difficult to avoid spectacle and I still find myself being caught up in the melodrama and the propaganda once in a while.
This video presentation is very disturbing and attempted to avoid looking at these images. However, I noticed I could watch the image of the infant drowned (Alyan Kurdi) (Links to an external site.) more easily than I could of the Iraqi soldier being burned. I felt more empathy for the 3 year old boy because he did not have a choice. I saw the disturbing image at an exhibition (Refugee) at the Annenburg Space for Photography in LA, 2016. I remember seeing it and thinking: ‘this is the saddest picture I have ever seen in my life.’ I still feel this way about it. As Ian Jack in the Guardian mentions: “Shocking pictures, like that of the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi from Syria, can alter perceptions. But we pick and choose what will horrify us.”
Refugee: (link below) Claimed to have been made by five international “artists.” They are all parasites, like flies around blood, that contribute to the consumption of this type of imagery. The big white hunter syndrome disturbs me. Nothing is done for these individuals except exploit their misfortune.
The problem has become worse for the wear. Since the introduction of the digital image, the entire world has become imbibed with imagery. Maybe it is a form of digital drug addiction or electronic alcoholism, a way for the masses to become image dipsomaniacs. In an article about ethics in photography, Nasim Mansorov writes: “When the first digital camera was invented, little did the inventors know that it would later revolutionize the world of photography and media in general.”
It’s known as unintended consequences and this is only the beginning.
The main argument Sischy promotes about Salgado’s work is: That it’s not art. It’s fundamentally “Schmaltzy” “Button Pushing” and something from a “Whodunnit Movie” Whether she refers it directly, or indirectly through his work, or through the works of Eugene Smith or Edward Steichen, Sischy does not respect Salgado’s work. She also says this in an underhanded way: “Salgado’s work has appeared in postcard form. As yet they have not been produced as greeting card stuff. But who knows? Presumably that anyone’s work that appears on greeting or post card, does not deserve the title of ‘Art’
I agree with her point of view, because button pushing by means of subject matter or photographic technique is not enough to constitute a photographer as an artist. Photography as an art form is difficult at best, why meretricate it with cheap shots and tugging at heart strings. Art exists because there is some kind of mystery to the image, either in form and/or content and Salgado has neither. His work connotes nothing, only denotes peoples suffering and misery and this is easy to make any human with a heart to feel guilty.
Issued raised that apply to my practice. I am very concerned with this in my own practice, and by the time I do my first exhibition, I want to make sure that it falls directly into the arms or art, and have learned this much, the image has to connote, not denote. Denote=commercial. Connote=art.
Aesthetic or Anaesthetic?
In 1955 Ed Steichen, the director of MOMA, curated a series of images titled “The Family of Man” It sourced at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, then travelled around the world for 8 years and was seen by many peoples from all countries around the globe. Steichen said of the work: ” The people looked at the pictures and the people in the pictures looked back at them. They recognized each other.”
Family of Man Exhibition. Government Pavilion, Johannesburg. 1958. Photo Credit: MOMA.
I looked at some of the phototograhs of the exhibit and did not recognize anyone, and wonder where that statement came from. I get annoyed by the level of propaganda employed by these exhibitions, exploiting these individuals, mostly poor and underemployed for mu$eum gains. Once again the hunter $noops around with the camera, capitalizing in ego and dollars from these individuals’ misery. Salgado is another photo-clansman who leaches off misery as well. “With Salgado, there is no Tony Curtis or Kirk Douglas images” as stated by Ingrid Sischy (New Yorker -199) Steichen takes it a step further, he makes Salgado look like the Red Cross.
The exhibition circumnavigated the globe, touring 37 countries and 6 continents. Of the 270 photographers, a 160 were American. Another superficial culturally sanctioned method of whose in control, taking place. And, it also starts off in the US. The exhibition,in all these cities, Towery Lehman writes: “received heavier press coverage than any comparable æartistic’ event in our history.”
There is not a single image of the Mellon’s or Guggenheim types sipping Napoleon Brandy on their front lawn estates in this exhibition. Maybe those images would not sit too well between the images of Robert McDaniels, lynched. April 13, 1937 and Family on the way to California. Maybe someone can explain What family of Man he’s referring to? Are there not Woman families too?
This is why I prefer abstract photography, as my mode of practice. There is no capitalization off ‘someones’ misery or success, or “someone’s” beauty or ugliness. Abstraction deals with what’s in the image alone, the ‘someone’ is gone. The abstract renders what is, not what it ought to be politically, historically, or geographically, ethically or morally. It’s art for art sake, not some suedo Family of Man, Genesis or Nat Geo. Photraping (photography+raping) “someone’s” under the guise of humanity. The Family of Man should be torn down, destroyed, and buried with the Berlin Wall.
Robert McDaniels. Photo Credit: Moma
On the Way to California: Dorothea Lange. Photo Credit: allthatsinteresting.com
Dorothea Lang: Link (Links to an external site.)
On the way to California: Link (Links to an external site.)
Family of Man Johannesburg: Link (Links to an external site.)
Family of Man appraisal: Link (Links to an external site.)
Sischy, Ingrid. (1991). Good Intentions. The New Yorker.
Votes out the Lynching Bill; House Brings Gavagan Measure to Floor for Debate Today”. New York Times. 13 Apr 1937.
Lensed 2 rolls of 6×6 and 4 rolls of 35mm Ilford FP5,this week. Some video and digital images on my Canon 7D.
I like the 6×6 square format for certain shots. Square format is balanced height to width and I don’t need to think if it will be framed better horizontal or vertical, sometimes thinking is not good “it hurts too much” 6X6 is a bigger negative, however, that technical aspect is not the reason I use it, it’s mainly for the square boxy format. In some images I find it more aesthetically pleasing, a square is nicely balanced.
I also use the 35mm for aesthetic reasons. I enjoy what I term ‘dirty photography’ where the image is grainy, out of focus, contains processing imperfections, scratches, hairs, watermarks for example. I have always loved that aesthetic, it gives the image life! It also gives me the feeling of ‘photography’ especially that of old Tri-X film, which is no longer made, and with it has gone the look and feeling I got when looking at old images from the 70’s when it was a film that was used in full swing. I use Ilford HP5+ their formula has not changed, and I develop it at 80ºF and get a very close look to the old Kodak Tri-X. I really became informed by the works of Japanese photographers: Fukase Masahisa and Moriyama Dido. (I also learned, in Japan, the surname is used first) so one would not refer Masahisa as Masahisa Fukase it is correct to write the last name first, so Fukase Masahisa is correct. I bought a set of Provoke 1,2, and 3. Japanese images from the 60’s For a street aesthetic some of the best work I have ever seen. As a result of these works, I now use grain, dirt and scratches on my film as easily as I use the ‘prefect’ image, for me they are one and the same now, I do not get upset if an image is out of focus, overexposed, or grainy. I am quite the opposite, I love it, it gives me great visual pleasure and stimulation to see images like that, now I use them in my practice.
Tri-x and Ilford both allow me to make mistakes and still find an image. Not the usual mistakes amateur photographer make like under or over exposure. I learned exposure from the best (Ansel Adams) and have never lost a shot due to exposure errors. However I work with cameras that have technical issues with jamming shutters, advance mechanisms, and light leaks, and the films work well under any of those conditions.
I also like digital very much, I used to fight it at the beginning, but now I do things with digital that are not possible with film, like changing between color and black and white. I always shoot a RAW image coupled with a B+W Jpeg, so if I change my mind aesthetically later I have the RAW image and I can process that as color. I can also shoot video if needs be and also change the ISO at the flick of a button. I have switched back and forth a lot, so I appreciate digital from that standpoint. I always work with about 5 cameras out in the field. Each one is used specifically for the image I wish to make, I used to have just my film camera or my digital, but found myself missing out on amazing images that would look better in the other format. So I just take them all in a back pack, and pick and choose as I need.
Strangely enough Ansel used to work this way, he had cases of cameras and lenses when he went out. I always thought he had a screw loose, but now know the ol’ coot was right. Have what you need, when you need it.
While up in Carmel-By-The-Sea, I made images of fences and others were made up at Point Lobos, where also I found some fences. On one fence, someone had left a wristwatch dangling on it. Now I have the ‘message of time’ added to the list. I also found a board with the word ‘repent’ on it up on the way to Carmel, so that was the end of last week. The wristwatch I found this week Monday at Point Lobos.
Have been printing quite a few images of the fences, and have been exposing them out to the elements: rain, wind, sunshine, dew, and fog. and have been getting some very satisfying results. Spent the week scanning,cataloging and experimenting with them in Adobe Literoom.
Research: Read on an artist by the name of Brigette Bloom. She soaks her film in her own urine. This came about after she left some film in her jeans, to discover it later after they went through the wash. It was interesting because she discovered that the film was damaged, but in an interesting way. I found a parallel I’m my work with what she was doing. Bloom is doing it to the negative, I am doing it to the print. (my Ansel training is kicking in here, to really work the print side.) As I get braver, I will move to the negative and leave it out to the elements to see what will happens. (Heat: this coming summer may be the way to go, I know that heat damage can change the color of the images, and this may be a way to expand on the process. ) I am very surprised by the way the print is marked by the elements.
Bloom’s idea is: ‘To mark her work work as her own. Dog on a water hydrant style.’ I feel the same way, however it is to make my mark as an artist among so many others.
When I look at her subject matter, I see a girl prancing around on the rocks. A mixture of blur and static image. One foot on the ground, the other floating on air, the color is shifted on the rocks to a greenish hue. The image is covered with round magenta forms and line. I like the contrast in the size of the round forms: from small to big, she plays well with size contrast here. The line form works well with the rocks and may well be ‘woman made’ rocks in the shape of magenta forms.
Gallery and Exhibition Project development and research:
I had the opportunity to meet Richard Tuschman up in Carmel last week. Richard Gadd (curator for the Weston Gallery) invited me to a talk he was having at the Centre for Photographic Arts (CfPA) Then Richard Gadd took me over to the opening to see Richard Tuschman’s work and to meet him. I mentioned that I had a few questions about the exhibition, he asked for my card and offered to call me.
I went up to see and learn from the whole process, and how this information could inform my FMP exhibition. I found the talk very informative:
- He prepared a powerpoint presentation. (I will use this at my FMP)
- Spoke about his personal life a little and how it tied into his work. (nice context about the artist and his work) made him human.
- Then he went on to explain the creative process. How he arrived at his work and how he made the sets and did the photography (Gave his audience a hint of how he does it.)
I went to the opening, bought a catalogue, had it signed by the artist, took note of the Curator, what was written about Richard Tuschman, as well as who made the exhibition possible.
I have just got off the phone with Richard, he called me as he said he would and I had my list of questions about his show, I figured I would ask him how he got it to happen and how it was financed, because I need this information for my FMP, here is what I learned.
- The catalogue was written by the curator. He did contact Richard to ask him questions about his work. Richard did edit the writeup.
- Some of the costs were picked up by the gallery: print transportation, accommodation, travel and other minor expenses.
- Richard already had the prints and frames form other exhibitions, which he paid for.
- Part of the exhibition was covered by two named patrons.
I did ask Richard for advice on getting a show. He suggested that I contact the Los Angeles Center for Photography, they would be able to point me in the right direction about getting an exhibition. He also mentioned that I would have to pay all costs, as I do not have a track record and basically, would have to rent a space.
I asked him how he got the exhibition up in Carmel? He mentioned he had a group show up there a few years back, and the curator invited him to have a solo show because he liked the work, and also figured that it would sell. He told me that’s a big part of the equation.
Went up to the Weston Gallery in Carmel this past Saturday, and met with Richard Gadd the curator. I wanted to have him take a look at my portfolio and get some feedback. To get informed about the work from an outside professional. He gave me almost two hours of this time. I showed him my series on Fences, and explained what I was attempting to convey with the series.
He liked the work and suggested that I complete the series in the abstract. I was quite surprised! The Weston Gallery is a very conservative, with a lot of the works by Ansel Adams, Ed Weston, as well as other photographers of that era, Harry Callahan, Minor White and many others.
I went up ‘informed’ I know the history of the Gallery. The works of almost all the photographers they represent. I learned about the curators creative history. I discovered that the owner of the Gallery lived in South Africa. Overall, a very enjoyable, informative, creative experience. Richard gave me a real boost about my work. Let’s see where it leads . . .
Weston Gallery Carmel: https://www.westongallery.com
Provoke magazine: https://www.shashasha.co/en/book/provoke-complete-reprint-of-3-volumes
This week went went fairly well. Had to prepare an AIM for my practice, presented it to Steph and fellow peers, but felt it was not very clear, or difficult to understand, still needs work.
Finding it difficult to explain the abstract images in terms of mental emotions advice versa. I ordered the book by Alan Trachtenburg, Classic essays on Photography, on film essay recommended by Steph and hopefully once I delve into more criticism it may make things a little more clear.
This week my research begins looking deeper into criticism. As well as the work of practitioners: Fredrick Sommer, Moholy Nagy and Barbara Kasten.
As a practitioner, I have to be able to explain what my work is about. It is more that describing the work, it is being able to see through the work, or more aptly being able to see to the bottom of the well.
The consumer of my images has to be able to understand what they are looking at. When I started the MA, I did not explain my work, I felt that the image should say it all without any explanation. At least this was my excuse, what the actual problem was, was that I was visually illiterate. I could make work, but I could not explain it. As the MA has progressed, reading about other artists work, and doing research on the art of criticism, I learned that all the negative connotations associated with the word, was true. However, in the broader scope of things, judging an image and personal opinions about it, is a very small part of the criticism pie.
There are other aspects of the system that need to be discussed, not merely judging a work. One has to be able to describe it, illuminate it, judge it and theories about it. So if work is judged negatively, that is only about 12.5% of the criticism pie. Positive judgment is the other 12.5% and the other three parts mentioned the remaining 75%.
Once I understood this, I no longer worried a work of art being good or bad, even if it is bad, it can still be valued from the rest of the criteria. It may have interesting connotations and themes, it may be well described in terms of it’s subject matter and subject. How the image was constructed, as well as other theories about the piece that may surface.
Once this became clear, it cleared the way for me to be able to talk about my work. It still not plane sailing. Because new questions come into play is: “I can talk about my work, but do I want to?” As one analyses one’s work, a lot about ones-self is uncovered, and it is not always pretty. However, this muscle needs to be exercised like the rest if it is to become stronger. So I am reading criticism on abstract works, because this is the form I am heading my practice in. I have always wanted to make this kind of work. I have very strong technical knowledge in both film and digital, but for the MA, I needed much, much, more than a Zone 0 to Zone X, A Leica M6 and Kodak Tri-X. What I needed was to get informed about my practice, to think, write, talk and express what I was feeling, and then to go out and make an image, came back and be able to have a discourse about it.
I looked that the work of Fredrick Sommer, he is an abstract photographer, originally from Germany. He moved, married, and lived in Arizona. His work defied easy classification. “The subjects of Sommer’s photographs are strikingly diverse. They range from disorienting landscapes and macabre aspects of the natural world to surreal arrangements of found objects and pure abstractions.”
This statement about his work attracts me, because he could move through genres, from landscapes to abstracts, but they were all, disorienting, macabre and surreal, so his subject matter varied greatly, but the theme of his work remained constant, that was his anchor.
It was in early 1955, that Minor White send Henry Holmes Smith (Photographer/Critic) a print of Fredrick Sommer’s The Sacred Wood and was asked to shed light and give a reading into the meaning of the image. Smith recounts: “It was a baffling image. I pursued it with every device I could think of, yet it remained unresolved throughout the winter.” Henry Homes Smith was a seasoned critic and he had difficulty decoding the image. He even discussed it with other photographers like Arron Siskind, who was also an abstractionist and Minor White, and still he was unable to shed light on the image. It was Siskind who suggested that Smith read the book by TS Eliot with the same name.
Smith goes on to describe the photograph, as what can be seen, i.e. what is perceived by the senses: “Spilled paint, plaster or powder, smashed putty, and sprinkled sand.” He regards this description as rudimentary and the least important thing about the image. What he later describes is what’s beneath the surface, at the bottom of the well, under the darkness and dirt.
From this I learn that the sensual description is the denotive part. The cognitive part of the image is connotative and up to the interpretation of the critic. It is therefore subjective and can vary from critic to critic, and likewise can be used by me as a practitioner to describe and shine light as to the meaning of my images.
With this is mind, I now construct my images of fences. I shoot both film and digital, I make analogue prints and inkjet prints, take them outside to my back yard, and cast them to the wind. I like it when the weather is bad: Rainy, foggy, dewey, high moisture content, windy, cold, followed by heat and sun. Then I take the images and dry them scan them and work them over in Literoom. This module has become “playtime” for me. I incorporating nature, the elements and chance, allowing the creature and the Creator to meet.
I have found amazing images when left out for a few hours, a few days and up to about a week. I am happy with the way the images look. They are abstracted, some with objects and things recognizable, other not. What I like about the process, is that it’s not totally up to me. I have to let go once I let them outside into the back yard.
I play a lot with the image in Literoom, and will be doing some more work in the darkroom on my series this module will include digital and analogue editions of images. Most of the time I am very surprised by the outcome. it brings to mind one of my favorite quotes: “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forest Gump.
I enjoy mixing my skills with chance and seeing what the outcome will be, so far I am pleasantly surprised. Below is work I am doing by taking the image outside and leaving it out in the elements and recovering between a few hours and a few days. I let the elements
From a historical persperctive, abstraction is not new. Charles Sheeler (1883–1965) was an early practitioner that made abstract images.
So, as far as being original with abstracts, I am not, however, I can be original with the subject matter, subject, the form and the medium. Almost everything has been done, however, the combinations of the above mentioned in limitless.
Trying to be creative and original is not only time consuming and energy draining, and if not careful can lead to battle fatigue. I am sure this does show up in the work in one way or another. Sheeler quotes: “I favor a picture which arrives at its destination without the evidence of a trying journey rather than one which shows the marks of battle.” I think as a practitioner it is very important to remember those words when making and creating works.
After having met Ansel in Carmel, back in the 80’s and as I look at my work now, I realize how influential he was on my practice. Not in the direct way, because I do not work in landscapes, but I did learn the Zone System and how to develop a good negative if needed. I also learned how to expose and compose well, and how to previsualise an image in the mind (that is see how the final image would look.) This was very valuable to me as a cinematographer and as a photographer, in the days of film, because it was a day/days later that one could see the photos, or the film dialies, and as a result of this, am able to image and image in the mind, and construct it with the tools at hand to make it look like that in the final outcome. Exposure was a big part of it, and still have a working SEI spot photometer that can read a 1/2 degree of area. As a result of the training, I still am able to make a very good technical image both in film and in digital as well.
When I was at Cal Arts, I met this girl, and we got talking about photography. I mentioned that I liked Adams, she snickered and blurted out: “He’s just a mechanic.” and walked off. I have to say that I was left winded, but grateful. It was that statement that brought me to the realization that there is more to photography that a technically well made image. Here I am some three decades later still trying to figure out what that is?
Over the years, I have come to see that there are many ways of seeing. There are physical, sensual, spiritual, and the intellectual ways of seeing. For myself, this MA is allowing me to get them into alignment. Contextualising my work, has been misaligned, so part of my intellectual way of seeing was very short-sighted. As the MA progresses, it has been getting better, as I read more and gain insights from other practitioners. I have also had to fight the resistance of application of that information, because I am by nature a pure seeker, and would prefer that information to come from the aether or an angel (as did Rene Descartes), who was visited by an Angel and told: “The conquest of nature, is to be achieved through number and measurement.”
In Thomas Kuhns’ book: The Structure of Scientific Revolution. It discusses the fact that it’s never the way scientists tell it. That is, in reference to how discoveries are made. The post hoc story is always about insight, the gathering of data and information, research, meticulous testing and experimentation. When in fact most of it is ruled by accident, chaos, synchronicity, piecemeal, dreams and other random happenings. Mostly incomprehensible, but somehow landing with an answer to a question, long ago formulated.
Modern science as we know it began with Rene Descartes, who when a young man, a ne’er do well, had joined the army. He was around 20, and when he was in the barracks one night, had a dream. An angel appeared to him and said: “The conquest of nature, is to be achieved through number and measurement.” This was in the early 1600’s when he was around 20. Descartes view on life was: “I entirely abandoned the study of letters. Resolving to seek no knowledge other than that of which could be found in myself or else in the great book of the world.” I have always had the same philosophy, but no angel as yet. However, I did have a dream also, where a young woman, (I think it Louise Nevelson I was doing research on her at the time) came and said: “Write your own life.”
With the MA, research is important, so in order to align the intellectual with the physical and the spiritual, I have resorted to the study of letters and reflection on how historical practitioners like Ansel, Ed Weston, and Man Ray, (all of whom whose work I am attracted to for various reasons) have influenced my work as a photographer. I guess there will always be some pollen of their flowers spread on my petals. And, as the MA progresses I am learning to embrace it, instead of rejecting or excluding their influence.
Barbara Kasten/Maholy Nagy
In addition, I am looking a the work of current/contemporary practitioners, so look and compare work beyond the modernist period. As my work at present is about destruction and reconstruction of the image. I am looking at the work of Barbara Kasten.
Being a child of the Bauhaus myself, I can see her roots in the works of Moholy-Nagy who taught at the Weimar in the 1920’s There are very similar forms between her work and Nagy’s. Barbara works primarily in color. However, I feel that her work is too much like Moholy-Nagy. She works with colored filters and lets light pass through to cast light and shadow. I do like the fact that she ‘constructs’ her images, however her work is too similar in subject matter. Nagy did a work in color and made in 1935, using the Dufay Color Process, with filters. And this is where I see too much similarity between his work and Kasten’s, and feel is appropriated a little too much for my liking, however, I do like that she constructs her images, and I am using this part in my present practice, can be seen in my image below. ‘Evening Dew’ I cut a piece of barb wired and laid it across the scan, also, took the image out in back yard, and left to elements for a day (Rain, wind, California sun, evening dew)
Rexer, Lyle. (2009), The Edge of Vision, The Aperture Foundation Inc., New York.
Frederick Sommer. https://youtu.be/lmdRZ5eXssw
This week I went up to Carmel. I made an appointment to meet with the Curator of the Weston Gallery in Carmel. My intention was two fold: 1. For him to take a look at my portfolio for this module and get his opinion on the work. 2. To ask if I could have my FMP exhibition up at the Gallery.
I met Ansel Adams at the Weston Gallery when I was a young film student at Cal Arts back in 1982. He was having a retrospective of his work and a friend of mine told me about it and asked if I would like to go, because he knew that I was a fan of Ansel and the Zone system.
Many years before when I was in the Navy in South Africa, I had seen a documentary on Ansel in Yosemite and it was then and there that I decided on a career in film/photography and applied to Cal Arts. Here it was some 4 years later and I would finally have the opportunity to meet him.
We drove up, went to the Weston, I met Ansel, had a book signed, and made a series of images of him both B+W and color, which I have had in my possession since. While up there was introduced to Point Lobos and the work of Edward Weston, so both these photographers have had an influence on my practice as both a cinematographer and more recently as a photographer.
My history with the Weston Gallery goes back a long way. I would like to come full circle and have my FMP exhibit there, or at least manage to get some of my work on show.
I drove up, went to the gallery, and met up with Richard Gadd the curator in his office. From the get go it was very casual and comfortable. I discovered he was originally from Ohio, I had done a movie up in that area so was familiar with Dayton (where he was from) Columbus and Sundusky Ohio. We spoke at length about Ansel and Ed, he was interested to see the images I had made back then, which lead into my current work and my Module 702 images.
The Weston is a very conservative gallery and I was a little concerned about my abstracts. So I included a few ‘strait’ images in my series on fences, to make my context clear. Fences is about the barriers, challenges and difficulties that I and other artists experience in life, which can spill over into others areas of life as well, and how to deal or overcome them.
When I showed Richard the series, which included both real and abstract images, I was very concerned that he would gravitate to the real images. However it was the opposite. He said he did not have to see the realistic image of a fence to get the concept I was trying to convey, that all he needed to see was the abstracts.
This fueled me to keep moving in that direction. We spent about two hours at the gallery. He showed me some rare abstract images that Ansel made, one was ‘Broken Glass’ that he was getting ready to send a collector. He also shows me an image that Ansel made at Manzanar that he shot over the ‘Fence’ at the back of the camp around 1942 of Mount Williamson. It was ironic that he shot it over a fence, and it also happens to be my favorite or all Ansel’s images.
He later invited me to a talk that was being held at the CFCP (Center for Creative Photography) by Richard Tuschman. It was also an opening at the gallery there on his work. The talk was very informative, I went to the opening to see Tuschman’s work, met him, he asked me for my business card, I don’t know why, but will see where that leads. I will also be in contact with him to find out how he went about getting the exhibit at the CFCP.
I feel that this experience was a great help. It gave me courage to pursue my practice in the abstract direction. I made contact with the gallery curator. The Weston, is gallery I respect and had the opportunity to meet with Richard Tuschman, who I will approach to find out how that all fell in place for him, and how it did that.
I also went to see Kim Weston (Ed Weston’s grandson) at Wildcat hill. I brought up the fact about burning my work. He recounted a story about Ed Weston doing that, which he later regretted. We had a discussion about printing and printing techniques, and I will return sometime later this year and he will give me a printing refresher, so happy about that.
Made some fence images both on the way up and down from Carmel. Went to Point Lobos, for old times sake and found a wrist watch just hanging on a fence up there, very strange, so made a few images of “time” to add to my list of findings. On the way up found a hand written message on a piece of wood strapped to a fence that said “repent” made a few image of that.
This week was a major step forward for me on many levels and look forward to making some images of the work I did up in that area this week past. And look forward to how things will pan out with the gallery and with Richard Tuschman.
- Ansel Adams Abstracts
- Pushing Boundaries.
1. This week I was introduced to Ansel Adam’s abstract work by Richard Gadd of the Weston Gallery at Carmel-By-The-Sea. I am very familiar with Ansel’s work, but up util this point in my practice, I did not know that Ansel dabbled in the abstract.
Richard showed me a few pieces. The subject matter of one piece was a pane of broken glass. Supposedly there are only four known prints of this image. I have never heard of it, or seen it before this time, so it was nice to know that ol’ conservative Ansel, had broken out briefly from the ‘Landscape’ genre.
As I looked at the image, I wondered why he made an image of broken glass. I theorized that it may be linked to a story I had heard about Ansel. Supposedly he was a little drunk, and was supposed to have said: “I was an artist once.” I tried to find some evidence of this story which was in a documentary, but as yet have not been able to substantiate it. However, seeing that image made me think of that. The subject matter: broken glass, the subject: a broken man/artist.
I researched Ansel abstractions, and came upon an article written by Robin Greenwood: – ‘Ansel Adams and Abstraction.’ I was hoping to find some accolades about the work, however to my surprise I found that Greenwood did not like them: “these were the ones I really disliked.” It is interesting to not that not all people like abstractions. here is his reason why: ‘They are clichés now; abstract compositions. Boring.’ This will have to be something I take into consideration in my own practice. It seems that one cannot please everyone, and one man’s meat is another’s poison.
2. Pushing Boundaries.
Since the first images made by Niepce and Daguerre, photographers have pushed the boundaries of the image. And just like painters, who got tired of realism, photographers followed in the me vein looking for ways to express themselves through images. Much of the photographers work is gleaned from Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. Photographers like Minor White and Aaron Siskind had painterly qualities in the work and Siskind himself worked alongside painters like Kline, and from what I can see they drew from each others works.
I like looking at works of artists who are abstractionists, I particularly like the work of Kasimir Malevich, Paul Klee and Kandinsky. Malevich abstracted down to the color black and the square shape, Kandinsky moved in the same direction with the use of color alone. Klee abstracted down to still having some recognizable shapes and forms from the real world, but for the most part abstracted them down to their basic forms.
I am doin the same in my practice at present. In my module project fences, I am slowly pulling away from the subject matter of the fence alone and moving into the subject matter of fences as metaphor. Metaphor for boundaries, challenges, difficulties and successes we have in out lives and out art. So I am withdrawing the physical fence more and more from my images. Hopefully by the time the final major project comes around there won’t be a single recognizable fence in the image.
Aim of my work:
As the course is progressing, I am finally making the shift from subject matter to subject. I have been working on shifting from the objective to the non-objective (representational to the abstract) This has taken me a year, plus half this module to get to this point in my practice. It has been a very difficult shift. I have always been able to make/create representational as well as abstract images, however, in the past, they were a ‘one off’ and I was caught up in the image making process. (the technical side of it) Now, the image making is linked to my feelings and critical thoughts, in other words, I think about an image, then I go out and make it. (Spiritual side) It’s not a perfect system yet, I still land up with a decisive moment, a lucky or serendipitous flash, luck, as well as other spontaneous moments, however these have become secondary occurrences, or slightly retarded to what the process was a year ago. My critical image making process is now my primary way of working.
The intent of my work is to communicate “Being in the moment” whatever challenges, joys, or disasters come at you. It’s about enlightenment, and how to use it in a practical way in our lives. This concept is as old as the hills, “Be here now.” “Enjoy the journey” “All you have is now” I have lived with these abstracts my whole life, however, over the past year, the application of critical thinking has enabled me to align with my spiritual life with my physical life and to-gether they work synergistically. And I wish to use my series “Fences” as a celebration of this breakthrough. I became spiritually enlightened about six months ago, and critical thinking has been a part of the process to achieve it. Critical thinking is the white collar equivalent of Spiritual Enlightenment. To-gether they seem to re-inforce each other.
Aesthetics, Subject Matter, Technical Approach:
I love aesthetics it is a very powerful attractor. In the past, I liked to look at beautiful art, in all domains, but mainly in: painting, photography, film. Lately, my gaze has shifted. I am beginning to enjoy the making/creating process more. This module has made this shift possible. Up until this time, I have not had the balance between control and loss of control that I have now. I am quite happy to let go, or take charge and sometimes both at the same time. Before it was all take charge, and I felt I was losing 50% power in the creative process but never knew why. However when one learns to let go, it is replaced with something else. I always understood the concept of it, but was not able to put it into practice. Now, I put it into practice.
My subject matter was always contained something objective, something fully recognizable in the real world, transformed into the image. However this module a change has occurred. I am content with the subject matter of ‘Fences’ however, I had no subject, no theme, no connotation in image form, even though I had it as a concept in my mind. (For example the fence as a metaphor.) However the images were still too literal: A picture of a fence, is a picture of a fence, is a picture of a fence!
For the past two weeks, I have been working on a technical way to make abstractions of fence subject matter, and so far it working pretty well. I made 8×10 prints. I took about 30 prints and threw them out to the wind and rain. I went back a few hours later and much to my surprise the images became wonderfully destroyed, the ink began to run, the wind blew it across the pages, as they blew around the yard they become water logged and scratched, and the subject matter of “Fences” began to fade and dissolve into the background. I left some out for a few hours, some for a few days and the rest for the week.
I scooped them up, let them dry, scanned them, and put them through the rack of light-room, and extracted the abstractions of “Fences” that I liked, the images, like Paul Klee had the remembrances of the objective representation, but it was a stretch to see. I just “let go” and the images bounced back in a way I really like.
My practice as adhering to a particular ideology.
As I move through the MA, old ideologies are starting to fall away. Regarding novel, unique and one of a kind, as the only means of value is now starting to be questioned. I have always appreciated the unique, and the novel, especially in term of value and interns of dollar value in particular.
The fact that an Andreas Gursky or a Cindy Sherman can command prices of 3 million and up, has always lead me to believe the single great idea, the single great image is the way to go. This is particularly true with painters, more than phtographers. However with sea of images, and particularly the work of Andy Warhol, is bringing the question on “one of a kind” into the light for more examination. His image of ‘Thirty are better than One’ which commanded over 2 million dollars, shows that aesthetics, culture and society can raise the stakes of a work, even if it’s mass produced.
I am leaning that it good to shake up old ideas and systems of ideas every once in a while, and to open up to the complete opposite of what one believes, and their may lie the answer to many art and creative related problems.