Friday, May 1

Baltimore • 4/27/15



Baltimore, its feelings snapped open like a box of nails. One night last week it insurrected. Is that a verb? To insurrect?

For a decade I commuted there where a very large number of people watch TV nightly to see places they can never go. Economists call that the demonstration effect. It's a force that might in an instant twist everything we know into an unrecognizable shape.

There's a micro-thin line between riot and insurrection.

For 60 years our War On Poverty has strictly applied the stick of zero tolerance against lawlessness while the carrot of aspirational jobs and career ladders has gone flaccid at best. Baltimore's a symptom of that squeeze without escape. It is more insurrection against the policy than a riot of opportunity.

This is a montage of AP photojournalists'  images. I'm not reselling them, just emoting through them utilizing PS4, Topaz Adjust, and AlienSkin's Exposure 7.



Friday, April 24

Blog Sites?


Maybe I'll break down and lease me a website service? But which one? It'd be cool if this image expanded to fill the top of this page. So much research exists to show that on every printed page, the visitor's eyes go first to pictures, secondly to their captions, next to headlines, and lastly toward body copy like this. 

So I'm leaning to the conclusion that a page dominated by a strong image will grab eyeballs to that graphic and then immediately to the text below as its caption. Thus with no distracting headline the process of image to copy is reeely improved. Here, with that weakly sized image up there falling way short of page dominance, visitors have so much less to pique their imagination and to drive it downward for answers. 

In other words, blogger.com is not an artist's best blog platform. Which brings me back to the impetus to think about a leased website service, one that's affordable and whose learning curve won't distract me from spontaneously using it.

Expanded significantly, that image up there is full of questions, right? Don't you want some explanation? Which is the challenge of conceptual art, it needs to be filled in with meaning. OK, I understand that it's the viewer, not the artist who carries the responsibility to give art meaning. Still, I want to give my interpretation for whatever it's worth. What I felt, and concluded when I took, then processed this image.

So two questions for you...

(1) Any recommendations from you re. the perfect blog service for photographers (including costs, or at least directions where I can discover them easily) which will allow me to curate a gallery of ideas led by an image? And,
(2) What's your emotional reaction to that image up there at the top of this posting? Does it ignite a question (s) that either you can enjoy answering, or a question re. the meaning of this image tat will stimulate me and everyone else who stops by, toward a thoughtful answer? 

Anyone?




Thursday, April 23

Along The Tracks

A young boy's imagination sometimes lurks in that gritty battleground between absurdity and terror.

Found this lad who'd happily ordered up his face paint at a fair near Lancaster's Amtrak main line. I caught him with my Canon 7D through its EF-S 10-22mm (f3.5-4.5) glass at 18mm . The trickiest part of grabbing this shot was making the kid stop giggling. 

Tuesday, April 21

Buddies


Spring morning. Buddies. Hanging in the park. Doing whatever. Nice guys, no drama at 11... Not quite yet. Here're boys who haven't learned to slide on attitude with their sneaks.

On the other side of adolescence they'll remember this summer's sun, and how they didn't need to do anything, but could still do everything.

What'll it be today? Something forgettably memorable. And this summer's blur will be there somewhere in memory storage. Like a rhinestone, they'll pull it out decades from now to peer at the glow of a long-ago summer's that's all around this park bench with their best buddies ever.
I caught the boys with my Canon 7D's EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens cranked out to about 150mm. The stabilizer on this glass keeps it sharp enough to prick balloons. Sharp enough to slice off a hunk of boy-memory. Sharp enough to capture buddies who touch in a shared personal space... Remember? 

Saturday, April 18

Lost To Archeology

You know when you see those "artist reconstructions" of ancient cities how they know so much about street scenes? Someone gave me a book with pictures of Egyptian and Roman ruins. And there are plastic overlay pages that show "how it looked" before time rubble-zed the things.

The last time I was in Italy I noticed how the hills and mountains were bare, little growth beyond some bushes and grassy weeds. So I asked someone whether trees would not grow in the volcanic soil. "Well actually Ted, that sort of soil's usually quite rich for agriculture. The trees though, have been gone for millennia, harvested by the early Romans for fire and building."

So, if so  much of the various structures was actually wood, how now do the artists know what the majority of buildings looked like? Even the excavations in Pompeii fail to reveal much wood since the heated ashes burnt most away.

The thing is that archeologists don't really have much idea what wooden structures and decorations, much less their painted colors, looked like. Example, take this Moravian church in Lancaster County about six or seven miles into the country beyond my home. It's maybe a century or two old at the most. Already time's sanded away a lot of the detail and without significant restoration, this spire's days are numbered. How will anyone a couple thousand years from now guess at this wooden decoration? The glass oculus? Oh sure, this image will survive so they'll not have to guess, right?

What is the reasonable life expectancy of this picture? Given Moore's Law, does anyone expect that there will be reading devices that could reconstruct these pixels even a quarter century from now? Once, perhaps in Roman or Greek times, artists might have left low tech drawings and paintings behind on media which might have let some ideas hold on. Today, not so much, right?

How much of what you can see when you go out of your door into the wild... How much of that will be imaginable to anyone a couple centuries from now? A couple of millennia? Even when the archeologists dig up its ruins, how much will they puzzle back together... And how much, like this wooden spire, will be wiped from all memory?

OTH, what's it matter?

Monday, April 6

34 Main St. • Killarney, Ireland

How to mute Killarney?

It's a tourist town of about 12,000 permanent Irish residents, yet it seems to have more hotels than people. The city streets evoke Disneyland - or Disneyland evokes them. Their colors make for squinting.

And then there's the smooshing together of decoration, both around, on, and inside the store fronts. Killarney shops are shameless as showgirls in their efforts to grab attention. Blocks are eye-exhausting as Vegas in their palettes. Of course Vegas boasts performance architecture that's imploded, what? Weekly? Daily? Vegas won't tolerate history, or even nostalgia, much less antique.

Killarney, OTH, has a patina-of-shabby that seems as carefully adhered to its surfaces as the layers of paint which are probably  inches thick. And see how at first this image seems as if the camera was canted? but look closely, the lens was straight as a nun in a gay bar, but it's the shops themselves that are bent by age.

Now see this late afternoon sidewalk? While the blinds in the upstairs window boast mid-last-century dust, the sidewalks are surgery-table clean. Killarney's kept like a retro set for WWII soldiers, back when the photographs were black and white, but the memories were full-on chrome.

Killarney works at being a memory. But one that's hard to mute.

Geek Stuff: Shot with my Canon 7D, worked with PS the processed with Alien Skin Exposure's Kodachrome II to tease out the rich antique late-afternoon reds and memories that my grandparents and my mother brought to America.

Friday, April 3

Radical Chromectomy

Because we can. 

You know, fine art photography's a lot like Everest. Why climb it? Because we can. 

Once upon a time an amateur fine-art photographer lacked the budget to do much creative color work. It was not just expensive, it was tedious. And with the fumes, the process was even a tad dangerous. It was always unpredictable and it ended in unreproducible results. Today full jacket chrome is ordinary as a mini-skirt in Spring. No, that's even too rare... It's ordinary as boy with lust in his heart when he spots a mini-skirt in Spring, right? 

So we're challenged with the emotional goo that chrome pours all over every image. The challenge is multiplied by a zillion. Hence the allure of B&W image making. Here, look at this 1949 Ford Anglia Bristol van that a Killarney shop's got in the middle of its floorspace. It glows with colored feeling. 




OK, and now, instead of finding ways to add chrome to our B&W darkroom-world, we can perform radical chromectomy. Like this...


Okay, have I added by subtracting? Or have I subtracted by adding the chromectomy? How much emotion is ripped away in B&W? Or... are these dramatically different messages, each as complex? But how can something be made differently complex by taking a scalpel to it? Hmmmm... 

Gotta' think on this :-) Should the age of mono-chrome be over? Or is mono really a surrender to the complex challenge of the colors of life? A retreat? 

Thoughts? 




Saturday, March 7

Invisible Stuff


This is invisible. Neuroscientists proved that our mind's a lazy piece of meat. It does what it must, the rest... fuggedabouddit.... The brain doesn't put itself out. For example, on your way to work, or to visit a relative, you only tend to see what's out of place. The ordinary, the usual, the banal... The brain says, "Ho-hum" and never sends that information to the processor. Which is why we see... really see... through fresh eyes when we travel down new roads. 

Oh, and even then we tend to filter away the commonplace. "ZAP!" I've transported you to say, Istanbul, and out of your hotel window there's a distant view of the Great Blue Mosque. "Magic," you mutter as it shimmers under a morning sun. And you never see the dumpsters or even the parking lot where they're sitting below. 

Nor will you see, really see, a turret atop a tiled roof in the next block that's accessorized with trash, sat-dishes, pipes, and wires snarling patternlessly. Actually the brain not only filters out the common, but also the pointlessly ugly. 

Ugly rarely gets gallery wall space, or storage room in those lazy pieces of meat between our ears. Why use up the energy to record then retain this sort of thing? And yet the common and the ugly fill the majority of every space between pockets of beauty.  It makes me wonder what else our efficiency-censors delete. What ideas we won't consider because the facts are... invisible. 

Saturday, February 14

Tough Art!

This sits in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia. Well actually it sits atop a marble jar brought, along with its twin, to Istanbul in the 15th century by Murad III. It probably sat outside for more than half a century before that in the ancient Roman city of Pergamon on the Western tip of Greece.

It's a jaw-dropper... A huge thing, some six or seven feet tall: an urn carved from a solid block of marble that was used in lustration ceremonies.

"Say what?"

Yeah, I had to look that up. Seems they filled these things with oil to create magic circles around infants during naming ceremonies. The belief was that evil was banned from the circle while goodness flowed in. A lot like baptismal ceremonies. You could get a big guy into this thing, with room to move around. Well, not that there was any need to cram a man into it, I'm just saying.

Now it sits in the Hagia Sophia where it's been indoors for another 500 years or so, protected from the weather... First in the Sultan's great mosque, and now that it's been converted into a museum, it's part of the collection of ancient Muslim and early Christian artifacts which the Turkish people maintain for all of us.

Recently Tom Dills asked some questions about the permanency of art, or at least our photographs. He mused about photographer and editor Bruce Jenson's essays on the topic. Bruce has often wondered about the eventual fate of this stuff we do... Well, the stuff that he does and by extension, what we do. Simply put, both Bruce and Tom wonder what happens to the photographs and art we've created when we die.

Which led me to wonder about the Lustration Urns of Pergamon. Did the designers/carvers of these things expect that a millennium or so after they stopped chiseling away stone that people would still wonder at their beauty? Or was the respect their work generated in its spiritual usage sufficient psychic reward. I guess that someone gave them some sort of direct economic payment for their efforts. And I also guess that, like artists always, the sheckles they got felt like too few.

Do you think it's the scale of these urns or their marble, that guaranteed them some sort of lifespan longer than their creator's? If they'd built them out of pixels, I wonder if they'd survive the winds of technology much less fashion, caprice, war, weather, and the tantrums of human taste. Understand, our photographic art is stored in the least permanent form ever imagined. Recently I tossed dozens of 78 RPM classical records of my father's that were created in the 1920s. I have no way of accessing their contents. I'll soon follow them to the trash with dozens of audio recording tapes which need reel-to-reel playback machines. And a lot of Super 8 and VHS family movies will follow them. Do you imagine that your carefully preserved images residing on virtual clouds somewhere will be any more accessible than the stuff you may now have on 8 Trac Tapes, cassettes,or even on CDs and DVDs?

Emily Dickinson had the advantage of "recording" her thoughts on paper, so that they were easily accessed so she could be "discovered" after her death. Imagine if she'd dropped them onto floppy discs?

Forget the "quality" of the work, what's "permanent" art demand? Not merely high levels of imagination and creativity, but some impermeable strata that can withstand time's vandals. Oh, and it probably should be big... like this lustration urn... Huge enough... to get noticed, right?

Thursday, February 12

The Best Might Accomplish Nothing

 Recently someone asked about a journalism degree. And I replied that journalism is an activity, accomplishment is what it documents. The activity’s incidental… Secondary… Unessential. But in other circumstances, the activity is necessary… inseparable… ONE with the accomplishment.

In this case here, I’m the photojournalist… This guy is a master glass blower at Ireland’s legendary Waterford Crystal. Which means he’s among the world’s best, perhaps one of history’s best, at accomplishing with his mastery of process. Something a journalist cannot do.


Not only won’t journalists admit this: Most don’t know it.

Monday, February 9

So Much Blarney


See that road sign there on the left of this image? It points to Blarney Castle. This little town square is almost in the shadow of the old ruin. Well, maybe not a ruin. The place isn't habitable but it's sure well preserved given the hoards that come to kiss its stone. There were more Americans, Canadians,  and Australians walking these streets as I meandered about  than Irish. Tourism's a MAJOR industry on the island.

Regardless of the stuff we come to see, Blarney's a great example of what's just beyond the snapshot frames of the 17th century stuff. It's where townsfolk come to shop in 21st century wagons. I like that. This could be Lancaster's town square, or the centers of Blue Ball, Paradise, or Intercourse. Well, maybe not. In fact, our squares are gridlocked with Amish horse carts. Hmmmm.... 

Odd I travel to the olde sod to scratch my ancient Irish roots and find towns that are more modern than my own. There's some kind of lesson there, right? 

Monday, February 2

Wooden Indian • Wooden Future

For over a century he's stood in front of the original Rhinebeck Smokeshop. So I took his picture. It felt mandatory. So did the shop window's wooden frame. Okay, so there we have it. Form, shape, texture and... and.... Meaning?  Now there's the rub. I notice that images demand to be made. 
Have noticed as you review your day's catch that there are dozens of inexplicable things that drew your attention but you've no memory of what lured your lens? Some will sport a magical palette but no subject. Others have strong form, strict framing and yet... no concept... no story arc... no meaning quivering to be released.

I envision every image that I work through to an end... Envision them as prints. Ideas or feelings to be hung and lived with. Stories to be expanded each time my eye returns to them. Of course there's no room for all of those framed feelings and narratives. So, what to do with them? A book perhaps? Or just slid into folders that gather digital dust inside of cavernous HDs. Is it miser's pleasure we get from running our fingers over the value, pulling out this or that to enjoy? I mean is it like the miser who gets kicks as handfuls of gems drop from his fists under a single light in a darkened vault-room?

When Degas finished a watercolor, what then? Did he care about anything that carried the punctuation ... 'finished'? What about Whistler? Or Hopper? For some years I did daily TV commentaries. We recorded a week's worth all at once. I never watched them when they aired. Why? Because that guy up there on the screen could affect my life. By the time of airing, there was no further opportunity to edit, change, or fix the product. 

Viewer mail pointed out any errors... So in a lot of ways I was trained to release my creation into the wild, and go off on another hunt. The process became the challenge, even more than the result at the moment of broadcast.

 I wonder if I'll revisit the indian up there? And if I do, have I already sucked all of the surprises and meaning out of the thing? My friend Cedric Canard tosses his images away. I'm guessing he's not got a cigar box full of prints? Neither do I anymore. Not since I left my wet darkroom, never to return. Instead the box exists on a cloud where it's filled with wriggling binary strings. 

Tuesday, January 13

Christmas Colored - Happy 2014


Once upon a time... it was December 12th and A Longwood Christmas 2014 was underway when Rita and I joined Marty and Gib Armstrong for the 45 minute ride down to Kennet Square in Chester County. Some of you don’t know about these 1,077 acres of gardens, woodlands and meadows where the Dupont Family (Yes, that duPont family) created what might be the world’s premier botanical gardens in Brandywine Creek Valley. 

A disclaimer: While I’ll glue some images together with a narrative in this post, it’s a hard fact that discussing the mystery of flowers is more difficult than describing the shape of mist. I find that the stuff of Longwood Gardens goes through my mind directly to my feelings without ever passing through words. 

 Maybe three or four times a year we try to visit Longwood Gardens. Their Christmas display is a magical explosion of color that’s a magnet to a fine art photographer’s lens. Floral inspiration comes from plagiarizing what nature’s created. So  in a effort to  find my voice this year, I decided not to just take photographic dictation from the flowers. But still, for those who either missed it this time, or for you folks way far away from here, all around the world… well I’ve attempted to let the show communicate the idea of Christmas Colored. Make sense?

REMEMBER SPRING?


Within their glass bubble, the curators of Longwood have stuffed a dense luxury of star dust… Their trails contradict the wintry outside ice to trigger feelings of seasons past or coming. They do it with polychrome sparks along trails leading off into humid tropics, arid desert, and among lushly weird exotica from every continent and most islands. 


DETAILING


So this Christmas, instead of trying to document their enormous show I hunted just for the accessories which set off the elusive feeling of Christmas ColoredYou know: examine trees instead of forrest? Like this tiny glass bird nestled maybe ten or twelve feet up there among vines hugging a strange tree? Is that breadfruit? And does this shiny little guy evoke a fragment of lost holidays you captured somewhere a long time back?




The photographer Brooks Jensen’s written, “Picturing flowers is too easy, like clubbing baby seals.” But capturing their conclusions… now that’s a challenge. So that’s what I hunted in those four and half acres of heated greenhouses joined together by lush corridors of plants and meandering brooks burbling with ebony water. On a near bank I found a Scotch pine hung with lights and snowballs while on the far bank a giant palm was back-lit with orange-golden spots. Do photographs lie? Is there such a thing as non-fiction in any media? What images do is reflect the photographer’s life-view. The more interesting question is whether there is a gap between their creator’s narrative and reality. 

A sign announced that there are over 5,500 plants in the 20 indoor Longwood gardens cut with half a mile of trails. They’ve begun a forty-year expansion overseen by the Dutch landscape architecture and urban planning firm, West 8. And already the efforts have won international awards… Including one for this…


WASTING AWAY


There was a cheery docent at the main entrance. “Down there’s an award winner," she pointed us to a corridor that led to this row of doorways. Want to guess what’s behind them? These are toilets! Uh-huh. They look like mausoleum doors, don’t you think? And for what is that a metaphor? But who knows what Dutch WCs look like? Um, wait a minute, I was in Holland recently. Didn’t see anything like this though. Hmmm… Maybe I spent too much time wandering their notorious Red Light District?

ON TO THE MANSION


In 1906 Pierre du Pont, the industrialist, bought this property as his private estate and today his mansion which is also part of the Longwood Gardens Foundation sits about a hundred yards from the sprawling crystal greenhouse. Also open to the public, that home’s built around a two story atrium where this graceful wreath whispers its early 20th century message of holiday elegance. Have you ever noticed that simplicity is elegance and vice-versa.


Has it occurred to you how short, “now” has become? We seem to have no time for it. Now seems to be what’s keeping us from something. Now’s an impediment. The du Pont mansion’s interior details  speak of a time before 24/7 news cycles, streaming video, audio, and games. Everyone at the du Pont dinner table shared the same culture-space. There were no virtual guests competing for attention from hand-helds. Its interior details lent themselves to the muted color-capturing-nostalgia of watercolors. 

Upon du Pont’s death in 1954 he left much of his estate to support the Longwood Foundation which manages the gardens that  are open to the public seven days a week. And more importantly he left us the opportunity to look at the luxury of his day.We can look at what maybe never was… And I guess that’s what nostalgia is, huh? A look at what never happened, but should have? 

Still, it’s moving, particularly at Christmas, to imagine living when families ate together each evening. And more importantly knew enough about one another to share and communicate in their “now” which has become the “when” or “then” of the nostalgia that perhaps happened: Once upon a time...


HERE'S THE 12/12/14 GROUP SHOT

Above: That friendly docent who pointed us to the prize-winning bathrooms saw my camera and volunteered to picture us in front of the grand hall where this all starts and ends. It takes about 90 minutes to walk the trails and visit the nearby du Pont mansion. That’s Gib and Marty to the left of Rita and me. Do we look hungry? The Armstrongs drove us back to Frank Fox’s Aussie And The Fox restaurant in downtown Lancaster. Which is where we discovered that, yep… We were famished.

Oh… a last capture. Among the Longwood Collection is a group of Bonsai miniature plants. In the display’s center is this pomegranate girl. “Ewww,” a woman muttered next to me. “I thought my baby was big! Now that…  THAT’s what I call labor !!”









Tuesday, December 16

Uganda: Wobble

Odd, straddle the equator... Y'know... one boot on each side and... Well... The spinning world makes Y'wobble.


Actually this is a street fashion image. It's my exclusive Bwana Ted look. Hey... what part of "exclusive" y'don't unnerstand? Eh?