Friday, August 7

So I Got This Problem...


The house teeters up there, its hope simultaneously resting behind boulders piled against the nature of the North Atlantic, and a cardboard sign against the nature of humans. But I wonder: isn’t the latter intended to protect the structure from the whims of taxpayers who erected the former?
How fragile security seems when looked at from behind a pile of rocks that won’t alter the nature of climate, nor signs that can't change the nature of humans.
The morning after a stormy night my Canon 7D's wide angle 10-22mm  found some steps rising from Corporation Beach in E. Dennis, Massachusetts on the bay side of Cape Cod. There's so much color smoldering to life at sunrise... Maybe too much? Perhaps this palette shrink-wraps reality behind a romantic patina that distracts us away from life's harshness? Maybe colors are the tools of poets and cynics while monochrome is a tool of realists and skeptics?
Or maybe this is just a house perched atop a dune? :-)


But that's not the problem in the title of this post. Well over a half century ago I started thinking about palette and photography. That meant struggling with all sorts of color theory and its aesthetics. The thing is that down deep I like a lot of chrome. I mean I want it cranked up to 11 on a dial that goes to 10! And now, thanks to technology, I can twirl that dial all the way... WHIP!

Looking back, you'll see a few recent posts here that got monochromed... FWUUUP! The sound of color sucked away to reveal the haunting underlayerment of feeling. But monochrome's a false choice in most cases. Kicking away everything but 50 shades of gray... Well, that'll make for a hot commercial novel, but the power of my original narrative here, in this image... Isn't best served by sheering away the color fabric, is it?

I've found that full-on color grabs attention, but it's like deep cleavage, y'know? It serves a certain, um, function, but it's hard to get the audience to look in your eye...

So I've got this problem... How to overcome an addiction to chromo-blasting? Wall space is so scarce. Without a story arc, there's no reason to return to an image... It has no aura. No wonder... And art without wonder is merely craft. If I can't get something new from an image each time I return to it, well, I don't want to live with it. Won't give it a piece of that scarce wall space.

As you climb the stairs to my office, the walls and the landing are filled with photographs wonderfully lit by indirect sun light. Some are mine, others are by resonant minds that make me VERY careful which of mine I dare hang near them. Increasingly I've found that the work which endures has the color cranked down to six or seven. Yet, first-time visitors invariably are drawn to pulsating color.

Okay, I should please myself, forget others. But that would wall off learning and growth. Nope, not a good idea. Any suggestions? As you scroll backward in this blog, look how blatant the image colors are. But would you... could you... live with those neon palettes?

What therapy do they do at a rehab for color addiction?Thoughts?


Here's the just-before-sunrise-original...


Tori Yule said...

Great post, Ted. There's an amazing difference in your original shot to your cranked up version. Color catches my eye, too and I often pick vivid work for the first 12 features in my groups on Redbubble. Love reading about your thought process, and your love of art.

Cedric Canard said...

I am most probably not the person to help you out with this problem of yours since I tend to view my own work somewhat differently to you. For one thing I don't put my photos on my walls. What is more, I only shoot for myself and I don't tend to keep my photos. Also I rarely go back to see the ones I post on the Internet so… keep that in mind with what follows.

The first thing is, always shoot for yourself. That's my two cents worth. Shooting to please others isn't going to teach you anything but more importantly it is likely that it will completely stifle your creativity. Sure you may end up becoming popular but your popularity will be akin to the popularity gained by "50 Shades of Grey". You gotta ask yourself: Is that really what I want? Ok, so the millions of dollars would probably be nice but could you live with yourself? Hmm… yeah maybe… I mean I certainly wouldn't blame you, you know, but hey that's not likely to happen with photographs right? I mean people don't even pay for porn anymore. Or so they tell me.

Anyway, if you are wanting to create art you absolutely must shoot for yourself. This is the only way you can possibly learn what truly matters.

… more to follow …

Cedric Canard said...

Next, can others live with your pictures? I would say this is only important if you are wanting to earn a living from your photography. In that case I would recommend you shoot weddings and family portraits. But what if you want to sell your art? Or give it away? In that case don't ask the question here on your blog. Go out to galleries, talk to curators, show them your stuff, get an agent. I have a friend (Anita West, you can look her up: search anita west artist) who did all that with her paintings and it worked for her, after god knows how many years she became an overnight success. Ok, not quite true, her success grew with time but people are more than happy to put her paintings on their walls and as far as I know she only paints to please herself. Granted, she is extremely talented but I find you work to be on par in terms of artistry and its appeal to my eyes. So hey.

Of course there's always an element of luck in all this (there are lots of talented people in this world that never get so much as an how-do-you-do and there are loads of totally talent-less people in this world who manage to beat them – thinking of 50 Shades again. Seriously, I could not get past the third page of that book, how in the world did it sell 100 million copies?!?).

Going only by what you post, you actually have quite a range of palettes from monochromes to the eclectic. And for each style there will be lovers and haters. I like your work, I like your styles, I have a special penchant for your people shots but I'm just one person and I'm not a good representation of anything.

… haven't quite finished yet …

Cedric Canard said...

Lastly, you say that if you can't get something new from an image each time you return to it, you don't want to live with it. If you truly want to see something new every time your look at an image then I would say that this is only likely to happen with the someone else's work and it will need to be somewhat complex, an abstract perhaps or a richly detailed vista. This is much less likely to happen with your own images since you know where they have come from. You know what thought process or creative inspiration led you to make the image. But that's no reason to despair. If you create an image which has come from some special place within yourself or from some deep and meaningful experience then it is unlikely that it will offer you something new each time you view it but that should not be a reason to remove it from your life. Should it? I think a better way to know when an image has overdone its welcome is when you become indifferent to it, when you stop noticing it on the wall, when you walk past it without so much as a glance. I don't put photos on my walls but I do have paintings and I can assure you that I do not see anything new in them every time I look at them but I do see them, I do notice them even if it is only fleetingly and every now and then I will stop and look properly, not to get some new thoughts or to see something new, or to gain some new inspiration or perspective, no, quite the contrary, I stop and look at them to simply quiet the mind, to breathe, to be blissful for a moment. Most times that's enough. When they stop doing that for me I'll replace them. No one ever said art has to be forever.

Ok, I better shut up now. All the best with resolving your problem. I doubt this has been of any use but then again I did warn you at the start.

Ok, done. Sorry for the trilogy, your comment box doesn't allow for long-winded gasbags like me.

Ted said...

Sorry about the delay in responding Tori (See 9/6/15).Uh-huh, I agree - color is eye bait. And I actually have to discipline myself to crank the saturation sliders down. Probably, the color art on any gallery wall will draw an audience quicker than monochrome.

Ted said...


As I wrote to Tori, sorry about the delay in responding but I’ve been distracted for a bit (see 9/6/15 above)

Your thoughts are provocatively prescient… Hmmm… Lemme enjoy reflecting on them piece-by-piece…

1. You write, “if you are wanting to create art you absolutely must shoot for yourself. This is the only way you can possibly learn what truly matters.”
Hmmm…. But I am schizoid! Which self do I shoot for? At their extremes, color is emotionally charged while monochrome seems on the see-saw’s other side. For at least forty of the fifty-plus years I’ve photographed accessible color wasn’t really available, since there just wasn’t any useful post-processing option. I lived, instead, in a wet B&W darkroom where B&W got mangled and shaped to reveal my emotional interpretations. Digital’s released the color genie.

Which means that almost my entire life experience is battling with this new opportunity… and so… I’m schizzy! And, well, color seems a guilty thing to do… You know, like I’m rejecting an old love for the blonde bimbo in her red dress. So… which self do I shoot for? ☺

Ted said...


2. “If you are wanting to earn a living from your photography.”

Photography seriously contributed to my college and grad school tuitions. I did a slew of stuff that I hated: Weddings, portraits, sports, ads, and of course photojournalism. At the same time my clarinet and sax paid a bunch more bills. In fact I grew so tired of pick-up bands that one night in 1966, I packed up my horns after a gig and never pulled them out again. That almost happened as well with cameras. One thing all of those market-appeasing jobs taught me was that professional photography’s fantastically hard… Which is why I went to economics school ☺

I rarely sell my art. Oh, it does illustrate an occasional article that I write for my day job. And every now and then enough sell on Red Bubble to let me buy some photographic bauble (usually software these days, my camera bag’s as full as it will ever need to be).

3. “Going only by what you post, you actually have quite a range of palettes from monochromes to the eclectic.”

Which means I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! I envy artists who have developed a style. But, not enough to want to stop peering around at opportunities. Art to me is a learning thing. And style seems to mean “settling down”. Y’know? Your work has a similar un-syncopated rhythm to it, probably a lot more cerebrally driven than mine, and definitely not as clichéd. Which is why it fascinates me.


Ted said...

And finishing...

4. “If you truly want to see something new every time your look at an image then I would say that this is only likely to happen with the someone else's work and it will need to be somewhat complex, an abstract perhaps or a richly detailed vista.”

Here’s the place where we disagree. Yep, after a time, my work bores the crap out of me. But before that switch goes off, I’m intrigued each time I return to it. Just as I’m intrigued… NEWLY… each time I return to certain pieces of yours. Once upon a time a Ph. D. candidate contacted me to explore a part of his thesis based upon my day-job work. No not photography. And he wanted to nail down certain themes he saw in my published/broadcast thoughts.

And I’d not seen any of those themes! Perhaps they were obvious to everyone but me? Don’t know. What it taught me is that there are levels of meaning… both rational and emotional in what we do. No, let me try that differently, that there CAN be levels of meaning depending upon the observer. Someone once wrote that the artist becomes entirely dispensable to the artwork the moment it is released into the wild. Only the observer matters.

You’ve heard the saying that we cannot put our finger into the same river twice? Ditto art, particularly our own. Each time I visit images I’m pocking my emotional finger in again, and coming away with… with… the debris from a different river.

When that stops… I’m bored. I’ve used up the melody. Until, perhaps years later when I’m in such a different space that… Hey…. In this case we’re the river and the art’s the finger? We flow, the art sits there, and prods us always at a different place? HEAVY DUDE…. HEAVY ☺

BTW, I have paintings and photos on the walls. And the photos are by lots of different artists who I’ve traded with over the years. Pity you don’t collect, I’d love to trade for some of yours which continue to startle me each time I revisit their, um, rivers.

Thanks for the thoughtful response Cedric. You are right, “No one ever said art has to be forever.” But art without wonder is merely craft, right?

Cedric Canard said...

My turn to apologise for not getting back to this thread sooner. I find myself having less and less drive to get on my computer these days.

You raise some interesting points Ted. The one about being schizoid, I've thought long and hard but that's just not me so I can't help you there. I never feel divided about what I shoot. The scene always tells me how to shoot it. A bit like the way my son writes his novels. The story reveals itself to him and he is merely the stenographer.

As for the fourth point, I must admit that here also I am probably not the best person to give advice. I mean, I don't go back to look at my own work so I can't really say that I would get bored with them or that the meaning they originally conveyed has changed over time. I am fairly certain however, that I would never consider the observer as being the only one that matters where art is concerned. For me art is a love triangle between the artist, the artwork and the observer. That's what makes art so special, so tantalising. All three bring something to the relationship and all three evolve even if the pace of evolution differs for each. Or the direction for that matter. But what do I know? Since I've stopped making photographs I feel more and more like I know less and less.

By the way, you are correct that I am not a collector but I am more than happy to give copies of my images to friends who ask. So do let me know if you want something of mine. I can't guarantee I'll always have the photo on file since I don't keep them for long but if I do I'm happy to pass it on.