Wednesday, February 28

Presenting The Fulton Theater

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This is my masterpiece. Hey, I didn't say it was "a" masterpiece... see the wording there? It simply accomplished everything I wanted it to.

BACKGROUND: The Fulton Opera House is one of, or maybe THE, oldest continually operating legitimate theater houses in America. It has been lovingly restored and the interior rivals many of the New World's great halls. Certainly there are no third class cities in America who have anything superior to this gem. Most importantly, it is a theatrical house where an excellent professional theater company and a superb regional symphony reside.

With those things in mind, I wanted to present the building as a theatrical fantasy. I wanted it to appear as a perspective defying stage set where the roll-away front could be whisked aside to reveal a dramatic stage. I wanted it to resonate theatrical colors and eye popping magic.

So this is what I did. See how it glows? Imagine the wildly gel'ed klieg lights popping through the cracks between the facade and the stage and then flaring into the night sky. See how the marquee glitters? It's about theater, art, IMAGINATION! Can't you hear the music? I even went for the road sign to create high tension to fill the unrelated space on the right with negative space of an imagination-worked-reality of the real streetscape. But not a real one at the same time. See how it sits in the city, yet in its own dazzing place. All of it a great, gaudy, glittery, stage set of dramatic excess.

You should see this image blown up to monstrous size.


You know what will happen if I post this creation on the various photography forums? I guarantee you that people will complain about the sign. They will argue that the intensity of the colors are "unreal", that the image looks artificial (Hey Ted, it's crooked!"). And that no one... NOT ANYONE will wonder what I had in mind when I lovingly worked this thing to life.

There will be reviewers who will notice that the pedestrian appears drawn instead of photographed (he is). That the borders are allowed to simply come into existence (right, like a proscenium arch). That it is not tack sharp (true, like a stage set viewed under intense lighting from the mezzanine). That it does not look like a photograph!

They will impose the usual tests of: color, lighting, form, shape, texture, dimensionality, and conformity with maybe three tedious methods of composition. And as soon as any one of the tests fails to result in an answer that's a perfect fit... they will have found a reason to say, "No!" to my masterpiece.

And not one of them will wonder. Wonder about performing artists who have moved hundreds of thousands of spectators for over two hundred years with dazzling shows from behind this showy facade. Nor will they wonder about how they might depict the abstract meaning of "theater". Because, they do not think abstractly, grasp intangibles or meaning… so that they cannot wonder about wonder... or my intent.

And they will miss my little masterpiece. So... so while I have posted it one time on one of those forums... and while I learned all of this stuff from posting and watching so many other posts on those forums...

This is the only place now... here and on my website... that my masterpiece will hang.
For you...

And I hope that it will make you wonder about what I wondered about. And how you might visually wonder about the same sort of thing. And maybe...


You will wonder why the great bulk of rather serious photographers are wondering only about technique or craft, and not art.

Tuesday, February 27

Art Girl

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Have you been so engrossed recently? So fully involved in something that a photographer can hunch down right in front of you like this guy did, and, heck... who cares?
I took this with my old Olympus clam-shell film camera, probably on Kodachrome - or some such - scanned it into my machine and only just found it tonight. When? Dunno, maybe back in the summer of '02. She's five years older now. Darn, so am I. But I'll betcha' that she's just as charming. There are some things that lenses don't lie about. She's one of them.
In a world where everything seems designed to gross us out... It's grand to see someone merely en grossed, eh?

Monday, February 26

Prying Into Oysters

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Michael Kimmelman in his book, "The Accidental Masterpiece" argues that art has a higher purpose than just satisfying the senses. What he's tossing about is the idea that the philosopher David Hume proposed that beauty in art, as opposed to finding beauty naturally in a radiant vista, is dependent on reasoning and critical analysis. People may come around to seeing beauty in art through reasoned argument.

See, if you just look at something, these guys are thinking, and you go, "WOW!" well... you might be seeing something that's just stuck to the surface and it might be shallow. Beauty in art they figure is not solely decorative, nor is it there because the colors of the painting go with the couch. It should have a higher rational for being in art. Beauty in art has a function. A reason for being there. And we frequently have to work to pull it out. Coming at art without thinking is like going after the oyster without tools to tear at the shell.

So, thinking all those deep thoughts... I created this image from my trip to NYC last month. I wasn't after grandeur, or might. I just wanted to see if I could describe what people did to this spot of land. What I feel that people did to it. And since I am the world's greatest expert on my opinion about anything. Well here it is. Y'goddaproblem widdat?

Sunday, February 25

Subtle? Nah!

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Okay... okay... This is cheesy. But %&$#! it is snowing outside again. Well, of course it's snowing "outside" where else would it be snowing? But that's the way this stuff is making me feel... FUDDLED! I am sick of monochromatic piles of icy cold resistance to life and frolic.
So that's why I did this image. I cranked up the color so high it will sear hambugers (which is what Rita is cooking down below, and they smell... delicious.)
Speaking of delicious. You know how McDonald's has created a perfect taste sensation with its french fries? Look you don't have to even like them to get my point. They have distilled out everything in that offering but taste! There's no redeeming nutritional value, and you sure can't compare the McD's experience with dining haute cusine... And yet... yet... It is a perfect experience.
Shallow... empty... vapid... and... perfect.
Which does leave you with a memory. Pass a McD's anywhere in the world, and if you've tasted those french fries, you will feel them on your tongue.
Art? Nah. Subtle? Nah.
Sort of like this graphic pumped full of color and then slathered over with the sponge filter from the PhotoShop stock set. I even cloned away every distraction. And now I can look outside my window at the bleakness, then gulp in the color from my monitor. And - well, there's no redeeming artistic value I suppose... but it sure tastes good on the tip of my spirit.

Saturday, February 24

The Accidental Century

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The Twentieth was the American Century. Why? As an economist I’ve read all the theories, mostly revolving around Yankee Ingenuity. Americans, they said, were a special breed bubbling out of a melting pot that assimilated the best of yearning emigrants. These were people who were enthused by a work ethic which was reinforced by a level of economic opportunity and mobility that may never before have existed. Okay, perhaps there's a hair of truth to the huddled masses theory of economic development. More probably it emerged from the rest of the world's lack of anger management.
When your natural competitors bomb the crap out of one another not once, but twice in the same five decade span, well it's hard for them to turn rubble into plowshares, rap music, or Fords. So, protected behind two very large moats, America became the only market to people too war crazed to provide for themselves. In return for Fords America imported the family jewels of Europe and Asia.
But over the course of the next five decades, the competition ramped down their nastiness, or at least relegated it to the noisy Balkans and the snarling Mid-East where they were sufficiently gracious to allow Americans to tend to the nasties with that large part of their budget that was siphoned off into police-protection-for-the-world.
And while the U.S. shifted taxed-away bucks into planes, tanks, and bombs, the old competitors shifted their savings into factories, machines, and education. Now they've built efficient new devices to produce far better stuff than Fords which wheeze out of fifty year old plants, produced under fifty year old work rules, by workers with benefit packages designed to be financed by the competitors' family jewels fifty years back.
Sometimes I fear that the accidental century is as over as the cog and lightning bolt on a rusting Ford medallion sitting unprotected against the snow.

Friday, February 23

Power OutAge

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Question: Can we find art? Is it just a matter of framing something... Anything... That results in art? And, oh by the way, does art have to be beautiful? Is beauty even necessary?

Look at this old rusting truck. I think it's a Ford from the early 50s that sits along the decaying Lancaster stockyards. Suppose it was a work of art when it rolled off the assembly line. If I photograph it, am I merely replicating someone else's art? Or have I brought something else to the frame here? Maybe the streaks of snow? Maybe the tight composition? Maybe my interpretation of the tonal and color ranges? Can you or I make something we see through the lens into art?

If I bring you a bucket of water from the ocean, is that water art? If I photograph that bucket filled with ocean water, what then? Maybe there's a difference between good taste and art? I mean, what most of us... any group of us consider movingly beautiful will probably be in good taste. If it shocks us by it's astonishing ugliness, if it is innately vapid, if it is a mere reproduction of what is somewhere in nature... is the photographer who takes the picture an artist... or some sort of taker-of-visual-dictation?

I have manipulated this truck image. It is not true to the moment. By adding or subtracting, by shifting or recomposing... by any number of techniques including wholesale creation of parts of this truck... Is the whole greater than the sum?

If the photographer brings nothing more than astonishing craft to accurately capture great beauty in a moment, has he committed art, or is he a plagiarist of nature?

I wonder if art doesn't demand some subjective alteration that manipulates the original moment in order to do photographic art. I wonder if the "unaltered" image can ever lay claim to being art? Is there imagination in tedious replication through the photographic process? Or is there merely great craft?

I wonder if it's the alterations that make my truck here into art (not necessarily good art, or bad art) rather than the original digital capture.

I wonder... at the power this old truck once had... and now it sits there... Out in the elements... Out of power. Power left out and worn out... Power Outage as a double entendre. Are visual entendres, art? Hmmmmm......

Thursday, February 22


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I just discovered a depressing website. Click here on Juha M. Kinnunen's name, and you will see why I've posted what I've posted tonight. Juha's work is so astonishingly good that, for just a moment I wondered why I bother. Then I thought of all those guys who go to the course every Saturday in spite of the fact that Tiger Woods is alive and playing golf in a way that is only related to theirs by the greatest stretch of imagination. But hey: It is imagination that keeps me coming back to this digital course each night.
Still, tonight I think I shall send you off to visit Juha's site, and while you do, I will hide behind a pile of every trick, gee-gaw, frim-fram, gimmick, and scrikity-scrack I can pile upon my work so you won't notice that ... I am out on the course, but what I do is related to Mr. Kinnunen's only by the greatest stretch of imagination.

Wednesday, February 21

Flare For Effervescence

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When they invent neon chalk pastels... I will shift media. Or maybe they have, and they're called RGB pixels? And maybe I play with them daily? Like here. And maybe they let me diddle with the effervescence of night? Perhaps they make light into clay that I can knead, twist, and pull into places where it wasn't so that now it looks as if it belongs... Make that "feels" as if it belongs. At least to me.

Now wait, before you look at this photo and murmur, "Ted, it's a pity that the lens flare ruined that image...." Think at me. There are only a couple of really sharp things in this graphic. And when the artist allows something to become tack sharp... Well that's a clue. That's where I'm going here.

This is about flare, and night, and shapes that exist, and don't. Usually the real things are sharp. And that's the way it was out there tonight. Flare is more than an accident here, it's a guest. There's a reason I call this "Flareful Moments". It's about the effervescence of light. Monochrome night overpainted in neon chalk pastels.

Tuesday, February 20


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Pickle, Meghan, Jamie, Phoebe and now Rocco have left these there. That's the line of buddies who've lived with us here in Lancaster. And like these prints, they're vivid memories.

If dogs aren't there: it ain't heaven.

Monday, February 19

It Comes From Where?

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Sometimes the camera finds the image which drew me to it so perfectly that shudders happen. Then, while I sit in front of the monitor first one tool then another slides away superfluous light to discover sheer, pure, perfect colors you can practically run your fingers across. Finally what the camera found shimmers to a life that's beyond the actual moment when the shutter snapped - an image that's more true than real.
Is it fiction?
And how does it happen that I'm sitting there, and the release or creation of an image like this becomes a spectator sport?

Sunday, February 18

Looking For Magic

I've been dragging for the past few days. Cabin fever. A talented photographer friend, Alistair, on a popular forum wrote that the snow's got me cranky. Hmmmm... S'OK, went out to grab something precious.

Hard though, bumping around over ice cragged roads, through hard puddled parking lots, over neck snapping ruts, all walled by mounds of murk stained shards. But you know, no one is really made unhappy by February unless they were at the minimum, from the accumulation of winter's body blows, a tad unhappy to begin with.

Sigh... If there was going to be magic, I was going to have to work for it. It's good artistic therapy to have to really look at the details off in the corner. Behind the piles. So I made up my mind that all of this was as real as I wanted it to be, that I could dissolve it at will. Perhaps had I stayed indoors and found a triumph like John Roberts' evocative violin - well it might have been warmer. But no... I wanted to crack through my cranky by going out there.

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And that's where I found this guy, goose-bumped but patiently waiting for his load of happy toddlers to push him out of where he'd gotten stuck. Here's a character who'd be fun to dig out to get children giggling. And if they could giggle in February... why not me?

I found the magic, right?

Saturday, February 17

City Snow

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Photographers hunt for ways to romanticize life. Snow becomes a metaphor for virginity, innocence, sweetness - like that. When in fact it's been a traditional enemy of civilization. We are a naked animal, evolved in warm climes. Snow is not our natural habitat. We've adapted and make compromises with snow. We slow down, build cabins... ofttimes wheeled cabins.

Snow makes us cautious: makes us think about things which we'd otherwise do reflexively. Like walking. Or driving. Very few of our automatic actions are carelessly done in the stuff. And when its mixed with ice, we fear it the way vampires do sunlight. Snowstorms are lovely in romantic movies. Or in the countryside where a viewer watches it, drink in hand, through a crackling fire reflected in a large picture window.

City snow isn't like that. City snow snarls, makes things brown, freezes wheels to streets, packs then cracks into dirty ice shards which slash tires, and skin.
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City snowstorms are the reason they invented hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Friday, February 16


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The lad shoved at the slash
Of ice-pebbled wind.
Gloveless, he lurched into it.
Near home, I gave him

Thursday, February 15

Simulated Love

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Silk flower love.

It's like those forums where so many think a critique of photography has to do with whether the horizon is un-tilted. Have you noticed how often commentors confuse technique with meaning? With value? Process for worth? With what an image is of, as opposed to what it means?

Sure, craft is the reason catalogue photo studios exist. Ditto the bulk of wedding photographers. Ain't nothing wrong with craft, but its presence in an image does not alone justify that image's value. Yeah, I understand newbies wondering why they are taking snapshots while all the images they see are something else... and in most cases... something better. Craft is an important condition for excellence, but not a sufficient condition to art. Writers must know a language, but grammatical mastery is only a milepost along the way toward poetry.

I understand all of us wishing that some new lens will be the switch which turns every image capture into.. into... Hey, how many golfers dream that a new putter will morph them into Tiger Woods? But the great photographic images aren't the result of pool-table aligned horizons. Or spot color gimmicks on a monochrome rectangle. Neither putters, nor lenses make images important. It's not the bow, it's the archer.

Technique from the mastery of gear, color, and composition can create high craft. But the gap between high craft and art? It's the distance between simulating and feeling love. Doing and understanding.

It's the gap between the silken rose and the mind's. Or between an image which faithfully reproduces a silken rose, and one which reveals how the tailor’s rose differs from nature’s product.

Wednesday, February 14

The Lads Are Gone

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Old man bought new lumber
Two years back.
He knows the rot.
Maybe come spring
He'll fix what can be
. Or never again
. Not ever.
Last of his line.
The lads are gone.
Nature heals itself.

Tuesday, February 13

The 13th

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A friend quit today. Oh, and it snowed. A dirty, icy, sniveling snow. The sort that coats things in hard pebbles. Kid useless snow. It makes things drab, bitter... grey. Today's the thirteenth of the month. I suffer from triskaidekaphobia.

For a rational guy, it's an irrational thing. But sad, or bad, or ugly things have too often happened around the number 13 for me to dismiss it as mere chance.

My Rita says it's a self fulfilling prophecy thing. But did I make my colleague quit today? Did I will my wife to fall in a hospital room numbered 13? And... and... Nope... no need to belabor the grimness of 13th days like this. 13th days that snow dirty, and mark the quitting of a good friend to go otherwhere and leave us missing her.

Damn 13s.

Monday, February 12

Two Painters And A Blonde

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Can there be a cinematic quality to still photography? The evocative photographer John Sexton thinks so. He feels that the best works capture a flow. That they speak of more than an instant. He says, "Once you make the exposure, you're always looking backward in time."

Hmmmm.... Look at this image i've posted here of a scene from a grassy lane on Nantucket Island. Yeah, in a sense we're looking back upon it. But, as you look around inside the frame, don't you start to take the story farther? Look at the guy on the roof. Look at the model, not looking at the guy on the roof.

I'll tell you something. I'll be the faceless narrator. The painting on that easel puts the woman exactly in that scene, in a vibrant and seductive gown from the early 19th century.

Will you imagine where the storyline goes? And if you do, are you looking backward, or rolling the scene you've never seen... forward?

Yes, I've cranked up the drama of the setting. And yes, I've added a painterly quality to the moment of two painters imagining a beautiful woman somewhere else - in time. The painter at the easel is imagining her backward in history, the painter on the roof is also imagining a beautiful woman, but probably not backward, but forward in time.

And the woman? What is she imagining?

Is there a cinematic quality to this crisp, still, late fall moment in the gardens of a Nantucket Lane? Can you compose the screenplay in your mind?

Sunday, February 11

Grand Daddy's Furniture Marsh

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Arnold Newman thought that, "Photography is 90% moving furniture and 10% inspiration." That late great photographer, like the bulk of artists I've discussed it with, felt that much of his finished work was discovered during the process of creation. Notice... not intentionally sought out, then revealed by technique and craft, but discovered during the application of craft. Yet, there's an organic movement among photographers who cannot abide post processing PhotoShop techniques (PP in PS) which "add stuff" to the picture.

Odd that the greatest artists believe in the creative abilities of process, and yet there are others, mostly amateurs attempting to master their grandfather's photography, who are anxious to replicate the discoveries of say... 1930, or 1960. It's as if generals were brought onto a new battelfield with the ability only to fight the last war.

Look at Marsh#10 I've posted today. It's one of those chestnuts I hid away last Fall so that I could gnaw at them during the fridgedest days of February and March. And as I moved about the furniture in that frame (and as you can see, the frame itself) I discovered the nuances which attracted my eye during that October sunrise over the great Wellfleet marsh. That's not a library sky... nope... it hung up there just like that. This isn't HDR. Nope, that was the tonal range captured by my Canon 20D. I haven't cranked up the color intensities or added polychromatic washes. In fact, I haven't even sharpened the print. It's what my Canon's 10-22mm captured.

But I did create multiple layers of ideas. I have blended and masked them together into this final image which my craft was able to discover among them. Is this "manipulation" or "enhancement"? You know what? It doesn't matter. I brought PS tools to bear in PP which never existed before this moment in time. And I've discovered an image which couldn't have existed before now. The relevant question isn't about PS in PP. The relevant question has to do with whether the image resonates with you and how.

If it does. And does it properly. The photographic based image works. Anyone who denies him/herself those tools - is fighting the last war with grand-daddy's furniture!

Saturday, February 10


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Point and shoot at a Summer day? You decide if this snatch of nostalgia feels like more fantasy than reality... particularly when the February wind-chills are 3 and 4 BELOW zero.
BTW - this scene sort of happened last July 4th along the Susquehanna River across from Columbia Borough - looking South toward the "New" Memorial Bridge. The pilings in the foreground are remains of an older covered bridge that was torched to delay General Lee's soldiers arrival at Gettysburg to the West.

Friday, February 9


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Cold, then colder.
Color's out there
I'm not
The house grows

Thursday, February 8


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See, what I wanted to do was post a video tonight. I've played with iMovies which came bundled with my new MacBookPro... and made a cool little movie about some of my gear. But... that was three hours ago... I'm sleepy,and I can't figure out how to export the final product in a format which I can post. So... here.... here's a weed. A big weed.
Oh, the weed's okay. Dandelions grow large on Nantucket Island. And I like the way the wide angle lets the thing dominate everything around it. And I like the way that the mid day sun works in this image to create a high key composition that's almost an abstract.
But I'd have liked it better if I could have figured out how to post my video. Damn.

Wednesday, February 7


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The warrior
Dreamt of home.

Tuesday, February 6


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Render unto me
your information
And I shall judge it
And by judging
For even in rejection
There are glowing pebbles

Monday, February 5

Grand Whirl

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Bustle is what you think about when you think of Metropolis. And an epicenter of bustle is Grand Central Station. How to get that across in the middle of a grey day? And how to portray the abstract concept of busy-ness without losing the sense of New York City? Easy... get a taxi in the image, right?
So? How my doing?

Sunday, February 4

Paul Caponigro -Not

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"Color is too close to the real world,"Paul Caponigro told Kay Kenny for the December 2005 issue of Focus Magazine. He felt that monochrome allows him to pull images into an internal world to manifest an image. Caponigro is one of the greatest living photographic artists, but I disagree that color has to be too close to the real world. In fact, I think the challenge of this generation of photographers is to discover their vision with the astonishingly tack sharp optics, and full dimensional colors which are so simply accessed with today's technology.
I watched this sunset last summer, and pulled up the photograph today. Caponigro credits much of his success to post processing in his wet darkroom. Today's masters need to find success in digital space. Here look, is this color any closer to the real world than a monochrome might be? Is it any less romantic?
And besides, it's February. It's cold. I wanted to go beyond the real world of ice to a place where a warm sun set over twi-light glowing beach grass. That's an escape into an inner world which you've got to admit, is really hot, huh?

Saturday, February 3

Romantic Anxiety

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Seduction is little more than replacing knowledge with persuasion. Which is a workable definition of advertising!

Friday, February 2

Jersey Boys

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Forget... That's what you do when you haven't been to Broadway for some time. You forget that there's a filtration process and that the people whose product arrives on these stages are the very best that the American theater's got. The writers, directors, producers, musicians, and actors are all at the peak of their crafts and of their careers. So it comes as a startling astonishment to the people like me who get here every few years ... at just how good these people are.
Jersey Boys is about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It won the awards last year. So these are the best of the best who are working just now. The audience went panty-throwing nuts. Women were hooting, men were shouting, the place rocked. See the way this image explodes! Imagine the pounding melody behind it. And then listen for thousands of hands clapping, and their owners standing up and screaming. You don't have to imagine this... I was one of them. It is that good. This time, I'll try not to forget.

Thursday, February 1

Grim? Nuh-Uh!

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Last Wednesday (January 24th) I said I'd bring you inside of The Barclay at 11 East 48th St., um... then I didn't. Okay... so here's the payoff. Now you see why, on their visits to Metropolis, four generations of Byrnes have hoteled at the Barclay. Questions?