Friday, November 30

2007 Award Winner: Florence 11: Sunrise Melody

Note: Accepted as one of the finest Travel Images of 2007 for Canon POTN Book to be published in the Fall of 2008.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson wrote that to take photographs is, "to find the structure of the world – to revel in the pure pleasure of form, and to disclose that in all this chaos, there is order."

Which I suppose is why we hunt the radiant vista?

Of course Cartier-Bresson would have dismissed this image out of hand since he thought that color was the provence of the painter and that the photographer must only investigate a monochrome world. Pity, while he may have grasped the words about sunrise over the Arno River in Florence – he'd have missed the melody.

Thursday, November 29

She Wants It

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So? Will she be chilly in this, um, sports car convertable?

We don't have these on the streets of Lancaster.

We don't have the cars either.

Wednesday, November 28

Florence 10: What's The Opposite Of Twilight

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See how the minutes before dawn are where history’s attic lives?

It’s when you find the boundaries between what has happened and what will.

While the normal person isn’t entirely aware of all of life’s sub themes and boundaries:
• it’s a specific human quirk
• to imagine mystery
• into that crack between night and morning.

See how it’s an instant when you can feel Florence’s memories

• either come out or scurry away.

By the way, we call the sweet light between day and night, twilight. What do we call the sweet light between night and day? Anyone know?

Tuesday, November 27

Florence 9: Street Worker

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Too sweet not to capture as she stood there working the street.

Monday, November 26

Florence8: Duomo 1

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Did you ever wonder would happen if time was tidal?

I wondered that as I worked on this image. Does it show?

Here's the first of my contributions to the Duomo series that Andreas and I worked upon on the morning of October 7 as the sun slowly formed over Florence.

Sunday, November 25

Florence 7: Living Concurrently

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Pretend you're a detective and look at this picture for clues. Come on Sherlock, what do you see?

Okay: Storefronts? And the buildings look old? And what else? A sign on the building? What's it say?

It reads "Passo Carrabile" under the Commune Di Firenze red circle with a slash. Now look at the curb. See the cutout in front of the doorway where the three wheeled truck's parked? Do you get what's going on here? That truck's parked inside of the store. You go in there, you walk around the truck. But it's an elegant shop! You realize how quickly city codes in the US would make all of that illegal? In the United States we may enjoy the past, but we don't honor it. Our codes not only make adaptive use like this illegal, we cannot even build glorious antique buildings today. No wonder everything looks dropped from a cookie cutter!

That sign means that you can't park in front of that cutout: That this is a driveway.

In Florence in particular, and Italy in general - they have learned to adopt antiquities, and to adapt to their peculiarities. In a lot of ways these are the shops which Leonardo visited, and in a lot of ways the simply aren't the same. Built in maybe the fifteenth century, that facade may actually cover up an ancient Roman wall. Yet behind it are electrical and forced air ducts. The places have modern plumbing and sewage. And this store has even found a way to compete with the traffic crunch of downtown modern Florence.

Florence morphs.

NOTE: To follow the thread of this October 2007 Italian visit from its first post start by clicking here to goto October 7th, and work forward.

Saturday, November 24

Florence 6: Crinkled Vista

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And this is the view from the great room window of our apartments in Florence at sunset. That's the Arno River which, as a result of a drought, is running somewhat low. There are gypsy-type people living beneath that bridge on this side of the river. They are invisible to people from the up-market eighteenth century buildings that line this side of the Arno.

There's an oddity to this image. It is not a panorama that's been stitched together from multiple images. But, note the middle of the bridge. The way that it's been built created a distinct fold or crinkle which was reinforced by its reflection. I tried to minimize that peculiarity, but it leaps out at me whenever I look at this image.

Now, let me tell you that our facilities and hosts throughout this two week tour were terrific and their facilities wonderful in every incidental. In a week or so, I'll list their websites, addresses and other contact information. I hope, if you are planning a Rome or Florence trip, that you'll consider either or both of them.

Friday, November 23

Florence 5: Andreas And The Duomo

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Pisa, Sienna, Rome, & Florence seemed to quite hate one another throughout the history of the Italian states. They were rivals both on the battlefields and in their architecture with each vying to build the grandest cathedral, or duomo. By the mid 1200s, Sienna and Pisa had won - a fact that grated at the increasingly prosperous Florence. It motivated them to replace their crumbling nine hundred year old church of Santa Reparata with what for centuries was to become the grandest cathedral ever seen - the Basillica di Santa Maria del Flore: Il Duomo. Designed in 1296 the last touches to its facade were completed in 1897 - some six hundred years later! Its massive shape, capped by the largest masonry dome ever constructed, looms over Florence.

While Andreas Manessinger had visited Florence before this morning of October 7 it was my first full day in the city. As you may recall, we agreed to meet at Il Duomo for a picture shoot at dawn. Beginning there, we then decided to work our way down some five blocks to the Uffizi Gallery and to the wonderful Ponte Vecchio bridge which sits just beyond it. As you can see, Andreas works with a tripod while I prefer handheld shooting. Consequently I tend to move much more swiftly and travelled through the ancient streets ahead of my friend.

BTW: See those doors to the left of Andreas in the lower picture? Those are the famed Gates Of Paradise entry to the Duomo's baptistry which were originally made from gold in 1440 by Lorenzo Ghiberti..

Thursday, November 22

Florence 4: “LOOK! Look there. See?”

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Photography has a unique power in its ability to point. Some even say that it’s what photographers in snapshots, advertising, photojournalism, wedding, fashion – even fine art photography – in its every use they say it is what we do best. The lens has the ability to focus attention upon a child’s giggle, the tear of a bride’s mother, blood on the sidewalk, or a vivid personal idea about how sunrise coats a great river like The Arno as it wends through Florence.

“See that?” The picture asks? And we not only see it, but through the mind and feelings of the guy or gal who pulled the trigger.

And when we realize that it’s part of the role of photographers to point, we begin to understand that it is also our right.


I'm in an odd mood this Thanksgiving Day. I'm lost for the right word. Sometime yesterday afternoon my stomach went crampy from the visit of a virus. So after a sleepless night, I'm taking calmatives and listening to Barbara Carroll albums. Under those dual influences plus this holiday reverie - Lancaster seems both connected to everything, and adrift on its own. Is there a word for that? The morning on the Arno a few weeks ago seems like this morning. I can hear a bicycle's bell and quiet scooters. Oddly, the Arno, just below my camera, flowed silent between the walls that hold back its capricious floods.

YAWN! It's a good evening to meditate on things that make both Rita and I thankful. Happy Thanksgiving world.

Wednesday, November 21

Florence 3: Metal Heads

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Crowds begin to form at around sunrise. They queue up outside of the medieval palace and office building for the Medici – which is now the Uffizi Gallery home of one of the world’s greatest art collections. Scalpers sell reserved tickets to people who will frequently wait five hours in line.

I don’t know how many of these metal headed guys were scattered around Florence last month. There were two nearby to the crowds waiting here outside of the Uffizi, and later in the afternoon I found two more some distance away.

You know photographers have a lot in common with sculptors. Unlike, say painters or poets who start with nothing and then build up an idea – sculptors and photographers start with large hunks and then whittle stuff away. Alfred Stieglitz almost a century ago wrote about how photographers, “… depict life in scraps and fragments.” And we do it frequently, he went on, by preserving a sense of setting for our subjects while using the picture’s edge to slice off whatever distracts from our mood.

GEEK STUFF: Canon EOS 20D, 10/7/07, 9:21 AM: Lens 17-85mm, Focal Length: 26mm, Exp 1/15@f/4.5, ISO 100, Metering Mode: Average, Exposure bias -1, Camera RAW

Tuesday, November 20

Florence 2: Mike's Coming, Right?

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To a short term visitor, Florence is as much a swirl of moods as it is hard stuff, like stones, glass, hills, and paint. There are phantoms here of great emotions that you can sense even at a typical street corner aglow in the morning’s first light.

It seems to me that a painter forms a feeling while a photographer reveals one. It’s not just the difference in our impliments but we have an enormously diverse set of materials to work with. Here, I had the feeling that Michelangelo could just strut around that corner to the left on his way to release David from a large piece of marble.

Monday, November 19

2007 Award Winner: Florence & The Manessinger Challenge

Note: The window scene below has been accepted as one of the world's finest Still Life images of 2007 for Canon POTN Book to be published in the Fall of 2008.

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Add Florence to its suburbs and you’ll tote up about 600,000 mostly Italian people the others being Albanian, Romanian, German, Chinese, and North African. They live at the epicenter of Renaissance art history. You can’t toss a rock in this city for fear of smashing some important sculpture or defacing a significant 15th or 16th century building. Florence emanates what the Western World calls elegance. As a partner with Milan, the city is home to legendary fashion creators. And its shops are branded with names like Ferragamo, Prada, Cavalli, and Chanel. Just to the north and north-west the textile industries continue to roll out some of the world’s finest fabrics.
Florence, or Firenze as it is called by Italians, is such a huge warehouse of art works by the historic masters that a firestorm or another catastrophic flood of the River Arno (which bisects the city) could wreak havoc upon the world’s greatest Renaissance treasures.

Artistically, Florence is overwhelming. For art it is our attic, our basement, and our garage. With only a week to spend, it quickly became apparent that we could do little more than take in the facades, visit some shops and look at the very highlights. But even then, I came away feeling as if I had merely seen, rather than come to know of any this astonishingly large - little place.



On Saturday, October 6th, world renowned fine art photographer Andreas Manessinger
drove down from his perch in Vienna to dine with me, and to accept my challenge to a single morning of photography the following sunrise starting at the façade and campanile of Santa Maria del Fiore, the city’s most imposing structure, popularly called The Duomo!

Sometime between 6:30 and 7 am on October 7th we met and decided to start at the campanile and work our way through the medieval winding streets toward the uncanny Ponte Vecchio some five blocks to the east. Andreas has already posted one image from that beautiful morning (there was a spectacular moon followed by a breathtaking golden sunrise), as have I. You will find Andreas’ image and a description on his blogsite posted as “Photo 359 – the Magic Cloud” On or about October 9th (which, BTW includes an image of me at work – showing Andreas’ very good taste, heh, heh, heh). But we have yet to see the depth of that shoot. He has not shared his with me, nor vice-versa. In fact, I have not looked at it, and will open the cards this week as I begin to sort through my Firenze images. Now the question is, how to best show our results in one place?


Sunday, November 18

Roman Security

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There's so much beauty in Rome, particularly in its details. Here's one that I found strangely unusual.

In the United States you will rarely walk city streets where the windows are barred or shuttered. A friend from the Albian Hills told me that an Italian is uncomfortable living like we do, namely behind thin panes of glass. So when you walk through Italian cities the unprotected, naked, window at night is an oddity. Yet when they occur, cut into those ancient walls, and backlit so that they seem like jewel boxes - they glimmer and glow like beacons of warmth.


Tomorrow I'll leave Rome for a while and crack open my first Florentine camera card. BTW, if you're curious I shoot only in RAW (a memory-hungry photo format). I try to backup every night to either my iPod and/or my MacBookPro. Unfortunately I needed the latter to access the former and my MacBook crashed the second day we were in Florence. So from there on I carefully preserved four gig flash cards, eventually filling eight of them. In toto, I took about 55 Gigs of pictures. It was good that I chose to backup my cards on both the laptop AND the iPod. The iPod preserved most of the Rome images.

Oddly, after we got home a day or so after I transferred everything from the iPod to my desktop and to an external drive... the iPod crashed and needed to be sent off to Apple where they erased (re-formatted) the drive. In retrospect, I was quite close to a catastrophic failure.


NOTE: You may often find in-depth descriptions of this Italian visit (October 1-14, 2007) among the comments-section below both as I add onto them and as you prompt my memory. I'll try to restrict my thoughts exclusively to today's image here on the home page and enlarge upon them in the comments attachments to a day’s posting as the discussions unravel. To follow the thread chronologically and the comments start at here October 7th and work forward.

Saturday, November 17

SPQR • Nature's Pencil

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Fox Talbot, the great 19th century photographer called a camera, "The Pencil Of Nature." I like that a lot. I look at my Flash Cards the way my artist friends view their sketch books. That's what I do, photo-sketches of moments that I can later fill out with ideas and feelings. The camera's storage is a sort of notepad from which I can pluck story lines and narrative arcs.

Increasingly I'm uninterested in the photos which come out of my camera. I see why they've named the process which stores the most information, "Camera Raw". Yes... yes.. Like this idea of an old guy chasing a young guy across the piazza which fronts The Pantheon, the oldest existing temple still used on a daily basis in the city of Rome, it is much more as I want it to be now that I have enhanced the raw image which I brought home.

To my left is a large fountain designed by Giacomo della Porta. Behind that is a McDonald's. There were perhaps six or seven hundred people milling around the piazza and fountain the evening I snapped this picture. Right behind me is the Pantheon rebuilt in its current form around 125AD. In fact the pizza's been filled most nights for well over 2.000 years. Which probably explains why it looks as if it could do with a coat of paint. Most of Rome could. The present mayor seems unconcerned with grafitti and litter. Rome is seedy. As you'll see when I finally crack open my Florence pictures next week, other cities have considerable more self respect. Odd, since the monuments and antiquities of Rome form perhaps the world's single greates tourist attraction. Oh, maybe the decay contributes some charm but you would think they would groom the golden goose, eh?

Friday, November 16

Titles - Spoleto 5

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Okay, let me stop for a moment here and look into the backroom to discuss some of the business of image collecting.

If you're an artist, photographer or not, or if you're a collector reading this blog you are out of wall space, right? So, what to do when you've created or discovered a new series that excites you? It's not so much that you want to show it off to others, althought this is as much a performing art as acting... but that you want to live with it. To enjoy it. To discover its subtlties, tones, ideas and feelings. These represent moments which have the potential of informing you about a lot of things.

What to do with twenty or thirty new images?

I'm thinking about creating one of those books that Apple lets me make. But they give me very little room for text. As you can see, text is almost as important to me as the image. Still, I'd like to see the images by themselves. Large. Oh well, if the book it the only way, then maybe it needs some text on the images here and there just to create useful divisions.

Which brings me to this image. As you know, when an image is used in a commercial publication, it normally needs air. By that I mean it needs room for the insertion of copy. I have taken commercial work for so many years that I automatically take a number of images with a lot of air. Frequently areas which cannot be cropped away, but if they are not filled they become negative space which pulls the visitor's eye away from the important message of the shot.

Here's an example. I really liked this image and this scene. It's a small corner of a very public place in Spoleto, which I'm certain everyone who knows the city will recognize. It balances the old and new, plus reveals the way some of this city seems stilled, not in the 1500s but in the 1950s. I think I caught that well in this scene,but the air unbalances the image. It is an identifier, don't you think? It calls out for a copy block of some sort where I've placed the title to make this a natural divider in a book. Comments?

Thursday, November 15

Using Beauty Up - Spoleto 4

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Have you noticed how you can use beauty up?

Remember the song that thrilled you? The lusty photo spread that made you, um, twitch? Do you recall the movie, book, sunrise, vista - even the thought or idea: the things that made you go, "Whoa!' when they first happened to you? Then as you returned, gradually wore off? Think of that glorious sunset over the mountains with the mists cutting the air and a bird lazily twirling against majestic clouds. Think of the explosive color palette, and the shapes and shadows at play against one another. And yes, you can recall that picture. In fact it looks so much like a picture, a photograph in your mind, that the difference between reality and pictures fade. And the pictures, so easily accessed from your memories are actually clichés. Almost... almost... corny.

See, we use beauty up. Like some sort of drug, we need novel new injections to keep going, "Whoa!" But even if the new injections are magnificent, they have to be increasingly novel,different. If not, we feel nothing, or less and less. I guess that's programmed into us to keep us striving, eh? Searching for the new? Of course the new needn't be better. Photography's been going through a dirty cigarette butt period in our great museums. Running out of sufficiently novel beauty, curators settled upon the ugly as an alternative way to coax out a "Whoa!"

It used to be that technique alone would lead to images that demonstrated such virtuosity that people would be continually impressed. But now technical perfection comes with the camera. If you can point them, you can create pictures sharp enough to cut leather - with more contrast than a day in the life of Britney Spears.

So increasingly, instead of the repeated spectacle,many photographers who are still searching for awe in beauty are hunting for the little shot. The nice, elegant moment to reflect the human condition. They're looking for warm patterns, satisfying shapes, and comforting compositions. Scenes that just maybe show two men who oddly mirror one another in a walk through a warm park on a fall day. Compositions which perhaps balance the fragility of life and light against the massiviness of history. They're replacing the "Whoa!" for an "Uh-Huh" of identification with a moment in the viewer's mind that's simultaneously identifiable and comfortable.

Given everything going on in the average life, comfortable... now that's a nice place to be, huh?


Wednesday, November 14

Spoleto 3

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Have y'ever noticed how music, poetry, novels, films - and so many art forms have one thing in common. The author determines how the idea and feelings will unfold for the audience. You start at the beginning, and unless you leave, you end at the end. The entire work is made senseless if you skip about. But with still photography, it's the viewer who's in control. She can linger as long as he wants (see how I satisfied the political correctness police with that last sentence?).

But I digress.

In so many art forms the artist creates a time flow. But still photographers freeze an instant that happened so quickly that no one could be aware. The human mind does not process ideas as quickly as our cameras do. In fact I can sieze a group of moments each wrenched from different times and sites. And I can combine them all at once. In one place like I've done here. I can do it so that they compliment one another in communicating what I feel or think about a person, a fact, a place, or presence. And the viewer can take over from there, pulling out a meaning that he sees or she feels. Photographs empower not only the photographer, but the viewer. Cool, eh?

Tuesday, November 13

Spoleto 2

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"You're so Damned slow Ted," a friend groused yesterday. "You spent two weeks in Italy, you've been home for almost four weeks - and you're not half through the pictures you made. What's up with that?"

Uh, well I don't do my images in the camera. They aren't about some collection of significant details, caught in a click and fixed forever. Each of them teases many layers of my understanding. Go ahead, look at some of the images I've posted and you'll see that each one is a small thinking pool. And I’m not only splashing around in there, but I’m inviting every viewer to dunk in a toe, elbow, nose, or nether region.

Once upon a time there were only three reasons why college professors could win a sabbatical leave: study, writing, or travel. Travel was considered so valuable because it caused people to compare their cultural beliefs with others. And since culture is essentially the container which explains who we are as groups of people – then the experience, it was felt, automatically led to deeper understanding of our beliefs, goals, and behavior.

These images are little windows, or maybe doorways into ideas I hold, or have held. Each one deserves attention so that I can grow, and hopefully share the results of that growth with others. In fact I’m only spending a day or so with each image – hardly slow when these doorways open out into such delightful pathways, or into the things that have renovated my spirit.

If you think of these images as meditations, hey, I’m moving along pretty quickly.

SPOLETO 2: In the center of the old town there’s a stairway dating back to medieval times. It is not a dangerous area, but hundreds of years of footfalls have made it seedy. As you’ll see when I show you images from Assisi, other hill towns are shiny, painted, scrubbed clean. But they don’t feel as lived-in as Spoleto. They look like the living room where parents ban their kids from entering. Spoleto lets people in. It feels authentic. The colors are bright, but aging. The shadows eat hunks out of sunlit walls. There are dents, scrapes, and evidence that people grew up and old here. Spoleto doesn’t so much live with its history, it seems to live in it.

Monday, November 12


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What Americans call alleyways, Italian hill-top dwellers call streets. Moments before I took this picture two motor scooters roared down this way, working around the suited pedestrian. Spoteto is a city which shows its use. The place is not a Disney set, but more like a grand old room in a mansion which needs some work. It’s a little dingy, a tad musty, and (as we'll see this week) someone could slip some putty into the cracks. But, like a well-worn shoe, it’s easy to put on and a delight to amble about in. Of the Italian hill towns we visited, it was my favorite.

SPOLETO: Italian history dotted steep hillsides with fortified cities. Spoleto, some 78 miles (126 km) north of Rome was built around 600 BC at the head of a magnificent wide valley carved between two mountain ranges. It’s steep streets are lined with a mixture of modern and ancient structures, some incorporating components pre-dating the second century. Its strategic position has involved it in virtually every war ever fought in this country, leaving the sort of scars which old warriors flaunt. The inhabitants, for example, repulsed Hannibal early in the third century. About 38,000 people live there. When we visited in October, the city had the look of a mid-rate hotel the day after a party crowd had left. It was charming, but in need of some dusting, furniture repair, and maybe a good washing down.

Sunday, November 11

And The Meet Goes On

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As you’re herded through the Vatican Museum you pass shelves of senatorial busts. Look at enough of them and you begin to see people you think you’ve met. Yeah, really. They’ve captured the tiny muscles that fit our faces into our passions. These guys were, no – are - real. You can hear the senators saying senatorial stuff at each other. Or past one another just like today.

As I realized their reality the din all around me seemed to echo those debates that never engage. You know where neither party listens to the other? Their arguments don’t take, they are like flash fads – the junk food of policy making – empty calories with no governmental legacy.

Didja ever notice how some wonderings resemble cement that never gets solid enough to build upon? They get debated and your head hurts because each side seems so right that finally we decide not to decide, and choose today over tomorrow. And at that instant of opting to do nothing, well from there on debate gets replaced with drama.

The Romans had a lot of those disagreements until around 471 AD they ended.

Saturday, November 10

The New Bourne Polemics

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No one has an antidote for the impact of historians upon our cultural well-being. They filter facts through the soapstone of their ideologies and myths to explain what they wished had happened to us some time ago. But aren't we all guilty of turning the past into memory-putty? There are photographers, or photographic fellow-travellers who claim that the camera is, or should be, an invisible glass between the photograph's audience and what happened sometime in the past. Or at least that's what some like to believe. They claim that only photographs which are ideologically, or philosphically detached are really photographs.

Of course it is just as impossible for a photograph to be detached from the photographer's beliefs or fantasies as is history from the historian's. In fact they are both doing the same thing: telling others what they wished had happened to us sometime ago. They are either thinking at us, feeling at us, or both.

You'll recall that Joe Stalin and Mussulini put art dutifully to work to support their concept of perfection. No different from what say, Patrick Crowley, Paul Greengrass, and Matt Damon did in The Bourne Ultimatum. A friend in Italy explained that, "Many Europeans dislike America but we love your movies." Um, well," I replied, "Doesn't the latter explain the former?" After all the Bourne movies are 90 action packed minutes about what? International terrorism? Nope, they're about the evils of the FBI, and the American Presidency. Not even about the CIA, which is the only American agency with international police powers. And Damon's rumored as a front runner for an Oscar. "I've been running for seven years," Bourne/Damon moans in this 2007 movie. Count back on your fingers. Why he's been running from mind-washing White House villians since the very day that the Clinton Administration ended! Subtle stuff eh? But, do you think the average viewer gets it?

Or do they wind up hating America, even though they like its movies?

Hey, I'm not arguing whether the Bourne crowd have a valid or invalid viewpoint. And they have every right to their opinions and polemics. Nope I'm just saying that that artists like historians will romanticize whatever they feel is true. Even photographers can explode way over the top as they show things through their selective colored windows to viewers. But of course, that's other photogrphers, not me. Why, today's epic image is nothing more than a simple reproduction of a Vatican Museum statue, right? Heh, heh, heh.....

Friday, November 9

Lucky Blunders? Lucky Blunderers?

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Yesterday's posting attracted a bunch of email. No, not posted comments, but email. I don't know why so often my postings provoke many of you to send stuff to my mail box instead of making open posts, but hey, who cares? It's all nice to get. The general theme of the messages I got are summed up in this statement from a very nice lady who wrote, "Photographers take life out of context, Ted. We commit reality in the second degree by creating a duplicate of the world, or maybe even a duplicate world which (and you are very good at this) might be a world that may only exists in our images at first - but soon exist for every visitor to those images. And it is made so much larger and powerful when it is a world that is presented in parts which vistors or viewers of our work have to sew together in their imaginations - or their exploration of ours."

Wow! Why didn't I say that?

Look at this statue I found in a courtyard of the Papal Museum in Rome. It is a part of a great space. It is obviously ancient and created in the Greek tradition. It is set off not by the reality of the lighting or the surroundings, but by the way I imagine they should set it off. Was it a lucky blunder that I came across this thing in my lens? Are art photographers serial blunderers? Or have I, as I hope, conveyed a message I see here from times past? Have I turned a reality into a relic, or maybe vice versa. No... no... like most art photographers, I am impatient with reality. Someone plucked this statue from wherever its creator intended it to be. I plucked it from its present reality giving you only a hint about the details of its foster home.

Sometimes I think that we are only miners in a vast quarry. If that's so, look what I unstuck from its mooring - again.

Thursday, November 8

Who's The Artist Here?

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Walt Whitman, America's first savage poet wrote, "I do not doubt but the majesty & beauty of the world are latent in any iota of the world... I do not doubt there is far more in trivialities, insects, vulgar persons, slaves, dwarfs, weeds, rejected refuse, than I have supposed..."

Do you think it's true that when you photograph something, you make it important, at least to you? It seems as if the photographers who get into museums today rarely picture romantic or lyrical subjects. Instead the seem to focus upon the painful, vulgar, and plain parts of overlooked debris.

This statue sits in the entryway of the Papal Museum in Rome. It sits beside steps leading up to the museum shop. It's modern, colored, beautifully executed and a stylized representation of a modern messenger in business suit and tie with long red locks and as shoeless as the ancient prophets. I could have stepped back and shown it to you in a sort of visual stenography. I didn't, instead, trained by modern photographers, here it is in its astonishingly well executed parts. They may be iotas of the artist work, but unlike the trash cans which some photographic artists are showing in world class museums, I find these parts hugely moving.

Do you? Or should I have reproduced the whole work as the sculpture intended. But if I had, would this edition of ImageFiction be about my feelings, ideas, and conclusions - or someone else's? And does that matter? I guess it goes back to the question, what is photographic art?

Wednesday, November 7

Reality In A Bucket

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Steve, a friend of mine, arranges some travels to take pictures. Hmmm.... I guess I do too. And I think we do it to kind of confirm reality. To bring it back with us, not so much to show it off, as to examine it at our leisure. I've been examining the trip Rita and I took to Italy for a longer time than we traveled to Italy. And it will keep up for weeks. I could not afford the time, nor the money to be in Italy as long as I can examine and fit the meaning of Italy into my understanding of life thanks to photographs.

Yesterday Steve brought over a spectacularly framed image he created from his 6am visit to the base of Rome's Spanish Steps. It was a large exquisitely detailed photograph which he enhanced to suggest what a painter would imagine. He thought about that place and that moment far longer in post processing than he did at the moment he captured the virgin image. He's continuing to do that from photographs he made in Africa last year. We each continue our experience of reality through both the taking of photographs and the process of creating the final image.

I have the idea that photographers, and particularly art photographers, enjoy both a more intimate relationship with moments when they are photographing and a greater understanding of them than those who don’t study the place first to capture something elusive about it, then again as they bring the final image into existence. Photographers don't simply bring back trophies nor do we simply make memories linger... What is the word? We make them live.

Yes, we dip into moments with our digital buckets and carry the light back with us. See here in this Triptych how I've done that? See the immensity, the awesome dimensions, the astonishing control of the artists who created all of this room out of rock hard materials? And imagine how they imagined, then executed their imaginings... I'm doing that as I examine St. Peter's Basilica at my leisure - for a longer time than I could possibly afford to be there in body, as opposed to being there in my mind.

Tuesday, November 6


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Yesterday I worried over how difficult it is to establish the dimensions of St. Peter's. Regardless of how often you've seen images of this space, you can't buy a wide enough angled lens to get the impression that happens when you walk through the door and look up! As you can see from these pictures, the room dwarfs people.

And I mentioned the size of these two angels that are part of this water fount. Still, even with folks next to all of these things... can you understand the heft of the sculpture? There must be a way to communicate the massiveness. Any ideas? There's gotta be some angle, lens, effect... whatever... that will do it, right? I just lack the imagination. Help!

Monday, November 5


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Before somewhere I've written about the scale of St. Peter's Basilica. Take for example the statue hanging on the arch of the image down there on the lower right. That object is about 18 feet from head to toe. It's astonishing that it was apparently carved from a single piece of marble. But even more amazing is the way the artist engineered it to fit up there. Imagine the force of this immense weight against whatever devices that were designed to hold it there. And imagine that the artist not only created the work from that single piece of stone, but also crafted it to match all of the engineering dynamics which were required to fit it and hold it in that position!

It is just a small part of a gargantuan archway. Holy Basilicas!

That angel on the lower left? I am six feet tall. It is about twice my size in every dimension and perfectly matches its twin on the other side of a holywater font. Again the two of them are somehow hung against that tribute plaque to a long ago Pope who commissioned the entire piece.

Behold the gilding all over this set. And except for the angel, all of this hangs forty to sixty feet above the marbled floors. The awesome grandeur of all of this defies photography. You step into this huge place and become agape.

I'm overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. Part of me is stunned by the combined talent on display another is appalled at the opulence of this seat of the Roman Church's piety. The thing is, you cannot absorb this scale, or the details. It's only as I sort out the these images and peer at the fragments that I'm able to begin to react to this cavernous space and what has been wrought within it. Wrought is a good word here. I find myself using words like wrought and behold. They are not words easily fit into conversations. But the place has got a whole bundh of serious wroughting done to it.

As I look at these images keep muttering... "Wow!" And wondering if any place now on earth is more extravagant than this. Anybody got a candidate?


GEEK STUFF: These images were all taken with my Canon EOS 20D on 10/4/07 at around 11 am: The lens was my 17-85mm (f4-5.6). While the effective focal lengths and speeds varied based upon a metering Mode set to Pattern, exposure bias 0, and processed in Camera RAW. Each image is presented full frame. Note that I do not use a tripod so these were all handheld at ISO 400.

Sunday, November 4


><- Cick here
There are a lot of explanations for every photograph. I could write a caption for this one taken in St. Peter's that has to do with smoky incense and ancient symbols. Or about the loneliness of seldom used spaces in busy places. Or the caption might be about the perseverance of faith... The robustness of life... The edge where belief trumps proof.

It doesn't matter really.

Photographs have the ability to skip their reins: to pull free of their explanations. No matter how concrete the image appears to be, its meaning is as much a belonging of the viewer as it is the artist's. This is so far less the case with painting, or play-writing, novels, or sculpting. I wonder if photographs don't have more in common with music than with the demonstrative arts? Or if what we do is common with anything except, what we do?

GEEK STUFF: Canon EOS 20D, 10/4/07, 10:52 am: Lens 17-85mm, Focal Length: 33mm, Exp 1/13@f/11, ISO 400, Metering Mode: Pattern, Exposure bias 0, Camera RAW


NOTE: You may often find in-depth descriptions of this Italian visit among the comments-section below both as I add onto them and as you prompt my memory. I'll try to restrict my thoughts exclusively to today's image here on the home page and enlarge upon them in the comments attachments to a day’s posting as the discussions unravel. Those comments begin here. To follow the thread chronologically start at October 7th.

Saturday, November 3


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During services at the vatican there is a side area where an elaborately dressed child wandered (this was a Thursday 10am mass, I believe). This image seems to have something substantial going on, but what? At first glance it seems little more than a snapshot, although I worked at the composition. Maybe it is just a snap... And yet...

Any thoughts? Anyone want to fill in a back-story to explain this moment?

GEEK STUFF: Canon EOS 20D, 10/04/07:10:49am: Lens 17-85mm, Focal Length: 64mm, Exp 1/25@f/5.6, ISO 400, Metering Mode: Patern, Expoure bias 0, Camera RAW

Friday, November 2

Steps To?

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Around the corner from yesterday in Pompeii, some stairs. Sloppy masonry,no? Do you think that Malvinicus had a slave contracting service? I wonder how many sestares these things set somebody back? I also wonder how old they were when Vesuvius packed them away for our viewing pleasure? Did Romans look at them and say, "Ewwwww!"... old stuff. Or were they new arrivals, hardly used? Judging by the wear on the steps, I'm guessing they'd been around for a while and were part of the morning gridlock. I wonder what a Pompeii traffic jam was like? You think the slaves backed up? You think Malvinicus used traffic as an excuse for getting things done late?

Thursday, November 1

So What's The Deal With Old?

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Here's a street in Pompeii. Old? Hmmmmm...

Suppose I sculpted two pigs out of marble. then suppose I wrapped one of them in plastic, stuck it into another marble, waterproof container, filled it full of those little non-biodegradable plastic peanuts used in packing, and sealed it tight. Then suppose I buried it. Two thousand years from now someone digs it up, opens the box, pulls away the plastic and looks at my pig.

Back to the other pig. Remember, I didn't do anything to protect it, just let the elements age that little cutie. Now, should the digger-upper be able to compare that unboxed, unwrapped piggy... with its twin: which would be older? Which would seem older?

"What difference does it make... the "seem" thing, Ted?"

Glad you asked that. Pompeii was packed in pumice. Some parts of it look about as old as the ruins of the Bayan Plantation's mansion in Hilton Head, South Carolina. They've been crumbling for about a century and a half. I could post a picture of them which looks every bit as old as this Pompeii street. Maybe older.

So, what's old got to do with it? What is the fascination with Pompeii?

"Well gosh Ted, it's like a telephone connection back 2000 years."

And your point is? I mean, what is the romance that surrounds the merely old? Do we need it to invent stories like this one I told a while back?

Why are we surprised that people who were biologically identical to us were able to build streets, walls and doorways? Of course I felt a certain reverential awe on that street in Pompeii. But the stark juxtaposition of this radiant modern sign against the walls which time and pumice scoured almost free of color caught my attention more dramatically than the street itself.

So... what is the lure of things that seem old? How do they speak so grippingly to the human condition that we stare... the same way we stare at zoo animals? Is that it? Are Pompeii and the battlefield at say Gettysburg sort of like giraffes that we can visit? Or is it the people who we imagine walking down this street who are really the giraffes?

Perhaps it's amazement that attracts us to old things. Are we amazed that they left buildings which look so much like things we can build, or are we amazed that they stopped building them? Or do we sense that there are answers here to questions we find hard to ask?

Fact is the Roman Civilization failed. We have rebuilt their burnt out culture. Have we done a more permanent job? Or will our ghosts be someone else's giraffes or scuplted piggies in a time long long to come, and far far away?


GEEK STUFF: Canon EOS 20D, 10/03/07:5:14 pm: Lens 17-85mm, Focal Length: 26mm, Exp 1/60%5.6, ISO 200, Metering Mode: average, Expoure bias 0, Camera RAW

NOTE: You will often find in-depth descriptions of this Italian visit among the comments-section below both as I add onto them and as you prompt my memory. I'll try to restrict my thoughts exclusively to today's image here on the home page and enlarge upon them in the comments attachments to a day’s posting as the discussions unravel. Those comments begin here. To follow the thread chronologically start at October 7th.