I rarely set out to convey some special message with a photograph, but I make an exception here.
For the last 6 months I have been working on a small team to create a prototype software product with new technologies. It was a prototype, not a “real” product, but still, it was sad to see it come to end and get put on a shelf where it can ripen, or be forgotten entirely, who can say.
As my group was discussing next steps, I scribbled notes. Later I noticed the comment “priority of these issues has dropped” and it seemed like one of those statements we make that conceals a lot of meaning, although not very well. Time to close the files on this one, I thought, and move on.
I applied a flame effect, some grunge old-paper, and a film effect, because it’s part of the archive of my life now.
I was eating lunch at the Meditarrean Deli on Franklin Street and while finishing off my Classic Falafel Pita, downloaded ProCamera. I had been putting it off because I have at least 10 photo apps on my iPhone that I haven’t used more than once or twice. I think ProCamera will be different: as well as a rich assortment of camera options that can be used when taking pictures, there is also a good suite of editing tools.
As soon as the sandwich was gone, I tried out ProCamera on the remains of the meal. I took this snapshot, boosted the contrast just a little, and applied a Polaroid effect. I love the way the wax paper looks, transparent and almost soft. Even the crumpled paper napkins take on a nice texture.
Look for more output from ProCamera, this one is a keeper.
I spoke yesterday of Andre Kertesz. Another photographer who brings me to my knees is Robert Frank, another transplanted European photographer. Maybe you have to come to this country as an adult to actually see America. Look at Frank’s seminal work, “The Americans”, a classic. Or Cartier-Bresson’s “America In Passing”. Both of these portray America in ways that are wholly original.
The picture above is a digital sampling of Frank’s elevator operator, just her face, superimposed on a background of a billboard. Then a rusty-grunge effect. The overall effect is NOTHING like the work Frank did, but I have always loved the alert-but-bored expression on her face, and the grainy blurry presentation of that picture. The sly peek into someone’s life should not be sharp and focused, it should be stealthy. It takes a while to “get” that — Frank worked in a surreptitious manner, so his pictures are not aligned straight, perfectly exposed or sharply focused. If they were, they would lose their value as a glimpse into a life where he would perhaps not be welcome.
I’ve been studying the photography of Andre Kertesz lately. Much of it modernist, all B&W, all stunning. In pre-war Hungary, Kertesz was a photojournalist, who stayed as long as he could be eventually fled to New York to escape the Nazis. His life was shattered, and he makes use of rich symbolism in his work to reflect his new condition.
His work also included still life and portraits. His vision and grasp of decisive moments rival Cartier-Bresson, and he remains one of the prime influences on my own photography. Although it must be said, the primary influence has been to establish a feeling that I have yet to take my first picture. If what he does is photography, I haven’t gotten there yet.
Which is fine. We are always in the process of becoming who we are. Art is growth. Skills grown, but so does vision. In fact I would go so far as to say, your skills don’t really matter than much, it’s your eye for a picture that matters. Maybe I don’t have either one yet, but it’s a quest, finding my vision, and there is no destination or goal. Just constant seeking.
And by the way, the picture actually has nothing to do with Kertesz, other than me being influenced by his still lifes.
Water never gets boring. I love taking pictures of water, I love to drink water, swim in it, play with it. I love the sounds it makes, the way it catches light, the fluidity of it.
Water cascading out of a fountain can be one of the most photogenic subjects there is. Water is another of those subjects that will let you stretch your creativity, there is no end to what you can see and do with water. Put it in a glass and set the glass in sunshine. Try a river on a foggy day. Spray the hose in the air. Make ripples in your bath water. YOU make it up.
This is the fountain in Fearrington Village at The Roost. I did very little processing on this: cropped it, increased the contrast, and applied an “80s Grunge” look.
“… I think that the flight from and hatred of technology is self-defeating. The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha — which is to demean oneself.”
Robert Pirsig, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance
There are only 2 layers in this picture, but ontologically speaking, many layers of meaning.
First off, the background is a detail of an Alexander McQueen gown. I could wax rhapsodic about McQueen for hours, but won’t. Instead, I will just mention that one of his signature themes is skulls, a delightful punk counterpoint to the richness of his designs.
The other night I went to a yoga class and in a small closet off the studio, there was … a skeleton. I suppose it was used for anatomy lessons or something, but I thought the metaphor of it being in the closet was sweeeet. Me being me, I took a picture of it, and here I am using an outline of it on top of the McQueen fabric.
Another meaning of this pic for me is that Alexander McQueen tragically ended his own life a few years ago. It is hard for me to see McQueen couture without remembering this sad fact. So young, so talented, so ephemeral. Gone.
Tribute to Lee Friedlander. I think this is one of the best things I’ve ever taken. This is a store window in Pittsboro North Carolina, a woodworking school. There was this coke bottle with an arrow through it, a ship in a bottle, and assorted other projects. I guess you pay for classes in how to make this stuff.
I shot a picture of the window and my husband’s shadow shows above the bottle. My reflection, wearing sunglasses, is above the ship in the bottle. As you recall, if you know your Friedlander, he was obsessed with reflections and glass, and often appeared stealthily in the mirrors in his photos. I have tried this technique on many occasions, although none of mine are as witty as his.
This morning I was out for a walk with a friend who asked me how I decided what to take a picture of. Did I have something in mind and go looking for it? I replied that I sometimes, usually, just SAW things, and sometimes I took pictures from my library and made them into a picture. I’ve said this many times and should probably write a song with these lyrics; if you want to take good pictures, get over the fear of taking bad ones. In fact, go out and try to take bad pictures. Take the worst picture you can imagine, laugh at it, and then show it to someone else. Be prepared to explain what makes it a bad picture. If you follow this simple formula, you will start taking BETTER pictures, I guarantee it, because you are forced to observe.
To illustrate this concept, I snapped a picture of a piece of heavy equipment, and then made two edits of it. It took, all told, about 4 minutes. Nothing you would frame, but that’s not the point. The point is to practice, try new things, and see if you like what you did.
The original version.
The edits: cropped and B&W, and then a vintage effect added.
… of the caffeinated variety. For grins, I shot a couple of very simple pictures of my coffee cup and the saucer, which I held up to the light at various angles. The first one is, I think, frankly astonishing. Those ripples — just sunlight.
Sometimes I hear people say “I can’t take pictures, I’m not creative” and I want to say “give me a break. I can’t take pictures either, but I don’t let that stop me.” Seriously. All creativity is going to do for you is help with intuitive leaps. There is no shortcut for hard work, NONE. You have to pick up the camera and go click click click. Then, use the delete button. Look at what you have left and think how it could be better. SHOW IT to someone whose opinion you trust. Then take more pictures. Rinse, lather, repeat.