Is it art…

just because we say it’s so?

DSC_1027-Edit-EditBefore the people at large, and for that matter, the artists themselves, understand what photography really means, as I understand that term, it is essential for them to be taught the real meaning of art.

Alfred Stieglitz

Had some interesting conversations lately about art; what it is and what it is not.

Is it the piece of dryer lint tied with thread and given space at a gallery? Or perhaps it’s the old sheet hung on the wall with a word written on it? Is it assembly line production of paper and glue?

Is it art because it matches your sofa cushions? Is it art because you cut an old RV in half and applied social commentary to it? Does the quality of the material used elevate the work?

The very definition of art, the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination would lead me to believe that there are more components involved than the simple desire to be called an artist.

Recent art exhibits seemed to be accompanied by lengthy bios on the artist and the creative process that resulted in some of the exhibits mentioned above leading me to wonder is it art if it has to be explained to you in advance of the viewing?

For me whatever I’m looking at, my own work or that of others, first and foremost it has to evoke some sort of emotion and secondly the creation of the piece has to have some component of skill and intention involved.

Art or craft…always a hot topic. I’m grateful for artists like Stieglitz who paved the way for photography as an art form.

There was a man with great passion, talent, and intention and I would have loved to shadow him for just one day as he worked.

Who moves you? What motivates you to create and not just replicate?

A final swim…

and a flash of color.

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Wherever there is light, one can photograph.

Alfred Stieglitz

Photographing the kokanee spawning has become somewhat of a fall ritual, and one that began a little earlier this year than last year. An early winter perhaps?

As beautiful as it is to see a creek run “red” with these spawning landlocked salmon, I still feel a little sad knowing that it is their last run. At this moment these beautiful, once silvery fish, turn a brilliant red with green heads and fight their way upstream. The males grow humps and extended lower jaws and jockey for position in the best “egg-laying” spots.  A returning visit in a couple of weeks will find scattered pink eggs alongside dead and decaying fish.

The kokanee reaches maturity at 3-5 years and dies after spawning.

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The glass of the lens between myself and the dying fish somehow makes it easier to watch.

The cycle of life…

On inspiration…

whose work are you inspired by?

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A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.

Richard Avedon

Why don’t you take pictures of people? 

I sometimes get criticized, and perhaps that’s too strong of a word, maybe admonished is better, for not photographing people but that just isn’t where my passion lies. I find it challenging to break through the veneers that most of us wear and lose patience with the process of trying to capture that. Put a dog in front of me though and time stands still.

I find this a little ironic considering how much I admire the work of Richard Avedon and how his minimalist style always managed to reveal so much character.

I think an important part of growing as an artist is not just learning the technical skills behind it but figuring out what really moves you. I like to look at other art forms in addition to photography and see which ones resonate with me and why.

This information can begin to affect your shooting style.

This information can be taken and developed into something of your own.

There is a distinction to be made between outright copying a style and making it your own. Derivative work, changing just one or two things like perhaps the color or a slight perspective change, does not make it your own; I think one needs to consciously go beyond that.

I tend to shoot more black and white than I do color but occasionally when I find myself drawn to color it is usually because there is something in that scene that reminds me of that wonderful painter, Wolf Kahn. I fell in love with his landscapes the moment that I saw the first one.

Alfred Stieglitz, will always be my first love. His painterly style of photography inspires me to this day.

Michael Kenna’s photography has such simplicity and clarity to it. It reminds me to pay attention to composition first and foremost.

Photography today has changed so much in that now almost everyone is walking around with a camera and we are inundated with imagery. Now more than ever I think it is important to ruthlessly edit our own work and be more conscious of how and why we are taking a photograph.

Is there someone who inspires you?  I would love to hear who that is and why…

If you could could tag along with an iconic photographer from the past…

who would that be?

sunset double exposure
sunset double exposure

In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.

Alfred Stieglitz  1864-1946

I will admit it straight out…I am enamoured of Alfred Stieglitz. His images resonate with me right down to my core. I came across a book titled “Aperture Masters of Photography” Number Six one day while in a used book store and so the enchantment began.

What drew me in initially were his fabulous atmospherics; his use of steam, fog, and snow to create qualities in his images that were similar to the Impressionists. He is unquestionably responsible for launching the rise of modern photography in America in the early 20th century. With his mastery of tone and texture, and ability to imbue an image with emotional intent, he led the Pictorialist Movement which advocated for the artistic legitimacy of photography. He was also one of the first photographers in the 1890’s to create night images of artistic significance. His night scenes taken on rain drenched streets are exquisite masterpieces of light and composition.

For Stieglitz was primarily the photographer in whatever he did, no experience being truly complete for him until he had photographed it-”  Dorothy Norman

He was determined that photography would be recognized as a new medium of expression and in 1902 founded the Photo-Secession movement and shortly thereafter, the gallery, with the cooperation of Edward Steichen, that became known as the 291 in New York City. In addition to photographers, well-known artists like Picasso, Rodin, Matisse, and Cézanne all received American debuts at the 291. In 1907 he introduced the work of Georgia O’Keeffe who  would become his wife in 1924.

His later work became more influenced by Cubism, straight photography favoring clarity, sharp focus, and high contrast, with less of the sumptuous effects of his earlier work. He developed a friendship with Ansel Adams and in 1936 granted him a one person show at An American Place which he founded in 1929 on Madison Avenue in New York.

His work as a photographer, his editorship of several major publications in his time, and the galleries that he founded in his lifetime that served as the starting points in the careers of many artists, have all taken their place in the history of photography.

I find his work to be as timely today as it was then and credit him with allowing me to fearlessly post an image of a sunset or a rainbow in black and white. I’ve only just touched on his accomplishments here as to cover it all would require volumes, but if I could go back in time, what an experience it would be to see life through his lens!

 

 

How to jump start your creativity…

double exposure on Morton Slough, Idaho
“late afternoon light and a double exposure on Morton Slough, Idaho”

I have a vision of life, and I try to find equivalents for it in the form of photographs.
Alfred Stieglitz

I am often asked how I stay so creative and where do my ideas come from. The best answer I have would be that I make feeding my creativity a daily habit. I have always been one to have my camera with me at all times but in the past perhaps did not use it every single day. That all changed 600 days ago when a friend of mine suggested that I join blipfoto, a daily journal for photographers, where an image is posted each day and must have been taken on that day. I found the prospect of doing a 365 day project appealing and began posting an image of my world every day. This was not without its own set of challenges and some days, perhaps more so initially, it felt like one more task that I had to get done for the day. In time though it developed a rhythm of its own and I noticed some changes taking place in how I was photographing.
With the advent of digital photography we were all of a sudden able to take hundreds of images and just discard the ones we didn’t like. Why not? There was no film involved and no cost for developing. I took it one more step backwards and with the purchase of my first DSLR realized that I wasn’t doing what I had always done with a film camera which was to shoot it in manual mode and make my own decisions on shutter speed, aperture etc. If you want to be more creative, take your camera off the auto setting and although it may be frustrating at first, you’ll soon wonder why you ever let the camera make decisions for you!
Using my camera every day made me develop a relationship with it again and that in turn fueled the desire to be able to capture images that were more meaningful to me. The volume of photographs that I take has dropped drastically from those early days of digital. I edit those captures every day so I try to make each shot count and get it right, in camera, as often as possible. This lessens the work load too while in the digital darkroom!
So, if you want to jump start your creativity you need to feed it every day. For me, photography is a meditative process and it is when I am in that zone that the magic begins and one idea feeds into the next, and the next, and the next…