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Entries in civilized ku, manmade landscape (1331)
My attention was recently drawn to the picturing idea of blue snow - the blue snow as seen in the shadow areas of sunny day winter pictures. The instigator of my eventual rumination, re: blue snow, was a picture article in our Sunday newspaper regarding the chance that winter offers "to marvel at a palette of colors...".
The author of the pictures and article is a staff picture maker (if such a thing exists anymore) or, at the very least, a picture maker whose byline appears quite often on pictures in the newspaper. With his pictures, he was encouraging people to get out and "... look for those purples and blues that make the snow rich in color...".
To be certain, his pictures area quite "rich" with vibrant blue snow. And, I am quite certain that he came by that color honestly, which is to write, without any Photoshop tomfoolery. I am also quite certain that most of the viewers of his picture will like them, in no small measure because they are quite vibrant / rich, color wise (not a criticism, just an observation). However, I am equally certain that, if those viewers are moved to go out and "look for those purples and blues that make the snow rich in color", they are apt to be quite disappointed.
As any astute picture maker knows, both film and digital sensors (more so than film) are able to "see" light in the Ultra Violet wavelength spectrum. So do butterflies, reindeer, some species of birds, and even sockeye salmon, to name just a few. Consequently, unless those seekers of purple and blue snow have some sort of mutant vision, all they are going to see is white snow. The exception being snow which is lighted by direct warm late day sunlight.
In the good ol' days of film, many a picture maker employed a UV filter to reduce the influence of UV light when making a picture. I assume the same could be done in the digital picture making domain. The digital picture making domain also has the capability of adjusting White Balance when making a picture - the cloudy day setting significantly reduces the blue color to be had on cloudy days and in shadows. However, that setting may also move the color balance in the direction of too much warmth in other areas of the picture.
In my case, I make white balance adjustments when processing a RAW file and subsequently fine tune the picture in Photoshop. I leave a fair amount of blue in the picture at the RAW processing stage and, by the means of making a selection of the blue snow shadows and the use of the Hue and Saturation tool, I move my pictures toward what the human eye perceives rather than what the camera "sees".
This adjustment / correction procedure does not mean that I eliminate all of the blue color to be seen by the camera in the shadows. However, it is reduced significantly, because, in some cases and under some conditions, my human vision is able to see a small hint of blue in the shadows. Although, that usually takes a fair amount of concentration directed specially at looking for the blue color.
In any event, my intention in reducing or in some cases totally eliminating "blue" snow is to reproduce a more faithful / true representation of the real.
In a recent essay, Responsibilty and Truth in Photography, Jörg M. Colberg - founder and editor of Conscientious Photography Magazine - wrote:
You can take a photograph in such a way that even though it is a complete artifact (all photographs are), it will look like an objective depiction of whatever was in front of the camera’s lens .... This is territory that many people find hard to navigate. If a camera is a little machine that faithfully records what is in front of it and that displays just that, then obviously it’s the photographer who screws up if there is a problem. Now, a camera is not at all just some little machine that does that. It never faithfully records what was in front of it, and the many steps that lie between the pressing of the shutter’s button and the display of the resulting image (in whatever form) make the connection between reality and picture very, very difficult.
While Colberg tends to be of the same mind as I am, re: (his words) "photography theory sounds really good, at least on paper (assuming, of course, it’s not the usual academic drivel, with terms taken from semi-nonsensical French philosophy thrown in for good measure)", he nevertheless can't help but to delve into the whole "never faithfully records", and, "the many steps that lie between the pressing of the shutter’s button and the display of the resulting image" thing , both of which, according to academic theory, results in making "the connection between reality and picture very, very difficult."
Sure, sure. A picture of something is not the thing itself. Sure, sure. A picture maker can employ many steps in the making of a picture. However, IMO, drawing from those facts the conclusion that a picture can not faithfully, in fact never, record what was in front of the camera is pure flapdoodle and green paint.
Sure, sure. Many different interpretations can be had from the viewing of a photograph, as many as there are viewers, but, despite the number of differing interpretations / understandings / meanings to be had (many of which may have little relationship to the picture maker's intentions), that in no way means that the picture from which they are made is a not faithful recording / depiction / representation of what was in front of the camera.
A factual / accurate depiction of a chosen referent and the interpretations / understandings /meanings deduced from it are two entirely different, although related, domains. One involves seeing, the other involves feeling and thinking.
That written, there are always viewers to whom a picture is just a picture and there are those who must turn a picture into an academic critical analysis, intellectual labyrinth, psycho-analytical exercise. Those who prefer the latter seem to be those with an surfeit of art education who seem to need to convince themselves that they got their money's worth, student loan / education wise. They never give it a rest.
Although, even one of the all-time greats (art theory writing and speaking wise), Jeff Wall seems to have given it rest:
I think the process of deconstructing photography as a rhetoric has reached a point of exhaustion.
Amen to that.
Try as I might, I just can't make the connection between the two concepts. I mean, my father and mother weren't into consumption in any significant way but that didn't stop them from having my foreskin cut.
And, while placentophagy (consuming the placenta) is associated with cutting and childbirth, no one I am aware of is eating foreskin after childbirth. Does the consumption of the placenta create a blood-lust desire for parents to have their male offspring's foreskin cut? Will ending the practice of placentophagy cut the practice of cutting foreskin? If so, what will be the effect on Judaism?
And, to further my confusion, how do the polka dots fit in?
Although, perhaps this somewhat desperate plea for attention is a sign of a nascent cultural movement in the offing. If so, should I try to market the picture to CCNF Association for their promotional use on t-shirts, hats, buttons, billboards and the like?
Or, by posting this picture, am I doing my part to spread the word on this timely notion, and, just as importantly, am I nipping in the bud* the potential use of messy and disturbing medical imagery which might be employed to promote this cause?
So many things to consider. Any ideas?
*stop for a moment and think about that idiom.
However, like Weston, I believe ....
"... that the camera should be used for the recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether polished steel or palpitating flesh. To see the Thing Itself is essential ... The quintessence revealed direct without the fog of impressionism ... This then: to photograph a rock, have it look like a rock, but be more than a rock. Significant presentation – not interpretation."
In writing / speaking about his Pepper No. 30 picture, Weston stated that he had "just created the essence of a green pepper. More than a green pepper, for it is unadorned, unsullied by a superficial phase or transitory mood." And, it is perhaps on that notation that he and I differ (ignoring his BW to my color).
Although, without trying to parse his meaning of "superficial phase or transitory mood", I could assume that he and I don't differ at all inasmuch as one of the reasons I picture produce and other food stuffs in some state of decay is because I am very much intrigue by those referents' transitory phase, not mood.
As I read / understand his words (here I go, parsing), re: "superficial phase or transitory mood", I believe Weston is most likely referring to making a picture with a picture making "fad" which is concurrent to the era of the picture's making. After all, Weston did gain early fame by making pictures in the soft-focus, romanticized manner of the Pictorialists. A "fad" or "phase" from which he subsequently escaped.
Weston's notion of "significant presentation – not interpretation" seems to fit quite nicely with Eric Fredine's comment on the recent entry, diptych # 121 / civilized ku # 2846, wherein the topic at hand was concerned with print making (aka: presentation:
What matters to me is the moment of exposure - what's photographed and how it's photographed. Many people struggle mightily with this point of view arguing that it's their 'interpretation' of the image defines their art. But no amount of 'interpretation' will save a poorly conceived image (insert obligatory AA quote* here) and often just comes across as affectation. Those people are often falling prey to the insecurities that gripped many pictorialists at the turn of the century.
*For those not in the Know, the Ansel Adams quote Eric refers to is - "There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept."
my response: In a word, none.
Years ago when I was in training in the US Army, I was taught how to do things, Army wise, by the book (the book of Army Regulations). The Army had a regulation governing just about everything one might do in the Army. However, the Army powers that be realized that, in the thick of combat, getting something done might possibly mean trashing the regs and doing what one had to do get the job at hand done. Such a non-reg procedure was called a Field Expediency Method. In other words, f--k the book and just get it done.
Which reminds me of an experience with my son, The Cinemascapist. While I was away on a golf trip, I left him in charge of an ongoing job for a medical equipment manufacturer. The assignment was to construct very large scale hi-def collage images for trade show use. At the time, he was somewhat of novice, re: Photoshop and related collage making software.
Nevertheless, upon my return, he had produced a collaged image that was spot on. When I asked how he did it, I was stunned at his methodology. He had used tools and techniques which would have never in a million years occurred to me to use. In effect, since he had never even read "the book" on how to do such things, he just went ahead and created and used his own version of the Field Expediency Method. It was not necessarily the most efficient way of getting the job done but getting it done with very excellent results.
All of that written and relevant to John Linn's question, I have created my very own F.E.M., re: making corrections / adjustments to images in Photoshop, which have eliminated the need for masks. Hence, the answer, "none", to his question.
At one time I was a fervent user of masks. But, after years of clogging up my hards drives with large files which were saved to include masks and layers, I discovered that I rarely, if ever, went back to an image to make corrections / adjustments which would be possible with all of those saved masks and layers. Consequently, I stopped using masks and adjustment layers and figured out a way to do what I wanted to do without them.
Basically, what that means is that I use (gasp, gasp) destructive editing techniques instead of non-destructive techniques associated with masks and adjustment layers. The reason I can get away with this is due to the fact that, after a decade-and-a-half of mucking about in Photoshop together with many decades of printing color during the good ol' analog days, I pretty much know what I want as I proceed along the edition / processing / adjustment path. So, I through caution to the wind and walk on the high wire without a net, image processing wise.
BTW, it's also worth mentioning that, as digital files have progressed to 16 bit / 32 bit levels of digital information, for those of us who are not obsessed with pixel-level perfection, there is plenty of room to move.
FYI, my principle Photoshop tools are: curves (at times in RBG, other times in LAB color space), hue and saturation controls, plain old layers (at times using the Screen or Multiple settings), feathered selection tools, erasers, unsharp mask (sparingly and often localized), and reduce noise control (rarely). That's about it. I don't have and therefore don't use any sharpening, noise reduction, or any other external (outside of Photoshop) software.
When all of my adjustments / corrections are complete (using all or several of the aforementioned tools / techniques) I merge all of my layers, by means of the Merge Visible method, into a flattened file ready for storage and printing.
Featured Comment: John Linn wrote: "Perhaps the better question should have been, how many layers? Using selections to copy to layers (for corrections) seems kind of like masks done in a different way. And once the layers are tuned with curves and then flattened, do you delete the layers to be truly destructive? .... Of course you could always go back to your RAW file and start again, or do you delete that too?
my response: I never delete RAW files. They are always there if I want to go back and start again. Regarding how any layers - I never keep track because my tendency is to work a correction / adjustment and when I have it where I want it, I flatten that layer to the background layer and move on to the next area of concern (creating a new layer and so on until I'm done). And yes, the technique is very much like using masks.
Left home at 6:00AM Saturday last , returned home same day at 8:05PM. During that time we - the wife, Hugo, and I - had an ice breaking ferry ride (at sun-up) to Vermont, a mid-morning hockey game in Barre, an early afternoon visit (minus Hugo) to PhotoPlace Gallery in Middlebury, lunch in Burlington, and an early evening hockey game in Highgate. All of which amounted to a tour of Central / Northwestern Vermont and a very enjoyable day with the wife.
The hockey part of the trip was a success yielding 2 tight-game victories. The first game score was 1-0 with Hugo scoring the only goal of the game. The second game score was 2-0 with Hugo scoring the first goal of the game giving him 2 game-winning goals on the day. Sunday's game at home produced another victory - 4-1 - with Hugo scoring the second goal of the game, giving him yet another game winning goal. He's on a roll.
My travels with the wife and Hugo aside, it was the visit to PhotoPlace Gallery to view the exhibition with my picture in it - MARVELOUS THINGS The Art of Still Life - which yielded a very unexpected revelation of sorts .....
First and foremost, it is well worth mentioning that PhotoPlace Gallery is both a very nice gallery and a wonderful ongoing endeavor intended (from their website) "to support contemporary fine art photography as a means of creative expression and cultural insight". In doing so they "try to place artists at the center of their activities". Ways in which they help artists be at the center of their activities include: keeping admission fees as low as possible and, here's the big one, offering free matting and framing of excepted work which makes getting one's work on the wall a very inexpensive affair. An exhibitor can even eliminate the cost of shipping their work to the gallery by having them print the work on Hahnemuhle archival rag paper (matte) with ChromaLife inks at the cost of only $25US.
All of that written, on to my unexpected / taken by surprise revelation .... as always, it was nice to view the work, which I was familiar with from viewing it online, in print form. However, I was rather stunned to end up with the feeling that the prints (nor the referents) all looked rather homogeneous. That is to write, technically excellent: very sharp, albeit not over sharpened; very clean wide gamut color; and, attributable to the fact that all of the work was under glass, no sense whatsoever of print surface feel and texture. All of which, to my eye and sensibilities, added up an impression of emotionless sterility, print wise.
Now, to be certain, the work itself, referents wise, was not homogenous. Rather, it was the presentation which left me sort of cold which, to be perfectly honest, was a very unexpected result.
Over the years - nay, decades - having been to more one-artist exhibitions, Photography Division, than I can count, I certainly have come to expect that the work on view at one-artist exhibitions will, a) have a consistent theme, referent wise and, b) have a uniform look and feel, re: technical and aesthetic print quality. That's the intrinsic nature of the beast - one artist, one vision, one body of work.
While the MARVELOUS THINGS exhibition left no doubt that the work was that of many different picture makers (40 to be exact), to my eye and sensibilities, it was as if the pictures were all prepped and printed by the same soulless machine. There was very little idiosyncratic diversity, print making wise, in evidence in most of the work, which I found to be somewhat unsettling.
Which leads me to think / speculate that with all of the exactitude to found and had in the digital picture making domain - sensors with resolution and sharpness heretofore only to be had in picture maker's dreams, unlimited global and local control for picture processing in Photoshop (or whatever), the elimination of any structural component (grain), digital printers with multiple inks capable of reproducing an ultra-wide color gamut, et al - all of which most "serious" picture makers utilize, it is inevitable that a certain homogenous technical excellence prevails in the print domain.
All of that written, I am left in a state of pining for the good ol' days of a wide variety of film stocks, all of which exhibited different color / tone / sharpness / grain characteristics. Individual characteristics which picture maker's adopted as part and parcel of the print presentation of their individual / personal vision. In the B&W domain there were seemingly an unlimited choice of films and papers. Even color printing materials offered variations in how color was represented - think cibachrome, dye transfer, and various dye-coupler color papers from different manufacturers. There was a cornucopia of choices to be had and each one created its own signature.
Despite my near nostalgic longing for things past, I fully realize that there is no going back to what once was. It is what it now is and it's what we have to work with.
Earlier this week ,there was an article in our newspaper about a photography exhibition. In the article the picture maker states (emphatically) that "I never Photoshop a picture**. Never. I take 10 of the same picture so I get the one I want.
I'll admit, after reading that statement that I most definitely want to see the exhibit even though I am quite certain the pictures on exhibit will be, aesthetically wise, distinctly average at best. I come to that conclusion after seeing the picture maker's pictures online. The pictures are pure point-and-shoot - in the not so favorable meaning of that phrase.
The pictures exhibit, technically wise, very evident and very ample proof of the assertion, "I never Photoshop a picture". It seems obvious that the pictures are out-of-camera jpegs replete with blown highlights, blocked up shadows, in many cases questionable contrast and tonality, color balance which while not terrible is, how to express it, in the ballpark but not in any way fine tuned. Nevertheless, to be fair and in order to make a valid judgement, I want to see the pictures in print form as opposed to online presentation.
That written, I thought I might demonstrate (with pictures) why it is that I "Photoshop" all of my pictures. To that end, the top picture in this entry is the final image of the diner interior picture. The diptych beneath it represents (on the left) what the camera "saw" and (on the right) the converted from RAW file before it was "Photoshopped". I used this picture to illustrate my post-shooting converting / processing flow because it is a near worst case example inasmuch as there were multiple color balance light sources. Hence, there was no way (even if "I take 10 pictures of the same thing") that the camera could ever get it "right".
I spent the better part of an hour using Photoshop (using a variety of methods / techniques) to perform global and local color balance corrections, global and local contrast / tonal adjustments, capturing highlight detail in the fluorescent light fixtures, and the like. All of this Photoshopping was undertaken with one thought / objective in mind - to create a final picture which was most faithful / accurate / realist to the original scene inasmuch as the medium and its apparatus will allow.
In any event, one of the traits / characteristics of my pictures is that, to most viewers, they appear to be un-Photoshopped. That is to say, un-manipulated in any way - which, of course, is exactly my intent inasmuch as I don't want to draw any attention whatsoever to the man behind the curtain.
There you have it. The Great Oz has spoken.
** It is possible the picture maker meant to imply that the pictures are not modified in any way, re: adding or subtracting picture elements wise.
Either one of these pictures, if not both, could have been in the PLACES TO SIT book/ selects. Unfortunately, these pictures were made after the book was sent to the POD book printer service. The single stool picture would have made a nice cover picture, better / "cleaner" than the ice cream parlor window one used. I would have moved that picture to inside the book and paired it with another recent places to sit picture.
Therein lies the issue with an ingoing body of work ... there are always, unless a series moratorium is declared, additional pictures to be made. While those pictures may be added to a folio of prints, they can not be added to a book without reprinting it. Not impossible but it is somewhat expensive.
However, that's not the only issue. I like to limit my bodies of work folio prints and the corresponding book to 20 images, give or take a very few. IMO, any more than that number and the folio / book moves into the overkill zone, picture viewing attention span wise, and can result in a diminished impression about the body of work by boring or overloading the viewer.
Consequently, an ongoing body of work needs constant attention, editing wise, to keep the number of images out of the picture viewing fatigue / danger zone. That doesn't necessarily mean that one might not have 30, 40, or more pictures that are equally deserving of folio / book inclusion. It just means keeping one's chosen presentation to reasonable number of pictures.