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Entries in civilized ku, manmade landscape (1231)

diptych # 67 (civilized ku # 2736-37) ~ seeing (recorded by, aided by cameras)

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No direction home ~ Port Kent, NY - in the Adirondack PARK / Ottawa, CA. • click to embiggen

The photographer was thought to be an acute but non-interfering observer – a scribe, not a poet. But as people quickly discovered that nobody takes the same picture of the same thing, the supposition that cameras furnish an impersonal, objective image yielded to the fact that photographs are evidence not only of what’s there but of what an individual sees, not just a record but an evaluation of the world. It became clear that there was not just a simple activity called seeing (recorded by, aided by cameras) but ‘photographic seeing’, which was both a new way for people to see and a new activity for them to perform. ~ Susan Sontag

IMO, if one does not have an acute visual awareness, aka: seeing, of what's going on around him/her - in its absence I believe it could be fostered and acquired - the chances of developing 'photographic seeing' are pretty slim. And while the physical act of acute seeing is a critcal component of 'photographic seeing', the pyschological ability to think and feel during the act of seeing is equally important.

IMO, sight + thought / feeling = 'photographic seeing' is a slightly more encompassing notion of Sontag's idea.

In either event / idea, I believe that once one has developed 'photographic seeing', aka: the notion of 'vision', the results of viewing one's pictures in a critical manner (as if someone else had made them) will aid immeasurably in refining one's physical act of seeing. An enhancement which, in turn, will aid immeasurably in enhancing and refining one's 'photographic seeing. The refining / enhancing works in both directions.

Which is why, assuming there is thought and feeling in the equation, the old adage of "the more you make pictures, the better you get" is, in so many words, spot on the money.

A question: have you developed the ability to view the pictures made by yourself as if they were made by someone else other than yourself? In other words, separating the thoughts and feelings experienced and invested in the act of making a picture from the experience of viewing the resultant work.

Posted on Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 04:30PM by Registered Commentergravitas et nugalis in , | CommentsPost a Comment

civilized ku # 2735 ~ it's nothing

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mid-AM light ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen

I'm interested in Jackson Pollock's kind of art, where art is beautiful, but it's nothing, and yet it's incredible. ~ Taylor Swift

Posted on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 02:44PM by Registered Commentergravitas et nugalis in | CommentsPost a Comment

kitchen life # 52 (sink) ~ today, tomorrow and forever

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kitchen sink ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
If it came to pass that a photgraphy deity / demon (depending upon one's point of view) were to fall from the sky and assume the throne /mantle of what's what in the medium of photography and then decree that all serious picture makers must limit their picturing to one single-themed body of work - friends and family snapshots excepted - I would not be especially displeased. After all, I am a man but I can change ... if I have to ... I guess*.

Failure to comply, the decree would also state, would result (to the offender) in the forfeiture of all serious gear which would be replaced by a single small aperture non-focusing film-based plastic toy camera and the loss of one eye.

An additional provision of the decree would stipulate that all of the results of the proscribed and approved picture making could only be displayed as printed works - on hard-copy substrates, in books and the like. All picture sharing sites and services would be shut down and all picture blogs / websites would be limited to lowres minuscule samples and information on where the work could be seen or acquired in printed form.

I, for one, would not be overly wrought by this paradigm. Despite having several bodies of work - 10 at last count, my choice of which one to continue would be fairly easy. With little doubt, it would be my kitchen life series. Although, the deity / demon, being a stickler for precise detail and definition, would most likely limit me to a very singular type of kitchen picture making.

If so, I would again make the easy choice of limiting my picture making to my kitchen sink because ....

1 my kitchen sink is very convenient and ...
2 both the light and the contents thereof are ever changing. Like snowflakes, as the saying goes, no two are ever the same - in the case of my kitchen sink, no 2 kitchen sink events are ever the same and ...
3 the events are never the same because, the contents and arrangements thereof, despite what some may think, are purely random. No effort on my part or that of the wife is ever made in putting stuff in the sink and ...
4 I love the unpredictable happenstance of what may or may not be a pleasing, to my eye and sensibilities, of placement and light and ...

5 most importantly I believe the kitchen sink pictures are truly beautiful. Perhaps the most beautiful of any I have ever made.

That written, re: item 3: I do on occasion add or subtract an item or two to improve the picturing possibilities. Not very often, but, as in today's picture, I added the drain stopper as a visual balancing element. These pictures are, after all, still life pictures - pictures in which the hand of the maker is part of the picturing deal and the art world loves, one might even say "worships", seeing evidence of the hand of the maker. Although, the deity / demon might have more than little to decree, re: the art world as it exists today.

All of that written, if the deity / demon did actually fall from the sky, could you handle the resulting decree? If so, what would be your choice for a single body of work?

As always, comments sought and appreciated.

*The Possum Lodge Man's Prayer from the now discontinued Red Green Show - a very humorous and entertaining Canadian television show. The prayer is not to be confused with the Possum Lodge Oath - Quando omni flunkus, moritati. (when all else fails, play dead).

Posted on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 03:47PM by Registered Commentergravitas et nugalis in , | Comments2 Comments

civilized ku # 2729 - 2733 / ku # 1277 ~ impressive weather event wherein I abandon the square format

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rainbow ~ Jay, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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storm front ~ near Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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storm sky ~ near Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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storm sky / variation 1 ~ near Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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storm sky / cows ~ near Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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funnel wannabe ~ near Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
Last evening as I was driving home from Hugo's baseball game in Saranac Lake, I notice a rainbow in the sky. The location for a picture wasn't right so I moved on to a more appropriate one. Even though that location was only a very short distance away, by the time I arrived the rainbow had shrunk to a rather small presentation. Nevertheless, I made the picture.

Moving on down the road, I noticed that the rainbow was returning to its former glory and I decided to proceed to another location. However, upon arrival, the rainbow had vacated the sky and was replaced by an approaching storm front which stretched across the NE-NW sky. The presentation was impressive, to say the least.

As I stood transfixed in a field watching and picturing the event, numerous mini-events were occurring all along the front. Sheet lighting and thunder was making its presence known and, other than that light and sound, the landscape was eerily quite and still. Goosebumps and standing hair on the back of my neck were also a part of the order of events.

After 15-20 minutes, I then noticed a light/cloud event happening just a short distance away - I got in the car and drove the short 3/4 mile (approximate) distance on a winding road where my view of things was obstructed by trees. That visual obstruction made the appearance of the next event all the more stunning when, after rounding a bend in the road, there it was - for all appearance to my untrained meteorological eye and brain, what seemed to a funnel cloud in the making.

After making a picture of the phenomenon, I didn't stay around to see what might transpire, as in, better safe than sorry. That written, I must assume nothing dramatic came to pass inasmuch I would have heard or read about it, news wise, this AM.

FYI, while I made a fair number of pictures, I was totally in the moment of the actual event. Except for the 4 frame panoramic picture, all of my other pictures were dictated and made by what was unfolding in front of me with no thoughts other than quick reactionary / reflexive point, frame and shoot responses.

I also consider myself lucky to have witnessed this display - a true f8-and-be-there if ever there was one.

civilized ku # 2728 ~ (weird) fish inspection as art?

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pictured picture ~ Jones Falls ~ Ontario, CA • click to embiggen

Time eventually positions most photographs, even the most amateurish, at the level of art. ~ Susan Sontag

I pictured the picture in this entry while in Canada. I came across it on a wall of old pictures in a funky cool old hotel, Hotel Kenny. The experience of viewing the display was not unlike that of visiting a gallery to view a group of historic pictures.

Knowing absolutely nothing about the people in the pictures, they were primarily people pictures, I had no personal emotional attachment to those who were pictured. I was nevertheless captivated by not only the picture's visual impact but by the thoughts and feelings the pictures evoked. My reaction to the pictures was, in some ways, different than but, in other ways, similar to my thoughts and feelings when viewing pictures in NYC (or anywhere) galleries.

Does the viewing experience elevate what are undoubtedly amateur tourist pictures into the realm of art?

Maybe. Maybe not. In any case, I'd love to hang a few of them on my wall.

As always, comment appreciated.

Posted on Friday, May 30, 2014 at 11:28AM by Registered Commentergravitas et nugalis in | Comments3 Comments

civilized ku #2727 ~ the standard of the beautiful

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compost bucket ~ Chaffey's Lock / Ontario, CA • click to embiggen

So successful has been the camera's role in beautifying the world that photographs, rather than the world, have become the standard of the beautiful. ~ Susan Sontag

OK. I didn't post while I was in Canada. Our internet wifi connection was sporadic at best and slow as hell when it was available. So, no go.

In any event, I'm back at it and would be armed with a boat load of Sontag quotes which I marked up in my copy of her on photography mini-tome - except for the fact that the book is still in the cottage at Chaffey's Lock. However, while I await its return, I do have some Sontag quotes on my hard drive.

So, I'll muddle along, as best I can, to give you all some food for picturing thought.

As always, comments appreciated.

Posted on Friday, May 30, 2014 at 12:23AM by Registered Commentergravitas et nugalis in | CommentsPost a Comment

civilized ku # 2726 ~ what is art?

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AM light ~ Toronto, CA • click to embiggen

Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know. ~ - Groucho Marx

The wife and I are off to rural Canada - the Rideau Lake area - tomorrow morning (Monday) for a week of R&R. During the week the wife will be hitting the big 50 so on the big day we'll visit Ottawa for a celebration. And since our cottage has an internet connection, I will be posting during the week.

Posted on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 07:49PM by Registered Commentergravitas et nugalis in | Comments1 Comment

civilized ku # 2725 ~ a century (minus a few months) later

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fire escape ~ New York, NY • click to embiggen
Steichen / milk bottles ~ New York, NYPursuant to yesterday's entry in which I presented a few excerpts from Susan Sontag's writings, re: the medium and its apparatus, here's another which, IMO, very accurately forecast what transpired in the decades following her writing:

In photography's early decades, photographs were expected to be idealized images. This is still the aim of most amateur photographers, for whom a beautiful photograph is a photograph of something beautiful, like a woman, a sunset. In 1915 Edward Steichen photographed a milk bottle on a tenement fire escape, an early example of of a quite different idea of the beautiful photograph. And since the 1920s, ambitious professionals, those whose work gets into museums, have steadily drifted away from lyrical subjects, consciously exploring plain, tawdry, or even vapid material. In recent decades, photography has succeeded in somewhat revising, for everybody, the definition of what is beautiful and ugly ...

A few points: I don't if the preceding was written before or after the 1975 landmark exhibition, The New Topographics at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, but it was certainly presented at or very closely to that date. However, that exhibition was the beginning of a ground breaking shift in, as Sontag wrote, "revising .... the definition of what is beautiful and ugly."

I would however, take issue with the idea that it revised it "for everyone". Of course, if by "everyone" Sontag meant (as quoted yesterday) "ambitious professionals, those whose work gets into museums, she was right on the money. I would also include in that everyone, institutional curators and gallery owners/directors. Without a doubt, the New Topographics aesthetic sensibility rules the Fine Art picture making world to this day.

Also without a doubt, my picture making truly follows in a direct line from those early practitioners of the New Topographics genre.

All of that written, what haunts me, re: my work, is the idea Sontag put forth in stating that ".... having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in a public event comes more and more to be equivalent to looking at it in photographed form ... Today everything exists to end in a photograph."

I picture things on almost daily basis. One might even state, as Sontag wrote, compulsively. Not that I believe there is anything amiss in that endeavor but .... I have to wonder, as I have for quite some time, am I substituting pictures for actual experience?

Certainly, I make pictures because I am stimulated to do so by an actual experience - in Sontag's words, a public event* - which has captured my eye and sensibilities. However, I must admit that after making a picture, I seldom stop in order to smell the roses of that which triggered my picture making activity.

In fact, what I do, more often than not, is savor the finished result of that picturing, the finished image/print, after the fact of its making. One could accurately state that I appreciate, primarily but not completely, the picture more than I did the actual encounter with the pictured referent. And, I do not think that I am alone in this MO.

So, I have a question for all of you out there. Am I alone or do any of you do the same, i.e., appreciate the picture more than the public event that you witnessed and recorded?

ANSWERS PLEASE. After all, this works better as a two-way street of give and take.

*Public event does not mean an event such as a parade, concert, sporting game, or other gathering with a specific activity with a gathering of people. In Sontag's context, a public event simply means anything that can be seen and pictured - trees, water, flowers, cats, dogs, clouds, buildings, et al. Anything that is available to be seen. Like, as an example, the fire escape pictured in this entry.

Posted on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 11:00AM by Registered Commentergravitas et nugalis in | Comments7 Comments