BODIES OF WORK BOOK / GALLERY LINKS
The Rain selects/book gallery is here.
The 2014 ~ Year in Review 2014 selects/book gallery is here.
The Place To Sit selects/book gallery is here.
The Life without the APA pictures are here
The The Forks ~ there's no place like home gallery is here
The ART ~ conveys / transports / reflects book / gallery is here
The Decay & Disgust work/book is here
The Single Women selects/book gallery is here
The Picture Windows selects/book gallery is here
The Kitchen Life selects gallery is here
A 10 picture look at Tangles, Thickets, and Twigs ~ fields of visual energy is here
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.
As I wrote in the entry diptych # 94 ~ specificity and detail / illustration and illumination, a new body of work - Places To Sit - has emerged from the archives of my picturing endeavors. Rather than re-write about the genesis of this collection, I've provided a link to the entry which addresses that notion. However, I offer the following notions from Jeff Wall which I believe summarize my feelings / thoughts about this body of work:
The everyday, or the commonplace, is the most basic and the richest artistic category. Although it seems familiar, it is always surprising and new. But at the same time, there is an openness that permits people to recognize what is there in the picture, because they have already seen something like it somewhere. So the everyday is a space in which meanings accumulate, but it's the pictorial realization that carries the meanings into the realm of the pleasurable .... It is best to capture in a photograph a feeling, an emotion, a look, a memory, a perception or a relationship ....
Jeff Wall made a name for himself, starting in 1977, by producing the first of his ultra-large (up to 15' long) backlit photo transparencies, many of which are staged and refer to the history of art and philosophical problems of representation and so it went for the next quarter century. He was also a prolific writer, re: art and photography (his own), and many, including me, would rank his writings near the top of the academic lunatic fringe crowd. Despite that propensity, his pictures are, to my and sensibilities a joy to view.
That written, around 1990 Wall began making "straight photographs" or pictures in the manner / style of "documentary photography". During this period, he eschewed his former M.O. of big-production staged / constructed picture making to concentrate on what appears to be "found" referents rendered as still life pictures or un-staged "real life" documentary pictures. He also loosened the reins on the art-history / theory impetus, some might say "fetish" or "obsession", which drove his earlier work. In this newfound (for him) work the focus is solely on the objects that are shown, to the exclusion of the long catalogue of cultural references that one finds in his staged works.
As one source has stated, Wall's later work is unusual inasmuch as Wall has saved his simplest and least affected and effected picture making for much later in his career as opposed to earlier in his career - the more standard M.O. of most artists. It appears, judging by Wall's own words - more recently I’ve felt the need to diverge from that and try to make pictures that are more emphatically pictorial - and his pictures that Wall is exploring something more akin to the pure joy of photography. I.E., making pictures for their own sake.
Or, as one critic wrote:
Little by little, Wall is edging out of the collegiate hothouse of smart-aleck ideas and into a (if not the) world.
In art and art criticism, form and content are considered distinct aspects of a work of art. The term form refers to the work's style, techniques and media used, and how the elements of design are implemented. Content, on the other hand, refers to a work's essence, or what is being depicted ....
Works of art have subject, form and content. We often identify a work by its subject: a landscape painting, a sculpture of a young woman, a lithograph of a cat, (or a photograph of an arrangement of flowers and other stuff). Form (or design), is the visual organization of the art work -how the artist has used line, shape, value, color, etc. Content is the impact or meaning of this work ....
Because it addresses itself to our sensory appreciation, the work of art is essentially concrete, to be understood by an act of perception rather than by a process of discursive thought. At the same time, our understanding of the work of art is in part intellectual; we seek in it a conceptual content, which it presents to us in the form of an idea. One purpose of critical interpretation is to expound this idea in discursive form—to give the equivalent of the content of the work of art in another, nonsensuous idiom. But criticism can never succeed in this task, for, by separating the content from the particular form, it abolishes its individuality. The content presented then ceases to be the exact content of that work of art. In losing its individuality, the content loses its aesthetic reality; it thus ceases to be a reason for attending to the particular work of art that first attracted our critical attention. It cannot be this that we saw in the original work and that explained its power over us. For this content, displayed in the discursive idiom of the critical intellect, is no more than a husk, a discarded relic of a meaning that eluded us in the act of seizing it. If the content is to be the true object of aesthetic interest, it must remain wedded to its individuality: it cannot be detached from its “sensuous embodiment” without being detached from itself. Content is, therefore, inseparable from form and form in turn inseparable from content.
In an entry last mid-November, I posted the picture in this entry along with the notification of the selection of one of my pictures into the juried exhibition MARVELOUS THINGS: THE ART OF STILL LIFE at PhotoPlace Gallery in Middlebury, Vermont. Aline Smithson, author / publisher of LENSCRATCH FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY DAILY was the sole judge and jury.
In any event, the reason for the repost of the picture is that I just received notification of the availabilty of the exhibition catalog of the show. The entire catalog can be viewed on line and it's well worth a look. The catalog contains the 40 pictures which are in the gallery exhibition (pgs.5-43) plus some others which were selected for the Online Gallery Annex. And, of course, there is the actual exhibition at PhotoPlace Gallery (3 Park Street) in Vermont.
There are some mighty fine pictures to see.