PICTURE ONLY GALLERY LINKS
The The Forks ~ there's no place like home gallery is here
The ART ~ conveys / transports / reflects gallery is here
The Decay & Disgust work/book is here
Photography is a system of visual editing. At bottom, it is a matter of surrounding with a frame a portion of one's cone of vision, while standing in the right place at the right time .... [B]y means of photography one can in a minute reject as unsatisfactory ninety-nine configurations of facts and elect as right the hundredth. The choice is based on tradition and intuition - knowledge and ego - as it is in any art, but the ease of execution and the richness of the possibilities in photography both serve to put a premium on good intuition. The photographer's problem is perhaps too complex to be dealt with rationally. This is why photographers prowl with such restless uncertainty about their motif, ignoring many potentially interesting records while they look for something else.
Eggleston is a true picture making original and one of the early pioneers in the use of color film in the making of fine art pictures. His 1976 MOMA exhibition of the pictures in the WEG book created quite a stir - consternation, befuddlement, and outright hatred of the exhibition and his pictures. I suspect that MOMA's then curator, John Szarkowski, knew full well that he was casting a hornet's nest into the world of fine art.
That written, in addition to Eggleston's pictures, the book contains an wonderful introduction by Szarkowski. His introduction is not only insightful, re: Eggleston's pictures, it is also an interesting look, re: art and the medium of photography itself, into the mind of the most influential photography curator of the 20th century - some might say of all time.
Although I would highly recommend the book as an essential read/look, one does not need to purchase it in order to read Szarkowski's introduction - you can do so here.
When writing about some of the emerging picture makers - Shore, Meyerowitz, Levitt, and the like - who were working in color, Szarkowski wrote about what is now considered to be the Snapshot Aesthetic:
... these pictures are not photographs of color, any more than they are photographs of shapes, textures, objects, symbols, or events, but rather photographs of experience, as it has been ordered and clarified within the structures imposed by the camera ... [I]t could be said - it doubtless has been said - that such pictures often bear a clear resemblance to the Kodachrome slides of the ubiquitous amateur next door. It seems to me that this is true ... it should not be surprising if the best photography of today is related in iconography and technique to the contemporary standard of vernacular camera work, which is in fact often rich and surprising. The difference between the two is a matter of intelligence, imagination, intensity, precision, and coherence.
IMO, those 5 words - intelligence, imagination, intensity, precision, and coherence - describe the essential tools of a good picture maker. Anyone who aspires to elevate their work above and beyond servile camera club platitudes, picture making wise, would be well served by getting by the urge to acquire gear and concentrate on acquiring an understanding of and the application of those 5 tools.
Featured Comment: Peter Nilsson wrote: "I've been trying to take inspiration from Eggleston's ability to make great pictures while drunk. Not sure it's really working out. Cheers, hic...
my response: Bottoms up.
A little over a week ago, I wrote about introducing my new body of work, tentatively titled, information overload. For one reason or another, I have been negligent in doing so. Consequently, operating on the assumption of "better late than never" .....
In a very real sense, this work is about my growing reaction to the tower•of•babble-ish surfeit of pictures, some good / most not so good, to be found and seen on the internet. A situation which which leaves me feeling as though I am awash in a sea of mediocrity, at best, or, more often than not, in a sea of indifference inducing picturing pablum / pap.
My reaction, albeit expressed in pictures, is not unlike that of Joerg Colberg in his essay, What is a stake? (a very good read), wherein he writes:
Let’s face it, the tedium of seeing the sheer endless stream of photographs on Tumblr .... is just depressing.
Like Colberg's words, my pictures are not meant to profer an answer but rather to pose a question or questions, not the least of which is, when is enough, enough? or, when does too much create of fog of confusion? A fog which, for
better worse or worse worser, obfuscates any solutions, answers, and/or meaning.
Unlike Colberg's essay, which deals exclusively with medium of photography, my pictures are also intended (metaphorically) to indict the information saturated mediums with which our culture is infused. Because, IMO, massive amounts of indiscriminate, unedited, and often incongruous information has little value other than its ability to confuse and obfuscate. Finding or discovering a grain of truth therein is akin to searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
All of that said, my picturing intention with this body of work is to make individual pictures of what might be labeled as visual confusion. Pictures which evidence a visual complexity which borders on information chaos. Then, to further enhance that complexity, presenting those pictures in a 3×3 grouping.
While the first-blush sample composite picture published with this entry is comprised primarily of pictures of road / highway signage, I also intend to picture roadside shopping strip signage and scans of printed materials which depict visual confusion. Each category of visual confusion will be presented as
discrete composited prints.
Additionally, my objective is to create a body of 10 individual composited prints. In order to do so, I will be required to make 90 "final" individual pictures. Consequently, I envision a rather lengthy picturing endeavor.
Winter Storm Nemo hit Au Sable Forks / Lake Placid in earnest just after dawn on Friday AM. It continued with a steady heavy snowfall right up until 6:30PM (and well after) when the wife, Hugo, and I piled into the car and headed out for NYC.
The secondary road from The Forks to the interstate was in pretty bad condition, snow covered and blizzard-like conditions wise. We were less than a mile or so from the house when the wife chimed in with the notion that we didn't have to drive to NYC through a serious winter storm just because we had tickets to a Penguins hockey game at 1PM on Saturday. I must admit that she had a point but my point was that we did have tickets and, come hell or high
water snow, the show must go on.
The interstate was in slightly better condition, albeit snow covered with heavy falling snow, allowing for a reasonably steady 50MPH, 40MPH in the really bad stretches. The speed was determined not only by road conditions but also by the fact that way too much snow was falling, making the use of high beams impossible. Visibility was limited to the reach of low beams + fog lights (200 meters?) and even that was hindered by the dense falling snow. The only thing that made driving possible was the fact that, other than me, there were very few other idiots on the highway.
Upon reaching Albany - the halfway point - we did encounter some traffic. However, about 20 miles south of Albany we did not see another southbound vehicle for approximately 120 miles. It was during that part of the drive that we were informed that vehicle travel, on any and all roads, in nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut had been banned. NY State had declared a State of Emergency and advised against any unnecessary travel.
Fortunately, since we were the only one on the road, I wasn't stopped and asked about the necessity of my travels. I am not certain that "we have tickets to a hockey game" would have qualified as "necessary".
In any event, we made it to NYC safe and sound, albeit in 7.5-8 hours for what is normally a 4.5 hour trip. And the hockey game? The Penguins lost.
During my recent trip to Rochester, after driving around in the snow on Friday AM, I tried to visit a few friends, none of whom were home. So, with a little bit of time to kill before lunch, I stopped at the George Eastman House to see what was on exhibit.
As it turned out, just like my friend's houses, nobody was home, exhibition wise that is. The museum exhibition space(s) was between exhibits - lots of fresh paint and guys on ladders and such, but no pictures.
I was about to consider the visit a bust until I stopped in the gift shop. They must have known I was coming because right up front on a book display island were 2 books which I immediately identified as must-haves. However, my second thought was to wonder about, with a fair amount of apprehension, how much this was gonna cost. As it turned out, much to my surprise and delight, not all that much.
One book was a steal. Photography from 1839 to today, a mind boggling collection of 740+ pictures (on 766 pages) from the Eastman House Collection, was only $14.95USD. Everything about the book is outstanding - the production and printing standards are incredibly high and the selection of pictures is, well, mind boggling. The running commentary throughout the book is both interesting and informative. The book is an amazing tour de force, picture wise.
The second book was also a bit of bargain as well. STEICHEN IN COLOR Portraits, Fashion & Experiments by Edward Steichen, a collection of 80+ stunningly reproduced color pictures by Edward Steichen, was only $25.00USD. Most of the pictures were made by Steichen between 1907 and the early 1940s. The pictures were made with a variety of processes - color assembly (Hicro) printing, Autochrome, palladium and ferro-prussiate printing, applied hand color, and the dye imbibition process. The book is fascinating look at a little known and seen slice of Steichen's work.
FYI, even though I purchased the Photography from 1839 to today book at the GEH gift shop, it is not listed on their website store. It is listed on the TASCHEN (the publisher) site for the cover price of $14.95USD.
Snap it up while can - while the book is still available, used versions of the book are selling for $120-200.00USD. Don't know what that's about.
The STEICHEN IN COLOR: Portraits, Fashion & Experiments by Edward Steichen book is available online at the GEH gift shop at the aforementioned $25.00USD.
Both books are highly recommended.
It all started last Friday AM, in Rochester NY, when I opened the drapes in my 2nd floor motel room window and could barely see my car. Snow, in the form a big fluffy snowflakes, was coming down - no, make that flying horizontally - in a blizzard/whiteout condition.
My first thought was that I was glad I had decided to drive our new (yes, 2 new cars in 30 days) AWD vehicle on my 600 mile round trip (to Rochester and back) for lunch. But then, my second thought was that I could now experience how the car would handle the weather for which we purchased it - north country snow storms and snow covered roads. So, instead of killing the morning in the motel room making a blog entry, re: my new information overload work, I decided to pack up, get out, and drive around.
First stop after trying to brush the snow off the car - brush the back, brush the front, go back and redo the back, go back and redo the front (a snowy version of Mr. Miyagi's "Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off." exercise) ... it was coming down that fast and furious, I saddled up and went to the Tim Hortons (the Canadians are coming, the Canadians are coming) which shared the motel parking lot. 2 chocolate covered vanilla cream donuts with a 24oz. coffee to go, and it was on with the show.
Over the next hour, I gave the car and Tim Hortons' coffee and donuts a workout on country roads, city streets, and a run on the AM rush hour expressway. The coffee and donuts were swell and the car was rockin' n rollin', totally at ease and in its blizzard / driving snow element. All things considered - Canadian fare and all-season tires (not snow tires) - I was favorably impressed.
After lunch, it was on the road again for the drive home. The sun was shining and the road dry as a bone as I jumped on the NYS Thruway, cranked up some ZZ Top go-fast music - seriously, try driving slowly while listening to this music - on the car's 12 million watt, 5,000 speaker music system, and headed East at a steady 80-90MPH pace (in FWD). In CB parlance, the Big Road was clean (no Kojaks with a Kodak) and green so I was eastbound with the hammer down, good buddy.
It was shaping up to be a piece of cake drive home, until, 90 miles later, I hit Syracuse where I drove straight into a lake-effect snow storm. The visibility was poor-ish, the roads had a slight cover of snow and slush, and more than a few Harvey Wallbumpers were ending up in the center groove. So, it was back into AWD, and fortunately, the left lane was moving along at 50-60MPH while the right lane was crawling along at 25-30MPH (many of those drivers also had their emergency flashers on ... don't ask me why).
The storm tapered off (back into FWD again) by the time I got to Utica (50 miles beyond Syracuse), where I got off the the Green Stamp for the really fun part of the drive. 20 miles up the road, you enter the Adirondack Park and 130 miles of 2-lane twisty bit roads - my favorite type of driving. It requires a fairly high level of driver involvement and concentration (especially at night), so consequently for me, the miles and time seem to fly by.
As an added bonus, driving fun and enjoyment wise, at this time of year at this time of the evening, the roads have very little traffic. On this trip, once I entered the Park, I encountered no more than 9 cars in the 120 miles between Boonville and Saranac Lake. "Clean and green" is a vast understatement.
And clean and green it was until I arrived in village of Old Forge where I stopped for a fill up of gas and coffee. The gas station in question had more snowmobiles at the pumps than cars - the nightriders were out in droves. In fact, I was the only car at the place and, by the time I left the gas station (slipping back into AWD and executing a perfect 4-wheel drift donut), a substantial snow fall had started. And that's where the real fun began.
Stopping in the village to picture The Strand - handheld / ISO 320 / 1/50sec @ f1.7 - the snowfall was most definitely creating a Winter Wonderland look and feel. Very few people or vehicles were in eveidence. Sound was deadened except for that gentle sound of snow falling. Lights were glowing softly, surrounded by halos caused by the snow.
It was very inviting and alluring. So, after making the picture, I dallied for a bit, watching and listening to the snow fall, drinking my coffee, and eating a cherry pocket pie. It was a somewhat strange and unexpected little slice of heavenly bliss.
Slipping back into the car, I headed on down the road and out of the village. As soon as I left the village, the snow was falling in earnest. Visibility was OK-ish and the roads were snow covered and marked by just single set of tire tracks. Encouraged by my AM snow ride, I stepped up the speed and was soon into a very respectable rhythm and pace. It was just me, the car, a little music, headlights puncturing the darkenss, and a very long stretch of twisty road in challenging conditions .... another bit of heavenly bliss.
About 4 miles on down the road, I came upon a guy in an AWD Audi who was moving along at a fairly decent pace. I stayed a respectable distance back so as not to tailgate and allow enough distance for a panic stop in the event of his having a mishap. We kinda danced together, automotively speaking, for about 10 miles until we came to one of the few straight sections on the road and I blew past him. Within a 1/4 mile or so he was out of sight.
The rest of the drive was uneventful. I played with the car a bit in some of the twisty bit curves - setting up slight 4-wheel drifts (electronic stability control turned OFF), punching the throttle (with a little counter-steer thrown in) mid turn to straighten it back out and keep it on line. Nothing dramatic, just a bit of fun to keep the attention / involvement level up. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it also kept the adrenaline level a bit on the elevated side as well.
Strange as it might seem, after 300 miles of driving, 200 miles of which were in iffy / challenging conditions, I arrived home, not only safe and sound, but also relaxed and refreshed with a picture which will forever remind me of enjoyable respite, albeit on pleasurable journey, during the night on which it was me, the car, headlights illuminating a twisty road cutting the dark forest and sleepy little villages and hamlets.
So, as Vaughn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Doris Day, Andy William, Aaron Neville, and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - amongst many, many, many others - sang, crooned, trilled, warbled, and otherwise vocalized .... Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
BTW, I had New England clam chowder and a beer-battered haddock sandwich with fries for lunch.
On Monday, after having retouched the business portrait posted in this entry, I decided to have a little fun. Something of a follow up to The Great Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 20 year old Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey Affair, in which the pictured person was an integral player - it was his official recognition as an associate attorney in the wife's firm which was being celebrated and led directly to the Great Affair.
In any event, before I sent the retouched picture to the firm for final approval, I placed my picture of the bottle of bourbon in the upper left corner of the picture. I figured that it would get a humorous rise out of the wife and provide a brief respite from the heavy load she bears every day while working to keep me in the lifestyle to which I am accustomed (and so richly deserve).
Well, eventually, she did have a good laugh but not when I expected it to happen.
As it played out, the email response to my request, from both the wife and the subject, for approval to publish the picture on the firm website was a simple and straight forward ... "Looks good. Do it." A response which had a reverse spin effect in that it caused a laugh to escape my lips, along with a sense of amazement - neither the wife or the subject noticed the bottle of bourbon.
So, I called the wife and told her I had noticed an additional "flaw" in the picture which probably should be fixed. In order for her to see it, I asked her to open the picture on her computer screen. She looked at it for a moment and then asked, "What is it?" I told her to look in the upper left corner of the picture and, after a moment's hesitation, she broke out in fit of laughter, a fit made laughier by the fact that she not only thought it humorous but also that she realized that she had now set herself up for an endless and merciless dose of kidding about not seeing it.
All of which just goes to demonstrate that, no matter the best intentions of a picture maker to imbue his/her pictures with visual clues which might make his/her intended / implied meaning more apparent, a good segment of the viewing public ain't gonna see it, much less "get it". No doubt this viewing "deficiency" is responsible for the picture making adage of "Keep It Simple" ... a bit of picturing "wisdom" which I steadfastly ignore.
FYI, I avoid "keeping it simple", not because I have a subversive attitude toward picture making, but simply because my eye and sensibilities are drawn to visual complexity - dense relationships of color, shapes, form, texture, and the like. In short, it's how I see the world.
Another ancillary adage - IMO, a very informed one - which is very applicable to the seeing it or not seeing / getting it or not getting it conundrums is the one which suggests that "the more one brings to the viewing of a picture, the more one can see (actual and implied) in that picture". In other words, the more one is versed in the visual / photographic vernacular, the more can understand and appreciate a picture maker's actual and implied intention(s).
But, enough on complexity and simplicity for today. More on it tomorrow when I introduce my new picture making project, tentatively entitled "information overload".