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This blog is intended to showcase my pictures or those of other photographers who have moved beyond the pretty picture and for whom photography is more than entertainment - photography that aims at being true, not at being beautiful because what is true is most often beautiful..

>>>> Comments, commentary and lively discussions, re: my writings or any topic germane to the medium and its apparatus, are vigorously encouraged.

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urban ku # -18,762

Naha, Japan on the island of Okinawa. Why # -18,762? Well, I figure that I have taken at least 18,761 photographs between 1966 when this one was created and 2003 when I first started my ku series.

I have posted this photograph to emphasize that there is no taboo regarding BW photography. None. Zero. Nada. I have also put out an SOS to a few BW practioners I know to come on board. Here's hoping we see something soon. (Hey Thomas M., are you listening?)

In the mean time, I have been pondering the fate of BW photography in the digital age and the first thought that comes to mind is the word "effect". As in the comment repeated over and over on so many photo forums, "I like the BW effect." A comment that has me red-faced and screaming at my monitor, "HEY MORON, BW IS NOT AN EFFECT!!!!" A subset of this comment is the oft-repeated suggestion (upon viewing a color photograph), "This would be a good photograph to convert to BW."

The image that springs to mind is one of a befuddled and bewildered Ansel Adams casting about wondering which effect, color or BW, would be better for "Moonrise". Maybe he might decide to photograph in color because he could always convert to BW later.

Both of these comments have me concerned for the future of BW photography. Certainly there are still (double entendre) photographers who work in the BW genre and who understand the nuances of the medium's films and papers, but, like the photographic materials they work with, they seem to be an ever-diminisihing breed.

Sure, I have seen some BW inkjet prints printed with special BW ink sets that rival, and in some cases surpass, conventional/traditional BW prints. In most cases though, those prints have been made from scanned BW film originals. And, yes, there are PS/Lightroom conversion techniques that can yeld a very nice BW result. So the future isn't entirely bleak.

What happens when film disappears or becomes scarce (and costly)? Will a digital camera maker create a serious BW camera/sensor or in-camera software that allows BW photography to be the intended result?

What do you think?

And on a related topic, this photograph is from a 40 year-old BW negative. Anybody care to comment on the possible fate of 40 year-old digital files?

FYI The canal system on Okinawa, which feeds directly into the East China Sea or the Pacific Ocean (depending on which side of the island you are on), also doubled as the sewer "system". Everyday, when the tide went out (especially during the long hot summers), there was a "baking" effect that created a very pervasive odor. There's nothing I like better than a hot, humid day accented with the smell of "benjo". Although, it was something that I got use to.

FEATURED COMMENT: Brian Champman wrote: "......I know of quite a few digital photographers who focus almost exclusively on black and white (myself included)...".

publisher's disclosure Brian - Thanks for the thoughtful comments, much appreciated as always. I must admit that part of the reason behind this topic is to draw out a few digital-based BWers, and hopefully to be able to arm-twist them into sending a few photo submissions.

Mary Dennis - A Series

On her website - twOeyesOpen - Mary Dennis has a gallery titled Fragments which displays square photographs of enviromental details. Mary has created gallery pages that are visually delightful square groupings of these photographs. I was so struck by the simple and elegant beauty of the photographs and the groupings that I arranged to purchase an entire page which I will display - under a single sheet of glass without a frame - exactly as she has designed the gallery page. My plan is to eventually acquire all the gallery pages.

Many might call Mary's detail photographs "abstracts", but I emphatically disagree - with photography's and, in this case, Mary's, unrelenting and very referent specific connection to the real, I don't see these as "abstract" at all. "Abstracts" are what painters do. Photography that deals with details - unless their referent's realism is radically altered by technique - is exactly what it is, a photograph of the "real". Now, I think that Mary has done a magnificant job of "abstracting" details from their surroundings but I don't see that making them any less "real".

I also think that Mary has done a superb job of conveying the sensations of color without resorting to the sensationalizing of color. By including photographs with generous amounts of neutral color throughout her groupings, the "natural" colors pop off the page without having to resort to Photoshop Velvia-esque saturation settings. To my eye and sensibility, this color at its best.

On another note, I am a sucker for photography series. I believe that photography is at its narrative best when it is presented as a series of photographs that are "united" by a common thread (subject, technique, etc.), but that's a topic for another time.

Nice work Mary.

FEATURED COMMENT: Paul Raphaelson wrote: "...The work that I like always has an element of abstraction. Which doesn't contradict your observation that all photography is also in some way representational...Any time you sense that form is as much a subject of the picture as the subject matter itself, you're noticing an element of abstraction..."

FEATURED COMMENT: Mary Dennis wrote: "I'm glad that the "unrelenting and very referent specific connection to real" is appparent in these images. That was one of the things I wanted to accomplish. I would like people to know what it is they are seeing--just not immediately. I agree that these aren't abstracts but fragments, the little details of the bigger picture I see around me every day."

Steve Durbin ~ "My Adirondacks"

In the spirit of Lisa Gimber's recent submission, here's a representative view of my Adirondacks. There actually would be mountains visible in the picture (this being western Montana), but last September there was often too much smoke from distant forest fires. That also made it more monochrome than usual, which fits how I usually see. Probably less than half of my landscapes involve mountains, anyway.

Hope this submission doesn't violate a taboo on the landscapist; I don't recall seeing anything but color images in my perusals so far.

publisher's comment: No taboo is in effect. There have been only a few B&W submissions to The Landscapist - Timothy Atherton's Immersive Landscapes come to mind.

Also, another note of thanks to Lisa Gimber for her submission and her notion of "My Adirondacks". I like the idea - seconded by Steve Durbin - of seeing photography of other's "Adirondacks". That is, your place on the planet, a place that you hold near and dear. Keep those cards and letters coming.

urban ku # 14 and a (related) tidbit

Dispite (or perhaps because of) a Roamin' Catholic grammar school childhood chocked full with choirboydom and altarboydom (to include the honorable position of Head of the Solemn-High-Mass, Funeral & Wedding Crew) - which might account for my ability to paddle a canoe non-stop for hours in the kneeling position - I am not a religious person, spiritual, yes - religious, no. More and more I find myself yearning for our culture to take a break from life 24/7 and to embrace a return to the concept/spirit - if not actual legislation - of Blue Laws.

Sunday is the core of our civilization, dedicated to thought and reverence. ~ Thoreau

Lisa Gimber ~ Caddo Lake

Caddo Lake to me is like the Adirondack Mountains are to you. One of these years I'm going to buy a Go-Devil boat so that I can travel through those swamps whenever I feel like it and hopefully get a decent exposure. Here's a shot from last month that I like. I'm not the best composer or focuser? and still don't know how to use my camera well. Am very intimidated by what everybody else posts...Just want you to see my "Adirondack."

Publisher's comment: As far as I know Lisa Gimber has no online presence except for an occasional photo posting on one of the online nature photography forums. She has - very infrequently - sent me a few photographs asking for my opinion/advice. Lisa thinks that she is not a very good photographer, which I attribute to the fact that she doesn't know much about the "rules" and her photographs evidence that (refreshing) lack of "knowledge". That's why I like what I see - her photographs create an almost child-like (IMO, a very good thing) feeling of curiousity and observation, almost as if she is seeing something for the first time. At least, that's the experience I feel when I view her photographs.

Thanks for the submission Lisa.


Steve Durbin wrote: "As a newcomer to your blog, I'm not sure whether there is a particular notion behind what you call ku."

publisher's response: Steve, I have not explained ku on this blog, so here goes:

The second syllable of hiaku, ku means sky or emptiness. I have labeled my photographs ku - playing on the meaning "emptiness" - for 2 reasons:

1. When I photograph, I try to photograph with as empty a mind as possible.

I try to do this because it quiets the discursive mind with its ego-centric orientation so that I might better immerse myself in the object of my photographic gaze. Hopefully, this diminishes the barrier between observer and observed in order that the object of my gaze can speak for itself in its own voice.

With an empty mind, I feel more often than not that a subject has chosen me rather than the other way around.

2. To my eye and sensibility, my photographs, when printed, are like hints and teases to answers to as yet unsolved riddles.

Upon viewing my photographs, they become somewhat like meditations. So, just as I try to photograph with an empty mind, I try to view my photographs with an empty mind. When we let go of all of our preconditioning, discarding habitual mental sets, biases and stagnant emotive states, a brush against the small and ordinary (most often the object of my photographic gaze) can connect us with - or give hints and teases to - the universal and eternal.

As Thoreau wrote, "Sometimes as I drift on Walden Pond, I cease to exist and begin to be."

FEATURED COMMENT: Steve Durbin wrote: "Your statement is lovely and stands on its own, but I fear there is a slight linguistic problem with your derivation. It works in English, but in Japanese, with its many homonyms, the "ku" character in "haiku" is not the same as the "ku" (with long u) meaning sky or emptiness (which is also the kara in karate = empty-hand)..."

publisher's response: Thanks for the linguistic lesson (seriously). It differs from my source (BTW, apropos of nothing here, I lived in Japan for a couple years) but either way, I have based my use of the syllable/character ku on that which means "emptiness". The relevance of the syllable/character with its use in the word "hiaku" is of no real importance to me, but you are certainly correct in pointing out, especially with the Japanese language, the notion of "passing through the hints and teasings of language."

FEATURED COMMENT #2: anonymous Steve wrote: "foo"

additional publisher's comment: Kent, every night before retiring, my wife makes me don a very tight fitting full face helmet to prevent any overnight head expansion.

ku # 445 - it's a pure-y

Late yesterday afternoon - along the shore of Lake Champlain, gazing at Vermont (after a round of golf). If you look at the larger version, you can make out just a hint of the Green Mts. on the right horizon.

I now realize, after a clarifying round of mid-December-northern-latitude-shirt-sleeve golf, and after reading your comments (thank you, thank you, thank you),that I might not have been very precise in meaning with my use of the phrase pure landscape photography. Upon further consideration, I think Steve Durbin had it close to correct when he wrote, " that at least does not foreground human structures or impact." - heavy on the the "natural", hold, or at least, easy on the man.

The natural world still holds mystery and majesty (for me anyways, can't speak for others). Therefore, I guess what I'm looking for out there on the infotainment highway is landscape photography that can recognise that mystery and majesty without resorting to that "particular romantic notion of the world" (sappy sentimentality) that so defined the traditional/pure landscape photography of the last century - photography that looks at the mystery and majesty with "new eyes".

From the shameless self promotion department comes this - I think that that's what I'm doing (or attempting to do) with my ku. As a somewhat anonymous Steve (not Durbin) wrote in response to my obervation/question, "One of the most compelling qualities of your ku series is its iconoclasm, facilitated by your use of the vignette action: there's an elevation of the mundane that's (for lack of a better word) haunting."

Thanks Steve. That sums it up nicely. Mind if I use it as my Artist's Statement?

urban ku # 13 and an observation with a question

La Cage Aux Folles - Paddleboats at the Philadelphia Zoo. I hope no one is too disappointed that much of what has been published lately - mine and that of others - on The Landscapist has been from the "urban" side of the landscape genre. I haven't given up on the nature side, not by a long shot.

My gaze of late has turned to more of "man" in the Adirondacks simply because I am trying to create a more complete picture of the true nature of the Adirondack Park - yes, it is the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi (bigger than Vermont), but it is also a patch-quilt of public and private land - which is why I am able to live in a park.

the observation: But, that said, I have noticed something interesting as I plow through and down the information highway. Outside of the "traditional" nature photography forums, which tend to feature the pretty calender type photography of the landscape, there seems to be precious little new and different to discover in the "pure" landscape genre. Everywhere I look, I find photographic signs of man in the landscape.

the question: Has the traditional genre of landscape photography been shattered beyond reconstruction? Has it run its course? Is there nothing new to be said and seen?

Come on people, chime in on this one.

publisher's footnote: Thank the gods of technology for my stat counter - if I were publishing this blog based on the number of comments posted, I'd have left town long ago. Fortunately, the counter tells me that there are approximately 280 pages views a day - and rising, by approximately 185 unique visitors a day - and rising, with about 100 returning visitors a day - and rising.

Thus encouraged, I push ever forward.

FEATURED COMMENT: Toby Lloyd Jones wrote: "There never has been a 'pure' landscape. Humans have moulded it, developed it, influenced it, since the earliest times.....What you call photography of 'pure' landscape is, I think, a particular genre of photography tied to a particular romantic notion of the world. But the way we conceptualize the world keeps shifting and changing."
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