One of the standard effects of infrared photography is that foliage can come out glowing as though it had its own light source due to the visual spectrum infrared sees. I have found that this depends, actually, on the method of color mapping utilized. Infrared imagery sub-categorizes itself as ‘near-infrared’, most common in photography, and ‘far-infrared’ used in medical imagery. The extent to which foliage glows depends on how ‘near’ one goes. (Of course, some kinds of image capture, particularly film, is non-negotiable as the level of infrared is locked in, so adjusting the spectrum of light the image reflects only holds for computer generated work).
The thing with tornados, however, is that there is no foliage left.
Trees are even more vulnerable to the destructive effects of high winds than houses, and by and large trees cannot be repaired or rebuilt. It’s the downed trees that have to be removed first. These mauled trunks are standing in Jefferson City’s Hickory/Adams Neighborhood Park. Teams of volunteers have already removed the fallen limbs.
NOTE: Fifteen of these works depicting Jefferson City, Missouri’s May 22 tornado damage have been compiled into an artbook, which may be viewed and purchased at Capital Arts in Jefferson City, or purchased on this website in either 10-inch paperback or signed 12-inch hardcover).
Infrared photography is simply a means of capturing light at a slightly higher wavelength than light visible to human beings. Said light is reddish, as the name implies, which thus appear very bright in the image, as opposed to blues, which darken precipitously.
Black and white imagery sees the full range of colors, it simply expresses those colors in shades of grey. By restricting all but the infrared spectrum either by a) using infrared sensitive film, or b) placing an infrared filter on the camera lens, or c) applying infrared mapping techniques through post-capture computer software, the artist may achieve a work of intense contrast – the term ‘dreamlike’ is often used. As the reader might image, I prefer the latter of these three options because film or camera filters will set the image in stone, whereas the computer effectively allows the artist to “paint”.
The Internet offers up a number of suggestions for using the computer to create infrared work, and some of these provide for greater flexibility than others. I generally use a number of these effects even in standard black and white work, which I often affectionately call “Noir” because the high contrast mimics many of the noir-labeled films of the 1940’s and 50’s. In this series of works I have pushed this technique to the limit and sometimes beyond (all these works reflect damage incurred in the May 22 Jefferson City, Missouri tornado). The starkness and seeming violent contrast between the light and the dark seems to me especially appropriate to the subject.
Of course, flexibility and the artist’s freedom to ‘paint’ the effect, versus locking the effect in place, may lead to mistakes – the artist may move too far in a particular direction or purists may simply argue that the “true” effect is not achieved. (there is an analogy here to open and fluid democratic societies vs. authoritarian and rigidly enforced social structures, but, as happens so often, I digress). All subjects for future posts.
(NOTE: As stated in my most recent blog, the next few weeks will be devoted to work around my community’s recent tornado damage. Fifteen of these works have been compiled into an artbook, which may be viewed and purchased at Capital Arts in Jefferson City, or purchased on this website in either 10-inchpaperback or signed 12-inch hardcover).
When the F3 tornado barreled white-trash-drunk through Jefferson City, Missouri on May 22, 2019 it presented photographers and artists alike with both a subject and a dilemma. For photographers, it was a question of getting out, getting light and getting position to chronicle the three-mile-long strip of damaged homes and businesses. Accuracy, sharpness, and framing proper to capture the impact of the storm were paramount. As an artist, my concern first was how to create art from images of tornado damaged homes, then, should art be created from images of tornado damaged homes.
I did not rush to the scene as a good photographer (and I include drone videographers as their work is equally important) should do – I waited a week to stay out of the way of first responders and for streets to be cleared. By then some of the rubble had been cleared away, but most of the damage was still evident. I also did not want to seem insensitive; any desire to create art in the moment would have paled in comparison to the stress and worry of those directly impacted. (I should quickly note that, for all its bluster and property damage, the tornado caused no fatalities and only minor injuries, thus greatly reducing the awkwardness of pointing the camera at the affected neighborhoods).
The question of should dissipated as other artists I consulted encouraged me to continue my work (I recognize the morality of it may linger). The question of how answered itself in a thought as abrupt as the storm itself:
Infrared. Create the works in infrared.
I will spend the next few weeks posting these works here, roughly three posts a week if anyone has been counting. I’ve also collected 15 of these works into an artbook that will be available for viewing or purchase at Capital Arts or through this website. I may actually do a second volume as well.
The purpose of art is to offer alternate visions of the world. That does not exclude it from reality.
What if you just weren’t there? Just did things differently and didn’t have to screw with the place. Not really friends with anybody there – their money, maybe, but you don’t really need anymore of that and you’d only blow it on something stupid, anyway. Behavior sets up outcome, you know. Stop trying to control everything. Just don’t be there. Nothing to feign ownership of; nothing to protect.
Nothing to shoot down.
A friend of mine who had successful careers as a nurse and a lawyer and now spends his time hiking and enjoying life (as well as counselling me as to the proper use and dosages of herbal supplements) recently found himself looking back on the adventures and travails that assault most any career and posted the question, “What the hell was the point of that!?”
Not uncommon at all to reflect on one’s life and try to make sense of the years; the good, the bad, the time spent in occupations, the people we knew. The question might expand to ask, “what did I think the point was at the time!?”
There must have become an evolutionary necessity, once humans evolved to have self-awareness, to select out anyone born lacking an ability to see purpose in everyday things. Self-awareness breeds if not logic then a connection between the individual and the immediate world. And if you fail to see a purpose – call it ‘hope’ if you must – then indeed what IS the point? Black and white logic won’t discern it. I don’t think its software, I think there’s got to be an actual piece of grey matter in our heads, just as there’s grey matter that lets us see three-dimensionally or calculate geometry. Something that projects our place in space and time to a larger reality. We’re all aware of the health issues that come when those bits of brain are compromised.
Of course, as soon as one thinks “I know there’s meaning here I just don’t know what it is” then one starts rationalizing. Hence comes the rise of religion, and, lately, of strong political ideology. After all, can’t be my own mind trying to ascribe meaning, it must be God telling me what it is. A tiny little Arc of the Covenant inside everybody’s head, yes? Here, let me TELL YOU how God wants you to behave.
Our rationalizations along the trail don’t look the same after ascending to the heights, do they? But then, that piece of grey matter in our heads is hiking its own trail. Why did I come into this room? What was the name of that thing? I don’t remember doing that, when did I do it?
What was the point of that, again?
Surprised and humbled that my friend Harold has nominated me for a blogger recognition award. One is supposed to give a summary of why they started blogging and pay the nomination forward – I haven’t done any of that. I’d like to think the ‘why’ is apparent in every post, but, hey … (certainly should be in this one!) Thanks, Harold!
A commentator once said he could appreciate the brilliance of Picasso as an artist while recognizing also that he was a loathsome individual. He probably didn’t use the word ‘loathsome’ as I’m likely projecting there. The point is that there is the artist and then there is the art – the creation. And they are separate.
Any number of biting criticism has been offered that artists as a group, as a species, we’re all a little to a lot just weird. We don’t socialize well, we’re self-absorbed, our conversations run in never connecting tangents and our language is worse than a sailor’s at low tide. (OK, that last one may be just me). We’re only at our best through our work and our work is best when it is disassociated with any connection to our own personalities or behaviors. True? Not true?
A little true?
I confess I know an artist who does very good if somewhat traditional work, lovely work, that I find myself unable to fully appreciate because he’s also not shy about promoting his political philosophy, which is as ugly as his paintings are beautiful. I wish I didn’t know him at all. I’d rather feel appreciation for his art than feel loathing for his fascism.
Am I any different? How am I different? Less talent but just as dysfunctional?
Can I only appreciate ‘The Ladies of Avignon” because I never knew Picasso?
Can I only listen to ‘I Am The Walrus’ because I never met Lennon?
Can I only watch ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ because I never sat down and had a conversation with John Ford?
Can I only stand to live with myself by being self-aware only of my art?
Have I chosen the wrong phase in life to quit drinkin’?
Look, it’s NOT photography, and I don’t know a photographer on the planet who wouldn’t be pissed off if you tried to include this work with their art form. It’s computer-generated art that uses photographic captures as a base. It is its own art form. Why is that difficult? Why does everything have to fit into a pre-defined category?
Granted I use photographic rules of perspective and lighting when I make my captures – I act like a photographer when I’m working with the camera. And, granted, some of what I do on computer is so subtle it’s hardly noticeable – sometimes I don’t do anything at all.
Still, it’s not photography. It’s Photo Art. It does its own thing.
There is a philosophy which goes like this: In nature, all things are either progressing or receding; nothing ever stays the same and nothing ever goes backward. It is a sharp contrast to attitudes lamenting that “I just want things to stay the same” or “I wish it could go back the way it was”. The blush of the bloom constantly shifts its nature.
Creativity – mental focus – is not alien. There is a point when capturing photographs where I become tired of walking around, tired of the heat, my muscles ache, the light has shifted, the time in which I can expect a great capture has expired. At the computer, I begin to feel drained. I’ve given all I can to new works. The spark dulls. So I’ll move on; mess with other projects, answer email, go putter around the house.
Functionally the bloom always returns after the plant dies and goes dormant with winter – spring revives everything. The creative spark returns after a good night sleep. But the process has to play out first. Dissatisfaction with the current season does no good; more likely hurts. Play the hand as it lays; go with the pitch.
Do human beings get a ‘spring’? Oh, the debates that ensue. No one ever argues what happens after THAT spring progresses …
Life is an optical illusion. We see only a single visual spectrum. Our eyes take in at a glance virtually every detail available in that spectrum, then our brain restricts conscious recognition to only those details it deems important.
Art is an illusion of an illusion. A two-dimensional rendering of a three-dimensional vision cropped into manageable parameters. Tens of thousands of years passed between the first flat cave drawings and da Vinci’s first successful paintings depicting depth. Our minds buy it.
Abstract art is an illumination of emotional spectrums floating beneath the visual illusion. Our eyes take it in at a glance, but our brain may be unable to quickly apply restrictors enabling its classification. The entire work jumps into conscious recognition while the brain tries to decide what to do. It is forced to think.
Stare. See. Think.
Central to photo art is the question of how far to go. How much to change a photographic capture to transform it from ‘ordinary’ to ‘art’.
I was initially attracted to the patterns of the image repeated on the left and right sides of this work. I didn’t lose that attraction but as I worked with it I felt more strongly that taken at face value there wasn’t enough there to stand as art. A step or two later it had exploded. There wasn’t a middle ground – usually there is, and usually that’s where I find my art. Perhaps due to the high contrast of the photographic capture the pixels jumped from too subtle to too extreme.
It occurred to me that in this case the ‘art’ doesn’t exist at all in the visual spectrum – the ‘art’ is in the juxtaposition between two extremes. Not to come on like Yoko Ono, but in this case the art is conceptual. It’s not something that can be seen by the eye, but only in the mind.
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.
OK. I’d like to set the record straight from comments I made in my previous posting. Yes, I still count Apple as a company rooted in anticipatory learning, but, no, it did not change the way I listen to music by dismantling iTunes.
My fear was that I would no longer be able to keep a music library comprised about half of music downloaded from the iTunes store, but instead could only access that music via a subscription to the Apple cloud. I would no longer be able to own my music but could only access it for a monthly fee. Those fears proved to be unfounded, and in fact on PC’s iTunes is not going away at all. I hope it stays that way – I can clearly see that in the near future subscription streaming services will nickel and dime us to death. I also anticipate that it’s an economic model of great potential that will pervade everything we consume.
I wonder … how will it apply to art.
One of the elements of the visual arts that make it “art” is that it considers a tiny perspective of human perception and freezes it. Stop! Look at this – LOOK at it, damn it! Details we would normally walk or drive past and barely notice are outed for the art within.
The camera’s pano or pantographic function appeals to the human desire to see everything. Instead of isolating something, it freezes everything into one big, broad sweep. Many consumers find that more appealing and, of course, in a mass market economy ‘pretty’ sells more than ‘art’.
I consider the pano to be an emerging art style, and like any art style, its potential as ‘art’ is still in development. In many ways, a broad pantographic of scenery is the equivalent of sunsets and golf courses – who couldn’t point their camera at one and capture beauty. And for the most part, that’s all I’m doing. For this work, I clipped the ends of the pano to create a composition I felt was more appealing. When I move it into analog form for exhibition I will have to crop a bit of the top and bottom as well so the work can be produced on a 1x3 plate. Most panos, I have found, have to be cropped down if art is to be pulled from it, otherwise there’s nothing to draw the eye – just a sea of distraction revealing nothing. But the process is ongoing – the adventure of discovering new ways to reveal the world.
Educators and sociologists know that human civilization is moving from adaptive learning, which is really a part of the industrial evolution, to anticipatory learning. The former emerged with the information age as change began to descend on us so fast that we couldn’t wait to adapt to changing conditions until they happened, we had to get there as changes were occurring. This means different things to individuals, nations, and multi-national corporations.
Under the adaptive learning model, Henry Ford was content to crank out Model T’s until the consumers he was building them for began migrating in mass to a different product. Under anticipatory learning, Henry should have recognized the changes which emerging technology was about to unleash and ceased producing Model T’s in favor of new models a decade before he actually did.
That would have meant denying consumers a product they wanted to instead force them to purchase a product he wanted to build because he knew they’d want it instead eventually, even if they didn’t themselves understand that yet.
Apple is the personification of a company using anticipatory learning.
Music has been a definitive part of my life. Thousands of songs in my collection and with each one I can tell you where I was when I heard it and what it meant to me. I can rationalize the purchase of every single song. They all hold meaning for me. I would happily continue downloading the songs I want, placing them into collections or playlists that fit a particular ‘feel’ I want and playing whichever one I desire at a given moment. I have complete control. Sure, I still listen to the radio (usually via the Internet) but only as background. I have no desire to stream a service for a monthly fee in which my music is never really mine.
Today, in an anticipatory action, Apple will begin to change how I consume music. Can’t say I’m happy about it. Can’t say I don’t understand the justification for it. Can’t say it’s a change I wanted. Can’t say I want it to rain today, either.
The tornado first touched down in a little town called Eldon on the highway to Lake of the Ozarks. It took out some 70 homes and businesses before staggering away roughly along U.S.54, hopscotching white-trash-drunk another 20 miles before dropping into the west end of Jefferson City, Missouri. It blew around a storage facility like a bunch of paper cups once neatly arranged on a picnic table. It picked up new cars carefully displayed by a Chevy dealer like a toddler arm-collecting Hot Wheels to toss into piles. It ripped up most of a Sonic restaurant and blew the drive-in menus to a golf course ten miles east. There goes the Break Time. There goes an apartment complex. There goes a YMCA. It slugged into the three blocks between a hospital and a high school destroying homes and stately mansions while the hospital went untouched and the high school's football field stayed afoot after minor clipping. It slid just close enough to Lincoln University to send the president scurrying down to the basement as it ripped up his historic home. It jumped the bluffs protecting U.S. 50 to slam the similar stone house belonging to a local judge, who was away for the night and possibly now forever. It heavily damaged the oldest school in town, now used only for 9th graders, who had been dismissed for the summer just that very afternoon. Then it aimed for East Capital Avenue.
The homes that extend from the State Capital and the Downtown date their construction as far back as the 1830's Some stately. Some modest. Some ornate. Some just old. Some had been boarded up and their owners sued by the city for extensive repairs. Some owned by preservationists who had dumped money into them to create historic treasures. Roughly eight square blocks beat and robbed like pedestrians walking the wrong neighborhood on a bad night.
I'd like to say I've a broad portfolio of works based on photographic captures from this neighborhood, but I don't. I've a few, though, and I offer them here. I'm quite proud of several, but have previously exhibited none - no real market. Now they reflect images from the past. Each of the subjects of these works have either been radically compromised or is gone entirely - literally, gone in a twist.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.