The line between acting as a photographer and acting as an artist is quite distinct. As a photographer I’m using the camera for gathering images I think I can use later - colors, contrast, lighting, objects. Anything I find interesting for any number of reasons. With each capture I’m making a photographer’s decisions about exposure, focal plane, composition, lighting, drama, and so forth. I’m gathering them up and I’m placing them in my basket like harvesting grapes, and from there they will be dumped into my computer, subdivided only by which camera I used to capture them.
And they may sit there for weeks, even months, before my attention comes back to a particular capture, crushing it in my computer to create, hopefully, art. A photograph, after all, takes a few seconds, and during a photo shoot lasting a couple hours I might come home with over 100 captures; some duplicates, of course, but each one something I think I can use later. The same amount of time will result in one work of completed photo art. One. And as some of the more sophisticated projects take six or ten hours to complete, often much less than one. This is not to say I’m acting any less creatively as a photographer than as an artist, quite the contrary. As readers of this blog know, there are some captures I hardly touch with the computer. They are perfect as photographs. Indeed, many completed artworks would not have come out the way they did had I not captured the initial photograph in just the way I did.
However, the separation of these acts also separates their intent. Captures taken right next to each other within a few minutes for which I’d had a similar notion may result in wildly different works created months apart. I may ultimately decide I’m not that interested in the second after all.
For the photographer, time is instantaneous. For the artist, time is relative.
Sometimes the magic just works.
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I had a conversation recently with a guy questioning if we’ve become soft, ‘we’ being society in general, comparatively over the past 100 years. His point that all these conveniences we have and all these technologies we use have made us less able to function as human beings. Each new convenience makes us less able to cope without them.
First off, there was probably a guy 100 years ago, 10 years before the invention of sliced bread, BTW, who feared they were soft compared to 100 years before that, when economic distribution systems were such that there was no bread at all unless one made it themselves if indeed they could access both flour and yeast. Secondly, all these conveniences and technologies are just tools. A tool is just a device that makes it easier to do something. We are tool making creatures. It’s what we’re supposed to do. Take the tool away and we might be pissed off, but most people, given a loaf of unsliced bread, can still figure a way to break it into edible sections; might take a bit of experimentation, but we’ll figure it out. We’re just as likely to be pissed off when a tool for doing something easier does NOT exist – not YET – and even more likely when we can’t figure out how to use the tools we have (leading to thoughts of returning to bygone days when there weren’t as many tools to learn, forgetting, of course, that those bygone days were crap. But I digress). More likely, it’s people out of the past who would be unable to function in today’s world than vice versa. Remember your grand father or your great grand father (I realize time stretches farther for some of us than others)? Can you imagine them trying to set up a wi-fi network, let alone understand it?
Can you imagine them trying to decipher a 2019 news cycle? Bogles the mind, doesn’t it? Whether the magic works or not, be grateful for the opportunity to fall under it.
Off capturing photographs this past mid-September I found myself constantly thinking, ‘You know, dummy, in a month the fall foliage will come out and this shot will look a thousand times better’.
Of course, the month went by and I was preoccupied with other activities and didn’t get back to the scenes where I’d had that thought. So it goes. Which is not to say I didn’t get anything, fall-colors-wise. Creating seasonal art is a rite of passage, or at least a habit – for many artists. Fall foliage now, Christmas art in a month, spring flowers in five or six months. Those are the three categories to which my portfolio is stuffed with work, and still each year I add more of it. That’s because each year I think I’ve done it better than the year before. Each year I’ve learned more, and I get to try new things. Each year the art gets better and justifies continued creation.
Or, arguably, it’s less a justification than a rationalization. I want to BELIEVE the new things are better than the old things so I can keep creating and feel good about it; so I can believe I’m not simply doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. That would be crazy. No – the new work is better. It is. I know it is. At least I think I do.
The ‘fade-out’ that concludes many songs we all know and love was created back in the AM radio days as a means of cueing the disc jockey (DJ) that the song was about to end, That gave the DJ the opportunity to start talking over the top of the music to tell the listener what they’d been listening to, and to introduce the next song, also while talking over the first few notes. It saves a precious few seconds of broadcast time, and some would argue made for a more dynamic presentation of the music. It’s become an anachronism, sort of like the grill on the front of an automobile, while at the same time being a legitimate and even expected stylistic component of song construction.
My favorite DJ growing up – and that was when AM radio was predominate – was Larry Lujack out of WLS Chicago. Lujack was always the most fun, had the wittiest things to say, much of it bitingly insightful sarcasm At the conclusion of the countdown for the best selling singles of 1969 – 50 years ago next month – concluded with the revelation that of all the great songs that year, the best selling was ‘Sugar, Sugar’ by The Archies, he said, “I absolutely positively refuse to believe this song is number one”. And he never said another word about it, ignoring its very existence.
For what it’s worth, number 36 on that list was Johnny Cash, ‘A Boy Named Sue’. Just thought I’d mention it.
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Three posts planned for next week, all bright autumn abstracts for all you fall color aficionados.
I had the good fortune just recently to capture photographs inside an old shoe factory that has been stripped, gutted, and is waiting for redevelopment. It is filled with big, blank, dark open spaces with a few smaller offices covered in dust, grime, peeling paint, and a little junk nobody seems to have wanted. Chief among the junk (not pictured) are the toilet fixtures; they weren’t left in what used to be restrooms – even darker and danker corners I didn’t desire to venture into – they were pulled out of their holes and stacked into piles (I have no idea what became of the holes, but suspect such unknown is the root of my fear of stepping into their former restrooms).
Of paramount concern now is what to do with the captures. Shooting it is not the issue – used two cameras and both performed admirably, especially my little Nikon1 with the 1.8 aperture lens. I have some lovely images waiting for my attention. But once my attention wanders that way what do I do with them? How do I use them to create art. I probably have more difficulty with interiors than anything else. I’ve four in the can at this point, the first of which was exhibited in my November 15 post, each completely different, and, well, none of them trip my trigger.
Some of my favorite work, though, sat for months before I hit upon something. So, hey, no worries.
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Oh, wait, make that five in the can. Did an abstract back on October 11. So abstract, you tell me, does it count?
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Any number of curiosities in this old building, most of which open easy rationalizations as to why they were left behind. Not so much the subject of today’s work. Why would you leave this behind in a crumbling office of a factory building you knew was closing? Wouldn’t you at least keep the vase? You can imagine it in full bloom as its recipient turned their back without investing so much as the emotion of disdain. Knowing full well it would decay there. A romance trapped, never progressing, never ending. Just eroding.
Seeing is breathing in. Creating art from it is breathing out.
Yeah, I stole that, I admit it. The exact quote was “READING is breathing in, WRITING’ is breathing out”, and if ‘The Google’ is telling me true it was first voiced by a woman named Pam Allyn, who is an author and literary expert and the founder of LitWorld. I was with a bro when it popped up on his Facebook page and he read it to me, which prompted me to announce I was stealing it, which I’ve done and paraphrased here because, well, I can. (give me credit for properly attributing it). My version isn’t any less true; it can be applied to any creative act as such acts are, for the artist, acts of breathing.
Only ‘seeing’ without creating is like suffocating. What’s the point of living if you can’t produce something from it?
Only ‘creating’ without taking time to see or feel, that’s burn out. An unthinking routine is a form of dying.
Having exhaled a most astute and warm breath we only hope it is subsequently inhaled fraternally. But if we fear breathing out into black, empty space we become reluctant to breath at all.
Fear not the black dog.
OK, sabbatical over, more or less. I may not be creating and posting as frantically as this past summer; after all, we don’t want this to become a … dare I say the word … a JOB!
August’s exertions took me in new directions stylistically, and, after the afore mentioned break, I still find myself visualizing in those terms. There are folks who prefer the more unadulterated noir side of my portfolio; I’ll certainly get back to that at some point, but the abstract techniques I’m using seem to be opening up entirely new vistas. These things run in spurts.
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This past Sunday afternoon, while attending a gallery reception, smart phone alerts went off simultaneously around the room while one of the featured artists was speaking. It was sunny and nearly 70 degrees outside and I was wearing shorts and a pair of Keen Uneek sandals. The alerts turned out to concern a winter storm warning set to begin 12 hours later. Eighteen hours later I was putting on a winter coat and boots to take the dogs out in freezing rain and sleet. Twenty four hours later there was two inches of snow on the ground and the temperature was 40 degrees colder.
Sure, that’s a quick change, but relative to what? Social media is constantly awash with trite like, “If you don’t like the weather in [name any city or state] just wait an hour”. An hour, a day, a month – if one is not open to change any timeframe seems fast. A year, a decade, a century – hasn’t that crap changed yet? Why would these damn fools want to go back and do that crap again?
I completely get ‘time’s up’.
Just a simple sort of mid-sabbatical work today; just to keep the ball rolling. I looked at applying the fractionizing techniques I've been developing, but in the end decided simple works better. Even simple techniques suggest a dreamy, idyllic atmosphere with one foot in realism and one in the imagination. Not every dream has to be complicated.
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A good friend I’ve known for a thousand years reminded me of a time we and another guy took off walking across town on a January day to see Little Richard. His career had waned at the time, and while it would resurge again later that hadn’t happened yet. So we got to see him at a small club in downtown Bloomington, Illinois after walking at least five miles through the cold and ice to the small club he was playing at. We sat in the front row and he talked to us between songs and shook our hands a number of times.
So says my friend; the thing is, I have no memory of this. None. Doodley squat. One of the most important live performances of my life and I don’t remember it.
Several possibilities here, the most obvious of which is that I’m self-centered in the moment and don’t place enough importance on people or things in the external to prioritize remembering any of it. (In other words, I’m an asshole). Indeed, I have been known to go through doors pretty hard; I have a terrible time remembering names even of people I met 30 seconds ago, and I do put the past behind me rather absolutely. I’m the worst person on earth to talk about “old times” with because, well, I ain’t got any.
Just as strong a possibility is that my friend is confusing me with another guy. I like to think it’s a stronger possibility except that the guy he’s confusing me with is not necessarily a guy I’d like to be confused with.
I’ll probably never know for sure. And that’s the thing about memory, really. We forget about the most important things in our lives. We remember as “great” things that were really crap. We grope about the present for context. And all life is ‘context’.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.