Blurb Book-“Walls That Speak”

This small book has photographs and the story of the discovery of two handicapped brothers whose home had been decorated with their art and cut outs from magazines and catalogs. This is related to the tradition of “wall paperin” common in the Appalachian mountains. Their mother encouraged this when the boys were young (ages six and eight) and they continued to live there until well into their sixties when they moved to an adult care home. This is a wonderful story about place, family, and the joy of living.The decorated walls constitute a basic form of naive or outsider art. These two gentlemen are anything but outsiders. They are amazingly well adapted, functional, and happy in their life. This is in part due to the dedication of their older sister who has cared for them and helped them with their affairs. The other part is how comfortable they feel in their house. Their mother in practice if not reality gave the house to them when they were small boys. They were encouraged to make it their place. A place where they have always felt safe, loved, and happy. It’s a story with a lot of interest and a lot of depth and it is guilty in the first degree of being a true “feel-good” story. The book can be previewed on Blurb

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Relax, Spend Some Time Making Your Photograph

I skim through Facebook each morning. It’s a habit formed while teaching and being connected to many of the students. Today, I followed Trudy Thomson‘s suggestion to go to Jude Lobe’s blog and to read the article “Art Helps You Heal.” Jude is onto something important in her article. Looking at a work of art, closing out the racket and distractions of life so one can just let the image sink into the depths of the brain is a perfect approach to meditation, the relaxation response, or whatever so many self-help books name the process. The moment we give up the stresses and rush of our lives and give in to relaxation, less time pressure, and spend some time just in the moment we are better off. This is much like the basic tenets of Zen. When one considers some of its concepts it becomes clear how image making is facilitated by a Zen like approach. Recognizing that we are an interconnected part of the universe and not some distinctly separate part of the world, we become one with our process. I believe that the images are there, one simply has to have an open mind so that the images are seen. This is hardly news-I Googled “Zen and photography” and got 26,700,00 results!
Yesterday I encountered a fascinating article on ASX re: Ralph Eugene Meatyard. He was an optometrist in Kentucky who took up photography when his first child was born. He got a camera to photograph Christopher and became totally fascinated by photography. Much of his work is surreal in nature. The article spoke to his spending several months looking at things out of focus and trying to isolate a single element by using very selective focus. An interesting exercise for someone dedicated to helping others see things in focus! In the photos he made this way, the authors interpreted the imagery as “Zen like.” Meatyard is one of my favorite photographers along with Clarence John Laughlin both of whose photographs often have a very spiritual, surreal quality to them.
By now the obviously busy reader has either quit reading or said “So what?” The answer to this is to slow down. The Zen like qualities of the image whether done by Meatyard, Laughlin, Keith Carter, Paul Caponigro or whoever, come from spending time becoming one with the scene being photographed.

Landing Keith Carter

Landing Keith Carter

Whether in the studio, on the street, or in the out of doors-open mindedness, pace, and rhythm are essential components of successful image making. These things coupled with skilfulness all give to a successful photo. This is something all must be more aware of in the New Age of the digital system. The equipment is just too good and too quick. It facilitates all those potentially bad Type A personality issues. Take a deep breath, no, take a few deep breaths, slow down, say your mantra a few times, and then make your photograph.

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Essay- Street Photography

If you ask someone to define “snapshot,” they typically squirm and say something like, “You know, a picture, I mean not an art photo, just a picture.” They might add that it is not in focus, that it is of a family, that it was made with a cheap camera, that it was made with a handheld camera and so on. While all these may be the truth, none of them hold true as the sine qua non of the snapshot. Each criterion singly and all collectively can apply to what are regarded as fine art photographs just as readily as to snapshots. The term snapshot was originally a hunting term. The earliest recorded use of the term was in the diary of an Englishman named Hawker. He wrote that in hunting almost every bird he got was by snapshot, meaning that he did not take careful aim. Later this term was applied to photography when exposure times got fast enough so that “photographs could be taken, as it were, by snapshot.”

Perhaps it was the hand-held camera that provided the way. The Leica was developed in 1927, made to shoot stills of movie sets, hence the unusual rectangular 1.5 x 1 format. It freed photographers considerably. They were less noticeable, could go places where large cameras and tripods could not, were quiet, and easy to carry. Henri Cartier-Bresson was the master of this camera. It allowed him the freedom to move about in the world, almost lurking while waiting for some act that was worth photographing. He gave us the term “the decisive moment.” While most decisive moments must be taken as “snapshots,” not all snapshots record decisive moments. Garry Winogrand roamed the world outside taking pictures. He loved the act of photographing. His most famous quote (and he is very quotable) is “I photograph to see how things look photographed.” The large number of unprinted negatives and rolls of undeveloped film that he left upon his death document his penchant for taking photographs and not for photographs themselves.

In an essay on the aerial photography of William Garnett written by Peter Plagens in Aperture, 1983, making photographs is equated to moving through the world shoplifting images. This may be the main difference between painting and photography, in photography the images are there, they just need to be seen. One of the most appealing things about snapshots and one of the more important things to learn from them is how much the act of photographing something changes it. Snapshots give us this honesty that everyone is searching for as some sort of grail. They are very critical and often show us the plain unvarnished truth about ourselves.

One of the fertile areas for snap shooters is the genre of “street photography”. Again Garry Winogrand was a master at this. Photographers who make what appear to be snapshots include William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, William Klein, Robert Frank and Lee Friedlander among many others. More careful perusal of their photographs reveals amazing attention to detail, careful composition, and an understanding of photography that is instinctive. Sometimes this subconscious understanding is considered to be technical skill, but it is much more than that. It is photographic vision. This is something born of both technical skill, a love of photography, and inherent talent. I am not sure if it can be learned, I do think it can be practiced upon and improved, but the foundation of this vision probably needs to be in place at the get-go. Using a telephoto or long lens is not a part of the tradition of great street photography. William Klein uses a 28 mm lens on his Leica; Robert Frank also used a wide angled type of lens. This required getting up close to the subject, one of the goals of the street photographer.

Some have suggested that the “street” is a metaphor for “life.” The subjects are then photographed in their lives, coping with, enjoying, detesting, or whatever, but all having some interaction with their life when photographed. To do good street photography is not to just go out and shoot. One has to obey the dictum of Charlie Morrell: ”Many look, few see.”

pac mclaurin

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Liberté, Fraternité y Égalité

Demonstrators and demonstrations are a way of life in France. here at a Saturday market in Rennes.

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Pink Bikes

Bikes are more popular than ever in Paris. Nothing like Amsterdam, but the bike traffic is crowing. No doubt it will continue-very much green, healthy, cost-effective, and as safe as most other modes of getting around.

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