I traded cameras with a friend this week. How exciting! This means that I'm using a Nikon D70 and my friend has the pleasure of using the precious Mamiya 645pro. I've realized a few things...
1. Digital is extensive. You can take a lot of pictures, which is great for practicing. You can look at your image in an instant. You can use auto focus ;) I lured some friends into my "living room-turned glamour studio", with the promise of stunning renditions of themselves...and, vino. The outcome: questionable stunning-ness., unquestionable entertainment. Here are some out takes:
that's brooklyn, seattle and chi-town, at your service.
he's charming. really.
she's good at what she does.
so is she.
2. I like what I know and I don't know Nikon so well. The Mamiya is intuitive, but then again, I've been using it for years. Practice with the 'new' technology will help, I'm certain of it. But will I ever get over the fact that photography, a medium utterly dependent on light, is engaged in a serious affair with the pixel...a human-generated grain of film? If you know me, you know how much I appreciate science. I can't believe how amazingly well our algorithms have come to truly interpreting light. However, film is still documenting light. Digital is still computing light. Legitimate or otherwise, I feel like this makes me less of a photographer. Does it? Let's think...
The Portland Art Museum's most recent exhibit was a photographic series,
Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867-1957. It documented the gorge and its transitions, both social and geographical, that came in large part with the addition of two major dams.
Carleton Watkins was prolific in this exhibit. He was hired by construction companies to document the landscape before (and during) the impending changes. At the time of his early trips to the gorge (approx. 1867), photography was considered a science. It was not an art...and that's no surprise. Photography was new on the scene and far from accessible to the masses. Cameras were large and cumbersome, not to mention "negatives", as we know them, did not exist. Photographers were curious chemists who experimented with light sensitive chemicals on glass and metal plates. That being said, those whose images we admire today are few...and therefore special. Making a beautiful image in 1867, in the rugged topography and weather in the Columbia Gorge was mastered by Watkins. He had vision and tenacity; strength and scientific know-how.
He was shooting with a mammoth plate camera. This is an image of a camera similar to his.
A person must be admired or at least appreciated for making such striking images under such challenging conditions. One had to have a true mastery of science and art...he didn't have light meters, auto-focus, instant previews; he had to use intuition, a keen understanding of light and deep knowledge of chemistry.
this is one of my favorites. columbia gorge b/w mosier and the dalles.
Maybe roll film replaced glass plates with the same confidence that pixels are taking over roll film. I guess the fact remains that there will always be a necessary intuition behind any good photograph or photographer. What changes is the nature of the intuition. Could Watkins have made a successful picture with a Mamiya 645? Could Terry Richardson with a mammoth albumen? Can Ani Nelson with a Nikon D70?
I think we all can...in due time.
I went to a lecture this afternoon by the two photographers showing at Blue Sky Gallery
in Portland, OR...Tony Mendoza and Brad Temkin.
discussed his photos from Relics, a body of black and white images he'd
taken in Northern Europe. He captures "manuments" on stark landscapes;
man-made relics left for dead in forgotten fields, freeway corridors,
cow pastures... They take on a life of their own, especially in their
large (approx. 40x60) format!
What struck me most about Brad
was his propensity for people. He spoke casually but effectively. He
engaged a room full of strangers. He shared stories of his encounters
with humans in all of his other bodies of work. But there we were,
looking at piles of rocks, rusted re-bar, old tires...there were no
people. Not even a trace of human activity. Or so it seemed...
I wondered if his affinity for socializing had something to do with the success of his pictures. It was as if the culmination of time and his activated curiosity for human stories produced in him, the ability to know what we want; to know that we will be drawn into expansive landscapes and larger-than-life relics.
Predicting the future...on a limb...one photograph at a time.
More about Tony on our next encounter...
ode to my predecessors
The word, the spoken and the written word, has the most immediate
impact on human beings; in contrast, matter speaks more slowly.
Aalto was an architect and designer from Finland and a true pioneer in Modern design. He is perhaps most famous for his Paimio chair
(If you live in Portland and know about the Aalto Lounge, know that it
is named for this fine character and that the graphic on their sign is
a rendition of the Paimio chair).
I strive (and hopefully all of us do) for an aesthetic that
will sustain decades of change, visual and otherwise. Aalto is one of
those artists who quietly achieved this benchmark. He was
simultaneously forward thinking and rooted in history. He understood
classic design but was not afraid to predict what we
Eggleston is arguably my favorite photographer and I believe he lives
in this same category. In 1976, John Szarkowski curated the first,
one-man color photography show for MoMA in New York City. Reputations
were on the line and honestly, it took years for them to recover. At
first glance, Eggleston's photographs could have been taken by your
10-year old niece.
They represented the banal, the mundane, the
"unworthy" slices of life in his home, Memphis, Tennessee. The public
was outraged. Artists emphatically opposed Szarkowski's choice. Ansel
Adams went so far as to write him a two page letter expressing is
discontent. "I find little 'substance'. For me, [Eggleston's
photographs] appear to be 'observations,' floating on the sea of his
consciousness... For me, most draw a blank."
grim reactions, this show catapulted color photography into the "art"
world and eventually served as the foundation for Eggelston's success.
In today's context, Eggleston's photos receive a wildly different
response. And while some maintain their initial ground, he has become
one of the most influential, respected photographers to date. In fact,
William Eggleston's Guide (the book that was produced for that initial
show) is more often than not, sold out on Amazon.com.
We change, Eggleston's tricycle is the same tricycle.
His work is showing at the Whitney in NYC until January 25th.
It is his first show in the city since 1976. If this has made you at
all interested in the man, you may enjoy this article from New York Magazine
Until next time...
| February 2009 »