This quote by Edward Weston made me think about how I take photographs. I think there is a point in your progression as an artist, when composition… the rule of thirds, golden spiral… all becomes part of how you see and how you frame your work. What do you think? And, where are you on this path?
I am not much on selfies, etc. so I thought I would share an image from my college days for Throw Back Thursday. This is an image from my college days (circa 1980’s… pre-digital photography), it is from a course on an alternative photography process known as Kallitype. (You can read more about the Kallitype process HERE.)
Looking at the photos from this course some thirty years later, I see compositional changes, etc. I would like to do differently, like the plant that is creeping in on the edge of the frame. Back in the analog days, cloning this out was a very different process compared to these digital days. But, I love these old photography processes that are now referred to as alternative processes. I like them so much that I have started exploring the updated versions so I can start incorporating them into my personal work. There is a tactile component, and something about it challenges my creativity. I would really like to incorporate that feeling of creativity into a body of work using new tools and new knowledge. My journey of research is leading me to begin learning how to make the best digital negative possible because that seems like the best place to start exploring how to incorporate this passion for alternative photograph into my “new” digital photography skill-set.
As for this particular photograph of three chairs, if you are asking why I made this image, here is the story. I was at a Mexican food restaurant in San Antonio, Texas. I remember being drawn to these chairs at the perimeter of the room. So, mid-meal, I finally got out my camera and fired off a few discrete shots. It was only when I started developing them in the darkroom that I realize what I was seeing in this group. Each one of these chairs has something missing, broken, or “wrong”. Can you see them?
Citizen Kane, starring Orsen Welles, for lighting inspiration. I think photographers are often inspired by movies for lighting and post-processing ideas. I can’t speak for cinematographers, but I would like to think they are inspired by still photography too.Recently, one photography instructor suggested watching the 1941 movie classic
I watched Citizen Kane several years ago but re-watching it now as a study in lighting gave me a completely different appreciation. For the most part, the movie was low-key (predominately dark tones to create a dramatic effect). Many of the scenes were captured with the characters in silhouette, which I’m sure was, in part, to draw attention to the dialogue rather than them as subjects. But, as I began studying where the light sources were positioned and how the characters moved in and out of the light, I began to consider if there was some symbolism to the lighting. All of these questions… What’s a viewer to do but search the internet for some answers… or maybe more questions.
Here are some observations from my internet search I thought would be fun to share.
- Charles Kane (Orsen Welles) character was almost always captured in high-key lighting. High-key lighting is light and bright as opposed to the low-key lighting we discussed above. While this highlighted (no pun intended) Kane as the main focus of the story, it is interesting to note that the flashbacks to his childhood were not filmed with the low-key lighting like the rest of the film. Is that meaningful? Yes. I think so too. I am currently working on a series where I am planning to employ the high-key and low-key lighting as an underlying message, so this was a validation of my plan.
- The film is credited with making significant contributions to cinematography, one of which was the use of “deep focus”. I was not familiar with the term, but it is when the whole scene is in focus. When I read about this, it made me think of the group of landscape photographers calling themselves the Group f64. The group was founded by Ansel Adams and the reference to the aperture, f64, is understood by photographers who want to get the whole scene in focus. Today, we take for granted the change of aperture to achieve the desired effect, but apparently, this was relatively new territory back in the day. Doesn’t that make you appreciate your camera now?
Those are just a few bits of trivia to look for if you decide to watch, or re-watch, Citizen Kane. Most of all, just notice the richness of tonal values achieved from the lighting and enjoy the movie. I would love to hear what you think about the lighting. What scene had the most impactful lighting for you?
Since we discussed Michelangelo’s David in our Museum Monday yesterday, it would just be wrong not to recognize his birthday today. If you are interested in a little Michelangelo trivia, you might be interested in this POST I shared last year on his birthday.
As if you need another reason to visit Italy, today, let’s talk about the Galleria dell’ Accademia that is home to Michelangelo’s David. We have all seen Michelangelo’s sculpture of David in photos, replicas, or the original, right? This 17-foot marble statue of the Biblical hero has become one of the most recognizable sculptures from the Renaissance period. The sculpture was originally commissioned as one of twelve Old Testament sculptures to be installed on the roof of the Florence Cathedral. However, did you know that the marble had been quarried, brought to Florence (no small undertaking in the 1400’s), and was worked on by two other artists before Michelangelo was commissioned to transform it into the David we know today?
Marble is best sculpted after it is freshly cut and becomes increasingly brittle with exposure to the elements. In fact, this marble was considered “dead” because it had been sitting in the sun for over 30-years before Michelangelo transformed it into David. Somehow, the young Michelangelo took a piece of low quality marble that had been badly cut and created a beautiful statue.
Upon the sculpture’s completion around 1504, the authorities acknowledged that installing the sculpture on the roof was unlikely. The sculpture was installed outdoors in the Palazzo della Signoria instead of the originally planned location. It remained in this outdoor location until it was moved into the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1873 in an effort to protect the masterpiece from further damage. Between the time the marble had been quarried, sculpted, and installed, it had been exposed to the elements for close to 400 years if I did the math correctly.
Why am I telling you this little tidbit of history? I am sharing this so you will have some background to understand why David has some weak ankles. It seems the ankles have developed micro-fractures as a result of exposure to the elements, the unusual position, and proportions (remember it was supposed to be viewed from a distance below which factored into the proportions and angle design), as well as other factors over the years. Scientists have mapped the micro-fractures and have determined that the masterpiece is in danger of collapse. Recent studies report, if David were tilted as little as 15-degrees, the ankles would no longer support the statue’s weight. Yikes!
Today is the birthday of Ernst Haas. Haas was a photojournalist who is also considered one of the pioneers of color photography. In fact, in 1953, LIFE magazine published his photo essay which was the first color photo feature for the magazine. But the groundbreaking accomplishments do not end there. It seems a 1962 retrospective of his work was the first color photography exhibition held at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). So, for all those folks who have told me that photography is not art, please read that last sentence again. I am pretty sure that serves as evidence that photography IS considered art, at least by the good folks at MoMA. Just sayin’
If you are interested in exploring and enjoying the art of Mr. Haas, The Ernst Haas Estate has a website with his work. I have included the link HERE.
For my fellow photographers, I included this quote as something to think about. No judging. There is room for everyone at the photography table. But, it made me consider what type of photographer am I? What type photographer do I want to be? And, does my life reflect the photographer I want to be? (Yes. I am going through a deep-dive phase of exploring the process of creating art.) Do you know which type photographer you are?
Today is the birthday of American photographer, Ansel Adams. I know we’ve all seen his images, heard about his commitment to conservation… and photographers certainly know about the Zone System he championed. So today, on his birthday, let’s celebrate his art, as well as the contributions he made to the art of photography.
I’ve always been intrigued by Adams’s technical abilities with photographs. When I was in college, I even “pitched” the idea of receiving college credit to attend his workshop one summer. My instructor agreed to the college credit IF I wrote a proposal and a paper after the workshop. Her agreement encouraged me to work on a plan to make it happen. My next step was parental approval so I devised a proposal to travel to California via train, and my parents agreed. Hot diggity dawg! I was going to apply to study with Ansel Adams, albeit a short amount of time, but it was time with Ansel Adams. I was sure he would teach me the secret of great photography. Unfortunately, Mr. Adams passed before I got my plan off the ground so I was never his student – in person.
After a long absence from photography, I now find myself embracing digital photography which in many ways is like re-learning photography. Don’t get me wrong. Digital photography has a lot of benefits, but, if I’m truthful, there is a part of me that misses film photography too. I have a collection of Ansel Adams books and I am still learning from him. His methods still hold teachable moment even though the medium has changed. I would like to think he would have enjoyed all the new developments in this medium we call photography.
Happy birthday! This Zone System is for you Mr. Adams.
If you want to join the party, HERE is a video interview with Ansel Adams. Enjoy!