Books for March

Book Club Thursday

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 2017 SuZan Alexander

BOOK FOR MARCH:

Did you read Artful Lives: Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather, and the Bohemians of Los Angeles by Beth Gates Warren? I have to admit, I was expecting a small book and a quick read. I am still amazed that the postal employee CRAMMED the tome into my small mailbox – with damage, of course. I am sure my neighbors got a laugh if they happened to watch me pry my latest read from the confinement of the mailbox. But I digress…

While it was no small book, it was a pretty quick read for me because (i) I was interested, AND (ii) I was traveling. Yes. It WAS a heavy book to be carrying around in airports. I am considering it my strength training exercise program for March, but I was grateful I brought it along because my travels include some flights that were delayed which allowed for more reading time. As a bonus, my travels and layovers were somewhat tracking the places I was reading about in the book. I love when that happens. It seems to make the pages come to life.

The author, Beth Gates Warren did a masterful job at cobbling together the story of Weston and Mather. It must have been quite a task because Mather… well, she re-invented herself so there was no direct line to her history, and Weston destroyed his “daybooks” prior to 1923. Weston’s destruction of these daybooks/journals, in effect, erased personal records concerning his early career from 1906 until his departure for Mexico in 1923. In so doing, he eliminated any insight into his relationship with Mather and her influence on his work. If you are interested, I found a video of Warren’s lecture at Santa Barbara Museum of Art where she discusses her research and the resulting book, click HERE.

I admit that I have long admired Edward Weston’s images, but I knew very little about Weston beyond the images that were introduced to me in a college art history course. I am sorry to say that I had never heard of Margrethe Mather, nor had I seen her work before reading this book. This read provided quite an education of both artists and illustrates how we have an influence on each other in the creative process.

BONUS BOOK:

Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland has become a regularly referenced and suggested book for all creatives.  I read this book many years ago and decided I should also invest in the audio version so I can listen to the words while working in my studio. As I revisited the book this month, I was surprised at how much information the book still imparts to me and my work. I decided that I need to put a reminder on my calendar to listen/read the book at least once per year. (As an aside, did you notice the many referenced to Edward Weston in the book?)

Did you read either or both books? If so, I would love to hear what you thought.

Two Amazing Edward Weston Photographs

Today is the birthday of photographer Edward Weston. Weston is considered one of the most innovative and influential photographers of the 20th Century, so I thought it might be interesting to explore a couple of his images. Why only two images when there are so many important images to choose from? Well, these are two images that are considered Fair Use for discussing his work without violating copyright. Having said that, please search on your own and enjoy looking at his work on web pages, like THIS one, that are authorized to show his art.

As a teen, Edward Weston was gifted a camera, which, in essence, began his photographic journey. Over the years, his photography style included soft focus pictorialism to pictorial realism. According to most accounts, his transition from the soft focus style to sharper resolution was the result of photographing the American Rolling Mill Company (ARMCO) in Ohio during the 1920’s. These photographic images were praised by Alfred Steiglitz and are credited as photography that emerged into the Modern era. Among Weston’s many contributions to photography were his designation of being the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim fellowship. He was also instrumental in photography’s designation as an art form, was an avid writer documenting and sharing the photographic process, as well as being the photographic artist that developed the concept of previsualization.

In my opinion, Weston’s strongest images are the common, everyday subjects like the two images below. Can’t you just feel your stress level dropping while looking at these beauties?

NAUTILUS, 1927 (aka Shell, 1927)

Edward Weston's Photograph of Nautilus

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30370190

Apparently, Weston was inspired by Henrietta Shore’s large paintings of sea shells. He even borrowed some of the shells Shore had been painting so he might further explore a still-life series. After a few weeks of exploring different kinds of shell, backgrounds, and I’m guessing lighting, compositions, etc., well, this image titled Nautilus is one of the results of that exploration and discovery. It’s a good thing, because this photograph has been credited as one of the most famous photos ever.

(As an aside, if you are unfamiliar with Henrietta Shore or her work, I would be remiss if I did not encourage you to seek out some of her work. Consider it a BONUS to this blog post. I got you started with a link. Just click her name above to take a look.)

 

 

 

PEPPER No.30

Edward Weston's Pepper No. 30

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27863857

In the 1930’s, Weston began creating close-up images of fruits and vegetables. During his exploration of fruits and vegetables as subjects, Weston photographed green peppers for several days.

The peppers series is probably his most iconic set of images from this body of work, and due to their almost modern sculptural quality, these images have been likened to the sculpture of Hans Arp. Oh the lighting! Give me a moment to swoon a bit. Okay. I’m back. This beautiful, dramatic lighting  certainly lends itself to focusing on the form of the pepper. I think the light is what makes the photograph sculptural. And, can I say, Oh, la, la.

 

 

 

Happy birthday Edward Weston! Thank you for all your contributions to photography as an art form, as well as the eye candy we are still enjoying today.

 

Motivational Monday

Edward Weston Quote on Composition

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?

Happy Birthday Michelangelo!

By Daniele da Volterra – The Collection Online, The Metropolitan Museum of Art., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50572617

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.

 

Ernst Haas

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?

 

Celebrating the Photographer Ansel Adams

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!

Photographer Edward Curtis

"Kikisoblu (Princess Angeline) of the Duwamish" — the eldest daughter of Chief Seattle. 1896 portrait photograph by Edward S. Curtis.

Princess Angeline

Today is Edward Curtis’s birthday. Edward Curtis was a photographer, who, in my mind, crossed lines into the territory of what I consider a historian, and perhaps even a photojournalist. Officially, however, he is referred to as an “American photographer and ethnologist”. I have written a blog about him before (HERE).

His (circa) 1895 photograph of Princess Angeline (above) is considered his first portrait of a Native American. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. What intrigues me about his story is his dedication and determination. He literally gave up everything to pursue this passion of documenting Native Americans in a time when it was illegal for Native Americans to practice their customs. Clearly, he saw an urgency in documenting as many tribes, as well as their customs, languages, and rituals, before their way of life vanished. I realize there is controversy surrounding authenticity, etc., but I feel there are some stunning images that resulted from his work. For example, I could sit quietly with Princess Angeline for quite a while. Then, there is the Vanishing Race where only one of the warriors is looking back. That small moment becomes a metaphor for the past and a vanishing way of life. There are so many images that give me pause and make me ponder the stories.

So today, on Mr. Curtis’s birthday, have a look-see at some of the images he created which are housed at the Library of Congress.