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?

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?


Lonesome Dove Traveling Photo Exhibit

The Lonesome Dove Traveling Exhibit is currently at the Bosque Museum… but only until March 3, 2018, so hurry if you want to see the photos Bill Wittliff made while filming the movie Lonesome Dove.  Mr. Wittliff was tapped to write the screen adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s novel of the same name. The novel follows two former Texas Rangers (played by Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones) and their adventures on a cattle drive to Montana Territory. That is a vast oversimplification of the story, but it was/is so popular, I am sure you have read the novel, seen the mini-series, or both. I had recently read the novel prior to the airing of the 1989 TV mini-series, so this exhibit takes me back to the anticipation and planning my life around each episode to see how the pages from the novel would come to life on my television screen.

The Bosque Museum is located at 301 South Avenue Q, Clifton, Texas. HERE is a link to their website which includes driving directions. They are open Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 a.m -5:00 p.m.

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.

Russell Lee Photography Exhibit

I have written about my admiration of Russell Lee photography before HERE. The Pie Town exhibit I wrote about was the first time I experienced Lee’s work in person. So, I was happy to learn about an exhibit of his work at the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas. The exhibit contains photographs from the Dolph Briscoe Center in Austin, Texas and is on display in the temporary gallery of the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum from January 27, 2018 – March 10, 2018. I have included the press release about the exhibit below.

Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum Press Release for Russell Lee Exhibit

The Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum is proud to host a new temporary exhibit featuring the photographs of renowned documentary photographer, Russell Lee. These photographs, on display through March 10th, showcase Lee’s stunning black and white images, focusing on topics such as politics, travel, industry and, most touchingly, the human condition.

Russell Lee came to photography after training as an engineer and a painter and left a legacy of more than 100,000 documentary images from the 1930s to the 1970s. Although best known for his large body of work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) from 1936 to 1943, Lee also produced many significant series of images on his own and on other assignments, most of it while living in Austin, Texas, his chosen home.

This exhibit offers a rare glimpse into the images he produced in 1935 and 1936 when he first took up a camera and goes on to highlight the vast body of important work that Lee produced from 1947 through 1977. Although less familiar than his work for the FSA, Lee’s early work and his postwar photography highlight his interest in documenting the human condition and reflect his great talent and humanity.

This collection of digital prints is drawn from the archives of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. The Briscoe Center’s Lee collection includes 3,639 photographic prints, 708 slides, 27,047 photographic negatives, and five color transparencies.

Russell Lee Photographs can be viewed with regular admission to the museum, Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and is part of the regular schedule of changing exhibits at the museum. The Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum is located at 315 W. Avenue B in downtown Temple. For more information about the exhibit or the museum, please visit or call 254-298-5194.

Russell Lee Photographs was organized by the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin, and presented in partnership with Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Humanities Texas advances heritage, culture, and education and is based in Austin, Texas.


Film: Finding Vivian Maier

Movies, Documentaries, Series to Watch

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Yesterday was Vivian Maier’s birthday. I admit that I had no knowledge of Ms. Maier, or her work until I watched the documentary, Finding Vivian Maier. I watched the documentary during a long airplane flight a few years ago while searching the “in flight” selections to pass the time. Maier was never the subject of any art history courses I was enrolled in, books I read, images I explored in galleries, museums, or online, so finding a “new” photographer piqued my interest. I slipped on my earbuds and listened to her story, told through third-party eyes, which unfolded for the next hour (plus a few minutes). The story was so intriguing to me that I re-watched the documentary on the return flight. Here are just a few reasons why I found it worthy of recommending.

First, I found it to be a cautionary tale for me, personally, for these reasons:

  1. I am guilty of not printing my work now that I am embracing digital photography. There are many, many, many reasons to print a physical print of your photograph (which is a blog post in and of itself), but her story illustrates the importance of you, as the artist, being in control of your own artistic vision; and
  2. It is the perfect illustration, for me, that perfectionism robs you of completion. She did the work. Apparently, used her camera regularly, possibly even daily, as we are so often taught to do, and yet, the next step, or steps, were never taken to complete the process.

Secondly, the whole story had me vacillating between being grateful that someone saw the value in her work and found it worthy of “saving”, to the opposite feeling that she should have had control of her work, why didn’t she exhibit it herself with her own vision and specifications, and many feeling in between.

It also reminded me that I have an old camera that belonged to my grandmother. Soon after I inherited the camera, I discovered that there was a roll of film loaded with a few remaining exposures. When I shared my discovery, a family member excitedly asked if I planned to develop the film. Without hesitation, my answer was, No! There were shocked faces in the room so I felt the need to explain that I loved the mystery of imagining what moments were etched on the film that was probably 30 years old at the time. My choice was to allow those unprocessed images to challenge my imagination. But, that exchange made me realize that there are differing opinions.

Happy Birthday Vivian Maier!


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Today is Vivian Maier’s birthday (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009). If you are not familiar with Vivian Maier or her work, it may be because she was relatively unknown prior to the acquisition of some of her personal effects in 2007. Little information is known about Miss Maier. Apparently, she was an intensely private person who worked as a nanny for some 40 years, beginning in the mid-1950’s. During this time she was known to walk around with a Rolleiflex camera strapped around her neck, snapping images on rolls and rolls of film. Unfortunately, Vivian Maier did not experience the appreciation of her work during her lifetime. In fact, among the bevy of her personal effects were copious rolls of exposed, undeveloped film. Yep. The undeveloped film means that she never saw much of her own work. Clearly, showing her work was not why she did the work. So, what drove her to continue taking those photographs?

Since the discovery of the body of work amassed by Vivian Maier, her work has been exhibited posthumously and her life is the subject of books and documentary films. But, those stories and their details have been told and you can search them out.

My request for permission to share an image or two went unanswered, so you are going to have to click HERE to take a look if you are interested. However, I would like to consider some other points of view about her work. They are really more questions than answers. Here are a few questions that come to mind:

  • Miss Maier is now known for her street photography. It seems she went relatively un-noticed as she recorded everyday life, as well as current events. Maybe her anonymity was due to the Rolleiflex camera which allows the photographer to look down in the camera viewfinder rather than holding the camera up to the eye. I suspect this type camera made street photography a little more spontaneous and less obvious. Or, had she learned a delicate dance of being present without being present – very much like being a nanny who is part of a family’s life without really being family. Or, was it just a different time when photography was not so prevalent and things were, perhaps, a little more innocent and trusting?
  • She was known to be particularly fond of newspapers. Were her documentary-style photographs a type of self-assignment making her a defacto photojournalist? Or, simply a manifestation of her curiosity?
  • She captured her own image, reflection, shadow… in many of the images. Was this too a documentation of her and her life, a happy accident, or was she simply ahead of her time with the selfie revolution?
  • From what I have read, it appears as though Maier may have been a self-taught photographer. How did she learn photography? Especially after she stopped developing her film. Without that feedback, how do you know what is “working” and what is not? What area(s) need work? What is working, but could be better?

There are so, so, so many questions her story and work conjure up. Wouldn’t it be interesting to view the entire portfolio in toto, in chronological order, so you could see her evolution as an artist? Or, should we respect her privacy? What are your thoughts?