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.

Just This Moment – March

Just This Moment of Life in Photos Header

“Just This Moment” is intended to be a collection of those small moments in which you are truly present in your life – at just that moment. The images may not be frame-worthy, but are moments that fill you with joy, allow you to experience a moment of gratitude, make you smile, touch your heart, and/or make your soul sing.

Ahhh, spring… the birds are singing, flowers are beginning to peep out from their winter slumber, and then there are the trees…

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 2018 SuZan Alexander

Okay, you caught me. The image in the bottom right (two white flowers) is from a blooming dewberry vine. Great catch. You have a good eye!

So, show me what is blooming in your neighborhood.

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.

 

Pictorial Souvenirs from Texas Big Bend Area

Travel Blog Post Series

Exploring Near and Far

I have been fortunate to say that I have visited the Big Bend area of Texas for many years now. I have been fascinated by the history of the area. I have watched the changes accumulate over the years. I have enjoyed the wide open spaces, learned a few of the landmarks, delighted in watching the wildlife, and, I have marveled at the sunrises and sunsets that are second to none. But, most of all, I love to visit this rugged, sparsely populated area of Texas to make new memories, and perhaps a few good images, as souvenirs until the next visit.

I recently created a photo book that included images from my many visits to the Big Bend area. Since I just worked on curating the images for the book, it is fresh on my mind and I thought it would be fun to “explore” the area with you all today. As for the visual part of our Wednesday Wandering, I thought I would share an image I included in the book, as well as a link to the preview of the book.

Texas Big Bend Windmill

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 2015 SuZan Alexander

This image of a rather battered and bruised windmill is one of my favorite images from the region. Some days, don’t you just feel like how this windmill looks? For those days that you feel battered, broken, about to fall… you get yourself all patched up and lean into the wind. Buck up buttercup, because the sunset view is coming.

If you are interested in seeing a few more images from the book I mentioned; HERE is the link. I hope you enjoy the “virtual” trip. If you have any tips for favorite places to stay, hike, and/or take photos, I would love to hear from you. Be sure to leave me a comment before you strap on your virtual hiking boots.

#TBT Kallitype Photography

Kallitype Photograph of Chairs

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 1984 SuZan Alexander

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?

Film: Citizen Kane as a Study in Light

Movies, Documentaries, Series to Watch

Film Friday Header

By RKO Radio Pictures, still photographer Alexander Kahle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, one photography instructor suggested watching the 1941 movie classic 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.

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?