moonstruck # 1 ~ too much time on my hands / idle hands are the devil's (photo)workshop

moonstruck / an act of the imagination

I started with a color picture - see original picture in entry below this one.

Step 1, convert to B&W (via H&S desaturation). Step 2, create and save feathered selection of barn and tree. Step 3, lots of tonal adjustments to selected areas of picture. Step 4, selective soft focus via Gaussian Blur. Step 5, add ground mist on separate layer and blend to desired effect. Step 6, "hand color" (via H&S colorize) selected areas of pictures. Step 7, say "Voilà."

civilized ku # 5065-67 ~ inbred preciosities

kids queue at the cow jumping fest ~ Jay, NY (embiggenable)

landscape / cityscape ~ near Au Sable Forks, NY / Ottawa, ONT. CA (embiggenable)

What makes a good/better/best landscape picture? Most - both picture makers and picture viewers - would think it to be a picture which has "... good technique, compelling composition, perfect light at the right time of day and a subject that sings..." although "... finding good light is the secret to successful landscapes, even more so than interesting subject matter" (both quotes taken from an online discussion, re: good landscape photography).

iMo, those prescriptions (aka: rules) are a good recipe for making really good, albethey formulaic, decorative/calender fodder landscape pictures. Nothing wrong with that but its just not my cup of tea. I want a little (or alot) more spice in my cup of photogratea.

What do I mean "spice"? Let's start with this from a 1953 amateur photography magazine in which the author wrote that picture makers must ...

"... learn to SEE ... we have come to look at things like everybody else does, or as outside influences have taught us to look." He urged picture makers to depend more on their "inner vision ... to see as nobody else does."

iMo, re: that idea, most landscape picture makers see as everybody else does. While their subject matter may differ - albeit always within the prescibed list of "good" subjects - to my eye and sensibilities their pictures all look the same. That is, the landscape as a well ordered - aka: "good" composition - and romantized - by means of "good" light - and idealized look at the (mostly) natural world. That's not spice, it's pablum.

Now, to be sure, every picture making genre has its "rules" and conventions. That includes the genre to which I subscribe, the snapshot aesthetic which typically features apparently banal everyday subject matter pictured in a haphazard manner - tilted horizons, cluttered "composition", no apparent regard for precise framing, and in many cases "flawed" techique and the like.

Robert Frank, with his 1958 book The American, is generally regarded as the originator of this aesthetic. However, in fact, true amateur snapshooters had been using the aesthetic for decades prior, they just didn't know that it was an aesthetic.

FYi, John Szarkowski, director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art, was an early and enthusiastic promoter of the aesthetic, much to the chagrin, consternation and criticism of photography critics of that era. After all, who would want their pictures to look like the lowly snapshot?

Prior to Szarkowski, MOMA, in 1944, mounted an exhibition, The American Snapshot, in which 350 snapshots, culled from competitions and exhibitions sponsored by Eastman Kodak, were exhibited. Most reviewers of the exhibit asserted that the pictures "constituted the most vital, most dynamic, most interesting and worth-while photographic exhibition ever assembled by MOMA." The pictures were praised as being "without artistic pretensions ... coming nearer to achieving the stature of true art than any of the inbred preciosities in the museums's permanent collection..." and that the pictures were "honest, realistic, human and articulate."

And therein you have my idea of "spice" - pictures that are without artistic pretensions, that are honest, realistic, human and articulate; attributes which can be inexorably linked to any referent - everything in the world is picture worthy.

snapshots # 6-7 ~ what might have been

more from my parent's trip to Yellowstone (embiggenable)

railroad porter with ice cart

abandoned teepee gas station

As I was scanning old family snapshots I was looking for a date imprint on the prints to get an idea of when the pictures / prints were made. Back in the day, Kodak was given to doing date imprints but these prints were devoid of any such thing.

Then it dawned on me - these prints were made by my grandfather. And, mostly likely, he had processed the film from which they were made.

In another odd occurrence, much like growing up In Rochester and never giving a thought to photography, I never knew until after my grandfather's death that he was a avid/"serious" life-long amateur photographer. So much so that he even processed and printed color film at a time when the process was not exactly user friendly.

Makes me wonder what my picture making life might have been like if I had an earlier kickstart.

snapshots # 1-5 ~ the art of

from my parent's trip to Yellowstone

This entry is instigated by this entry by Doug Stockdale on his blog. You may want to read it first. My entry is my thoughts on Stockdale's quandry as articulated in his entry.

I have always been fascinated by "vintage" snapshots, both as found in my family's archive and those as found (and purchased) in curiosity shops. My fascination has also driven me to acquire the hardbound book The Art of the American Snapshot ~ 1888-1978 which was the catalog of the 2007 exhibition (of the same name) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The book's inside cover states:

... The Publication shows that among the countless snapshots taken by American amateurs, some works, through intention or accident, continue to resonate long after their intimate context and original meaning have been lost....

My thoughts exactly. And the book also makes an interesting case regarding that the snapshot "has also changed the history of fine art photography by the manner of its "distinctive subject matter and visual vocabulary". The book has 294 pages and is illustrated with 250 snapshots drawn from Robert Jackson's outstanding collection.

A CliffNotes version of Stockdales entry regarding whether he is an artist or a photographer stems from his creation and publication of a book of snapshots drawn from his family archive which is being rejected as a "photography" book inasuch as he did not make the pictures. Stockdale, who has published books of his straight photography, in this case considers the book to be his art. Hence, he been "accused" of being an artist, not a photographer.

iMo, although Stockdale doesn't state it in his entry, his am-I-an-artist-or-a-photographer? quandry is compounded by the fact that he is experimenting with applying effects to his original photography in order to "change the feeling" of the original picture. A practice which certainly not straight photography but much more of a Pictorialist approach.

All of that written, here's my take on it ...

A photographer is an artist who practices and employs the art of seeing in the cause of picturing the world as it is (inasmuch as the medium and its apparatus allow).

An artist who uses photography is generally regarded to be someone who employs some aspect of the photographic process in the making of a piece of artwork. In most cases, much like Stockdale's pictures with effects, the artwork is not intented to depict the world as it is but rather to create a piece of artwork which evinces the "hand of the artist".

When it comes to Stockdale's book of snapshots, iMo, he is neither a photographer nor an artist who uses photography. More than anything, he seems to be an artistic curator of photographic archives / artistic photographic archivist or some such nomenclature.

While Stockdale is bringing his photographer's eye and sensibilities to the editing and sequencing of his snapshot material, he is not, iMo, acting as a photographer nor as an artist who uses photography. One might even suggest that he is not making art at all but rather that he is practicing the craft of booking making. Although, iMo, there is an art to doing that.

civilized ku # 5064 ~ unbridled excitement

reflected light ~ Ottawa, ONT. CA. (embiggenable)

While in Ottawa last Friday/Saturday, the wife, during an early morning walk about, discovered signage promoting a photo exhibition, Photography in Canada 1960-2000, on view at the National Gallery of Canada (in Ottawa). Prior to our visit to Ottawa, I had declared my desire to visit the National Gallery of Canada based on general like-to-visit-museums-of-art principles. I had no prior knowledge of the aforementioned exhibition.

Upon being informed of the exhibition, my ardor for visiting the NGoC escalated beyond imagining, only to be deflated by the wife's insistence that, on her birthday, she had other ideas of how to spend the day in mind. In the face of obvious overwhelming odds, I decided not to press my point. Her birthday. Her decision. My happy (non-reluctant) acquiescence and we set off for a very enjoyable day.

Of course, I was comforted by the fact that we would be returning to the Ottawa region - about 50k from the city - the very next weekend for a 4 day mini-vacation. A day-trip to Ottawa was planned as part of that getaway so I will be able satisfy my desire to visit the NGoC. I am excited by the fact that the exhibition features work by, amongst 67 others, Jeff Wall, Edward Burtynsky, Lynne Cohen and Jim-me Yoon - if you are not familiar with their work, use your google machine to look them up.

civilized ku # 5063 / diptych # 218 ~ home and away / what a difference a day makes

Canadians are so polite ~ Byward Market* district • Ottawa, CA (embiggenable)

poutine / game warmups ~ Friday • at the rink / Ottawa, CAN CA (embiggenable)

home and away ~  Sunday • Jay, NY (near Au Sable Forks) / Saturday (Victoria Day) • Ottawa, CA - (embiggenable)

On Friday last, the wife, the Cinemascapist, Hugo and I went to Ottawa, Canada for the Pittsburgh Penguin / Ottawa Senators - game # 5 - Conference Finals hockey game. Had a poutine - french fries, gravy and cheese curds - appetizer with dinner at the rink. Pens won and all was right with the world

The wife and I stayed overnight in Ottawa because Saturday was the wife's birthday and we wanted to have a relaxing day away from home. It was a very nice day and, once again, all was right with the world.

*Byward Market district

civilized ku # 5061-62 (kitchen sink # 38) ~ 2 rooms

kitchen ~ (embiggenable)

bathroom ~ (embiggenable)

Over the past few days I have not paid much attention to making pictures. Too much other stuff going on.

First, there's Pittsburgh Penguins continuing success in the run-up to (hopefully) the Stanley Cup finals. Second, finding a room in Ottawa, CA for our stay after the Penguin / Senators game # 4. Third, there's the continuing escapades of the Presidunce of the United-in-Distress States of America. And fourth, the almost completed construction of our new screened-in back porch.

While all of those distractions are still in play, all but # 3 have been reined in and are under control. Thus allowing me to start seeing again.