November 30, 2010
OK, this is a man whose work I need to sculpt. I purely love this guy’s photography.
I don’t know much about Byron Dazey, but I do know that–like me–he treasures strangers. I write about them, Byron photographs them. His ability to capture personality with a lens is remarkable; I find myself telling the stories behind his candids and portraits without ever meeting the subjects.
That’s pretty powerful skill.
I am NOT a great lover of classical figurative representation, i.e., the human form and face without expression, blanded down and un-humaned to near-abstraction.* So one of the things I love is that when Dazey chooses his favorite images (all 241 of them), nearly all have at least one face and that face is telling a story.
Cool. I’d post a shot to show you what I’m talking about, but that would be rude (also illegal). So you’ll just have to visit the site and see for yourself.
*Ain’t it ironic that the virgin-white Greek and Roman marbles we so treasure, which so influenced “classical” sculpture, were originally mostly polychromed, i.e., painted in bright and anything-but-abstract colors?
September 10, 2010
There are perhaps ten cameras, or camera-incorporating devices, in my house right now, from Darius-the-IMPORTANT-camera to the oatmeal box pinhole sitting under my desk. They shoot pretty effortless color–in fact, shooting black-and-white takes a lot more work.
Which tends to make me forget that there was a time when a color photograph was a big honkin’ deal, and it wasn’t all THAT long ago. Nor was it necessarily a cut-and-dried process, i.e., “stick colored film in slot, shoot.” [Read more]
September 6, 2010
Given the number of spiders who’ve gone to their ultimate reward in my house, you’d think I’m one of those jump-on-a-chair-and-scream spider-haters.
Actually, I love OUTDOOR spiders, and spend a fair amount of time in the fall watching them festoon my windows, deck rails and garage doors for Halloween.
Photographing them, however, takes some thought. The golden orbweavers like this one are a gorgeous combination of color and texture, with a translucency that reminds me of amber or jade, or maybe pate de verre. When the light hits just right, they glow.
It’s hard to cram all that into a photograph, especially if you want to include the web and there’s no obliging mist or rain to outline it. When I saw this spider, hanging proudly between the rails on my front porch, glinting in the sun, I gave a long, low whistle and ran for the camera. She was beautiful.
She was also hanging on a dark porch in very flat mid-afternoon light. And I’d dropped a rock on my shutter release and not yet replaced it, so I’d be grabbing the camera to shoot from the dark into a busy, sunny background. that’s about the worst combination around for catching delicate detail like spiderwebs.
So my first effort sucked–they usually do.
Camera re-autofocused, missed the spider entirely.
Obviously, the spider needed a background. I tried a plastic sheet, but it cut out too much of the light. It also flattened the colors and lost the gorgeous translucency.
This looks more like a spider pinned to an antiseptic specimen card, and you can just barely see the web. The detail’s OK, but…ugh.
I switched to a single sheet of vellum for the backdrop, and tried raising it up a bit above the spider to let in more light, and hopefully backlight things a bit. I kinda like this shot, but it still wasn’t right.
It’s better, but there’s too much distraction, and you wanna know what the weird triangle is in the background. Still, the thorax is beautifully backlit, and the legs have some glow. It demonstrates why I think of these spiders as jeweled.
Finally I leaned ‘way over the rail with a single cut-down sheet of vellum, just wide enough to fill the field. Light still streamed in around the vellum, giving me the backlight I was looking for. I’ll probably go out there again and set up a couple of white cards to reflect light back onto the spider and emphasize her furriness, but otherwise the shot looked great.
I, on the other hand, looked pretty dumb. The neighborhood kids watched in bemusement as the crazy glasslady (me) removed her shoe and tried to hold a sheet of vellum steadily between two toes, leg flung over the front porch stair rail in what has to be the most ungainly arabesque in history. Meanwhile, my front half inched back onto the porch to delicately trip the shutter without shaking the camera or the web.
(And no, I do NOT have a photo of this. Thank heavens.)
The youngest girlchild stared at me a minute, then shook her head and headed down the street. I suspect I’m the most entertaining thing on the block.
But I did get my shot. I didn’t ask the spider what she thought of the human cavorting around her, but I do thank her for holding still.
August 5, 2010
What makes a photograph art? Is it how you take the photo or what you do with it afterwards? Or is photography not art at all, but simply being there at the right place and time with a camera?
Ironically, the guy who answered those questions for me is smack dab in the middle of them right now.
Housepainter Rick Norsigian found 64 old glass negatives at a yard sale, paid $45 for them–so the story goes–and they now turn out to be early images taken by famous photographer Ansel Adams. Preliminary estimates put them at something like $200 million (or more).
Naturally, all hell has broken loose.
Adams’ former business manager and now the manager of his trust, William Turnage, wasn’t incredibly polite about the whole thing. He called Norsigian and his team of authenticators “a bunch of crooks.”
Adams’ grandson was a little more restrained and said, essentially, that it didn’t matter if they were Adams’ negatives or not, since Adams died almost 30 years ago. As he’s no longer around to craft the prints, whatever comes from those negatives won’t be Adams’ art and therefore won’t be worth anywhere near $200 million.
FWIW, I agree with the grandson. I might not if I hadn’t seen an Adams exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco as a kid. (That’s the exhibit, incidentally, that gifted me with a lifelong love of photography)
The curator dedicated a full room to Adams’ famous Moonrise over Hernandez, below. But instead of simply displaying the work, he displayed the long line of test prints–a decade’s worth–that Adams made to reach the final, iconic work. Each was annotated with Adams’ own darkroom notes–burn here, dodge there, bring out the shadows in the black over there.
Adams painted light onto that photo paper the way an artists paints oils, arriving at a dramatic, emotion-packed print that bore about as much resemblance to the original as a caterpillar to a butterfly.
Compare the contact sheet, top (the original without any manipulation) to the final print (bottom):
Now tell me that the art ends with Adams’ negative.
You might get some beautiful, absolutely stunning prints out of those rediscovered old negatives. But they can’t duplicate Adams’ choices exactly and therefore they won’t be Adams’ work.
Of course, this makes a kinda sticky wicket for Adams’ foundation, which is still selling new prints from his original negatives. Adams sure as heck isn’t slaving over a hot enlarger to produce them. His grandson says that an Adams-trained printer is making those images and is therefore producing the same thing Granddad would.
Yeah, maybe (although what happens when that guy is gone?). To be fair, the current prints don’t sell for anything like an original, Adams-printed image. But still…gonna be interesting to see how far Adams’ heirs can fight this without cutting their own throats.
August 3, 2010
There’s a weedy field, not far from my parents’ house, that always catches my eye. It’s under high-tension wires that hum and buzz in a stinging, “we’re about to leap down on your neck and sizzle you” kinda way, but it’s full of daisies and Queen Anne’s Lace and those ginormous dandelions that I’ve never seen anywhere but the northwest.
I’ve been driving by that field for a couple of years now, promising myself that I’d bring a camera. Last Sunday, I slammed on the brakes, grabbed Derrick-the Droid, and kept my promise.
For a funky little cameraphone, he didn’t do half-bad. His wacky aspect ratio is disconcerting (really looooong pictures), and I need to go back with Darius-the-Nikon for a real photosession. But these will do for now.
Enjoy (and you can click on an image to slightly enlarge it and turn it into a slideshow, you know…)
May 18, 2010
Woke up Saturday morning, the sun was shining (I tried to overlook that), lighting was long, low and golden…and the iris were popping. Five seconds later I was reaching for the camera bag.
Five seconds after that, I was screaming at the top of my lungs: “Where the heck is my macro?”
March 13, 2010
I’ll admit I’m a gadgethead, love ‘em to death. But when did gadgetcool become “couldn’t open it with an IQ of 265 and a sledgehammer?”
Apple’s famous for making gorgeous-but-difficult packaging: Both my MacBook Pro and my iPhone came in boxes with no visible openings. Not even Microsoft, which tends to eschew supercool for nerdish efficiency, escapes the packaging problems: Office 2007 for Mac came in a clear acrylic puzzlebox that took as long to open as the software did to install. Love the software but by the time I got the box open I very nearly returned to typewriter and paper.
But Motorola just won the dumb packaging of the year award with the Motorola Endeavor HX1 Bluetooth headset.
October 8, 2009
So he laid a pate de verre panel down on the sweep instead of the neat metal stand I’d brought. He adjusted the lights, climbed up on a stool to take the shot, and transformed the entire piece. [Read more]
September 17, 2009
OK, I get street photography, photojournalism, documentary photography, pictorialism, fotografie verité, but here’s a new one: Fotografie felinité.
You’ve probably already heard about him, but a cat named Cooper, living in Seattle, strolls the streets near his home weekly, with a small camera strapped to his neck. It snaps a shot every two seconds; later, the people he owns run through the images, select the ones they like, and publish them on his website for him.
July 10, 2009
I’ve got this huge post on the garage remodel just about ready to go but there’s one more thing to build and one more piece of news I want to mention: The New York Times just pulled a batch of photos from its Sunday magazine upon discovering that they’d been (gasp!) photoshopped.