Not to be seduced

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Photographers

That’s not to say that working in clear–cuts has been easy. So much effort has had to go to trying not to do certain things. Not to use the sky, on those rare occasions when there is one here in the Nortwest, to rescue the land. Not to be seduced into celebrating the power of men and machines, which can have a Satanic beauty and heroism about it. And not to aestheticize the carnage.

Robert Adams, Along Some Rivers

Exercise

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From the archives
Exercise
Lorry, house, tarmac, light pole.

Looking at this set of photos. As an exercise in how to choose a subject, which ones to walk past, what angles to consider photographing from, distance, height. That sort..

They’re from almost a decade ago, the photographs, taken with a wide angle zoom that can’t be moved (as in up or down or sideways), probably with the lens taped to a fixed focal length. I deleted a few photos from the set, prematurely, in hindsight I should have kept them, as part of the study. Not that there aren’t plenty of Move on, nothing to see here frames left.

It’s hard to put my finger on what excactly I feel I’m gaining from revisiting old sets like this. Sure it’s possible to have an objective (as far as that goes which isn’t very far) look at the photos, the where and how and such, but perhaps it’s mostly about the shifted perspective, in the time passed between then and now.

One thing I vaguely do recall from the time is thinking this is something, while somehow knowing that it wasn’t. The photographs I mean. Looking at them now I do see a couple that are ok. And quite a few worthy of walking past. Don’t care much for the editing though, but that can be fixed. Could be fixed.

The dew is never all dried at once

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People of words

When we contemplate the whole Globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with islands and continents, flying through space with all the other stars, all singing and shining together as one, the whole Universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty. This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere. The dew is never all dried at once. A shower is forever falling; Vapour forever rising. Eternal sunrise, Eternal sunset, Eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn as the round Earth rolls.

John Muir

via Fiona Steel, on IG.

What if?

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Words
What if?

Been playing mind games recently, with ifs in them. Like what I would photograph if the situation was different, and access and opportunities allowed it. That sort. Different themes. No limits. Like so.. (in no particular order, none of this)

Whose portrait

Not normal people

When I was a kid I delivered the newspaper. Once a month I walked the route, just after dinner time, collecting the subscription fee. One of the subscriber scared me, he didn’t seem like normal people, in the eyes of me as a twelve year old. Afraid I had a fairly strict view on who qualified as normal back then. Anyway, it would be interesting to see him again, perhaps as his portrait, made by twelve year old me. Rather than tracking him down, knocking on his door and say “Hi I’m the kid you scared in the early eighties, can I take your photograph now please?” Besides, given how I’m no teenager any more he would be a very old man by now, if he is still alive.

People using public transportation

Also quite a few years ago, although not as many, I met the eyes of a woman on a bus. I wonder what she’s up to these days. If she’s well, still able to take the bus, still living in her house, or apartment. If she had one to begin with.

Spotify people

I sometimes wonder who they are, the people who made the music Spotify plays for me. Today Miranda Lambert’s name turned up, at Spotify, and although I’m not particularly interested in celebrities* I would like to do her portrait. And while on the topic of celebs, Damien Rice too. The fact that both are musicians is probably not a coincidence. It has to do with resonance, strike probably.

*I mean, nothing about their status as a celebrity (whatever that means) is of particular interest. Besides, for one celeb there are, say, thousands of non–celebs, most likely equally interesting persons, if not more. The fact that their music sometimes or often resonates is, however. Interesting that is, and by extension, makes the people who made it, the music, interesting.

People from the internet

A few fellow photographers, people I have seldom or never met and only spoken to over the www. A good chance nothing good were to come out of it but certainly worth an attempt.

[edited] Coming to think of it it’s a little sad to even say such a thing, people from the internet. Something to think about I guess.

Previously athletic people

I played basketball in my teens. Often think about a couple of the guys on the team. Wonder what they’re up to, how their lives have been. How their lives were back then. Maybe it’s more about looking them in the eyes and say hi, than take their portrait. Maybe not.

Dead people

A man who is no longer alive. Further details not yet available.

Once–knew people

An ex–girlfriend of mine, one who inspired me, plenty. Say that again, in capital letters. Afraid I had the opposite influence on her. Wonder if this line is painfully embarrassing and if I should strike it before clicking the publish button.

—o—

Some of those but not all I would like to do while having a healthy discussion about our greatest shame.


What place

Oh, places..

  • An area just east of Höfn í Hornafirði, in South–East Iceland.
  • Estonia. Not the whole country, don’t even know which parts of the country. Would have to begin by studying my browser history in vague hope of finding traces of a place I once wanted to see more of. But I’m fairly certain that once there I would figure out where to point a camera.
  • Finnmark. The northernmost state in the kingdom of Norway. There is zero good reason for me not to have been there already. To be there regularly. And photograph it to pieces. Well, one. Reason.
  • Gullfjellet. Aka Gold Mountain. Which is 20km away from my doorstep and no excuse in sight for not doing it. Really, none whatsoever (adding Gold Mountain to 2do list).
  • My daughter has reminded me of Kyiv a number of times in the last year or so. Haven’t been there since it was still in the Soviet Union. Can’t say that I would love to go back, but I do want to and it scares me. Not sure that if I did, if a camera would make much sense, if any.
  • South South–America. I spent probably three or four nights staring at maps and travel descriptions from Chile and Argentina earlier this year. Don’t know what I should expect and that’s fine, not having an idea. Feels far away and is, on more than just the physical level, but still I see myself there with less hair, stronger glasses, greyer beard, in a decade or so.

What building

Really, is building worthy of a headline? I’m sure that there have been some but being a landscape photographer**, a building is nothing more than a component in the landscape. Like a cliff. Or a bunch of trees. Not the landscape itself. Wonder what I’ll think of this sentence a week from now. Probably not much.

Odd structures in a(n un)likely place.

**Yeaii, label!


Now what?

Not all of these point are equally un–obtainable. So, feed them into a spreadsheet, rate, label and figure out what within reach and what isn’t? What’s more important than not? Hmm..

Looking for the frontier that was promised

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Photographers

“I went looking for the frontier that was promised, and found a complex landscape – a road that served as a physical and psychological line between wilderness and progress. I drove, like the others, to drive as far as I could drive. They hitched their wagon to the great American need to point their wheels toward the Western horizon. To see for themselves. When they ran out of West, they went North.”

Ben Huff, The Last Road North

Photograph, abstract

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Words

An image caught my eye the other day, in my Feedly feed, the #photography category. You know the feed images, the ones chosen to represent an article, sometimes well selected, sometimes not as well. In my Feedly settings they’re quite small, very small actually, and if they are to catch my attention it will be the shapes, contrast or colours, or a mix of these, perhaps a person’s face, if the image was taken from a close distance. Details are lost at such small sizes.

Anyway. This image.
I don’t have the rights to publish it here so words will have to do.

It was black & white photograph, quite contrasty and difficult to tell what the subject was, at least at the width of only 130 pixels. Showing what appeared to be an arrow–like structure, a light but large triangle coming in from the bottom left, following three much smaller triangles pointing up to the top right corner. Intriguing photograph, one that inspires one to click the link to learn more. For that purpose, a good choice.

The photo was the featured image of a blog entry calling attention to a gallery exhibition, “Photography and Abstraction”. A subject that seems to strike a nerve in me and not always in a good way, mostly because I find the idea of abstraction by photography to be a bit of a nonesense. I’d like to stay away from bombastic claims that it is, there certainly are ways to abstractify the outcome of a photograph but I can’t help feeling that it is a bit of a hoax. There was still a subject in front of the camera and it did its best to accurately describe it, as cameras do, even if whoever controlled it attempted, perhaps even with great success, to hide the fact from the viewer.

Turns out this particular black & white image wasn’t at all abstract. Just a regular, albeit a very good, aerial black & white photograph of geometrical, agricultural forms on the earth’s surface. The high contrast certainly made it look more graphic than regular black & white photos. The combination of subject, composition and execution was first class. Abstract it was not.

Context

It is a little embarrassing to show this, especially following what I wrote above, but here is my take on abstract photography:

A panoramic composition of seven vertical, colour photographic images.

“Two groups, three pairs and a single.”

So, a composition of seven images, none of which is particularly difficult to decipher (click for larger if you like and if your device allows it). Although I’m not unhappy about the composition of the seven, as an attempt to do abstract work it is certainly a failure and as such the level of it is hardly even mediocre. Sorry Thorir.

(I actually got away with a BA degree in photography with this but to the judges’ defence I should add that they did encourage me to write more.)

Perhaps this is the root of my gripe with abstract photography. The fact that I failed myself, and in order to keep my failure under control feel a need to keep other people’s attempts at the same as close as possible to my own level. That this notion of failure prohibits me to accept the success of others.

Although there is a grain of truth in that, probably a bit larger than I’d like to admit, it would be nice to see terms applied correctly. The fact that a viewer might need a moment or two to identify a subject does not mean that the photograph showing it qualifies as abstract.

The camera is a recording device. It captures what is in front of it, and does a fairly good job at it. Elements may be removed or added, to introduce notions of abstraction but that doesn’t make the work abstract.

The Feedly image is from here. The gallery’s exhibtion text here.

Would love to see it! Or since I won’t be able to, documentation of it would certainly be second best.

Something reminded me of this

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From the archives
Something reminded me of this

Something reminded me of this so I found the original file and tweaked the curve some, it was fairly dull in the previous version*.

A couple of points (Warning: thinking out loud)

  • When I posted this to online a number of years ago I wrote something about how it reminded me of being twelve. I said that a lot, some years ago, and now I can’t recall why, or what it was about this image, or other things that took me down memory lane, that reminded me of that particular period in my life.
  • Browsing the photos on the hard drive, next to this one, was almost painfully embarrassing. No one was looking over my shoulder, hence almost. But what a pile of crap! Ok then, water under the bridge, move along.

*as opposed to now, all shiny and sparkling with joy 😉

Exploring to do

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Words

“I’d been making pictures of rural areas, in the manner of Ansel Adams, but the conference organizers asked me to make documentary pictures of the city of Colordado Springs, which was growing rapidly. I did so, and was surprised. The scenes were frightening, but one or two had about them an unexpected beauty. I couldn’t account for it. From that point on, I felt I had some exploring to do.”

Robert Adams, Along Some Rivers

One less reason..

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Words
A few Fuji films in 120 and 220 format laying on a wooden box.

It’s been staring at me, the Pentax, for a long time now. Begging me to go for a walk so it could see, not the world exactly, but at least the nearest surroundings. Stretch out, move a little, internally as well as just being around, breathe the fresh air..

And I’ve always replied, —“nahh, I don’t even know where your films are, so being outside wouldn’t make much sense, right?”

And it would nod, as if it agreed, patiently, in silcence. Knowing the time would come.

Well, look what fell out of a bag I just emptied.

One less reason not to load it up—it seems like the Pentax and I are going for a walk.

— o —

Not entirely unrelated, I seem to recall reading something recently about how film and I never had the love affair I had hoped for.

Not long after the films fell out of that bag, while attempting to trim the mess that is my four thousand and something photos on Flickr, I stumbled upon the photo below, of the Voigtlander Perkeo II laying in the grass somewhere in West–Iceland. And even if the images we did together never lived up to the hopes I had for them (for the lack of a more proper analysis) the Perkeo and I had quite the affair, right until the bellows started leaking.

A Voiglander Perkeo II, a fifties folding bellows camera, laying in grass

Voigtlander Perkeo II on green background.

As for the incompleteness regarding my film photography, it was mostly a matter of never developing a proper workflow. Processing was inconsistent, so was scanning, and if I am about to expose the films that fell out of a bag they will most certainly suffer the same fate, if I don’t get these things in order. Sure, it might be a little enjoyable to look at decent sized negatives again but after being looked at they would slowly but surely become a part of the weight of unaccessible films. And that’s not excactly constructive.