(Click on images to enlarge.)
(Click on image to enlarge.)
In Memory of Morris Goldsmith (July 3, 1907 – August 31,1992)
It’s not a book or retrospective exhibit at MOMA but it’s the closest to either that I can reasonably hope to get, at least for the immediate future. It’s Alighting, my new website, that organizes Pixetera images dating from 2012 — plus some earlier work — in a more systematic fashion than is possible with a chronological blog. Today, it finally went live.
There’s lots to look at — more than 500 images in fact. If you’re like me at a blockbuster museum show, feel free to whip through them like a whirlwind just to get a contact high. Otherwise, take your time and come and go as you like — admission is always free. Don’t forget to bring your friends :)
Know too that any feedback, positive or negative, is absolutely welcome. Brief comments can be left here, but I’d prefer that serious suggestions or criticisms be communicated via phone or email using the contact information you can find at Alighting.
FYI, current work will still be posted on Pixetera so don’t turn the dial (as they used to say in times that now feel pre-historic.) The plan is that at some point, the more exceptional images will also alight on Alighting.
My hope is that the new website marks both the end of one chapter and beginning of another.
On January 1, 2012, I posted my first pictures on Pixetera. It was the start of a yearlong photo/day challenge that immediately turned into a one-or-more photos/day project. Twelve months later I remember being ecstatic that I had accomplished my goal and could now relax, relieved of my self-imposed obligation to take and post images on a daily basis.
Much to my surprise, however, I continued to photograph quite regularly, such that my Pixetera posts have averaged out to one every 1.5 days over the past six years. It’s fun to look back and see where I started and where I am now: Some of the early work I still marvel at; some, I wouldn’t think of posting today. Still, I’m generally pleased at the way the work has progressed.
The reason I’ve been going backward in time is because I’ve started to develop another website where my images can be organized in a way that’s more meaningful than straight chronological blogging. At this point I’m pretty much resigned to the likelihood that the book I’ve been fantasizing about for years will never get done — mostly because of expense and time, but also the necessity of leaving so many photographs on the cutting room floor. Those won’t be problems on the new site, called alighting. There’s also a satisfying sense of continuity in sticking with the medium that birthed Pixetera. Having started my professional career when slide shows were all the rage, I have a special fondness for backlit images.
The downside of all this is that after six full years of picture taking/making, I need to back off a bit from Pixetera: Between eking out a living, railing against our fake president, getting alighting off the ground, cooking, cleaning (on rare occasions), and nourishing an inner self, something had to give. I’ve also been aware of encroaching burnout, a sure impediment to producing fresh and exciting work.
I’ll still be taking photos, just not posting them as frequently as I’ve been doing since 2012. Instead, I’ll be aiming for once every 7-10 days. At the same time, I expect to continue following my blogging friends daily — one of life’s great pleasures I hope to never relinquish. Some of you I’ve only become acquainted with in 2017. You should know that in a year filled with so much destruction, loss, tragedy, and profound disappointment in what this country has become, you’ve become bright spots in my day.
As a consequence of posting more infrequently, I’ll be ending my memorial to terror victims. My fear is that in a worst-case scenario, such posts will take over Pixetera now that the number of photos will be reduced. For better or worse, I don’t have it within me to create another blog chronicling the blood that’s shed in the delusional and horrific perversion of religion.
Here’s to the better angels of our nature in 2018. I like to think that one of them lies behind the photographs we take and why we’re so moved to share them.
It’s hard to write about a year in photography when You-know-who has been in the White House for over a week now. Every morning since November 9, I awake in fear at what new outrage he’s about to inflict on this planet through his tweets, executive orders, appointments, calls, and spokespersons. What new lie? Or fresh assault on reality/science/civil rights/or democratic norms and institutions? What new obscenity/flagrant hypocrisy/fraud/or bogus issue? Who will he insult/bully/or fire today?
Trump never disappoints and often outdoes himself. On Friday, he issued a statement in response to International Holocaust Remembrance Day saying:
It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror . . .
In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.
Soon afterwards, he slammed the door shut on refugees fleeing unspeakable horrors at home, even those in midflight who had all their papers in order.
The disconnect would be SAD! if it didn’t reveal such a shameless and breathtaking indifference to human suffering.
I fear for a country that is shredding its bedrock principles and values, succumbing instead to prejudice, fear, vitriol, and America Fist (intentional misspelling) domination; a nation in which the ubiquity and influence of fake news all but precludes constructive dialog and agreement on basic facts.
Is it possible to oppose this relentless onslaught without becoming exhausted and just giving up? Is that the master plan? I hope not. Few of us have the stomach for political office but new tools are available now that make it easier to continue fighting. This Washington Post article mentions several outlets for resistance if you’re so inclined. And here are almost 200 methods of non-violent protest that might also be inspiring.
All of which is to say that photography, instead of being front row center in my life, has become a place of refuge from this madness.
Two years ago, I wrote about the best photo workshop I ever attended, which was held at the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, NY, and led by its founding abbot, John Daido Loori (d. 10/9/2009). It was called Seeing with the Unconditioned Eye and based largely on the approach to photography that Loori had learned from Minor White.
Hara, a Japanese term for the grounding center of energy located in the abdomen, isn’t normally associated with photography. At the workshop, though, it was a vital concept. Loori encouraged us to refrain from taking pictures until we were drawn to a particular subject through the hara. Not only that, but we were asked to wait until we had the subject’s permission before we pressed the shutter.
Permission from a pair of mushrooms or a rock? Not even close: If grades were given, I would have earned an F. In 2016, however, I noticed something subtle happening on occasion. I’d enter a room in my house and feel the palpable presence of light inviting me to get my camera and start taking photos. Or, as happened yesterday, an early morning routine would suddenly be interrupted by the urge to photograph. Sometimes, the initial subject works, but just as often, another image possibility calls out, and maybe a third, until I finally end up with what I hope is a keeper. Outside my apartment, a similar thing occurs: A certain scene or subject attracts my photographic eye, only to lead to another more fruitful opportunity in the immediate vicinity.
Normally, I think of photography as all my doing, all coming from me — capturing an image whose subject couldn’t care less whether it was photographed or not. But maybe the reverse is true, the world beckoning, calling attention to itself, seducing the easy mark. Maybe there’s some kind of exchange going on completely under the radar, a conversation without words or sound, a dance of atoms and energy — who knows? If this is what Loori was talking about, I guess I’m a slow learner. If it isn’t, well, at least it’s an expansive thing to think about.
In that same post from two years ago, I wrote about a growing wish to push myself as a photographer, and not rely on the “same old, same old.” Towards that end, I’ve turned to image “mashups” as a way of producing abstract or more densely textured work. For me, it’s a change of pace from real world imagery, an engagement with the imagination as well as conscious seeing. The process itself is somewhat mechanical and dull; the payoff that comes only at the end is entirely unpredictable. When it happens, it’s very satisfying, but when it doesn’t, several hours of labor end up as discarded pixels in the trash.
In 2017, I intend to start working in the margins more, seeking mystery and complexity in light and form, and breaking traditional rules whenever I can get away with it. And now that I have a borrowed camera with a shorter shutter lag — courtesy of sm — I may start photographing humans once again. If I can figure out how to hold a sign in the air and still take pictures, you’re likely to see some photos from anti-Trump demonstrations that are bound to continue throughout the year. Let’s hope they have some effect.
(Click on images to enlarge.)
All photos by sm; mashups by ag