Photography and art making as play.

Tag: personal

Saturday, March 6, 2021

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Monday, November 30, 2020

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Sunday, October 4, 2020: What’s Inside the Box

For the last few days, I’ve been looking at 8mm family home movies from the 1940’s and ’50’s. I haven’t seen most of them in fifty years or more so you can imagine what a trip it’s been: aging grandparents not yet frail, my parents in their prime, uncles and aunts I never knew were so good looking, my sister, cousins, and me at the very start of our lives — not that I can relate at all to the little boy seen below as he attempts a somersault.

And what about those three-inch square, yellow Kodak boxes that required all of nine cents return postage!

I regret that as a family, we watched these films shortly after they were taken, and rarely, if ever, again. I would have liked to see them years later while everyone was still alive, and to hear the older generation talk about themselves when I was too young to care. I wish that my sister and I could have seen the love that existed between us as children, before we became estranged later in life and she passed away. I’m not sure it would have made any difference in our relationship but it never occurred to me to suggest it.

In managing to capture a few frames with my iPhone for this post, I was surprised to discover several stills that actually had some artistic merit—due in no small measure to their lesser photographic quality. Even the dust and hairs in the projector lens make a valuable contribution :)

My guess is that there’s a wealth of fabulous photos hidden in countless 8mm movies being played back at 16 frames/second. A project for the next pandemic lockdown.

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Monday, September 28, 2020

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Thursday, September 10, 2020: Old Photos of an Old Friend

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Monday, September 7, 2020: Labored Day

This may be a stretch in terms of a holiday link, but a good part of my Labor Day weekend was spent revisiting my career as a professional photographer specializing in corporate/industrial editorial assignments. A friend of mine had expressed interest in seeing samples from my commercial portfolio, most of which pre-dates the digital age and exists largely in slide form.

I hadn’t shown that work in more than 25 years, and since then, the presentation had gotten broken up in the course of 3 different house moves and a shift in career focus from business to higher ed. Putting something together for her involved emptying a closet full of cartons, spending hours going through boxes of slides amidst the resulting chaos (see below), and then more hours restoring order.

It all goes to prove that sometimes retirement still involves work!

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Title Slides from an Ancient Career Retrospective:

My first job in photography was painting a white bathroom black for use as a darkroom . . . or was it a black bathroom, white?

I rarely photograph people at work smiling. If work was really enjoyable, it wouldn’t be called work.

A professional photographer is one who makes every mistake in the book — once. After 16 years, I’m still an amateur.

Two of my favorite pieces of photographic equipment: Swiss Army knife (with toothpick); airplane air-sickness bags (good for separating each day’s exposed rolls of film).

Things go wrong so often on assignment, I now take it as a sign that things are going right. If there are no problems during a shoot, then I really begin to worry.

Photographing in cluttered, aging factory environments quickly gives rise to the aesthetic known as the “art of exclusion.”

The question I am most often asked: “Do you photograph women naked?” To which I reply: “I only take my clothes off when I bathe, sleep, or skinny dip.”



Monday, August 10, 2020

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Sunday, May 3, 2020

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Friday, May 1, 2020

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[NEWS FLASH] In the midst of writing this update, my camera died: the problem was a lens that wouldn’t retract or extend fully without pushing, pulling, rotating, or some combination thereof. Without anything to lose, I decided to take it apart and see if I could restore it to life. Thirty tiny screws later, I still couldn’t extract enough of the lens to examine it.

Below is a mashup of the deceased, taken with both the iPhone 7, and the 8 megapixel camera I started Pixetera with. Until I find a “real” camera upgrade that fits my specs, these will accompany me on my travels. From what I can see of the current market, it may be awhile :(

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It should be interesting: Any self-esteem I may have had as a long-term professional will, I expect, go down the tubes because of the total disdain I’ve had for smart phones as photographic instruments. Maybe I’ll discover a new way of working, however, and grow to embrace them. Greater miracles have occurred for sure.

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When I started Pixetera as a photo/day project in 2012, I hadn’t done any personal work in almost 3 decades as a professional photographer. At the time, I didn’t give any thought to the future but when 2013 came and went, and 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 as well, I found myself still going strong. I sometimes think that I’ve been taking photos with a vengeance to make up for all the years that I missed out on doing my own.

Recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve become much more demanding about what I post. Pictures I would have been content with years ago now grow old in a desktop folder called “New”; others that I would have accepted straight out of the camera with only minor processing begin life instead as raw material to be sculpted or worked on (and on and on) until a more satisfying image results.

Last year I became enamored of the unusual color palettes that are sometimes produced with Photoshop’s Inversion option. It’s surprising because the original colors were often what attracted me in the first place. I also like Photoshop’s Oil Paint filter — in moderation — for replacing the sharp realism of photographs with something softer and more lyrical.   

If I didn’t feel that I was still exploring the medium, or discovering new subject matter, I’d probably slow down or stop. It certainly helps to be living in a small-size city whose illustrious past and struggling present offer a seemingly inexhaustible bounty of photographic inspiration. Now that I’ve decided to get outside every day for fresh air and exercise, the images come on an almost daily basis.

In February, I began experimenting with the visual stories I call New Novellas, distant relatives, I like to think, of the graphic novel and Duane Michals’ sequences. Unlike those antecedents, however, the narratives always come after seeing the images themselves rather than vice-versa. The different personas I enjoy taking on as narrator are part of the fun.

Mashups, which I’ve been doing for at least five years, continue to be a never-ending source of discovery and pleasure.

I don’t do shows much, and when one of my photos was accepted for the Western Massachusetts 2019 Biennial exhibition (“From Seed To Fruition”), the experience confirmed why not: The recognition was hardly worth the time, energy, and cost involved in being a participant. I have no idea how others do it without being blessed with discretionary resources I lack.

Digital exhibition opportunities, on the other hand, are a different matter. A local gallery stages an open show in the fall and spring that displays images on a large video screen in addition to framed prints. I had 50 photos total in the last two shows I entered at a cost that was a fraction of what I spent for the biennial. Their reception was in inverse proportion to their expense.

Continuing in the same budget vein, I finally broke down — despite all my antipathy to Facebook — and opened an Instagram account at the beginning of the year. Can’t say I understand why it’s preferable to a blog where the artist has more control over the presentation of his or her work, but I’m old school. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a photographer whose Instagram images I feel like following, but the floor is certainly open to nominations :)

May next year at this time find us with a new American president and a Congress fully controlled by Democrats! It’s our democracy’s last best hope.


Photography and art making as play.