"I am a storyteller, inspired to find the narrative in everything around me, whether words, music; the smallest of moments, or the most amazing sights we see..."

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THE POWER AND POETRY OF PHOTOGRAPHY from UC Davis to Babies Birthdays

December 2nd, 2011

THE POWER AND POETRY OF PHOTOGRAPHY from UC Davis to Babies Birthdays

While watching the very disturbing video of Lt. John Pike pepper spraying non-violent and seated UC Davis students, one of the more searing images of recent days, beyond the gut-churning view of uniformed men spraying toxic chemicals directly into the mouths and faces of teenagers trying on their civil rights, I was struck by the ubiquity of bystanders taking photographs and shooting video of the event as it was unfolding. The number of hands raised with their IPhones and cameras blinking in earnest evidence-making was breathtaking, and one couldn't help but harken back to other historical events on college campuses over the decades and wonder just how things would've gone had cameras been as ready and available back then. I daresay the chronicling of such events and others like it might have presented a more expansive view of history than the one with which we were left.

But, in fact, the power of photography and its ability to capture history was clearly and profoundly in evidence even prior to this ubiquity, as demonstrated by the shocking and invaluable Zapruder tape of President Kennedy's assassination, the iconic images of the murdered students at Kent State, and the even more historically-distant but no less powerful daguerreotypes of the Civil War and its most famous participant, Abraham Lincoln, taken by Mathew Brady and others. As hieroglyphics and story-high tapestries so long ago proved, visual narrative has always been a crucial partner in the historical documentation of humankind...we've just got IPhones now!

And beyond history and its more ponderous purposes, photography has also been one of the more evocative mediums to capture the beauty of nature, as expertly done by photographers such as Ansel Adams, Bill La Brie, and Gregory Colbert. Or in catching the edge of pop, porn and poetry found in the work of provocateurs Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe and Diana Arbus. The stunning "decisive moments" of Henri Cartier-Bresson offer photography at its most narrative, as does the rugged photojournalism of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, or the incredibly brilliant Tim Hethrington, recently and tragically lost while covering the conflict in Libya. And though certainly with less gravitas but equally as meaningful to the participants, are those intimate moments captured in the exquisite work of artists such as Los Angeles-based wedding photographer, James Johnson, or the iconic "baby photographer," Anne Geddes. The list is long; these are just a few.

But there it is: photography as art, journalism, family chronicling, historical narrative, provocation and exposť...poetic, powerful stuff.

Then along came the the digital revolution, which made cameras compact, then put cameras in phones, then got those tiny cameras and very smart phones into the hands of the clever and curious, and suddenly nothing was sacred from the peering lens of these tiny mechanical miracles. And Lt. John Pike and his pepper-spraying cohorts became forever memorialized in their debatable and infuriating act of police force, as have many other historically important, career crushing or incendiary moments such as 9/11, the Arab Spring, the Iran election revolution, the Japanese tsunami, and, well, Anthony Weiner.

And always, and certainly more sweetly, baby's birthday!

For some, the mystique of photography itself has been put into question by this turn of events and many veterans of the film medium bemoan the lessening of form, technique, and respect for the craft and its slow, earned skill. The sudden entitlement of anyone with a decent camera to call themselves a "photographer" sometimes leaves no discernment between the art of the form and the act of the form. As one slightly delusional mother put to me as she waved a - yes, rather delightful - photo of kitten taken by her Canon Point & Shoot wielding toddler, "See...my three year old can shoot pictures as well as any adult!"

Calm down, Mom...she got lucky.

Digital photography and its wide selection of affordable cameras of every ilk and style have unarguably made the capture of good pictures an easier task than it was with our clunky Kodaks, Canons or little Brownies of yore; certainly the quality is better, particularly as compared to those disposable cameras tourists used to use and wedding receptions still do. Any good point and shoot camera, be it Canon, Nikon, Sony, whatever your choice, is designed to do exactly that: be pointed at an object and, with the click of the button, take a damn fine picture. It's part of the mission statement. But snapping a button on a good camera that easily catches an image is a long way from understanding the nuance, composition, tone, light and statement of a well-considered and expertly crafted photograph like the kind routinely and purposefully taken by the aforementioned professionals. Let's keep that differentiation in mind, shall we?

As a digital photographer myself, one who learned on an old 35mm, leapt into the digital format years ago; defined my style and crafted my education through trial, error, solid tutelage, wise guidance, and a great deal of experimentation, I am not one to disdain new technology. I see it as a natural progression that has changed the paradigms of the medium by offering new ones. Still, some maintain that digital photography will never match the richness, texture and nuance of film (as some in music continue to engage in analogue/Pro Tools comparisons); I cannot argue that one way or the other. I have seen some breathtakingly beautiful, nuanced, textured and composed photographs taken with digital cameras and some not-so-fabulous ones taken with those using film. And vice versa. Odds are, regardless of the mechanics or the machine, the eye and artistry of the photographer will always wield the greatest influence on the outcome.

So as our life, times, history, tragedies, conflagrations, families, babies, and great, beautiful earth continue to be captured in images large and small, digital and otherwise, professionally or with the snap of an Iphone, I urge those truly interested in the medium to explore some of the photographers mentioned here, as well as the many others who've advanced the medium. It's important to understand not only the technology that makes the expression of the form so readily available in current times, but to also understand and acknowledge its history. Equally important is to become aware of the artistic accomplishments of its most talented practitioners who've contributed to its permanent standing as an essential art form. Take your snaps, grab your moments, enjoy the ease of your digital camera, but honor the art and, if you are so inclined, dig deeper into the craft so that you learn to rely not on luck to yield that spectacular kitten photo, but the skill you've accrued; knowledge that will infuse your work with the clarity and understanding of a true artist's eye.

But either way; whatever the camera, whatever the photographic interest or philosophy, keep chronicling. You are all part of the storytelling team, the vanguard of history; keeping the world honest and participating in the tapestry of our time. Weave away.

Allow Me To Introduce My Other Muse

November 6th, 2011

Allow Me To Introduce My Other Muse

We each come into this world with a penchant, an inclination; a psychic nuance that gets under our skin, drives our goals and, simply put, makes us really happy. The list is long of those many things that inspire and clearly itís a very personal thing. What incites creativity, passion and ambition in one can be a complete flatline for another. Itís as individual as a fingerprint. A snowflake. That dish my friend Lotta makes that no one's ever been able to figure out.

For me it was the creative arts. Always. I donít know why. I could point to the lack of TV in my youth and childhood - and the books, music and art that filled the gap - but, frankly, my younger sibs who did not do without are just as artistically inclined and they were definitely Children of the TV (similar to Children of the Corn only in that their eyes are a bit large). Perhaps our penchants are pre-programmed. A carry-over from a previous life (if you believe such things). Certainly theyíre influenced by parents who, in my case, were passionate about the arts, injecting them at every turn, convinced that even rearranging the living room was an expression of the creative mind. It is, Mom; I agree. And thank you, both, for your fine contribution to my artistic journey.

So armed with my many Muses who kept me company throughout an eclectic life, I happily bandied in a bevy of mediums, even past the point when others tried to convince me to ďpick one and stick with it." Creative monogamy, so to speak. But I had arrived in LA pumped by youthful years of writing, acting and singing, poised to take it all on in this fine creative mecca, so I chafed at the notion of exclusivity. Seemed so...exclusive. Still, I was a naive and eager young lass, addicted to my ambition and ultimately easily swayed, so I threw aside my concerns and did just that; I chose acting, forsaking all others like a good, faithful spouse, convinced that by committing to only one Muse I would certainly conjure its success into being.

Yeah. That worked.

Don't get me wrong, I had loads of fun as an actress but ultimately fell out of love, particularly after it was clear that a viable career was not to be had and, it turns out, I really didn't care all that much. Mostly I missed the other Muses. I remember telling my manager at the time, after five years of acting fidelity, that I missed music and wanted to get back to it and he literally laughed in my face. Seriously, he laughed. His perspective of me was so narrow that rather than explore a new path and its many possibilities, he presumed I was a deluded little dilettante. Big fat tipping point, that laugh. I dumped him, quit my acting class, threw out all my vapid 8x10ís and spent the next decade or so deliriously happy as a singer in a rock ní roll band. And a writer. And a taker of pictures. All of it. Even some damn acting. My creative harem. Welcome home.

As I see it, this business of artistic monogamy is foolishness. Fidelity is for marriage, not art. Do what you love, do everything you love, and if you do it well, all the betterÖshare it. Yes, I know the world is now saturated with loads of purported artists in every genre who do not do it well, whatever it is in this age of immediate and ubiquitous shallow-stardom, but if they enjoy it, enjoy away. We don't have to pay attention and perhaps over time they'll weary of the exercise. One can hope.

Anyway, this is a long, roundabout way of introducing you to a particular Muse Iíve been deeply involved with for many years but have kept close to the vest for various reasons. While I've done session for family, friends and artists; have prints hanging on a few office walls and on various websites, this has been a somewhat stealth pursuit. No particular reason other than, as I viewed the many talented professionals attempting to build their photography businesses in a unfathomably competitive market, sorting out how to monetize the craft as I performed it eluded me. So I just took pictures and learned some worthy skills in the meantime. But after years of shooting, more requests for prints, a growing number of calls for sessions, I decided it was time to come out of the creative closet and throw this, too, into the mix that is my creative life.

Friends, meet my other Muse; Photography, meet the gang.

Though you're just meeting, Iíve actually been shooting pictures for most of my life. For whatever reason, the idea of visually chronicling the journey was as natural as blinking an eyeÖand this was before Smart Phones and Facebook! I had a crappy little camera I took everywhere and I have many of those pictures still. They're amateur and silly and some are as crappy as the camera taking them, but the eye was there, the composition was good and, bottom line, they are responsible for inciting my interest. Itís only been in the last couple of decades, however, that the passion to do it well became a pull. In fact, there was some regret that I hadnít actually taken it more seriously earlier onÖdamn if I didnít find the whole darkroom ritual of lights and chemicals and magically appearing images a romantic one! In fact, if I hadnít rushed headlong into the performing arts Iíve always said I would have either been a professional photographer or a zoologist. Seriously. Either one. Primates or pictures.

But given my lack of aptitude for the sciences, photography, albeit peripherally, was at least able to come along on the ride - as much as possible given the limits of time and money. And though that first crappy camera held me in good stead for many years, it was when my mother-in-law bought me my first good Canon 35mm about 20 years ago that my world changed. Suddenly the pictures in my mindís eye translated to paper. I began viewing things from the perspective of frame and light, and even when I didnít have the camera, I was like Pam in The Office wedding episode snapping invisible pictures of perfect moments. I learned that the excitement of capturing an image of true beauty or amazing candor was as exhilarating as belting a killer song or writing that brilliant paragraph. I was hooked. And when the digital revolution exploded with all its heady possibilities, I took a leap of faith, invested in a top line Canon DLSR, a couple of stellar professional lenses and have been in a solid relationship with the Muse ever since.

I have great respect for technicians but I am not one. Perfection of skill and deep, expansive knowledge of the science of photography belong to those who made it their business to prioritize learning the technology from the ground up. For me, Multi-Muse Gal, learning the craft and technique of photography has been a slow, steady process of personal experimentation, research, book and hands-on learning. My education has been mostly instinctual, with excellent tutelage and guidance from renowned, respected photographers and teachers along the way. I studied printmaking with a master printmaker, learned camera basics from a Canon specialist and, particularly in the last three years, worked with a noted photographer and designer for whom I shot countless photos, did digital processing and printing, as well as extensive restoration and repair of older, damaged files. I learned a tremendous amount by the sheer action of doing it and what has evolved through all of this is the skill I have and my particular style of visual storytelling, examples of which have found their way onto my site (and some in this article!).

I chose the pictures I did for the site galleries because, simply...I love them. I have my favorites, certainly, but I love them all. Not to sound childish but they make me happy and represent amazing experiences in which I participated. Some depict historical places that took my breath away, some are those decisive moments in real life captured in a flash of serendipity; others are simple beauty or sweetness with no other explanation, and some are stories I wanted to tell or people who grabbed my eye. A few are even technically dubious but exude something unique or special in a way that won them a spot on the site despite their flaws. Itís a collection that speaks loudly to how I see the world and I happen to like what it has to say.

I truly hope you also enjoy the statement. There are over 600 photos posted on the site so donít attempt to view them all in one sitting. Take the time to enjoy them in incremental visits when you can freshly view each gallery. I promise it's a more enjoyable experience that way and I'll be adding new things from time to time anyway!

And beyond the sharing of creativity, I chose Fine Art America because they have streamlined the process of printmaking and that, after all, is part of the goal here: to inspire you to order prints for yourself, your friends, your office; your gift giving. Because ultimately I realized the way I could best monetize my craft was simply to shoot what I love and then put it somewhere where others could access it and, hopefully, find a piece or two they'd like for their living room. Or the kitchen at Grandma's. Or that space in the den that always looks so bare. Should you wish a print, a photographic Christmas or holiday gift, a box of cards or a canvas of any one of these photographs, I would be honored. Fine Art America makes it easy to get the commerce done so click the link below and go commerce a little...my Muse and I will thank you.

But whatever you do, first and foremost, enjoy!

 

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