Thursday, January 18, 2007


THE LANDSCAPIST HAS MOVED to to a new home on SquareSpace.

The new address is - please update your links to The Landscapist.

The Landscapist on here on blogspot will be maintained as an ARCHIVE - still very much worth your time to explore.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Please kick the tires

Please check out my test blog on SquareSpace and let me know what you think.

FYI - word verification is re-activated. The spam started almost right away. If commenting is inconvenient, please don't blame me or blogspot - it's all because of the f___ing spammers.

FEATURED COMMENT: Mary Dennis wrote: "I like the look of the square space blog a lot Mark. It's clean looking, (almost like a nice magazine layout) feels compact and logical, links seems to work well and the photos look good too. And no word security gunk. Is it free?"

publisher's comment: Mary's response represents the universal consensus to date. Seems like the way to go. I still have to kick a few more of the tires, but, so far, so good. There are couple of really interesting - as yet unactivated - features that I think you're going to like. How's does a Discussion Forum sound? How about the ability to directly upload photographs to a personal gallery page?

And, speaking of questions, to answer Mary's - No, it's not free. I may have to work some overtime in the coal mine, but at least I won't have to go without boots or donuts this winter.

FEATURED COMMENT: Mary Dennis also wrote: "...hey, isn't there some poetic justice in a "square thinker" ending up in a "square space"?

publisher's respone: It's hip to be square.

Monday, January 15, 2007


At Paul Butzi's urging, I have investigated wordpress. For me, it's a no go for 3 reasons; 1) it does not appear to be very Mac OSX friendly, 2) it does not handle photographs well and The Landscapist is about photography and photographs, 3) in my experience with the content creation aspect of blogging software to date, blogspot is the most effortless and intuitive.

But, in order to address one of your common blogspot-user complaints, I have disabled the word verification stuff for leaving comments. This means you can type a comment and click "Publish" without that pesky word varification thing. This might also mean that The Landscapist will get hit with spam comments. We'll see.

BTW, check out the changes to the Photo Submission guidlines (on the sidebar).

ku # 450 - What kind of photographer are you?

I was nosing around, investigating the notion of reading photographs. Steve Durbin's featured comment on urban ku # 20 and comment on intent (see below) was the instigation.

My initial area of interest was Roland Barthes' idea of Studium and Punctum. According to Barthes, Studium stands for the general, cultured interest one has in photographs. Punctum is the personal relation, the emotional side. It occurs when one is deeply touched by a picture. Barthes writes, " is this element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces me. A Latin word exists to designate this wound, this prick, this mark made by a pointed instrument: the word suits me all the better in that it also refers to the notion of punctuation, and because the photographs I am speaking of are in effect punctuated, sometimes even speckled with these sensitive points; precisely, these marks, these wounds are so many points ... A photograph's punctum is that accident which pricks me — but also bruises me, is poignant to me."

Barthes goes on to state that photos which exemplify studium appeal on "the order of liking, not loving...I glance through them, I don't recall them...I am interested in them (as I am interested in the world), I do not love them."" I don't know if Barthes ever states directly that he "loves" a photograph that "bruises me, is poignant to me, but he does state that "...While most photographs offer only the identity of an object, those that project a punctum potentially offer the truth of the subject....they challenge us outside any generality...these are the photos which take our breath away...", so I'll go out on a limb here and venture, what's not to love about photographs that meet that criteria?"

So, you might ask, what does this have to do with the question what kind of photographer are you? Well, maybe nothing...but, while I was nosing around I also came across this - from Reading Photographs by Hans Durrer : judge photographs by the — perceived — sincerity of the photographer (intent?) is highly problematic. Ansel Adams, who refers to photographers as artists, points out: 'Some of the worst artists, after all, are the most sincere... the only things that distinguish the photographer from everybody else are his pictures,' he should be judged by them, he argues, because 'major art, by definition, can stand independent of its maker'".

It is not without significance that Adams is referring here to the concept of 'beauty in photography', so the title of his book, and as far as the aesthetics of form is concerned, one cannot but agree with him. Documentary (photography), however, is not only about form, which is exactly why sincerity and biography do matter. As Stott says: 'The heart of documentary is not form or style or medium, but always content.' Furthermore, documentarists stress feelings, '... they believe that a fact to be true and important must be felt.' This is not to say that form in documentary is without relevance, this is only to say that documentary aims, primarily, at being true, not at being beautiful. Yet what is true is often beautiful.

From that I infer (and believe - always have, always will) that intent matters. Point In fact, I believe that it matters very much. Almost to the point that I believe it is a photographers (artist's) responsibility to state his intentions.

That said, the question that came to my mind after reading this excerpt was, "Am I a documentary photographer"?

I tend to think of myself as a Fine Art Landscape Photographer, although I have not ever really been comfortable with the phrase "fine art". At various times in my commercial life I have randomly functioned as a Still Life Photographer, a Fashion Photographer, a Corporate Communications Photographer, and, yes, a Documentary/Journalism Photographer (periodical feature/editorial type, not news).

Now, I know that some could care less what kind of photographer they are. They are just photographers. OK, but I think giving yourself a well thought out label, just like writng a well thought out Artist's Statement (statement of intent) is an important part of self-knowing. The only problem I have in this regard is finding the right word to use as my label. The more I think about it, the more I realize that none of the "classic" labels fit. Mostly, I feel like an observationist.

But, when I encountered the ideas that "The heart of documentary is not form or style or medium, but always content." and "...that documentary aims, primarily, at being true, not at being beautiful., and the absolute deal-clincher. "Yet what is true is often beautiful.", I must admit that the label, Doumentary Photographer, starts to sound and feel pretty good.

What kind of photographer are you?

ku # 449

Finally Up to 10 inches forecast for today and a protracted cold spell to back it up (-7F tomorrow night). Time to tune up the xc skis/snowshoes and haul out the winter mountaineering camping gear.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

urban ku # 20 and a comment on intent

Intent - The notion of photographic intent was raised by several of you in comments about the Prakarsa/McIntosh comparo. I think that McIntosh's intent is clear and straight forward - drawing attention to the plight of the impoverished/exploited and ultimately to the roots of that poverty/exploitation. Prakarsa's intent is not so clear and some wanted to reserve judgement until more could be learned.

IMO - I have always believed myths, fairy tales, story telling, etc., to be very valuable in passing on ideas, traditions and values from one generation to the next or, for that matter, from one tribe/culture to another. Their intrinsic beauty is that they function on several levels. Like good photography (Art), on the obvious surface of things (like the referent in photographs) they can be/are seductive and entertaining, but of course they also contain "hidden" value as well (the connoted). To my way of thinking, they are both illustrative and illuminating - the 2 qualities that I think are to be found in Art (but not in art). I also believe that these qualities are found in Art because the artist intended to have them there.

I bring up the notion of myths, fairy tales and story telling in this context because I have discovered another Indonesian photographer, Andi Hermawan, whose photography of Indonesian children is nearly identical (albeit not as technically accomplished) to that of Prakarsa.


The question that comes to mind is this - unless Hermawan is nothing more than a Prakasrsa wannabe, is there something in Indonesian tradition, myth, culture about children that we should know about before passing judgement here?

To that point, Ott I-don't-even-like-roses-that-much Luuk asked (although not expressing himself with anything close to my eloquence and erudition), "... (as) For mistaking them for real - does everyone who takes photos in the Far East really have to fight the ignorance of the western man"?

FEATURED COMMENT: Steve Durbin wrote (in part): "...The question of intent is fascinating on a human level and certainly would inform our judgment of the photographer. Anything we know about intent is also likely to affect our judgment of the photos. But the overwhelming factor in my reaction to an image is the image itself, and how it relates to my own experience, aspirations, etc. Intent was important in making the image what it is, but from there it's just pixels until my mind engages it.:"

Friday, January 12, 2007

Jonathan McIntosh ~ a different kind of Jakarta landscape

Jonathan McIntosh is an digital-media artist, social justice activist, photographer and Indymeida journalist living in the Boston/Roxbury area. I found these photographs when I was looking for some info about Jakarta. My curiosity was picqued after posting Rarindra Prakarsa's photographs.

Apparently life for children in Jakarta is not all skittles and cream as Rarindra's photographs might have us believe.

I'll have a bit more to write about this in an addendum to this post over the weekend. An in-law from NJ with a car load of kids is due very soon, so I don't have time right now. While they're all out skiing tomorrow I'll write my peace/piece. Feel free to chime in any time.

FYI, I haven't had any contact with Jonathan Roxbury. I downloaded and posted his photographs under a Creative Commons attribution license. See more of his photography from The Garbage Ring - Jakarta Indonesia

FEATURED COMMENT: Jim Jirka wrote: "So in seeing this and Rarindra's images, would you then consider the former to be "ecoporn" of a different type?"

publisher's response: Jim, my first response is somewhere between rage/anger and the calm cool collectedness it will take to write a 10,000 word response. I am going to try to contact Rarindra again and get a fix on his "intent" although I'm not certain how much that really matters.

FEATURED COMMENT: Joel Truckenbrod wrote: "It's clear that our concept of "poverty" in the U.S. exists in another realm from what these people experience everyday. I am humbled and am not quite sure what else to say."

publisher's response: I am humbled as well - and angered (not at Jim J.) at a world that allows this to exist) and I am also struggling with "what to say". It seems somehow....well....not "wrong", but not "right" either to natter and blather about notions and ideas regarding the medium of photography.

To speak to Joel's reaction of not knowing what to say, I find it nearly impossible to view McIntosh's photographs as photographs in any of the ways in which photographers often view photographs - these photographs do not seem to have "composition", "quality of light", or any of the other photographic trappings we commonly employ. Both the referent (the object of the camera's gaze) and the connoted are so powerful that any "things-photographic" thoughts are simply obliterated.

As Mary Dennis opined, "...The power of imagery is truly awesome, is it not?

Ott Luuk's comments (not too harsh at all) spoke to Jim Jirka's question of truth vs beauty. Ott stated/asked, "My guess is that Rarindra`s photography is just a form of escapism, knowingly creating a blissful dreamworld to hang on the wall for those times you really don`t want to look out of the window....should I be scorned about growing a nice garden with roses and stuff around my house when my country`s forests are being cut down for quick profit...?

I would asnwer that question by stating that it's all very much a matter of intent. If, along with some roses, you also planted your head in the dirt - ostrich-and-sand-wise, I'd say that, yes, you should be scorned. Is that what Rarindra is doing? I don't know for certain, but, in the absence of any statement of intent otherwise....

Rarindra has a very broad presence on the www. I can find nothing about his intent other than his statement to me - "You should visit my beautiful country someday.", which is usually accompanied by a statement about the "millions" of beautiful places and "objects" available to be photographed. He seems to love and take great pride in his country.

Sure. OK. Fine. But, if Rarindra had offered even just a hint that his fanciful photographs spoke to the "innocence lost" in the face of the horrid human degradation that exists in his beloved country, I might not be inclined to venture that Rarindra's photographs are a very fine example of fiddling while Rome burns.

Or, to put it an American context, how would you feel about idyllic and fanciful photographs of black children frolicking carefree in Elysian Fields as representative of our "beautiful" country?

urban ku # 19

The Blue Spruce Motel on Rt. 9N near Au Sable Chasm. I think The Blue Spruce is a seasonal motel but I am not certain about that. It's just down the road from Au Sable Chasm and I imagine that many tourists who stayed here stopped by Clare & Carl's for a Michigan.

I absolutely postively love the fact that a really big real blue spruce in the coutyard wasn't enough to convey the idea of "blue spruce" (although the real blue spruce certainly was much smaller when the place was built than it is now). They just had to add that funky man-made one as well. Don't you just wish that someone would open a really big - a couple acres or so - museum of authentic 50's roadside neon signs?

urban ku # 18

Another "decaying" Mom & Pop establishment along Rt. 9N. just south of Plattsburgh, NY. Although, in this case, it's a thriving landmark business during the spring/summer/fall season. And, believe it or not, the camera was dead level - Clare and Carl's is an authentic architectual fun house.

Around these parts Clare & Carl's is known as the in-place to go for the finest Michigan hot dogs or a "Michigan", as they are commonly called. A Michigan is a steamed hot dog on a bun smothered in a meat sauce, onions opptional. The name "Michigan" originated in Plattsburgh, NY around 1927 at place called Nitzi's, which was also on Rt.9. Clare & Carl's dates from 1942. It's kind of odd that, even though you can get a meat sauce smothered hot dog in Michigan (the state), nobody there knows what a "Michigan" is.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

re: comments and paricipation

yesterday, Mary Dennis wrote (in part): "...I know this may seem like a quiet place to you but...I hope you continue to post."

It may have seemed that I was whining about the lack of comments (ok, you got me on that one) but let me explain.

My hope for The Landscapist is that it will take on some of the characteristics connonated in various parables - casting bread upon the water, loaves and fishes, sowing seeds - found in the Bible (I should note here that Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not A Christian is one of my favorite essays/books). I interpret those parables as stories about synergy - small actions that reverberates beyond their modest beginnings, or, something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

In my dreams and visions, I see The Landscapist something like this - acting in my role as a photography-disciple, I sow seeds about photography on the waters of the www, where, thanks to the fertilizing efforts (comments and participation) of the multitude (you guys), the seeds sprout into life with many branches, leaves and fruit. In the resultant harvest of the nearly embrassing abundance of nourishment and riches, many of the multitude find their way to their own personal photographic heaven.

There you have it. It's simple enough, it's a two-way street.

So, please send your tributes and donations to: The Right Reverend Hobson, Church Under the Bridge Building Fund, Au Sable Forks, NY. OR, if you prefer, operators are standing by at our toll-free number, 1.EGO.IST.ICAL. All major credit cards accepted. Thank you.

FEATURED COMMENT: Jim Jirka wrote (in part): "...when I send my donation to the Rev Hobson, will I get that holy lucky charm as a gift of your appreciation?

publisher's comment: "No comment"

re: Photo Submissions

photocapcod wrote (in part): "If you ask for submissions, you should be posting them. If you don't intend to post the other people's photographs, don't ask for them...."

Steve Durbin wrote (in part): "I like seeing other photographers here, but I think the curatorial function is important...."

Let me clarify. I do want photo submissions. I do intent to publish as many of them as I (the curator) judge to be either pertinent to topics at hand or feasible - feasible, as in, I can't possibly publish them all.

Please remember that this is a personal blog about photography, not a post-at-will photo forum. As today's post of Rarindra Prakarsa's photographs demonstrates, the blog is not all about my photography. It is indeed about the photography of others as well. However, like a magazine publisher/editor, I reserve the right to edit content.

Re: content - While I certainly draw attention to particular photographers and photographs, the photographs that I am most interested in are those that, whatever their referent/connoted (content/form) merits may be, draw attention to issues and ideas about the medium of photography (and by extension, Art) itself.

So, please continue to keep the cards and letters coming...BUT...if offense will be taken or ill-will engendered if photographs aren't published, perhaps it is better all the way around not to send submissions.

Rarindra Prakarsa

I am from Jakarta, Indonesia. A country with million place and object to photograph. A beautiful country indeed. Now, I am a semi-pro photographer, enjoying my job/hobby & selling my stock-photo. Photographing since 1995.

As many of you already know, I am NOT a fan of sentimental tripe photography-wise. I find the legions of drama-queen landscape/nature photographers, who spew out endless reams of images of a world made up of never-ending golden light vistas, to be a particulary unimaginative and contemptible lot of eco-pornographers. My issue with them is not with their style of photography per se, but rather with what I (and many others) believe to be the detrimental effect that their photography has on conservation and the evironmental cause - "...picture-book nature, scenic and sublime, praiseworthy but not battle-worthy. Tarted up into perfectly circumscribed simulations of the wild, these props of mainstream environmentalism serve as surrogates for real engagement with wilderness, the way porn models serve as surrogates for real women. They are placebos substituting for triage." - Lydia Millet, High Country News (the eco-pornographer link goes to the complete article).

But, back to Rarindra Prakarsa's photographs. When I first encountered these photographs in his portfolio on, I got all flustered and flummoxed. I'm not suppose to like this stuff - altered and romanticized landscapes littered with incessantly picture-book perfect children. Yikes!! How many cliches can you cram in a single photograph?

But, so help me, like the proverbial car wreck scene, I couldn't stop looking. And looking. And looking.

So, I emailed Rarindra and asked, ...what is your artistic intent with these photographs? The response - "Thank you for enjoying my pictures. You should visit my beautiful country someday." - really didn't answer the question other than to reinforce the initial impression created by his photographs that his country is beautiful.

He did give me permission to post them on The Landscapist, so here they are. I think they are pertinent because, take out the kiddies, they are classic landscape photographs albeit in a rather romanticized genre. With the kiddies they become something else...

I am beginning to see them as a sort of children's fable in the style of the illustrator Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and The Polar Express (especially his style as adapted for the movie). As in many of Van Allsburg's illustrations, in Rarindra's photographs much is left to the observer's imagination to fill in the "blanks". For me, there is a sense of mystery about them. I am drawn into a world that's a little off-kilter where something's going on that I can't quite grasp and, for some reason that I can't quite express yet, they seem to be something more than just sentimental idyllics.

For all I know, maybe Rarindra's intent with these photographs is nothing more than an attempt to create hyper-Kodak/Hallmark moments. Perhaps because of language issues, he didn't really respond to my question about intent.

Nevertheless, I am very eager to hear your thoughts on these photographs.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I haven't posted many photo submissions of late. That is not due the fact that there haven't been any. To the contrary, there have been a fair number of them. It is due, in part, to the fact that I am trying of late to post photographs which are pertinent to the topic at hand. It is also due, in part, to the fact that I published a few during the holidays that were virtually ignored, or, at least, not commented on (due, no doubt, to a drop in the number of visitors during the holidays).

Of course, it could also have been that you all just didn't like them or think that they fit The Landscapist motif. But, on the topic of "I didn't like it", I would like to note that The Landscapist does NOT subscribe to the adage, "If you don't have anything good to say, say nothing at all." Please feel free to blast away (hopefully in an agreeable manner).

I am giving thought to publishing a smorgagbord post of photo submissions. Any thoughts on that?

Dormant # 37 ~ Aaron Hobson

On the topic of increasing comments/participation, one should never underestimate the adage that "sex sells". My son recently discovered the wisdom of that time-tested-and-proven hook on his flickr group, Deathscapes. His photos normally garner about 30 views a day and around 5/6 comments total...but...put the word "sex" in the tags and whammo - 147 views/13 comments in 12 hours.

I don't know where he gets that kind of behavior from (must be his mother- my ex) because I, of course, would never stoop to posting a sexually suggestive photograph on The Landscapist.

FEATURED COMMENT: Mary Dennis wrote (re: making comments on The Landscapist): "...I'm uneasy with fact that I can't edit or delete my comments if I were to choose to....Those letter security things drive me crazy.... I like interesting and thoughtful conversation as much as anybody but the internet has never really tripped my trigger in that regard. I try but somehow something seems to be missing from the dynamic."

publisher's response: First and foremost, thanks very much for your continued participation and expression of appreciation for The Landscapist. That said, you bring up some good points about commenting on in particular and the internet in general.

You can delete a comment at any time - look for the little trash can on the bottom of your comment. The security thing is a pain for me as well but it does prevent spamming. Other blog services have different ways of dealing with spamming but it seems that they all require some form of manual input from the commenter.

Regarding the internet dynamic, I tend to agree. Face-to-face conversation is the best. Phone conversation would be next best on my list and Internet talk falls below either of those...BUT...we are "talking" across a great distance and we're not running up a big phone bill. I also like the fact, like in a group face-to-face, that others can jump into the conversation and add their 2 cents. There is something to be said for that.

FEATURED COMMENT: Jim Jirka wrote : "...I like the image a lot. To me it is not a question of sex, but I can understand the connotations. I like it more for the dramatic interplay of light and shadow which to me makes the image 'sexy'."

dis-ease # 3 and a comment about "soup"

Winter is trying to make an appearance, lame though it might be. There's nothing of consequence in the forecast.

You may have noticed that my last few posts have had Polaroid photographs attached. The reason for this is simple - in my fevered state to taste a new flavor I hauled out the Polaroid SLRs, purchased some film, and started to photograph. Much to my surprise, I discovered how much I had forgotten about, a) the good old days of analog photography, and b) the magic and addiction of Polaroid photography.

Now I am well aware of the dangers of advancing decrepitude. I try like hell not to use phrases like, "...back when I was a (insert a younger age)..." or " in the snow, uphill both ways..." and so on....but....back when I was a photo rookie, I processed and printed the very first roll of film I ever used. Film processing seemed rather mechanical and uninsipiring, after all, everything happened in complete darkness or in the can. You got the developer to temperature, watched the clock (timer) and agitated on schedule. Ho hum. Important for sure, but still, ho hum.

Then came the fun part - making a print and those moments of magic watching the image appear while the paper was in the soup. It really was like magic. First there was nothing on the paper, and then, ever so slowly, as if by magic, an image starts to appear - faint at first, but, as the paper sloshes around with more rocking of the developer tray, hot damn, a picture comes to life.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the digital domain that comes close to replicating that magic, nothing. If you haven't experienced it, you should. Go to whatever lengths you must, but do it. IMO, you really don't know the magic of photography until you do.

The only substitute photographic experience that I know of that, in a small way, replicates the magic of watching an image emerge in the soup is Polaroid photography. Press the shutter and out comes a print on which an image slowly emerges as it develops. Sure, you miss out on the joy inhaling noxious brain-deadening chemicals, but it's a bit of the old magic nevertheless.

This point was driven home recently when my 2 year old grandson, Hugo, who has his own 6mp digital camera (see some of his photos here), watched with a great deal of fascination as a Polaroid image slowly emerged on a print in his hands. He was very intrigued to, as he put it, "see what happens".

So, if you haven't done and can't do the wet darkroom thing, you really do owe it to yourself to pick up a Polaroid camera - used SLRs on ebay - and experience the magic of "seeing what happens". If you do, just beware of the Polaroid Addiction thing - once the Polaroid was fully developed, Hugo's next words were, "more, Papa".

Easy for him to say, since he's not shelling out a buck a pop.

FEATURED COMMENT: Mary Dennis wrote: " are so right about the magic of the wet darkroom. And not only because of the magic of watching an image emerge in the developer tray. When my two daughters where really little, about one and five years old, I built a little darkroom in the corner of our musty old basement and it became a cave, a quiet refuge for me when life got crazy. That was my magic place and it had a door that locked from the inside!! ..."

publisher's comment: Mary, you are so absolutely right about the cave/refuge aspect of the wet darkroom. Every darkroom that I ever had served exactly that kind of "refuge" function. Thanks very much for the vivid reminder. I'll be remodeling my home office/"studio" soon and somehow I need to incorporate the notion of "refuge".

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


dis-ease # 2 and a comment

This is what's passing for an early January winter morning here in the Adirondack north country. Photographed comfortably in a t-shirt and shoes without socks, although I did find it necessary to tuck the Polaroid print in my armpit - Cold Weather Polaroid Development Technique # 1.

Comment on a tempest in a teapot - Much is being made on a number of blogs about a very minor difference of photography opinion between Alec Soth and Robert Polidori.

The point of contention, such as it is, revolves around the absence of people in Polidori's Katrina book, After the Flood - Soth wants people, Polidori does not. Soth did not actually state that he wanted people in Polidori's Katrina photographs. Basically, what he seems to want is Katrina photographs with more emphasis on Katrina's people-oriented tragedy - "If we are going to have images from events like Katrina in our galleries, museums and libraries (as I think we must), I hope they aren’t limited to stiff, large-format photography."

It seems that (amongst other things) Polidori took umbrage at the phrase "stiff, large-format photography" and posted a response on Soth's blog and the rest will be fast-disappearing history in the blogosphere.

What I find interesting about the whole deal is 2-fold:

#1 fold) The affair is unbelievably tame when judged by some of the Great Battles of the Literary Titans of the past century. If the blogosphere wants a battle (see # 2 fold), and it seems that it does, I want to see blog-batants get it on in the fashion of Gore Vidal v. Wm. F. Buckley circa 1968 wherein verbal and nearly physical combat were joined. In one exchange Vidal called Buckley a "pro-crypto Nazi", to which a visibly livid Buckley replied: "Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto Nazi, or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered." Now that's a difference of opinion. Ahh, the good old days.

#2 fold) One thing I've learned from my time spent on online forums/blogs is that, protestations to the contrary, everybody loves a fight/flame war. Consider this - In typical blog fashion, a very popular blog about photography - The Online Photographer goes about its daily business and generates a very modest number of comments, especially so when judged against its daily traffic - 6,000 page views a day. I can't tell you what the over all average number of comments per post is but, on the latest 15 posts in January, there 136 comments for an average of under 10 comments per post.

Leverage that average against the 31 comments on what turned out to be a controversial topic, T.O.P. Photographer of the Year 2006 post. Note also that commenting was "closed" at 31 comments and who knows how many comments weren't allowed (comments on T.O.P. are allowed only after moderator review). The bruhaha spead out across the blogospere in a manner similar to that of the Soth/Polidori thing.

Also consider this - On an online nature photography forum where I was known as an enfant terrible (because of my passionately held and expressed views on photography), my photography posts garnered a relative handful of comments unless they were accompanied by a passionate statement of one kind or another. Then, all hell would break loose. Out came the flame-throwers and comments and views soared.

It seems that most people love a fight. So much so that, if I wanted to increase the number of comments here on The Landscapist, it would seem wise to start a war of words with someone or about something. Even though the web, and blogs in particular, are a 2-way highway, it's a pity that more people don't respond to thoughtful ideas. I guess, as Thoreau opined, it's just part of human nature that most people live lives of quiet desperation, unless, of course, there is rage or anger at the fore.

Monday, January 08, 2007

dis-ease # 1 - a Triptych

"If we are to change our world view, images have to change. The artist now has a very important job to do. He's not a little peripheral figure entertaining rich people, he's really needed..." ~ David Hockney

The notion/idea/concept of "Art" has been discussed endlessly - some might even say "ad nauseam". Discussions often center around the question, what is Art? or its associate, is it Art?, is it a noun or is it a verb?, maybe both?, is it democratic (art) or is it elitist (Art)?, is it serious or is it frivolous?, should it serve egocentricity or universality?, should it soothe and entertain or should it confront and agitate?, what is good art or what is bad art?, etc., etc., etc.

I don't mean in any way to imply that questions should not be asked or that answers should not be offered. Over the past few years, during which I have been able to concentrate more and more on my personal photography, I have been pondering a wealth of art issues. My "answers" to most of the questions haven't really changed all that much from those of years past - for the most part, they have undergone a bit of fine tuning.

For the record, I have always felt that Art is much better than art...that Art that is "serious" is better than art that is "frivolous"...that Art that agitates is better than art that soothes...that Art that is born of ego but nevertheless connects to the universal is the best Art of all...that art, like religion, that panders to the masses is little more than an opiate that deadens the mind and spirit...that Art that is "difficult" is good and art that is "easy" is bad...and please. please don't tell me that "good" and "bad" are just a matter of "taste".

That said, the one aspect of Art that, more and more, I am subscribing to above all others is the aforementioned quote/opinion by David Hockney.

But, let me add a very important caveat - there is a popular sentiment that Art that is serious, Art that seeks to agitate, Art that goes beyond entertainment must be either "ugly" or "boring", That, in fact, not only is (must) the very object of the camera's gaze always ugly and boring (or trite), but that the resulting photograph will (must) inevitably be joyless (i.e., not entertaining) and pedantic.

To which I respond, "Nuts". I believe that "serious" Art (in this case, Photography, and in this specific case, dis-ease #1) can be both illustrative and illuminating.

I mean "illustrative", not just in the sense of being merely descriptive, but in the fullest sense of being visually entertaining and engaging. Photographs that evidence, on one level, the simple joy of seeing - as in dis-ease # 1.

I mean "illuminating" in the sense of - to be enlightened, as with knowledge - that can come only from being fully engaged in the world around one's self. By" fully engaged", I mean Photography that is not just about people, places and things (the referent) that appeal to the visual senses, but Photography that is also about ideas - thoughts (the connoted) that engage the intellect and the emotions - as in dis-ease # 1.

So I ask, What could be better than a life lived fully engaged?

about the photograph: What is it about man's seemingly basic need/desire for order? ~ Polaroid SLR 680 with 600 series film.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Snapshot Aesthetic

Another interior landscape - Oddly enough, and sort of out-of-the-blue, last fall a traveling 3 ring circus (Carson & Barnes) came to our little hamlet of about 800 souls here in the Airondacks. It was weird for a number of reasons: like, why, of all places, here? and, the way in which they showed up in the morning, set up the whole deal, including the main tent (with the assistance of elephants) and various side show attractions, put on afternoon and evening shows, and then packed up during the night. By the next morning they were gone, leaving not a single trace of their passing. I guess you might have to live in a sleepy little hamlet in the largest wilderness in the eastern US to understand how surreal the whole thing seemed.

In any event, I have posted this photograph as an opportunity to discuss the "snapshot" aesthetic. On the recent urban landscape thread, Billie commented that "...I have a holga lens attahed to the body cap for my digital camera....I want the digital combo to work but I'm not sure. I think part of the reason it isn't going to work is because I have a different attitude with the holga in my hands than I do with a dslr...but there may be no Holga but a holga."

Since Billie is a newbie here (comment-wise), I checked out her blog, billieblog, an found this The Holga Vision post whereon she poses the question, "What is it about a Holga Camera that lets a photographer see just a little differently?"

Good question. But for me, the answer is to refute the basis for the question - I don't see differently with different cameras. When photographing in my non-commercial/personal state of mind, I tend to carry my way of seeing - the vision thing - over to whatever camera/format I am using - from my 8x10 view camera on down the line to my krappy kameras.

No matter the camera or optics, analog or digital, I always crop to square. I always blur and burn the corners of my prints. I always aim for "natural" color. I almost always work the slightly wide to normal range of the optics spectrum. I always print "small" (by current gallery standards). And, my gaze is always deadpan and "casual" appearing. FYI, I use the word appearing because, even though my photographs appear to be randomly "composed", they are anything but.

Why? Simply because I want my photographs to have the initial feel and impression of snapshots. I don't want observers to be put off by formal technique and presentation that screams, "This Is Art! Sit up straight and pay attention. I don't want to have to tell you twice!" I want my photographs to be "accessible" to the casual viewer, not just those with "artistic" sensibilities, although I know that my photographs swing both ways.

My photographs certainly say a great deal about me, but, ultimately, it is the referent and the connoted that I want the observer to connect with. I am not photographing for glory and adulation (well, a little wouldn't hurt). It is making a connection with the observer that turns me on.

My photographic gaze almost always focuses on simple everyday things - my referent. In a broad sense, the connoted that I hope to convey to observers of my photographs is an appreciation for the simple beauty of unadorned life and living.

So, that's why I see and why present the fruits of my seeing in a simple appearing snapshot aesthetic - no matter the means of photographing.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

ku # 448 ~ Time to die; thoughts on photography, rage against The Machine, and legacy

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe....All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.." ~ the last words of Ray Batty, a replicant (androids which are claimed to be "more human than human"), from the movie Blade Runner.

Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies. I was re-viewing it recently and I heard Ray Batty's last words in a whole new light, a lightweight photo-epiphany of sorts. - at least at the time I thought it was lightweight. However, upon further consideration, I am coming to an awareness about the medium of photography which is considerably heavier than I first thought.

In a glib kind of fashion, my first thought (honest, my very first thought) upon hearing Batty's words this time around was...didn't he have a camera? I mean if I were seeing attack ships on fire on the shoulder of Orion and C-beams glittering in the darkness at Tannhauser Gate, I'd be filling up some memory cards like there was no tomorrow. Then again, I'm not a replicant and I don't know the answer to the question, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (the title of the book by Philip K. Dick that the movie Blade Runner was based on).

Nevertheless, dreams/memories are a big item in Blade Runner. When designing and producing replicants, the Tyrell Corporation found it important to "program" memories into replicants - memories of childhood and a past life, which, of course, they never had. The Tryell Corporation deemed memories integral to being human and I'm not about to disagree.

One of the renegade replicants, Leon, even has photographs that reinforce his (programmed) memories. In this replicant's case, it would be accurate to say that the photographs are his memories. In order to be more human than human, Leon must have his photographs. In an interesting twist, another replicant, the ever-luscious ("ever", because she has no pre-programmed termination date - unlike the 4 year life span of Ray, Leon and Pris) Rachael, must forget her memories, throw out her photos, and start again in order to begin a new "life".

Either way, memories and the photographs which create, supplement and mediate them, are given due weight in the plot line of Blade Runner.

Anyone who has taken the time to read my Artist's Statement knows that dreams and memories are an integral part of my photography and the motivations/inspirations that drive it. Even though my individual photographs are labeled "ku" (see 2nd entry - titled FYI) , the body of work is labeled Adirondack Dream Memories. No one has to tell me about the importance of dreams and memories. I have been exploring that notion for quite a while now.

What's always puzzled me about my photography quest is "why". I know that I'm curious. I know that I'm visually "gifted". I know that I have a drive to discover and express the unthought known. But, I am beginning to realize that perhaps a large part of my artist-hood is driven quite simply (like Ray Batty quest to meet his maker) by a rage against the Machine.

In my case, The "Machine" has many faces - from a few personal pet-peeves like ubiquitous cliche-driven landscape/nature photography or the culture of consumption which destroys souls and the environment, to the universal grand-daddy of all Machines, death. Ray Batty was certainly exhibiting a formidable rage against that particular Machine.

In the context of the Death Machine, I am struck by 2 other book titles - both written by the great American artist, Rockwell Kent - It's Me, O Lord and This is My Own. Rockwell Kent lived just down the road from me here in the little hamlet of Au Sable Forks. The books are Kent's collective autobiography and in them he lays down his memories proudly and empahatically (I think with a bit of defiance) proclaiming, O lord, this is me, this is what i have created and nobody can take it away!

Unlike most of us artists of the mere mortal variety, Kent's artistic legacy is assured. His works are enshrined in museums throughout the world (especially in the former Soviet Union) and in too many illustrated books to mention (actually, I'll mention one - I received for Xmas a copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass illustrated by Rockwell Kent).

So, all of this has caused me to think a bit more about my legacy, in this case, photography-wise (although, this O lord, is part of me, it is my own). Sure, there are a couple coffee table books of my photography out there: one (photo journalism) in which my work is the featured photography (but not only photography); one (still life) which is based entirely on my photography. Sure, I'm working on getting a book deal done - a monograph of my Adirondack Dream Memories. Sure, I have photographs hanging on walls in homes and a few galleries. Sure, sure.

But, I want more than that and, in today's world of internet-based custom photo book printers, I'm going to get it. As some already know, I believe that custom photo books represent an important step forward, full of possibilities for photographers. I intend to pursue the "diary" as legacy possibilties.

Right now, most of my "diary" is on disks and hard drives. For all intents and purposes, it is rather invisible - a sad state for something so visual. I don't have nearly enough wall space in my house to accommodate my "diary" and even if I printed really small so to fit them all in, my house isn't very portable or reproducible. And, because they're so inexpensive to create (a hard bound book of 20 photographs in most cases costs less than one custom lab made 8x10 print), lots of them.

Make no mistake about it, I really like original photographic prints, mine and other's, but I'm beginning to feel that photo books are my real medium. I like the fact that you can create a more complete narrative than you can with a single print. They're portable. You can print just one. You can print 100. You can lend them to friends. Take them on vacation. You can place 5 different ones on a coffee table and have 100 (or more) photographs within easy reach of anyone. They can be viewed and appreciated in a car, on the can, in bed, on a plane....

And, as Colin Jago wrote on a Steve Durbin post on Art &Perception, " of the reasons that I like photo books... When closed they are closed. They are fresh again when I open them."

So, books it is.

After all, I've seen things like you people haven't seen them. I don't want all of those moments to be lost in time, like tears in rain.

FEATURED COMMENT: John Joannides wrote: "Interesting way of putting it, raging against the machine, and in some ways I think it's accurate for many photographers. For me, as an example, my machine happens to be the grind of daily life. Doing things that one wouldn't choose to do except for the need to earn money and fight negative entropy. The rage manifests itself as exploration of life and fantasy via photography and other types of image making. A ying to the yang. Or at least that is a part of it, but then again so many hobbies and callings are in a way. People are just compelled to do them."

FEATURED COMMENT: Steve (no longer semi-anonymous) Lawler wrote (in part): "Roy's time to die scene defines Blade Runner to me; I count it among the most profound in my cinematic experience. It’s compelling precisely because it articulates the fleeting and bittersweet essence of the human condition. As I’d mentioned previously, your work is analogous to the extent that it facilitates this recognition of the divine in the mundane. After all is said and done, it’s about immortality."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

urban landscape

Do you ever feel like you just have to get outside the box? Even though you might be very absorbed in a long term project (a box of sorts), you still just have to taste something different. Not a change of diet, just a different flavor for the palette. That's where I am at this moment.

For me, it's looking more and more like a return visit to my much-favored toy camera genre - the Polaroid. In this case, the Polaroid 680 SLR simply because I can still get film for it (not so for my favorite SX 70 cameras). The camera itself is actually very sophisticated - it is an SLR, has a glass lens, AF, and wide range of aperture/shutter settings (albeit auto) - but the prints are rather toy-like in as much as the color, contrast and print size are all "pure" Polaroid-centric.

The one digital-era variation on those Polaroid-centric characteristics is that they are now open to digital darkroom mods. My plan is to scan the originals to preseerve the Polaroid-centric characteristics with the possible exception of print size. Well scanned and enlarged Polaroid prints are, IMO, very intriquing.

My choice is also based on the fact that the digital domain has me extremely addicted to instant feedback and, at one point in the analog past, Polaroid was the only game in town for that. Speaking of the analog past, I also have an ever stronger desire to use film, to be at least partially analog. I'm not at the point where I'm ready to start dragging the 8x10 with color neg film around, but I'm getting close. I figure the Polaroid thing will help stave off that particular inevitable for a while longer.

I am not going to replace my dslr photography with the Polaroid. I'll just be bringing it along where ever I go.

Anyone else feeling, or, felt the same way? What are/did you do?

the photographs - I mentioned in my previous James Brown post that I did a Day-in-the-Life (of Pittsburgh PA) project for Pittsburgh Magazine. One of my areas to photograph was the Hill District, Pittsburgh's once pre-eminent and thriving - then and now decaying - black neighborhood.

I photographed the assignment entirely with Polaroid cameras - SX-70, SLR 680, and a Spectra Onyx - although I did carry 2 Nikons on my shoulders so people would take me seriously. The photographs are from that assignment. New Granada - SX-70 camera and Time-Zero film. Before the Funeral - Polaroid SLR 680 and 600 film (faster than Time-Zero film).

FEATURED COMMENT: anonymous wrote: "Film does exist for the SX-70, called SX-70 Blend. It's available from"

publisher's response: Thanks for the link. I am very pleased to know that someone has picked up the manufacturing of SX-70 film albeit a different film. I will give it a try a some point, but at $38 US + shipping per 10 photo pack, I won't be using it to get the current Polaroid monkey off my back.

Other original SX-70 film (Time-Zero) characteristics aside, does anyone know if the emulsion on the new stuff is as maleable as the old stuff? I really enjoyed making photographs like these with Time-Zero film - something not nearly as possible with 600 film.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

urban ku # 17/17a

An anonymous commenter wrote, "when asked....color? Prose. Black and White? Poetry."

I never thought of it exactly that way before. To my eye and sensibilities, B&W photography - with the exception of portraiture - has always been a medium of abstraction in as much as we don't see in B&W. Something is "missing" in B&W photography, something has been "altered", that something of course being color, which is a very real and ubiquitous component of our visual world. Perhaps it is the familiar ubiquitiousness of color that causes anonymous to characterize Color photography as "prose" or prosaic.

The dictionary lists as synonyms for "prosaic" - ordinary, everyday; vapid, humdrum, tedious, tiresome, and, uninteresting, although my leap from "prose" to "prosaic" may be overstating anonymous' intent, but I think not since the dictionary definition of "prose" hammers on the same notes of ordinary, everyday, dull, etc.

So I must respectfully disagree with anonymous. There exists too much good color photography - my own included - to label the color photography genre "prose" or "prosaic".

As for the contention that B&W photography is poetry, I might be inclined to venture "maybe". "Maybe", first and foremost because I am not all that comfortable using one form of art as a metaphor for another form. Photography is not poetry, or for that matter, prose, both of which traffic with and in words.

"Maybe", because, when used as an adjective, the word "poetic" can mean something with poetic qualities however manifested. But for me, the problem here is that "poetic" can also aptly describe much color photography as well.

It should not be inferred that I dislike B&W photography. I will venture that carefully crafted B&W prints can be, in and of themselves and independent of their subject matter, incredibly beautiful objects in a manner that color prints don't seem to match. B&W photography also seems well suited to describing shape and line and, perhaps, with skillful compostions of shape and line, B&W photographs can emulate, after a fashion, the rythmn and meter of poetry. But, IMO, the same can be said of color photography as well.

All of that said, it should be obvious that my chosen manner of photographic expression is the Color vernacular. I would be interested in reading the thoughts of those who have chosen the B&W vernacular as theirs.

FEATURED COMMENT: Steve Durbin wrote (in part): "...A phrase that springs to mind in this context is "poetic license." That's appropriate because B&W photographers can "get away with" much stronger image manipulation without having their images judged as overly manipulated, for the very reason that they've already abstracted their image from reality by dispensing with color. Thanks to historical accident, viewers have a level of acceptance of black and white images that can be and is taken advantage of by photographers...."

FEATURED COMMENT: anonymous wrote: "I think you're missing something here. In fact this entire post is based off a profound misunderstanding of the anonymous commenter's comment.

What you're missing is that prose is not necessarily prosaic. In fact it can be anything but prosaic. The two words are not synonymns despite sharing a root word, yet your post is based on prose being necessarily prosaic.

Yes, colour photography is more prose than poetry. That is due to poetry and B&W being more abstract approaches, while colour and prose are in general more descriptive. Neither need be prosaic, and both certainly can be.

publisher's response: Thanks very much for the toughtful comment.

My interpretation of the original anonymous' statement - "when asked....color? Prose. Black and White? Poetry." - was based on the dictionary definition of "prose" which states; 1.the ordinary form of spoken or written language, 2.matter-of-fact, commonplace, or dull expression, quality, discourse, etc., 4.commonplace; dull; prosaic, write or talk in a dull, matter-of-fact manner. The dictionary also states that poetry is a quality that suggests grace, beauty, and harmony.

But, without going all didactic or donnish, I inferred that anonymous was opining that bw photography was superior to color photography as in grace and beauty trump dull and commonplace. Maybe that's not what he meant. Maybe he just used the wrong analogy.

In any event, I do agree with you that when it comes to photography, color or bw, neither need be prosaic, and both certainly can be.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Godfather of Soul - a New Year's Eve reflection on a social landscape

In the Tidbit post of a few days ago I mentioned places that had an emotional and physical impact upon me. This post is about an event that grabbed me by the balls and wouldn't let go.

This morning, as I was having a cup of coffee, I was reading an article in the morning paper about James Brown and the tribute gathering of over 8,500 people in Augusta, Ga. One woman commented that it was 30 years ago that she first saw James Brown in concert, and, WHAMMO, I realized that it was 30 years ago that I first saw him in concert. correction - it was 40 years ago that I first saw him (thanks to Gary Filkins for catching this one).

Actually, I wasn't in attendance as a concert-goer, I was there to photograph the event and that's why my photographs have an on-stage perspective - that's where I was, on stage with The Godfather of Soul. With all of the whirling dervish and raw emotional/physical energy that James Brown put down, being on stage, at times between him and the audience, was a hair raising and spine tingling experience, to say the least. But that's only part of the story.

Those of you who are good with math and have a good memory (or a knowledge of history) will have already deduced that this performance took place during that mid-sixties period of "long, hot summers" when many American black inner-cities erupted with riots. Riots, that for many, seemed rather unreal or Kafka-esque - this was America after all, things like that don't happen here. Well, in fact, things like that did happen, as well as the lynching of blacks, the murder of young civil rights workers, and the assassination of black and white leaders. To say that there was racial divide and anger in America was a vast understatement. And, to say that there were some angry black men (and women) - many, rightfully so - was also an understatement.

So, there I was, a big-target, Levittown-style raised (no blacks here), private school (no blacks here) white boy, sandwiched (figuratively and literally) between two social landscapes and sandwiched between the Godfather and his held-in-the-palm-of-his-hand emotionally-charged audience. There might have been another white guy in the place - a huge packed-to-the-rafters auditorium/gymnasium/plane hanger (on the island of Okinawa, Japan and if memory serves, on an Air Force base) - but, if there were, he wasn't anywhere near my fish-bowl like spot. Safe to say , James Brown was not the only one sweating on stage (another understatement).

Did I feel in physical danger? Kind of sort of, but not really. Was it stupid to feel that way? Kind of sort of, but not really - it only takes one idiot (black or white) in a crowd to start a riot. Did I feel a deep and disturbing sense of ill-at-ease? Oohhh, yes. Was it because I was surrounded by a sea of black people? Yes, but not because they were black. Were there any problems? No, not a single one. Nothing. Nada. Did I come away changed? Yes. Up to that point in my life, the civil rights movement had my complete sympathy and support, but always in a rather intellectual and removed sort of manner. Did I plan to become a civil rights worker in the deep south or urban America? No, but I did resolve to become very actively involved in the Robert Kennedy campaign upon my return to the US - but that's a whole 'nother story.

Thank you and goodbye, Mr. Brown.

addendum - Interestingly enough, years later after moving to Pittsburgh PA, I was regularly given photography assignments (for Pittsburgh Magazine) in the Hill District - Pittsburgh's once thriving, then (and still) decaying prominent black neighborhood - simply because, talent aside, I would go there. When the magazine did a special edition day-in-the-life project, I was, of course, assigned The Hill (the inspiration for tv's Hill Street Blues) as one of my areas to cover. On assignment I was stopped by a cop who informed that I was "insane, stupid and a complete idiot" - somewhat of an overstatement, but, since I was stupid, I guess he wanted to be sure I got his point - to be walking around that neighborhood with all of that expensive camera gear hanging from my neck and shoulders.

Did I feel in physical danger? No. Did I feel a deep and disturbing sense of ill-at-ease? No. Were there any problems? No, not a single one. Nothing. Nada.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

ku # 447

Looking back at Little Whiteface around 3:30pm, 12/30/06. Actually, it's the lower reaches of Little Whiteface. Whiteface Mt. proper is lost in the ascending cloud bank on the right and continuing out of the frame. In any event, I thought the light was nice. Note the sky reflections in the foreground vehicles. As always, click on the photograph to see a larger version.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Tidbit - On Originality

3 point play - The shot was good. The foul is evident (the ref's arm is on the way up). She converted the free throw on her way to a 27 point night. The Au Sable Valley girls whomped all over the girls from Bethpage (Long Island) during the annual Holiday Classic in the Herb Brooks Arena (aka, the 1980 Olympic rink).

a personal aside: During my life, I have had a few very emotional reactions to a few places. Places, that for a variety of personal reasons, called up memories so vivid and strong that I experienced emotions and sensations that were nearly physically overwhelming - tingly hair on the neck and arms, a little wobbly in the knees and a tweak in the gut. The Vietnam Memorial in DC, Frank Lyold Wright's Falling Water in Ligioner PA, and the 1980 Olympic Rink (now known as the Herb Brooks Arena) are at the top of the list.

The first time I set foot in the Olympic arena, I felt as though I was in/on hallowed ground, a feeling that continues (slightly deminished) to this day dispite the fact that I am in the arena very frequently. Why? In a phrase, The Miracle on Ice - a landmark Cold War event.

A bunch of college-age kids, some might say a ragtag bunch, did what was considered the impossible - they defeated the mighty Soviet Red Army hockey team. At that time and in that period of national angst, hockey fan or not, it was apparent to the nation (and most probably, the world) that this was a defining Us against Them match of the Titans. USA vs the USSR. Good vs Evil. Freedom vs Repression. And fortunately, no guns or missiles. And, a more "innocent" time perhaps, but we won.

I wasn't there. I watched on tv - tape delay, prime time broadcast. Those who were in Lake Placid. but not in the arena, claimed that the chants of "USA, USA, USA" (you heard it here first) could be heard at the other end of town. I imagine that the chants also reverberated in the halls of the Kremlin as well.

Tidbit - On the notion of orginality, photographic or otherwise - "I milk a lot of cows, but, I churn my own butter." ~ by fictional character Rev. Jamison in the book Company Man by Joseph Finder. I really like this take on the oft-stated idea that everything's been done before.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

urban ku # 16 ~ Inside, looking out

Kris K brought us a little snow. Just enough to make it look and feel like Xmas/winter.

this photograph - Looking out of the 1980 Olympic rink (Scene of The Miracle on Ice) at the 1980 speed skating oval where Eric Hyden did his thing. That's Lake Placid HS on the right and town hall of the left. If you click on and enlarge the photograph, you can just make out the Olympic ski jumps - a little red light just right of center on the mountains.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A recommendation

photo-eye BOOKLIST - what others are saying: "With the number of important photography books increasing every year, a selective, intelligent, and lively guide to the best of those titles has never been so essential.", " indispensable source to identify current publications in photography. Even more important, in terms of discrimination and selection, are the insightful comments on new titles.", and, "...the equivalent of having a dear friend with more time than I, and a broader perspective to point out treasures while their bindings are new and the ink still fresh."

What I am saying: If, like me, you like and buy photo books, this quarterly publication is a must. It can be found in many book stores - I get mine at Borders rather than by subscription because I can pick out a clean unblemished copy. A short essay and a current issue over view can be found here. If you're a subscription-type you can subscribe here. Back copies can be had here.

I ordered this book this book although I actually purchased it at at a 40% discount. actually has a very good selection of photo books at great discount prices.

I am a firm believer in the adage "You are what you eat." and, in my not so humble opinion, there's lots o' good eats to be found in photo-eye BOOKLIST.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Holiday hiatus

I'm back after a brief holiday break. That said, I would also note that not too much (if anything) of importance will be happening here until after Jan. 1. because, frankly, and as to be expected, readership is down significantly during the holidays. It would seem that many of you have other things going on. However, inveterate trouper that I am, I will be posting some odds and ends.

One such item is today's Recent Visitor Map (as compiled by my stat counter). While it may not be of importance to anyone but me, it is indeed significant for me - knowing that The Landscapist is being read and followed all around the planet is a big part of what keeps me going blog-wise. It is also encouraging to see (again through my web stats) how many visitors reach this blog via links that so many of you have posted on your blogs/websites. I can't possibly thank all of you individually, but I would like to extend a hardy and heartfelt collective "thank you very much" to all who have provided links and to those of you who keep coming back.

Friday, December 22, 2006

You show me yours, I'll show you mine

When I was a little kid (Hugo, are you listening), I used to play "you-show-me" with my next door neighbor, Ginger Dockweller (same age, different sex), but that's not what I had in mind here.

This is our family"s Xmas card. Did you make one using your photography? (I know Michelle Parent did - thank you Michelle). Will you show me yours? I showed you mine.

publisher's Addendum: Someone who received this card responded with, "SO...Have some liqueur, get merry and go to the hotel and have sex? I like it!" - which only goes to demonstrate the imprecision of the connoted or "meaning" in a photograph.

On the chance that someone out there likes my Xmas triptych, it's available as a signed, numbered (open edition) print - 6x11 inches, ultrachrome ink on Epson Enhanced Matte paper at the Low Low Christmas Season Discount price of only $25.00 US. Shipping not included. Contact me to purchase.

FEATURED COMMENT: see Joe Decker's Xmas card

Brian Chapman & Anil Rao

I recently came back from the southern Washington coast which provided a good opportunity to work with long exposures and water.The first is a long exposure of a winter storm rolling in. The three stripes in the foreground are sets of crashing waves. This night image was taken at the edge of a parking lot with a large tree and a light behind it casting a shadow on the high tide. I normally like to include some static "anchor" in long exposures but as this doesn't have anything that wasn't in motion I consider it more toward the abstract end of the spectrum. As for me (you probably have not heard of me), photography is not my career although I spend much of my spare time working on it in some way or another. Although I shoot completely digital I don't really consider these "converted" images because in my mind they were monochromatic from the beginning. ~ Brian Chapman

I started ballroom dancing last February. Since then, I believe I have been spending more time and energy on this new pursuit than I do making photos. Recently, a good friend asked me if dancing has an effect – positive or negative – on my photography. I don’t remember consciously noticing any connection between the two activities and was therefore pleasantly surprised to find this photograph in my collection....Could my dancing have really played a role in the making of these images? ~ Anil Rao

publisher's comment: I have created a 2-for-the-price-of-one post with Brian and Anil because their submissions appeared nearly simultaneously and both relate to the recent topic of "abstracts", but, IMO, in very different ways.

Most of the recent discussion about "abstracts" has centered around photography that falls into my category of reality-based impressionism and Anil's photograph falls rather neatly into that description. Brian's photograph, on the other hand, has pretty much abandoned the notion of reality-based to create what can certainly be labeled an "abstract" in a more classic painterly sense, although, that shadow of the tree creates an interesting real/not real visual effect/affect - a we're-not-in-Kansas-anymore kind of thing. Please also note that Brian is a digital shooter who "sees" in BW before he photographs, not after).

And Anil - all I can say is, "Keep on 'dancing' "

See more of Brian Chapman's photography here and more of Anil Rao's here

Thursday, December 21, 2006

ku # 446 and a personal experience re: "abstracts"

On the topic of "abstracts" - Woven amongst my ku I have a considerable number of "abstracts" such as this one. As noted, I don't really consider them to be "abstracts". I think of them as more of a form of reality-based impressionism. I think this way because I am not just photographing the subject in order for it to function as visual vehicle which creates pleasing visual patterns/design - I am genuinely drawn to the subject in and of itself.

My wife and greatest critic (primarily regarding, but not limited to, photography) has ocassionally taken a less than favorable position regarding many of my reality-based impressionism photographs. I'll be Photoshopping my way along on one of my latest (and certainly greatest ever) reality-based impressionism photographs, and, while in motion as she passes through my office/studio, she will utter, "Not one of your best, dear." Quick on the riposte, I usually utter a low-frequency grunt-like sound.

But, not too long ago, I gained a small measure of satisfaction (because there is no advantage in gaining revenge in a marriage) on this score. I framed and mounted one of my reality-based impressionism photographs on the livingroom wall right in her reading-on-the-couch line of vision. She uttered a low-frequency grunt-like sound.

A few weeks later, as I was passing though the livingroom, she blurted out, "You know, I'm beginning to really like that photograph." Since I was on the move, I didn't pause for any exchange on the reason(s) for the change of visual heart, although, as a harmony-making courtesy, I think I muttered "Good."

I'll have to follow up on that - most probably on our next long car trip when she's belted into the seat next to me with no way out. I find that that is usually the best time to "engage" her in a long-winded discourse on the finer points of photography and art.

Michael Gordon ~ Windblown Grass

Mr. Hobson: my name is Michael Gordon (you may have heard of me). I photograph primarily in b/w, but always in 4x5. I'm no fan either of comments such as "I like the BW effect" and "This would be a good photograph to convert to BW", so I submit to you a genuine made-on-film-and developed-in-pyro photograph of mine for The Landscapist. I believe that good b/w photography is a way of seeing BEFORE the shutter is clicked (or sensor sensed?). I'll submit that *it's too late* if the b/w idea comes as an afterthought to the exposure.

publisher's comment: Who is this guy? Anybody heard of him? Mr. Gordon claims that this photograph along with 3 others of his will be published in the Jan/Feb issue of View Camera magazine. He also stated that the photograph was "scheimflugged for your pleasure" - an obvious attempt to influence the selection committee. It worked.

See more of Mr. Gordon's BW photography

FEATURED COMMENT: Jim Jirka wrote: "Welcome to the Landscapist, Michael..... Wow, you really still use 4x5 film? Your camera must be really big."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

urban ku # 15

Tis the season and I want to wish, just like the snowman does, a "Happy Holidays" to one and all. Don't you just love the "room phones" sign above the phone booth, which appears to be a fully functioning (the light even works) example of another disappearing American icon?

FEATURED COMMENT: Michael Gordon wrote: "I'll do you one better, Mark: there's a motel in the Mojave Desert that I frequently pass that advertises "TELEVISIONS" (hoo-wee, boy). I have yet to photograph it, but I will someday."

publisher's response: Sure, sure, but does it have "Air Condition"?

FEATURED COMMENT: Anonymous (the wife) wrote: "The wife also wishes Happy Holidays to the Bloggeristas. Gravitas is really enjoying his visual verbal salon."

FEATURED COMMENT: Mary Dennis wrote: "I'm really comforted by the fact that these places still exist ...Are these relics effectively protected, sort of like living museum pieces, in the Adirondacks?"

publisher's response: I like these places a lot as well, but, no, they are not protected in any way other than by the fact that they are all mom-and-pop owned. Very few mom-and-pop's have the $$$ resources to undertake any sort of large-scale scorched-earth "renovations". It's hard enough for many of them just to do normal upkeep maintaince, especally in the "fringe" areas of the Adirondacks.

The property on which most of these sit is also usually too small for the big players (the chains and highend developers)) to be interested in. So there they sit. Some are doing quite well (depending on location), some are just getting by, and some are sliding into closure and decline. At this point I would speculate that the Villa caters mainly to workers involved in season-long public/private work projects and the "nooner" crowd. Some of their 3-room off-hwy units are probably used as residences for locals.

One way or another, these places will probably be around for a good while longer.

William Biderbost ~ foggy daze

These photos were made at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL where I was the staff photographer for seven years. After leaving in 2005 I find myself going back to photograph on my own since the moods and ethereal nature of tended gardens can yield some satisfying results. I have been particularly interested in the natural diffusion of foggy days since they bring a dreamier more surreal quality to the pictures.

publisher's comment: I find it interesting that William's photographs arrived accompanied by this statement, "I found your blog after being beaten nearly to death by sand dune and slot canyon
" Interesting because William's obvious reference is to a subset of the many ubiquitous photographic cliches that crowd the landscape photography landscape, but, nevertheless, he has chosen to traffic in another photographic cliche - fog.

BUT, nevertheless, I find that his photographs transcend the fog-cliche due primarily (but not solely) to the fact that he has undertaken the task of exploring in depth the idea of "fog" and its ability to transform a particular type of landscape. Once again, like Mary D with her Fragments, William is working towards creating a series (or body) of photographs united by a common thread/concept - photography at its narrative best.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

urban ku # -18,762

Naha, Japan on the island of Okinawa. Why # -18,762? Well, I figure that I have taken at least 18,761 photographs between 1966 when this one was created and 2003 when I first started my ku series.

I have posted this photograph to emphasize that there is no taboo regarding BW photography. None. Zero. Nada. I have also put out an SOS to a few BW practioners I know to come on board. Here's hoping we see something soon. (Hey Thomas M., are you listening?)

In the mean time, I have been pondering the fate of BW photography in the digital age and the first thought that comes to mind is the word "effect". As in the comment repeated over and over on so many photo forums, "I like the BW effect." A comment that has me red-faced and screaming at my monitor, "HEY MORON, BW IS NOT AN EFFECT!!!!" A subset of this comment is the oft-repeated suggestion (upon viewing a color photograph), "This would be a good photograph to convert to BW."

The image that springs to mind is one of a befuddled and bewildered Ansel Adams casting about wondering which effect, color or BW, would be better for "Moonrise". Maybe he might decide to photograph in color because he could always convert to BW later.

Both of these comments have me concerned for the future of BW photography. Certainly there are still (double entendre) photographers who work in the BW genre and who understand the nuances of the medium's films and papers, but, like the photographic materials they work with, they seem to be an ever-diminisihing breed.

Sure, I have seen some BW inkjet prints printed with special BW ink sets that rival, and in some cases surpass, conventional/traditional BW prints. In most cases though, those prints have been made from scanned BW film originals. And, yes, there are PS/Lightroom conversion techniques that can yeld a very nice BW result. So the future isn't entirely bleak.

What happens when film disappears or becomes scarce (and costly)? Will a digital camera maker create a serious BW camera/sensor or in-camera software that allows BW photography to be the intended result?

What do you think?

And on a related topic, this photograph is from a 40 year-old BW negative. Anybody care to comment on the possible fate of 40 year-old digital files?

FYI The canal system on Okinawa, which feeds directly into the East China Sea or the Pacific Ocean (depending on which side of the island you are on), also doubled as the sewer "system". Everyday, when the tide went out (especially during the long hot summers), there was a "baking" effect that created a very pervasive odor. There's nothing I like better than a hot, humid day accented with the smell of "benjo". Although, it was something that I got use to.

FEATURED COMMENT: Brian Champman wrote: "......I know of quite a few digital photographers who focus almost exclusively on black and white (myself included)...".

publisher's disclosure Brian - Thanks for the thoughtful comments, much appreciated as always. I must admit that part of the reason behind this topic is to draw out a few digital-based BWers, and hopefully to be able to arm-twist them into sending a few photo submissions.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mary Dennis - A Series

On her website - twOeyesOpen - Mary Dennis has a gallery titled Fragments which displays square photographs of enviromental details. Mary has created gallery pages that are visually delightful square groupings of these photographs. I was so struck by the simple and elegant beauty of the photographs and the groupings that I arranged to purchase an entire page which I will display - under a single sheet of glass without a frame - exactly as she has designed the gallery page. My plan is to eventually acquire all the gallery pages.

Many might call Mary's detail photographs "abstracts", but I emphatically disagree - with photography's and, in this case, Mary's, unrelenting and very referent specific connection to the real, I don't see these as "abstract" at all. "Abstracts" are what painters do. Photography that deals with details - unless their referent's realism is radically altered by technique - is exactly what it is, a photograph of the "real". Now, I think that Mary has done a magnificant job of "abstracting" details from their surroundings but I don't see that making them any less "real".

I also think that Mary has done a superb job of conveying the sensations of color without resorting to the sensationalizing of color. By including photographs with generous amounts of neutral color throughout her groupings, the "natural" colors pop off the page without having to resort to Photoshop Velvia-esque saturation settings. To my eye and sensibility, this color at its best.

On another note, I am a sucker for photography series. I believe that photography is at its narrative best when it is presented as a series of photographs that are "united" by a common thread (subject, technique, etc.), but that's a topic for another time.

Nice work Mary.

FEATURED COMMENT: Paul Raphaelson wrote: "...The work that I like always has an element of abstraction. Which doesn't contradict your observation that all photography is also in some way representational...Any time you sense that form is as much a subject of the picture as the subject matter itself, you're noticing an element of abstraction..."

FEATURED COMMENT: Mary Dennis wrote: "I'm glad that the "unrelenting and very referent specific connection to real" is appparent in these images. That was one of the things I wanted to accomplish. I would like people to know what it is they are seeing--just not immediately. I agree that these aren't abstracts but fragments, the little details of the bigger picture I see around me every day."

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