Saturday, December 16, 2006

Lisa Gimber ~ Caddo Lake

Caddo Lake to me is like the Adirondack Mountains are to you. One of these years I'm going to buy a Go-Devil boat so that I can travel through those swamps whenever I feel like it and hopefully get a decent exposure. Here's a shot from last month that I like. I'm not the best composer or focuser? and still don't know how to use my camera well. Am very intimidated by what everybody else posts...Just want you to see my "Adirondack."

Publisher's comment: As far as I know Lisa Gimber has no online presence except for an occasional photo posting on one of the online nature photography forums. She has - very infrequently - sent me a few photographs asking for my opinion/advice. Lisa thinks that she is not a very good photographer, which I attribute to the fact that she doesn't know much about the "rules" and her photographs evidence that (refreshing) lack of "knowledge". That's why I like what I see - her photographs create an almost child-like (IMO, a very good thing) feeling of curiousity and observation, almost as if she is seeing something for the first time. At least, that's the experience I feel when I view her photographs.

Thanks for the submission Lisa.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Steve Durbin wrote: "As a newcomer to your blog, I'm not sure whether there is a particular notion behind what you call ku."

publisher's response: Steve, I have not explained ku on this blog, so here goes:

The second syllable of hiaku, ku means sky or emptiness. I have labeled my photographs ku - playing on the meaning "emptiness" - for 2 reasons:

1. When I photograph, I try to photograph with as empty a mind as possible.

I try to do this because it quiets the discursive mind with its ego-centric orientation so that I might better immerse myself in the object of my photographic gaze. Hopefully, this diminishes the barrier between observer and observed in order that the object of my gaze can speak for itself in its own voice.

With an empty mind, I feel more often than not that a subject has chosen me rather than the other way around.

2. To my eye and sensibility, my photographs, when printed, are like hints and teases to answers to as yet unsolved riddles.

Upon viewing my photographs, they become somewhat like meditations. So, just as I try to photograph with an empty mind, I try to view my photographs with an empty mind. When we let go of all of our preconditioning, discarding habitual mental sets, biases and stagnant emotive states, a brush against the small and ordinary (most often the object of my photographic gaze) can connect us with - or give hints and teases to - the universal and eternal.

As Thoreau wrote, "Sometimes as I drift on Walden Pond, I cease to exist and begin to be."

FEATURED COMMENT: Steve Durbin wrote: "Your statement is lovely and stands on its own, but I fear there is a slight linguistic problem with your derivation. It works in English, but in Japanese, with its many homonyms, the "ku" character in "haiku" is not the same as the "ku" (with long u) meaning sky or emptiness (which is also the kara in karate = empty-hand)..."

publisher's response: Thanks for the linguistic lesson (seriously). It differs from my source (BTW, apropos of nothing here, I lived in Japan for a couple years) but either way, I have based my use of the syllable/character ku on that which means "emptiness". The relevance of the syllable/character with its use in the word "hiaku" is of no real importance to me, but you are certainly correct in pointing out, especially with the Japanese language, the notion of "passing through the hints and teasings of language."

FEATURED COMMENT #2: anonymous Steve wrote: "foo"

additional publisher's comment: Kent, every night before retiring, my wife makes me don a very tight fitting full face helmet to prevent any overnight head expansion.

ku # 445 - it's a pure-y

Late yesterday afternoon - along the shore of Lake Champlain, gazing at Vermont (after a round of golf). If you look at the larger version, you can make out just a hint of the Green Mts. on the right horizon.

I now realize, after a clarifying round of mid-December-northern-latitude-shirt-sleeve golf, and after reading your comments (thank you, thank you, thank you),that I might not have been very precise in meaning with my use of the phrase pure landscape photography. Upon further consideration, I think Steve Durbin had it close to correct when he wrote, " that at least does not foreground human structures or impact." - heavy on the the "natural", hold, or at least, easy on the man.

The natural world still holds mystery and majesty (for me anyways, can't speak for others). Therefore, I guess what I'm looking for out there on the infotainment highway is landscape photography that can recognise that mystery and majesty without resorting to that "particular romantic notion of the world" (sappy sentimentality) that so defined the traditional/pure landscape photography of the last century - photography that looks at the mystery and majesty with "new eyes".

From the shameless self promotion department comes this - I think that that's what I'm doing (or attempting to do) with my ku. As a somewhat anonymous Steve (not Durbin) wrote in response to my obervation/question, "One of the most compelling qualities of your ku series is its iconoclasm, facilitated by your use of the vignette action: there's an elevation of the mundane that's (for lack of a better word) haunting."

Thanks Steve. That sums it up nicely. Mind if I use it as my Artist's Statement?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

urban ku # 13 and an observation with a question

La Cage Aux Folles - Paddleboats at the Philadelphia Zoo. I hope no one is too disappointed that much of what has been published lately - mine and that of others - on The Landscapist has been from the "urban" side of the landscape genre. I haven't given up on the nature side, not by a long shot.

My gaze of late has turned to more of "man" in the Adirondacks simply because I am trying to create a more complete picture of the true nature of the Adirondack Park - yes, it is the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi (bigger than Vermont), but it is also a patch-quilt of public and private land - which is why I am able to live in a park.

the observation: But, that said, I have noticed something interesting as I plow through and down the information highway. Outside of the "traditional" nature photography forums, which tend to feature the pretty calender type photography of the landscape, there seems to be precious little new and different to discover in the "pure" landscape genre. Everywhere I look, I find photographic signs of man in the landscape.

the question: Has the traditional genre of landscape photography been shattered beyond reconstruction? Has it run its course? Is there nothing new to be said and seen?

Come on people, chime in on this one.

publisher's footnote: Thank the gods of technology for my stat counter - if I were publishing this blog based on the number of comments posted, I'd have left town long ago. Fortunately, the counter tells me that there are approximately 280 pages views a day - and rising, by approximately 185 unique visitors a day - and rising, with about 100 returning visitors a day - and rising.

Thus encouraged, I push ever forward.

FEATURED COMMENT: Toby Lloyd Jones wrote: "There never has been a 'pure' landscape. Humans have moulded it, developed it, influenced it, since the earliest times.....What you call photography of 'pure' landscape is, I think, a particular genre of photography tied to a particular romantic notion of the world. But the way we conceptualize the world keeps shifting and changing."

John Bailey ~ 7_24_2006 - 7_28_2006

I work for an environmental consulting company in Massachusetts, myself and two co-workers were sent to Commerce, CA for a week (none of us had been to LA, or even CA before) these were the pictures I took on our downtime.

publisher's comment: One aspect of the "digital revolution" photography-wise is the freedom a photographer has to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. With a palmful of memory cards and one of those portable mini storage drives, you can shoot (seemingly) for ever, and If someone were to ask me how to become a better photographer, my answer would be simple - "Shoot yer ass off, kid".

John Bailey seems to be doing just that. Don't know how many frames (files?) he shot in LA, but after a few days of shooting he ended up with a nifty portfolio - LA (Final Cut) - of around 150 photographs that is definitely worth a look.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

ku # 444

Some more foggy morning in and around Au Sable Forks, NY. That's Whiteface poking its top above the surrounding landscape.

publisher's update: I'm receiving a fair amount of emails expressing excitement and great anticipation regarding the Through The Looking Glass gallery. I'll keep you posted. In the mean time, keep those cards and letters coming.

Don't know whether to cry or wind my watch

A "genre" of landscape photography that is, fortunately, a little harder (but, unfortunately, not impossible) to come by. I have no idea what my wife was searching for on the web last night when she found this little number - a photograph of our sleepy little hamlet, Au Sable Forks, NY. Now, I knew as a mental construct that this exists - fortunately, now deactivated and converted into an underground residence (I think it was for sale on eBay a while back) - but this photograph just reached out and grabbed me where I live, literally and figuratively.

As a child of the cold war era, I certainly carry a bit of "duck and cover" baggage, but I am struggling mightily to form a mental construct of my hamlet in the Adirondacks as a primary target of cold war era Soviet ICBMs. At first glance, I got that tingly hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck thing going and there is still an aspect of that that I can't shake just yet. For me, this photograph is an excellent example of a photograph with studium (a general cultural connection) and an extremely personal punctum.

PS - that's Whiteface Mt. in the background to the left of the "deterent".

See the official US Government Duck and Cover video. (Movie choices are on the left, a good choice under "Streaming" is 256k MPEG4) - an exemplary example of government "truthiness" (and outright insanity) if ever there was one. Even though the duck and cover drill was billed as a way to save your ass, it was really nothing more than, as one viewer expressed it, the time tested "Put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye" maneuver.

Aaron Hobson ~ Dormant

I have started to put together a set of photographs inspired by the new revelation of deathscapes (a term coined by Paul Raphaelson) of Stieglitz & others as well as a small amount of Joel Peter-Witkin influence (sidebar: I remember being 13 years old sitting around at home after school, I probably should have been doing homework, but found myself thumbing through a Joel-Peter Witkin book (yes, dad had some strange books laying around to corrupt me early). This book later actually came in handy for a science class project in which I wrote a report on hermaphrodites using his work for visual aid. I seem to remember the teacher and the class - Catholic school - being quite appalled.

Another large factor in this is my background in design. I want to create photos that tell a story, and with plenty of (IMO) aesthetically pleasing "treatment", I was able to (IMO) tell the whole or deeper underlying story of the scene and myself. I know this process changes the photograph, but being a "Gen X'er", I couldn't help myself. Does this change the category of my work to Mutlimedia? or collage? I'm not sure? I still see it as the scene I shot, and simply applied what was in my mind at the time via a process in the "digital darkroom". Am I moody? sometimes, yes. Am I disturbed? depends on your taste. Do Adirondack winters bring cabin fever? sometimes yes. I believe the processing/treatment end of this will evolve and develop with time as this is just the start.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

urban ku # 12 and a glimpse of what's to come

It was very foggy this morning in and around Au Sable Forks.

a glimpse: You may have noticed the white border around this photograph. That represents how I print my photographs. In this case, a 8x8 image on a 11x11 sheet. What's the point? you might ask.

Just this - soon after the first of the year (2007), The Landscapist will launch, on a sister site, the online photography gallery Through The Looking Glass and all of the photography (mine and others) will be displayed in the manner in which they are printed.

The Through The Looking Glass gallery will be based on the premise that the current gallery world has failed all but the most "favored" of photographers - photographers whose work is printed in limited editions and sold at very high prices (of which the galleries take a big percentage).

The Through The Looking Glass gallery's mission on the other hand is to put as much photography into the hands and on the walls of those who appreciate fine photography but don't have lots of $$$$ to spend - most prints will be available for under $50.00US (what Brooks Jensen calls "real people prices"). My suspicion is that "those who appreciate fine photography" are primarily photographers themselves, many or most of whom would love to "collect" photography but find it nearly impossible to do so at gallery-world prices. Sure, I'd love to own a Meyerowitz, an Eggleston, a Shore, et al, but honestly, I'd also like to own a Fredine, a Dennis, a Durbin, or a Lloyd-Jones amongst others. Some of you might even want to own a Hobson - one of mine or one of the other one's.

So, as I write, portfolios are being reviewed, invitations are being extended, a website is being created - similar to IRISf64, an online ad presence, and plans for a gala virtual opening show (bring your own wine, cheese and shrimp) are being made.

Please submit a portfolio (a link to your work) if you are interested in being represented on Through The Looking Glass.

FYI, This photograph, Gordon Oil, ~ Au Sable Forks, NY, is available for $25.00US for as long as this post is on the front page. The print measures 11.7x11.7 with a centered 7.5x7.5 image. It is printed with ultrachrome pigment inks on Epson Enhanced Matte paper. Each print is numbered (open edition) and signed. Contact me to purchase.

FEATURED COMMENT: Mary Dennis wrote: "...I just might have to smash open my piggy bank next year! The thought of owning and actually holding some real prints, from real people at real people prices, makes me giddy."

Yo Mary, I couldn't agree with you more. As I mentioned, I suspect that there is vast untapped market of photographers (primarily) who feel the same way. The wonderful world wide web of photoblogs and photo websites is good as far it goes, but fine photography, like any other art, is best experienced firsthand.

Monday, December 11, 2006

ku # 443 and some pearls of wisdom

We are having an extended brown season - that time between autumnal grandeur and first snow. The ski people - operators and participants - are going bats.

some pearls - If you don't know about Duane Michals, you should. Google "Duane Michals" and get to know him and his photography.

"Really, I'm so bored with photography that I cannot tell you! And I'm so bored with new photographers because it's just old photography, except it's bigger and more boring and in color and much more expensive. No new ground has been broken in photography in ages. All those German photographers are just doing very large photographs of parking lots in Tokyo. Richard Avedon knows that the next five books he's going to do will look like the last five: people standing in front of [seamless backdrops] staring at you. [...] I don't know what I'll be doing five years from now. That's what I love. Creativity comes from not knowing what the hell you're going to do."

"...The art world is so corrupt. When I first became a photographer, I thought photography wouldn't be corrupt because there was no money in it. But now there's money and the more money involved, the more the work becomes corrupted. Now that photography has gone into the realm of $250,000 for a photo, it's lost its virginity in the worst possible way. When somebody does a photograph that is so large that it can only be fit into a museum, you know it's all over. The power of photography is that a Cartier-Bresson print doesn't need to be 10-feet tall to move you. When the only value or new thing about a work is that it's enormous, photography has really gone down a slippery slope."

"If you are afraid to fail, forget it, you're never going to be a creative person. You learn more from your failures that you will from your successes. And if you find yourself saying, 'I don't have enough time,' that's bullshit. You make time for what you want to do. Or, 'I don't have enough money.' Bullshit. Paper doesn't cost anything. If you find yourself making excuses, then stop jacking yourself off, because that's what it amounts to. If you really want to do something, if you really have the passion to do something, to find your bliss, then you do it. You do it regardless."

FEATURED COMMENT: Michelle Parent wrote: "I LOVE this guy! So cool! His innerscape photos are mind boggling. I've thought of doing stuff like that ever since I picked up a camera and have never done it. I always create them in my head, but have never gone through with it. I've always chickened out, afraid people would think I was crazy or something."

Hey Michelle - Duane Michals, surprise surprise, had something to say about your comment, "...I always create them in my head, but have never gone through with it. I've always chickened out, afraid people would think I was crazy or something." Michals stated, "If I was concerned about being accepted, I would have been doing Ansel Adams lookalikes, because that was easily accepted. Everything I did was never accepted...but luckily for me, my interest in the subject and my passion for the subject took me to the point that I wasn't wounded by that, and eventually, people came around to me."

Toby Lloyd-Jones ~ Downtown #3

I first encountered Toby Lloyd-Jones at Eolake Stobblehouse Blog.

On a post named "Doors of Heaven" - a photograph of a set of double wooden vertical slat doors, Eolake indulged in what he labeled, "my high-wire analysis of my pictures". He wrote, "This picture is of heaven's gates. The golden colors give promise of great spiritual riches ahead. The many verticals symbolize the ascension of humanity and of the individual, or "you" if you will. The shadow of the sign on the right shows the fading of language and symbols as being important in human life, transcending mere mind and entering spiritual realms. The locks represent the barriers in our minds and our beliefs which each person has the key to if he chooses".

Toby left a comment under the name "punctum", which immediately caught my eye - punctum is from the twin concepts of studium and punctum: studium denoting the cultural, linguistic, and political interpretation of a photograph, punctum denoting the wounding, personally touching detail which establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it ~ from Camera Lucida, a book on photography published in 1980 by the French literary critic Roland Barthes. A book that is considered one of the most important early academic books of criticism and theorization on photography.

In any event, Toby's response was simple and direct - " is a door." I couldn't have stated it better myself.

As you may noticed with my photographs, I am definitely not a fan of descriptive - in practice, most often fanciful and rather loopy- titles for photographs. As a judge in several international photo competitions, I have seen my fair share, and more, of them. My dislike of them is twofold:

1. As mentioned, they are most often sappy and/or loopy.

2. By deliberate intention or not, they tend to direct the observer of a photograph down a specific train of interpretive/experiential thought and I perfer a more wide open field with my equivalency. Without in any way denying photography's intrinsic relationship with the referent (the object of its gaze) and the literal/real, it has been stated that has no intrinsic meaning. This is its mystery and hence, its power. Art is free. It stimulates the viewer to insert their own meaning, their own value.

It should be noted that I do appreciate reading about a photographer's motivations/inspirations in an Artist's Statement (as long as it's not so full of artspeak and theory-babel as to be undecipherable).

I have also noticed a general tendency that goes hand-in-hand with loopy/sappy titles - the titles seem to be an attempt (intentional or not) to make up for the fact that, although the photograph in question may have lots of studium, it lacks, to my eye and sensibility, a strong punctum.

All of that said, I really like Toby's photography (and his "titles"). FYI, Toby studied conceptual art and painting at Goldsmiths College, London University, from 1976-1979. Later he changed direction, and in 1992 gained a Ph.D in experimental psychology from Birkbeck College, London University. He is currently a reader (whatever that is) in cognitive psychology at Kent University, in the south-east of England. His academic research focuses on vision and memory.

My bet is he might have some interesting stuff to say about photography. Here's hoping he does (on The Landscapist).

FEATURED COMMENT: Steve Durbin wrote:"My first question on this one is based on my immediate (intuitive, system 1) reaction, before I even carefully looked at the content. I immediately thought of paintings by Hopper and de Chirico that have a similar overall look. I'm wondering to what extent that was intentional. It certainly affects my understanding of the photograph either way...I can't turn off the cultural background."

publishers comment: I was struck immediately by visions of Hopper with this photograph (and others - Downtown #6, #7, #1) and was tempted to write about Chiaroscuro - the arrangement of light and dark elements in a pictorial work of art - but Toby only seems to grind on this axe only lightly in his greater body of work.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A link

Interesting photography, and an interesting concept.

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