#37 How to Give Photographs as Gifts: The Holiday Show

A photographic print is a handmade, homemade, creative project. You can make them for yourself. Or you can make them for other people. Sit and think about each person on your list—is there a photo you’ve taken, either OF them, or WITH them, or of something they have an emotional attachment to, or is there some moment in your life that feels appropriate to share with them, a way to keep yourself in their sphere?

 Crafting an archival print is more than hitting “print” on a computer. Photographic artists can help create prints from your images. It transforms a moment into something different, iconic perhaps, and produces an artifact from this experience.

Crafting an archival print is more than hitting “print” on a computer. Photographic artists can help create prints from your images. It transforms a moment into something different, iconic perhaps, and produces an artifact from this experience.

 Mix and Match Pictures and Frames… it’s actually sorta hard to make it work. FOR MORE INFO:  WEB

Mix and Match Pictures and Frames… it’s actually sorta hard to make it work. FOR MORE INFO: WEB

 When the frames are consistent, you can get away with lots of variation in the image sizes and everything feels cohesive.  FOR MORE INFO:  WEB

When the frames are consistent, you can get away with lots of variation in the image sizes and everything feels cohesive.

FOR MORE INFO: WEB


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#36 The Presumption of Truth

If we accept that photography is art, and all photography is a sort of fiction, then perhaps it’s wrong to presume that photos ever represent anything like “objectivity” and are problematic for news and reportage. Determining if a photographer (or organization) embraces journalistic integrity becomes of greater consequence…

 At SFMOMA, the Magritte show

At SFMOMA, the Magritte show

This is the POST SCRIPT episode on Episode #20 on Truth.


If you like our show, please subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcasting app, and please rate the podcast. And don’t forget to join the Neomodern Facebook group to discuss the show, share your photos, hear about specials for printing or framing your best images. Thank you!

#35 Zen Your Photography (Becoming Present with Vision)

Shoshin (初心) is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind." It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. (from Wikipedia)

A camera is a device that teaches us to see without a camera.
— Dorthea Lange
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When you look around, your eye does one of two things. It sometimes can follow a moving point around the visual field (smooth pursuit movements”) but most the time it zips from point to point. The zips, called “saccades” are the fastest human muscle movement. We don’t perceive the saccades, and even when we land on a spot with our eyes (generally for a few milliseconds), we zip off again to another spot, and through this weird scanning we take in a scene. This spot is falling on our fovea, a tiny part of our retina with a high density of image receptors — everything outside of this little area is pretty blurry. We can sense motion and other bits of data out there, but for the most part, we “see” only what lands on the fovea. The content not specifically picked up in this saccade is filled in by our brains — with what we think should be there, what fits with the rest of the data we have, perhaps what we expect to see there.

 Eye tracking software is big business today, where it’s important to everyone from interface designers to advertisers very invested in where you look and for how long. Tune into your own curiosity and what catches your eye.

Eye tracking software is big business today, where it’s important to everyone from interface designers to advertisers very invested in where you look and for how long. Tune into your own curiosity and what catches your eye.


 Crows, Santa Fe (2018)

Crows, Santa Fe (2018)

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 (1964) An inventor and an artist, Dr. Harold Edgerton, a professor at MIT, pioneered the strobe flash, stop-action photography and a method of taking super-fast images called Rapatronic.

(1964) An inventor and an artist, Dr. Harold Edgerton, a professor at MIT, pioneered the strobe flash, stop-action photography and a method of taking super-fast images called Rapatronic.


 “Kara Walker exploded onto the art scene in 1994 at the age of 24 with work that shocked many, and at the same time, made her one of the leading artistic voices on the subject of race and racism.”   https://westburyarts.org/celebrating-black-history-kara-walker/

“Kara Walker exploded onto the art scene in 1994 at the age of 24 with work that shocked many, and at the same time, made her one of the leading artistic voices on the subject of race and racism.”

https://westburyarts.org/celebrating-black-history-kara-walker/


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#34 Composition, Again (this time with Stettner)

Louis Stettner (1922-2016) was an American photographer of the 20th century whose work included streetscapes, portraits and architectural images of New York and Paris. His work has been highly regarded because of its humanity and capturing the life and reality of the people and streets. (from Wikipedia)

The Louis Stettner exhibit at SFMOMA is wonderful and if you’re in SF and like photography, it’s worth a visit. While there’s a lot of his work that i don’t find particularly interesting, a number really resonate for me, and there’s lots to see.

On a Dutch Ferry, Holland, 1958

Woman with White Glove, 1958

Boulevard de Clichy, 1951

A few notes on the walls of SFMOMA about Stettner:

BRASSAI ON STETTNER: No matter how passionately Louis may become involved with what is most immediate and commonplace around us, he does not allow himself to be seduced by the picturesque. Stettner’s stimulant, his pre-established theme, is our natural environment, which he reveals with the utmost accuracy and the simplicity of great art.

OBLIQUE GAZE: Stettner defined himself as a “realist”. … He did not, however, always follow formal principles associated with the style of “realism”: frontal presentation of the subject, its placement at the center of the image, or its perfect legibility. As seen here, Stettner often preferred off-center framing and complex compositions.

ATMOSPHERIC QUALITY: Stettner enjoyed working in the rain, snow and fog, as evidenced by the pictures in the gallery. He was among the best photographers of the thickness of the air that separates the camera from its subject. The atmospheric quality of this space in between serves as a filter overlaying reality, making Stettner’s gaze visible.


Lake, New York State, 1952 by Stettner.

This Stettner, in particular, always inspired me in the way the subjects were arranged in the frame. In my mind it is in the same category as this photograph, by Rudolph Burkhardt, c.1940 “War Posters, France”

 Rudolph Burkhardt, c.1940 “War Posters, France”

Rudolph Burkhardt, c.1940 “War Posters, France”

 Seaglass Hunters, Davenport, CA 2015

Seaglass Hunters, Davenport, CA 2015

These two photos catch an arrangement of subjects — and so when I found myself watching a group of seaglass hunters in Davenport, CA a few years ago, I found the anonymous subjects with this same sort of array, which i liked.


PARALLAX

Over Thanksgiving I took some pictures at San Francisco de Asis, the famous church in Taos New Mexico. I took about five photos trying to get it the way i wanted it. I knew the crosses were distinctive and i wanted all four in the frame; the three on the church are fixed, but the fourth is on an arch about 50 feet from the church, and so body position and very subtle shifts in camera will leverage the parallax and appear to move the first cross around. Where to place it? In #1 i like the position, but i don’t like how the horizontal bar of the cross aligns near the church border; in #2 that problem is fixed by moving a tiny bit. But #3 was my favorite, with the 4th cross pushed farther to the left to balance the composition a little better.

 #1

#1

 #2

#2

 #3

#3


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 Sebastião Salgado - Serra Pelada Gold Mine, Brazil, 1986

Sebastião Salgado - Serra Pelada Gold Mine, Brazil, 1986

 Sebastião Salgado - Kuwait, 2006

Sebastião Salgado - Kuwait, 2006


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#33 Flashback 2001: The Collection and F64

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In 2001 I traveled to Florida to visit my parents and to see the opening of an exhibit (“Group f64: Defining Modernism”) at the Harn Museum of Art. Seizing a rare opportunity, I decided to interview them about the collection, photography, and the show. We picked up some Sonny’s BBQ and sat at a picnic table at the park while I videotaped. This is an excerpt from the full interview.

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Frames from the video, and the Harn F64 exhibit.


Photos We Refer To

 Ansel Adams, Dune (1948)

Ansel Adams, Dune (1948)

 Harry Callahan (1954)

Harry Callahan (1954)

 Andre Kertesz, Shadow of Eiffel Tower (1929)

Andre Kertesz, Shadow of Eiffel Tower (1929)

 Josef Sudek (1950)

Josef Sudek (1950)

#32A The Rubin Bros. Thanksgiving Special

My brother and I have these kinds of conversations whenever we’re together, and we were together in Santa Fe for Thanksgiving. In short, it’s hard to separate a conversation about photography—why we take pictures and what is worthy of being photographed—with our internal sense of what is important in life, what is worth keeping, what is worth remembering, and why? In this special edition episode, listen in…

 Danny’s Studio, Thanksgiving 2018

Danny’s Studio, Thanksgiving 2018


Movie SCENES Mentioned:

  Harold & Maude  (1971, Hal Ashby, Dir.)

Harold & Maude (1971, Hal Ashby, Dir.)

  Jurassic Park  (1993, Steven Spielberg, Dir.)

Jurassic Park (1993, Steven Spielberg, Dir.)

  Apollo 13  (1995, Ron Howard Dir.)

Apollo 13 (1995, Ron Howard Dir.)

  Blow Up  (1966, Michelangelo Antonioni, Dir.)

Blow Up (1966, Michelangelo Antonioni, Dir.)

In case links are broken, here’s a version…


 Santa Fe (2018)

Santa Fe (2018)

Taos, Yesterday


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#32 The Show about Time

groundhog-day-driving.jpg
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 Duck pickpocket… what’s the story here?

Duck pickpocket… what’s the story here?

 My big brother and me, by Elin Elkehad, 2017

My big brother and me, by Elin Elkehad, 2017

In the early 1990s my older brother Danny wrote a screenplay that became the movie (and Broadway show) “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray. The film is considered one of the top comedies in film history, but perhaps more cool than that, the expression “groundhog day” entered popular culture to mean “repeating something over and over endlessly” and Danny is considered an expert on things about time. As photography is its own surreal exploration of time, I wondered if he’d have anything to say in a conversation about time, family, art, photography, or other brother-stuff.

Danny’s Website: www.dannyrubin.com


 “Confrontation” (1976), by Jiří Anderle   ( http://baruchfoundation.org/anderle/ ) - The Rubins also grew up around a large collection of these Czech etchings. It’s a wonder we’re not all insane…

“Confrontation” (1976), by Jiří Anderle (http://baruchfoundation.org/anderle/) - The Rubins also grew up around a large collection of these Czech etchings. It’s a wonder we’re not all insane…

 “Sequere Me” (1975)

“Sequere Me” (1975)

Jiri Anderle is a Czechoslovakian painter and graphic artist best known for his delicate and ghostly etchings of the human form. Working in an aesthetic that recalls the sketches of Leonardo da Vinci, Anderle depicts human existence and mortality with works that appear to be medical drawings from some eccentric 18th-century surgeon. Born on September 14, 1936 in Pavlíkov, Czechoslovakia, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. With his rigorous formal training, he was able to apply Older Master techniques to his contemporary work and achieve a high level of anatomical realism. Today, his works are in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Albertina in Vienna, among others. Anderle lives and works in Prague, Czech Republic. [from Artnet]


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#31 Photomosaics and Collage

While Suzanne is out of town, and the holidays are a time for family, I figured i’d enroll my own family here. This is my sister Gabrielle Israelievitch; she’s an artist who has done a lot of work in photo collage, influenced as i was by the work of Jerry Uelsmann.

Yellow Taxi

 Time (*this image unusually breaks Gabrielle’s constraint of only cutting with straight lines.)

Time (*this image unusually breaks Gabrielle’s constraint of only cutting with straight lines.)

Transformation

 Identity

Identity


Uelsmann at home, his contact sheets spread out on worksurfaces to facilitate serendipitous seeing things.

“Small Woods Where I Met Myself” (1967) Jerry Uelsmann; I was 4 when this went on the wall in our house, and was the stuff of my nightmares for years.


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#30 Learning by Looking

I contend that once you understand how to use your camera, the best education to get better is to look at great photographic works.


We discuss these fantastic photographs in the episode, my “favorites.” “Favorite” is perhaps too strong a term. But these are the images I looked at growing up, that i return to, year after year. Importantly, I continue to love them, never tire of them, and find they inspire my own photographic efforts. Ok. They’re pretty close to favorites.

Chicago, by Harry Callahan (1950)

 Igor Stravinksy, by Arnold Newman (1953)

Igor Stravinksy, by Arnold Newman (1953)

Alma Lavenson, Self Portrait (1932)

Winter Sunrise, Lone Pine, by Ansel Adams (1940)

Kertesz, “Mondrian’s Pipe and Glasses” (1926)

 Kertesz, “Chez Mondrian”

Kertesz, “Chez Mondrian”


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#29 Filters and Post: Great Photos are Made Not Taken

 The original iPhone image, sitting in the park…

The original iPhone image, sitting in the park…

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The B&W instagram filters offer reasonably subtle adjustments.

For more nuanced control and potentially dramatic adjustments there are more advanced tools; here i’m using Adobe Lightroom. (Lightroom MOBILE is free for Adobe subscribers) :

https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom-cc/how-to/lightroom-mobile.html

 A crude example to make the point; using Adobe Lightroom, I made the blues look dark, and the greens look light…

A crude example to make the point; using Adobe Lightroom, I made the blues look dark, and the greens look light…

 or conversely, here the blues are light and the greens are dark. These kinds of shifts allow me to make decisions about whether i want the church or people or some other elements to pop out or blend in.

or conversely, here the blues are light and the greens are dark. These kinds of shifts allow me to make decisions about whether i want the church or people or some other elements to pop out or blend in.

The issue with filters is they are a general solution, and the BEST solution, if you care enough, is to be specific that in THIS photo you want THAT color to be light, and this other color to be dark (if you’re in b&w; there are equivalent controls in color) and it generally depends on the photo.


THIS EPISODE’S ASSIGNMENT

Filters. Either take a new picture or use one you have… see what different filters do to the image as you play with it. Clearly different images demand different filters, although it’s also nice to find a “look” you like, that perhaps fits you, and let it color many of your photos.

We are not, fwiw, pushing black and white - and we hope you’ll experiment with all sorts of color effects. Post what you made (and if you’d like, send us the original and let us play with it too!)


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#28 Constraints and Photographic “Games”

There’s nothing worse than a blank canvas. The painter Cezanne once said “It’s so fine, and yet so terrible, to stand in front of a blank canvas.” (I’m not sure he does that justice. I think i’d lean more towards this quote by Hannah Kent:

“People speak of the fear of the blank canvas as though it is a temporary hesitation, a trembling moment of self-doubt. For me it was more like being abducted from my bed by a clown, thrust into a circus arena with a wicker chair, and told to tame a pissed-off lion in front of an expectant crowd.”

Constraints are the savior. Seeing what you can do given some constraints (some technical: your smartphone will have somewhat limited resolution and focal length; some arbitrary: no cropping, black and white only…) Photography is poetry at its core, and some of the joy comes from working inside the proscribed form. Think limericks. Think haiku.



BTW: the parlor game of assembling parts of the drawing is called “Consequences” and is akin to the more general game known as “Exquisite Corpse” (not “delicious monster” but i love the mistake). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exquisite_corpse



A few selects from my shooting “game” at 40mph more or less, as i was driving around with friends in Nicaragua (2016). They sorta give the impression of intimacy but really are a snapshot of the facade of the roads.

 “Yellow Taxi” (2003): The highly constrained photographic poetry of Gabrielle Israelievitch: three images, straight cuts.

“Yellow Taxi” (2003): The highly constrained photographic poetry of Gabrielle Israelievitch: three images, straight cuts.


THIS EPISODE’S ASSIGNMENT

Textures. Look around at the textures you pass. Grab pictures. See if you can push yourself compositionally. Maybe see what happens in b&w, so the texture is stronger than the colors. Share them on our Neomodern FB page (or tag them #everydayphotography in instagram).

As you think about texture, realize it’s not always a close up of a flat surface — notice texture as it wraps itself across all sorts of shaped objects; and it may not only be a close up, some textures reveal themselves at a distance. Just make the texture a key element of your image. Here are some screenshots of mine:


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#27 The Annual Thanksgiving Show


Here are a sampling of my Thanksgiving pictures from the past few years. If you’re wondering how to think about your shoot, perhaps consider the “assignment” as a cross between a cooking show, some stolen moments from the activities of the day (walks, playing music, setting up, watching the game, playing with the kids/pets), plus some candid portraits of the elders.


Turns out Jeff was indeed sneaky, and was shooting all afternoon.

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#26 Creating Personal Projects

  Insta_Repeat  —> both highly amusing and reasonably instructive if you want to push your pictures into being increasingly distinct.

Insta_Repeat —> both highly amusing and reasonably instructive if you want to push your pictures into being increasingly distinct.


RUBIN’S PERSONAL PROJECTS:

 Some cracks…

Some cracks…

Tikkun Olam (based on Cracks) >> http://www.byrubin.com/portfolio#/project/

Christmas Trees After Christmas >> http://www.byrubin.com/portfolio#/christmas-trees/

Puddle Reflections >> http://www.byrubin.com/archives/#/puddles/


 “The Critic” by Weegee (1943)

“The Critic” by Weegee (1943)

 
 Elliott Erwitt, The Castle de Versailles (1975). His humor is often subtle. And other times it’s over the top.

Elliott Erwitt, The Castle de Versailles (1975). His humor is often subtle. And other times it’s over the top.

 Elliott Erwitt, Florida Keys (1968)

Elliott Erwitt, Florida Keys (1968)


Seeing faces in abstracts:

 “Bone and Sky” (1932) Willard Van Dyke—a member of Group f64 along with Weston, Adams and Cunningham.. Perhaps one of the originals in this genre.

“Bone and Sky” (1932) Willard Van Dyke—a member of Group f64 along with Weston, Adams and Cunningham.. Perhaps one of the originals in this genre.

 Suzanne loves this goat. I’m not so sure…

Suzanne loves this goat. I’m not so sure…


  • Suzanne’s Instagram (@sfritzhanson)

  • If you like our show, please subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcasting app, and please rate the podcast. And don’t forget to join the Neomodern Facebook group to discuss the show, share your photos, hear about specials for printing or framing your best images. Thank you!

#25 Trying NOT To Be an Amateurish Amateur

At least part of the fun of photography, for me, is shooting frequently-shot subjects, and seeing if I can produce a reasonably original, and somewhat personal, image. As Sontag said in 1977, it seems like everything has already been photographed (!) which isn’t true at all, but the ubiquity of cameras certainly pushes us to try harder to see the world uniquely.

 Père Lachaise, Paris, 2016 by Rubin

Père Lachaise, Paris, 2016 by Rubin

 Coit Tower, San Francisco, 2015

Coit Tower, San Francisco, 2015

NOTE: I say in the show that it’s “contests” that might be restricting content, but i misspoke - what i meant to say was that certain kinds of “crits” (short for “critiques”: photographic feedback sessions with experts) have ‘mentors’ who will specify their fields of interest and, frequently, subjects of which they have no interest.

Regardless, the subject matter we are drawn to, but may need to push ourselves to make novel: nudes, cemeteries, monuments and statues, old people, the homeless, chipping paint, flowers, pets… these are all photogenic by nature (and to be honest, i love shooting all of them) just realize what you’re up against. If you’re trying to distinguish your pictures from the crowd, particularly in contests, these are subject matter that will make it hard to impress professionals.

 
 Jerome, Arizona (1949) by Aaron Siskind. 1. He sets the bar high for old paint. 2. This online reproduction doesn’t hold a candle to an original print. It’s one of those special images that makes it clear the difference between a great print and an okay one.

Jerome, Arizona (1949) by Aaron Siskind. 1. He sets the bar high for old paint. 2. This online reproduction doesn’t hold a candle to an original print. It’s one of those special images that makes it clear the difference between a great print and an okay one.

Photography isn’t looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”
—Don McCullin, war photographer

Rookie Post Production

Saturation

 Suzanne, chilling after recording an episode. Gorgeous sunset…

Suzanne, chilling after recording an episode. Gorgeous sunset…

 Same image, cranked color saturation. It’s certainly more dramatic. But cloying…

Same image, cranked color saturation. It’s certainly more dramatic. But cloying…



“Bokeh” and try not to use that word…

 Using a short depth of field means that there’s a narrow window of the frame that is in focus, and everything behind that is somewhat blurred. It’s cool to control, and one of the great tools you have as a photographer making an image.

Using a short depth of field means that there’s a narrow window of the frame that is in focus, and everything behind that is somewhat blurred. It’s cool to control, and one of the great tools you have as a photographer making an image.

 It can be fun to play with depth of field — here the flowers in the foreground were the focus, and so the ‘subject’ was purposely more indistinct in the background.

It can be fun to play with depth of field — here the flowers in the foreground were the focus, and so the ‘subject’ was purposely more indistinct in the background.






  • Suzanne’s Instagram (@sfritzhanson)

  • If you like our show, please subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcasting app, and please rate the podcast. And don’t forget to join the Neomodern Facebook group to discuss the show, share your photos, hear about specials for printing or framing your best images. Thank you!

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#24 Establishing Trust

We have to accept that being photographed makes us feel vulnerable, and comparatively, taking a photograph of someone is inherently threatening. We must keep that in mind when we waive cameras around, always remain sensitive to the invasiveness of the act.

This show continues thoughts from Episode #5

 Home Selfie (2018).

Home Selfie (2018).

 Cute couple in the park. It had all the makings of a cool picture, but never quite materialized…(and yes, this is hyper saturated. i was playing with attributes before deciding the photo just wasn’t there.)

Cute couple in the park. It had all the makings of a cool picture, but never quite materialized…(and yes, this is hyper saturated. i was playing with attributes before deciding the photo just wasn’t there.)

 Every time I see Suzanne she is wearing a different stunning pair of shoes. I kid you not.

Every time I see Suzanne she is wearing a different stunning pair of shoes. I kid you not.


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#23 Are Your Pictures Any Good?

Photowalks Rock! It’s fun and nicely instructive to watch other photographers do what they do - see what interests them and catches their eye. Even if you miss something, once a cool subject is pointed out, it’s great to explore how you’d compose a photo around it, and see how others do the same. I’m a new convert!

Even if you only take pictures occasionally, a lot can be gleaned from the experiences of people who walk around with cameras and take pictures all the time — specifically about how to approach a subject (person or object) and begin to compose, but also about what’s okay to shoot: can you just point a camera at a person on the street? Do you walk around with a camera out, or do you pull it out when you see something? How does one “prepare” for catching a random moment?

A few of my pictures from the photowalk, Oct 28, from Neomodern to Ft. Mason.


A few selects from the folks on the photowalk in SF:

I’d note that in almost all cases, these images look as nice as they do as a result of some post-processing — burning and dodging, bringing up low values, etc. As Ansel Adams said so well, great photos are made, not shot.

by Rich

by Sam

by Gian Marco Vanzo

by Wesley

by Vicky Ross (IG @vickys._photos)

by Sam


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#22 Walking Around with a Camera

 My all too-dangerous shot out my windsheild of the Broadway Tunnel, which is officially the “Robert C. Levy tunnel”

My all too-dangerous shot out my windsheild of the Broadway Tunnel, which is officially the “Robert C. Levy tunnel”

Walking-around pictures: No specific plan, although once you find something sorta interesting, you do start to look for that kind of thing.

Transamerica Bldg, SF

Ferry Building, SF


 Uelsmann’s “Magritte’s Touchstone” (1965) on a phone next to one of Magritte’s floating stones at SFMOMA.

Uelsmann’s “Magritte’s Touchstone” (1965) on a phone next to one of Magritte’s floating stones at SFMOMA.


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#21 On Reading Susan Sontag

 Winter Sunrise, from Lone Pine (1944) by Ansel Adams [For more about this photo tune into Episode #20]

Winter Sunrise, from Lone Pine (1944) by Ansel Adams [For more about this photo tune into Episode #20]

On Photography, by Susan Sontag [view PDF]

But being educated by photographs is not like being educated by older, more artisanal images. For one thing, there are a great many more images around, claiming our attention. The inventory started in 1839 and since then just about everything has been photographed, or so it seems. … In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing. (Sontag, from On Photography)

 
 A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C. 1966

A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C. 1966

Photos by Diane Arbus

 Diane Arbus giving a talk at RISD in 1970, by Stephen A. Frank

Diane Arbus giving a talk at RISD in 1970, by Stephen A. Frank

 Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967

Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967

 Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, NYC, 1962

Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, NYC, 1962


Edward Steichen, 1915

In photography’s early decades, photographs were expected to be idealized images. This is still the aim of most amateur photographers, for whom a beautiful photograph is a photograph of something beautiful, like a woman, a sunset. In 1915 Edward Steichen photographed a milk bottle on a tenement fire escape, an early example of a quite different idea of the beautiful photograph. And since the 1920s, ambitious professionals, those whose work gets into museums, have steadily drifted away from lyrical subjects, conscientiously exploring plain, tawdry, or even vapid material. In recent decades, photography has succeeded in somewhat revising, for everybody, the definitions of what is beautiful and ugly—along the lines that Whitman had proposed. If (in Whitman’s words) “each precise object or condition or combination or process exhibits a beauty,” it becomes superficial to single out some things as beautiful and others as not. If “all that a person does or thinks is of consequence,” it becomes arbitrary to treat some moments in life as important and most as trivial. (Sontag)


Legends of photography. Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and Jerry Uelsmann. Photo by Ted Orland, 1969

Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland

From the Introduction:

THIS IS A BOOK ABOUT MAKING ART. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people — essentially (statistically speaking) there aren't any people like that. But while geniuses may get made once-a-century or so, good art gets made all the time. Making art is a common and intimately human activity, filled with all the perils (and rewards) that accompany any worthwhile effort. The difficulties artmakers face are not remote and heroic, but universal and familiar.

One and a Half Domes, Yosemite (1975), by Ted Orland


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#20 Truth!

We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies. If he only shows in his work that he has searched, and re-searched, for the way to put over lies, he would never accomplish anything.” 

—Pablo Picasso, 1923

·       “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
— Richard Avedon

“Photography is not all seeing in the sense that the eyes see. Our vision, a binocular one, is in a continuous state of flux, while the camera captures and fixes forever a single, isolated, condition of the moment. Besides, we use lenses of various focal lengths to purposely exaggerate actual seeing. In printing we carry on our willful distortion of fact by using contrasty papers which give results quite different from the scene or object as it was in nature. This, we must agree, is all legitimate procedure: but it is not “seeing” literally, it is done with a reason, with creative imagination.”

—Ed Weston, from his daybooks

 On April 5, 1980, this happened. Sorta…

On April 5, 1980, this happened. Sorta…

 
 
 Dalí Atomicus by Philippe Halsman

Dalí Atomicus by Philippe Halsman

“Capturing the essence of those he photographed was Philippe Halsman’s life’s work. So when Halsman set out to shoot his friend and longtime collaborator the Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, he knew a simple seated portrait would not suffice. Inspired by Dalí’s painting Leda Atomica, Halsman created an elaborate scene to surround the artist that included the original work, a floating chair and an in-progress easel suspended by thin wires. Assistants, including Halsman’s wife and young daughter Irene, stood out of the frame and, on the photographer’s count, threw three cats and a bucket of water into the air while Dalí leaped up. It took the assembled cast 26 takes to capture a composition that satisfied Halsman. And no wonder. The final result, published in LIFE, evokes Dalí’s own work. The artist even painted an image directly onto the print before publication.” (Time100)


“I would argue that this expressive power comes in part from how we think of photos, a sort of unwritten agreement about the truthfulness of photographic images. Somehow in the back of our minds we cannot shake the feeling that what you see in a photograph is real and true.

Though we know photos can be doctored, airbrushed, touched up, Photoshopped, we still see them as real. Our head tells us to be cautious, look closer, analyse what we see, but our heart cries out ‘It’s real! I am seeing it with my own eyes!’ “ (Tate Debate, 2011)

 One of the most iconic photos ever taken, Robert Doisneau’s “Kiss, by the Hotel De Ville" — does it change how we feel about the picture after knowing the photographer hired these models and staged it?

One of the most iconic photos ever taken, Robert Doisneau’s “Kiss, by the Hotel De Ville" — does it change how we feel about the picture after knowing the photographer hired these models and staged it?


 Winter Sunrise, from Lone Pine (1944) by Ansel Adams

Winter Sunrise, from Lone Pine (1944) by Ansel Adams

The people who think that Ansel would have embraced Photoshop usually point out a certain image of his—Winter Sunrise: Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, 1944. Ansel talked about this image in his book, Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs. He made the image while in the neighborhood shooting his documentary project of the Japanese Internment Camp, Manzanar, during 1943 and 1944. In this otherwise pristine landscape, the local high school students had put their school’s initials, “LP,” on the hill side in white-washed rocks. “LP” stands for Lone Pine.

Ansel made the image and spent a number of years dealing with it after the fact. In his words, “I ruthlessly removed what I could of the L P from the negative (in the left-hand hill), and have always spotted out any remaining trace in the print.” When I took a workshop from John Sexton in 1987, he related the story that Ansel gave him the job of scraping the LP out of the 8x10 negative with a scalpel, when John was Ansel’s assistant in the 70s. On the face of things, this account isn’t all that different from what digital photographers do every day, cloning out offensive elements from their images to make them a better representative of what they saw and felt. And it’s a good way to control things beyond your control when you shoot.

From “Focus on Photography” July 15, 2008


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#19 The Space Between

 Monolith, Half Dome, by Ansel Adams

Monolith, Half Dome, by Ansel Adams

Lenticular Lenses on Wikipedia

Shannon Tindle’s 360 Animation on Google Spotlight: “On Ice”

 Ralph Gibson’s hand in his photo of Mary Ellen Mark… this is a moment between them, and we are there.

Ralph Gibson’s hand in his photo of Mary Ellen Mark… this is a moment between them, and we are there.

 David Hockney’s photomosaic reveals his own feet at the bottom of the collage.

David Hockney’s photomosaic reveals his own feet at the bottom of the collage.


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