1.12.2013

Angles and Color.





These aren't the kind of images I make to generate money or business. I like them because they are quiet and fun for me to look at. It's easier for me to imagine them as art on the wall than portraits, which in most cases are too personal or two direct to be good, long term art for display.
I think portraits work best in book and magazine form. The exception is family portraits displayed in the context of the family home. But even there a portrait that is as much about art as it is about paying homage to the family member doesn't wear well. We can look past mediocre technique to the naive display of a cute expression and of happy moments but when we attempt to elevate the portrait of a family member to fine art the weight of the exercise seems to embue the presentation with a level of pretention that cripples the enjoyment of the representation.

In this regard I believe that we want our portraits to fall into a set of boundaries that includes lighting formulas and variations on basic poses. This allow the portrait created for posterity to gain a timelessness that attempting to overlay fashion or current editorial styles of portraiture rarely achieves.

While none of the work above passes muster to go up on the walls each of the images engages me for reasons having to do more with design, color and forced angles than timeless contextual value.  These are all things which we find engaging in and of themselves. Many of the images we take are never intended as fine art or even survivable art. Like a pianist or guitarist who practices scales we are practicing our own visual scales and doing our exercises in spatial and tonal problem solving under relaxed conditions. If we practice well we can bring the understanding of design and color to our more serious work.

I included the final image because the building somehow makes me nostalgia for a time in the past when buildings were built on a very human scale in Austin, in particular, and Texas in general. This building, which now houses an ad agency, represents the accessible style of the late 1950's and 1960's. Even the scale of the windows and offices seems more welcoming than the sterile and efficient architecture I see in so many of the newer buildings. That alone makes the image interesting to me.




Abstract Reality.


Walking downtown always looks different but the same. I like the neutral look of a 50mm lens on 35mm frame. It's not passionate or showy. It just....is.

The start of a new year always paralyzes me. I never know what to expect. Are we supposed to just do the same thing we did last year but with different dates? Do we jump into the river of change or sit on the banks and watch the people frolic as they get swept downstream?

I don't know how to get started. Eventually the phone will ring and the e-mail will chime and I'll get pushed along. There's something disquieting about being grown up and not knowing what it is you really want to do when you grow up. When you are young you have all the answers. As you progress through your life you have fewer and fewer answers but even more vague is any idea of what it is you really want.

The cameras are a fun distraction. The photography is a pleasant disconnection. The family anchors one to the here and now. Friends keep you from flying off the edges. But at some point is there a juncture at which you are supposed to say, "This is it. This is the thing I know I should be doing." ???

How do you do it? How do you continue to put on your pants, shave your face, brush your teeth, and go out for more of the stuff of which you've already had heady doses? Is there a lure of some treasure hidden in the near future that keeps you moving or is it just your monumental faith that all of this (life, work, love, death) is part of some great master plan that will reward you with purpose in some distant or alternate reality?

What is it that keeps you engaged? Not a rhetorical question. I really want to know...


The Shots Between Shots.


Taking a portrait is a process of trying and rejecting many things until you arrive at the recipe you had in mind but didn't know when you started. The shot above is not a final shot. It's part of the process. But erasing the building blocks means erasing the description of your process. And many times you will wish you were able to go back to the abandoned frames and look for the attributes that might have become clearer to you on your return to the image through the passage of time.

One of the crimes of the digital age is the cavalier way we toss away all but the "keepers." But what constitutes a "keeper" changes with our experiences, our evolving point of view and our changing perceptions. I like the fact that the out takes from my film days are still there. Still available for me.  I go back and find new things to like and new sources of inspiration.

What seemed like mistakes to me ten years ago seem like intended silence between frames now. I like the insouciance of an "in between" frame when I rediscover it. You might too.

It helps me to be mindful not to overshoot. But the act of rediscovery also helps me to be mindful about not throwing to much away. Not to edit too permanently, in the moment.

Photo Above: Renee Zellweger in the old studio. Camera: Pentax 645n. Lens: 150mm 3.5. Film: Tri-X.