Sunday Morning. Local seeing.

My chair is the one in the background. 

We were out of town yesterday. Ben and I came back late last night and hit our beds. I woke up at sunrise this morning and Studio Dog and I went out for a walk before the sun had a chance to heat up the pavement and make its presence felt. While I was walking I was daydreaming about all the places that I'd like to go to and take photographs. I'd like to head back to Lisbon, I can never get enough of Rome and I haven't been to Istanbul in years. I thought about all the photo opportunities that might present themselves and when I got back to the house and started to make coffee I remembered an essay I'd read in Brooke Jensen's wonderful book, Let Go of the Camera.  In it he tells about his pilgrimage to Point Lobos to take large format landscape images like Edward Weston. In the end he realizes that there was really nothing special about Point Lobos, there was something special about Edward Weston and the way he saw things. 

Weston probably returned dozens and dozens of times to the famous park mostly because it was available to him. He was able to infuse the scenes with his vision and his point of view. He distilled his feelings about his vision over time and then overlaid them onto the subject matter at hand. 

With this in mind I started to look around my own dining room and kitchen, noticing the play of shadow and light. Noticing the juxtaposition of shapes and objects. I realized that "where ever you go, there you are." (Buckaroo Bonzai). I finished a particularly fine cup of coffee and went out to the car to rescue a camera I'd left there last night. I went into the studio and grabbed a small tripod and then I came back in and started looking for images that just "felt right" to me.

The first series of images are of my dining room chair. Belinda painted and finished these chairs about 20 years ago and they've been part of my family's dining experience for the entire 18 years that we've spent raising Ben. The dining room has a set of double French doors on the South side of the house. In the mornings they get soft, diffuse, indirect light. The light makes soft shadows.  I like my chair images because they extend back into their space, and they also anchor my feelings about family meals and being together and also of being apart.

I am always careful not to bump or scrape the wall behind me. Not everyone is as careful.
We'll need to repaint that wall sooner rather than later.

I turned my camera to our living room and tried to capture the feeling of the wide open space and the tall ceilings with light pouring through from both sides of the house. I spend a lot of high quality time sitting on that couch writing and laying on that couch, reading. Ben and his friends move the furniture around a lot so they can all crowd around the big screen and play video games. It disturbs my sense of order but we each bend to make life comfortable for one another. 

I took photographs of a long hall but they didn't feel like much to me. I was looking for something else. I photographed my white chair. It sits in our bedroom and in the afternoons the French doors let in beautiful light. It's indirect and then diffused through thin, white curtains. 

I bought this chair when we moved into our house years ago. For a long time my lovely black and white cat staked it out as her territory and defended it against all comers. She was gracious enough to share it with me if I would let her sit in my lap and if I remembered to scratch  gently under her chin. She lived to be 20 years old and her last days were spent lounging in this chair. 

A few years after her passing we got a puppy who prefers to be known on the blog as, Studio Dog. The chair has passed to her and she settles in for naps there in the afternoon, and after she gets Ben to bed at night and makes sure he's sleeping she hustles back down the long hall and curls up again in the chair, positioned just right so that she can keep a watchful eye on me. Occasionally Belinda gets to use the chair to read in. It's usually at a time when Ben and his horde of friends have taken over the living room and the sound levels rise at that end of the house. The chair has a matching ottoman and my favorite portrait of Ben as a very young child was taken while he was sitting on it. Funny how many stories my chairs seem to have...

I'm not sure about anyone else but I have "favorite" articles of clothing and prefer them to everything else. This Summer I got a new shirt and no one seems to like it but me. It's plaid and that may be the problem. Most of my artist friends still dress in black. The shirt is made out of a special, lightweight technical fabric that breathes, wicks away moisture and is ultimately comfortable. My new shirt even has its own SPF rating. It's 50 SPF. I guess that means my shirt won't get sunburned easily.

If you read the blog on a regular basis you know that I walk. A lot. With cameras. All that walking demands good walking shoes. I've done enough impromptu walks in flip flops to know that the right footware makes the whole photo exploring a whole lot more comfortable. I've been in a shoe upgrade mood this Summer and upon evaluating some my old standbys I was amazed at how worn down they'd before. 

Life is full of little doodads and trinkets.  My night stand seems to attract old phones, old watches and reading glasses of every variety. 

It was a calm and fun project to just walk around and make photographs that are tremendously local. It's probably good to get out of the mindset that we can only take wonderful images at far flung travel destinations. It's a bit desperate to start searching out the geographic locations that others have shot well and then try to put your tripod down in the same spot and make a variant of someone else's vision. My experiment didn't produce anything I want to put in a frame or in a portfolio but it's a start.

As it is August I've started inviting friends over for informal portrait sessions. A fun fantasy: What if all your art could be done in your own studio and in the borders of your own home? What a time saver that might be....


James Weekes said...

I just spent ten quiet moments walking around your house with you. What a nice thing to invite us in to see your home. It looks like a wonderful place to spend time. We should all do a project like this.

Thank you.

Gato said...

Some very good thoughts. And your home seems to be a very pleasant place.

Thanks for sharing.

Dennis Elam said...


I teach college and stand on my feet a lot. The very best walking or standing shoe is in fact a sand, try a pair of Teva Dozers, too late in the season to find at Academy but on line at Amazon, toe and heel protection, half sandal, half shoe, one of my colleagues says they look professorial on me, it is about the only footwear I wear though for my last conference I did don some pro walker boat shoes and yes socks, which is as dressed up as I get anymore
thanks for your blog


Anonymous said...

Your plastic reading glasses (from Costco). I have the same. iPhone and reading glasses go hand-in-hand. Getting older sucks.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking for the post where you take the white chair into your studio and shoot a portrait series of it.

Just the chair with the white shawl/wrap/cover thingy.

And not a product shot. Try and capture a portait of the chair that shows use how you feel about it.

I'm serious.

What you gave us so far is a tour of your house and what you found. A kind of Kirk documentary.

I'd like to see you try to 'show' us how you feel about some of the things you found.

Perhaps a stack of all the old watches with your current watch set to the side...the survivor.

I think this is a great exercise. Make these things pose for you.

When I am teaching newly minted photographers, one assignment is to shot a a knife, fork and spoon-no other information is given to the student. I get some stunning responses. Some choose to work with colors and reflections, others go monochrome and feature shapes. Some put the K-F-S into a staged setting. I am always surprised by what gets turned in.

Don't stop now. Give us chapter 2.

John Driggers, Adelaide AU

Rene said...


A few years ago I developed some chronic physical problems that now prevent me from traveling very far. No more flying anywhere; no long distance drives; and even the train is hard. I had been doing a lot of landscape and nature photography, so it felt like my photographic life was curtailed until I took stock and realized there were many places I loved nearby (I live in New England) and that, as you say, instead of going to the iconic spots all over, I could make my own "icons" if I just really looked and saw what was right there in front of me.

Dave Jenkins said...

Kirk, I would like to know more about those plaid shirts. My wife wants me to wear the kind with the vented backs, etc., but I don't want to look like a tourist on safari.

Jimmy Reina said...

Not long ago, my camera club had a guest speaker-a local artist who, because of an ailment, had to spend the better part of a year in his house. He made the most out of it by photographing the only environment he had available.

His presentation was terrific!
This man oozed creativity, and both his photos and his comments,are still being discussed. Sometimes he was capturing the essence of something as mundane as a pair of forks on his kitchen table, other photos were about the play of light and dark.
The lesson was that it doesn't have to be Pt. Lobos, the Grand Canyon or the Eiffel Tower. It just has to be the right moment to press the shutter.

Mr said...

i just cant believe you dont wear Keen footware! :D

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

I can't believe you don't wear Anhu shoes.

joerawr said...

That picture of your living room.... First I'm struck by the immense spaciousness of it. Then the small simple bookshelf way in the distance. The inviting comfortable furniture all cozied together... Nothing on the walls (are those speakers on the left? if so from what era?) and just a sparest of sparest photos in frames. How is this room, with this fantastic light not wall to wall framed pictures!

That it isn't!... The visible fact that it isn't wall to wall art; be it oil painting, wall hangings, or framed photos... THAT, is so interesting to me. So very special you shared with us today.