Friday Inspiration: Elizabeth King

Pupil Pose 1

“Process saves us from the poverty of our intentions.”

I am currently reading Seth Godin’s new book ‘The Practice’. More about that when I actually finish it. I was struck by the quote in the front of the book from Elizabeth King shown above and went on a hunt to find more about her. Frustratingly I couldn’t find the exact source of the quote but many people who attribute it to her but the journey was fun.

Elizabeth King is a sculptor who taught at Virginia Commonwealth University for 30 years before retiring to focus on her work. She is best known for her figurative sculpture that she combines with stop motion animation. Perhaps remarkably she was creating the articulated sculptures that were perfect for stop motion animation long before she had the idea for animating them.

I am always fascinated to watch artists at work, regardless of the medium that they work in. The behind the scenes look that you get in Olympia Stone’s documentary “Double Take’ is a real treat in this regard. It shows Elizabeth at work in her Church Hill studio as well as installing her work at various shows.

What is evident in the documentary is her attention to detail. She really cares about getting the sculpture right, capturing the imperfections in joints on the hands of her sculptures so that the fingers end up a little wonky. I thought she was describing my fingers as she described this detail in the documentary. She’s clearly looking and not just going through the motions and means that her sculpture stands up to the closest of scrutiny.

Of course her attention to detail doesn’t stop with the creation of the work. It’s interesting to see how much attention she puts into the installation to make sure that the pose of the sculpture is correct and that the lighting is just so to provide the correct emphasis to the face and hands. This is what separates masters from the journeymen.

Check out more or Elizabeth’s work at her website here and listen to her describe her work in the videos below. You can watch the full documentary at amazon.

Friday Inspiration: Kenro Izu

We’re still in various shades of lock down here in Connecticut. I certainly won’t be traveling beyond the local area until at least the second half of the year which leaves me wondering what to do to scratch the photography itch. I’m spending time making plans for photography trips and also filling the well by looking at a lot of photography on line and in my ‘library’ of photography monographs.

I’ve been exploring the idea of doing a still life project, something that I’ve thought about over the years and even made some tentative attempts. In thinking about still life projects I came across the work of Kenro Izu and got his book Still Life (it’s out of print so you’ll have to hunt a bit) to explore more.

Kenro was born in Japan and moved to New York City in 1970. After a short period of time working as an assistant he established his own studio. I have struggled to find a comprehensive biography of Kenro – as one might expect each one I’ve read presents a slice of his life that is relevant to the project that is being exhibited or presented. I came to Kenro’s work through his still life portfolio but this is very much one facet of his art life. He has travelled widely to explore the spirituality of Buddhist and Hindu sacred spaces – creating bodies of work in places such as Angkor, Bhutan and Fuzhou.

As I understand it many of these projects were completed using a large format camera that produces 14×20 negatives. What a hulking beast of a camera! The negatives are processed using platinum palladium printing process. Platinum palladium is an interesting process, it results in images with a distinct brown to off white look. The chemistry is UV sensitive which means as long as you stay clear of UV light you don’t need to work in a dark room. Watch Kenro developing a print in the video above.

I understand that Kenro used a medium format digital camera for his project ‘Requiem’. It’s possible to make digital negatives by printing onto Waterproof Silk Screen Positive Film and then developing these in the normal way. An interesting option for those of us that are committed to digital but want to explore more traditional printing techniques.

Check out the interview with Kenro in the videos below and see more of his work on his website here.

Friday Inspiration: Sean Tucker

Photo by Sean Tucker in London, United Kingdom. Image may contain: one or more people and indoor.
Sean Tucker, Way Out

I’ve been reading a lot recently about the algorithm that determines your feed on social media sites such as instagram and YouTube. I was a bit slow to realize that Instagram no longer shows you posts as they appear – in chronological order – but rather in an order that’s determined by a mysterious algorithm.

On YouTube the situation is a little better there are the subscribe and home sections. When I’ve caught up on everything that subscribe to and want to watch I will flick over to the home section and see if there’s anything interesting there. That’s how I found Sean Tucker.

Sean has had an interesting journey. He was a pastor in South Africa until he was 30, when he was asked to leave the church because his views contradicted those of the leadership. He then had to reinvent himself. I can only imagine how it would be to start from scratch after 10+ years of dedication to a particular path.

Fortunately for us Sean had been shooting video and photos on the side to supplement his income from the church and took the opportunity to focus on his photography. He’s pretty candid about his start in photography – it didn’t go exactly as he planned – but has been able to leverage his experience as a pastor to create some very inspirational videos. He’s tried his hand at a number of different genres and seems to be settling into being a street photographer. Sean publishes a book of his best images each year. I was lucky enough to get a copy a few weeks ago. It’s excellent. A quick flip through is below.

It sounds like true ‘street photographers’ bridle a little when that label is applied to Sean. That he’s not a proper street photographer. I suppose I understand it. Sean’s images have a strong sense of light, geometry and graphics. The more that I look at them and use words to describe them they remind me of Jay Maisel’s images – great sense of color, shape and line and perhaps some of Saul Leiter’s photos. Are these street photographers? I think that all three are doing the same thing – wandering around the streets of the city that they live in and taking photos of the things that catch their attention.

Find out more about Sean Tucker by visiting his website, YouTube channel and Instagram profile. Watch Sean in action as he pushes himself out of his comfort zone and does some landscape work in Snowdonia and then shows us how he thinks about post-processing in the videos below.

Friday Inspiration: Brooks Jensen

Brooks Jensen, Winter Trees, Mt Erie, Fidalgo Island, Washington, 2003

When I was thinking about what I had learned in the Portfolio Development class with William Neill, one of the things that I was reflecting on is how much you can learn from the other students. A good group that are freely sharing their previous experiences, understanding and viewpoint can really support your growth.

One of the students in the class turned me on to Lenswork – a magazine that I had never heard of and certainly wasn’t carried in the local bookstores at the time. I eventually ended up getting a subscription so that I could see what it was all about. Lenswork is a bimonthly magazine that emphasizes photographs not gear and is exquisitely printed – book quality printing. From what I understand the emphasis on photographs is very similar to the principals that were at the heart of Aperture Magazine when it was established and under the guidance of Minor White. To see some of the early issues check out this anthology.

The editor, Brooks Jensen, is an accomplished photographer and his work can be found at his personal site, Brooks Jensen Arts. The image above is from Brooks’ first Winter Trees portfolio – you can download a pdf of the portfolio here. I continue to be fascinated by this image – it has a depth to it, a three dimensionality, that I have not experience in any other photograph. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a print of this image when Brooks was still selling individual images and it is even more stunning in the flesh, as it were.

Brooks’ thinking about photography that he shares through his writing and podcast have had a profound impact on my thinking about the ‘photographic art life’. He makes really great points about in his article about what size should editions be, has suggested multiple ways of presenting your work to your audience including, Folios and Chapbooks and additionally was an earlier adopter of PDFs. I have learned a tremendous amount from Brooks and think you would too. Go take at look at Lenswork, Lenswork online and Brooks Jensen Arts. Listen to the interview with Brooks in the interview below.

Friday Inspiration: William Neill

William Neill: Dawn, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada 1995

I’ve been spending sometime with Bill Neill’s new book ‘Light on the Landscape‘ which is a collection of the essays from his column in Outdoor Photographer magazine, paired with his magnificent images. It’s a fantastic resource for those of us who are more interested in the creative aspects of photography, the why rather than the how. Have a quick glimpse in the flick through video below.

For those of you not familiar with Bill, he got his start in photography working at the Ansel Adams gallery in the ’80s where he got to know Ansel and some of the people that were in his orbit – John Sexton, Alan Ross and Joel Meyerowitz to name but a few. Although he has been based in the Yosemite area for the last 40+years his photography has avoided the potential cliches of the area and shows what is really possible when you are true to your own sensibilities.

I was fortunate to take a portfolio development class online with Bill a long, long time ago. It was excellent! He was patient, engaging and a wealth of information. I was just starting my journey into photography at the time and was just entering what has been a long and steep learning curve. He introduced me to photographers such as Ernst Haas and the seminal book The Creation and to Eliot Porter and his intimate landscapes. I learned from Bill how much you can get from having subjects close to him that you can return to at different times of the day, different weather and different seasons. How to really work a scene; how to find not just the obvious shot but to really explore what the scene and subject really have to offer.

I was delighted then to come across the recent interview with Bill on Alister Benn’s YouTube channel. Many of these topics come up in the discussion between Bill and Alister and others that I hadn’t heard Bill talk about. So check out the interview below and to learn more about Bill visit his website here.

Friday Inspiration: Thomas Joshua Cooper – The World’s Edge

“Looking towards the Old Lands.” Thomas Joshua Cooper

I’m currently thinking about projects that I can engage with while travel is restricted and we are locked down. I feel like a good photography project, one that will keep you engaged for a while, is one that is multi-dimensional, one that engages multiple areas of your interest.

Thomas Joshua Cooper certainly found this with his Atlantic Basin Project. The ambition of this project was to chart the Atlantic Basin from the extremity of land north, south, east, and west. An enormous undertaking and one he has been engaged with since the end of the ‘80s. Longer than he’s been married and a project older than his kids!

The work recently reached completion with the publication of ‘The World’s Edge‘ and the exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

I find the work absolutely captivating, although I struggle to put my finger on what it is about his photographs that draws me in. The subject matter appeals to me. I enjoy being at the coast, I’m awed by the power of the ocean and can’t help but feel that the transition from land to water is a place of great possibility.

The images of Thomas Joshua Cooper for this project are abstractions with no real sense of place, not grand vistas but truly what it would feel like if you were stood at the edge of the land looking out to the sea. Often they appear to be long exposures, giving movement to the water which really gives you a sense of dynamics. There are images that provide visual breaks – the images taken during white out conditions on Antarctica or those taken during the winter solstice at the North Pole.

If you only get one book from this project get ‘The World’s Edge‘ if you want to dig deeper you could explore The Point of No Return, Eye of the Water Ojo De Agua, or True that represent images from major sections of the work. Watch the video below to hear Professor Cooper provide an entertaining and engaging description of his Atlantic Basin Project.

Friday Inspiration: Rachael Talibart

I must have been living under a rock to only recently have found Rachael Talibart’s seascape work. She is perhaps best know for her Sirens photos, a series of storm waves named after mythological beings. A book of the same name was published by Triplekite Books in 2018. As an aside I can’t believe I missed this book since I thought I had all of the books that Triplekite had published. I found her work through the recently published book, Tides and Tempests, that further explores her interest in storm waves but also the coast in general.

It sounds like Rachael has had a lifelong relationship with the sea having grown up on the South Coast of England, spending time as a child on the family sailboat. She describes herself as a poor swimmer and a poor sailor who is happier and safer viewing the ocean from the shore. Reading between the lines in the introductory essay to Tides and Tempests it sounds like she had lots of ‘fun’ on the sailboat as a child. These episodes really do shape your life both as an adult and as a child, either pushing you away or drawing you in. Personally I’m glad that she is drawn towards the ocean and chooses to capture the majesty, power and potential that the ocean offers. Check out more of Rachael’s work on her website here.

Also check out the videos that Rachel put together below. Scroll all the way to the bottom to hear Rachel talk about her work and her process.

Check out the mini-documentary/interview with Rachel that Sean Tucker put together below. Sean is worth a ‘Friday Inspiration’ slot of his own. Until then check out his YouTube channel here.

Stuck at Home

While I’m thinking about the subject of photographing close to home I thought I would share a couple of book recommendations.

I’ve talked about photography close to home before – remarkably in 2011, where does the time go. Then I was talking about a recently published eBook by Stuart Sipahgil ‘Close to Home’. Sadly it’s no longer produced by Craft & Vision but you can find it here at least for a little while. Well worth a look.

The other book that I was looking at, and the one that I think of when I think of photography at home, is ‘Home Photography’ by Andrew Sanderson. Andrew is a UK based photographer who found himself tethered to home as he and his wife navigated raising their young family. Picking up on the Home Photography theme again during lockdown in the UK Andrew Stuck at Home Photography. There are lots of ideas in the book (and blog) for how to shoot in and around your home that I will be digging into more deeply in the coming months. I’ll share the results here and also on Instagram. Send me a link to what you’ve been doing while Stuck at Home.

Friday Inspiration: Joesp Pla-Nabona

I recently came across the work of Josep Pla-Narbona – a graphic designer, painter and sculpturer. Born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1928, he worked with advertising agencies early in his career producing work such as the advertising poster above. Many of his posters from this time remind me of some of the board books that we read to the kids when they were younger. In the second part of his career his focus has been on engraving, painting, drawing and sculpture.

I found the video below first and enjoyed Josep’s playfulness and thought that he was worth looking into further. Check out the video below (you may need to turn the subtitles on !) and learn more about his work here.