Friday Inspiration: Paul Strand

Tir A'Mhurain, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, Paul Strand | Mia

One of the great things about being ‘self-taught’ when it comes to art and photography is that it is a choose your own adventure type of experience. I have, and continue, to explore the things that capture my attention. I will go on deep dives into particular areas until I hit the limit of my attention span and then move on to a different topic. That’s the great part. The not so great part is that this approach leaves large areas not just unexplored but untouched.

I recently rediscovered Paul Strand. I say rediscovered because I’ve certainly heard the name before but couldn’t think of a single iconic image of his when his name recently came up in conversation. I thought that I would spend a few moments this week to have a bit of a read and exploration and share a bit of that here. As an aside, the Metropolitan Museum has a good set of essays on the History of Photography, important movements and photographers including Paul Strand.

Strand was born in 1890 and died in 1976 and as such his photographic career spanned almost all of the 20th century. His early work was very much in the mold of his mentor, Edward J. Steichen – pictoralist – focusing on life in the city. Fascinating to realize that this was at the time when the use of cars were on the rise and so it would have been a period of great change.

Paul Strand: Portfolio Three | Aperture

His later work focused more on communities. I’m currently looking for a copy of ‘Time in New England’ to complement the book he created from his time in the Outer Hebrides – Tir A’mhurain: The Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

I was surprised, or rather amazed, at the quality of the reproductions in this book. Digging further I learned that Strand was committed to the print and worked hard to be able develop technical expertise that allowed him to capture images with good tonal range. Learn a little more about Paul Strand in the videos below.

Mid-Year Goal Review

It’s hard to believe that we’re in June already. Where did the first part of the year go? I’m taking a breath this week and with that comes a reflection on what I’ve managed to achieve in the first part of the year and set myself up for the second half of the year.

While the first part of the year has zipped on by I’ve had some successes and some misses.

In the successes category I’ve got a new computer and restructured my catalog and back-up strategy. I’ve started posting regularly on instagram and used some of those images to make a small handmade book. Which in turn gave me a project to learn more about InDesign. I’ve gotten clearer about my why for photographing, something that I have wrestled with and continue to wrestle with. The struggle is real! As a result of my regular posting on instagram I’ve photographed more, all with the iPhone, and found myself hitting the limits of the iPhone as a camera.

There are lots of things that I haven’t done of course. I had plans to photograph and compile a family cookbook. I started taking pictures for that but haven’t gotten very far with it. Perhaps for Christmas 2022? There are many other things that have been pushed to one side to make room for photography, blogging and instagram. As I look now towards the next 6 months I’m thinking about what do I want to achieve by the end of the year.

Elizabeth King tells us that ‘Process Saves us From the Poverty of Our Intentions‘ which really resonated when I first came across it and still does. Having a daily practice of creating is the only way for me to accomplish all of the different things I have up in the air.

It is also fitting because I’ve been thinking a lot about intentions vs goals. They can seem like the same thinking but are subtly different. I like to think that intentions describe a desired end state, The Why. Plans are where the process fits in and are the How. Goals are the things that will need to be achieved in order to get there – The What.

Still some work to do to nail down intentions for the second half of the year but it’d definitely coming into focus.

How about you – Goals? Intentions? Plans? None of the above but just see where the breeze blows you? I’d love to hear about your process.

Learning to See Life

It’s the semi-official start or summer here in the US today. Connecticut has a vaccination rate of 50% and the requirement for mask wearing indoors has been dropped in many businesses for those that are vaccinated. So the summer may look relatively normal. I hope it will be where you are too!

Beginning in January I posted on Instagram every other day as a challenge to make more images. It’s been fun, but also hard, to come up with something to post given the geographic restrictions. In the next week or so I will take a deeper look at what I’ve created, how I’ve created it and what I’ve posted.

At a higher level what I think that I’ve learned in the last 6 months is how to see life. To slow down and take time to recognize the every day things that I might otherwise have walked by in the hurry over everyday life.

Previously I had thought that photography happens on trips or when I had a special time set aside not as part of my regular day. This was the only way to hold back the chaos and make mental space to create. Now I know I don’t need this but can be creative in and around home and daily life. An important lesson to learn.

Friday Inspiration: Mary Daniel Hobson

I continue to be fascinated with how we can push photography to express our emotions and to explore our inner narrative. Mary Daniel Hobson’s work, that I recently found on the Datz Press website, resonated with this interest.

Hobson’s interest in photography started when she was 14. Like many of us, having the camera taught Hobson to see. Her undergraduate degree in art history was followed by a masters degree in photography and then time in France where she was able to dig into the work of Picasso and surrealist photographer. It was this experience that pushed her away from straight black and white photography in search of some other way to express her emotions.

Her work now combines photography with other objects to create layered collages and intimate still lifes. I found Hobson through the book ‘Offerings‘ which is a collection of 5 of her mixed media series – Evocations, Mapping the Body, Invocation, Sanctuary and Milagros – created between 1996 and 2018. Listen to Danny describe the work in the video below:

Listen to Danny describe her work and process in the interview below and learn more about her by checking our her website and instagram feed.

Screenprinting Your Photos

I’ve been exploring the world of graphic design in recent weeks as I thought about books and book design. It was not too many steps from graphic design to screen printing, which is something that I had thought about before.

I liked this intro to screen printing that I came across trawling through YouTube.

I was curious to understand how I might be able to apply this to photography. Could you? There’s a great course on Domestika that goes through how to use photoshop to make CMYK separations and then do a four color screenprint. Check out the trailer below.

Moving a step beyond photorealistic screenprinting to something more imaginative I realized that Andy Warhol had done this already.

And you can too…

I also think that Charlie Barton is doing interesting things combining screen printed photos with graphic shapes such as the Ferris wheel sunset below.

Ferris Wheel Sunset

Definitely food for thought and I will certainly be exploring how I could print my photography and extend it through screen printing.

Managing Expectations

I continue to think about and torture my friends by asking them about making Art and making photographs specifically. What is it for? Who is it for?

There are so many ways that we can use our time why make art if it’s not putting food on the table? Why make art if there’s no waiting audience for it?

The answer that I keep coming back to is that for me, and I suspect many others, creating things is an internal drive. I just have to do it. The world gets out of balance without the ability to create things. Nice if there’s and audience for what we’re making but it’s not the reason for making it.

Where things get a bit wobbly is when you have expectations for what you are creating. Whether it’s the standard that you set for yourself for quality? Whether it’s the ‘likes’ on Instagram or the number of pieces sold. Focusing on these things as measures of how good the work is will inhibit your progress as an artist.

Instead it’s much better to focus on the process of creating. Thinking about how many days did I get out to photograph this week, this month, this year or how many photographs did I ‘finish’ – take through the edit process and print? Seems to me a much better way to measure our creative output.

Friday Inspiration: Sal Taylor Kydd

I’ve been enjoying looking at Sal Taylor Kydd’s photographs in the last couple of weeks. Her work really resonate with me. Home, family and nature are themes that are very present in Sal’s work, the importance of these to me has become heightened over the last year.

I was fortunate enough to get a copy of her book ‘Just When I Thought I had You’ that combines images of her children on Deer Isle with her poetry. In many ways it reminds me of how my kids spend their summers – outside in nature catching frogs and toads and doing all kinds of other fun stuff.

Take a look at the book in the video below.

I was interested to hear Sal’s description of her father, a chemist who collected vintage cameras. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that she is now playing in the darkroom and making platinum palladium prints of her work.

I was also drawn to the fact that Sal is making books as a way to complete her projects. These are either with small presses such as Datz in South Korea or hand made by Sal. I think the book is a perfect vehicle to complete projects and especially so for the intimate subjects that Sal has turned her camera towards.

Check out more of Sal Taylor Kidd’s work on her website here and hear her describe her work in the video below.

Exploring New (To Me) Papers for Printing

I’ve been having fun with my printers in the last week. I made several prints of the tree in fog that I had taken recently trying out different papers.

Epson Ultrasmooth Fine Art, Epson Hot Press Natural, Epson Exhibition Fiber and Hahnemühle Fine Art Baryta. It’s hard to tell the difference between the papers in the photo above and video below.

For my prints I have previously preferred a Matte paper but for this image I really like the fiber based photo paper leaning towards the Hahnemühle Byarta. I know that there are general rules of thumb when it comes to choosing paper – glossy images do better on glossy paper – with the final choice being an aesthetic one. For me this image seems to have a bit more depth on the byarta paper, so I’m going to stick with it for now.

Are you printing your images? Do you have a favorite paper? I’d love to hear what you’re using and why.

Your Potential is Limitless

Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right!

I’ve been having one of those weeks, as I often do. I’ve had a couple of things happen that have really made me challenge my assumptions, especially about what I’m capable of.

I think what you are capable starts with what you believe. So it’s definitely worth asking the question ‘what beliefs do I hold that prevent me from achieving what I’m capable of?’

Sometimes you can’t see this for yourself and need to talk this through with others. Sometimes you’re pushed out of your comfort zone and this changes your perspective.

Obviously just believing that you can is not enough. It requires work and effort to close the gap between your current reality and what you know you can achieve. There will be frustration and disappointment along the way but you have to stay the course and keep at it.

Friday Inspiration: Susan Bein

From ‘Slightly Bonkers’, Susan Bein

Susan Bein is a teacher, graphic designer and photographer based in Portland, Oregon. I first came across her work on Instagram, although how I found her there I’m not sure. I think I was following links from one person to another to another. On Instagram Susan is @Wizmosis – check out her work!

In her bio she says:

I was an art kid who began photographing as a teen because I couldn’t paint or draw what I could see in my mind’s eye. I took classes from many of the photo giants of the time; Ansel Adams, Minor White, Aaron Siskind, and Paul Caponigro. I used black and white film and large format cameras.

What an amazing opportunity to learn from the masters of photography a veritable who’s who.

Susan drifted away from photography and into graphic design and teaching. Falling in love with photography again with the advent of the iPhone.

I love her iPhone work that is on Instagram and featured in her book Slightly Bonkers. The book is more magazine-like which gave Susan an opportunity to include a large number of the images that she made during the craziness that was 2020. I’m glad she did. Take a quick look in the flip through below.

Check out Susan’s presentation in the video below and learn more at her website here.