Friday Inspiration: Carl Chiarenza

chiarenzaI’ve been looking at work by Aaron Siskind over the last few weeks and as part of that reading came across Carl Chiarenza who wrote ‘Aaron Siskind: Pleasures and Treasures’. Chiarenza is a splendid photographer in his own right in addition to being a great teacher. Check out the video below to get an introduction to Chiarenza. Check out the additional conversations between Chiarenza and Brooks Jensen that can be found here.

A Conversation with Carl Chiarenza from Rochester Contemporary (RoCo) on Vimeo.

Friday Inspiration: Gerhard Richter

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I’m reading a book of Gerhard Richter’s letters at the moment. It’s imaginatively called ‘Gerhard Richter: Writings 1961 – 2007‘. I’m not sure what the best way to read a book like this is and I’ve found myself reading whatever catches my eye rather than sticking to strict chronological order. Having read pieces from the early ’60s and also the early 2000’s it’s interesting to see that his interviewers still tie him back to statements that he made as a younger artist and that while he still supports his original position he has clearly moved on, become more sophisticated and nuanced in his thinking. I suppose it’s natural for people to continue the connection to who you were, even when you’ve moved past that stage but it would drive me insane.

I also recently came across what was to me at least a new documentary of Richter at work. His abstract work particularly appeals to me and I found it interesting to see how they’re are created, destroyed, reworked and made over again. I must admit that there was a point where I was happy with the painting that he’d created, would have been quite happy to see that hanging in my office, and then he was off again with the squeegee. Nooo!

The video has it’s own website: http://www.gerhardrichterpainting.com

Check out the trailer below:

A Commitment to Becoming a Better Photographer

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To follow up on my previous post I thought that I’d share some of the things that I’d done to improve my photography and hopefully they may be useful to you. At the time I did all of this stuff I felt that I was a late starter and wanted to accelerate my learning as much as I could. This meant using the expertise and experience of photographers that I liked to quickly get a solid foundation. Please do chime in with your thoughts and comments too.

1. Find your true calling. Work out what appeals to you, what repels you. Start a scrap book real or virtual of images that appeal to you. Make a list of common attributes – color or black and white, landscape, portraiture, wildlife, fashion, wedding, dig a bit deeper what else do these have in common, what differentiates them.

2. Find a mentor. Have you found yourself gravitating to one or two photographers? Study what they’ve done and how they got the shots you particularly admire. Of course if they’re alive today they probably teaching workshops – take a workshop with them and get some advice from your photographic hero. Not only will you get some insight into how they achieve their signature works but you’ll also get some feedback on your own work.

3. Get the right gear. Figuring out what gear your heros are using to get the shots you admire and get the same stuff. Somethings you’ll want to buy now, others you should rent. But without getting the gear to get the shot you won’t get the shot. A good example for landscape photographers is a rock solid tripod – get a good one and it will last you for years.

4. Do what your heros do to get the shot. When I was at Alison Shaw’s Workshop on Martha’s Vineyard in 2009 I was bemoaning my lack of progress to Alison’s assistant Donna Foster. Donna quickly pointed out that there was a progression to my work but that my biggest problem was that I wasn’t shooting in the best light and that if I wanted to improve I should find some time to get out early or late and shoot when the light is good.

5. Get feedback on your work. There are a number of ways to get comments on your work I prefer one on one portfolio reviews with someone who is going to be brutally frank. Feedback from workshop instructors is also very useful, as can be comments from friends whose opinion you trust and value.

I hope that you found this useful. I’d be delighted to hear what you’ve done to improve.

Friday Inspiration: Gerhard Richter

I’ve been taking a deep dive into the world of a couple of different painters over the Christmas holiday. The first that I wanted to share here was Gerhard Richter. For much of Richter’s early work he used photographs as source material. Many of these source photographs can be seen in Richter’s scrapbook of source material The Atlas. Some of these paintings are remarkably realistic. I must admit however that I like his abstracts much more. These are large scale paintings made with a tool of his own design. Click here to see a documentary that shows Richter talking about his photographs and at work making some of these large abstracts.

There Are Images Everywhere – The Art of Seeing

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There are images everywhere. No really there are.

Regardless of whether you live in an area that people would travel to because of it’s natural beauty, or whether you live in an area that people feel they need to leave to experience natural beauty there are images to be made. The skill that we need to learn is to see them. This is something that takes practice. Freeman Patterson’s book ‘Photography and the Art of Seeing‘ is a great place to start. A new edition just came out – it’s exceptional and should find a home on every photographer’s shelf.

Learning to see the possibilities around you means carrying a camera around with you and using it every day. For me there are days when that’s not an issue at all and then those other days when I’m running to stay in one place, not so easy. But I keep trying.

I’m finding with the iPhone that I enjoy the exploration of image after taking it, at least as much as taking it in the first place. The image above was taken while I was waiting for my son to be released from school the other day. I played with it in photoforge and phototoaster.

Paying Attention to What Has Your Attention

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

David AllenGetting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

I love the quote above from David Allen, the productivity guru most well known for Getting Things Done or the ‘GTD System’. It’s so right, on so many levels. Ignore the things that you should be doing and they will demand your attention, even if only to stop you from sleeping because you’re thinking about those issues as you try to nod off.

It was this David Allen quote that I was mindful of when I was away in Martha’s Vineyard a week or so ago but really in a very different way.  I do find it difficult to photograph if I’m not fully present and this can take some time to get to if there’s all kinds of other stuff unrelated to the scene in front of me that I’m thinking about.  Fortunately I have no problem quieting everything else to focus on what’s in front of me, although it can take 15 – 20 mins and a couple of hundred frames to get into the zone.

What I am aware of though, is that I can be so intently focused on the scene that I have framed that I frequently ignore the moments when my intuition tells me there’s a great photograph to be had. This could be paying attention to some stuff that I would consider to be a little weird – such as the image of the shells and seaweed above – and would normally walk by, simply reframing from the position that I’m already in or could involve a bit of a wander to get to a place where the light is doing interesting things.

How clear what the photograph is also varies – it can be crystal clear or could take a bit of work to get there. The work usually typically involves simplifying the image so that it has just the elements critical for whatever caught my eye, whether it was interesting light, a vivid color or something odd happening such as how the waves came together in the image below.

I feel that some of my better photographs have been in response to listening to my intuition and so, as is the case in many aspects of life, paying attention to what has your attention is equally applicable to photography and is a work in progress for me.

Going for a Spin

I have had a lot of fun so far this year looking for ways that I can bring a sense of motion into my photographs.  To do that I have been experimenting with moving the camera.  One series of experiments involved panning with a slow shutter speed, both vertically and horizontally, a variety of different subjects.  Some of the results I quite liked and I will continue on with those ideas.  On the day I took the photograph above I was headed back to the car after a morning shoot.  Although I wasn’t ready to be done, the sun was too bright for the kind of photographs that I prefer.  As I walked back down the road I noticed a patch of rocks that had interesting colors.  The straight shots I made were okay, but wanting something different I tried both panning the camera and rotating the camera.  The result of rotating the camera is shown above.