I am fascinated by the ocean, it’s ever changing moods and the possibilities that it offers. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy Hiroshi Sugamoto’s Seascape images so much.
I’ve been thinking about composition and how to use the psychology of how we see to make stronger images. This is something that I first came across in Vincent Versace’s Books (also see here).
Vincent teaches us that:
‘The unconscious eye “sees” in a predictable manner. It first recognizes light areas and then moves to dark ones, sees high before low contrast, records high before low sharpness, notices focus before blur, and focuses on high color saturation before low.’
I feel like the seascape images ignore the ‘rules’ of composition but still manages to hold a space for us to look deeply and remain engaged with the image. In the Sea of Japan image above I find that my eye is drawn immediately to the horizon line and then explores that dark shapes in the ocean surface before being drawn back to the horizon line. Then the whole process repeats.
I do wonder whether these images work better as stand alone images or as part of a series where you get to experience the ever changing moods of the sea.
How about you? How do you see this image? Do you prefer a stand-alone or the series?
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.
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.
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.
When I was recently on my Nordic exploration one of the photographers I came across was Jan Tove.
It never fails to amaze me how many amazing photographers there are in the world – you just have to go digging a little.
I feel like Jan is relatively unknown in the US which is a shame because his work deserves a much wider audience. A professional photographer since 1994, his work explores the intersection of man, nature and society.
I was excited to read that Jan has published 14 books, perhaps more now, and I’m currently on the hunt for a few of these to learn more about his work. From the essay in Faraway/Nearby we learn that Jan had originally risen to prominence taking more traditional landscape photography but made a pivot to explore the intersection and impact of man on the landscape. While this could put him into the ‘New Topographic’ realm of photography with the likes of Robert Adams and Steve Shore I find his work to be more accessible. I have seen the term visual poetry used in a number of places to describe Jan’s photography, I would certainly agree that there is a calm presence in all of his photographs, and looking through Faraway/Nearby again just now, a depth that draws me in. I will continue my hunt for more of his books here in the US but until then check out his website for portfolios of the work presented in the books and enjoy the flip through below of Faraway/Nearby and Night Light.
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.
For me just as the beginning of summer is when we get the boat in the water, the end of summer is when we pull the boat out of the water. This weekend marked the beginning of that process as we made the trek from our mooring to the marina in Norwalk where will be hauled.
This year we were accompanied by Jay our buddy from TowBoatUS who gave us a tow to the dock. If you have a boat a BoatUS membership with on water towing is an amazing insurance policy. I highly recommend it!
I think it’s hard for anyone who spends even a little bit of time around the ocean to ignore the fact that there is a lot of trash in the water. Whether it’s stuff visibly floating or at the tide line it is there in larger quantities every year.
Mandy Barker grew up on the east coast of England and experienced the growth of plastic trash washing up on the beach in increasing amounts when she was young. This spurred her on to document it and bring it into the public conversation. Her work however is not just simple documentation but rather uses the images of the trash that she has collected to create images that resemble images of that natural world such as the image above.
I really enjoy seeing behind the scenes, to better understand how other people create. Mandy provides that with a look into her sketchbooks that she uses to develop ideas that she may then work up into a final piece. Take a look at her sketch books here.
Listen to Mandy talk about her work below and do check out her website and books.