As Boxx continues its journey of bringing artists’ work to our Valley, this next show is a fabulous example of two sensitive and nuanced photographers at work. Jane Alynn’s black and white film-based photographs are reminiscent of Pictorialism’s soft-focus, its diffuse and ethereal light and shadow. These lensless images tempt the imagination to see beyond the literal. M R McDonald photographs the poster scene he finds in Seattle. In his “found art”, as he calls it, the literal gets lost in the rips, tears, and unfinished imagery. Both are worth a trip to Tieton, where Spring is bursting forth, optimism is returning and the gallery with a big heart is up and running. See you this Saturday from 11 to 4 for the opening and every Saturday the rest of April. Here’s to art and Spring!
Category Archives: Uncategorized
It’s Throwback Thursday!
The photograph above is a very early zone plate image.
This week, in the process of updating my website’s ABOUT page, I recalled my beginnings with black and white film-based zone plate imagery.
I was living in Edison, Washington, in a dilapidated building that once had been a lumber yard and hardware store. It was cheap—affordable for us—and we had a dream of creating a live-work space there. It was large enough to accommodate our living quarters, our separate studios, and even a gallery.
Though that dream never came to fruition, and we eventually sold the building, another beginning took root there.
I saw some photographs made by a friend. They were diffuse and mysterious, and the highlights glowed. They could have been out of the early twentieth century Pictorialist movement. It was like looking at the ineffable. I fell in love with those images, and I wanted to explore those lensless creations myself.
Gratefully, our friend sent me a zone plate to fit on a camera, so that I could experiment with it.
I mail-ordered a Lubitel, a cheap Russian-made camera priced at that time, as I recall, under $25—it had to be cheap, so that I wouldn’t feel badly when I crashed the lens out of it—which I did, and then fit the zone plate over the aperture. I couldn’t wait to expose my first role of film with a zone plate.
I’ve never looked back.
Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series (1841)
I stumbled into the dawn. It was an unusual sky, a strange firmament of flame-shaped clouds against the still-dark yonder, a display so strange it was as if the northern lights had slipped southward to put on an aurora show.
As I stood there, looking, Minor White’s words came to mind: “One should not only photograph things for what they are but for what else they are.”
Flames, waves, or maybe wings, I gave the heaven’s grand spectacle a few moments of my time. And then the sky changed.
Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.
Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself, Leaves of Grass
Sometimes doing creative work reminds me of fishing.
You throw in a line, watch it float down the river, and then reel it in, empty. Repeat, again and again. At least, that’s how it was for me as a kid. My family would pull in rainbow after rainbow. Me? No nibbles, no bites, no strikes. Finally, one day, I gave up. My father, yielding to my despair, steered the boat to the dock and let me off. I stood by the marsh-pond that edged the lake. Suddenly, a frog leaped out of the cattails to catch the worm that dangled from my line, and he was firmly hooked! I caught lots of frogs that day.
What I learned from those angling holidays was when you come up empty the only thing to do is to let go of the goal you’re pursuing, and to explore something else.
I’ve been writing this blog for a year and a half, and I have to admit, when I started it, I wasn’t entirely enamored with the genre. I found most blogs difficult to read, and what they offered usually wasn’t worth the effort. But I wanted a space to share meaningful and inspirational experiences.
Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I’ve finally come to see that I need to approach this blog as if I’ve gone fishing, and instead of trying to angle for rainbows I’ll relax into catching frogs.
The worm has turned! Stay tuned.
When you make an image, is it of what’s in front of the camera or what’s four inches behind it?” ~ Dewitt Jones
I read this story long ago in a Dewitt Jones column, and I have never forgotten it. A stranger encounters two old stonemasons at work. “What are you doing?” he asked each of them. “Laying stones,” the first mason said. “Building a cathedral,” the second mason said. The first had a job; the second had vision.
Last week I mentioned why photographic vision matters. It defines the work we do and why we do it the way we do. It determines the artistic choices we make. And I think that when we clarify our photographic vision we become better photographers.
Photographs come from who we are. They reflect our way of thinking, seeing, and being. When we define our vision, we understand what we are trying to capture in an image and become more mindful in our approach to making that image, increasing the likelihood of expressing the image we saw in our mind’s eye and conveying our intended meaning. We frame that cathedral.
When I first began to photograph, my images were all about passion, play, and mindful seeing. Beyond that, I spent no time at all thinking about what I was doing or why I was doing it. It took some time before I realized I needed to commit to a personal vision quest.
For this journey I set out to explore some questions:
Who I am? Why am I doing this? What interests me? What is it I want to capture? What has personal meaning for me? What do I want to achieve in my work?
Over the years my photographic vision has changed. That is to be expected as we grow as photographers. These days my work mostly reflects my love of the pointillist-inspired photogravures of early twentieth century pictorial photographers, their subtle tonal and tactile aspects and impressionistic soft focus, often strikingly ambiguous. Using a zone plate (with high-grain film) rather than a lens enables me to explore my interest in dream states, liminality, memory, and metaphor. By introducing ambiguity, it nudges the boundaries of abstraction and helps to shift perception toward a sensual experience, tempting the imagination to see beyond the literal. Drawn to the obscure, the element of enigma, I love the mystery and dark beauty these lensless images convey visually.
But I have a second interest in powerful compositions of human moments and images that capture the ironic, the absurd, the misplaced, and the wit and play of contradiction. What has remained consistent is my goal to create effective, meaningful, unforgettable images that entice viewers to look and then to look again.
What is your photographic vision?
Yesterday I spent the greater part of the day in Seattle. This nearly two-hour traffic-jammed trip can be tense and tedious. Usually, I prefer to take the bus. But sometimes, like yesterday, I have to drive. And despite the possibility of a long, stop-and-go crawl, I was actually looking forward to it. I was delivering a framed photograph to the Artist Trust office for the 2016 Benefit Art Auction.
I am always excited and grateful when my work is accepted for the annual Artist Trust’s Benefit Auction. This year, especially: Artist Trust is celebrating thirty years of supporting artists.
I know, there is much controversy on the issue of donating art.
For me, I have donated a lot of art. I think it is good to support the institutions that really need help and that contribute to the art community in their support and active lobbying on behalf of us artists.
So, congratulations, Artist Trust! I look forward to the party.
We will love like dogwood.
Kiss like cranes.
Die like moths.
© 2007, Larissa Shmailo
This year, the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, falls on March 20. It also happens to be my husband’s and my anniversary. Not only that, it’s the International Day of Happiness, according to brownielocks.com.
On this day you revel in the perfect balance of heaven and earth.
All Images and Original Text © Jane Alynn. All right reserved.