Tag Archives: creativity

LOOKING AT PHOTOGRAPHS

Apples on the tree in Tieton, Washington

Apples, Tieton, Washington.

For the past week, I have felt this intense need to look at photographs. I don’t mean to look at photographs-in-the-making, those being exposed; I mean to look at photographs that are printed images.

Truth is, I haven’t been out with my camera for awhile, so mining my old files, looking at photographs made by me or someone else that inspires me is the next best thing.

To see them with expanded awareness—Minor White’s approach to seeing, which is akin to meditation or “being still with yourself”—is a way for me to stay sane in the face of my growing apprehension about some health issues. Even though it’s hard to relax into a soft focus when I’m anxious, if I can bring myself to a heightened state of awareness, and look at images from that place, my vision is as creative as the act of making the image in the first place.

Reading poetry, like looking at photographs, can change you.

This poem by Jane Hirshfield comes to mind:

Bad Year

Even in this bad year,
the apples grow heavy and round.
Three friends and I trade stories:
biopsy, miscarriage, solitude,
a parent’s unravelling body or mind.
What is reliable? What do you hold?
I demand of the future, later.
The future–whose discretion is perfect–
says nothing, but rolls another
apple loose from its grip.
A hopeful yellow jacket comes to hunt
the crack, the point of easy entry.

© Jane Hirshfield, from After

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WHAT IS YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC VISION? — PART TWO

When you make an image, is it of what’s in front of the camera or what’s four inches behind it?” ~ Dewitt Jones

Illumination

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?

Posted in Fine Art Photography, Inspiration, Photographs, Stories, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , |

WHAT IS YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC VISION? – PART ONE

Ghost Tree, Salton Sea

One of my favorite photographer-bloggers is David DuChemin. Just after I had read his recent blog post, “Image or Imagery?”, written (and tagged by him as a bit of a rant) in response to questions about his gear, beginning with What camera do you use?, I received a kind invitation to participate in an interview. Ironically, the first question was, What equipment do you use? What camera?

Don’t get me wrong, questions that get me thinking about making images interest me a lot. But equipment, gear, and gadgets? Not so much. They are mere tools that can help us convey our personal, distinct photographic vision. Vision is what I am passionate about.

What is photographic vision? 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.

I will have more to say about developing photographic vision in a follow-up post. Meanwhile, I want to let you in on the interview with Karla Locke. You can read my responses and see my work here in Anacortes Magazine or here on Blame It On the Light.

Thank you, Karla Locke.

Posted in Creative Process, Fine Art Photography, Inspiration, Photographs Also tagged , , , , , |

THE MOMENT

Alleyway after the Rain
 
No matter how many times I stroll through the alleys in Mount Vernon, the lyric of these narrow liminal spaces always trips my senses. I love the old brick walkway and buildings, dipping and cracked due to the silty fill, their uneven settling. I am fascinated by the textures, the collection of dumpsters, stuff piled in the back-stoop storage. And after a rain I love how the alley resonates silence and melancholy.

Alleys fascinate me. As liminal spaces, betwixt and between, neither-this-nor-that, these pathways that thread between buildings have intricate histories. Alleys have existed in virtually every urban culture and location in the world in some form or another for at least two thousand years, and often were bustling urban places. Neglected, they turned into scuzzy and sometimes dangerous places that became forbidden territory.

These days there is a move to revitalize our alleys. Surely, the effort to clean them up and give them a face lift is laudable. But some things that make alleys so interesting to me will be erased and paved over. What is now will be gone.

Photography is always dealing with the momentary, and by accepting change I open myself to new moments. These moments of attentiveness are all we have, these and the photographs that remember the characteristics of the place that held my attention.
 
alley-wall

Posted in Fine Art Photography, Mindfulness, Photographs, Stories Also tagged , , , , , |

LET THE FEELING BE LOVE

Couple on the Beach, Waldport, OR

All you need is love.
~ John Lennon (October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980)

The deluge of news about acts of terror at home and around the world makes it easy to believe that danger lurks behind every door, that we are not safe, and that we must then be wary of everyone who is different from us. Otherness becomes a defense for fear and suspicion, which hardens into irrational beliefs that lead us to act out against innocent people. Closed doors, hearts, and minds are the enemy of life.

It is a dangerous progression. And the media, in reporting the rhetoric of hate, further deepens ignorance and extremism.

I’ve written before about the power of words and how they affect seeing.

Clarity of vision demands a receptive, compassionate heart, free of labels and preconceptions.

So let the feeling be love.

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Roll with the Punches

Carpe Diem, Port Townsend, WA

Carpe Diem, Port Townsend, WA. Photograph © Jane Alynn.

I just spent several days in Port Townsend. The main reason for my visit was to make images. In particular, I wanted to photograph Fort Worden’s extensive system of large, abandoned bunkers, creating new work to add to my What Remains portfolio.

As I stood among those fascinating structures, awed by their complexity, aware of their dark history, I set up my tripod and camera, loaded my film, and turned the crank. Instead of stopping at the first frame, the crank advance kept turning. Oh, no! I thought. My camera is broken! Indeed, after several tries, it was clear my camera’s advancing mechanism was not working properly. Shortly after that I took a hard fall and my camera and I went tumbling. It took me about five seconds to call it a day.

But life is like that. It requires flexibility. By accepting this and adapting to the circumstances as they are instead of what we want them to be, we open ourselves to new possibilities. So, I decided to roll with the punches and see what I could do with my digital camera. I was too bruised and achy to do anything more at Fort Worden, but the accessibility of the boat yard offered me exactly what I needed.

Carpe diem is usually understood to mean “seize the day”; its more literal translation is “enjoy the moment.” And I did.

Posted in Creative Process, Fine Art Photography, Mindfulness, Philosophy, Photographs, Stories, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , |

Wandering: Going Without Arriving

Bridge, Portland Japanese Garden

Woman crossing the bridge in Portland’s Japanese Garden.

A good traveler has no fixed plans,
and is not intent on arriving.
~ Lao Tzu

Going is important, not arriving. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

We left today for a long-awaited journey with our new (to us) 29-foot travel trailer. We will be out two-weeks, but our whereabouts during those two weeks are uncertain. We will have a road map, of course, but we expect to lose our compulsion for a known itinerary. It is the unexpected that is the hallmark of our most enjoyable travel.

Thus, our plans are loose. Head west, then south. Follow the coast. Or not.

When we do not plan too tightly, and are not fixed on a route or a place we feel destined to end up, we leave ourselves open to wander.

In wandering, we slow down. It is always the present moment. Our habitual mind-set is disrupted, and everything around us becomes a surprise, new and fresh. This heightened way of seeing—happy, relaxed, unconcerned with self, attentive—is full of delight and expansiveness.

Traveling like this offers so many opportunities to see—the roadside, vehicles that pass by, iconic signs and structures, the landscape, people, buildings, and critters of the place, even ourselves as we become part of what we see.

I love this relaxed way of going, seeing, and of making photographs. It is always the present in photography.

While traveling, I may not have reliable internet access. But check in to see if by some chance I have managed to post something. In any case, I look forward to sharing our discoveries when I return.

Posted in Creative Process, Fine Art Photography, Mindfulness, Photographs, Stories, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

Play

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.
~ Carl Jung

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rock and Roll, zone plate photograph, archival pigment print

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