Sunday, January 30, 2011

Old School Snapshot

Title: "Sisters, Golden Gate Park 2010"
(click on image to view larger)
Besides the fact that I love the subjects of this photo dearly, I love how this image connects to the long tradition of the family vacation snapshot - subjects posed in front of a water feature, image taken with grainy film, and printed in the darkroom with slightly high contrast. There are photo albums all over North America filled with images like this, and without the date in the title I think it would be easy to think this image was made in to early 1970s.

I was happy to get a bit of time in the darkroom this weekend. I shot 6 rolls of film with my Holga on this short trip to SF, and I've just made prints from two of the rolls. I want to get the rest of the frames printed, and then make a selection of them to use in a zine or chapbook. I'm looking forward to converting these into a precious, low-tech object.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Walk On

Title: "Golden Lines"
(click on image to view larger)
Early evening's
golden lines,
the briskness sharpened
by smoky fires,
each astringent breath
a wave.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Title: "Thoughts swaying to the rhythm of the waves"
(click on image to view larger)
Standing there,
enveloped by the warmth,
mind in suspension,
thoughts swaying to
the rhythm of the waves.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In spite of evidence to the contrary

Title: "An Unkindness of Ravens"
(click on image to view larger)
The first glided from out of the sun,
wings spread for maximum coast,
landing spot judged from uncanny experience.
Back on terra firma, folded
up and strutting forward like a well
fed prosecutor sure of victory.

More rained down,
the sun glistening on their lampblack feathers
as they ambled forward for a closer look.
The glint in their eyes not
just a trick of the light,
representing their lust for the work.

A violent argument ensued as to who
should take the first tasty morsel that
would precipitate the frenzied feed.
Each squawked louder to drown
out the others like overheated children fighting
over the last swing in the park.

But one inched
closer and closer to the prize,
the others too intent
on arguing the merits of their case.
Then all was decided
as he picked up the tiny rodent,
judge flying off to the astonishment of his jury.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alien Contingent

Title: "Nob Hill Voodoo"
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One morning I went out early for a walk around the neighbourhood of our hotel. As I climbed up a hill, I came across this display in a shop window. There were stately buildings all around, and some very expensive hotels a block away. Not to mention the Masonic Temple! It all seemed a bit spooky....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Big Alma

Title: "Victory, Union Square"
(click on image to view larger)
"Big Alma", Alma de Bretteville (also known as "The Great Grandmother of San Francisco") met her future husband thanks to modeling for this monument to commemorate George Dewey's victory in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish American war. This statue was selected from a number of entries and only barely made the cut, thanks to the crucial vote of the chair of the Citizen's Committee, Adolph Spreckels. Although he was twice her age, she was smitten by him and eventually after a five-year courtship, they married on May 11, 1908. Because he was head of the Spreckels Sugar Company, Alma often referred to her husband as her "sugar daddy"

Monday, January 17, 2011

It is good to know the truth, but it is better to speak of palm trees

Title: "Two palms facing outward"
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The title of this post is apparently an Arabic proverb. I think a good proverb, like good art, is somewhat enigmatic or ambiguous, allowing for personal interpretation.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Little Blue Box

Title: "Tiffany & Co."
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One of the casual images I made during our short trip to San Francisco in the fall. I had never used the holga for "travel" photography, in fact I've rarely used the holga for urban photography and felt a bit out of my element. Unsure of what I'd get, unsure of what to look for in terms of subject. There was a lot of hit and miss....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Beloved Sleeps II

Title: "I remember her reflection in the early days, when lightning crowned her forehead"
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Time and perception seem shifted in the forest, laying to rest all the weight of the world.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Beloved Sleeps

Title: "I searched eyes for her, but didn't find her. I didn't find in the trees her greenness..."
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There is something about old, veteran trees that is so alluring. Even at times of day, or types of weather when they might seem threatening or frightening, I find myself drawn to them, aching to hear their stories. More often I find a quiet comfort in the company of trees, the smell of the loamy earth underneath them evoking my own memories of stories that have gone untold.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Why Read?

Title: "View Alcatraz", San Francisco, October 2010
(click on image to view larger)
I've recently begun reading Harold Bloom's book "How to Read and Why", and he writes a number of things in the prologue that I think apply equally well to making art as they do to reading. Bloom writes:
"It matters, if individuals are to retain any capacity to form their own judgments and opinions, that they continue to read for themselves...why they read must be for and in their own of the uses of reading is to prepare ourselves for change..." Bloom goes on to fuse the wisdom of Bacon, Johnson and Emerson to say "find what comes near to you...that addresses you...then weigh and consider the nature it shares with you; its closeness to yourself." 
It's not difficult to see that these are wise words to be considered by artists, or anyone interested in art. In order to educate ourselves to be able to form judgments and opinions, we need to be making art or carefully looking at and thinking about art. Being immersed in art as an artist or a viewer is an important part of the process of change, of expanding our understanding of the world and ourselves. Making art that speaks to us (or viewing art that speaks to us), and carefully considering how and why it makes that connection to us, is a way to deeper self-understanding. I think that in my own case, it is these common threads between reading and making art that bring me to constantly consider what story an artwork conveys to me - I often get a sense of narrative when looking at work I've made, even though it's been made without a specific narrative in mind.
Bloom goes on in the prologue to numerate five principles he feels are important to restore the way we should read. Again, I can readily see how these apply to making art:
1. Clear your mind of cant 
(Cant referring to pious platitudes, the peculiar vocabulary of a sect or coven. One of the reasons I have reduced my interaction with internet sites like Flickr was to do exactly this, because I found myself being influenced too much by thinking of how work I posted would be "received")
2. Do not attempt to improve your neighbor by what or how you read
(In essence, rather than evangelize, spend the time making art. Here I see the analogy as being one of spend precious time making work rather than spend countless hours looking at other's work on the net, commenting on the work of others, evangelizing a specific point of view of how to make work)
3. A scholar is a candle which the love and desire of all men will light
(Bloom says that one's development as a reader is not selfish because it acts as an inspiration to others. The same can be said of the time taken for making art - good art inspires others to make art)
4. One must be an inventor to read well
(Bloom says "we read, frequently if unknowingly, in quest of a mind more original than our own". I take this principle to mean that we make art, often unknowingly, because we are constantly trying to realize the potential we each have to invent a new view of the world that surrounds us)
5. Recovery of the ironic
(Bloom mourns the loss of irony, because he sees it as the death of reading, and of that which has been civilized in our natures. In making art, there is plenty of scope to be ironic, or to accept the ironies that the process of art making constantly throws at us. Bloom goes on to state "Irony demands a certain attention span, and the ability to sustain antithetical ideas, even when they collide with one another". Just exactly what it takes to make art (attention span) that holds true meaning (antithetical ideas), with great excitement and satisfaction in the process (the collision of ideas))

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Second verse, same as the first...

Another lazy, beautiful day as the holidays come to an end:

It was the kind of day for walking without purpose, to take opportunities to sit down, enjoy the brisk air and the sun on one's face. I took a route through the neighbourhood, stopping at a hill top park and down at a secluded beach. The frost was still evident wherever there was shadow, the rough edges of melt a record of the sun's passing. The water was still, reflecting the intense colour of the sky.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A summing up of sorts

Now that my "daily practice" or "365" project is finished, I've been reflected on the lessons learned.

Doing the project has certainly connected me more strongly to my surroundings, has made me more aware of quality of light, the interesting lines made by shadows, has made me sensitive to the incredibly rich prospects for making images, has resulted in improved compositional skills. In looking back at the images, I can see certain subjects/themes that arose, some which I will likely pursue more purposefully in the future. I like the fact that these subjects/themes came out of the process naturally, reflecting a sincere conscious or unconscious interest on my part. I also appreciate how doing the project as I did (i.e. blogging daily) encouraged me to think more about some of the philosophical issues of photography, also to think more about why I made certain images and what those images expressed to me, and to write about these thoughts.

There were a few things I didn't like about doing the project. The first was the length - after about 7-8 months, I felt that I had absorbed the various lessons to be learned, and seen the improvement in skills that consistent practice provides. I was ready to abandon the project at that time, suggesting that for me projects spanning about 6 months are more ideal. I also feel that by its very nature, a "365" project imposes a quota mentality - that my focus was in many ways on getting that image done for the day to fulfill the "quota". Finally, because I wanted to keep an up to date blog on the project, I was for the most part using a digital camera, and pretty much have not shot any film (which I love) for the past 6 months (except for our trip to SF). The daily project was not the only reason I haven't been using film recently - the presence of a couple of furry guests who have free-range access to the area where I develop and dry film has made it more difficult to get the films developed and dried in pristine condition.

Overall I think it was a worthwhile exercise. Today I went for a walk by the lake, and I immediately picked up my camera before I headed out the door. I'm pretty sure that I'll have a camera with me every day when I leave the house, a lasting legacy of doing the project.


11 Images for the first day of 2011:


(click on an image to view larger)
It was a beautifully cold, crisp first day of the year - perfect for a walk along the lake. When I first arrived, I heard a loud whistling noise that sounded like some kind of high-tech air horn. But it turned out to be the sound people were making by taking up thin sheets of ice from along the shore, and skimming them on the skin of ice covering parts of the lake. As the skimmed piece of ice shattered, a high-pitched squeak/whistling noise was made from the friction of ice on ice. Walking further along the path brought a peaceful quietness, many lovely vistas and wonderful shadows cast upon the icy lake.