Today ended the “Abigail/Lilah Transition Show” as it is time for us all to go our separate ways. These are the last two photographs I took. Hardly my best but important due to the timing.
How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?
I had the chance to go out and shoot Abigail and Lilah for the first time in almost a month today. We went out to Riverside Park or at least the path outside it. I tried to get them to the river but no luck… We were all a little rusty and we all are a little distracted. We are coming up to the end of this project. In 35 days Lilah leaves for college. In 35 days we take Abigail to college. I am not very happy with what I shot today but I do think I got a few interesting images. You will be the judge of that…
“Science, my boy, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.”
Jules Verne (Journey to the Center of the Earth)
Last night I finished my second class with Amy Arbus at the International Center of Photography. If you are not familiar with her work, you should be. She is a first class, top of the line, portrait maker and shooter of people. If you are a long time reader of QH you know I have been shooting primarily landscape for the past four years.
The first class I took, The Fleeting Moment, was, in my opinion, a mistake ridden mess (on my part).
As Samuel Beckett said…”No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
So I had to take the next class she offered (either The Narrative Portrait or The Extended Portrait – the name seemed very changeable) because I had learned so much about what not to do that I thought I might be ready to begin to start to maybe take a decent people shot.
My aesthetic and Amy’s do not agree. She loves clean and uncluttered. The frame may be full of things but clearly and precisely. To me real life is about clutter and weird lines and the inconvenient fire extinguisher. Another good thing. Being challenged by intelligent and thoughtful people is always a positive experience.
A brief diversion, Anna, our TA, and the other students in both classes were excellent collaborators, critics and colleagues as well. This does not always happen in Continuing Ed classes.
At the very start of the class I got lucky. In casting about for a subject I asked Abigail and her friend, Lilah, if they would be my subject. They were both graduating high school (different ones), getting ready to say goodbye and moving into a new life stage. To my surprise they both said yes. In the work, we all enjoyed the process enough that we are discussing carrying it through the summer, right up until drop off day at their colleges. Over the next few weeks I will be occasionally showing some of the work that resulted from our collaboration.
I shot them together and separately. These images are from our first joint shooting day, May 9, in Riverside Park overlooking the Hudson River.
Amy Arbus could not make class tonight so she asked Liam Cunningham (aka Billy Cunningham) to sit in. You can see his work here. One thing he asked us to do in preparation for the class was watch a documentary on Gregory Crewdson called “Brief Encounters“. If you are not familiar with Crewdson‘s work I strongly recommend it to you. Liam quoted Crewdson to us, specifically:
“I feel very strongly that every artist has one central story to tell. The
struggle is to tell and retell that story over and over again, visual form,
and try to challenge that story. But at the core that story remains the same.
It’s like the defining story of who you are.
-Gregory Crewdson, “Brief Encounters”
You do not have to agree with him (I basically do) to see that there is definitely a large grain of truth to the idea. Tonight’s class assignment was “Fleeting Moment”. I have cheated and shown several of my images this week but tonight I would rather go back and visit the core of my central story. This image has never made the cut into any work, class, submission to contest etc. but tonight it spoke to me.
The challenge this week, as you might have guessed, is perspective. This is an interesting challenge because there are so many ways into it. Here are just a few from Merriam-Webster:
1 a : the technique or process of representing on a plane or curved surface the spatial relation of objects as they might appear to the eye; specifically : representation in a drawing or painting of parallel lines as converging in order to give the illusion of depth and distance
b : a picture in perspective
2 a : the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed <places the issues in proper perspective>; also : point of view
b : the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance <trying to maintain my perspective>
3 a : a visible scene; especially : one giving a distinctive impression of distance : vista
b : a mental view or prospect <to gain a broader perspective on the international scene — Current Biography>
4: the appearance to the eye of objects in respect to their relative distance and positions
Many different ways to go here. I think I will be returning to this all week, although I may have a different perspective on that tomorrow.
The view (perspective) here is tight and close. Can you tell what it is? (without looking down that is.)
If we pull back and change our perspective
I took these shots for the Amy Arbus class assignment “timeless”. I thought that bread making was pretty much a timeless activity. I also thought that it was probably pretty damn near impossible to shoot self portraits of bread making and come out with a good loaf of bread, good photographs, and a clean camera. I was right. The bread dough was so overworked I had to dispose of it. The camera survived, and I think I may have come out with a few good photographs. Perhaps I will show them someday.
Here are some other perspectives on perspective:
Our assignment in Amy Arbus‘ class this week was to shoot someone being “timely”. I don’t think I did that well with the assignment but I did enjoy playing with what I managed to take. This is Abigail shaving lines into her friends eyebrows. Not a style when i was in high school but apparently it is now.
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
“It sends out a very clear message: “Mess with us and we’ll do something worse than kill you. We’ll kill your children.”
“If you want to control someone, all you have to do is to make them feel afraid.”
The assignment for Amy Arbus’ class this week is to make three portraits of someone intimidating. It can be the same person 3 times in different positions or three different people. They must be moving (although note that the class is called the Fleeting Moment so they can be small “micro-movements”.) This is probably going to turn out to be the most difficult assignment for me It is not that I do not find some people intimidating, it is just that those people who can intimidate me tend to be the people who REALLY do not want their picture taken. If it was a month between classes I could find someone and, at least, neutralize some of the hostility but in a week: Not so much. Now, we can find people who intimidate others which is what I have ended up doing. I am not sure that has the same gut level effect on the photographs.
This is what I have been able to come up with so far. Hey I still have 22 hours until class!
“Each has his own happiness in his hands, as the artist handles the rude clay he seeks to reshape it into a figure; yet it is the same with this art as with all others: only the capacity for it is innate; the art itself must be learned and painstaking.”
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
I am fortunate enough to be taking a class with Amy Arbus over the next ten weeks at ICP (International Center of Photography) called the “The Fleeting Moment: Moving Portraits.”
Our assignment this week is to make portraits of “someone moving in water.” At first glance in New York City in January, perhaps not so easy. But people have lots of ways to move in water beyond the bathtub and the lake/ocean/stream. One way that occurred to me involves my good friend Susan. She and her husband Peter own two restaurants in the city, Back Forty and Back Forty West. Before they closed it after a 20 year run, they owned the renowned Savoy. Susan, who when I first met her was a wonderful baker (and still is), is also a remarkable potter. Yesterday, I visited her in her studio and shot her working for about two hours.
Ceramics produces objects. Tangible objects that you can touch and smell and even taste if you like. Once upon a time, photography did this as well. It still does, I doubt the photographic print will ever entirely vanish, but much of photography is now pixels. The art is expressing itself in a different way. This makes sense to me as photography is one of the youngest of the arts and is still really in its tween years (at best) and is still finding out who and what it is. Pottery is a grandmother or grandfather, indeed as one of the oldest of the arts a great- grand. It changes and develops but is more settled.
Anyway, an object for your consideration. Please also notice the remarkable hands. I recorded them. Susan made them.
Other views of objects:
“Virtually all artists spend some of their time (and some artists spend virtually all of their time) producing work that no one else much cares about.”
In preparation for a class that I will be taking at ICP, “The Fleeting Moment: Moving Portraits”, taught by Amy Arbus, we have been asked to read: “Art & fear – Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING” by David Bayles & Ted Orland. I am half way through and can say that it is one of the best books on artmaking I have ever read. I strongly recommend it to anyone who writes, sculpts, paints, photographs, acts or does anything else that requires artmaking.
I had about a half hour free at the start of the morning and since it was a beautiful late March kind of day, I dropped in on the 79th Street Boat Basin area.
“Consider that if artist equals self, then when (inevitably) you make flawed art, you are a flawed person, and when (worse yet) you make no art, you are no person at all!”
Bayles & Orland
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