Mar 222019
 

(Any hyperbole you find in this post may be credited to my growing passion for opera…)

Nothing pleases me more than when two distinct lines come together in a surprising way.  They could touch, cross, form a point or run parallel. Actually,  I am also quite pleased when shapes do the same thing – combine to create an entirely new shape.

Putting graphic elements together is extremely satisfying for me.  I don’t know why – but it is not new. As a kid, as I would stare out the window – daydreaming (perhaps that is why my report cards regularly said, “if only she would pay attention in class…”.) I would tilt my head this way and that, trying to line up the cross bars of the window with trees, poles, or buildings outside, until the alignment of the two would make crosses, or parallel lines, or even new shapes. 

Untitled #01-14-19-88, 2019
Untitled #01-14-19-88, 2019

After indulging in this quirky pleasure for 60+ years, I have gotten quite good at it.  Actually, I have made a career out of it.  My work has always utilized this “gift” (?) starting with putting layers of reflections together. My LATEST work takes this even farther.  Let me tell you how this goes in a typical shoot…

I have a large mirror held upright in my studio.  I tape some shards to it creating a graphic mess.  Then I put one model in front and another behind the mirror. This is the start. After fussing with lights for a bit I confront the chaotic mess – a jumble of lines, and fleshy shapes. At this point I often get irritated with myself – why do I put myself through this?  The pressure is to find some interesting relationships within this mess. This self-abuse and “monkey mind” go on for the first minutes, sometimes longer other times shorter.  It stops when I begin to see something – and my explorer self takes over. It is a very slow process organizing this visual chaos – luckily, I love doing it… once I stop the self-talk and just get into looking at the forms.

Why does this work?

Well, for one thing it gives me a different framework to begin exploring shapes.  I’ve been photographing the human form for so many years, in order to continue the challenge of seeing it in a new way I put up different mirror shards, redefining the familiar shapes.

As Gary Zukav writes in the Dancing WuLi Masters:

“True artists and true physicists know that nonsense is only that which, viewed from our present point of view, is unintelligible. Nonsense is only nonsense when we have not yet found that point of view from which it makes sense.”

Untitled #02-15-19-552
Untitled #02-15-19-552

When he says “the point of view” he is talking directly to us photographers.  Point of view is CAMERA ANGLE! The importance of exploring (or playing) cannot be overstated – it is the foundation of seeing in new and unexpected ways. This is particularly evident when working with reflections in the mirror shards, as the transformation from even the slightest shift in camera angle can be drastic.

This blog post can be summed up neatly and poetically by Nietzsche:

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

 March 22, 2019  Posted by at 2:54 pm Featured, Uncategorized No Responses »
Jan 102019
 

2 new strobes,

2 new models,

and lots more opera

Last year was another productive journey in the course of my work as I continued to integrate more abstract forms within the mirrors. Perhaps my biggest area of growth in 2018 was my use of lighting in the studio, in primarily two ways:

  1. I significantly upgraded the lighting system in my studio. The impetus for this change had to do with safety – during a shoot my studio is dark – really, really dark – lit only from the modeling lights on the strobes [which provide not much more light than what you would have in a darkroom.] I do this so extraneous elements don’t show up in the various reflected materials. As a result of working in essentially a cave, I would often trip over the legs of the light stands. Since this is a working, creative space I could splat on a multitude of things on the floor such as broken plastic mirrors, scissors, lenses, black crates, models, etc. So I invested in a rail system where the lights are hanging from the ceiling. The result is much, much safer, instead of tripping over the lights I now bang my head into them – a significant improvement! The unintended benefit is that it is so incredibly easy to move the lights up and down, and side to side that I have been much more playful – always a good thing.
  2. The second reason for my growth in my use of light is that I started working with a new model, J., who is from Jamaica and has beautiful dark, dark skin. My other new model, R, is a lovely and expressive young woman of Filipino descent.
Untitled # 08-20-18-899

J.’s skin appears metallic – almost granite like in texture- with brilliant highlights dropping off to shadow very quickly, while R.’s lighter skin has a broader tonal range from highlights to shadows.

Untitled # 07-02-18-486

I have not had a regular female model for several years, so combining her with J. in a purely formal way has been a new direction this year.

Untitled #11-05-18-1079, 2018
Untitled #11-05-18-1079

Sometimes, like in the above image, Untitled #08-20-18-899, I get to work with two models, but when I only have one, the mannequins I began working with in 2016 continue to serve as superb stand-ins.

OPERA
Another area of growth for me in 2018 was my continuing love of opera and frequenting more productions. Opera is full of extreme emotions – jealousy, unrequited love, a love triangle and/or death, murder, sickness. There is nothing subtle in an opera plot. [BTW opera fans are just as enthusiastic as football fans, and almost as vocal!]
It seems that my devotion to opera manifests itself as RED in my work.

Untitled # 11-30-18-894

RED – seductive, visceral, angry and passionate, crept back into my work toward the end of 2018. RED can be both joy and agony, and passionate and visceral. More about RED in a later blog.

Untitled # 10-19-18-734
Untitled # 12-10-18-238

As with the last handful of years, 2018 included a significant amount of time spent in the studio and shooting on a consistent, regular basis. 77 shoots total, finding myself behind the camera an average of at least once a week. I have loved being able to devote so much time to looking through the lens, seeing new and exciting forms emerge from the same materials I’ve worked with for over 30 years, and I’m looking forward to what develops in 2019!

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback!

 January 10, 2019  Posted by at 3:14 pm Featured, Uncategorized No Responses »
Jun 132013
 

Last week, I had the pleasure of teaching a three day workshop for the Union of Arab Photographers in Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates.  The request from the UAP came up quickly and was unplanned, but I jumped at the opportunity to travel and teach in the Middle East.  Having seen the Lynda course I recently published with Ben Long, they were interested in hosting a class on composition. 

This was such an exciting trip and I found it fascinating to be in a culture so different from my own but sharing the same passion for photography.  I found the UAE to be very enthusiastic about photography, to really value communication, and felt like it was a deeply appreciated medium.  
All of the people I met with were incredibly warm, welcoming, and hospitable.  The students I worked with were extraordinary- all were very enthusiastic, open, and eager to learn.  Photography is such an important language, one that transcends cultural differences and communicates in rich, profound ways.  It was a wonderful experience and I hope I have the opportunity to visit again some day!
I’m hoping to receive some samples of students work to post here within the next couple weeks…
Our class!

  
 June 13, 2013  Posted by at 7:52 pm Featured, Workshops No Responses »