Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Photo Blogs I Love

1-This is a fantastic blog for photographers who love images and making them; it's loaded with photographer interviews, photographer galleries, videos and essays on photographers and their work.  Its primary focus seems to me to be fine art and documentary photography.  The photographer, writer, collector and art critic; Doug Rickard has put together a wonderful site full of information through a lot of hard work. Doug, thank you for a fantastic site!

I had the good fortune of doing a one day workshop with Emmet Gowin about twenty years ago and particularly enjoyed reading the Camera Arts 1998 interview on Emmet Gowin from Doug Rickard's Blog.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Beneath the surface (reading photographs)

"people walking on a boardwalk"  (c) 2008 george elsasser

new update 7-23-13

I am still learning about blogging and just entered these property words (had no clue I was supposed to do that) for the image.     ......next, cycle, wheel, in-synch, "in step", synchronicity, wheel of life, life cycle,......on so on

I am thrilled this image brings so many words to me, it is a special and very rare image, I would be blessed by the universe to have 10-15 of its strength be made through me in 30 yrs.  Yes, made through me, as an antenna, a vehicle, an instrument being played and so on.

Ralph Gibson has hinted at similar things in recent years, as has Paul Caponigro many moons ago, do any of you guys or gals ever get the feeling something else is helping with your best work?  I am not talking religion here (not my cup of tea), but spirituality, meta physics and the like. You can just tell me to stop with the voodoo, God crap, its all luck.  Now I have always had a bit of a spiritual bent, so maybe I naturally think in that fishing tank. 
Older parts of post:

What kind of thoughts I find myself pondering as I study this image:

Does a universal source organize such an event? Who or what made this "image-event"? Would the 2 men have stayed on their personal walking courses had I not been working that day in that particular spot (precise to the inch), not to mention the exact point in linear time? Is there such a thing as a "Metaphysical Vector" or Vectors? All the endless chances for this one event to not occur makes me question who or just what is it that really makes art? Even after 30+ years of picture making I am still mostly baffled.

This image fascinates me. The image is a departure from my primary body of work (smallish urban landscapes emphasizing abstract qualities of light and form), in that people are part of the landscape and the image's success is directly dependent on their inclusion. Although I have long enjoyed Cartier-Bresson's (master of the decisive moment) work, my fine art photography had remained mostly unpopulated by people until about 2005. What stimulated my interest in working in such a manor is my time spent doing journalistic style wedding photography from 1996-2006. This image simply would not exist had I not developed a sense of timing for and interest in capturing people in motion. The stimulus provided by my journalistic style weddings are part of a story called “Paying the bills”.

I hope people who have less experience looking at visual art have looked deeply into this image's picture space and unraveled it's mystery for themselves. If you have not discovered it's magic I certainly encourage a deeper more concentrated look at it much larger (click with cursor) before reading further. My favorite book that helped teach me how to see more deeply was my professor Wally Dreyer's 102 text book choice “Looking at Photographs” by John Szarkowski. I cannot recommend it enough for people interested in developing deeper visual skills and much greater joy looking at their visual world.

A more concentrated look into the image will reveal a more transcendent image which should stimulate people's thoughts as to how such things happen. For me this type of image makes me ponder just who or what gets credit for such images? Where do the images come from? How do such things happen or do they even happen if one was not present to witness or record such? I will try to open a discussion of that matter in an entry called "synchronicity and photography” at a latter date.

For now I will point out the crucial stuff some viewers may have missed and wait for my poet/painter friend Karl Watson's commentary on this and two other images. Within the cycle wheel there are two men, one younger and one older walking in opposite directions. To me the sign or symbol in the image (the cycle wheel) should point, lead or remind people of their knowledge if only faint of the wheel or cycle of life. The recognition of a common symbol (the circle) is certainly not a stretch for most trained people but also easily revealed to others who have learned how to observe things more slowly and deeply. There is no big mystique here, no hard to understand art words, just the simple practice of patient observation and the knowledge you are not looking at an image designed to impart a single simplistic message. Lastly, both men's posture, the bending of their legs and the angle of their shoes are virtually identical. There are more visual coincidences occurring in this image I will leave for you to discover.

Like spirituality, viewing and creating art for me involves looking more deeply and beyond surfaces. This is completely unlike the looking and quick analyzing of things in our fast paced world, it is much more akin to meditation where one strives to clear one's mind of all the unnecessary mental chatter the mind provides. Think of the mental state desired being similar to the sports term “being in the zone”. Not only athletes but also artists and musicians work to employ such a mental state on their journeys as well. People who get strong fulfillment from visual art employ knowingly or unknowingly a similar mental state when they do their looking.

Two other images where the Gods of photography or synchronicity pulls it altogether for the image maker.

"kids playing amusment park game" (c) 2009 george elsasser

"surfing event"  (c) 2009 george elsasser

I sensed a good composition with some strong triangular energy, moved to a camera position I thought might work and clicked.  The key here is I sensed, moved, photographed. That has to be done thousands and thousands of times to make great images. I have been trained, I trained, and continue to train (by studying images often, making images often), but....

It is hard to take credit for the amount of synchronicity that organizes a photograph way more complex, involving, resolving and fascinating than I could possibly fully anticipate and comprehend before or as I click a shutter button.  In next or prior 1/500 of a second, or my body in a different position not to mention camera positions all the beautiful math that makes this image work collapses like a particle in a collision. Our minds and eyes make composites of details and make all sorts of chemical and mental short hand before we see what we think we see before us. How many triangles are in the image, which ones hold it together which ones are icing, how does the picture work, think about it study it and you have begun to learn a great joy
you will not for get it is like riding a bike once you train yours eyes and mind they will always stay visually enlightened.  If when trying to enjoy an image and it seems hard quiet the mind be present.

A good photograph can be enjoyed like a good page in a novel by a favorite author, where you might re-read certain parts or sections because they sing or resonate so well for you. This is how one begins to learn how to look at images, you read them - all the parts, you do not skip sentences. If parts of that page or section of a book connect for you, you reread them then because you know you won't find the page later, or will not have time.  Two more images on a similar wavelength.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Road and the Sky (Magic & Fear or Photo 101)

long surfboard on outdoor table (c) george elsasser

First and foremost thanks for taking the time to visit my blog shutter; if you are attracted to visual images or a creator of such, hopefully you will find it interesting. Where do I begin with such a thing as this? Well I will start with the image that changed my life as I had known it till then, Photo 101 Old Dominion University. Camera images had planted tiny seeds prior to this but nothing had really sprouted until the fall of 1977.

I titled this image “The Road and the Sky,” a song title used intentionally from Jackson Browne's album “Late for the Sky.” It was more homage than anything else. I was completely blown away at that time with that (still extraordinary) album. Quick critical overview of the LP here.  Bruce Springsteen inducts Jackson Browne into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and specifically mentions this album as a major influence)  here.

This whole music thing has got me thinking briefly about how hard some people are on an artist's long term output, such as "this album they made can't hold a candle to such and such" ,Sargent Pepper, Dark Side of the Moon, The Planets, Ninth Symphony, Mona Lisa...............you get the idea.  That is insane and unfair nobody hits em out of the park every-time at bat but one must swing the bat to maybe get to 1st.

Anyway back on track.

The image itself was created just a few rolls/proof sheets into my new journey. I was quickly becoming bored with the usual stuff fledgling photographers photograph in photo 101 class. This was long before I had seen work from Edward Weston, Minor White, Harry Callahan, Ansel Adams or Paul Caponigro (heroes I would in a year or so study) and even before I had much understanding of f-stopsshutter speeds, let alone depth of field.
It was just an idea and a knowledge that with lining up the two pointers in my used Olympus's viewfinder an image could be born; even if the birth was defective something should show up on the film. Back then for me it was still all voodoo, smelly chemicals in dark room's, a wing, a prayer, a Hail-Mary pass in the last seconds of a game I was lucidly dreaming.

So the idea was; “If I photograph this long wide surfboard with a stripe down the middle in b&w can I make it resemble a road or a least for a few moments fool viewers into thinking they are seeing a road?” So I placed my camera (like a 4 wheeled thing) near the fin close to the surface of the board and studied and adjusted it till all seemed right. As Ken Daley the director of Old Dominion University Art department told me many many years later, what interested him most about photography was its ability to lie.

I was printing on some recently created (plastic) stuff called RC paper, which I along with some would later refer to as bath mat. Although I knew just about nothing at this stage of the game it was already starting to bother me that the chemicals were getting splashed from one tray to another by students in a hurry to get to some more important task, to me time stood still – the task at hand was holy! Oh my God; what my fellow students did with the print tongs, in the stop bath, back to the developer, all over the room, the sacrilege was rampant. The people did not respect the alchemy they played with.

As I watched the image come up in the developer I was rewarded with an idea manifest in the material world that was all mine. It wasn't mine like the drawings and paintings I made during childhood and the various art courses I could never say no to, but for the first time all mine like no other image I had made. After years of trying to deny my artistic inclinations knowing I would never survive such a financially bereft life, the muse set up permanent residence in my heart. I imagine now, her saying to me, “I myself do not care about money, I can give you treasures of joy unimagined that money will never buy.”

I was so fortunate to be graced early by the Gods of Photography (and their camera named Olympus, LOL) with an inspiring image that I at one point became worried a new camera I might one day afford might not have such magical powers!  I am serious about this, that picture for me had enormous power.  Enchanted and entranced I was.

I was 21 and magical thinking had not left me yet.  Many have and had favorite bats, guitars, gloves and so on, I was not unlike others.  Once.

All that seems to go out the window as the years roll by and one realizes how hard one has to work and how hard it is to make a great image, the handful in my long journey have become like talismans.  Yes for me there is still much mystery that pushes me to explore something I know is there that I do not understand. 

back on track-

I never before knew photography had such power or could do such a thing; I only knew of the pretty advertisements in magazines and when photography was used to provide simple documentation of things. I was lodged on the hook. With this image I wasn't gonna be anything I wasn't, I was only gonna be me even if I still had to “costume up” for life to make a dollar. From this image on I knew what I wanted! I wanted to simply make images from my heart with no thought of commerce whatsoever and do it full time. Now at least, I understood my time on earth was meaningful, it had real purpose.

Finally I was very fortunate to have received an award of merit by Robert Heinecken (though at the time I was unaware of his work or fame) in a national student show for this very same image. This was a thrill, especially to know someone important in my first real career had found my piece provocative. I finally got an “attaboy” for something that was me, not a hand shake - pat on the back for forcing my self through some task I loathed or at something that held no flame for me. This recognition certainly was the icing on the cake and sealed the deal.

For those that are still with me thanks for hanging on and sharing part of my journey. The fine art photographers and teachers that inspired me early on showed me the way and provided a foundation through their visual journeys so I and others could begin extended further journeys. 

My photo 101 professor David E. Johnson's work

My photo 102 professor Wally Dreyer's work

My photo 103 professor Phil Morrison teachs at CNU
and presently has no work online

my early work 
scroll down to Gallery-6 EXACAVATION