Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Field Notes-4 (2012)

"three people near edge of the grand canyon" (c) 2012 george elsasser

Here are some images from my recent Southwest trip.  In a place of such overwhelming power and sublimity the problem exists for me "How do I make interesting images that are different from the ones I have typically seen from these areas"?

Generally the ones I have seen are traditional landscape style images and are not my cup of tea. Not that making really good ones in that genre is remotely easy it is not, but there are plenty of great ones out there.

It is my hope to create new thoughts and feelings from a well worn photographic subject.  I hope occasionally I have succeeded.   Thanks for visiting, I will add more images here as time permits.

"image of a Sedona viewing shelter" (c) 2012 george elsasser

"moument valley trading post" (c) 2012 george elsasser

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Field Notes-3 (2012)

"man and unbrella" (c) 2012 george elsasser

Some images I made in Atlanta that I'm interviewing with many more in the woodshed.  Some are more singular images while others have more of a strait document feeling. To note I enjoyed chatting with many friendly people from the city it is a great town wish I had more time there.  I was also able to spend some time working on the road this summer in Charlotte, Durham, Gatlinburg and Ashville.

I don't think any of these are keepers but I am getting my feet wet with new software, new PC, new OS, add infi-NIGHTMARE!  Yes its Pita time once again.  Wow what a time we live in, it should keep all our brains very sharp.

I have a trip coming up, going to the southwest/4 corners area so that should be interesting. Don't think you will find any great American landscapes from me but we will see, last trip there was an eye opener.

"man with headache" (c) 2012 george elsasser

"escalator" (c) 2012 george elsasser

"glass doorway" (c) 2012 george elsasser

"construction tunnel" (c) 2012 george elsasser

"traditional column in modern city" (c) 2012 george elsasser

"orange repair vechicles" (c) 2012 george elsasser

"store window" (c) 2012 george elsasser

"man walking in city" (c) 2012 george elsasser

"red shoes" (c) 2012 george elsasser

Thursday, August 9, 2012

reflections (1977-2005)


"long surfboard on a table" (c) 1977 george elasser

What is interesting to me can be seen in this image and in the opening images of EXCAVATIONS. In these images one can find early threads to much later bodies of work that evolved many years later in PARTICLE POOL (1994 to 2001) and LEELA (2005-). This particular image was made in 1977 at a stage where I understood little about the camera's multiple muscles and had not yet explored any serious photographers work. Which brings up an observation of an ongoing debate in artistic circles, is it better to go it alone and work without respect to the past (study art history) or risk recreating the wheel. 
What would (the above) later bodies of work look like, would they have come sooner, would they be more or less effective had the artist not begun his investigation of art history? Without a study of art history would they even exist? 
Here a question is posed rather than an answer given. Art provides no answers but poses many questions, particularly of the unseen (meditate through the layered veils of Cezanne or feel God in Van Gogh). When your ego comes back in control and tells you it sees paint, you must let go again.

Art for me thrives in small dark overlooked corners where discoveries seem fleeting and are hard won but nothing is ever finished or cornered, authentic journeys are necessary but not necessarily seen, and things out of reach always call and flicker in a darkness one can never fully illuminate. If one could we would lay, rest and have lost all curiosity.
When my eyes opened magic & fear or photo 101

excavation 1977-83, b&w 1994-

"sand pattern and bird foot print"  (c) 1979 george elsasser

EXCAVATION (1977-1983) The b&w images in this group is where my work began, most of these have been informed by my early study of Weston, White and Siskind. Many of the devises I learned from these artists I still use to this day and I continue to expand upon and transform in different ways in all my visual work.

"outdoor stairs on rock wall" (c) 2005 george elsasser

CURRENT B&W (1994-) B&W work in progress, begun as early as 1994 and running concurrently and intermittently to present. This group has bits and pieces from each of my bodies of work so for now we will call it a gumbo until each image has more siblings show up. 

It is interesting to note from 1977 to 1984 I worked almost exclusively in b&w. Then from 1984 to 1994 I worked almost exclusively in color. So hopefully this work has extracted many needed tools from those journeys and others.

particle pool

"twisted vines" (c) 1995 george elsasser

FORMAL STATEMENT: It is the journey, the investigation of the overlooked [invitations] in modern art that interests me. Instead of rejecting the established canon, my aim has been to explore and develop new possibilities suggested by it. 

All of these images are [straight photographs] in the sense that they are single exposure, in-camera creations. They are made from fixed positions without camera movement, utilize action freezing shutter speeds, or faster, are printed in the traditional darkroom and incorporate no digital manipulation or enhancement. 

These photographs have evolved from my continuing exploration, artistic assimilation, and utilization of the natural distortions of the photographic lens, such as diffraction and aberrations. In this work I continue striving to create and further explore a photograph more draftsman like in its use of line, gesture, color blending, and transparency that is more directly expressive than henceforth possible. 

Since 1984 (moving from black and white to color) and again even more so in 1992 I have felt an urge to try and deliver more emotional impact through my photography, in addition to it's already existing meditative qualities. In 1992 I began exploring possible relationships between photography and painting, including extensive painting on my own. I have since felt that painting and painters have much more they can teach me about line and color than photographers, so I began extensive study of people such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse and de Kooning in about 1996. Most recently, I have actively begun creating rapid drawings, utilizing the spirit of automatism, to further enhance and inform my photographic language. 

This photographic work explores the innate distortions of the lens as an asset, a means of constructing two-dimensional images, which create effects and forms resultant from the simultaneous construction and deconstruction of objects through focus. These effects and forms are enhanced or obscured by specific use of light and color. The resulting images are not experiments but rather explorations. Planes of focus, layering, color mixture and juxtaposition have allowed me to break down the boundaries between foreground, middle-ground, background; I am fascinated when color becomes form and light becomes line.

Exhibition reviews focused on this work.

Future work which Particle Pool affected was
begun in 2005 and is called leela.



"shadow of magnifing glass" (c) 2004 george elsasser

EFFIGIES (2004-) Work in progress, I began in the fall of 2004. These images are created in the camera and not manipulated in the computer. They share a similar spirit to drawings I made that are shown in PHOTOGRAPHER'S PENCIL.What I think these share with the drawings is a deliberately looser approach to making images than I have practiced for most of my photographic career. These seem to present themselves much more like thoughts than any of my other work. 

They are "quick" if I may. Out of all my photographic work these seem to be somewhat narrative, a quality I have not consciously pursued in my work. This work is still very new for me so if there is other stuff going on, I have no handle on it at this time.


"reflection in old glass" (c) 2006 george elsasser

LEELA (2005-) Work in progress, I began in the summer of 2005. These images are seen through the camera, they are not manipulated in a computer. After being involved in this work for awhile I realized this work takes many of the things I learned from images included in PARTICLE POOL and utilizes them in a different way. It is interesting to note these images did not begin until 4 years after that body of work seemed finished to me. 

That body of work seemed to end prior to my visit to the WTC in December of 2001 at which time working on art to me began to feel really inconsequential and unimportant in such a world. 

This newer work similar in spirit, seems to have evolved simply by doing my job and getting back to work but took a number of years to surface. 2002 now seems was a gestation period of little work and much burn out from drawing, painting and photographing heavily prior to that.

incidents & interesections

"snow covered car" (c) 1987 george elsasser

INCIDENTS & INTERSECTIONS (1987-) FORMAL STATEMENT: I explore those points in my visual life where the natural and the artificial meet. The conflicts, tension and ironies thus generated appear to be analogous for corresponding meeting places in our inner lives. Some viewers have remarked on the presence in my work of conflict between thought and feeling, conscious and subconscious, [reality] and [dream]. There are inner boundaries that are implied by the exploration of visual boundaries in my images. Theses images are not [formalistic] in the sense that formal relationships constitute the essence of the works’ meanings; rather, their main thrust is the use of formal visual relationships to stimulate awareness of relationships within ourselves. 

Often I do not understand the point of many of my images until long after I have made them. Part of being an artist is being a sensitive viewer; much of the fun of the process comes from being stimulated by my own work.

photographer's pencil

"drawing of woman's head" (c) 1997-2000 george elsasser

PHOTOGRAPHER'S PENCIL (drawings;1997-2000) This group covers drawings made between 1997 and 2000. These drawings were begun about half way through the making of the photographs in particle pool

One might refer to these drawings as personages. I made them from emotional necessity with the spirit of automatism in heart and hand. As with the paintings they were also made in an attempt to loosen and further inform my photographic language. 

These drawings were made very quickly in sessions lasting 2 to 3 hours in length sometimes longer or until I felt satiated. The sessions produced many drawings per outing, some pieces more successful than others. I drew a lot when I was young and then in college, both eras producing heavily labored efforts leaving only technique. For sure I was now being called by a medium I had mostly an adolescent relationship with. I was finally free as a mature artist and image-maker to reacquaint my self with graphite. 

I believe my thoughts in approaching this work were that speed can deliver emotional impact and polish can remove it. Over the years I had found that photography (a quick medium) had the ability to harness my subconscious thought in images I was seemly drawn to make. I recognized if my strengths as an image-maker were aligned with a medium like photography that I would play to them and trust my instincts. 

Finally I wanted to throw all the rules from drawing class out the window, I didn't mind the endless graphite refuse getting on the piece and along the way decided to use it (in fact court it) to slur and blur lines as a slow camera shutter might. Or as a blues player would bend and slur notes on guitar strings to accent more feeling in a solo. I wanted this work to have a raw power, so even the application of smuge-blurs were applied with quick aggressive jabs. 

I believe as people we do not hold a single visual image in our minds when we think of each other, but a composite of rapid thought-images culminating in a kind-of thought-feeling if I may. 

By the time this project seemed like it was done with me I had easily 1500 drawings to choose from, I'm still doing so. Like photography many sketches and attempts are executed and only a few images out of those efforts truly have a life of their own. 

see paintings bottom of page

Friday, July 20, 2012

Field Notes-2 (2012)

"kids on ferry" (c) 2012 george elsasser

Field Notes - will be a place I post new photos I am considering, studying & so forth. These are not presently images you will find on my website. If you missed them here are Field Notes-1.

One of the things going on in most images below is a concentration on using the patterns, shapes, positions, repetitions of arms and hands. While I am posting this stuff I thought it might be of help to others if I tell you what I am after.

(So info in these will be intended for teaching, - hopefully some people will find the information of value) 

Please drop me a comment and let me know if this helps anyone.  I do not know everything about photography, but am happy to pass on things I have learned.

"american flag and beach goers" (c) george elsasser

 "beach patio' (c) 2012 george elsasser

(I enjoy the sense of mystery I get from the man in the black suit, it to me is as if he dropped in from another place maybe an agent. Why is he here in a tranquil setting?  I have enjoyed the hand full of times a person has shown up in a photo they seem to not belong too.)

Liked this one initially, but I am about to reject it. This "mind changing" "post post letdown" will be part of  the "Field Notes"  personality.

I find it interesting when the compositions utilize multiple triangles in the structure, certainly not a conscious thing on my part, these events happen much to quickly for that.

"family at the beach" (c) 2012 george elsasser

'bike riders" (c) 2012 george elsasser

(Sometimes the Gods do help us. "Neptunium" Bicycle?)

"people walking" (c) 2012 george elsasser

 (Another person who seems dropped into the photo for me (it must be his stillness next to the movement of the others that increases this sensation I get). I enjoy studying the stride of people in my images. It is crucial to me from one frame to the next which one has the tension or spring in the movement.)

"girl posing" (c) 2012 george elsasser

(I enjoy the diagonal line implied by the boys arm but more so the subtle reinforcement of that diagonal by his turned gaze. I often hope and try to tie together like colors running from front, middle and rear ground together.) 

"people photographing sculpture" (c) 2012 george elsasser

(Here I enjoy the triangle created between the foreground women's arm and body and the one created by her head and arm forcing a triangle to appear top left.  If it was not for the triangle created by the man (RT) by his elbow and arm the image would fail for me.  It is nice luck, serendipity or synchronicity (chose your poison) that his bag is red and there are red shapes in the mid ground by the column. As an image maker I ask myself what would happen as I begin to remove  these things from the photograph. The man white tee shirt (RT) on beach and his forward lean and movement also help to pull the eye to the (RT) side of the image, especially important because the image is loaded heavily left. White also pulls the eye strongly to itself.  The other thing that works here is the blue shirt (LT) side and the blue stripped shorts (RT) side.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

LOOK3 (event pictures)

"Look3, Lynn Johnson's opening" (c) 2012 george elsasser
People chatting at Lynn Johnson's opening
"Look3 Paramount Theater" (c) 2012 george elsasser
Paramount Theater

"Alex Webb at Lynn Johnson's opening, Look3" (c) 2012 george elsasser
Alex Webb enjoys Lynn Johnson's opening

"Camille Seaman talks with colleagues Look3" (c) 2012 george elsasser
Camille Seaman talks shop with colleagues

"Bruce Gilden at Johnson's opening at Look3" (c) 2012 george elsasser
Bruce Gilden enjoying the Johnson opening

"Bruce Gilden installation at Look3" (c) 2012 george elsasser
Gilden meets Evan's sign

Other Look3 info here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Field Notes-1 (2012)

"beach family and body board" (c) 2012 george elsasser

Here are some recent images I am pleased with. Similar style images are found here in Field Notes-2. My thoughts at this time are to include some candid street type moments (which in artistic concerns are on a similar wave length as my largest body of work in incidents & intersections) into my current book which of course means I just signed up for a ton more work. 

 "hula hoop" (c) 2012 george elsasser

The book currently involves work from 2005-2010. I am thinking I might be pulling from 2001 to present, not sure yet, but it has become a wide open project. 
I am thrilled to mention, I am going to release some control and get another set of eyes on my greater body of images to see if it can not be a little more holistic in scope of pictures used. I have chosen to work with Mike Davis for his excellent skills as an photo editor, graphic sensibilities and especially because his background is slightly different than mine. All the better to bring new things to the table. 

So I have made my ambitions for my book considerably larger. I am trusting the process and plan to take the revamped one with me to photolucida next April.
some background on my candid work:

Sans a few late 70s NYC street images, I guess some of the first of my street images were made in December of 2001 in NYC at the WTC site. Hopefully the best of those will surface on the blog eventually. To pay for a roof I did candid-journalist wedding photography from 1996-2008, which began to make me attracted to candid moments in general and this eventually got me working on that in my personal work.  I thoroughly enjoyed capturing the energy emotions and movement at those events, trying to move and flow in and out of situations was very challenging and fun. It reminded me of childhood little league and sports in general. The physicality, rhythm and timing needed to be developed were a joy to work on.

Now doing this kind of dance in public is entirely different,in public I am not given "cart blanch-right of way" as I had at weddings. It has taken me a few years to develop some techniques to get interesting images in the public world in a sea of moving people.

It is the same energy and unfolding and collapsing of events in real time that excites me. Finding ways to ebb and flow through an ever changing situation is a blast. It reminds me of younger days when I surfed, because in that sport one moves with and on the surface of a constantly changing form.

My small urban landscape thing is much more akin to snow skiing where the mountain does not move, I move and it stays the same.  Well in fact this analogy is bent. With every movement the photographer or skier makes what is seen or occluded changes quite a bit. On the street with people it is all motion at once, it is fantastic, moving water not frozen.

Strangely enough the rate of successful images seems about the same, even when one setting seems to me an easier situation. Which leads me to believe there are things going on beneath the surface of what I perceive. Taping into this flow no matter the work or approach is a lot of what I am about. As I said before after so many years photographing and living life I feel more like an instrument being played than someone playing an instrument.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Exhibition Review: Intersections: 20 yr. retrospective of photographs by George Elsasser (2of2)

"river grass" (c) 1994-2000 george elsasser

The  following is:
Copyright (c) 2010, The Virginia-Pilot. Reprinted with permission.
The original article appeared in Port Folio Weekly December 7-14 issue, 1997.

From Stark To Lively, Photographer Captures Life
By Catherine Dorsey

Over the past 20 years, the work of photographer George Elsasser has made the progression from stark black and white photos to painterly Polaroids to brilliantly colored and dreamlike abstractions.  Each stage holds it’s own fascination: Elsasser’s multi-faceted talent is evident in a retrospective on view at the Hermitage Foundation Museum in Norfolk.

The earliest photos in black and white demonstrate the beginnings of Elsasser’s exploration of contrast and form over content, a journey which culminates in the artist’s most recent images called the Colorfield series.  The 1980 image Window isolates one section of a steamed-over glass pane.  A few water droplets course through the intricate pattern made by the steam, leaving their snail-trail on the heavily beaded surface.  The patterns in the corner of a stainless steel kitchen sink become the subject for Sink. The interesting curves and reflections of the slick steel, spangled with a textural coating of shimmering water droplets, are focal points while the object becomes secondary.

Elsasser’s images become more complex as they progress chronologically.  Objects arranged in odd and unexpected settings create a surreal atmosphere.  The trompe l’ oeil effect achieved in the 1992 image No Fish is uncanny.  A pot holder shaped like a fish, at first startling in it’s lifelike appearance, rests in the seat of a molded deck chair.  The simple composition sets a complex chain of thoughts in motion by altering our perceptions of reality.  While the photograph is a color image, the delicately tinted fish provides the only color against the stark white plastic chair.  The viewer tends to first perceive the photo as black and white, which it is not, and the fish as real, which it is not.

Three black and white portraits from the early 90’s are quite natural and have a frank quality that is refreshing.  A series of spontaneous manipulated Polaroids retain the surrealism found in several of Elsasser’s larger images.  In Apple, a bright red apple is blurred into wavy lines while it’s reflection in a stainless steel toaster remains crisp and clear.

Intense color and thoughtful composition are hallmarks of Elsasser’s new large-scale Colorfield photographs, which utilize focus rather than light as tools to shape the image to his mind’s eye.  A few sharply focused details emerge from the blurred and often incomprehensible organic subject matter.  The eye struggles to discern individual objects in these brilliant tapestries of color. Two withered stalks of grass and a pine cone stand in stark contrast to the soft green and brown wash of blurred greenery in Colorfield-56. The viewer becomes a voyeur in Colorfield-72.  A stockade-like row of slender tree trunks are in focus in the foreground, while the sunlit landscape beyond flirtatiously eludes the eye.  The golden vista tantalizes by remaining forever just out of reach.

Catherine Dorsey was in the art gallery business for 12 years. She is a native of Norfolk and has a degree in Art History from University of Richmond.

The Colorfield Series is now called Particle Pool

Different review of intersections
Information on Particle Pool

Sunday, July 1, 2012

website galleries

02-21-14 (update)

These links lead to my current portfolios and information about them.  If you have any questions please feel free to send me an email.  

I am continuing to improve my new site hopefully making things much easier. I apologize for any inconveniences.  Thanks for visiting.


observing liberty

Mammals at the beach

In Step

After 10 years of photographing weddings in a candid style I became interested in street photography. It seems to be a combination of some of my current landscape concerns along with trying to get me into a position that locates people in positions I find pleasing as they visually interact with the landscape.  working portfolio flickr

plane encounters


fencing flora

Effigies  (2004-)

Photographer's Pencil  (drawings:1997-2000)  

Particle Pool  (1994-2001)

Incidents & Intersections (1983-)

Excavation  (1977-1983)

arrivals & departures  2013-
working portfolio flickr

"reflection in old glass" (c) george elsasser

Leela  2005-
working portfolio at flickr

"outdoor stairs on rock wall" (c) george elsasser

Current b&w  1994-   
working portfolio at flickr          

Still Remains  2005- 
working portfolio at flickr        

PAINTINGS  (1992-2000) 
portfolio - not shown at this time

This group includes both mixed media, works on paper and paintings on canvas. They as the drawings, were made to aid in loosening and further informing my photographic work. At the time I begun these paintings I felt photography was not giving me the visceral or emotional impact I sought at the time. In addition I really felt a strong attraction to the surfaces of paintings and that language mostly is non existent in photographic prints. When I stand next to a painting (particularly modern ones) I often want to inspect them with my hands in addition to my eyes. Sculpture is almost irresistible in this regard but unfortunately I know better. I wanted a heavier hand so-to-speak with a more blatant emotional energy and wanted to shake my photographic history somewhat. These were the first paintings I had made while not pursuing a formal education other than some I had made during my childhood.