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Angled and not

Angled and not

It’s the seeing that is all. These maps are metaphors that remind me of seeing.

Boston Street

Boston Street, originally uploaded by jjvornov.

One of the drawbacks of the Sigma Foveon is the lack of support for RAW conversion by the usual tools. Files get processed by the Sigma software prior to being brought into Aperture.

Sigma has added a monochrome conversion to the newest version of Sigma Photo Pro. In keeping with Vincent Versace’s dictum to do RAW conversion for Nikon “the Nikon way”, I’m trying monochrome conversion for the DP2 “the Sigma way”.

I think it’s an impressive result, providing a level of image quality that can’t be reproduced by any other camera this size. The Leica ME has a different way of rendering as a system but also requires a good bit more of me as a photographer for image capture.

Splattered Right

Splattered Right, originally uploaded by jjvornov.

With the price reductions of the new Merrill versions of the SIgma compacts, I finally upgraded from my original version of the DP1. I found that the Sigma was not only the camera I’ve been carrying with me lately, but it’s also been the instrument used to capture some of my best images over the years.

With a single day of ownership, so far I’m impressed with the improvements in the labeling and operations of the camera. It’s a bit bigger and a bit heavier, but it’s faster and more convenient to control.

At this point I have too many tool choices to have a capture workflow that lets me work without the fumbling that can ruin seeing. I’m hoping that daily capture with the Sigma will start to get me there.

2012 Photography in Review

Cracked Earth, originally uploaded by jjvornov.

Cracked Earth
Negev, Israel

Overall, not a very productive year for me as photographer. On my extended trip to Israel in Febuary, I was unimpressed with the images I captured. Some nice travel landscape shots for personal memories, but nothing that spoke to me. Overall, only 24 images from 2012 posted to Flickr, most in the last 3 months.

With my new position, the drive to create visual art is back. The limitations of my current visual world seems to be part of the inspiration as I face the fact that I am a photographer of walls, parking lots and rocks.

I’m drawing much of my inspiration from the medium itself. Cameras and software provide a rich visual world that needs just to be fed with color, form, composition and gesture.

Art and Personal Identity

Leaves Dried Grate

We call it “self-expression”. These images are in some way a pure expression of self because I cannot explain them. I see light falling on a scene. Some particular combination of texture and contrast appeals to me. So I frame and capture an image. Through the viewfinder, it looks like one of my photographs.

Rachel, at I Still Shoot Film, says it well: My digital black and white photographs don’t look like “me.”

One of the first rolls of film I ever shot, back in about 1981, yielded and image I called, “Broken Sidewalk”. I printed it in the Emory School of Medicine Department of Anatomy’s darkroom and entered it in a show. My images are still echoes of “Broken Sidewalk”. Is it surprising that my images still look like “me”?

Circle of Friends and Fellows

Ivy Potted

Here’s a little different take on practicing in public from worldwide street photographers via Alex Coghe. The issues raised by having instant access to captured images and easy publication to the world seem to run counter to traditional concepts of artistry. I’ve argued that these old concepts are largely an illusion- artists have always tended to form communities for support and inspiration. Our means are different being instant and distributed. Same world, different methods.

Was working slowly in the film world of benefit? I doubt it. One just tended to do more editing in process because of the cost in time and money of film, processing and printing. But I still ended up with a hundred or so candidate images to chose two or three to spend an afternoon or a few days with in the darkroom. They went into a folder then, maybe to be submitted to a show or shown to my circle of friends and fellows.That was the recognition such as it was. And most of the comments were no different from the Flickr page- nice capture.

Can one complain about working without recognition? I see my work as inconsistent and occasional. I’m an amateur in the traditional sense, since I don’t depend on photography for income. I have a goal of bringing my work into local spaces because I think the process of printing and getting my work shown somewhere would be rewarding.

This image was for myself primarily and happily shared with my small audience. This is the 10th image in this series and I think I’m honing in on the idea of black and white or desaturated images that emphasize light and formal structure of my usual style. I’m practicing in public, hoping to return to the best of these images after I’ve explored the ideas a bit.

How do you make a rail that stops?

How do you make a rail that stops?

It seems that my writing yesterday must also have been in response to Mike Johnston’s distinction between artist and photographer. This is a little different take on the idea of the artist working in isolation, burying the mistakes and emerging into the world with a fully conceived body of work.

Again, I don’t think it’s ever been like this for artists. Our online world is public in a way that the world has never known before, but just because my acquaintances now can be found around the world rather than just around my city, I maintain that my peer group gives my support and feedback in the process of developing art.

Perhaps what is missing is the editing process of creating a portfolio or hanging a show. We tend to work continuously with the flow marked by occasional important images. I’ve tried a few times to go back through the few hundred images I’ve created, but the result is a personal collection.

I’m paid well at my job. I get pleasure from making the images and motivated by working through problems. Obviously now I’m taken by black and white images where structure creates gesture. These urban and suburban fragments are what are in front of me and the camera, the light and form have always been of visual interest.

So photographers, if you want to be artists, simply work on the problems that are attractive. Once it gets too easy or boring to create a particular kind of image, move on. Ask the next question. The old answer is now personal history.

Practicing in Public

Ivy Aside

Joel Meyerowitz, now 75, is becoming the voice of photography, the voice of the artist for me. Here’s a remarkable sit down video of him describing the lifelong journey of an artist. At about 7 minutes in he talks about moving from phase to phase as an artist. I’m taken by the idea that at some point one reaches a competency and understanding of an artistic problem followed by a choice of whether to pursue the next artistic question at hand. Meyerowitz likens it very aptly to the process of a scientist, experimenting and exploring questions- sometimes with great results and sometimes for long periods down blind alleys.

I thought about the companints I’ve heard from fine artists about how the internet has changed expectations of the speed of output. Traditionally, an artist might spend years on a project, exploring out of the public eye, generating a new body of work. The work would then be revealed as complete just like a script or musical composition would be performed when done. Now we post a photo a day to Flickr, write about process and technique in our artists blogs and otherwise experiment in public.

The truth is that artists have rarely been successful working in isolation. We have circles of friends, families, gallery owners, mentors and trusted critics who get to see the work being done and provide some outside, independent opinion on the work as it forms. While being able to edit one’s own work is a necessary skill for success, being coachable is an equally valuable skill.

oel Meyerowitz spent months on the streets shooting with Garry Winogrand and Tod Papageorge. He’d show proofs to John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art for feedback

When I’m actively working, I have Flickr and this weblog to serve a similar purpose with a virtual circle of artists who appreciate what I’ve been trying to do over the years. When things work well, we don’t just give each other animated GIF awards, but we point out what works in some photos and ignore the ones that don’t connect. I seek inspiration from mentors who directly teach on the web or like Meyerowitz and David Allen Harvey act as mentors to broader audiences. I’ve developed as a photographer in these online communities lacking a local photo salon and access to museum curators.

Ivy Again

Ivy Again

Funny how things fall apart.

I took a few minutes on Thanksgiving day to try the 105mm Nikon Micro lens on the D800. The camera was still in Monochrome display mode, shooting raw, so I saw Black and White images on the LCD as I reviewed the shots. Immediately, I reacted against the loss of color from the fall palate around the yard, so switched it back to Standard color mode.

Reviewing images in Aperture this morning for the first time, I liked the image that I took just before this one- a pretty similar framing of the ivy on the tree bark. But it was horribly out of focus and blurred. This one was better, but if you look at the EXIF of the image, it was shot handheld at 1/10 of a second. Even with the stabilization build into the 105mm, it’s technically a poor capture.

As I started processing the color image, I was fighting the lack of subject in the photo, what Vincent Versace calls in his books a primary isolate from CJ Elfont’s Isolate Theory. I find myself in this situation way too often and it comes from the lack of mindfulness that I have all too often behind the camera. It starts with an emotional connection to something seen but requires technical expertise to capture the most usable image file to express what was seen. Creating it afterward is nice practice, but in my experience never as successful.

At some point, I bail out. Back in black and white, the image works as a texture study. Having deliberately to work in color, I’ve taken it back to monochrome. There’s a little bit of light and a little bit of structure in it, but not worth much more than a glance for me in this final state. In my darkroom days, this would have gone into the reject box. Now I write about it and show it to dozens on Flickr and here on the blog.


Just Missed

Just Missed, originally uploaded by jjvornov.

Another factor in my return to photography is setting up a fixed workstation. Since I now spend workdays at an office, I no longer have a multi-computer work setup. My 13″ Macbook Air was the perfect tool for my decentralized work habits, sharing the desk with a docked Windows laptop for corporate use.

I’ve set up a nicely spec’ed Mac Mini as a workstation, providing me speed and storage. I can sit down and quickly enter the photographic workflow that I’m rebuilding based on the new Versace books.

The Nikon D800 is the perfect tool in town with the large travel zoom on the shelf and a small prime mounted. I think the waterfront and the historic streets of Canton will serve for subjects during these short late fall days.