Thursday, September 22, 2016

Brush Strokes In The Air ~

Last week I used the word "painterly" in describing a photo I had posted on Facebook. Normally, this would not be the cause of much excitement, but that's not how my life works. I got caught up in a conversation with a couple of my younger colleagues who were unfamiliar with that word, especially in the context of a photograph. Was it derogatory? complimentary? To help clarify, I assured them that it was, um... both. I'm helpful that way.

Coming of age in photography in the 1970's put me squarely in the Ansel Adams - Group f64 era. You've seen these photos, beautiful and powerful every one of them, largely black & white, and largely large. As in, big negatives, big prints. It was modernist at its core: crisp tonal values and a brilliant sharpness-to-infinity with an unstructured approach to natural composition and arrangement. There are some who thought that this was the ultimate expression of reality, but no. It wasn't. But what it did do was distinguish modern photography from it's soft-focus, pictorial origins. Those old photographs were painterly; the modern photograph is not.

But does this hold hard and true in the digital era? I have my doubts. I no longer have my medium  and large-format cameras, nor Tri-X film, nor my darkroom. I'm forced to look at the world with a different set of eyes, so to speak, and to adjust my vision accordingly, and digital technologies allow for a practically unlimited adjustment. This is photography's third big wave, one with an enormous potential for experimentation. And no, I'm not necessarily talking about being able to turn your photo into an oil painting at the push of a button (although that is sometimes so cool), but hopefully something that reaches far down inside of you. You know what I'm talking about.

So, No. I don't want my photographs to look like paintings; I didn't back was I was studying art, and I don't now. But things are different, and I want the freedom to express photography on my terms now. I find myself adding layer upon layer of my own vision, messing with color, with texture, with tonal values, with the voices in my head. Is it still a photograph? Yes. Is it...painterly? Sometimes, but so what. I'm an art-anarchist: follow those voices in your own head, and no one else's. They won't lead you astray.

Well, most of the time, anyway.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Keep Calm and Carry On ~

The new iPhone 7 was just recently announced, and being the incurable iPhone enthusiast that I am, I feel compelled to say a word or two on the subject. And here's why. Ever since that announcement, the interwebs have gone a little crazy, enlivening even my own personal Facebook account, with a lot of end-of-the-imaging-world hand wringing. Bear in mind most of my internet connections and Facebook friends are imaging professionals, many of them in the camera manufacturing biz. Among them there is much rending of garments and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I even saw a "this is a sad day, indeed" post from one of them.

Clearly my people need me.

To be honest, I can't get too worked up about it one way or the other. Their fear -- and there seems much of it to go around -- is that the high-quality camera in the new iPhone will spell doom to the point-and-shoot digital camera market. Well, duh. But let's be honest: that doom was foretold seven or so years ago when decent cameras were first put into smartphones, just no one's gotten around to taking it very seriously until now. And to their end, I say: so what? The great camera manufacturers are free to explore the realms of imaging technology unimaginable just a few years ago, unfettered by the need to stay competitive in the consumer point-and-shoot market. Frees up a lot of cash, folks. Tell me that's not a good thing.

I know you're dying to find out: am I going to get the new iPhone 7? Well, I don't know; probably, just not right away. I haven't even seen one yet; as of this writing only the smallest handful of earthlings have. But I have good equipment already. I have lovely Canon glass in the studio, and a mirrorless Fuji to get serious with outside. And I always...always... have my iPhone 6s with me the rest of the time, so I am, as they say, good to go.

So to my Facebook friend I will say that, yes, there are truly sad things one can say in photography these days, but they're not what you think. Say what you will about the late Mr. Jobs,  but when he reminded us that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you, that is what changed the world. Because the saddest phrase ever uttered, in the long history of our beloved medium, is this: ".... darn, I wish I had my camera."

Just breaks my heart.