Sunday, September 21, 2014

Quatrain #33: Échelle Européenne

After taking a three week tour to Europe recently, the perceptions brought home are multi-layered, and intricate, but most of all what I think about is scale. I've been to big cities before, with big buildings, big spaces, and yes, sprawl as far as the eye can see, studded dense with urban constructs. But there's something that makes me blink and do a double take in Europe, and that's about the size of some the architectural specimens visible there. Even on 21st century terms, those folks who designed and hewed were thinking big. No, strike that… I meant colossal. It is sublime to not only stand amongst these wonders, but to think of being part of the human family they have sung to for hundreds and in some cases, even a couple thousand years.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Quatrain #32: Nailed It

Not many ways to express this sort of experience other than shouting, "YES, nailed it!" It was like this after working for weeks on a new website design that took me into the deep, dark, depths of Javascript. It never ceases to amaze me how long it might take to learn something new. In my case it was something as simple as creating a thumbnail rollover to produce a caption under an image. Sounds simple enough, right? Why yes, it only took me about five days to get a handle on, and then perfect the code so it would operate as envisioned. Perseverance is the key to success in so many things. Regardless of the sometimes down-and-out, can't-see-the-forest-through-the-trees, I'm-going-to-try-this-one-more-time state of being, the commitment to finish a job and obtain results after such a long time, is incredibly satisfying.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Quatrain #31: Figure & Ground

Figure is the object of attention; ground is everything else in the perceptual field. The relationship between figure & ground is always bound together because it is quite simply one of the most fundamental aspects of human perception that enables us to identify, order, and group information, process it, and ultimately make sense or meaning from it. We just can't help it. It's just what the brain does with visual information. So as far as the visual arts goes, if there is a strong figure-ground relationship, then the perception of an image is strengthened and offers greater clarity to convey ideas to a viewer. It seems as if no matter how hard one works at it, figure cannot exist without ground.

In the construction of two-dimensional imagery there are two basic figure-ground strategies that visual artists have at their disposal. The first strategy is referred to by its namesake as a figure-ground image, which refers to certain objects, points or spaces that are emphasized and easily distinguished from the rest of the image. The rest of the image is then a supporting visual element, and a viewer perceives a separate figure within the ground of the image. The second strategy, known as a field image, refers to the opposite visual effect, in that each part of the image is just as important as every other part. No object, point, or space is emphasized or dominates perception, so viewers perceive the image as a whole: figure enmeshed and intertwined within the ground of the environment itself.

But here's something to make all that come undone. The aforementioned definitions are based on the idea that all humans see the exact same way, but the fact is, we don't. The sequence in which one perceives figure & ground is clearly dependent upon the cultural and economic structures a person was raised in. Comparing specifically, far-eastern cultures to western-european cultures, University of Michigan social psychologists [Hannah-Faye Chua & Richard Nisbett] have done years of research to reveal this phenomenon. Here's a hyper-abridged version of their research, which is extracted from a newspaper article I found in 2005 that conveys the essence of their work.

When shown a photograph, North American students of European background paid more attention to the object in the foreground of a scene, while students from China spent more time studying the background and taking in the whole scene. Nisbett illustrated this with a test asking Japanese and Americans to look at pictures of underwater scenes and report what they saw. The Americans would go straight for the brightest or most rapidly moving object, he said, such as three trout swimming. The Japanese were more likely to say they saw a stream, the water was green, there were rocks on the bottom and then mention the fish. [View the entire 2005 Associated Press article].

Reading about this research by means of the article I've quoted arrested me, and it has ever since served as a reminder that the worst thing one can do is assume that the person next to you is seeing the same thing you are.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Quatrain #30: Syzygy & Syncopation

Syzygy is a term used in poetry to define rhythmic structure [meter] of a verse, but it is also a term used to define the perception of a linear configuration of three or more celestial bodies in a gravitational system. Let's say for example that one evening you saw the planets Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury in proximity to one another — it's a syzygy.

Originally inspired and constructed to illustrate the post I made in December 2013 about interdisciplinary skills, I re-titled and re-contextualized this quatrain here, and then inserted a new image in that post because it's simply a better fit here in the larger scheme of things. The intention is to bring the idea front and center that images have tremendous agility to change meaning and metaphor based on their respective viewing context, and that sometimes they simply offer stronger visual impact when they are viewed in a specific order or sequence.

Each quatrain has syzygy, and for certain some more so than others, like this one, but the project as a whole offers the viewer syzygy, too. Perhaps a better term to describe some of the connective tissue of the project is syncopation, which more commonly defines how music sometimes uses irregularities to make all or part of a composition unified. The placement of irregular notes, beats, or rhythms [visual threads or accents] are critical components that help tie the whole thing together. My intent here is to overlay the concept because it functions very similarly with visual art.

Take a closer look at how not only this assembly fits into the continuum, but how they visually flow from start to finish thus far, and you might see what I mean. One of the intriguing aspects of this process is that the "project's score" just keeps moving forward to wander, wonder, and find the common, the unusual, and the unexpected confluence of language, visual flow and unification.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Quatrain #29: Presque Canadien

Almost Canadian. Writing about the essence of being Canadian wouldn't be complete without the bilingual, English translation.

Anyway... that's me, so I learned, sitting around a table with my siblings and some extended family one evening over the holidays. When I was too young to remember, my family came incredibly close to moving to Canada. I mean, I'm talking just being a few centimeters shy. Had only one circumstance been different, had one person been thinking differently, it would've happened.

The concept of it momentarily unnerved me, and although it has been weeks and weeks since that discussion it continues to fill me with wonder — what course would my life had taken had it been launched from a different geographic point, culture, political system, measurement system, language dynamics, friends, schools, jobs, and so many other facets of growing up? To be certain, all the unknown is mysteriously more intriguing that what is known.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Quatrain #28: Running Deer

I painted clouds in the sky with a tree and the deer went running.

Even at night the sun was out full force, and the moon levitated over a horizon's gutter.

Limited sight in this snowy desert promised more to see over an edge.

I found that it's all connected, never understanding how or why.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Quatrain #27: En Plein Air

En Plein Air is a French expression that defines the essence of somebody doing something in an outdoor environment. In the late 19th Century it was a phrase frequently used to describe the Impressionists and other groups of painters that preferred to produce their works outside. Today we just might call it working on location.

Nevertheless, what inspires the quatrain is a visceral sense of rawness, exposure to the elements, and the things we do sometimes to seek adequate shelter and protection to endure life's rough edges. Regardless of what form the protection [coping mechanism] takes, what the experience looks like to the outside world can be rather confusing, mysterious, and strange. Sometimes just being agile and adaptable, shifting into survival mode, taking cover, and letting function overshadow form is all one can do. These layers of protection are typically temporary, but sometimes they need to be built for the long term to enable growth and the act of moving forward. I mean, everyone has a security blanket, right? What's yours?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Quatrain #26: Slash & Burn

Last week's theme of stress gets this complementary visual, as Japan is marking the third anniversary of its tragic trifecta: the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake triggering a widespread tsunami on the Northeast coast, and the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.

Although the phrase slash and burn refers to a controlled burning technique in forest management, one could just as easily apply the concept to a disaster like this. An unfathomable amount of healing and recovery from this event will take years and probably even generations to achieve a state of normalcy. Let's hope that authorities can expedite the region's recovery process with the best of intentions to benefit the impacted inhabitants.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Quatrain #25: Storm & Stress

In the process of researching a title for this quatrain I discovered that it defines an 18th Century German literary movement that dealt with visceral reactions [revolt] against society. The movement held the natural world, intuition, impulse, instinct, and emotion in high regard. Germans call it Sturm und Drang.

I found this curious for a couple reasons. One being that the movement's manifesto defines some of the same experiences of producing the photographs for these quatrains. The second being that as I've been watching, listening, and reading about events unfolding in Ukraine over the past several weeks, I've noticed a strangely coincidental and synchronous presentation of news headlines and quatrain theme/titles. Just to clarify… I don't claim to be psychic, I just like to wonder about mysterious and intriguingly unexplainable things, like synchronicity.

Many weeks before #22, Dots & Dashes, we were hearing about the intensity of the protests in Kiev. I like to think that the morse code visually represents thousands of voices, which are impossible to record individually, but collectively shouting for real change. Around the release of #23, Vacancy Signs, the President had been ousted — some would argue in a coup d'etat — leaving a power vacuum in its wake. With the good news of change in favor of Western democratic ideals #24, Murmurations, brought rumors of Russian intervention. Most recently, Russia invaded and took over territory known as the Crimea, bringing a new phase of storm and stress to the region.

Besides the magnitude of all that, life in general has its fair share of storm & stress, but regardless we tend to carry it with such calm and tranquility. Get real and revolt. Don't just think, shout outloud, I'm stressed! You'll feel better.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Quatrain #24: Murmurations

Around the time of first grade, there was this small sign taped in the doorway that was always easily visible as I made my way out of the house. Stop, Look, & Listen… 

It was an easy expression to recall, which as a kid, simply made the experience of crossing the roads on the way to school safer. The expression became sort of a chant, and it resonated in my mind like a good friend who was continuously reminding me in a calm, low, indistinct voice; some might call it a murmuration.

What's kind of funny about this is that the practice to stop, look, and listen never seemed to disappear as I grew into being a photographer. The experience of safely crossing roads became habit, and yet the practice of these simple acts turned up to define the essence of seeing and creating images. On the flip side of this, as a viewer, consider how images inform your other sensory experiences. I mean, upon viewing this quatrain, can you hear leaves falling, or the wind blowing… an airplane engine droning high up above… the shrill of a flock of starlings swooping in the sky, and synchronous to one another's every movement… a low rumble of distant thunder? If not, so be it… I can.

But what about the fish form, and where on Earth did that come from? How is this even possible? How can a flock of birds strike a collective pose as a fish? I believe that it can partially be explained with a quote by Louis Pasteur that I like to murmur from time to time, "chance favors the prepared mind."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Quatrain #23: Vacancy Signs

Viewer participation requested.
Click on the image to enlarge, then
describe what you see…

Use the comments link below.

Viewers writing about this post are to define its idea, not me…

Monday, February 10, 2014

Quatrain #22: Dots & Dashes

.--. .... --- - --- --. .-. .- .--. .... -.-- / .. ... / - .... . / ... ..- .--. .-. . -- . / ..-. --- .-. -- / --- ..-. / ...- .. ... ..- .- .-.. / -.-. --- -- -- ..- -. .. -.-. .- - .. --- -. / --- -. / - .... . / .--. .-.. .- -. . - --..-- / .- -. -.. / - .... . / -.-. --- -- .--. .-. . .... . -. ... .. --- -. / --- ..-. / .. - ... / ...- .- .-. .. --- ..- ... / ..-. --- .-. -- ... / .. ... / .. -. - . --. .-. .- .-.. / - --- / ... ..- .-. ...- .. ...- .. -. --. / .. -. / - .... .. ... / -.-. ..- .-.. - ..- .-. . .-.-.- / .- .-.. - .... --- ..- --. .... / .. - / -- .- -.-- / ... --- ..- -. -.. / .- .-. .-. --- --. .- -. - / - .... . / .. -.. . .- / .. ... / -. --- - / -. . .-- .-.-.- / - .... . / -.. . -- --- -.-. .-. .- - .. --.. .- - .. --- -. / --- ..-. / - .... . / -- . -.. .. ..- -- / .-- .- ... / ..-. ..- .-.. .-.. -.-- / .- -. - .. -.-. .. .--. .- - . -.. / -... -.-- / ... --- -- . / .. -. / - .... . / --. --- .-.. -.. . -. / .- --. . / --- ..-. / -- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. . --..-- / .- -. -.. / .-.. --- -. --. / -... . ..-. --- .-. . / - .... . / -.. .- .-- -. / --- ..-. / -.. .. --. .. - .- .-.. / - . -.-. .... -. --- .-.. --- --. .. . ... .-.-.- / .... . .-. . .----. ... / --- -. . / --- ..-. / -- -.-- / ..-. .- ...- --- .-. .. - . / --.- ..- --- - . ... / - --- / . -- .--. .... .- ... .. --.. . / - .... . / .--. --- .. -. - .-.-.- / .-..-. - .... . / .. .-.. .-.. .. - . .-. .- - . / --- ..-. / - .... . / ..-. ..- - ..- .-. . / .-- .. .-.. .-.. / -... . / - .... . / .--. . .-. ... --- -. / .. --. -. --- .-. .- -. - / --- ..-. / - .... . / ..- ... . / --- ..-. / - .... . / -.-. .- -- . .-. .- / .- ... / .-- . .-.. .-.. / .- ... / - .... . / .--. . -. .-.-.- .-..-. / .-.. .- --.. .-.. --- / -- .- .... --- .-.. -.-- -....- -. .- --. -.-- / .- .-. - .. ... - --..-- / .--. .... --- - --- --. .-. .- .--. .... . .-. --..-- / ..-. .. .-.. -- -- .- -.- . .-. --..-- / -.. . ... .. --. -. . .-. --..-- / .- -. -.. / - . .- -.-. .... . .-. .-.-.- / .... ..- -. --. .- .-. .. .- -. / .---- ---.. ----. ..... -....- .---- ----. ....- -.... / - .... . / --.- ..- --- - . / .. ... / ..-. .-. --- -- / - .... . / --. . .-. -- .- -. / -... --- --- -.- / -... .. .-.. -.. . .-. / -.. . .-. / .--. .... --- - --- --. .-. .- .--. .. . / . .. -. / .- .-.. -... ..- -- / .--. .... --- - --- --. .-. .- .--. .... .. ... -.-. .... . .-. / -- . - .- .--. .... . .-. -.

[updated 17Feb14]:
Originally this post was only in Morse Code to convey its idea. In July 1999, the language was officially discontinued from being used as a form of international communication, and replaced by new technologies. So, just in case there's another time that someone sends you a cryptic message that looks like this, just copy and paste it HERE.
_________________________________________

Translation of the post:
Photography is the supreme form of visual communication on the planet, and the comprehension of its various forms is integral to surviving in this culture. Although it may sound arrogant the idea is not new. The democratization of the medium was fully anticipated by some in the golden age of morse code, and long before the dawn of digital technologies. Here's one of my favorite quotes to emphasize the point. "The illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen." Lazlo Maholy-Nagy
Artist, photographer, filmmaker, designer, and teacher. Hungarian 1895-1946
The quote is from the German book Bilder der Photograpie Ein Album Photographischer Metaphern

Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday, January 27, 2014

Quatrain #20: Labyrinth Walking

Like mandalas, labyrinths are typically circular features and they are used to facilitate an experience of mediation, but there are some significant differences between the two. Mandalas are used mostly in Hinduism & Buddhism, Labyrinths are rooted in Christian theology. People interact with mandalas by being in a still state of mind and body, whereas people interact with labyrinths by walking into them while seeking clarity and contemplating serious questions about their life. A central metaphor of the labyrinth emphasizes the idea that we are spirits on a human path, and not so much humans on a spiritual path.

Although visually complicated, labyrinths are not mazes because they typically have one point of entry and one path that leads to the center. The way out of a labyrinth is the same path in, and the basic design of its geometry is divided into fours [hey… like a quatrain!]. The intention of this posting is to affirm the act of producing photographs on a daily basis for the sake of the longer term. I think that producing images of only the "great stuff" encountered can limit potential and the extended range of vision. Producing images of even the most mundane fragments of subject matter too, over an extended period of time, can provide an intriguingly deep trail of salt while walking the day-to-day journey in. Because when editing on the way out what's rewarding is mysteriously found visual patterns, interactivity and continuity. When intuition whispers, photograph that, don't stop to question why... just do it!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Quatrain #19: Mandala Ensemble

Mandalas are rooted in Hinduism and Buddhism. The word in the ancient [India] Sanskrit language translates to circle. They are graphic representations [symbols] of the universe that can be rendered with a wide range of media, and that serve as instruments for meditation.

I first learned of mandalas while studying the works of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, circa 1990. Many years later while pursuing my graduate degree, I revisited the semiotics of these visual forms and produced interpretations of them. Upon completion of that body of work, I thought that it was the last time that I'd spend such a measurable period of time investigating and visually distilling their potential meaning, but this is simply not the case.

The moment these four parts coalesced into a whole I began searching again, just to make sure that I understood what a mandala is. Here's a straight-up definition that raised my eyebrows when holding it up to the visual, and from which a connection can be realized. The alignment of linear visual elements gave me several minutes of pause and appreciation of how the subconscious finds ways of presenting itself.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Quatrain #18: Vicissitudes

The word vicissitudes was a stunning find unto itself using a trusty, old thesaurus, and it immediately struck me as being the perfect integration of language to this visual. I like to use "expensive words," as one of my kids' language arts teachers describes it. She conditions her students to practice writing and editing with compelling adjectives — instead of saying good, say marvelous — and I concur. I mean really, when's the last time you used the word vicissitude? Certainly, I haven't until now, and that's going to change.

I made a post a few weeks ago about change and the idea of it being such a normal aspect of our day-to-day, high-technology existence. That was a professional rant, but this one is from a more personal place. Let's face it. Change can be highly charged with the idea of unfamiliarity, and straight-up fear of the unknown depending on the situation. Having said that, it makes me reflect on how I've seen others deal with change, and then even, how I deal with it. Somehow, I have this naïve idea that most people simply accept change and move forward without hesitation or disruption to their life flow. They are liberated by change. Then there are others that I've known, who grew up through the [1st] Great Depression for instance, that would become practically immobilized by change, because change caused them such great stress, anxiety, and hardship. That, by the way, is called misoneism — a hatred or dislike of what is new or represents change.

Everything in moderation, I guess.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Quatrain #17: White Water

People ask on occasion if I'm still working on "that quatrain project," ...and well, yes I am… actually. Looking at the posting date of Quatrain #16 means that it's been two years, so looks like I'm on schedule. What I mean to emphasize is that the time frame is intentional and that relatively long spans of time are integral threads of the project's identity. It requires lots of time and hundreds of photographs to produce an adequate range of works to edit and select. This next set draws from just as many images that were produced for the first collection of sixteen.

[updated 27Jan14]
January has proven to be the coldest and snowiest in recorded history around here. Interesting to see the timeliness of this posting, because of its inherent subject matter mostly, and because this was the type of weather statement frequently encountered via weather services. Maybe this can offer your sense of temperature some connection to the visuals, maybe not...
... WIND CHILL WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON EST WEDNESDAY...
HAZARDOUS WEATHER...
* TEMPERATURES WILL REMAIN IN THE SINGLE DIGITS TODAY... FALLING QUICKLY BELOW ZERO THIS EVENING.
* THE COLD TEMPERATURES COMBINED WITH A STEADY WIND OF 10 TO 15 MPH WILL CREATE WIND CHILL CONDITIONS OF 10 TO 20 BELOW ZERO THIS AFTERNOON.
* WIND CHILLS WILL DROP TO AS LOW AS 25 TO 35 DEGREES BELOW ZERO TONIGHT. THESE LOW WIND CHILL READINGS WILL CONTINUE INTO THE LATE MORNING ON TUESDAY.
* TEMPERATURES WILL STRUGGLE TO CLIMB INTO THE POSITIVE DIGITS TUESDAY AFTERNOON. DANGEROUSLY COLD CONDITIONS WILL PERSIST TUESDAY AFTERNOON AND TUESDAY NIGHT WITH WIND CHILL VALUES REMAINING 15 TO 30 DEGREES BELOW ZERO.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Interdisciplinary Skills Are The Way To Go

Two-minute, Pinhole Camera Exposure
Photography always has been, and always will be an uncertain and continuously changing medium and career choice, but change is not detrimental its value. On the contrary, it is an incredibly valuable and pivotal part of an emerging professional's dynamic packaging of proficiencies, and I'll explain why.

Everything changes over time, but something significant has changed about the idea of change itself; that being its frequency —› see Moore's Law. Several centuries ago people simply didn't experience the magnitude of change that we do in a global, high-technology culture, but rather, they celebrated the idea of how consistent things remained for generations. Need a glaring comparison? Social, political, cultural, and artistic stylization didn't change very much during the stunning 3000-year Ancient Egyptian civilization, yet I'm sure that you've learned of the incredible rate of change happening there recently, let alone what's occurring regionally.

Living in the hyper-accelerated digital paradigm shift of late 20th and early 21st Centuries, very few [if any] artistic or applied science is immune to changing. Take for instance a look at how the Journalism profession has changed so radically over the last decade with the print versions of newspapers, magazines and their respective staff being displaced one by one. If you watch closely you'll notice that change doesn't discourage the individuals who are passionate and dedicated to their craft and livelihood. Instead, change is embraced because it energizes and inspires them to courageously move forward, and that's exactly what makes a career with professional photographic skills so compelling. Integrating photography into a holistic career plan provides a solid technical foundation to complement several other disciplines in digital media arts such as, animation, graphic design, film & video, or web publishing.

In other words, to embrace the culture of hyper change students must build their resume with interdisciplinary skills to remain competitive and marketable for entry-level employment, starting a business, or transferring to another school. What is your "and…" has become the question for emerging professionals to form a response to, and to emphasize the point, some notable film makers made photography a part of their professional repertoire in addition to studying theater [lighting]. Individuals such as Ridley Scott took a measurable period of time in their career to study and critically analyze the formal properties of image making before going into motion pictures. When one's knowledge and functional skills of a third discipline is pursued to further complement a pairing, then the chances for career success are even greater [I'm a teacher, photographer and web designer]. Other potential combinations are animation and video, or graphic design and web publishing.

A comprehensive program of study, like at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, prepares students for real-world, visual problem solving —› see WCC. The Digital Media Arts department offers students the opportunity to build their interdisciplinary resume by means of the electives chosen, starting in the second semester of their degree pursuit. Their facilities prove to be the best available in the State of Michigan, and offers students a huge range of strategies to produce images, via the traditional darkroom, the studio, and digital labs. Student work is held accountable to professional standards found in various sectors of the industry, making the final portfolios of the graduates highly competitive for transfer to a four-year art school, with Junior class status. Ultimately, the program offers students the opportunity to explore a dynamic medium to convey ideas and offer personal interpretations of their world, in addition to offering interdisciplinary electives to increase their marketability and artistic depth.

The photo program course sequence provides technical sequencing and instruction in traditional and digital image capture, software workflow [primarily in Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop], studio lighting for small product and portraiture, business and ethical issues for visual artists, theme-based projects and final portfolio development. The labs are exclusive to the Apple Macintosh platform, the Adobe Creative Suite of software applications, Apple Final Cut Pro, and Maya 3D. A twenty-station traditional darkroom and black-and-white film processing facility are complemented with two, twenty-workstation digital imaging labs, and a six-bay studio that features Profoto lighting equipment, a full complement of tungsten lighting gear, and many more peripherals.

Please contact me if you are interested in learning more about where I teach.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quatrain #16: Winter Solstice

The shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere occurs this week. It's one of my favorite moments on the calendar because it represents a pivot point of dark and light. What I like about the darkness is that it gives me the perfect reason to ponder goals and strategies for the upcoming year, but it also gives me the time to think about what's occurred over the previous year.

So when I began to survey the last sixteen weeks to determine the project outcome, I kept wondering further instead of feeling any distinct sense of closure, which is what I anticipated. I mean, based on what I wrote in Quatrain #1, this was to be the last of the series, but now I'm not so sure, because there is a lot of satisfaction in producing these works. So, why stop now? Well, I realized that in order to continue with these constructions I simply need time to produce another critical mass of images, before I can produce another series of quatrains. This is based mostly on statistical odds you see, because it's not often that I have a situation resembling this one. In fact, I have to say that I've never had a situation quite like this before.

The first sixteen Quatrains are constructed from over 1,500 images captured over roughly fourteen months, which were edited down to about 250, and then edited down to the final 64 of the series. That's sort of like having a .042 batting average! Not exactly something to brag about, but just the same, that's the reality of being a visual artist, and many of my teachers reinforced the idea by expressing that one can never shoot too much.

As a matter of coincidence, and a great way to bookend the series, is the fact that my fireplace mantel, included above, is actually one of the first images I can point to when the collection began to take its form. And that opens the perfect segue to the winter solstice, which for me is a celebration of light, since it is from that day until June 21st on the summer solstice, that each day gets gets just a little bit longer than the previous one. Among others, that is a great thing to look forward to.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quatrain #15: Three Hour Blues

The week ahead promises to have its fair share of excitement, and perhaps even drama, as the clock ticks the remaining precious seconds from the closing hours of the semester. In particular, I am thinking of the students I've been working with in a course called Portfolio Seminar, which asked them the question fifteen weeks ago, "what do you plan to do with the rest of your photographic life?" Finding the answer to that is not as easy as one might think or want it to be. In short, it's a course that provides the tools and techniques to create not only a final portfolio with visual continuity and integrity, but a professional identity, a brand, and a basic marketing plan that is going to enable the next step of their photographic life.

These fifteen weeks have been all about thinking, dreaming, planning, creating, construction, deconstruction, and aspiring to new levels of excellence in themselves and their works. One of my teachers, Sam Abell, used an expression while editing work that I'll never forget, and that I now use frequently; meet or exceed. It speaks to the idea of determining what the best work you've ever produced is, and then holding every image produced in the meantime up to that. If a comparison is being made to see if the new work is as at least as good, or preferably better than the best already determined, then the expression can be invoked. It's one of the most useful measuring instruments I know of that perpetuates personal and professional growth.

So what's up with the three hour blues? If I divulge that now, then I'll spoil it for my students, since word has it that they've been reading this blog, too. Sorry, but you're going to have to ask one of them what I mean by this a week from now.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Quatrain #14: Chicago Jam Session

I felt the need to crack open the stillness implied in Fluidity Interrupted with a little fun, and found this arrangement asking a couple of my favorite questions about color. The trigger being that I have heard musicians and writers talk about how certain notes, sounds, and poetry convey ideas of color, even though perceived by means of auditory, instead of visual sensory. To clarify the point, could you imagine telling a pianist that the music they play sounds like a piano? Where in fact, if the artist knows how to control the instrument, a piano is capable of playing a wide range of genre, and a listener hears the music as a song, and not as a piano. So, this compels me to ask, what is the color of a voice? And, what is the voice of a color?


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quatrain #13: Fluidity Interrupted

I think there is something to be said about the idea of flow. The word gets used all the time to convey the essence of one's ability to get things done efficiently, and with fluidity. Workflow, for instance, is used frequently to define a pattern of efficient work habits, regardless of whether the task is being completed with traditional or digital methods. It's common jargon in a photographic context, as it's used to define the dynamism of an artist's interaction with their hardware, digital assets and software procedures, but ultimately, it defines their psychological flow of getting things done. I'd like to take this a step further by suggesting that flow also has this implied sense of patience, harmony, and even peacefulness.

If (when) my flow gets interrupted, then the disconnect becomes all the more amplified. I find it really ironic, actually. With all this flow that we can experience in this era of hyper-technology and interconnectedness, let me ask, how often does your psychological flow get disrupted by eMail, the phone, a text, a TV, or whatever else is going on around you? Ever think of just turning all that off sometimes just to find your flow?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Quatrain #12: Liquid Enlightenment

The boys high school water polo season concluded recently, and now swim season is here. Practice begins Monday with a 5,000 yard workout, and then virtually every day on the calendar thereafter is charted with practices or meets until mid-March. It's an impressive routine that makes for no less than an 17-hour day for my son.

As if school doesn't start early enough for teenagers, let's toss in 6:00am practices for good measure. That means, get up around 5:00am. Practice for two more hours after school? No problem. That'll keep those hormones from getting the upper hand. Hey, toss me a chocolate milk!... research has proven that it's the best recovery drink around. Got homework? Get it done by 10:00pm so you can get some sleep for gosh sakes, because if the GPA slips, then you're diplomatically dropped from the team. Maybe High School can be re-named High Stress instead.

Don't get me wrong. I think all this drilling, trimming, timing, stroking, styling, flying, breathing, kicking, and tapering, does wonders for a teenager. I swim two, sometimes three times a week myself and wouldn't trade it for any other form of exercise in the world. My selfish sarcasm is aimed at the idea that I should have a chauffeur's license rather than the standard issue Michigan driver's license. I have an ocean of driving time ahead of me. But on the other hand, I suppose that if I wasn't getting around town so much in the last year doing this, then a good portion of the quatrains wouldn't even exist. Hmmm... I'm torn.

So I'm not sure what my complaining and bargaining is about. Wait... oh, yeah, that DABDA thing... 'B' is bargaining. Zoiks.., I'm grieving! The fact is, his experience of high school exponentially transcends what mine was like, and that's a good thing. But this kind of commitment is something that I never, ever anticipated seeing when I signed up to be a parent. Sorry to dump on you like this, but thanks for listening.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Quatrain #11: Pressurized Instincts

It has been a crazy couple weeks... literally. I know a guy that has taken what many people might consider to be an unusual act. He dropped everything, and went to Russia. Can I blame him? Considering his situation, not really. He's just trusting his gut to find his idea of happiness. With respect to his family, I won't elaborate why.

Being on this side of the equation all I can do is chalk it up to, the older you get, the more losses you tend to incur. The reason I say this is because just within the past few years, I have witnessed several people abruptly change the idea of who they are, what they are made out of, where they live, when they can be contacted, how they choose to love someone, and then... why they even exist. It's stunning. It's courageous. It's nature taking its course. Each of us are standing on the sidelines of each other's life... watching... wondering... supporting... etc., and sometimes being their witness leaves us bewildered... cheering... enraged... etc. Intervention, and jumping into someone's issues from the sidelines to encourage a change of direction takes a massive commitment of time and resources. Ultimately however, change can only be made by, and from within the individual.

Midlife crises? Perhaps. The people I am speaking of range in age from early 40-something to late-50 something, so I guess it's all relative. Nevertheless, I like to think of it this way... life can just squeeze what appears to be working just fine into a complicated mess in a fraction of a second. The undeniable pressure of their lives eventually crushed them to the core, and the only path that remained visible and survivable was trusting the way of their instincts. It's not about being right or wrong, it's an affirmation that all we have left sometimes is what nature tells us to do.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Quatrain #10: Peculiar Singularities

Today, I need no commentary
Today, I do not need to speak
No explanation necessary

Song Lyrics quoted from David Gray; A Clean Pair of Eyes; Lost Songs 95-98

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Quatrain #9: Autumn Laugh

Spell fall backwards, and what do you get? And now I'm wondering if you did... laugh, I mean. It never ceases to amaze me how this season penetrates my mind with such a depth of muse and reflection. To bring a little balance to all the gravity that prevails, I like to recall a guy in high school tossing out a quote to class one morning; "life is too serious to be taken seriously," he said confidently.

In Michigan anyway, this season has so many properties of the natural world signaling so loudly, almost laughingly, to remind us silly humans that the only thing remaining constant is change itself. And this is one of the reasons why I love to photograph so much, because it gives me opportunities to pause and laugh, and of course experience so many other feelings that are evoked from the world as it unfolds around me. If I photograph everyday the connection to my world can be profound, since the idea of change is evident each time I see through a lens. Yes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Quatrain #8: Effervescence

Is the glass half empty, or half full? Although optimism vs. pessimism is not exactly what I intend to convey, I think you at least get the visual of the phrase, but then can allow the liquid in the glass to serve as metaphor for one's mind.

Either way — half empty, or half full — let's say there's sparkling water in that glass with an immeasurable number of effervescent bubbles racing to the surface. If bubbles are metaphor for questions, then that means each of us are seeking for an immeasurable number of answers. Funny thing is... once we think we've found an answer, sometimes it's only a new place to begin pointing more questions.

The effervescence of mind must be deeply contemplated from time to time... burp.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quatrain #7: Collective Unconscious

So I've been wondering about this experience of finding visually congruent forms. The discovery of these similarities from wildly different situations are weeks or months apart. Assembling them conjured up a mélange of being both mystified and intrigued. It's not like I pre-meditated the idea of, "I think I'll seek out red and yellow color notes today." To be perfectly honest, the import chronology of these images goes 2, 4, 1, then 3. It would be logical to assume that I saw them in the order presented in this quatrain, but if that were the case, it would make for an entirely different visual metaphor, if at all [view it]. The assembly viewed above might imply that seeing "1" meant that I sought out "2," and then especially "3 & 4" to round out the collection, but again, that's not the case.

I've stated this in a previous posting, but the experience of finding is pure serendipity. There is no plan. All I can do is trust the intuitive response when I find it, trust the unconscious whisper, look at this, take this, and then move forward. I saw this t-shirt the other day with a classic Yoda quote on it that said, "do or do not, there is no try." And it's a lot like that. I'm just doing.

So then, is this process pre-visualization? Not so much. Then is this process post-visualization? Definitely. I edited the next paragraph from the graduate essay I wrote on visual literacy, and although it requires a little extra bending of one's brain, it can help define what I'm doing. It defines what a lot of artists are doing.

So regardless of the prefixes of "pre-" (earlier) and "post-" (future), both modes of seeing define the profound connection they have to an antecedent of some kind. Each final image [quatrain] does not truly supplant these earlier fragments, because they have collectively become the anterior. The idea of post-visualization parodies the idea of pre-visualization, and helps identify postmodernism, or as cultural theorist Jean-François Lyotard states, "Postmodern would be understanding according to the paradox of the future (post) anterior (modo)." If this just confuses the heck out of you, don't worry. But if you think about how people created art with the technologies of the modern era, compared to now, then the definition of the postmodern era might make a little more sense.

So after all that dissection of process, you might be wondering about the title of this quatrain, which is the real reason why this posting is here. Well, that's another Jungian thing that I like to think about, and that I've have something to say about, but ultimately what that something is relies on you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Quatrain #6: Communication Breakdown

It's easy... If we talk, then we trust someone is listening... If we write, then we trust someone is reading... but do they really understand what we're saying? I know for certain that some viewing this post having no idea what I am trying to convey, but that's OK... so just see what you think.
Oh,wait!... what I mean is... think what you see.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quatrain #5: Seeking Clarity

I can't say it any better than this... "Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart... Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." C. G. Jung. Letters, Vol. 1: 1906-1950. Princeton Univ. Press

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Quatrain #4: A Conversation of Color & Line

One of my earliest and most formative memories of seeing the world through a viewfinder was the process of studying and composing the interaction of color and line. And I found that the ongoing conversation between these two formal properties of image construction are the most compelling as they are appear in dramatic specimens of architecture. Some of my earliest photographic works are fascinations and recognitions of a geometric order in architectural form, and this way of seeing, or I could say, "this state of being," has never ceased.

So offering a small part of a much larger whole with simple design, frame-to-frame, and then collectively, is about as deep as this quatrain goes. It's an homage to color and line with a twist.

With that said however, this sequence of four has been one of the most elusive for me to organize and settle on as it is. I wrestled with several image choices and quatrain iterations to reveal a couple visual threads that could convey an idea. Each iteration brought emphasis to specific subject matter, form, line, positive & negative space, among other things, but none of the others brought the conversation to closure like this one did. Looking into the details might reveal some intriguing surprises.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quatrain #3: Unsown Seeds

One year ago today... perhaps not exactly the date... but just the same, I clearly remember it being a late-summer, late-Sunday afternoon. I learned via eMail that one of my students had suddenly died in a car accident along with another young man. It was a moment where all one could do is exclaim in response, "no!" He was 20-something, brimming with optimism, and loaded with talent. All I need to say for now is that I really miss seeing and working with him. He was on track to graduate within the year, so his absence was very palpable.

By this time in my life, of course I knew what it was like to learn of someone passing away. Whether it's a friend, relative, or acquaintance, news like this is never easy to hear about and process. But this was the first time a tragedy of this magnitude made such a deep impression on my photographic life.

A little more than two weeks later, I learned that another student passed away because of complications from a condition he'd been battling for several years. He too was brimming with optimism, and loaded with talent, at the age of 69. I really miss him, too, and this second event made for a rather extensive time to reflect.

Two very different lives that I found who had some common ground, a passion, and a vision. I know for certain that there are some unsown seeds they had produced... their photographs, I mean... those that were made but not quite ready for release.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quatrain #2: Red, White, & Blue

On that morning, the air was crisp, the sun was hot, the sky was bald and blue. I took my daughter to preschool, and prepared my mind for one of the first days of teaching that semester. The car radio was tuned to NPR and by the time I got home, I heard this unbelievable news. I'll never forget walking into the front door and immediately telling my wife about it. A friend of hers was there then too, and the words I heard her say in response were very callous and cold. I believe that she really didn't understand what I was talking about, and I was flummoxed.

The gravity of the news stunned my mind and body because it was many moons previous that I was there, gazing with wonder at that magnificent site. The apartment of my friend at Canal and Varick had this seventh floor, up close and personal view of them. Although appearing to be practically next door, they were really blocks and blocks away. He and his wife always gave me a futon to sleep on with a window view. When I cast my gaze from the floor up to the night time sky, there they were; humble, peaceful, and glowing with that playful randomness that interior lighting always seems to do. Regardless of the car horns, alarms, sirens, and subways passing through, falling asleep was never difficult. They would bid me goodnight, then greet me in the morning; stellar, bold, and just standing there... so cool. No matter how many times I visited, I always loved to see those friends, see that site, be in The City.

I drove to the college, and I listened to the radio on the way. I found out that it happened a second time. I sat at a red light at the intersection of Huron Parkway and Washtenaw Avenue, waiting patiently, listening helplessly. As I walked into the LA building, people were crowded around one of those TVs mounted up high on a wall, near the ceiling. That was the first time I saw what I heard. A faculty member suddenly turned around to escape the crowd, and as our eyes met he threw his hands into the air and exclaimed, "who would do this?!, ...who would do something like this?!" I was speechless. I had no idea what to say. I watched some more, and still couldn't really understand what I was seeing, and I'm not sure if anyone else standing there could either. I got to my office, closed the door, and cried.

The rest of the day was just surreal. I went to lunch with a colleague and the sky was just as clear, in fact, it appeared to be even clearer. There was not an aircraft to be seen anywhere, at any altitude, let alone the typical mess of contrails that paint the sky with diagonals. When I taught my 1:00pm class, I started with, "whoever needs to go home, can go home... no questions asked." Those who know my attendance policy are the only ones who can put any real value on that statement. When I returned home a mountain of news had accumulated... it was overwhelming. We had a TV, but we hadn't used it for any sort of broadcast reception for almost two years. No antennae, no cable. I went to a local mega-grocer-department store to buy a set of rabbit ear antennae for 12 bucks. As for the picture quality? It was so 20th Century.

Did this change my life? Yes, indeed. Does my experience attempt to compare itself to someone who had a friend or loved one that got in the way of all this? No way.

As for the quatrain? Let your mind wander, wonder, and find on its own.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Quatrain #1: The Four Seasons

This posting launches a collection of visual poems that I am releasing throughout the remainder of the year; one per week, for sixteen weeks. Each poem is composed with four images to form a quatrain, which in the literary world is a style of poetry limited to four line stanzas of any kind; rhymed, metered, or otherwise. Without a doubt, an image holds potential for poetic expression all by itself, but when held up to other images the possibilities of expanding on ideas and even storytelling become really compelling.

In October 2010, I began to consider in earnest my humble iPhone to be the iWitness of my relentless wanderings, wonderings, and the found. This gadget has revealed itself to be one of the greatest partners of my photographic life, since the work that I have produced with it absolutely defines the essence of this blog. I fell in love with the act of seeing unlike any other time of my life, and I am grateful to the forces that kindled this crucible of creativity. A physical and creative process that lends itself entirely to the immediacy of the moment, and the ability to share even the simplest of forms with someone else, who I think can value it. The process has become just like shouting down the road to a friend, "hey, look!... I wish you were here to see this with me because this event is going to disappear in just a few minutes (seconds)."

I should mention that I get out to walk my dog, Zuzu, two to three times a day, so the effort of getting out to think, wander, wonder, and find... it's just part of what I do. What I respond to in any given situation is difficult to put a finger on. There is no rule, and any one image is a response to a huge range of possibilities. An image can be triggered from what someone said, to being a visceral response of current events. In the end, what ultimately gets found are the intangibles; feelings, memories, dreams, and reflections.

The quatrains then, are larger assemblies of ideas. Each image removed from its original intent and made part of a new whole. I like to think that unconsciously, I was putting these all together from the beginning, but that is a bit of a stretch. So I'll just say that a quatrain is purely a manifestation of intuition, and what they mean to me, they most likely won't mean to you. Allow yourself to interpret a quatrain the way you see it, and how it speaks to you via your life and experience.