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.