I took this photo on November 17, 2015, and processed it in my digital darkroom May 3rd, 2020. Click to embiggen
Nikon D7000 35.0 mm f/1.8 ƒ/2.5 35.0 mm Shutter -1/60 ISO 100
Tri-X 400, in emulation, provided via a Photoshop filter (Exposure 5), plus some other tricks-of-the-trade, including using a gold reflector, and other techniques to accentuate the rain.
A while ago1 I purchased a raincoat for my camera: basically a thick, transparent plastic sleeve with a drawstring at one end. The drawstring is used to wrap tightly around the end of the lens, and the rest of the camera is contained within the sleeve, and thus kept dry. It works pretty well actually, except changing camera settings is a bit tricky, as is focusing, sometimes.
probably before this photo was taken, but maybe not, who can remember [↩]
Google Photos is now trialing a “monthly photo prints” subscription program.
Google will send you 10 prints that will be “automatically selected from your last 30 days of photos.” This subscription program is a way to “get your best memories delivered straight to your home every month.” For $7.99 per month, subscribers get 4×6 pictures printed on matte, white cardstock that features a 1/8-inch border.
While an automatic process leverages Google Photos’ smarts, you’ll be able to pick one of three themes for your monthly prints. Google touts the first “people and pets” option as being the “most popular.” Additionally, you can edit the photos before they’re printed.
Most people and pets: Relive your best moments of people and pets. Get prints featuring them and other great photos every month.
Mostly landscapes: Revisit your most memorable places. Get prints of your outdoor shots, city scapes, scenery pics, and more sent to you every month.
A little bit of everything: Mix it up! Get a mix of all your best moments! Photos of people, landscapes, and other photos delivered to you each month.
SmugMug/Flickr could emulate this, actually, and I’d probably consider it. I don’t use Google Photos, so unless there is an IFTTT recipe that automatically uploads Flickr images to Google Photos, this monthly scheme wouldn’t be viable for me.
Conceptually, I like the idea of having prints sent to me, selected by not-me. The 21st C.E. is buried in gazillions of photos, but most only exist in the digital realm, and aren’t physical objects that can be studied by future generations, or by our Robot Overlords, or whatever.
For a few months, I tried to capture my favorite images from the previous month in a gallery, but it is a hard project to sustain. Life happens, and that would get put to the back burner up until the next month’s batch was due.
Maybe I should try in 2020 to make an analog version of the Google algorithmic art selection, and make small prints every month from the previous month?
I keep a file on my iPad of dreams that I recall or that wake me up so that I don’t have to recount them publicly to you my remaining readers. I’m making an exception because this particular dream yielded some art that I am proud of. Sunday morning at 4 AM I woke up, thirsty, and in the middle of a dream.
I was welcoming family to an art opening of my work (shown in a gallery with some other people). Bigger than Marty’s gallery. And it didn’t seem like photos, seemed like oil paint. One was a study of a man’s face in variations of white – painting was 8 feet tall. Another was a bunch of heads floating on a doorway. “Used real canvas this time” I told George (?). Another had a three dimension component sticking out. Then there was a portrait of a young boy, covered in gold specks. “Not one of mine, but it’s cool”.
I didn’t finish the post in 2018, nor keep my complete thought. I’m pretty sure the art I came up with was this self-portrait collage:
Korean activists called for removing this mural from the RFK Community Schools complex, saying the sun rays remind them of the Japanese imperial battle flag. Artist Beau Stanton denies any connection. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Times reports:
If the Los Angeles school district moves forward with plans to paint over a controversial mural at a Koreatown campus, artist Shepard Fairey said he will insist on the removal of his large outdoor portrait of Robert F. Kennedy at the school named after him. In support of artist Beau Stanton, Fairey told The Times that he would call for the removal of his mural of Kennedy at the RFK Schools campus on Wilshire Boulevard. Kennedy was murdered at the site of the then-Ambassador Hotel in 1968.
What disturbs the Korean activists, however, are the sun rays emanating from Gardner’s face. The Japanese battle flag has 32 bands of uniform proportions, in alternating red and white around a centered red disk representing the sun. Stanton’s mural has 44 varying bands of blue and reddish-orange, surrounding a much larger and different central image. Sun rays are a common art and design motif.
“Yeah, these things happened and they’re part of a terrible history, but this mural has nothing to do with that,” Fairey said Saturday. “What he has in his mural is nothing close to the battle flag. It’s not the same color scheme. It’s not the same focal element. It’s stupid to me. I thought that cooler heads would prevail because this is absurd.”
Kudos to Shepard Fairey for his insistence that just because something is similar to something offensive, it isn’t enough to be destroyed. The mural doesn’t have swastikas, it has a motif that somewhat resembles an oppressive fascist government’s flag.
By the way, the Stars and Stripes are in a lot of paintings, and America exists due in no small part to genocide of humans who already lived in the New World.
Note, click the LA Times article to see the photo. I couldn’t walk over and take my own, unfortunately.
HE HELD RADICAL LIGHT The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art By Christian Wiman
With all the stonings, smitings, beheadings and bear maulings in the Bible, it is easy to miss the rather staid death of Eutychus. As recounted in the Book of Acts, the young man nods off during a long sermon by St. Paul, and falls three stories from a window in Troas. In a reprieve for dozing parishioners everywhere, Paul resurrects him.
Poor Eutychus comes and goes in only a few verses, but I thought of him while reading the poet Christian Wiman’s curious new book, “He Held Radical Light” — not because it’s in danger of putting anyone to sleep, but because, like Acts, it’s an episodic account of equally strange encounters, in this case, with apostles of verse. A. R. Ammons shows up for a reading in Virginia but refuses to read, telling his audience, “You can’t possibly be enjoying this”; Seamus Heaney winks before stepping into a cab in Chicago; Donald Hall orders a burger for lunch, then confides to Wiman, who was then 38: “I was 38 when I realized not a word I wrote was going to last”; Mary Oliver picks up a dead pigeon from the sidewalk, tucks the bloody carcass into her pocket and keeps it there through an event and after-party.
Wiman had met a few poets by the time he finished college at Washington and Lee and completed a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford, but he really started to collect them at Poetry magazine, where he was editor for 10 years. The most straightforward version of those years would be a literary tell-all, along the lines of the former New Yorker editor Robert Gottlieb’s “Avid Reader.” But “He Held Radical Light” is something else: a collection of private memories, literary criticism and theology, plus an eccentric anthology of poems Wiman holds dear, all drawn into an argument about art and faith.
Could Chicago Become U.S. ‘Capital Of Street Art’?
After Embarrassing Mistakes, Plan To Save Murals Emerges
Streets and San crews blotted out work by famous artists across the city. Now, an alderman and a city agency are on a mission to celebrate — not erase — such work.
“Big companies can put ads all over the city and it’s hard to go about your everyday life without being bombarded with advertisements and messages from every angle,” [Max Temkin, co-creator of the popular Cards Against Humanity game] said. “To me, street art represents the other side of that, people claiming civic space for themselves, for the public good, to share something that’s really joyful and surprising and meaningful.”
Now that’s something to celebrate. I am obviously fond of “street art”, and would love to see more of it around the city, as long as it retains its subversive spirit.
I like the sound of this…
“Not all murals are graffiti and not all graffiti is public art,” [city cultural official Mark Kelly], who was a longtime administrator at art-focused Columbia College Chicago, said. “Oftentimes, graffiti is a public nuisance and in those cases it should be removed.”
Emphasizing that “public art should be respected and protected,” Kelly said that his agency, guided by the ordinance, will work with the Department of Streets and Sanitation to protect murals.
“This ordinance will mandate a more careful and coordinated process for identifying what is and what is not public art,” he said. “The process will encourage and protect murals and establish a process for treating damaged and endangered murals properly.”
Now Aon’s owner, the New York-based firm of 601W Cos., wants to take advantage of the neighborhood’s newfound popularity with a new observatory that would compete with existing ones at Willis Tower and 875 N. Michigan. But there’s no room inside Aon for an elevator leading to the aerie, so 601W charged Chicago architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz with putting one on the outside.
Crafted by principal Martin Wolf, SCB’s plan starts with a wedge-shaped, metal-and-glass entry pavilion that would rise on the southeast corner of Aon Center’s plaza — an appropriately simple form for this simple building. Descending on escalators to below-street passageways, visitors would wend their way to the elevator tower. City officials wisely insisted that the tower rise on the building’s northwest corner (and not on the southeast corner, as originally planned) so it would not disturb the clean lines of Aon’s park-facing side.
If you’re an acrophobe, the high-speed double-deck elevators that shoot up and down the tower won’t be for you. But for those who get a kick out of seeing a city from on high, the elevators could be the ultimate version of those glass-covered cabs that enlivened the hotels of the late Atlanta architect and developer John Portman. Portman’s genius was to make an elevator ride an event, not just a trip in a box.
While the elevator tower will be visible from Michigan Avenue, it promises to be a light and lacy presence rather than a mechanical eyesore. It might even be exciting at night as the cabs of its double-deck elevators create trails of light like comet tails, said Phil Hettema of Pasadena, Calif., the designer of the still-unnamed observatory and the spaces leading to it. The two-level observatory would occupy space above the building’s office floors that was originally devoted to cooling towers.
For those willing to pay more than the price of admission, an internal elevator would transport them from the observatory to the thrill ride, a mechanical-lift contraption called the Sky Summit. Its steel arms would lift a glass-sheathed cab with room for about 20 people nearly 30 feet above the roof, then lower the cab over Aon’s edge, holding it there for about 30 seconds as the floor changed from opaque to transparent to reveal views of Millennium Park far below. Next, the cab would bring everybody back to Aon’s rooftop, presumably glad to be alive. The engineers assure me it’s a tried-and-true system. (Pass the Valium.)
I should be more familiar with my birthdate partner, William Wordsworth, than I am. In fact, this is really the only poem I know of his.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company: I gazed–and gazed–but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.
An acquaintance flattered me and compared a photo of mine to Eugène Atget’s work, so I had to learn more. In school, and in my life, I’ve studied the painting masters, visited art museums all over North America and Europe, but I haven’t filled in the photography part of my art education as thoroughly, yet. A friend suggested I consider Berenice Abbott next; I plan on doing so.
I have not studied Atget’s photographs extensively, yet, simply browsed this quite intriguing book. There are a lot of contemporary photographers1 documenting urban environments who have been influenced by Atget, whether consciously or unconsciously. Photos of store fronts, workers, mannequins, streets, etc.
This was the photo of mine that initiated this exploration, btw, a snapshot taken with Hipstamatic/iPhone. I printed a 10”x10’” version on metal and hung it in my hallway.
As are many urban dwellers, especially those who live in and around Chicago, and who aren’t afraid of walking down the street. No matter what you might have heard, walking down the street in an American city like Chicago isn’t akin to being in a war zone. It just isn’t.
Anish Kapoor — the Indian-born, British sculptor responsible for the work colloquially known as The Bean — said the 2017 ad titled “The Clenched Fist of Truth” and starring NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch used footage of the sculpture without his consent “by the NRA to promote their vile message.”
The sculpture was used as a stand-in for former President Barack Obama in the ad, which was widely criticized at the time of its release in April. The ad paints a nightmarish vision of modern city life and states that “the only way to save our country, the only way to fight this violence of lies is with the clenched fist of truth.”
In a statement issued by a New York gallery 1 that represents him, Kapoor also said that his sculpture and other works of iconic modern architecture were used by the NRA in the ad to represent a hidden and threatening “other,” or a version of “Liberal America” against which NRA members need to arm themselves.
While tourists are free to photograph the sculpture, Kapoor owns the copyright to commercial images of Cloud Gate and did not give the NRA permission to use it, he wrote.
For no real reason that I can ascertain, I dreamt about Mitch Ivey, a friend and a talented painter that I knew from back in the pre-digital age; when I was an employee and fellow-traveller at Magnolia Cafe South. Not even one dream, but two nights in row. I lost touch with Mitch when I moved away, and I don’t know that he has any online presence, at least that I could locate.
I hope he’s ok, and is just having a gallery show soon or something.
I’d be honored if you attended, but I realize many people have other things to do, like washing their individual hairs in a custom built sink, or alphabetizing their sock drawer. So I forgive you in advance if you don’t make the opening. Or the 30 or so other days in April when the gallery will have my images on display without strangers gawking and pushing each other to gain a better view.
If you actually cannot make it to Texas on such short notice, the prints I’ve chosen to display are also available to view at Flickr, or at a dedicated photoblog I created for the occasion – UrbanSeens.com (still a work in progress at this time)
Hope to see you there, or there, or there…
As an aside, deciding what images to display and print was a crazily complicated process. I’ve been taking photographs for a long time, decades in fact, and while I consider myself more adept these days, photos taken when I was first seriously exploring the photographic medium have a certain nostalgic gravity. Also as I scrolled through the nearly 13,000 photos processed and uploaded to Flickr (12,903 at this moment not to mention the nearly 100,000 total photos in my Lightroom catalog), I kept finding images I liked or wanted to include, but could not. Maybe in the next show? Or I could print them just for you?
What an asinine criticism of the President. There are plenty of valid criticisms of Obama, from both right and left wing perspective, such as drone strike killings without due process, the fact of marijuana still being a Schedule 1 Narcotic, etc., but not doing “more for the arts”? What is he, a Medici?
The Obama image turned out to be misleading. All evidence points to the president being indeed thoughtful, even perhaps too thoughtful, if one believes critics who say he intellectualizes problems that demand more visceral responses. But there is little indication that Obama regularly indulges the particular relationship to art that this photograph implied: solitary contemplation of the inherited canon of paintings, sculpture, music, dance or theater. He is interested in culture, to be sure, but it is the living culture of our time, often the celebrity culture of popular music and commercial theater, but rarely the stuff people used to call “high” culture. Or that, at least, is the image his handlers have crafted.
So Obama didn’t visit the National Gallery of Art during his presidency (at least so far), and first lady Michelle Obama has been only once, and that late in the last term. The Kennedy Center reports that the first family hasn’t taken much advantage of the presidential box, and the president’s visits have been mostly limited to the annual Kennedy Center Honors. The president has also begged off attending an annual gala at Ford’s Theatre that has been a standard for his predecessors. If one adds to this the long periods that he left the chairmanships of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities empty, his desultory picks for other important cultural positions, his choice of a librarian of Congress who doesn’t come from the tradition of the belles-lettres or serious scholarship, his record on culture is dispiriting at best.
That has caused some significant cognitive dissonance among people in the arts world who are otherwise full-throated champions of the president. Indeed, the arts offer some of the friendliest territory for the current administration, full of mainly left-wing coastal types who cherish values they believe the president embodies: intelligence, education, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and a welcome embrace of ambiguity and complexity when parsing political and social problems. The dinner party consensus is thus: He is one of us, so why hasn’t he done more for the arts?
The dinner party consensus? Really, I guess the dinner parties I’ve gone to in the last eight years must have been filled with rubes and philistines, as I’ve never once heard anyone sob tearfully in their hors d’oeuvres that “Obama needs to do more for the Arts”. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, remember him? Big arts guy, right? Bush always listened to Stravinsky and John Cage at high volume while watching football games with the commentary turned off, went to the opera every Wednesday with his daughters, even dabbles in painting himself. And if the universe hates us and Donald Trump becomes the 45th president, the arts will flourish like never before.
There is a trend towards so-called authenticity in many fields. Reuters and perhaps some other news organizations no longer accept photos shot as digital RAW files. If you want your photo published by Reuters, you have to use your camera only as a recording device:
Reuters, the news and photography agency, has issued an outright ban on photographs captured and submitted in RAW format. Instead, freelance contributors must now only submit photos that were processed and stored as JPEG inside the camera.
According to Reuters, there are two reasons for this move. First, there’s the matter of alacrity: RAW images need to be processed by the photographer, which takes time—and when you’re reporting on a breaking story, sometimes you don’t have time. The second reason is much more contentious: Reuters wants its photographs to closely reflect reality (i.e. be journalistic), and it’s concerned that some RAW photos are being processed to the point where they’re no longer real.
“As photojournalists working for the world’s largest international multimedia news provider, Reuters Pictures photographers work in line with our Photographer’s Handbook and the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles,” a Reuters spokesperson told PetaPixel. “As eyewitness accounts of events covered by dedicated and responsible journalists, Reuters Pictures must reflect reality. While we aim for photography of the highest aesthetic quality, our goal is not to artistically interpret the news.”
Many photographers on Flickr and elsewhere boast about how little processing they perform on their photos. Perhaps this is a natural reaction to the digital photography world, filled with HDR photos looking like SciFi films, or over-saturated to the point of eye bleeding, or Instragram images where a photo is often tweaked with a filter with but a few seconds consideration. It is true that new photographers often over-process their photographs, yet that doesn’t make processing a tool to shy away from, only that someone has not yet learned to process well. I remember when I first starting fooling around with Photoshop with scanned prints: it was so easy to make gaudy, weird and obviously digital manipulations, I was learning how to use the tools. None of those experiments are online, or few, but I consider it part of the process of learning.
There was this example too:
You’ve probably heard by now that Steve McCurry is the latest to be caught up in a manipulation scandal. PetaPixel has reported that several examples of excessive Photoshopping of McCurry photos have come to light. A Facebook user named Gianmarco Maraviglia found this example:
Steve McCurry example
Study that for a couple of minutes and you can see how deep the changes go. Not as bad, arguably, as the example of the soccer-playing boys on PetaPixel where a whole person was removed. A photograph is in part a witness, and that’s part of what makes it unique: At that moment, that boy was there. He might not have been, but he was. The look of the world is inconvenient to our picture-contriving intent. But that’s part of what makes it so mysterious and rich.
By the late 1970s, the fundamental difference between photography and all the other methods of creating visual art had been worked out more or less completely. Photography was a matter of “hand and eye,” in the words of John Szarkowski, of recognition followed by the recording of the lens image more or less in an instant, and more or less as the lens saw it. Painting and other “plastic” (i.e., malleable) arts involved a back-and-forth over time: look, contemplate, evaluate, make changes; look, contemplate, evaluate, make more changes; and so on over and over, a process that could continue for days or weeks or even years.
Capturing the decisive moment is important, but much of what makes a photo a piece of art is more than just the mechanics. There is no one, perfect way to paint an apple or the curve of a woman’s hip, similarly, there is no ideal way to take and process a photograph. Art is expression, every artist has a different vision, whether or not they are new to the craft, or a seasoned professional, or somewhere in the middle, like myself.
Let The Words Roll Off Where They May
Most black and white photos you see these days are actually shot in color, that’s a manipulation. Digital cameras capture red, green, blue, that is not the same as an analog film camera with different kinds of film stock.
Nearly 98% of the time, I crop a bit or a lot (I typically use a 5×7 ratio to crop, a 1.4 ratio, my camera is more like 16 x 11, a 1.5 ratio), 99% of the time, I enhance color contrast, and boost saturation. I don’t usually remove elements – other than by cropping – but I have occasionally removed a distracting car fender, or telephone wire. Composition is more often handled at time of photograph, but sometimes as a street photographer, you don’t lots of time to frame and mentally crop. Photoshop allows me to continue the work at a later time. I use filters to change the dominant color mood of a photo – turning water from brackish green to aquamarine for instance; or use a filter to emulate various film stock: Velvia, T-Max, Tri-X 400, or Ilford, sepia, cyanotype, etc.
I reject that photography has to be journalistic and nothing else. Speaking for myself, of course, I’m more interested in artistic expression, using the language of film, and the language of poetry to capture the myriad facets of the world around me, in all its ragged, incomplete glory.
Lake Street Bridge During A Blizzard – toned blue.
I’ve made digital cyanotypes as long as I’ve used the Alien Skin “Exposure” plugin for Photoshop, but I’ve never made an actual one. The faux, digital versions are much different than actual cyanotypes. I’m intrigued though, the emotional impact of a blue-toned photograph is compelling.
The Phoenix artist Annie Lopez wanted to stand out among her contemporary peers. Instead of trying to invent something utterly new, she has been turning to a 174-year-old photographic printing process — cyanotypes, once used for copying architectural drawings — and giving it her own distinctive twist.
Making a cyanotype involves placing a negative image — which could be a photographic negative, or an object, as in a photogram — on treated paper or fabric. (Ms. Lopez took from her own life and her father’s battle with Alzheimer’s, using photocopies of medical books as well as comments made by family members.) After an iron-based solution is brushed on, the paper is placed under ultraviolet light, or in direct sun, to develop.
“One of the best-selling points of this exhibition is that cyanotypes are both underrepresented and trendy at the same time,” said Nancy Burns, who organized the Worcester show with Kristina Wilson of Clark University. “It’s very hip in contemporary art, when you start looking for it.”
The cyanotype process — from the Greek cyan, or “dark-blue impression” — was invented around 1842 by the British astronomer and chemist John Frederick Herschel (1792–1871). The benefits of the format were evident from the start.
Maybe you remember sun prints (also known as cyanotypes) from childhood. You set a leaf or flower on light-sensitive paper and exposed it to the sunlight for a few minutes. Your parent or teacher probably rinsed the print and showed you the results as they developed. A shadow of the specimen emerged—the color of the paper shifted from white to light blue. The final result was a white or bluish-white silhouette on dark blue paper.
When I first started paying attention to cyanotypes, I loved how they rendered familiar objects and shapes as bluish, shadowy abstractions. I also wondered why they reminded me of x-rays or architectural drawings. A description of the cyanotype process from Encyclopaedia Britannica shed some light.