What I Did Instead….

One morning last week I got up and didn’t write. I didn’t read. I didn’t exercise. I took my antsy self outside into the fog with my iPhone(‘s camera) and leisurely walked the road.

Foggy Road 2 (September 2013)

Foggy Road 3 (September 2013)

catch

catch

It’s not impossible to catch what you want the most….

Another photo from the night at the bonfire I mentioned in Wim Wenders, iPhoneography, and the “Now.”

Wim Wenders, iPhoneography, and the “Now”

Wim Wenders may be known primarily as an amazing filmmaker, but he’s also a great photographer. Recently I listened to an interview in which he discusses the art. For Wenders, photography is a very present medium, that is, it’s about capturing the moment—the “now.” He laments its practice today, with the use of digital cameras and Photoshop, because many—if not most—photographers are already thinking about postproduction (what will be changed later in Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.) as they take their shots. Photographers do not have to be present today in the same way as they did in the past, when these options did not exist. Because of this, time itself is erased; it disappears. The privilege and specificity of photography lie in its obligation to be here now.

I don’t agree with all Wenders has to say about contemporary photography, but the interview did get me thinking about a recent experience I had with my iPhone. A friend of mine held a party and built a huge bonfire in her backyard. As darkness fell, I ran inside to get my phone. Not to be in the moment. Not to capture the moment. But to create texture photographs for future iPhone creations. As I shot the flames, I thought about how they would pair with other photographs.

A couple of children played with branches and piled them on the fire. I took photos of them as well. I thought about creating a specific type of image, shooting with the use of certain apps and Flickr iPhoneography groups in mind. I wasn’t present, at least not in the way Wenders seems to suggest.

Let there be light

By “now” Wenders may not mean capturing a strict—almost documentary—image. I do, however, think that he means to be here for what is happening, even if doing “artistic” photography. Photographers should be alive to the possibilities that exist at this particular time. They should engage robustly with what the outside world reveals.

At the bonfire, I was absent in many ways—lost in my own world of future creations. I would say that I’m present less than half the time when using my phone. It may be that iPhoneography and mobile photography in general have evolved to be something more, or other, than photography, given its creative use of filters and apps as an accepted form of practice. (Some argue it’s never been photography at all.) If so, would that change its obligation to be in the moment in the same way, making it exempt from Wender’s criticism?

Despite having one foot in iPhone postproduction when I take pictures, I also feel immersed in the flow of time in a way I don’t in other activities, including other art forms. I feel as if I’m in a “now.” I even feel a type of unity—with something. The question is: what “now” is this and what is that something?

Maybe we have an obligation to more than one manifestation of “now.”

In the beginning

The two photos in this post are from that bonfire evening. I plan to post more in the future. (Still need to do that postproduction!) 

In and Out of the Frame: The Beginning

rothko experiment 1.8

“Look!” Mom pointed.

An evening storm had expanded the horizon—here, the meeting of sea and sky—and given the scene the quality of an abstract painting, something like a Rothko, but horizontally oriented. I’d never seen anything quite like it on one of our annual family beach vacations in North Myrtle Beach, SC. The colors of sea and sky, at a distance, uniform within themselves, were joined by a fuzzy but definitely defined dark blue belt. The belt waxed and waned its girth, largest at the beginning of the two and a half hours it existed and smallest at the end, retreating almost to the thin horizon with which we’re so familiar.

I got out my camera.

I wanted to capture the day’s semi-abstract expressionist offering before it disappeared. On the balcony of our room, I began taking shots—framing green sea, storm-blue sky, and even deeper blue horizon into imagined canvases. I noticed a lone man in red swim trunks on the beach, who, as I expanded the view of the camera, could only be positioned at the very bottom of the frame if I also wanted to include the unique abstract sky and ocean. I decided to include him, flirting with the idea of inserting a figure in an abstract painting while also thinking about the nature of abstraction itself in relation to human beings and other earthly beings and things

People gradually came out of their houses, hotels, and condos to walk the beach. I captured their movements in photos like the individual pages of a cartoon flip book, and reflected on motion as the subjective proof of time and space—of limit.

At home I decided to take the photos from that evening and play with the ideas of abstract and figurative as well as the concept of the abstract vis-à-vis living, breathing human beings (and the “concrete” world at large). I did this by taking the original photographs and digitally painting over portions of them to further suggest an abstract painting, but using placement and level of opacity to emphasize the figurative and/or abstract possibilities in the original. I hoped to draw attention to the contrast, but also to trouble the distinction itself, especially in dealing with issues of representation. After all, one could argue that photography is an abstraction of embodied life. I take a step further and form simulacra not just of human beings and the natural world, but of what is already consciously made abstract.

This project is an exploration, an asking of questions—not digital image answers. While I don’t expect to come to any definitive understanding of these relationships, I do hope that the process offers insights from time to time—and I hope those insights—or their own—are reflected in what the viewer sees.

Below are beginning images from the project. I’ll be posting more from time to time. Some “paintings” are also being paired with Daniel Boscaljon’s “Letters To You,” an experimental writing series at Creative Thresholds (the first is “everytime i write i feel myself disintegrate”). These images, in dialogue with Dan’s writing, put the ideas of abstraction, embodiment, and representation (as well as relationship) in a whole other light.

photo for in and out of the frame blog post1

This is one of the photographs taken towards the end of the evening’s abstract show. In the photograph, you can see, slightly, sky and ocean. Lighter areas in the sky (top part of the image) reflect the presence of clouds. The yellowish greens in the bottom corner are actually rolling waves. The overall effect of fairly uniform color seems due to the precise conditions of a sky swallowed by storm clouds, a fully hydrated haze blanketing the sky–deeper the farther one looked out–and the light of evening. Actually, I’m not sure what caused it, but I’m glad it appeared.

rothko experiment 1

This was one of my first attempts to “paint,” building layers of low opacity color, leaving some transparency where I did paint. The clouds are not painted at all. The horizon’s blue belt is painted very minimally–just at the bottom edge, red overlapping its blue. The scene includes part of the beach and the dots and figures seen here include people, trashcans, and beach paraphernalia.

rothko experiment 1.5

I played with the same image further still, reaching for more abstraction. I deepened the layers of red and brushed thin, wide strokes of white over some of the clouds.

rothko experiment 1.8

The same image, again, but I decided to toy even more with being “Rothkoesque.” (This image is the one at the top of the post.)

rothko experiment B1.1.2a

A different base photograph, starring the man in the red swim trunks. The original image contains much more of the ocean in the frame. My “painting” leaves a hint of its crashing waves and underlying color beneath the layers of white. The original blue belt horizon is barely visible, some of it painted away in the red and white. The color boundaries in the lower half of the painting are not clearly defined. The whiter section with the man merges with the greenish white, troubling the idea of abstraction but also bringing in the idea that we ourselves aren’t separate from abstractions–if only because we are the ones who create them.

What I Remember

What I Remember

What I Remember

I used to want an iPhone simply so I could take photographs. The fledgling mobile photography community (primarily iPhoneographers) fascinated me with their freedom and creativity in regard to photography. I actually didn’t get an iPhone for several years–and it’s turned out to be just as I thought it would.  To put it in the words of a post at Life in Lofi: Iphoneography: “I have a camera. Sometimes I use it to make phone calls.”

I took this shot on Sunday, and later found out that this building used to house my great great Grandfather’s store (it’s now an antique shop). Blood remembers, even when it’s forgotten.