Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Introducing The Timages Gallery PhotoBlog

With 9 of 11 monthly posts to Project 66 in the books and  #10 due on March 6th (believe me, you won't want to miss this one) I'll be transitioning from monthly Project 66 posts to a weekly photoblog - the Timages Gallery blog.  I've already published a few posts in this new blog series to get myself into the rhythm of publishing weekly and to (hopefully) get you addicted to a weekly fix for reading it.

The plan is to continue additions to the collection by adding a new post every Wednesday.  Each week the blog will feature a post in one of six different photography-related topic areas:
  • Travails to the Edge - A shameless and devious strategy to capitalize on the success of Art Wolf's tremendous "Travels to the Edge" TV series, "Travails to the Edge" (sincere apologies to Art) will share insights I've gained the hard way - through personal 'travails' - mistakes, trials, tribulations and just plain stupidity - insights that have frequently pushed me to 'the edge'. Posts won't be photography's higher-ed material but they will definitely provide some amusing reading as I've been known to do some pretty dumb things when it comes to my photography.  I'm convinced that my gaffs will provide teachable moments that might help other photographers.  Those who know me best know that this is definitely my niche - the Rodney Dangerfield of photobloggers!
  • Muse-ings - Muse-ings will focus on inspiration (listen to your muse), thoughts, opinions and musings related to creativity, originality, personal projects, artistic vision and style.  Muse-ings may on rare occasions also include rants.
  • Photo Stories - Posts in this category will provide vignettes related to the creation, the history or the behind-the-scenes story of a photo or series of photos.  The thought process behind the creation of the images will be as important as the approach taken and the processing involved in their creation.
  • The Masters - The Masters will provide brief articles about the Masters of Art and Photography exploring their influences, style and impact on photography writ-large, not to mention their impact on my approach to photography and creativity. 
  • Travel - The travel category will offer descriptions of experiences from the road augmented with photos featuring places (most often) and people (infrequently - just want to be honest) encountered.
  • Notable Quotes - Gosh, there have been some very notable and catchy things said about creativity, art and photography.  Posts in this series will highlight some of the best (IMO).
So, whether you are a photographer, a connoisseur of good humor, an SMA alum curious about what one of your high school classmates has been up to, or just plain interested in expanding your horizons, the Timages Gallery Photoblog has something for you.  I invite you join me each Wednesday on a journey of discovery.  And since no one likes to suffer alone, I'd hope you'd share this opportunity with your friends and family.

You can find the blog at Timages Gallery Blog.  If you wish, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notice each week when a new post is published by leaving your e-mail address in the window on the right hand side of the page. Thanks for considering joining me each week! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Wisconsin Legend from Granville New York

My adoptive hometown - Madison, Wisconsin - is 983 miles west of the town of my birth and youth - Glens Falls, New York.  Glens Falls is 24 miles west of the small Washington County town of Granville NY, making Granville and Madison over 1000 miles apart.  Imagine then my surprise when, working on a photographic project of old burial monuments, I serendipitously discovered the burial place of a Granville native who died in Madison and was buried in the prestigious Forest Hill Cemetery in 1862.

The Fairchild Family monument located in Section 32 of the historic
Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison WI

I was photographing large, white monuments as part of a series I was working on entitled 'Monumental Spirits'.  One prominent, ornate obelisk caught my eye on one of my field trips to the Forest Hill Cemetery. This memorial was impressive not only for its stately silhouette but also for the rich history etched in its stone.  Engraved on each side of the square base was a family history more detailed than any I had seen before.  On one side near the top of the towering obelisk a military emblem was carved from the marble above a list of Civil War battles.  Impressed by the visual appeal and historic nature of this family monument I took several photographs of it, noting at the time only the family name - Fairchild.

Later, while processing the images on my computer, I was able to read two faded inscriptions in the weathered marble that I had overlooked before - 'Born in Granville N.Y.' and 'They gave all of their sons to the defense of their country'. Excited by a sense of regional kinship and driven by intense curiosity I set out to learn more about the Fairchilds and the story of their journey from Granville to Madison.  I could have never imagined such an intriguing and impressive story. 

Jairus Cassius Fairchild was born in Granville NY in 1801.  The monument
states that he and his wife Sally Blair 'gave all of their sons to the defense

of their country.'

Jairus Cassius Fairchild, the patriarch of the family interred at the base of the obelisk in lot 014-15-18 & 17 SW 5', Section 32 of the Forest Hill Cemetery, was born in Granville, NY in 1801 and died in Madison, WI in 1862.  Fairchild moved to Ohio in 1827 where he married Sally Blair of Kent, Ohio in 1826.  Already a successful businessman, in 1845 Fairchild moved first to Milwaukee, WI with his wife and three sons (Cassius (1829); Lucius (1831); Charles (1838)) and daughter Sarah (1827) and from there the family moved to Madison WI.  Jairus served as the first Treasurer of the State of Wisconsin from 1848-52 and in 1856 was elected Madison's first Mayor.

Sons Cassius and Lucius, also interred at the base of the monument, likewise made notable contributions to their adopted home state. The obelisk, like a totem, provides valuable cues to their stories.

Cassius Fairchild's headstone in front of the memorial noting that
he had had died of a wound that he suffered at the Battle of Shiloh

on April 6, 1862.

The obelisk on Cassius' side of the monument includes an insignia
denoting his rank as Brigadier General and lists the battles that he was
engaged in while leading the 16th Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers.

The south-facing side of the monument along with its military insignia and list of battles is dedicated to the memory of Cassius Fairchild.  On April 6, 1862 Lieutenant Colonel Cassius Fairchild was severely wounded when a mini-ball struck him in the upper thigh as he gallantly led the men of the 16th Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers at the Battle of Shiloh; the bloodiest battle of the war between the States up until that time. Taken from the battle field for treatment he would later return to service, participating with the 16th Wisconsin in the other engagements noted on the monument.  In 1868 we was brevetted to the rank of Brigadier General. But his wound never healed fully and, as noted by an inscription at the base of the memorial, he died in Milwaukee in 1868 from complications of the wound he suffered at Shiloh. His body was returned to Madison for burial alongside his father and mother.

Brother Lucius was also a Civil War hero.  He served as Commanding General of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry of the famed Iron Brigade, recognized as one of the fiercest fighting units in the Civil War.  Along with the 2nd Wisconsin he fought courageously at the Battle of Antietam and like his brother Cassius was later wounded in what would turn out to be the bloodiest battle of the entire Civil War.  On July 1, 1863 the 2nd Wisconsin was engaged with the advancing Confederate Army near Herbst Woods west of the town of Gettysburg.  Lucius Fairchild was wounded in the ensuing action, ultimately losing his left arm to his wound.  Although the Iron Brigade was ultimately driven from the field later that day, their delaying action against incredible odds is credited with allowing the Union Army to occupy the high ground at Seminary Ridge.  This would ultimately prove to be the turning point of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Unlike his brother, Lucius survived his wound and later served as Secretary of State and Governor of the State of Wisconsin .  He died May 23, 1896.  He and his wife, Frances Bull, were buried alongside Jairus, Sally, Cassius and his sister Sarah.

Fairchild's third son, Charles, also served in the Civil War as an officer in the Union Navy.  He survived the war without injury and died in 1913. Though his name is included on the memorial he was buried in Newport, Rhode Island.  He is the only of Fairchild children not buried in section 32.

Although I could not find any records on the internet, the memorial also identifies a fourth Fairchild son - James Blair - their eldest.  James died in 1832 at the age of three in Kent, Ohio.  In 1843 his body was moved so he could join the other members of his family at Forest Hill.

The Fairchild plot in Section 32 includes the family monument and the 
headstones or (front row, left to right): Sarah, Sally and Jairus; (back row,
left to right): James Blair, Lucius and Cassius. Charles Fairchild, the 
fourth son, is buried in Newport, Rhode Island.

That the burial place of a native of Granville NY born in 1801, the patriarch of such a noble family, should be discovered in a cemetery 1000 miles west by an unwitting photographer himself born 150 years later in a town just 24 miles from Granville is surprising.  However, I think my chance acquaintance with the Fairchild family was fate.  No doubt memory of their contributions to the Badger State has faded with time and generations.  And it would come as no surprise to learn that their affiliation with Granville NY is virtually unknown. But through the power of history, much of it etched in a marble grave marker, and the curiosity of an amateur photographer their contributions can once again be acknowledged over 150 years later.  

As a Wisconsin Badger I am grateful for the Fairchilds' contributions to my adopted home State and our Nation. That Jairus was originally from Granville gives me one more reason to be proud of the Adirondack region of upstate New York, my birth place and a region I still call 'home'.

Thank you Granville from a grateful Badger.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"That's Interesting."

"Oh. That's interesting."

For the longest time that was the second most dreaded response I could hear when someone was viewing one or more of my photographs or images. I always interpreted (as did everyone else I was sure) the 'interesting' reaction as polite code for "I'm at a loss to find much positive to say about this and can't bring myself to fib."  

There was only one reaction I feared even more - the dreaded "That's different" critique.  Differing primarily by the magnitude of incredulity, to my mind the 'different' appraisal most often meant "Whao! This is pretty bad. 'Different' is the least damning thing I can say about this image."

After years of striving both to improve my technical abilities and of choosing subject matter that was more often in the mainstream of photography I succeeded in minimizing the frequency with which 'interesting' or 'different' designations were attached to my images.  While adoption of the mainstream as safe refuge from possible harsh reactions provided some comfort on the one hand, I soon found that this cowardly strategy stifled creativity and individuality that were the desired hallmarks of the art I really wanted to create - art that could be recognized as uniquely mine.

I've had to acknowledge what great artists past and present have always recognized; originality, creativity and growth as an artist require courage and an openness to, if not acceptance of, negative feedback or reactions.  In order to grow I needed not only to be open to possible criticism, I had to actively seek it out.  Interestingly, having done so now for a while I've learned that I frequently over-interpreted "interesting" or "different" reactions to my work in the past or over-reacted when my translation was indeed accurate.  All feedback is not intentionally nasty nor are all critics cynics.  Even if this weren't the case thin-skin-induced avoidance is a certain deterrent to artistic growth.

For the past three years I have pursued photography a bit out of the mainstream, focussing on architectural abstracts.  My work is readily recognizable by those familiar with it partially because - as they put it - "it's different."  Most recently I have ventured far from traditional photography to create very abstract images using an image or images as mere starting material virtually unrecognizable in the final piece.

So what are the reactions I'm looking for when I exhibit this work these days?  "Now that's interesting!" and "Wow! That's different."  

I've elected to translate these expressions as positive reactions, but even if they are code for the kind of negative reactions understood in my early interpretations - I'm OK with that.  At least I hope I will be.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Luminarchitect

I admire the marriage of artistry, engineering and mathematics that is architecture.  I sometimes lament my inability to play the matchmaker of stunning architectural unions of my own design.

I am not an architect.  

I am a photographer who loves to use the built environment as the starting point in the creation of unique visual architecture forged from the fusion of perspective, shapes, color, light and shadow. An eye for interesting geometries and visual interactions among the elements in a prospective composition is at the heart of my approach to visual architecture.  

This creative strategy to architectural photography has satisfied my architect-envy, at least somewhat.  I seek to design unique visual architectural constructs related to, but distinct from the architect's reality by exploiting viewing perspectives; optical properties of construction materials; the changes in daily, seasonal and meteorological light intensities and angles; and, post-processing alchemy. My images most often highlight structural elements rather than the building as a whole, emphasizing lines, geometric shapes and patterns. 

I am a luminarchitect (not to be confused with a bloomin' architect.)

Here are a couple of examples of visual constructs featuring some geometry from the Keller building at the University of Minnesota.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Project 66 #9: enLIGHTenment

“Embrace light.  Admire it.  Love it.  But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”    
George Eastman

This advice from the entrepreneur who made photography accessible to the masses has been paraphrased so many times throughout the history of photography that it has almost become a cliché.  The web is so replete with quotes from photographic luminaries about the importance of light to the art of ‘drawing with light’ that one assumes a great risk when presuming to add anything unique to the prevailing wisdom on the subject.

But fools rush in where angels fear to tread. 

So it is as a jester that I will attempt to put my own spin on the topic, not by articulating new pearls of wisdom, but rather by pairing the wisdom of prior masters with six images that I think illustrate their point.  Employing the device of light-hearted double entendre each makes a point about the impact of light on – an image of lights.  How foolishly clever is that?!

Here then is my light-hearted attempt to shed some light on the impact of light in photography using -- wait for it -- photographs of lights.

“I often think of that rare fulfilling joy, when I am in the presence of some wonderful alignment of events.  Where the light, the colour, the shapes and the balance all interlock so beautifully that I feel truly overwhelmed by the wonder of it.” Charlie Waite
“The moment you take the leap of understanding to realize you are not photographing a subject but are photographing light is when you have control over the medium.”  Daryl Benson

“I believe in the photographer’s magic – the ability to stir the soul with light and shape and colour.  To create grand visual moments out of small and simple things.”  Amyn Nasser

“I am forever chasing light. Light turns the ordinary into the magical.”  Trent Parke

“Where light and shadow fall on your subject – that is the essence and art through photography.” Scott Bourne

“In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.”  Aaron Rose

In the end it's all about light, even when its not about lights.  Once enlightened, photographers and viewers alike can enjoy a new way of seeing.  Notable photographer Edward Weston said it best,
“…through this photographic eye you will be able to look out on a new light-world, a world for the most part uncharted and unexplored, a world that lies waiting to be discovered and revealed.” 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Photographer's Harmful 7

As I sat reading the latest technical features of the newest crop of digital cameras on the market I found myself longing to purchase the latest and greatest – yet again.  You see two years ago I sold my then one-generation-removed-from-the-state–of-the-art Nikon camera and switched to the latest state-of-the-art Sony mirrorless camera – a camera still heralded as one of the best digital cameras out there.  Despite this reality my mind whipped up all kinds of rationalizations to justify a new acquisition. I was a photography junkie desperately craving the fix that only a bigger, better camera could deliver, convinced that it would definitely improve my photography.  Fortunately, in a brief moment of clarity amidst the fog of rationalizations and false expectations, I recognized that I was guilty of gear lust, a photographic counterpart of one of the 7 deadly sins.

According to theologians the seven deadly sins (lust, envy, pride, greed, sloth, gluttony and wrath) are transgressions that threaten spiritual health.  Having nearly succumbed to the allure of the photographic counterpart of ‘lust’ I wondered whether the other six deadly sins might also have photographic corollaries; transgressions that might hinder my photographic growth and well-being.

After a little thought and with just a modicum of liturgical license, I was able to define photography corollaries for each of the original 7 deadly sins.  While being guilty of these evils will not condemn a photographer’s soul to eternal damnation, they sure can adversely impact his or her photography, their enjoyment of it and the healthy relationships that can accompany it. Here then are my translations of Pope Gregory the Great’s 7 Deadly Sins as I think they relate to photography.  I’ve dubbed this list ‘The Photographer's Harmful 7’ to reflect their non-lethal, secular character.

Envy –an unhealthy desire to have what another photographer has, be it photographic equipment, success, notoriety. fame, exhibitions, sales, or followers on social media

Gluttony – the practice of thoughtlessly shooting a copious number of images on the assumption that something ‘good’ will certainly be in there somewhere; the 'more is better' approach to photography

Greed - a narcissistic-like need for recognition and acknowledgement of one’s photographic prowess and accomplishments

Lust – the almost uncontrollable longing to own the newest, biggest or most expensive equipment; often associated with the belief that better equipment is necessary and sufficient to insure the creation of better images

Pride – the practice of boasting about your successes, accomplishments or possessions while ignoring those of others; can be an outward manifestation of greed

Sloth – unwillingness to commit the time and effort necessary to master photographic crafts essential to the creation of masterful photographic images; it includes mastery of camera technology, composition and post-processing methodologies

Wrath – the compulsion to get even with someone in reaction to a real or perceived injustice or slight.  Manifestations can include unfair or unnecessary criticisms or image critiques, trolling or lack of support on social media outlets, and outright back-stabbing.

Guided by the Harmful 7 translations I’ve examined my photography conscience and must admit that I have been guilty to some degree or another of many of these unhealthy attitudes at some point during my photography pilgrimage. Gratefully, Wrath is a notable exception. The good news is that like so many other behaviors, improvement starts with awareness.  These translations have enhanced my awareness and maybe they can help others too.