Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic

This blog now occupies the space (and address) that M.O.R.A. occupied for about ten years.
Something different, and a lot easier than building a whole new site from scratch. I will, however, be redecorating, rearranging, and adding new material.




Winter Ferry Crossing




Seven o'clock in the morning, Sunday, 27 November, 48° F.


This and That

Way Back

This picture was made by me, but not of me.

Yet it is me…in that it is a startlingly accurate depiction of my nature then, and now. 

Back in Time

More than thirteen years ago in Paris:

A Reminder

The very best photographic art is made by amateurs who are totally unaware.

The mind uncluttered with conscious thoughts—responding directly.

The Banjo Analogy

Here is an image that is pretty much straight from my old camera—only modest adjustments made in the digital darkroom. I am pleased with the results, and would choose to change nothing. 

However, for fun, I took the original file back into the digital darkroom and applied a single algorithm ("Auto Tone") and this is what happened:

An old story comes to mind, about when someone asked Frank Proffitt what he thought about the way Earl Scruggs played the banjo, he replied that he would really like to play like that, and then not do it.

Old Barns on the Internet

Over time, I have accumulated a goodly number of browser bookmarks for blogs and Web sites that caught my interest and I wanted to revisit in the future. And quite a few of them I still visit daily, or weekly, or occasionally. And, recently, I have noticed that an increasing number of them are no longer being updated or have been abandoned like old barns in the countryside, or gone altogether. A few of them still post, but have erased their past entries. 

I cannot really complain about this, because I have done them all, myself, and more than once.

Still, it is a little sad, especially when you don't know what happened to these people, or what caused them to stop.

Image once posted here, then deleted

Accidental Thoughts

Some things change. What used to be photojournalism (W. Eugene Smith and Life Magazine come to mind) needs a different term. News illustrator, perhaps, (or the old term: press photographer would do) because the photograph is now the device to attract the reader, and the reader is needed to attract the advertisers, and it is all about profit and 'the bottom line'.

Sadly, the quality of news photography and reporting has suffered as a result. The talent and refined skills of the past have been replaced by high speed, motor-driven digital cameras with extreme wide and narrow-angle zoom lenses, often over-saturated colors and melodramatic compositions. Rather like fine dining being replaced by fast-food franchises. And it gets worse—when these pictures are printed oversize and hung on gallery walls to masquerade as art. Ugh!

illustrative device to attract readers       >

I would suggest that the term photojournalism should now be used to define those who write about photography. This, too, is a smaller field than in the past; existing now mostly in amateur blogs, yet they can draw a large audience because the vast majority of photo enthusiasts are really interested in the equipment and process: owning, dreaming of, analyzing, talking and reading about it—as has always been the case.

Methinks (Some Things I've Thought)
"Every photograph is a collaboration with what is in front of the lens. The [traditional] photographer observes and interprets, he does not create.
I've always thought it odd when a person signs a photograph and stamps a copyright on it—thereby claiming that he created something unique all by himself. Remove everything from the photograph that he did not create, and what's left?"
"No work of art should cost more than an excellent dinner (for two, with wine), nor should it be required to last any longer."
"The quality (aesthetic value) of any object has nothing to do with how much work went into the creation of it, or [only] how well it is executed. Certainly not how much anyone paid for it."

Words Encountered
At the conclusion of a lecture on astronomy by a well-known scientist, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant turtle."
The scientist paused, then asked "What is the turtle standing on?"
"You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady, "but it's turtles all the way down!"
found on Web and in books, in various forms
"I think it's a sign of some sort of spiritual illumination to respond to beauty, but I think our age has so transformed art into a form of investment or speculation that many people can no longer see the beauty of an object or care much about it if they do: they see only the value, the convertibility of the object into a particular sum of money."
from Willful Behavior, by Donna Leon
"She spent the next half-century working steadily at her art and exhibiting frequently, but she never developed a marketable artistic signature."
from the New York Times obituary for Hedda Sterne
"Every new symbolic order requires a taxonomist to make sense of it... Without descriptions, attributions and analysis, [a painting] is just a clump of data."
from a New York Times article by Virginia Heffernan
"...[Henri Cartier-Bresson] made some of the most memorable pictures of the human condition. His best period was from 1930 to 1950 when he traveled the world searching for a reality that could be frozen into a harmonious ballet of players enhanced by a theatrical background."
Erwin Puts, in his blog, Tao of Leica
"I take pictures because I like to look at the pictures I take."
from The Lazarus Project, by Aleksandar Hemon
"Maybe this is where so many misunderstandings of photography arise, because, after all, to a large extent we've come to associate art with something that takes time to produce, the result of some sort of 'major' effort (where 'major' often is associated with the aspect of craft that is contained in many art forms). How then can the results of someone pressing the shutter on what might look like a whim be art?"
Jörg Colbert, Conscientious, 2009

"'Well, I can't speak for every mom, but…," she said with a slightly sheepish grin. 'I mean, parenthood is not a hobby. Your life is basically sucked from you.'"
Edie Falco, New York Times, Sunday, 17 February 2013
“Quality doesn’t mean deep blacks and whatever tonal range. That’s not quality, that’s a kind of quality. The pictures of Robert Frank might strike someone as being sloppy – the tone range isn’t right and things like that – but they’re far superior to the pictures of Ansel Adams with regard to quality, because the quality of Ansel Adams, if I may say so, is essentially the quality of a postcard. But the quality of Robert Frank is a quality that has something to do with what he’s doing, what his mind is. It’s not balancing out the sky to the sand and so forth. It’s got to do with intention.”
Elliott Erwitt

Photography—and more generally the image itself—isn't for him the possibility of a contact with an alleged external reality, but rather 'the Light of Mind, terribly Upset.'
Francesco Viscoso
"Respect Buddha and the gods, without counting on their help."

from Dokkōdō, by Minamoto Musashi 1645
"He saw the white paper as the great universe of nonexistence. A single stoke would give rise to existence within it. He could evoke rain or wind at will, but whatever he drew, his heart would remain in the painting forever. If his heart was tainted, the picture would be tainted; if his heart was listless, so would the picture be. If he attempted to make a show of his craftsmanship, it could not be concealed. Men's bodies fade away, but ink lives on. The image of his heart would continue to breathe after he himself was gone."
Musashi, by Eiji Yoshikawa, 1939


Rambling Notes


According to Wikipedia, Harry Callahan "... left behind 100,000 negatives and over 10,000 proof prints." 
And Garry Winogrand "left behind nearly 300,000 unedited images, and more than 2,500 undeveloped rolls of film."

Compared to the older, chemical-based process, digital photography places no rational limit on the number of pictures that may be taken. The only real expense is a minuscule amount to store the digital files. And there is no limit to how many pictures you can post on the Web; the only cost there being access to a computer connected to the Internet.

So we are all making pictures, storing them away, posting them on the Web—and leaving them there to accumulate. One of the more popular picture sites, Flickr, says it now has over four five billion images that people have hosted there, and in all languages, it is estimated that there are over one billion blogs.

Now I'm as guilty as anyone: since switching from film to digital in 1999, I now have more than 5,500 finished, good pictures stored (but not printed)—easily more than the total of my good stuff on film from the previous forty years and more.

As I mentioned in my Paris 2007 blog post, people rarely take the time to fully digest a photographic image, most often no more than identifying the major objects in the photograph. Others have noted this as well, including David Hockney in his book, Cameraworks. However, Hockney blames the medium and tries to modify the process to force viewers to spend more time looking, while I believe the problem—and the solution—lies strictly with the viewer: they/you/we must learn to see with our eyes, not with our minds (i.e., words), and slow down.

But we, the profligatographers, aren't helping matters by flooding the blog-o-sphere.

So I periodically rip up my blogs, deleting all or most of the images I posted there. You, the viewer, will have the responsibility of taking the time to really look at the pictures that are up, because they will be gone before long.

Yet sometimes I put previously posted pictures back up, because I want to look at them again. Never can tell...

Progress Interrupted, Then Resumed…Differently

From the time I developed my first roll of film in 1957 (I was 12), photography was the primary interest in my life. I studied it, practiced it, made my living in various aspects of it… and then, about 1987, I stopped.

I haven't developed a roll of film or even been in a darkroom for the past 25 years.

I didn't stop seeing pictures but stopped the camera/film/darkroom/paper process because, by that time, I could look at something, visualize how it would appear as a photographic print, and that was sufficient.

I have never been interested in showing or selling what I did to others.

By 1980 I had begun exploring computers. Usable digital photography was still almost 20 years away but I could see where it could go, and I watched and waited with growing excitement, because that is where I wanted to be. During that time, I moved into two-dimensional graphics on the computer (scanning, vector drawing, et cetera). Everything then was crude, hard, and very expensive, but it kept moving forward. In 1988, I shifted my work-life from jobs related to aspects of photography to computer graphics, word processing, and editing, where I stayed until I retired in 2007.

In 1999, I bought my first digital camera and dove back into photography, but this time the computer was my [virtual] darkroom. The early cameras required both color and digital chicanery in order to pull out images that pleased me. As the technology—both in the cameras and computers—expanded, I had to do less, but could do ever so much more, and with far greater subtlety.

I have found my nirvana.

Now, many photographers (and camera-enthusiasts) seem most reluctant to accept, much less embrace, the technical and creative advantages that digital photography offers. The reasons are theirs, and I don't think it would be polite for me to guess, but I did wonder why I wasn't with them.

Then I got to thinking about what I'd done, as I've described above, and I realized that perhaps I am no longer a traditional photographer—but a person who uses the camera as simply another tool in the process of making pictures. In truth, I now find that most of my creative effort takes place in the virtual darkroom, with the camera work more a gathering of raw material.

Well, that isn't exactly right, but what I have been able to do is to take full advantage of the technical excellence in the modern digital camera to the point where I can all but forget about process—eliminating nearly all conscious thought and concentrating on observation and unconscious reaction with the camera. Not perfect yet, but very, very close.

Interesting quotation from W. Eugene Smith:
"Negatives are the notebooks, the jottings, the false starts, the whims, the poor drafts, and the good draft but never the completed version of the work…"