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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Along with the photo of the drum major that was featured in yesterday’s blog, I also came across another Alfred Eisenstadt photo. Shown above, it is of one of my painting heroes, Thomas Hart Benton, standing in front of a self-portrait. It’s a face that definitely belongs in one of his paintings. It reminded me of the post I’ve included below from a few years back that contains a video about the making of one of his famed murals. If you have ten or eleven minutes and are interested in the painstaking efforts that went into the making of this masterpiece, give it a look. 

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Thomas_Hart_Benton_-_Achelous_and_Hercules_-_SmithsonianBack in June, I wrote about going to the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum to see the painting shown above,  Achelous and Hercules, a wondrous mural from the great American painter Thomas Hart Benton.  It was commissioned to hang in a now-defunct Kansas City department store in 1947 and after the store closed in 1984 this masterpiece was given to the Smithsonian.

The photo of this mural doesn’t do it justice. Its size and scale, 5′ high and 22′ on a wide wooden panel that Benton painted in egg tempera, is lost in fitting its image on a small screen.  Take my word, it’s imposing and grand, a piece I could stand in front of for hours, losing myself in the rhythms and colors.

That being said, I came across a video taken from an old film that shows the incredibly elaborate process that Benton used in the making of this mural, which took about eight months.  It is fascinating and unusual to see a known masterpiece all the way through the process and coming together in all its stages.  It makes me appreciate this painting even more.

Here is that video.  It’s about 11 minutes long and worth the time spent.

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This morning I was shuffling through some stuff and came across the great photo shown above. It’s a photo the great photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt took in 1950 of a University of Michigan drum major leading a group of kids across the campus lawn.

It has a wonderful effect in that it never fails to make me smile broadly. The joy in those kids mimicking the drum major is palpable.

Now, that’s a parade.

Which brings me to the news that broke last night that a certain person in Washington has given his directive to the Pentagon that they plan for a huge military parade with columns of marching soldiers, tanks and all sorts of armaments flowing down Pennsylvania Avenue in the District of Columbia.

At first blush, you might think that sounds great. Why not?

But when you consider the history and symbolism of such parades, you begin to ask, “Why?”

Military parades are not part of our national identity and have happened infrequently, the exceptions being at the ends of those wars when we have had citizen troops returning.

When you think of such parades, images of those in the Soviet Union, China and North Korea come to mind. These were conceived as shows of strength from these countries but were, in fact, signs of weakness and insecurity. The need for bravado and the flexing of military muscles is meant not so much to impress the outside world. Were we in the US really filled with fear at the sight of tanks and troops marching in Red Square?

No, these parades are designed from a stance of weakness and are meant to instill unquestioning, fervent nationalism as well as to stifle dissent within their own countries by showing the absolute might of those in power.

And this proposed parade falls into that same category, in my opinion.

These shows of strength not who we are and are not necessary. They show our weakness in a pitiful need to conspicuously show the military strength that everyone in the world knows we have. When we spend more than all of the other major powers in the world combined, they know.

Not to mention the cost, most likely in the range of a hundred or so million dollars. At a time when we are adding a trillion dollars to the national debt this year, wouldn’t there be better places to direct those funds? Maybe in helping those many, many soldiers suffering with PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder?

I doubt those folks will be marching in these parades.

And all to appease the vanity of a weak and needy leader who kowtows to despots and dictators while constantly attacking his own government, a fool who believes that we are somehow constitutionally bound to stand and applaud for him.

Nobody can tell me when to stand and when to clap.

This ability to defy acts of authoritarianism might be the right that makes me feel truly American. Not some ridiculous military extravaganza.

Give me a drum major and a bunch of kids any day. Now, that’s a parade.

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I came across this photo from the great Hungarian/French photographer Brassai and its impact hit me immediately. It’s a powerful image that is filled with emotional and narrative potentials.

Just a glimpse at it elicits some sort of response.

For me, it was like a scene from a bad dream. Running from some unseen menace through the dark in an unknown place. Hot and humid. Stumbling over cobblestones.

Maybe for you, it raises a different narrative. Maybe running heroically toward a dire situation.

Maybe not. Maybe it’s just a great photo with wonderful contrasts that is beautifully composed. Whatever the case, I like it and thoughts it raises in me.

I thought I’d try to find something that fit the image and came up with Blue Shadows in the Street from Dave Brubeck.I’m not sure this quite fits the bill but I like it. Hope you do as well. Have a great Sunday.

 

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I pulled a book from the shelf the other day that I hadn’t looked at in some time. It’s a gorgeous book with incredible images and thought provoking allegories. Going through the images was like looking at it for the first time. I thought I’d share a blog entry I wrote about the couple who produce these fabulous photos. I’ve added a few more images to go along with the slideshow. Take a look.

I wrote a week or two ago, after seeing the film Hugo, about the work of early film pioneer George Melies and how wildly inventive it was at the advent of modern cinema.  Melies built elaborate sets and magical illusions to create images that were like scenes torn from a dream.

The same might be said for the work of Robert and Shana Parkeharrison, contemporary photographers who create magnificent allegorical landscapes on elaborate painted sets then photograph them.

Old school.

There is no computer generation here.  In their best known series which is captured in a book of the same title from 2000, The Architect’s Brother, they create a monochromatic, sepia tinged world that is both filled with foreboding  and trepidation as well as sheer beauty.  Each image is poetic and thought provoking on some level.

And powerful.

I’m sure I’m not giving as much detail about this couple and their work as you may desire.  I just wanted to pass along their imagery and let you do what you may with that.  Besides, if I write much more, that means I have less time for exploring these photos further.

Here’s a slideshow of the images from the Parkeharrisons’ book, The Architect’s Brother.

[You can visit their website by going to parkeharrison.com.]

 

Shana and Robert ParkeHarrison- Edison’s Light

Shana and Robert ParkeHarrison- Suspension

Shana and Robert ParkeHarrison- The Sower

Shana and Robert ParkeHarrison- Kingdom

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Have a lot on my plate this morning, a lot of things needing to be done. But I came across this video by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, the late Townes Van Zandt, and thought I would share it. It’s called Big Country Blues and the video features the photos of primarily working class Americans from the great Richard Avedon.

It’s a compelling video, given this time in this country. I watched it twice this morning just to fully take in the imagery and Townes’ music never lets me down. I wish he were around just to hear his take on these times. He could write some sad songs, after all.

Give it a look and a listen.

 

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It’s the first of September and I let out a sigh of relief that August is behind me. I have confessed my dislike of August here in the past. For me, it’s usually a month of heat and anxiety, a month in which every bad thing seems to find me.

But this August was kinder and gentler and I am truly thankful. I know that this has not been the case for others across the country. Most notably, a storm of biblical proportions named Harvey that swept across the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. You know the story too well.

If you can, reach into your pocketbooks and send what you can to help them out in some way. It’s the right thing to do.

September always gets me a little melancholy but in a good way. More wistful and nostalgic than sad. It’s a feeling that seems more pronounced as I find myself actually in what could be the September of my life. When this time comes I feel like looking at black and white photos and listening to September Song, which, if you think about it, is a very black and white song.

I acme across this photo of my old studio which stands up the hill from my home and current studio. It is slowly being reclaimed by the forest around it and will someday no longer exist. I like that idea of impermanence for this studio. It was almost meant to be that way as an indicator of how small we are in the face of nature, as Harvey is currently showing us.

I have included an early blog entry from 2008 that describes it along with this year’s version of September Song, which is from Johnny Hartman, jazz vocalist that is probably unknown to most of you. I know that he was off my radar. But his voice is beautifully strong and smooth and this is a lovely, faithful version of the iconic song.

  This is a photo from a book, In Their Studios: Artists & Their Environment  from the photographer, Barbara Hall Blumer.  It was a project that she carried out in 2007 documenting the studios of visual artists in the general area of the southern Finger Lakes, centering on Corning, NY, which has a vibrant artistic community.  The result was a beautiful book that gives insight into the work spaces and habits of many artists.  For me it was interesting to be able to peek into a bit of other artists’ lives.  I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in the process of art.

This is my first studio, one that I built in 1997 and worked in until January of this year [2008], when I moved into a much larger and slightly better appointed studio.  This first studio was located in the woods that above my home and gave me what I called the best commute around, a short walk each morning up the hill through dense and fairly young forest of mixed hardwoods and white pines.  Sometimes I would stop and wonder at my good fortune to have the luxury and pleasure of this walk each day.

It was a very rustic space without running water (and the facilities associated with running water!) or a lot of heat for that matter but it served me well for ten years and its setting had a presence in much of my work.  It was very tranquil and from its windows I had great views of the woods and wildlife–  deer, gray and red fox, coyotes, raccoons (who at one point made their way into my roof) and even a weasel chasing after a rabbit. In the winter it would be spectacular as the snow would cling to the white pine branches almost to the ground.

Again, I wondered how I was so lucky…

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Watching the video the other day of the Rose Garden hullabaloo with the faces of the wealthy and predominantly white men all gleefully gloating the mere passage of a House bill that has the potential to do far more harm than good made me angry and ashamed for this country.  To see them so wildly exulting something that does nothing to address the very real problems that exist in the availability and delivery of healthcare to our citizens is an abomination. They shift around some money to the advantage of those already well endowed and they celebrate like they personally defeated an alien force hellbent on overthrowing the Earth.

What drives these people? I am sure that if asked, they would spew the requisite “they’re there to serve the people“nonsense. But they seem to believe, if their actions are evidence of any sort, that the people they must serve the most are the people who need their assistance the least.

Do these men in congress really know the true extent and face of poverty or is it just an abstract notion, anonymous and in the distance? Personally, I believe they should be speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves, that they should be acting in order to lift those in need. Instead, they seem quite content in enriching their own bank accounts and those of their cronies while they do little, if anything, for the greater good.

Maybe they should take a few minutes and look at some of the photos of Lewis Hine, the photo-journalist and social activist.  His powerful photos taken around the turn of the century brought to light the plight of working children and spurred on the union movement that brought about great reforms for workers across the nation. Perhaps if they studied the faces of the children in these photos, they would get a better understanding of what should be their own purpose in their positions of responsibility. Those faces can still be found today, if they would only take the time to look.

Here’s a nice slideshow of some of Hine’s photos set to the Gary Jules version of the Tears For Fears song, Mad World.

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