Cheryl Machat Dorskind
I am an author and educator passionate about photography and sharing this form of communication worldwide though my books, online classes, college classes, and mentoring.
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Category Archives: Friday quote
Six Tips For Photographing Children Naturally
© 2012 Cheryl Machat Dorskind
“Like the people you shoot and let them know it”
I recently photographed a twelve year old boy at the beach and wanted to share some tips.
A consultation begins the process. At the meeting, learn the expectations. For example will the client want an 8×10” print or a wall sized canvass? Determining the output size in advance is important for pre-visualization. Compose with size in mind. Additionally, larger output size requires large files sizes.
Plan the wardrobe and pay attention to winning color combinations. Children’s swimwear often features bold saturated colors. Finding clothes with minimum or no logos is tough. For this session we chose a gray shirt to balance the highly saturated colors of the swim trunks and board).
To help break-the-ice with twelve-year-old Justin, we walked together down the beach and chatted. I did not want Justin to perform; I wanted him to be himself.
I did not use an assistant because adding someone to hold my flash or reflector would break the bond Justin and I had formed. Luckily the overcast sky and time of day did not require supplement. The beautiful Hampton sunlight was shining its magic. (A surfer even stopped and commented on the gorgeous light.) Instead, my assistant shot some video that I uploaded below.
Determine Your Camera Settings Before You Begin
Preplan your camera settings. Select an exposure mode, focus and drive mode, ISO, aperture, and shutter settings that make most sense for your session before you begin so you are not fiddling with the camera. I used continuous drive mode and AI Servo (AF Mode).
I was working an hour before sunset and the sun was weaving in and out of clouds. Knowing I can use a high ISO on my camera, I set it to 640, enabling flexibility in terms of shutter and aperture selection. Since the sunlight was changing rapidly, I used aperture priority exposure mode and kept my eye on the shutter to make sure it did not dip too low to cause camera shake.
From time to time, check your camera settings. Sometimes in the midst of a shoot, you will inadvertently move the exposure or your exposure mode dial (consider taping the function drive in place). Check that your shutter is fast enough to avoid camera shake (1/focal length of the lens) and that the appropriate focus tracking is set.
Beforehand, I decided to use a 70-200 mm lens providing ample space between Justin and I. This distance enabled Justin to relax. (At the beach you do not want to be changing lenses).
Keep the pose natural
Patience+rapport = natural poses. Let the natural body language be your guide and then tweak. Set up a scene, and then let the action occur. Be ready to capture the moment. The “right” smile is often right after the child smiles.
Shoot at the child’s level
Children will react better and your images will improve if you meet the child at their eye level. This often means you will find yourself on the ground.
Know when you are done.
Personally, it is a feeling I get. I feel done. “I got it.” Be sensitive to the fact that most children do not want to have their picture taken. Learn to sense enough is enough. Quickly scroll through the thumbnails to see if you have a few winners.
Join Cheryl for one of her online photography classes. New sessions begin this weekend (October 7-9) and November 5, 2012.
All About Color
More About Color
Photographing Children: Rising to the Challenge
Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, and the soul is the piano with many strings ~Kandinsky
“Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, and the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another purposely, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) transformed color into a lyrical force, spectral and geometric musical equivalents. His work is profound and spiritual. “In Art” is a collection of his visions of art and soul, color and geometry.
Oscar winning actor Helen Mirren speaks about how she relaxes and finds inspiration by going to a museum. Her favorite artist is Kandinsky and in this video she talks about Kandinsky paintings and how they enrich her inner voice.
“When I draw something I remember it. The drawing is a reminder of the idea that caused me to record it in the first place.”
~ Michael Graves
New York Times (09/01/2012)
When I photograph something, I remember it. I have been photographing for a long time and still remember when I photographed images I come across in my archives. The photographs stamp an emotional ambiance and color my memory.
That is why I always have a camera with me. It helps me see. The point and shoot (or smart phone) becomes a sketch book. I don’t leave home without one.
Personally, I am more fluid with a small camera, I can easily observe and merge with the environment.
Have a great weekend,
Friday Quote: “All the wonderful accidents that happen to you as an actor”
This line caught my ear while driving the other day and listening to Frank Langella’s interview with Dave Davies for NPR’s Fresh Air (August 16, 2012). I later listened to Langella reminisce about how hard it was to portray President Nixon.
“Well, I was at the Museum of Radio and Television. I asked the lady there if she’d be good enough to give me some tapes on him. And she said how many do you want? I’ve got thousands and thousands. And she brought in a big wagon and I got a sandwich and an iced tea, and sat and plugged in the Watergate shows and watch him. And then I got up to go to the bathroom and I pressed the button and when I came back I pressed slow motion as a, in an accident, really. All the wonderful accidents that happen to you as an actor, and that was one of the great ones for me. And I watched his eyes and the way his mouth moved and his hand gestures in slow motion. And suddenly I began to see what he was hiding. I began to notice the ticks much more vividly than I had normally, because we had all seen so much of him that you grew used to it. But when you watch him in slow – when you watch anything in slow motion you’re going to see something a little waiver in the eyes, a little strange smile, whatever. And that’s when his heart, when the soul of the man, as I perceived him, began to take shape for me and then I began to think well, maybe, maybe I can find a way to do him.”
Hearing others I admire respectfully admit mistakes encourages hard work, bravery and a willingness to experiment. Langella struggled, watching thousands of videos to find his Nixon voice, he researched, contemplated and then accidentally found the answer. Mistakes can be fortuitous seeds for brilliance.
Labor Day marks the celebration of American workers and the beginning of the school calendar. And as I begin teaching my fall semester classes at the local community college in an economic environment that does not scream for more photographers, I encourage you to work hard at your passion, listen, experiment, make mistakes, and celebrate.
Happy Friday and a Happy Labor Day weekend to all my American friends,
Friday Quote: “All our knowledge has its origin in perception.”
~Leonardo da Vinci
I like to walk. I walk the same five mile route almost every day and each time I walk this path, the light shifts, colors change, wildlife scatters, and the trees and flowers bend with the wind.
Here are a few these summer photos (all captured with my iphone):
Friday Quote: “When was the last time you laughed?”
~ Barbara Kruger
Barbara Kruger’s new installation “Belief + Doubt” features massive-type aphorisms in Kruger’s signature colors of red, black, and white. The exhibit officially opens on August 20 and will remain on display through 2014.
According to the Washington City Paper (8/8/12), Barbara Kruger is one of the greatest feminist artists of the 20th century and an important contributor to the fields of text-based art, appropriation, mass communication and corporate critique.
I was fortunate to be at the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum earlier this summer while the installation was in progress and I snapped a few photos.
All Images:”Belief + Doubt” – © Barbara Kruger, photos by Cheryl Machat Dorskind
Have a great weekend and a hearty laugh,
Friday Quote: “I want to open eyes”
Holland Cotter (NY Times, July 26, 2012)
Here’s my back to school clean-up list:
- Organize desktop
- Purge, defrag, repair disk
- Update camera firmware
- Check camera date and time settings
- Add your name (if your camera software allows) to the exif data
- Check for software updates
- Buy another external hard drive (many are on “back-to-school-sale”) and rotate storage data that is stored on devices more than five years (according to the Library of Congress)
- Create a cloud account (Dropbox, Box, Amazon)
- Set goals
- Think about creating a holiday card
More on Joseph Albers
“Joseph Albers in America: Painting on Paper” remains on view at the Morgan Library and Museum, 225 Madison Avenue, NYC through October 14th. (themorgan.org.)
“Joseph Albers in America: Painting on Paper”
“Literature is the right use of language irrespective of the subject or reason of utterance” ~Evelyn Waugh
What is literature?
Friday Quote: “Literature is the right use of language irrespective of the subject or reason of utterance.”
And what is the “right use” asks Jim Holt in his NY Times editorial “Is Philosophy Literature?” (7/1/12) “Lucidity, elegance, individuality.” (Evelyn Waugh).
With summer nearly halfway over and I thought I’d share my summer reading list.
1. “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. A very quick and enjoyable summer escape.
2. “Song of the Lark” by Willa Cather is a beautifully written portrait of a heroic woman artist.
3. “Da Vinci’s Ghost” by Toby Lester. A fascinating historic journey into the Vitruvian Man’s impact on da Vinci.
4. “Sacred Geometry” by Stephen Skinner. A very palatable explanation of the Pythagorean theory and mystical history.
5. “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” by Michael J. Gelb. An inspiring teaching resource easily translatable to the classroom.
6. “Quiet” by Susan Cain. A nice companion for those of us who have been labeled “too sensitive.” It’s filled with rich insights on the artist, the inventor, and introverts vs. extroverts.
7.“The Lower River” by Paul Theroux. The atmospheric, edgy novel finds its protagonist unprepared as he journeys back to primitive Africa. it’s almost as great as Coetzee’s haunting “Disgrace.”
8. “Canada” by Richard Ford. Andrew Dubois’s glowing review in the New York Times (June) sold me on this book. It is next on deck.
9. “Adobe Photoshop for Photographers (CS6)” by Martin Evening. Evening is an Adobe “Hall of Famer” and this book doesn’t disappoint.
10. “Picasso and Photography” Anne Baldassari. I never realized the impact of photography on Picasso’s art.
Would love to hear what you are reading. I bet my readers would too.
Yesterday I ate something that kept me in bed so I turned on the tv and watched the HBO documentary “Marina Abramovic′.” I was stunned by its intensity and sorry I missed her 2010 MOMA retrospective. If you were one of the 750,000 viewers I would like to hear your thoughts.
The documentary did not sit well with my queasy stomach, (I stopped it when the magician was eating his wine glass) but I wanted to share some of Marina’s wisdom. She is an artist (doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a “performance artist”) who embodies Zen philosophy. To her, intention and being in your authentic space is sacred. I was profoundly touched by her presence on screen.
“Artists have to be warrior, have to have this determination and the stamina to conquer, not to just cover new territory, but also to conquer himself and his weaknesses. So it doesn’t matter what type of work you are doing as an artist, the most important is which state of mind you are doing what you are doing. And performance is all about state of mind.”
“Artist is present”
From her manifest:
- An artist should not lie to himself or to others
- An artist should not steal from other artists
- An artist should not compromise for themselves or in regard to the art market
- An artist should not kill another human being
- An artist must not make themselves into an idol
- An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist
A recent NY Times interview with Marina concludes this blog, although I recommend watching the documentary first before you read the interview and judge Marina and her art. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/magazine/the-devil-in-marina-abramovic.html)
PS Feeling better, I finished watching the video last night.
“I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed” -Gary Winogrand
An unfortunate event.
Curious, I approach.
With my camera, I hone in.
I look behind.
And turn again and find another door.
With a camera you have the power to transform.
Friday Quote: “Once in awhile you get shown the light in the strangest of places, if you look at it right” ~ Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia
I went to see Andrew Wyeth’s paintings at the Brandywine River Museum and I thought to myself as I walked around the back path I had mistaken for the entrance, “Why go inside? I’d rather experience what Wyatt experienced directly.”
The riverbank, overgrown with foliage, was a magnificent playground of dappled light.
“Sketching. This is how a designer dreams.”
by Cheryl Machat Dorskind
© 2012 Cheryl Machat Dorskind all rights Reserved
In an recent interview for InStyle magazine, Karl Lagerfeld was asked what the best part of designing was.
“Sketching,” he replied, “this is how a designer dreams. I keep a sketch pad and pencils right by me wherever I sleep. I use Shu Uemura makeup sticks rather than art pencils.”
This quote caught my attention for a number of reasons: First, I like Lagerfeld’s romantic quote. Second, I also keep a pad and pencil (not Shu Uemuras) by my bed, in case an idea pops up in my dreams. Third, photography is drawing with light.
I also really like pencils, better than pens, and I have been on a mission to find the perfect one. I like a firm point―one that won’t snap, as the mechanical pencil tips do too often. The problem with the old fashion orange number 2s is the constant need to sharpen, as I like a fine point.
I also handwrite notes and prefer a pencil that doesn’t smear. I just bought a set of 15 Faber Castell’s so I could try different varieties. This has been instructive, but the pencils are too thin. I was wondering if you could recommend the perfect pencil. I am looking for one that feels good, writes beautifully, and one with which to sign my Photopaintings.
New Ideas Fascinate Me
© 2012 Cheryl Machat Dorskind
Looking for a new motif for your photography? Well, Thomas Struth might have an answer. Struth bypassed photographer’s block finding his muse for over forty years in a broad range of subjects including urban environments, families, technology, and (today’s topic) museums. Struth doesn’t look at his breadth of subjects as personal reinvention, but rather fascination with new ideas,
“It has less to do with reinventing myself then with how I simply change as a person and how will new things come into my life, New things fascinate me and I’m interested in new problems.
Finding new new ideas requires an open heart and mind and curiosity. Struth wrote about the museum experience:
“The question is? What are people doing there. Why are they there? The answer is museums provide a protected space where people can reflect on history and on the perspective of history provided by other people before them.”
Museums create a protected space to unleash your imagination. In museums I loose myself and time. Willa Sibert Cather writes in “Song of the Lark” (free download on the Kindle),
“It was with a lightening of the heart, a feeling of throwing off the old miseries and old sorrows of the world, that she ran up the wide staircase to the pictures. There she liked best the ones that told stories… In that same room, there was a picture— Oh, that was the thing she ran upstairs so fast to see! That was her picture. She imagined that nobody cared for it but herself, and that it waited for her… She liked even the name of it, ‘The Song of the Lark’… She told herself that that picture was ‘right’… the almost boundless satisfaction she felt when she looked at the picture.”
Art will refuel a photographer and expand her repertoire. Use a camera for sketching. Capture history-making-images. Photograph (If the museum permits) a Mary Cassatt or Rembrandt for light, color, and composition.
So here’s to another happy Friday. I hope you find your muse,
© 2012 Cheryl Machat Dorskind
“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye… Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something.”
This Evans’ quote appears adjacent to his 1938 Subway and 1941 Bridgeport photographic series on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, one of six artists included in the show “I Spy: Photography and the Theater of the Street.”
Sound dramatic? At the time Evans’ “I Spy” experiment was a radical departure from his precision style compositions as he explored random expressions and gestures on the NYC subway and a street in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Motivated to step beyond his comfort zone, Evans recalled years later, “beware of this; don’t accept acclaim; be careful about being established.”
Evans’ goal was to make the camera an objective recording device. On the subway, Evans hid is Contax camera, the prefocused lens peaking out of his jacket. For the Bridgeport series, he used a 2 ¼ camera, his eye looking downward on the focusing screen. Evans clicked the shutter at whim, most strangers never knew.
Times have changed. You can not stare at strangers these days. The unspoken rule in New York City subways is “No eye contact.” And what about copyright laws? Can you really post photos of strangers without worrying about lawsuits or being punched in the face? As a side note: Evans was concerned about his subjects privacy and waited nearly twenty years to publish these works.
The exhibit “I Spy” creates a timeline of street photography and in addition to Walker Evans, includes the photographs of Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Beat Streuli. It is a terrific exhibit. On the one hand, the show is hung beautifully and the open gallery contrasts with the claustrophobic space of the subway and crowded city streets. Personally, like seeing a favorite band or celebrity on stage, I get a thrill from looking inches close to iconic photographs.
Seeing the contrast in size and color between Walker’s subway photos (1938) and Bruce Davidson’s (1980) images startle the senses. Davidson’s chromogenic large format photographs shock and recreate the dirty, crime ridden, dark, dank station atmosphere into the National Gallery of Art. The photos also reflect the changing times, whereby Davidson asked permission to photograph many of his subjects. His work was dangerous; he was mugged at knife point and accused of rape. Still, Davidson was addicted,
“In this grim, abusive, violent, and often beautiful reality of the subway,” he wrote, “we confront our mortality, contemplate our destiny, and experience both the beauty and the beast….Trapped inside” the moving train, we all hang on together.”
The issue of copyright is addressed with the inclusion of the larger than life size photographs by Philip-Lorca diCorcia, who was sued for privacy violation. In 2006, the New York State court ruled in favor of the photographer, citing
“On the grounds that his photographs were works of art and therefore constitutionally protected free speech, exempted from the reach of New York’s privacy law.”
The show brings us to date, with the work of Beat Streuli (2002-2012). Across the street at a coffee shop, a still camera was prefocused on an Astor place subway stop. The images are projected side-by-side on two flat screens, changing to the bustling New York city pedestrians rhythm, in “staccato fashion.”
The curator sums up the show’s relevancy to today’s ubiquitous camera, “In this age of cell phone and security cameras, YouTube and Google Earth, the photographs also make us aware of our uneasy relationship to the camera, suggesting both our fascination and discomfort with its intrusion into our daily lives. “
In closing, if you are in Washington DC, don’t miss this exhibit which closes August 5, 2012.
Final note: My online classes start this weekend. Why don’t you join me?
© 2012 Cheryl Machat Dorskind
Birthdays are complicated. Literally a birthday marks the day you were born, but psychologically the date is laced with expectations and hopeful celebrations.
I just had a birthday and thanks to social media, I marked the hatching of another year with many people around the world. I hope this new year continues to bring new friends.
Coincidentally (although I do not believe in coincidences) I was reading, “In Our Prime” by Patricia Cohen.
“The term Happy Birthday did not appear with any frequency in English language books until after the Civil War.”
Wow, I thought and read on,
“Receiving a card to mark one’s entrance into the world would have been as odd as being congratulated for growing out of a pair of shoes. The practice of sending cards began in 1870s and 1880s, when Christmas card producers retrofit leftover holiday postcards with birthday greetings. Cards created exclusively for the occasion did not appear until the twentieth century.”
I still send birthday cards and often create my own, but I admit my practice is in the minority. I only received four written cards, while I received many postings on facebook, private locked messages on G+, and emails. Surprisingly, I did not receive any e-greeting cards this year —could this be a sign of a downward trend? Interesting! In time, the history books will include a passage on how birthday cards became obsolete by 2020.
I decided to research birthdays as I was curious to know who else was born on May 25th in addition to a dear friend and my father-in-law. I also share my birthday with a new friend I met on facebook. When we first connected, I thought he was someone else, and when we realized the mistake we remained friends, an experiment to see how many degrees of separation there were between us. So far, I know of two: May 25, and Boston University.
A few things I discovered:
- Mary Cassatt was born on May 25th
- Historian Elizabeth Peck (www.las.illinois.edu) suspects birthdays went mainstream after WWII and by the 1950s they were a right to childhood for all.
- The Happy Birthday song was copyrighted in 1935 to Jessica Hill and remains protected until 2030!: http://blogcritics.org/music/article/the-absurdity-of-copyright-happy-birthday/
I listened to Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to the University of Arts, Class of 2012, (Philadelphia, PA) the other night. What a pleasant surprise. It was rich with good advise and very inspiring. It has a special appeal for artists, photographers, writers, illustrators, graphic designers, and book lovers.
Previously, I knew a little about Gaiman’s work (my husband has Sandman statues and a collection of Gaiman’s comics) but now I am a fan.
Here are a few quotes:
“I learned to write by writing”
“You can be as creative as you need to be to have your work seen”
“The old rules are crumbling…so make up your own rules”
“Be wise because the world needs more wisdom….and if you cannot be wise, pretend you are wise and pretend like they would…Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”
Happy Friday and a shout out to men and women in uniform servicing our country on Memorial Day weekend,
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Gordon Parks
By Cheryl Machat Dorskind
I was so happy to read the announcement about the upcoming photography exhibit at the International Center of Photography in midtown New York City celebrating Gordon Parks’ 100th year anniversary of his birth.
The ICP is taking the show to the streets, by including mural size photos as window displays and downloadable talks to mobile devices by Gordon Parks himself. The aim is to introduce Gordon Parks’ works to a new generation.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Gordon Parks’ genius as a filmmaker (including “Leaning Tree” and “Shaft”), writer, composer, and photographer. Largely self-taught, he lived to 93 years old. He was able to overcome many barriers as a child, including poverty and racism. During his tenure at Life magazine, Parks’ photographs focused on social inequality.
Perhaps his best known photograph is “American Gothic” which depicts a black cleaning woman named Ella Watson who stands stoically in front of an American flag, a mop in one hand, a broom in the other. Copyright laws restrict me from posting this photo, but I am able to post another that features Mrs. Ella Watson. This photo was obtained from the Library of Congress’s vast digital photo resource. If you haven’t visited this website, take a look this weekend. It is rich with American history. (www.loc.gov)
Below are a few quotes from Gordon Parks.
“Time smiled, touched my shoulder, and told me things I’d never heard before. Now and then certain wonders of the universe descend carefully from the Maker’s hands and, one by one, fall into a chosen space to blot out emptiness.”
Humor on aging:
“Recently my memory is slippery, like an eel. The spectacles that were missing this morning were kind enough to turn up on my head.” He says, “Funny, things I forget are often more significant than the things I remember.”
Eyes with Winged Thoughts
On love and hope:
“Despite the turmoil, anguish and despair disrupting the planet we inherited, there is something good I choose to sing about. That something lies within us, patiently waiting – beneath us, above us and around us.”
Eyes with Winged Thoughts
The exhibit opens Thursday, May 24th. Maybe I’ll see you then.
Have a great weekend and keep your camera in heart synch.
by Cheryl Machat Dorskind
© 2012 All Rights Reserved
In•tu•i•tion — The ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning (Webster’s Dictionary). Intuition guides the photographer: Where to look, How to frame, What to see is the photographer’s internal, intuitive dialogue.
Harry Callahan was self taught and known as the “regular guy.” He was also a devoted and beloved teacher. His work ethic was pronounced and laced with intuition. Britt Salvesen sums up three prerequisites for intuition: openness, freedom, and curiosity which are maintained with effort, discipline, and patience. Callahan’s intuitive love for his wife Eleanor and daughter Barbara are reflected in the renown photographic series he created of them.
Intuitively, I knew this was going to be a great moment with my daughter Nicole.
Happy Mother’s Day,
by Cheryl Machat Dorskind
Intuition: Some call it a “sixth sense,” an “urge” a “feeling”, “knowing,” “pulling,” “drawing” us to pay attention, to create.
Harry Callahan, one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century, was also a devoted photo instructor, chairing the photography department at Rhode Island School of Design from 1961-1973 (and continued teaching until retiring in 1977). I wish I had known him.
Harry Callahan spoke often of intuition in relation to his work. “Once we recognize a potential photograph, we begin to “see” in our mind the image that will convey the visual-emotional experience of the subject to the maximum degree—that is we visualize an image. Our visualization starts with the subject but takes into account the characteristic of the medium itself and of the specific equipment and materials we are using.”
“I know that, for instance, if I want to photograph on the beach or something, then I’ll walk around the beach and all of a sudden I see something. And then that’s the beginning to start working on something, and then maybe I’ll photograph that and walk down farther and find something very similar, and then keep working on that sort of a little theme, whatever it might be. And then the next time I go to the beach I might say, “well I want to go back and do that.”
PS My May online photo classes begin this weekend. Sign-up today and join me for a four weeks of photo inspiration to jump start your intuition:
Friday Quote will focus on intuition for the next few weeks. We will begin with the pithy words from a master.
“Art takes wing from the platform of reality. We observe reality; we may or may not feel anything about it. If we do feel something, we may have a moment of recognition of the imperative subject and its qualities in terms of a photograph. In a sense this is a mystical experience, a revelation of the world that transcends fact and reaches into the spirit.”
Ansel Adams in collaboration with Robert Baker
Polaroid Land Photography
Boston; NY Graphic Society/Little Brown, 1978
Here’s to openness and intuition,
Registration for my online photography classes is open. Join me:
More About Color – NEW
From the blog series: Friday Quote: Truth ?¿?
“The power of photography lies with the power of undeniable reality of the image…What is real about the medium of Photography? Photography is very unreal. You take a three dimensional world and reduce it to a two-dimensional world. You take color and reduce it to black-and-white. You take the world and life constantly moving within time, and reduce it to an instant moment. That’s not real. It is an illusion of reality. There are many things that are very false about photography when it is accepted without question. You must recognize this and interpret it as you would any other art form, and then maybe it is a little more than real.”
Interviews with Master Photographers
James Danziger and Barnaby Conrad III
As Newman remarks, photography plays with the notion of time. Time can be on our side.
Make the most of your time and have a great weekend,
Friday Quote: Truth ?¿? “Photographers are always imposing…” ~Susan Sontag
“Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it. In one version of its utility, the camera record incriminates…In another version of its utility, the camera record justifies. A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture…While a painting or prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency…Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience…In deciding how a picture should look, in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the work as paintings and drawings are.”
A recent editorial in The New York Times Sunday Review (my favorite section) previewed a Susan Sontag sampler, a taste of what is to come in a new book of Sontag’s journals (1964-1890) edited by David Reiff (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/opinion/sunday/a-sontag-sampler.html).
Within the sampler, you’ll find a list of things Sontag likes:
“Ivory, sweaters, architectural drawings, urinating, pizza (the Roman bread), staying in hotels, paper clips, the color blue, leather belts, making lists, wagon-lits, paying bills, caves, watching ice-skating, asking questions, taking taxis, Benin art, green apples, office furniture, Jews, eucalyptus trees, penknives, aphorisms, hands.”
The last item on her dislike list is “taking photographs.” Surprising? She was after all Annie Leibovitz’s partner for fifteen years, but once you read On Photography, I suspect you’ll understand. Her posthumous collection of letters will be published April 10, 2012. Click here to pre-order.
Have a wonderful holiday weekend,
“Photography never lies: or rather it can lie as to the meaning of the thing…never to its existence.”
Below Barthes remarks on his experience as subject:
“In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art. In other words, a strange action: I do not stop imitating myself and because of this, each time I am (or let myself be) photographed, I invariably suffer from a sensation of inauthenticity, sometimes of imposture (comparable to certain nightmares). In terms of image-repertoire, the Photograph (the one I intend) represents that very subtle moment when, to tell the truth, I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: I the experience a micro-version of death (of parenthesis): I am truly becoming a specter.”
I just saw the Cindy Sherman show at MOMA and her self portraits play on these philosophical “what is truth” probings. She constantly toys with herself, molding her image, grabbing a self out of her bag of costumes. I am a bit haunted by her later, larger than life size portraits of aging woman, who on the surface appear elegant. Juxtaposed on digitally imposed bucolic backgrounds, on close exam the aging details crack the heavily powdered foundation and reveal gravity, wrinkles pointing to masked time.
This week’s Friday Quote begins a mini series: Truth?⸮ Photography’s credibility aura will be explored.
“A failed attempt to photograph reality. How foolish of me to have believed that it would be that easy. I had confused the appearances of trees and automobiles and people with reality itself and believed that a photograph of these appearances to be a photograph of it. It is a melancholy truth that I will never be able to photograph it and can only fail. I am a reflection photographing other reflections within a reflection. To photograph reality is to photograph nothing.”
Contacts volume 2
Duane Michals, an American born contemporary photographer (1932 – ), often makes use of photo sequences and text.
“A lot of the early modern artists believed that art could change the world. A lot of artists today don’t’ believe that. Well, I do…The urge to depict and the longing to see depiction is very strong and deep within us. It’s a 5,000 year old longing — we see it all the way back to the cave paintings — this need to render the world. Art is about correspondences — making connections with the world and with each other.”
David Hockney, considered by many as one of the world’s greatest living artists ( 1937 – ) is a painter, printmaker, photographer, and stage designer. His works are characterized by economy of technique and a preoccupation with light and frank realism.
He has a lot to say. Here are a few books to read more of his insights. They might just give you a creative jolt.
Couldn’t resist one more quote:
“I think that the way we depict space has a great deal to do with how we behave in it.”
Have a great weekend,
“Technical prowess, I know just as much as I need to know and no more. I am interested in seeing the thing. I could tell you how a view camera works, I could probably explain it to you, but I only know that from experience. I knew nothing about it before I bought one. I had some wild concept that you can change space, which… you can. But, once I bought the view camera, everything else was just eyeballing it…If the thing doesn’t look like the way I want it to look, I’ll try something else.”
PRODUCER: Tina Barney, 1994
DIRECTOR: Mark Trottenberg
Jan Groover died on January 1, 2012; she was 68 years old. “Her relentlessly formal still lifes of mundane objects brought a sense of Renaissance stateliness to postmodern photography…The pictures resonated not only as subtle documents of feminism, but also as unusually beautiful investigations of the fictions that are inseparable from facts in the conventions of photography. (Randy Kennedy, The New York Times, January 11, 2012).
Here is a link to her works in the MOMA collection.
“Compose and Wait” ~Sam Abell
“One of the things that I most believe in is the compose and wait philosophy of photography. It’s a very satisfying, almost spiritual way to photograph. Life isn’t’ knocking you around, life isn’t controlling you. You have picked your place, you’ve picked your scene, you’ve picked your light, you’ve done all the decision making and you are waiting for the moment to come to you.”
For over forty years (born 1945) Sam Abell has been a photographer, educator, author, and mentor. He learned photography from his father at their home in Sylvania, Ohio where he lived for eighteen years. Abell states that the flat landscape of Sylvania —one of the flattest landscapes in North America — developed his signature composition style;
“the background is level, horizontal, and cleanly divides the frame, top-to-bottom and near-to-far. I find it, in addition to it being a graphic element, to be an optimistic or positive element… The horizon to me always meant possibilities…”
I was not surprised to see the cover of the New York Times Sunday Arts section (2/19/12) feature a rare non-costumed Cindy Sherman self-portrait for its lead article. And I thought, of course, “Why hire a photographer when she can photograph herself…best…as she wants to be seen?”
Once again Cindy Sherman makes front page art news in the New York Times Weekend Arts, today (2/24/12), but this time she is back in costume. Her exhibit at the MOMA is one not to be missed. Here are some Cindy Sherman Quotes:
“None of the characters are me. They’re everything but me. If it seems too close to me, it’s rejected.”
“My work is not about fantasizing about characters or situations……When I’m doing the characters I really don’t feel it is something I’m building out of my fantasies, my dreams…”
“Sometimes I would play in my room out of curiosity to see what makeup can do. Sometimes become a character…”
The Photographer’s Quote
“I was good at copying things, but I didn’t really have ideas of what I wanted to do with painting. That was when I thought, ‘Why am I wasting my time elaborately copying things when I could use a camera?’”
Carol Vogel, NY Times (2/19/12)
On Hiring Models
“Whenever I tried to hire people or use friends or family, even if I paid them, I felt like I had to entertain them. When I’m working alone, I can push myself. And I don’t complain.”
Carol Vogel, NY Times (2/19/12)
From the Critics
“The contradictory and complex readings of her work reinforce its ongoing relevance to multiple audiences. More than ever, identity is malleable and fluid and her photographs confirm this.”
Ms. Respini (NY Times 2/19/2012)
Her exhibition at MOMA will be on view through June11, 2012
“Andre Kertesz has two qualities which are essential for a great photographer: an insatiable curiosity about life and a precise sense of form.”
Born in Hungry in 1894, Kertesz was self taught. When asked what interested him most, he replied, “Everything….The camera is a sketchbook…I made many many mistakes and learned…Everything I did was exactly composed…The camera is my tool. Through it I give a reason to everything around me.”
1983 BBC Series
“Photographing children requires total attention to their state of mind—a state that changes constantly from smiles to tears to wonder. These glimpses of magic slowly unveil, but illusively disappear the moment the photographer tries to capture them. Like an audience engrossed in the subtle character shifts of an actor, the photographer watches the child and waits for cues. “
~Cheryl Machat Dorskind
From my book, The Art of Photographing Children
Join me for my online class, “Photographing Children: Rising to the Challenge”
Class begins this weekend!
“I don’t work from drawings or color sketches. My painting is direct. I usually paint on the floor. I enjoy working on a large canvass. I feel more at home, more at ease in a big area. Having the canvass on the floor, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting. This way I can walk around it, work from all fours sides and be in the painting. Similar to the Indian sand paintings of the West.
Sometimes I use a a brush, but often prefer using a stick. Sometimes I pour the paint straight, right out of the can. I like to use a dripping, fluid paint. I also use sand, broken glass, pebbles, string. A method of painting is a natural growth, out of a need.
I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them.
Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.
When I am painting I have a general notion as to what I am about. I can control the flow of the paint, There is no accident, just as there is no beginning and no end….a painting has a life of its own, I let it live.”
Excerpt from the video Jackson Pollock 51
Hans Namuth and Paul Falkenberg (directors) Morton Feldman (composer)
Saturday, January 28th, marks the anniversary of Jackson Pollock’s (the father of Abstract Expressionism) 100th birthday.
Here’s a sampling:
“There is an old adage in music: “if you play when you practice, you practice when you play.”
Over 50 years ago Ansel Adams, feeling restless, made a career choice, forgoing the life of a classical concert pianist for that of a photographer.
He was encouraged by family and friends to stay the piano course. “Oh Ansel, don’t give up the piano, the camera can not express the soul…The only answer I had to that was, I don’t think the camera can, but maybe the photographer could.”
Friday Quote: by Cheryl Machat Dorskind
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”
Have a great weekend,
Friday Quote: If they were willing to give, I was willing to photograph
“It doesn’t matter if you use a box camera or a Leica, the important thing is what motivates you when you are photographing. What I have tried to do is involve the people I was photographing. To have them realize without saying so that it was up to them to give me whatever they wanted to give me… if they were willing to give, I was willing to photograph.”
Conversations with John Tusa
Eve Arnold, a pioneering photojournalist, died this past Wednesday at the age of 99. She began her career in 1946, when career women were a rarity, let alone women photographers. She was one of the first women to join Magnum Photography Agency (along with Inge Morath). In her memoir, Arnold recalls how she studied contact sheets she found at Magnum to learn how the other Magnum photographers, such as founders Henri Cartier Bresson and Robert Capa, approached their assignments. She noted that Henri Cartier Bresson’s work in particular taught her to tell an entire story in a single image.
In the 1950s, Arnold carved a niche in Hollywood and is perhaps best known for her “natural and intimate portraits” of Marilyn Monroe, and “unflattering real portraits” of Joan Crawford. Yet, Arnold prided herself in staying away from “women pages” and whenever possible worked from a global perspective, traveling the world, documenting infamous faces, and winning many prestigious awards, honors, and publishing 12 books.
Have a great weekend and take a moment to reflect upon the work of Eve Arnold,
“Perhaps every culture leaves markers for the future, a means of connecting the dots of linking the past to what is yet to come. The “frozen moment” of photography provides a possible answer to the problem of Heraclitus, that one cannot step into the same river twice. Perhaps one can look at the same photograph twice. Even though our thoughts and our memories change, we change, the perspective through which we look at the world changes, there is the thought that a photograph partially takes us outside of ourselves. That it gives us a glimpse—even though it may be only a two dimensional representation—of something real.”
Wishing you a safe, healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!
“I begin by not photographing” ~Jeff Wall
“I developed that phrase because it just described something I really do. If I see something on the street, lets say, I don’t photograph it. So I could be looking and hunting for things…but I just don’t photograph them. It’s only a small difference, really. The actual event disappears as a photograph. It vanishes as a potential photograph. It doesn’t happen. But, it doesn’t disappear because I am the photographer…
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The Art Institute of Chicago on Jeff Wall: “Epic and luminous, the work of Jeff Wall has overturned nearly every convention of photography. Meticulously staged and theatrical in scale, Wall’s images have more in common with the grandest history painting of the 18th century and the flickering mesmerism of cinema than with the fleeting documentary style of much of modern photography.”
“Most people hide behind a socially attractive mask. Others lose their composure in front of a camera. Lighting and photographic equipment are less important to the portraitist than psychology and conversation. If he uses them effectively, sometimes in the short span of a sitting a miracle happens. A fragment of evanescent truth is captured and instant eternity (simply add hypo!) is born.“
- Philippe Halsman
The word hypo evokes nostalgia – I miss the darkroom!
(Hypo – a trademark of Kodak- is a clearing agent used to remove fixer from films and fiber-based paper to shorten the washing time and also enable washes at lower temperatures practical.)
I was reintroduced to the fine work of Philippe Halsman when I met and photographed Austin Ratner this past August. Austin Ratner spent five years researching the life of Philippe Halsman and wrote the highly acclaimed novel, “The Jump Artist”
In addition to his renown portraits of celebrities, politicians, and intellectuals of the period of time between 1940-1970s, Philippe Halsman was also known for his “jump” pictures which include popular comedians of the time (Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Groucho Marx) and (then) Vice President Richard Nixon jumping. To learn more about Philippe Halsman, http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/halsman/intro.htm.
“The contact sheet is like the analysts’s couch. It’s also a kind of seismograph, recording the instant. It’s all there, what surprises us is what we catch, what we miss, what disappears. Or else an event that fulfills itself as an image.”
~Henri Cartier Bresson~
Contacts, Vol. 1: The Great Tradition of Photojournalism (1988)
DVD, Directors: Richard Copans & Stan Neumann
Contact sheets are valuable editing tools and they’ll help you stay organized. Back in the film days, contact sheets were part of the workflow. Now we view digital files on a slide show, 2 up, four up, or plain old one up. But it is hard to edit the many images that a digital session typically produces.
With a contact sheet, a best shot will pop. The printed thumbnails give you a different perspective, one that is useful for gaining insights into your work. Editing is important, a best practice is to “show less and only the best.”With a white background, there is plenty of space for writing comments or circling the best shots.
For your next photo shoot try a contact sheet and discover how the thumbnails will help you “see.”
Have a great weekend!
Have you noticed that art critiques (photography, films, and book reviews as well) can be awfully opinionated? Art criticism is supposed to be about detailing, explaining, and educating the public. But sometimes art critics get carried away with their editorial perspective.
“Abigail Solomon-Godeau views her chosen critical agendas as one of asking questions: Primarily, all critical practices—literary or artistic—should be about asking questions. That’s what I do in my teaching and it’s what I attempt to do in my writing.”
Critic Kay Larsen, states that she starts writing criticism “by confronting the work at the most direct level possible—suspending language and removing barriers…you can try to figure out how to explain it, and there are many ways to take off—through sociology, history, theory, standard criticism, or description.”
And lastly, Grace Glueck sees her role as a critic as “being one of informing members of the public about works of art: She aspires to inform, elucidate, explain, and enlighten.”
With the above critical philosophy (from the terrific book Criticizing Photographs, by Terry Barrett Criticizing Photographs
as a backdrop, I now turn to the exhibit of Maurizio Cattelan at the Guggenheim, “All.” Maurizio Cattelan is known for his prankster approach to art and critics have not been kind.
And yet…he is having a retrospective at the age of 51 at the Guggenheim Museum and he cleverly insisted on using the brilliance of Frank Lloyd’s Wright’s space to hang (never-to-be -done-before) his collection of 128 works in the center of the atrium.
Ingenious and fun, you see the art from different perspectives as you walk up and down the ramps: I recommend the exhibit to all. The Guggenheim even gives you free headsets so you can learn about Cattelan.
I have read several reviews—thankfully defacto (since I might have been put off going by the undeserved negativity): The New Yorker, NY Times, and Bloomberg condescend, NY Magazine and The Economist offer useful insights. Jerry Saltz of NY Magazine summarizes in his redemptive article, “All is Cattelan internally fissuring, convulsing into a spectacular grand seizure. It’s full disclosure, nondisclosure, self-martyrdom, panic attack, and jumping-the-shark rolled into one—and it’s also some kind of masterpiece.”
Visit the museum and let me know your thoughts. And notice, I say thoughts; this is when opinions are welcome.
“What are the first sounds you hear in the morning, before you open your eyes? The loud insistent beep of an alarm clock? The voice of a news announcer or loud rock music on your radio? The “noise alarm” of a crying baby or honking horns and other traffic noise outside your window? Or are you one of the lucky ones who awakens to just the simple sounds of nature – wind rustling in the trees, a rushing brook, the singing of birds tuning up like an orchestra before the great symphony of your day?
The first moment of awakening is brief, but it’s important. What you hear influences your mood, alertness, energy level, and thus your behavior more directly and more profoundly than you may realize. Not only does each particular sound element create an impact, but the ratio of noise to organized sound, the layering of multiple sound sources and the combined decibel level of all the sounds that greet you can all have a dramatically positive or negative effect. The effect can linger. As with a bell struck by its clapper, the effects of these sounds can resonate throughout your day.”
Excerpt from the book
“Healing at the Speed of Sound: How What We Hear Transforms Our Brains and Our Lives”
By Don Campbell and Alex Doman
Music and art (of course, I include photography in this category) are interrelated on many levels. Many speculate that Sir Isaac Newton distinguished seven colors of the visible light spectrum (yellow, orange, red, green, blue, violet, and indigo) to parallel the notes of the musical scale. (Nowadays, indigo, a hard to distinguish color, is often left off the list).
As photographers we paint with light. Starting your day with the right sounds will profoundly affect what you may or may not see, how you will see, and what you choose to leave in and out of the picture frame.
There are many artists and photographers who link music and art, music and light, music and taste, music and smell. Scientists call this synesthesia. I will be talking about these relationships in future blogs. Stay tuned and send me your comments.
English photographer, inventor and designer
“Being photographed is a bit like being in the electric chair; nobody likes it. I think the only way you can learn about taking pictures is to be photographed yourself so you can see what an awful experience it is…
I like to direct my subjects and tell them exactly what to do. It is not always a matter of making people feel totally at ease. Often the only way that one can break through someone’s prepared face is to make them slightly uncomfortable, physically or mentally. Sometimes people can be awkward or ill at ease in a way that expresses themselves better than when they are relaxed.”
From the book “Snowdon Sittings”
Over the course of his career, Snowdon photographed almost anyone of importance in the art and fashion world. He was greatly influenced by Henri Cartier Bresson and Irving Penn.
Want to learn more about Lord Snowdon? Here is a video interview with Charlie Rose from 2001
“We all measure ourselves every day by other human beings, by everyone we meet. I’m interested in people who do things and the hardest-working people I know are creative people: artists, musicians, writers. The motivation of these people and even the drive of the top business executive is exciting to me. I love to interpret people in a way that combines the graphic aspects of art that have always fascinated me, for instance design — design that relates to my feeling about these people and their work. Design is composition—anything that makes the picture work whether it is free or rigid in feeling. It all depends on what you have to say about that specific person. It is all related.”
From the book “Interviews with Master Photographers”
As a portrait photographer and educator, I pay homage to Arnold Newman who is the father of environmental portraiture and moved the studio beyond four walls.
Location. Location. Location. You are only confined by your imagination.
If you are interested in learning more about Arnold Newman visit the Arnold Newman Archive: http://www.arnoldnewmanarchive.com/.
For photo book collectors:
Cheryl Machat Dorskind
Kairos is a Greek word describing the opportune moment, the right occasion, or as poetically described in Wikipedia, “a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens.“ Henri Cartier Bresson coined this blink-of-an-eye photo recognition The Decisive Moment.
“Clear sightedness” and “a good eye” are phrases that come to mind. Kairos is the opposite of chance. According to Bresson, the photographer is always on alert. The world matters at every moment.
“ A photograph is the simultaneous recognition in a fraction of a second of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms.”
~Henri Cartier Bresson~
This weekend go out and be in the moment. If you capture The Decisive Moment, upload and share your photo on my facebook page.
Cheryl Machat Dorskind
“I’ve said a million times that the best thing for a young photographer to do is to stay close to home. Start with your friends and family, the people who will put up with you. Discover what it means to be close to your work, to be intimate with a subject. Measure the difference between that and working with someone you don’t know as much about. Of course, there are many good photographs that have nothing to do with staying close to home and I guess what I’m saying, really, is that you should take pictures of something that has meaning for you.”
Many photographers begin their careers by photographing their families and friends. Perhaps this October weekend you’ll be inspired to photograph someone you love.
Today begins a weekly series on my blog called “Friday Quotes.”
“I would tell a young photographer today to be a student of the humanities, to be able to think, to be able to observe, to take advantage of what you see around you—you should do that before you click the camera.”
Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002) is considered one of the 20th century photography. Click on this link and listen to a few pithy words from the master himself.
His words remind me of a quote I recently posted on facebook by Steve Jobs, “I skate to where the puck is going to be.”
For more information, http://www.karsh.org/