The Exercise Value of Photography

What’s the exercise value of photography? Not much if my experience this summer is any indication. I had no idea I was so out of shape. I’ve been doing quite a bit of hiking this summer, which is more exercise in itself than I usually get in the winter, but I am also residing and painting our two and a half story house by myself. And I’ve been sore all summer. I thought I’d get in good enough shape by August to at least not be beat at the end of the day working on the house, and while there’s been some improvement, I’m still dog-tired at times. Sore muscles? Don’t even ask. I hope to finish up with the siding project sometime this fall and I should be in pretty good shape by then (I hope). Which will leave me all winter to regain my photographer’s physique. Or maybe I’ll embark on a serious exercise program this winter. Yeah, right.

A Black and White World in Color

I cut my photographic teeth in a lot of respects by looking at Depression era black and white photographs by the Farm Security Administration. To me, black and white images define both photography and the world at that time. Perhaps that is why I found this collection of color images covering the same subjects from the same period incredibly compelling:

No Such Thing as Bad Light

Claude Monet, Vernon in the Sun

It’s a common myth that photographers might as well put their cameras away mid-day as the lighting is too flat to take interesting photographs. The so-called “magic hour” just after sunrise and just before sunset is thought to be by far the best time of day to photograph, while straight-up noon is the absolute worst. I’ve (almost) always been able to find something interesting to photograph any time of day though. But then I don’t do that much landscape photography and figured for those who do, the advice might make sense. That is I thought so until I saw Claude Monet’s painting Vernon in the Sun at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha today.

Monet’s Vernon in the Sun that looks like it was done smack in the middle of the day, under a withering sun, with no obvious shadows. But yet his rendering of the washed out mid-day lighting imparts tremendous atmosphere and feeling. Now Claude Monet was the master student of light, often studying and producing multiple paintings of the same scene in various lights. So, maybe he was better at seeing and recreating the beauty in mid-day scenes than us mere mortals, especially those of us using photography as our medium of choice. But it does suggest that a truly creative photographer should be able to find landscapes with expressive lighting even under the harsh noon sun.

On the Road Again

Tomorrow I’m off to the Omaha Summer Arts Festival which is going on this weekend. I’m a little nervous about this show because it is famous for nasty weather (e.g. 100mph winds two years ago). No storms during the other two shows I’ve done in the Midwest this spring though so maybe I’ll get lucky in Omaha too. I do expect it to be hot and humid, just like it was in Kansas City. I’m grateful to the patrons that came out in that heat–I wouldn’t have been out there if I wasn’t manning a booth! The rest of my shows this summer are closer to my home in Montana, which generally means better weather–few storms and at least less humidity if not less heat. Of course we had a tornado right here in Montana yesterday so who knows what to expect.

I’ve never been to Omaha so am looking forward to spending some time exploring what it has to offer in the free time I have before the show. The Joslyn Art Museum has two interesting special exhibits, one on Impressionist and the other on Post-Impressionist paintings. Should be interesting.

The Limits to Photography

I’ve been camping in a couple of Missouri State Parks for the last few nights prior to the art show in St. Louis I am participating in. The parks are very nice and have not been busy at all. The most impressive thing about sleeping in the parks was the amazing cacophony of bird sounds I woke up to each morning. Judging by the variety of sounds, the dense woods support not only a larger numbers of birds than our sparse (by comparison) Montana forests but also larger variety of bird species. It was quite a treat to lay there in the morning listening to the avian orchestra. If sounds were visual, it would have made a great photograph I think. That would be an interesting project to pursue perhaps, trying to convey sound in photos. Beyond showing someone shouting or whatever I’m not sure how it would be done. Every art form has it’s limits I guess.

Meet me in St. Louis

My first outdoor art show of the season is in two weeks, May 7-9, (Mothers Day Weekend) in St. Louis at the Laumeier Sculpture Park. Read about the details here. High winds, rain and tornado warnings aside, I had a good time there last year and look forward to going back and enjoying the show as well as some more time exploring St. Louis.

Kids vs. Art

I don’t have kids so who am I to know what role they play in a parent’s self-identity, in particular how a parent reconciles or balances their hopes for their children with their hopes for themselves. But, as a childless adult, I have generally assumed (perhaps just to justify my own situation) that there has to be more to the “meaning of life” than just perpetuating the species. Which means, I guess, that in order to live a complete life as a parent you have to have aspirations for yourself independent of those you have in regard to your role as a parent. So what’s that got to do with photography or art? Well, read this and see on persons idea on the subject:

A Little Too Late

A little while back I juried the undergraduate art show at Montana State University. When we (the two jurors) viewed the potential entries into the show, they were all lined up in rows on the floor of a large studio, and we walked up and down the rows to view and pick out the prints for the exhibit. While that’s an interesting way to view photos, (I actually do that at home sometimes when I’ve got a lot of prints and no wall space), I was interested in seeing the collection we selected when it was actually hanging in the gallery later on.

I was told that the exhibit would be “up through Friday,” so Friday about noon I showed up along with my wife to see the exhibit. We were disappointed to find that the photos had already been removed. All that remained was the jurors’ statement on a post next to the entrance and the photo name tags hanging around the room next to where each photo had previously hung. Believe it or not, we actually walked(quickly) around the gallery reading the name tags and looking at the blank spaces on the wall. It was like we were viewing some inadvertent work of conceptual art–the photography exhibit in which there were no photographs. Reminds me of the Todd Snider song about the grunge rock band that refused to sing songs:

Art Fair Preparations

I just spent the day matting and framing some prints for my first outdoor art show of the year in St. Louis about a month from now. It’s hard to imagine sitting in a booth at an outdoor art fair when it’s been snowing all day here. And I was just noticing my skin is so winter white I’m going to blind folks coming into my booth if it’s warm enough to wear shorts!