Books

by Claudio Mortensen

In my post this week I want to talk about books. Photobooks mainly, but not only. Books, in general, are an important part of my life and an important part of my photography.

Photography, like many other representations of art, are a craft. Something that is done with tools and hands and produces something that is meant to be admired visually. Not like a poetry or a novel, that is meant to be read in a book itself (or something like it). Photography does not require a book. Even to learn how to do it, it may not require any book. To place photographies in a book and offer it to viewers, is a matter of convenience or even democratization of the access to this images (it’s easier to buy a book than travel to another country to visit a museum).

But in my view, books are the most important way to acquire knowledge and inspiration. I found books as necessary as a camera and lenses. In fact, it goes beyond that, because there's the pleasure around the object itself. Manipulate it, feel the texture of the paper, the quality of the print and the reproduction of the images and the delicious surprises of encountering some other little gifts inside, together with the pictures, like little poems and texts complementing the images.

The decision to write this was partly inspired by a personal impression that books are losing interest in our millennial society and also because I got 4 months away from my books. In August I started to relocate to Geneva (Switzerland), living all my stuff behind, till I could find a more definitive place to live and decide what to move there with me. I was used to refer to my books very often, for inspiration, consultation, or just because I like them. During this time, I had to refer to Google for that and, ok, we can find everything there. So, we don’t need books anymore? It is just me, old school that still likes these things around in the house?

One of my Grandfathers had more than 4 thousand books in his office at home. He died long before I was born, but my Grandmother didn’t allow anyone to touch anything that belonged to him, till the day she died at age of 93 years old. I got to know my Grandfather through his books. I grew up “playing" at his office and looking at the books. After my Grandmother passed away, we donated all books to a university. I kept one for me. An edition of the “Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri, with illustrations from Gustavo Doré. This book is in Italian, so I never could read it. But I spent a good amount of time looking at these illustrations that, to my eyes at very young age, looked like real depictions of hell.

So, my most remarkable contact with books occurred not reading per se, but looking at images.

Now, I’m back in Sao Paulo, to finally pack my stuff and send to Geneva. I’m seated on my couch, looking my bookshelf and feeling reconnected with something that helps sustains who I’m.

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Polaroid

by Jiheng Yan

For this week's post, I would like to talk about Polaroid photography.  In 1947, the founder of Polaroid company announced his invention of the instant-picture process, the first one-step dry process for producing finished photographs within one minute after taking the picture, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America on February 21 [1]. The invention of the Polaroid camera changed contemporary photography in many ways, not just from a technical perspective but also from an aesthetical perspective. Recently, I have been obsessed with Polaroid photography. I just got Andre Kertesz's polaroid box a few days ago. I can't explain how much I love about this book and the medium form of Polaroid.

David Hockney is one the most influential artist in the world. He was known for his pop art paintings. But Hockney uses Polaroid photos to create series of art pieces which are absolutely astonishing. As one of the characteristics of Polaroid cameras, the nature that photographer can get their photos few minutes right after their pressed the shutter. That was incredible before the birth of digital cameras. Photographers can get as many photographs as long as they have enough Polaroid films with them. Comparing to any other tradition darkroom processes, Polaroid was a revolutionary invention despite the fact that the quality of images is not as good as other processes. Hockney uses Polaroid cameras to take several photos of a single scene to make a collage of an illusionary scene. By altering the point of views, he makes the collage look like a photo that has been cut into pieces and been put together. The vignetting of the Polaroid created a mysterious atmosphere.

David Hockney, 'Composite Polaroid 31'

David Hockney, 'Composite Polaroid 31'

David Hockney, 'The Desk, July 1st, 1984.'

David Hockney, 'The Desk, July 1st, 1984.'

David Hockney, A Chair Jardin du Luxembourg'

David Hockney, A Chair Jardin du Luxembourg'

Sources:

[1] Polaroid.com, ‘History of Polaroid, http://www.polaroid.com/history. Web. Accessed on Nov 12th,2017

"Selling aesthetic, not photographs"

by Shannon Polugar

It isn’t often that I come across an article in the art world that makes me bristle, but a recent article published by MyModernMet.com left me feeling raw, and not in the file type kind of way.

The article most simply put is about a young photographer named Fabio Zingg, who has captured some pretty incredible landscape images of the Swiss Alps, and then traveling to other ranges around the world. This alone was perfectly fine. His photographs are quite beautiful and some of them remind me of famous images taken elsewhere: a combination of paying homage to the ones that came before him while finding a way towards his own style.

This photo, taken by Zingg of a traveling companion in Norway, is reminiscent of the Glacier Point photographs taken in Yosemite in the late 1800s, such as the one by George Fiske seen below.

This photo, taken by Zingg of a traveling companion in Norway, is reminiscent of the Glacier Point photographs taken in Yosemite in the late 1800s, such as the one by George Fiske seen below.

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However it is not his sense of aesthetics that bothered me, but the commoditization of that aesthetic.

“Thanks to a recently released collection of Adobe Lightroom filter presets, anyone can now achieve his deep tone aesthetic.”

Following the link presented in the article brought me to the landing page where I too could purchase the presets he used to make the images shine for $35.

So much of what we do as photographers is finding a style that is our own, something that makes someone look at our photos and not mistake us for some other photographer. It would be happiness to see someone recognizing the photographers who inspired us when they view our images, but also recognize how our own style is different, how our own style is an evolved version.

Now money is always an issue too. Selling those presets surely could help finance our photography. Printing isn’t cheap. Cameras and lenses need servicing every now and then. Portfolio boxes and the goodies that accompany them to try and have our work shown and sold cost more than a pretty penny. Could I imagine myself creating a set of presets for Lightroom or Camera RAW and selling them to help out? I sure could. Would I do that with the presets I’ve made for what I am trying to develop as my signature style? Not on your life.

Past the initial shock of finding this, I have to wonder what this does to the meaning of photography. The meaning of Zingg’s photographs is inherently altered by the salesman-like hawking of his aesthetic. Why were they taken? Were they just a sales pitch? Even his social media feels more like a sale-pitch first and artistic endeavors second.

Little information on the actual photographer himself can be found, but pretty much anywhere you find his photographs, that sales pitch for the presets is the first thing you find.

Little information on the actual photographer himself can be found, but pretty much anywhere you find his photographs, that sales pitch for the presets is the first thing you find.

What saddens me after the initial bristling to what I found as a blatant disregard for any uniqueness his style had, is that I can’t look at his photographs the same was as if I hadn’t see the sales-pitch. They feel a little less remarkable, like someone has taken the magic away. I still enjoy the view, but at least for me, the wow factor is lost.

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Creating a Stranger Things-Themed Image Using Photoshop

by Kailey LaValliere

For this blog post, I have created an image inspired by the Netflix series, Stranger Things. If you are familiar with the show, you will instantly recognize the connection. The key to creating a composite image like this is to start with the furthest back layer and work your way forward.

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To start, I found stock images of some clouds along with lightning bolts. My main goal was to create the intense sky that you see in the series. I began by opening the images up in one Photoshop document. I used a variety of layer blending modes and a customized cloud brush to blend the first three images.

The next task was to create the shadow monster. If you are not familiar with Stranger Things, the shadow monster is a large part of the show. I can’t say much more without giving away any spoilers, so go watch the show if you haven’t had the chance yet! To create this part of the photo, I used a soft black brush to paint in the shape and then used my cloud brush to blend it back into the sky.

The next step is to add the intense coloring to the sky. I used two gradient maps that I created, one for red and one for purple. Both gradient maps worked from black to light, toned with the appropriate colors. I then used my cloud brush on a layer mask to reveal the bottom color layer, adding depth to the sky.

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Now that I have my background elements, it is time to add the foreground. Because the background was so intense, I wanted to keep the foreground simple. I created the outline of a building and filled it with black. I also imported a light pole that I cleaned up and wires to using the pen tool. I didn’t like the light that was already on the pole so I created my own.

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That’s it! Creating Photoshop composites takes a lot of patience and guess work. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Just don’t forget to do it in a non-destructive manner in case you decide to change it later. Be on the lookout for a blog post about working in a non-destructive manner in Photoshop!

Photo Therapy? Is a thing!

by Quiana Jackson

“Therapeutic Photography techniques are photographic* practices done by people themselves (or their helpers) in situations where the skills of a trained therapist or counselor are not needed — for example, where photo-interactive activities are used to increase people’s own self-knowledge, awareness, and well-being, improve their relationships with family and others, activate positive social change, reduce social exclusion, assist rehabilitation, strengthen communities, deepen intercultural relations, lessen conflict, bring attention to issues of social injustice, sharpen visual literacy skills, enhance education, expand qualitative research and prevention methodologies, and produce other kinds of photo-based personal/emotional healing and learning.”

If you are not in my Concept & Development class you may not see my weekly work that I have been submitting. I am working on an emotion project regarding my past that has taken a toll on me. However, I still need to photograph it because it serves as my therapy. Until now I never knew what Photo Therapy was until my therapist told me that was what I was doing since I only check in with her about once a month until I am done with this class. She wants me to work through the emotions and continue on as far as I can go. I will admit that it is hard but my project must be created. In my Concept & Development class, I had to write a Project Description for my Midpoint Review. While I was writing the description I felt a terrible wave of sorrow for myself. I have never looked at myself as a victim and I immediately wanted to go back in the past and protect this young girl that was being abused. After I wrote the description (which is about 4 or 5 lengthy paragraphs) I asked the class not to comment because I needed a few days to get myself together. I cried through the typing and at that very last sentence I cried even harder.  

Mother Help Me, 2017

Mother Help Me, 2017

My project description has taught me two things. One, I am still that fragile young girl that is now an adult. I have physically grown but I am still that little girl that was molested. The second thing that I have learned is that I am more courageous than I give myself credit for. Producing an emotional body of work is something that I have been known to do. However, it was not my story but a documentation of someone else’s story. When I turn the camera on my life I have to relive each moment as if I was there again. In all of this, I inspire to push through it. I mentioned in my project statement that this body of work is compared to birthing a child. Something in me wants to expel and create this because it is time for this body of work to come out and present itself to the world. I cannot stop it even when the pain gets too intense.  

Some of the purposes of therapeutic photography are: 

  • Increasing self-knowledge, awareness and well-being
  • Assisting rehabilitation
  • Bringing attention to issues of social injustice
  • Producing other kinds of photo-based healing and learning
House of Secrets, 2017

House of Secrets, 2017

Each one of those bullets is what I am striving for. I want my project to not only help me heal but to show how rape forms people into who they are today. I did not fold to my abuse. I am not ashamed of my abuse. My abuse is a part of me and I want viewers to be able to relate in certain ways because if they can help one person then I have done a good thing! 

About "Sailboats and Swans" and Michal Chelbin

by Cecilie Oedegaard

As I’ve previously mentioned in our class my thesis work is dealing with my personal experience of coming to Israel, trying to settle down here. At times I feel completely isolated as nothing resemble life as I know it from Norway and connecting to people, their society and culture seems impossible. In an attempt to better understand and connect with the Israelis I decided to take a closer look at their artistic practices in contemporary photography. I’m interested in learning what are the differences and similarities (if any) between Israeli contemporary photographers and Nordic contemporary photographers. I think a part of me is hoping to actually find similarities that will enable me to bridge the gap between two seemingly disparate worlds.

To start my research project off I came across an amazing Israeli photographer called Michal Chelbin who’s work I’m truly impressed by. Her work is widely known outside of Israel. It has been exhibited worldwide and she is currently represented by the Andrea Meislin Gallery in NYC. Chelbin is first and foremost a portrait photographer whose work has been likened to artists such as Diane Arbus and August Sander. Furthermore, her work exhibit use of an intense and beautiful colour palette referencing her influence by the great masters of painting such as Caravaggio and Velasquez.

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What fascinates me about Chelbin, beyond the visual aesthetics of her work is her background and how it feeds into her artistic practice. Chelbin was born in Haifa, Northern Israel and her dad and grandmother were Holocaust survivors, the only ones from a large family. Her dad was born in the Ukraine and he was only two years old when World War 2 broke loose during which he hid with his mother in farms all over Easter-Europe in order to escape the Nazis. They moved to Israel when the war ended. Chelbin states that seeing old black and white family portraits  of the rest of her family that were murdered in the war (of whom her grandmother refused to speak) might have sparked her interest in portrait photography.

Chelbin’s third monograph entitled "Sailboats and Swans» (published in 2012) is a portrayal of inmates from seven different prisons in Russia and the Ukraine. In addition to having roots in the Ukraine, the second factor that drew her to photograph in those countries were the people she had been photographing in Israel as a student. They were mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union that had made ‘’Aliya’’ (Jewish immigration) during the 90s after the collapse of the former USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). In an interview with instituteartist.com Chelbin explains that she is inspired by people and especially people from the former Soviet Union as she finds them to be full of contradictions, ‘’tough on the outside but warm on the inside’’. I found it particularly interesting that Chelbin (in the same interview) drew parallels between her photographic subjects’ expressions and dark Northern fairytales, like what can be seen in old Bergman movies.

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Chelbin engages with the photographic medium by means of an assisted-reality approach. She directs her subjects and she carefully choses location and lighting. On one hand she works in a planned manner, however on the other hand she is largely driven by intuition letting one thing lead to another. When making the Sailboats and Swans series she spent hours with each sitter, but she would only ask about their crime until after the session was over, trying to see the person beyond his or her crime. She finds people immensely inspiring and says that to her they are mysteries to be solved and a world of contradictions to be discovered. In The Sailboats and Swans series the visual contrast between the wallpaper and the appearance of the sitter is striking and I believe, alludes to the contradiction between the person and his/her crime. This visual contrast seem to play an important role in communicating her intent as she also references the wallpaper in the title of the work.

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Reading about Chelbin and her artistic practice I couldn’t help but wonder if her fascination for contrasts and contradictions somewhat are caused by her upbringing in Israel, being a country pervaded by contradictions.

I think Chelbin shows a similar interest in themes such as complexities of youth, identity and family issues to what I’ve seen in work by Nordic photographers. Being universal issues they are inherently not limited by geography, society and politics. I did however find a similar interest in the dark, raw, unconcealed aspects of life and society to what I feel represent Nordic trends and traditions.

Having discovered Chelbin’s work I’m intrigued to continue my research for our next blog post through which I’ll take a closer look at Swedish photographer Anders Petersen, who has also documented life behind bars with his series Fängelse (Prison).

Sources cited:

http://www.instituteartist.com/interview-Michal-Chelbin

http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2013/in-prison-in-pictures/

http://www.michalchelbin.com

http://nymphoto.blogspot.co.il/2008/09/conversation-with-michal-chelbin.html

https://timeout.co.il/en/art-and-culture/one-one-exclusive-interview-israeli-photographer-michal-chelbin

 

Understanding Artistic Involvement

by Dianne Morton

“Be concentrated on what exists and prevails…”
—Dorothea Lange

A photographer uses various levels of involvement while capturing an image. The elements of a photographer’s involvement may include: depictive involvement (concerned with basic, factual description above all else); constructed artistic involvement (the subject matter is created by the photographer or under the photographer’s direction); representational artistic involvement (no manipulation from the photographer); or directed reality involvement (the photographer works in tandem with what already occurs in the view). The amount of a photographer’s participation within a scene, from strictly representational to highly constructed, not only affects the category or genre of the work but also its classification as a depictive document or a photographic art piece. Depending upon the ratio of the photographer’s involvement to the reality of the scene, directed reality involvement can be less obvious and difficult to categorize than the other methods. Ultimately, since there is not a clear division between this category and constructed reality involvement, the differences between the two can be ambiguous.

My curiosity about influences concerning various generations of artists and photographers motivated me to delve deeper into this subject. I have chosen two photographic artists who exemplify directed reality involvement: Saul Leiter’s work from the mid-twentieth century and the work of the contemporary photographer Todd Hido.

Though Saul Leiter’s (American, 1923–2013) work was recognized by the photographer/curator Edward Steichen and exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1953, he remained essentially anonymous for most of his career. Originally a painter, Leiter discovered photography as an additional artistic outlet for his creativity. During the 1940s, “straight” or street photography was becoming critically acclaimed, as the work of photographers such as Robert Frank and William Klein offered visceral views of urban life. As a painter, Leiter found inspiration with street photography; he used his camera as an extension of his mind, arm, and paintbrush.[1]

Leiter’s work embodied an alternative view of street photography: instead of black-and-white film, Leiter used bold chromogenic (three-colored) color film and, with his unique style of composition and framing, offered a creative twist within the reality of city streets. He used his camera as an unconventional way of seeing, framing, and communicating events on the streets of New York City by shooting through obscure angles, under canopies, or through rain-soaked store windows. The printed work offered a realistic view of the city with a slight bend of stillness, gentleness, and grace.[2] Leiter loved beauty, and this love resonates in the piece below. Leiter’s only directed involvement was to stand behind a rain-soaked window; in doing so, he created an image that offers a softer version of the cold reality outside on the busy New York street. The window acts as a filter to the harsh reality of the fast-paced city life outside. The lovely pop of yellow color is juxtaposed against a nearly monochromatic scene, softening the reality of the cold winter day. Upon further study, it appears Leiter’s directed reality involvement has a nearly 50–50 ratio: half-illusory, half-real.

Saul Leiter, Snow, 1960

Saul Leiter, Snow, 1960

Whether influenced by Saul Leiter or simply on a remarkably similar path, Todd Hido (American, b. 1968) offers a similar directed reality involvement in two of his series, entitled A Road Divided and Excerpts from Silver Meadows. Hido has never used filters on his Pentax 6x7 camera’s lens; instead, he often uses a rain-soaked car window as his filter between the lens and reality. Adding this element to his syntax enhances a supplementary, illusory layer to the narrative. After finding a location or scene to photograph, Hido’s approach often includes sitting in his car and photographing rain accumulating on the windshield. In addition to the scenery, the weather ultimately becomes a prominent subject throughout both series, often inferring an emotional weight. Hido’s directed reality involvement and inclusion of the windshield creates a murky effect, resulting in an antiquated veneer to the finished images.[3]

Hido’s images below are views of deserted scenes on dreary days. His use of directed reality involvement offers a unique and experimental way of observing an ordinary landscape. Through his own direction, Hido chooses at which point he will release his shutter, after deciding how much of the rain-soaked windshield he wants to include within the view. Therefore, he purposely interferes with the clarity and reality of the setting. This twist on reality offers a distinct and moody perspective; the “through-the-windshield” landscapes suggest the forlorn viewpoint of a perpetual outsider.

Todd Hido, Untitled #10473-B, 2011; Chromogenic Print

Todd Hido, Untitled #10473-B, 2011; Chromogenic Print

Todd Hido, Untitled #9238-e, 2011; Chromogenic Print

Todd Hido, Untitled #9238-e, 2011; Chromogenic Print

Though not strictly viewed as representational, directed reality involvement creatively engages the reality of the subject matter (in this case, the landscape), yet the photographer introduces a twist, which affects the reality of the view. In both Leiter’s and Hido’s works, directed reality involvement plays an instrumental role in furthering the moodiness of each narrative within the images.

Works Cited

Cole, Teju. “Postscript: Saul Leiter (1923–2013)”. The New Yorker. n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2017.<http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/postscript-saul-leiter-1923-2013>.

George, Michael. Workprints; Spoken Words: Todd Hido—A Road Divided; 2009; n.d., Web. 6 Nov. 2017. <http://www.michaelgeorgephoto.com/blog/?p=361>.

Szmulewicz, Roger. Fifty One; Saul Leiter; Fine Art Photography, 2014. n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2017. <http://www.gallery51.com/index.php?navigatieid=9&fotograafid=15>.

 

[1] http://www.gallery51.com/index.php?navigatieid=9&fotograafid=15

[2] http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/postscript-saul-leiter-1923-2013

[3] https://paddle8.com/work/todd-hido/30270-10845-7

 

 

What is a Landscape?

by Brian K. Edwards

Every few years I undertake an exercise to revise and revamp my web page. The process usually involves starting from scratch, rethinking the selection of images, the layout, the fonts, background colors, what contact information I should include, which profile picture I should choose…the list goes on.  Image selection usually comes last even though it probably should come first. With image selection comes the issue or arrangement and the inevitable selection of categories for these images.

As long as I have done photography, landscapes have always found their way into my repertoire and these images were always grouped under a “Landscape” moniker. Image choice was usually simple - the shot below of Gesto Bay is one of the first I would consider for such this category. This was amongst the low hanging fruit on a tree containing many images that could easily be called landscapes. After all, they were taken outdoors, included lots of trees or other flora and in some cases fauna, and their taking encompassed the normal-to-wide angle perspective that made these landscape shots look like, well, landscapes. What could be easier?

Brian K. Edwards, Gesto Bay, Isle of Skye, Scotland, May 15, 2007

Brian K. Edwards, Gesto Bay, Isle of Skye, Scotland, May 15, 2007

This time around, it wasn’t so easy, and it still isn’t. The current version of my website (www.briankedwards.com) has no Landscape category, gallery, or portfolio, even if there might be some images scattered in other categories, galleries or portfolios that could be so categorized. I do not know how to explain this. Possible explanations? For one, maybe there just aren’t enough landscape-type images that I want to show anyone. I doubt this, since there are at least five or six (enough to constitute a category, gallery, or portfolio) that I still like, and others I have liked, so I cannot say that not including these shots is the result of some change of heart.  Second, have I crossed a precipice into a world where I care only about what the images are about and eschew such broad and perhaps anachronistic groupings including that of landscape? After all, we do live in modern times and I have read Susan Sontag (which has made me a better person, by the way). [1] This is not a bad option, but I don’t think it is the best option. My updated site includes a portrait category, so I have not moved beyond the use of more traditional (and possibly overly broad) groupings. Third, am I struggling with the notion of what a landscape is, what the notion means, and therefore what sorts of images might rightfully fall into such a category?

I think the answer lies behind door number three, but there might be a little bit of option two sprinkled in. For one, I am just not sure any more just what it means for an image to be considered a landscape, or whether images that I had previously thought of as being landscapes might better fit into some other category. This argument could easily apply to other genres like portraits (compare the work of Julia Margaret Cameron, August Sander, Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, and Loretta Lux, to illustrate) and even the line between color and black and white is no longer as thick and impervious as in days past even if attempts to add color to monochromatic images began soon after the invention of the daguerreotype.

Like many genres, the definition of landscape has expanded considerably since the early survey images of Timothy O’Sullivan and even since the modernist landscapes of Ansel Adams defined what a landscape image was and what a landscape was supposed to look like. The New Topographics movement certainly changed, at least for me, the meaning of landscape, as did the work of Timothy Misrach. Writings by the likes of John Beck (example, The Purloined Landscape: Photography and Power in the American West) have also influenced my thinking. [2]

Richard Misrach, Personnel Carrier Pained to Simulate School Bus, 1986 [2

Richard Misrach, Personnel Carrier Pained to Simulate School Bus, 1986 [2

Topographic photography introduced into the landscape many of the same issues that long influenced the social documentary photography of the likes of Lewis Hine and the countless shots or urban places dating back to the work of Charles Marville, who produced an extensive body of Parisian cityscapes during the mid- to late-nineteenth century. [3] John Thomson is another photographer of the same era who photographed Victorian London in a way similar to Marville. [4] What all of this work shared was an interest in how people interact with their environment and, for better or worse, how they affect that environment. Combining this with the vernacular landscape embedded in the work and writing of John Brinckeroff (J.B.) Jackson moves us quite a way from the romanticized view of landscapes embodied in centuries of landscape painting and the bulk of modernist landscape photography. [5]

Charles Marville, Rue de Constantine, ca. 1865 [4]

Charles Marville, Rue de Constantine, ca. 1865 [4]

But along with all of these changes have been changes in my own point of view and preferences, and this alone might account for my newly minted agnosticism towards such a narrow definition of the genre. Perhaps all of this work can rightly be considered landscape, but the genre has become so broad and so encompassing that it can comprise images of great variety in both appearance and interpretation. If I were to return to the Isle of Skye (which I hope I do) would I even be interested in Gesto Bay as a subject? Perhaps my own attitudes towards what types of subjects I consider interesting, as well as the sorts of things I want to say about a particular place have changed. Under such a scenario, such a landscape-like interpretation of Gesto Bay might not even be possible since I would looking to say something else about that place or might perhaps pass it up as a subject to photograph altogether. Maybe I need to have a Landscape category, or gallery or portfolio, but maybe this time the kinds of images I would include now would be so different from what I included in the same category previously, reflecting nothing more than my own evolving sense of what this particular genre is really about.

Sources:

[1] Susan Sontag, On Photography, Farar, Straus and Giroux, 1978.

[2] John Beck, The Purloined Landscape: Photography and Power in the American West, Tate Papers, No. 21, Spring 2015, http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/21/the-purloined-landscape-photography-and-power-in-the-american-west

[3] Charles Marville, Rue de Constantine, ca. 1865, Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/view?exhibitionId=%7b21968755-5ddd-4fea-81c5-000d8aaaf6b3%7d&oid=264863&pkgids=236&pg=1&rpp=4&pos=3&ft=*

[4] Peta Pixel, 19th Century London Street Photography by John Thomson, August 14, 2013, https://petapixel.com/2013/08/14/19th-century-london-street-photography-by-john-thomson/

[5] John Brinckeroff Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, Yale University Press, 1998.

Finding My Voice

by Ronni Knepp

I am a part of the Veterans Club here at AAU. It is the only club I’m a part of mainly because it’s the only one that also includes online students. I have somehow found my way into being one of the moderators and “heads” in the club because I’m an alumnus, an online student, and a graduate student. More often then not, I am one of the first to throw up a hand if they need input or help on something that I can still do from long distance. Even though I am no longer active duty military, I miss the camaraderie of it and I find a bit of that within the club. In late September our club president reached out to everyone asking for help. The AAU newspaper wanted to do a special veterans edition for November. He asked for volunteers. This was the first time I said, “I really don’t think I can help, I don’t have much of a story to share.” Other members agreed with me. Honestly, most veterans do not really like all of the focus on them. We don’t feel as if we deserve it or need it. A couple weeks later, in early October, I got contacted by one of the reporters. My name had been brought up and she wanted to interview me for the paper anyway. I gave in and agreed to do an interview over the phone with her the following day. I tossed and turned that night, wondering what, if anything, I could actually SAY about being a veteran at the school. Being online, I don’t really have the privilege of having much of an opinion on “veteran life” at the school. I was nervous that I would even be able to answer her questions or give much input on it in general.

Finally, the call came the following afternoon. We spent an hour on the phone and my story, a very personal one, one I have only ever shared with a handful of people, was going to be published for the entire school and its’ alumni to read. I was nervous. I felt comfortable with the reporter and was confident she would write the article with compassion and sensitivity, but it is still a bit scary to think so many people will know this much about me. While dwelling on the anxiety of the article, I was also fighting with my concept for my thesis. It was not a bad concept, in fact it is still very important to me and I’ll continue working on it outside of my thesis. But it wasn’t enough. I could not find my voice or what I wanted to say for my thesis. My depression and anxiety were hitting rock bottom and my poor therapist and husband felt completely helpless as I continued to struggle my way through each week. Then, two weeks ago I got a phone call from my teacher. She wanted me to focus on a new concept idea and really think of what I wanted to say, and also why I wanted to say it. I was forced to look more deeply into the reason I keep working with PTSD as a concept. It dawned on me the importance was not in how I perceive my situations and surroundings, but on why I was diagnosed with PTSD initially. When it came down to it, I needed to bring awareness to sexual objectification, specifically of women. I needed to be the voice that so many women can’t or don’t have. My story needed to be more than a newspaper article. It needed to be my thesis…

Beyond the Form Thesis Description

Just one month after I was raped while I was in the military, I started my photographic journey at AAU for my AA in Photography. Immediately I was drawn to Formalist photographers and my style developed to mimic their exceptional approach to formal compositions. I had not realized at that time it was my subconscious using photography as a therapeutic necessity to regain the control I had lost. During the BFA, I often found myself working on projects centering around my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), trying to show people how I perceive my world and situations. It was not until more recently that I was forced to sit back and think of why this type of work was so important to me.

After my rape, I was required to go to therapy. I was the only female in my unit and I was instructed not to talk about what happened. My male coworkers consistently harassed me, finding entertainment in triggering me. My military therapist forced me to recount the experience, but I was in uniform and not allowed to show emotions. Eventually, I learned to disassociate myself from the emotional trauma of the assault, repeating the details over and over again as if I was a broken record. I was accused of lying, of initiating it, and even of “being ok” with it. When I could not remember exact details, my therapist rolled her eyes and said I was exaggerating the trauma and that there was “no way she would forget details if it happened to her.” I was even manipulated into not pressing charges against the rapist. Eventually, I just stopped talking about it. After being released from the military, I avoided therapists and never told the whole story even when I did see one… until I found my current therapist.

I still cannot recall the emotions from the rape. I still do not remember specific details. But for once I feel safe talking about it. I can ask questions about my reactions to various triggers, why I am obsessed with formal photographic techniques, and what exactly is happening when I process and compartmentalize other situations that seem much “bigger” then they really are. My photography still leans towards a more formal approach, but even more than showing my experience, I want to help others. The reality of sexual trauma leaving the survivors to feel alone is all too real. Many are told similar things as I was; “don’t talk about it,” “you asked for it,” “it wasn’t as bad as you think,” “you’re lying.” Many women are not in a position to speak out on the topic. And I think it is safe to say that the majority of us feel as if we are only viewed as objects of lust and violence.

My thesis project is not about being a rape victim. It is about harnessing my “gift” to speak on the concept of rape and to show who the survivors really are, who I really am. I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a widow, an artist, a student, a veteran, a dreamer… I am more than a sexual object, more than the product of a rape. I am using my voice, both in words and in photographs, to show the world that women are more than our physical appearance. My hope is not only to find self-healing but also to be a voice for many other women who may not have found theirs. Beyond the Form is a fine art photographic project utilizing self-portraiture and still life to make a statement about how women should be viewed. It is an elevated version of “what you think I am versus who I really am.” It will be for women who need the encouragement and support and also for men to realize (and hopefully change) how they view women.

I am a Veteran. I am a Survivor.

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Using the Refine Edge Tool

by Kailey LaValliere

For this blog post, I have created a how-to video in regards to my dog series. Because I do a lot of Photoshop work to put my images together, I wanted to show everyone one of the many techniques that I use.

When extracting a dog from the background that has a lot of hair I use the Refine Edge tool. I have found this tool to work best for this work because it does a great job of detecting hair in a detailed fashion. When I first started doing my dog photos, I was using a very tedious method to extract the dog hair. I was using the quick selection tool and a brush on a layer mask to accomplish this. The results were lacking and it would take me much longer than it needed to.

The first thing that I do is use the quick selection tool to do a very rough selection of the dog. I am not going for accuracy at this point, just an estimate. If you hold down the option key on a Mac keyboard and paint around the outside of the subject, you are telling Photoshop what not to select. Once I have a rough selection, I pull it into the Select and Mask option at the top of the toolbar.

Quick Selection

Quick Selection

Once in the Select and Mask tool, I begin using the refine edge brush to clean up the edges. I zoom into the edges and begin painting with the tool, going in and out of the edge. I have found that I get the best results from the tool by doing this. I personally do not like to use the Smart Radius option inside of this tool. I have not had luck with it, so I stick to just using the brush. When I am painting on the edges, I prefer to use the overlay view mode so that I can see what I am doing. When I want to see a detailed view of the work I have done, I switch to the black and white view mode. Inside of the tool, you can use a brush as you would on a layer mask to take away any selection that is not what you want. You can then go back over that area with the refine edge tool to bring back the detail of the hair.

Using Refine Edge Tool

Using Refine Edge Tool

After I think I am happy with the selection, I will view it in the black and white mode before exporting on a new layer with a layer mask.

After Refine Edge

After Refine Edge

This tool is best used with subjects with wild hair that is difficult to select with other methods. It does not work well with flat hair that does not stick out. I would suggest watching my video so you can see in more detail what I am talking about. I plan on doing more of these about other techniques that I frequently use to create my dog photographs.

Hand Gestures

by Jiheng Yan

For this week's blog post, I would like to talk about photographs of hands. I always have a special feeling for photos with hands in them. To me, hands are the most magical and busy part of a human's body. People use hands to do almost everything in their daily lives. From the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we sleep, when we are staying in one place, our hands are in use even we don't notice we are using our hands unintentionally.

I noticed that a lot of people would make some hands gesture while they are waiting. Some people like to cross their fingers; some people play with their fingers to make noise out of their knuckles; some people squeeze their fists. I was drawn in looking at people making various types of hand gestures that I can't even find words to describe them. I started to search for photos of hands.

Je tends les bras, Claude Cahun, 1931

Je tends les bras, Claude Cahun, 1931

Rebecca's Hands, Paul Strand, 1923

Rebecca's Hands, Paul Strand, 1923

Flute Handshake, Walker Pickering

Flute Handshake, Walker Pickering

I have been shooting my own hands with my phone since 2013. Since I saw Eggleston's photo of a guy stirring the ice in a plastic cup with a straw on a plane, I felt I should create a series of photographs of my hands when I am in between things. I started to get a sense of why people are making hands gestures. Since we were born, we begin to play with our hands when we are all infants. Thinking about what babies do when they are bored, they put their hands in the mouths. The circumstance is similar when we are waiting.

En route to New Orleans, William Eggleston

En route to New Orleans, William Eggleston

Untitled #1, Jiheng Yan

Untitled #1, Jiheng Yan

Untitled #2, Jiheng Yan

Untitled #2, Jiheng Yan

Untitled #1, Jiheng Yan

Untitled #1, Jiheng Yan

Untitled #1, Jiheng Yan

Untitled #1, Jiheng Yan

Untitled #1, Jiheng Yan

Untitled #1, Jiheng Yan

Untitled #1, Jiheng Yan

Untitled #1, Jiheng Yan

Modern Stereo Photography

by Shannon Polugar

A modern stereograph photo by Ignacio Torres, taken with a standard DSLR camera, is actually four photographs in one

A modern stereograph photo by Ignacio Torres, taken with a standard DSLR camera, is actually four photographs in one

Late last month I found myself upstairs in the back of a large antique store, where a dozen or so metal filing cabinets stood containing photographs of all but the earliest of photographic types, along with baskets of photos covering the tops of the cabinets. I, however, was drawn to one particular type of photograph: the stereographs.

For a lover of old photographs, it is easy to spend half a day in a room like this, at an antique mall in Monterey, California. The stereoscope or ‘viewer’ hangs from the ceiling above the filing cabinets

For a lover of old photographs, it is easy to spend half a day in a room like this, at an antique mall in Monterey, California. The stereoscope or ‘viewer’ hangs from the ceiling above the filing cabinets

I have long been fascinated by this type of photography. In the closet of my grandfather’s office were stereograph slides that he had taken of their time in Ecuador in the 1960s, along with the Grand Canyon a handful of years later. I could spend hours putting the slides into the viewer, amazed at how surreal the three-dimensional photos appeared. Whether it was these or the over 100-year-old stereograph cards I was sliding into a wood and glass viewfinder in the antique store, they all felt like I was not just viewing a moment in time, but stepping into that moment.

One photographer though has found a way to create that same stereoscopic, three-dimensional view, with the modern digital camera, and without a stereo lens. Ignacio Torres, a photographer based out of New York City but who has done extensive work in Mexico as well, created his “Stellar” series with this view in mind.

The elements of space and time within the photographs are heightened in Torres’s photographs, making one feel ‘in’ the moment rather than just viewing it flatly

The elements of space and time within the photographs are heightened in Torres’s photographs, making one feel ‘in’ the moment rather than just viewing it flatly

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Torres describes that his intention in this series was to heighten the element of space and time, which he does by taking four individual photographs in very quick succession, and then placing those photographs together in an animated GIF to create the three-dimensional effect.

The same is done with old stereograph photos online, though it is only two images in this case. Torres’s work, adding the two additional frames, creates a much smoother look. His series also plays up the whimsical, using Photoshop in post-production to highlight the stardust (confetti), to “serve as a visual metaphor to the spatial link we share with the stars.”

While older stereographs can be viewed digitally through a similar process, they don’t appear as smooth as Torres’s work

While older stereographs can be viewed digitally through a similar process, they don’t appear as smooth as Torres’s work

oldstereo2.gif

However, unlike the two frame stereographs that can be slid into a viewfinder, Torres’s work can only exist in the digital world. The images cannot be printed and still viewed as he intended. To be viewed on a gallery wall they would need to be in a digital frame. So while the visual effect is similar, there is a disconnect with Torres’s modern stereographs with the old ones.

And I did leave the antique store a bit poorer monetarily and a bit richer in history, a handful of stereographs from 1905-1915 neatly wrapped in a paper bag, but also having these modern stereographs portably within reach, only a URL away on my phone.

http://www.1883magazine.com/arts/arts/ignacio-torres

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/page/stellar-project-images-photographer-ignacio-torres-14474643

http://cargocollective.com/ignaciotorres/Stellar

https://stereo.nypl.org/

How equipment influences our expression

by Claudio Mortensen

This week on the blog, I want to discuss some of my thoughts and concerns about how camera format and type can influence the kind of fine art photography produced.

Before getting to the point I want to explore, it seems to me necessary to clear up some other issues commonly associated with this subject. I have no interest in discussing film over digital, this is a solved issue in my mind and I see no point in bringing it to light again. I also don’t want to make any statement over camera makers or specific brands. A brand is a question of choice and taste. And, finally, I will totally skip commentaries on prices or costs of different equipment.

The objective of this post is to look at the way we work around creating an art image and the implications of photographic systems on this process.

I started my photographic education using a very old Nikon camera, a F301 and 2 mania focus lenses. At that time, I didn’t have a clue of how to operate shutter speed and aperture. So, even though I was using manual focus, all other functions were used in automatic setting. It took me a good amount of time to have the courage to switch the auto off. That was film times when every shoot costs good money. I kept changing equipment over the years, till I got to digital and finally lost my fears of experimenting with manual functions taking thousands of pictures at each shooting session. But it was very recently (about 4 years ago) that I decided to get a fully manual digital camera and ended up facing a lot of troubles using it and rethinking the way I shoot my pictures.

My previous work made me travel 95% of the time, almost all over the world. At the time I started my MFA, I felt the need for a smaller portable camera, to make my assignments on the move and keep up with the classes. I bought a Leica M and a 35mm 1.4 lens. At the moment I started shooting, I thought that was the worst decision I had ever made. I wasn’t getting anything right with that camera. A nightmare. But, like everything, there is a learning curve and I ended up getting the grasp. But that experience, that suffering with the lack of technological aid, made me think about how the amount of technologic features influences the way we think about our work. 

There is nothing wrong with the modern cameras, like Nikon, Canon, and even Leica. They are very good and sophisticated products. But I started to realize that these manufacturers are focused on the needs of the higher market segments, in particular journalists and consumers. The needs of these two group are very similar. They need fast operation, accurate operation and good results. The objective is to transfer to an internal processor, the biggest number of decisions and adjustments as possible, letting the user concentrate almost entirely on composition. Again, there is nothing wrong with this and it could be very much necessary for some approaches to art. But the fact is, at least in my experience, that all this automation ends up in the way of exploring some creative possibilities. Even the manual focus on a modern DSLR is aided by electronics that evaluate distance, etc.

I have been experiencing a lot of different possibilities by being forced to study lenses data sheets to learn their DOF in each aperture or having to quickly evaluate my distance to subject for pre-focus. And, more importantly, this kind of camera slows me down. It forces me to think more and analyze more and plan better.

Because of this experience, I started to dig deeper and case across cameras that I only saw in pictures through the Internet, like Alpa or Linhof.

Alpa 12 SWA

Alpa 12 SWA

All these cameras can be used with digital backs or film backs. The latest technology can be there, in the camera, but all the controls and photographic decisions go back to the photographer. It’s possible to find movies of photographers using some of this equipment handheld, but usually, it must go on a tripod, that slows, even more, the process and requires even more attention on the composition.

Linhof Technika 3000

Linhof Technika 3000

In a sense, using these cameras looks like the use of the large format ones, where the photographer has to adjust many other parameters to get the composition.

Linhof Techno

Linhof Techno

When I moved to digital I decided that I would like to think about the camera sensor in the same way I thought about film: just a media where the image is formed and “created”. I prefer to think about my computer and software as my darkroom, having a different “respect" for my raw files and the process to create the final image.

I really believe that working with such equipment would force me into different learnings and more creative ideas, based on the differences of decisions and procedures to get to the final image.

What’s your opinion/experience about this?

Creative use of text in fine art photography

by Cecilie Oedegaard

Using text as a means of providing context in order to enrich image interpretation is something I’ve seen a few examples of, first and foremost in autobiographical imagery. Being mostly involved with autobiographical projects myself this idea intrigues me and I decided to investigate it further. With this post I would therefore like to discuss the work of three photographers (two pioneers and one contemporary) all working with text in various ways and I’ll try to answer the following questions: What does text offer their projects and how does it influence the interpretation of their imagery?

Sophie Calle is a French conceptual artist (b.1953) working with photography and installation known for combining images with text in order to communicate narratives of her own and others private experience. Her work is characterized by voyeurism and surveillance. The concept of "private games" started in Paris the 70s when she decided to follow strangers around in order to reacquaint herself with the city. She followed a man around, Henri B, that she quickly lost and by chance was introduced to at some event the same evening. She saw it as a sign and decided to follow him around in Venice to where he had told her he was planning a trip. This project soon turned into a carefully constructed surveillance operation with detailed notes and photographs. Calle documented her surveillance, making notes about and evaluating her thoughts and feelings. At times she also reminded herself that though she felt like she was in love with him, it was his elusive nature to which she was drawn. It resulted in a book titled Suite Vénitienne, published in 1979.

By combing her surveillance images and notes she creates a narrative that fuses reality with fiction. The notes are written in a methodical way, they are presented typed, marked by dates and times of the day. The text offers context that further helps to construct this fictional world where her own psychological projections and emotions serve as building blocks. By revealing her state of mind through text Calle as the creator and performer becomes an integral part of the work. This allows the viewer to experience the complexities of her work in a manner that would be impossible had we seen only the images presented by themselves. There is something cold, removed and observational about the typed up text. Had the text been handwritten it would perhaps be more diaristic and personal.

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During my research I found that Sophie Calle had been inspired by Duane Michals, American photographer (b. 1932) amongst others widely known for incorporating text as a key element in his work. Michals’ text is handwritten and it gives voice to his thoughts and reflections that are usually poetic, tragic, humorous or all at once. In the image A Letter From My Father one can see how text clearly offers another dimension to image interpretation, letting the viewer experience and "read" the image in an even more complex manner. By looking solely at the image there is a strong sense of complicated and intense parent-teenager relationship and perhaps failure to understand each others actions and desires. The text does however refine and heighten the experience of the image providing a greater understanding of the father-son relationship.The meaning of the text as well as its handwritten nature also reinforces the image’s autobiographical nature.

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The final artist whom I would like to discuss is Magnum photographer Bieke Depoorter (b 1985). Her process of incorporating text in her most recent body of work titled As It May Be is surprising and fascinating. On her website Depoorter is described as a photographer who travels and meets people by chance that would invite her into their homes and let her capture them in various private moments. She photographs fragile and intense moments and she always captures her subjects with kindness.

For her most recent project titled As It May Be she traveled to Egypt several times since the revolution that started in 2011. She stayed overnight in the homes of Egyptian civilians and families documenting their intimacy. Every night she would ask people if she could spend the night at their home and people were willing to share their daily life, their food and even their bed with her. While working on this series (which took all together six years to complete) she became increasingly aware of her role as an outsider. That she was a visitor from the West, a woman and a photographer. At a certain point she returned to Egypt with a first draft of her book. She asked people to comment and annotate the images she had taken and the work started to turn into sort of a dialogue between her as the photographer and the subjects. Contrasting views on society, country, religion and photography arose between people who would otherwise never meet. The images are presented with the original Arabic handwritten annotations and with the English translations next to them.

Depoorter includes text in a different way than Michals and Calle but similarly to their work, it allows for a richer and more complex way of experiencing the work. With Depoorter’s work it’s almost as if her subjects gain ownership of the work by including their thoughts and opinions. It’s no longer solely a visual body of work reflecting the photographers view from the outside as could easily happen with a photojournalistic series. It’s however a complex and nuanced testament to a country and its people during a period of transition and turmoil. It’s interesting to note the role of process in Depoorter’s work. It seems that her experience and feelings of being an outsider eventually propelled the work into a new direction that eventually resulted in a much more complex body of work.

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Taking Risks

by Brian Edwards

Hang me in the Tulsa County stars
Hang me in the Tulsa County stars

Meet me where I land if I slip and fall too far
Hang me in the Tulsa County stars

- John Moreland, Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars

 

Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding.

- David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear

I probably owe the book Art and Fear another reading. [1] This will be third time around, but I am still drawn to it, especially when I find myself needing to touch base with myself, and what better way to do it than with book in hand. Art and Fear holds many wonderful lessons for aspiring and established artists. I especially appreciate his relating the experience of the ceramics instructor that divided the class into two groups, the first would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, the second on the quality of their work. It turned out that the quantity group produced the work with the highest quality:

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay. [1, page 29]

My take on this story is that by starting, failing, and starting again only to fail again, the students were engaging in the very necessary process of experimenting and, more importantly, taking risks – making a decision to proceed ahead with only a notion of an outcome instead of a certain one, and being willing to do this again and again. Farmers know the story well – spring plantings occur well ahead of weather, actual crop yields, and prices at market.

Risk is by itself an interesting phenomenon. We’re all discouraged from taking all sorts of risks, from financial to health to personal and professional risks, and risk is an important topic in numerous academic disciplines ranging from economics to behavioral psychology. Many of us display attitudes towards risk that often baffle experts in risk assessment (cigarette smokers who are afraid to fly) and the failure of investors to understand the riskiness of credit default swap instruments contributed to the financial crisis of 2008.

But art doesn’t always imitate life and in the case of art making, risk can be a good and productive element of artistic growth. When I find myself returning to Bayles and Orland, it is always their section on uncertainty I await rereading that fortunately is not too far into the book. [1, 19] The authors relate many examples of artists going through many revisions before emerging with something worthwhile.

William Kennedy gamely admitted that he re-wrote his own novel Legs eight times, and that “seven times it came out no good. Six times it was especially no good. The seventh time out it was pretty good, though it was way too long. My son was six years old by then and so was my novel and they were both about the same height.”

My own process is largely experimental, and often repetitive. Even when I am in the midst of creating a series of images that are supposed to be connected thematically, I think about weather, time of day, and direction and possible quality of light as much as I do about place. In earlier days, I usually shot in spite of bad light; now I seldom do, even if a particular subject is on a bucket list of subjects that might fit in well with one or more series in which I am currently involved. Moreover, many shots that I have liked were surprises; found subjects rather than subjects known a priori. Others had to be reshot on different occasions until my own evolving vision of what I was looking for converged with the image I had just created. In this context, risk and uncertainty are not problematic, nor is realizing that control is often illusory.

Back in 2007, I drove through the town of Regina, which is in the northwest part of New Mexico, just north of La Jara and Cuba and a bit south of the Jicarilla Apache Nation Reservation. It was late in the afternoon and the lighting was in front of me, so I didn’t spend much time there. The shot below is one of nine I took that afternoon. This image was taken before I discovered the advantages of tilt-shift lenses, so in addition to the lousy light, there is way too much foreground and too little sky. At least the vertical lines are reasonably vertical.

Gas Station, Regina, New Mexico, June 9, 2007.

Gas Station, Regina, New Mexico, June 9, 2007.

I returned to Regina during the summer of 2016 and took the following series of the same gas station. The much better light was a factor in making me more enthusiastic about taking the space a little more seriously, I was also more willing to explore the space more thoroughly and conduct my own impromptu experiment. What might this place yield in terms of an image or two that might be interesting enough to either include in a series or treat as a stand-alone singular image?

Gas Station, Regina, New Mexico, July 16, 2016

Gas Station, Regina, New Mexico, July 16, 2016

There are multiple images from this set that I think work pretty well, but I decided to choose the following for illustration (last image from the third row).

Gas Station, Regina, New Mexico, July 16, 2016

Gas Station, Regina, New Mexico, July 16, 2016

The truck and better light certainly help to make for a more interesting shot, but I also kept this particular spot in mind over the years since I took the original shot. I wanted to return many times, but coming to this spot at this particular time was accidental; it was a small part of a longer road trip that just happened to bear fruit the second time around. In any case, I do hope this example helps to illustrate the point made by Bayles and Orland, namely:

In making art you need to give yourself room to respond authentically, both to your subject matter and to your materials. Art happens between you and something — a subject, an idea, a technique — and both you and that something need to be free to move...E.M. Forster recalled that when he began writing A Passage to India he knew that the Malabar Caves would play a central role in the novel, that something important would surely happen there — it’s just that he wasn’t sure what it would be. [1, page 20]

I take license in interpreting Bayles’ and Orland’s definition of materials broadly enough to include the light and other conditions we find ourselves in when shooting. Nevertheless, risk can come in many forms in the context of making photographs. Not knowing what you are going to see or what sorts of conditions one will face upon arriving at a particular spot is but one risk. How often have I ended up driving through beautiful light only to arrive at my intended location when that light had passed, or when it was just too late in the afternoon to shoot, or it was raining? Other risks include how others might react to your work, or work you do that falls outside what you typically do, or outside of what others have come to think of what you do. I push ahead and make another vase, knowing ultimately that I have to be the judge of my own work and in whatever directions that work goes. Maybe my desire to read Art and Fear again is for the reassurance that taking risks can be disquieting and disappointing, but nevertheless worth taking, despite the risks.

Sources:

[1] David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, Image Continuum Press, 2001.

[2] John Moreland, Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars, from the album High on Tulsa Heat, Old Omens, 2015.

The Whispering Soul

by Dianne Morton

Earlier this week, I attended a wonderful annual event that was so incredibly inspiring, I decided this organization needed to be shared with my readers. Kainos Home and Training Center is located in Redwood City, CA. It was founded in 1974 to serve adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I was introduced to this organization several years ago through my lifelong friend, Tara, who has been an avid supporter and fundraiser.

We have a nephew named Ben who was born premature in November 1978. Nearly one month later, Ben was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy. As a nonverbal quadriplegic, Ben has worked very hard simply to live and breathe. We’ve witnessed Ben’s parents’ fear, strength, struggles, and support for this amazing man. When Ben was nine, his parents began a school for children with severe speech and physical challenges. Currently, the Bridge School offers support and identifies the most efficient, effective ways in learning to communicate. Finally, Ben’s parents have created an environment allowing him to live a meaningful life filled with stimulation, family time, social activity (Go Sharks!), extensive travel, and vitality.

Benny with Uncle Brian (sharing a dirty joke); and Ben’s caregiver, Tony | Dianne Morton |  2016

Benny with Uncle Brian (sharing a dirty joke); and Ben’s caregiver, Tony | Dianne Morton |  2016

My husband and I have three children; Cousin Ben has affected each in unique ways. As babies, our children used Ben’s wheelchair to pull themselves up to a standing position. I remember Benny slowly and carefully directing his head to look down at them, which was always followed by a sweet smile. Aside from the obvious valuable life lessons each of our children have learned from Cousin Ben (kindheartedness, empathy), they have true insight into the fact that Ben is a whole person. He thinks, sees, hears, and feels everything.

To say that our family has compassion for anyone with a disability is an understatement. My children understood from a very young age never to use derogatory statements such as “He’s such a spaz” or deeply offensive words like “retarded.” Regardless of ignorance or lack of compassion, there is no place for such terms.

Now that our children are grown and out of the house, I’ve found myself on a new journey. No longer driving to and from basketball practices or piano lessons, I am filling my days with meaningful philanthropic work within my community, and I am also exploring my artistic passion of photography.

A couple of years ago, I stumbled on a way to combine my two passions by capturing environmental portraits of intellectually, developmentally, and physically special needs adults who reside at the Kainos Home and Training Facility. Through guidance, residents learn the ordinary skills that we might take for granted. Education and training range from daily living skills such as personal hygiene, household maintenance, health, and safety to vocational skills such as job readiness classes, community-based work teams, and job placement. I have been utterly humbled by the kindness these people offer me.

The employees’ curiosity about my camera was absolutely infectious. One woman, Katie, asked if I would send her photo to her mother so she could see Katie working. The Kainos community demonstrates the most basic example of authentic and genuine humanity.

Katie | Dianne Morton | 2014

Katie | Dianne Morton | 2014

Throughout history, intellectually, developmentally, and physically special needs adults were hidden from society. Different intellects were viewed as stigmatic and humiliating. The demonic, subhuman image of the disabled persisted for decades in not only public thought but also school systems, government codes, court systems and, most particularly, the dehumanization of mass-care institutions.

Humanitarian efforts can be traced back to mid-19th century medical records alluding to educating the “poor idiot” with the hope of making the person publicly and socially competent. In 1846, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe of Boston organized the first systematic survey identifying the disabled population. His study concluded that two out of 1,000 people were “mentally defective.” Dr. Howe’s study intended to discover this population’s capacity for development. He ultimately determined disabled people were capable of learning in areas of labor, caring for themselves, and eliminating institutional isolation from asylums.

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The decades that followed offered little change in the public’s ignorance regarding the disabled. In 1915, public records indicate programs to “identify, segregate, and sterilize every feebleminded person as a menace to social decency and racial purity: to the end that they shall not reproduce their kind.” By the mid-twentieth century, however, personal stories of Mrs. Rose Kennedy regarding her daughter, Rosemary, offered awareness into the fact that the special needs child is a human who needs love to help her grow. These stories began to open people’s minds, which inspired a move to action and laid the foundation for extraordinary developments for the disabled. Agencies with parental support were established, along with schools, workshops, and daycare centers. The need for vocational and occupational training became apparent, furthering the need and desire to continue programs for advocacy, education, training, employment, and community services. Today, we know the disabled deserve the opportunity to learn, live, and laugh.

Untitled | Dianne Morton | 2014

Untitled | Dianne Morton | 2014

A few years ago, I captured a series of environmental portraits to document a typical day in the life of these people. Since the beginning of my volunteerism at the residential facility, I have become familiar with many of the residents and am happy to call them my friends. My images were shot in color using digital technology. Although most of the images were captured indoors with limited natural light, I did not use flash or studio lights, as I wanted to move freely amongst the workers without disruption.

Because of the difficult, challenging light within the facility, I decided to convert the images into black and white with Photoshop, as the contrasting grey tones adapted well to all lighting situations. Furthermore, I didn’t want the color to distract the audience from my subjects. This way, my subjects spoke for themselves with honesty and truth.

Untitled | Dianne Morton | 2014

Untitled | Dianne Morton | 2014

Untitled | Dianne Morton | 2014

Untitled | Dianne Morton | 2014

Untitled | Dianne Morton | 2014

Untitled | Dianne Morton | 2014

Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait

MOMA Exhibition Review by Ronni Knepp

Infinity, by Louise Bourgeois

Infinity, by Louise Bourgeois

Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to New York City. Due to the very short nature of our visit, I was only able to go by the Museum of Modern Art to view the works they were showing in their exhibition and collections gallery. I had never been to NYC and it was a real pleasure to go to MOMA finally, given its prestige in the art world. My husband begrudgingly agreed to the trip to the museum, but his spirits were lifted that this could end up being a great experience when we were told we could get into the museum for free because he was active duty military. I quickly checked my backpack and we skirted through the line with relative ease. The first stop, of course, was the second floor, which showcased the Louise Bourgeois exhibition… and this is where our building excitement hit the floor.

Walking up to the doors of the exhibition is a large plaque next to a photo of the female artist. The plaque reads more as a bio then an artist statement, but to paraphrase it explains she was a printmaker and sculptor back in the 1940’s. Being a female artist is difficult right now and was near impossible back then, so I respect the woman for her fearless pursuance of her art. However, through the large glass doors you could see a wall with sketches of large breasted women. The drawings appear to have been done in crayon, or maybe paint, on plain white paper and, as my husband stated, “looked like a 4 year old drew them.” They tiled the wall, all looking nearly identical to the next.

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois

As we moved throughout the exhibition, our pace honestly got quicker and slightly more awkward. I am usually not one to try to apply the Freudian theory to artists, especially female artists, but to be absolutely frank, it seemed to us that Louise Bourgeois might have had some strong feelings about women, or being a woman herself even. Most of the works exhibited showed something about the female reproductive system (there were very large prints of “abstract” ovaries and fallopian tubes), a sculpture and preliminary sketches of a newborn baby dangling over the naked mother by it’s umbilical cord, and prints with shapes that either depicted the male genitalia, female body parts, or what we even interpreted of pools of menstruation blood. In the YouTube video on MOMA’s website, they talk about her sculptures and how she was impressed by the tall skyscrapers of New York when she moved there, but even they could have been interpreted as something phallic (especially when viewed with the rest of her work). As we made our way through the rest of the exhibit, there were group activities to try to redraw the paintings of the ovaries and one group was sitting around one of her prints talking about what they felt about the print. I was astonished when someone asked, “well what did she think of the work?” and the reply that came was “it doesn’t matter what the artist thinks, what do you think?” My jaw dropped and my husband quickly pulled me off to the side to keep moving. Although my husband is not an artist, he was absolutely offended for the artist (and me) by the response.

Lullaby, 2006 by Louise Bourgeois

Lullaby, 2006 by Louise Bourgeois

I looked through some of her work online and aside from the giant spiders (which we tried to avoid because they were also on display at MOMA), it seems the majority of her work is centered on the woman. Based on the YouTube video and outside research, it’s a fair assumption that she had some serious issues with her father and perhaps this is what caused the exuberant amount of artwork that appears to be about gender and especially the woman’s role. According to an article on Wikipedia:

Sexuality is undoubtedly one of the most important themes in the work of Louise Bourgeois. The link between sexuality and fragility or insecurity is also powerful. It has been argued that this stems from her childhood memories and her father's affairs. 1952's "Spiral Woman" combines Louise's focus on female sexuality and torture. The flexing leg and arm muscles indicate that the Spiral Woman is still above though she is being suffocated and hung. 1995's "In and Out" uses cold metal materials to link sexuality with anger and perhaps even captivity.

The spiral in her work demonstrates the dangerous search for precarious equilibrium, accident-free permanent change, disarray, vertigo, whirlwind. There lies the simultaneously positive and negative, both future and past, breakup and return, hope and vanity, plan and memory.

Louise Bourgeois’ work is powered by confessions, self-portraits, memories, fantasies of a restless being who is seeking through her sculpture a peace and an order which were missing throughout her childhood.

The Family I, 2007 by Louise Bourgeois

The Family I, 2007 by Louise Bourgeois

While her work and her statement absolutely has merit, even in today’s day and age, my husband and I found that the large amount of it in the exhibition at MOMA was overwhelmingly awkward and, honestly, made us question going further up to see the rest of their galleries. Bourgeois had become a part of the feminist movement, even though it was not her intentions, and she undoubtedly helped women become more accepted in the art world. That being said, however, I don’t think I would recommend taking kids to MOMA while this exhibition is going. I definitely would not bring my own kids. There is something to be said for a bit of variety in your work, and seeing the repeated concepts in hers revitalized that need in my own work to make sure I do not constantly repeat the same themes or even aesthetic choices. It became redundant and boring to us by the end of the exhibition. All this being said, I’m glad we did end up going to the collections galleries on the upper levels! So although level 2 left a bad taste in our mouth, and the unprofessional reply of the lady leading one of the groups especially did not help, we were still able to enjoy the rest of our visit at the museum… minus the very large spiders of course.

Sources:

https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/3661?locale=en

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louise_Bourgeois

Membership: To do or not to do

by Quiana Jackson

David Levinthal Untitled from the series Wild West 1994.jpg

Starting 1 November I will begin to renew my memberships to NPPAPPA and the newly added membership to local museums. Now I know that students are not rich and neither am I, but I like to stay current on things that interest me and that I can gain additional knowledge from. Honestly, the money that I spent on memberships would probably be eaten or I would buy something that I really didn’t need.

Some may not know but I was obsessed with being a photojournalist. Photojournalism has always been my first love because I wanted to report the news with a newsworthy image. Five years ago I was encouraged in undergraduate school to apply to NPPA (National Press Photographers Association) and to adhere by the Code of Ethics set forth for visual journalists. Since I have progressed from my dreams of being a photojournalist, still the things that I receive in the mail and email have inspired my photographic career. As students, the membership fee is $65 and you have options on how to pay. You can do a one-time payment, annual payment or split payment. Once you are a member you can have a card that states your membership number and that gets you into conferences if there are some in your area, where you have a chance to network with other photojournalists. You can also access the website and see the work of many people that are well-known and unknown. There is also a Student Quarterly that you can submit your work for on the website.

Professional Photographers of America is my second membership that I have maintained for 3 years. I have actually met my undergrad instructors who worked the event as well as my peers that I attended class with. This is a great advantage because I found a place that I interned at through PPA. You have access to tons of video, mentorships, and a subscription to PPA magazine. If you are looking to network with the pros then I would highly advise you to join PPA because I have met some of the best people at one of their conferences. I have even seen live tutorials in person and got a ton of free things! Membership is $79 a year and this is so worth it.

Lastly, I am going to obtain membership to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston. The MFA has a membership of $60 and with that, I can expect to have free year-round admission and discounts all around. Since I live about 3-4 hours from Houston then this is a saving grace especially if there is an exhibition that I would like to see. CAMH has free admission but membership is $35 for students or if you are an artist the price is still $35. For students, it is always a good idea to see how exhibitions are shown and how the artist decides to show their work. Curators are a big part of art and to speak with them on their knowledge of what the public’s feedback is to a body of work can help aid how we present our work to the public.

In closing, membership isn’t for everyone. In my case, I am very interested in being a part of something and networking with people. I am NOT much of a people person but I tend to gravitate to people that are interested in the same thing as me. If anything, go visit a museum and see the works of the greats. I am ecstatic to go see David Levinthal ’s photographs at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Identity

Behind the Form by Ronni Knepp

For the past year I have been working on a project called “Objectified Form” where I created nude images but removed any sexual interpretations in order to defy the male gaze and take control back over how my body is viewed. I realized, however, in the making of the images that I had to pose in fairly seductive poses with a spotlight to accentuate the form of the body. The images, unedited, started to show me an entirely different side of myself that I never considered; a side that is sexual and beautiful with all of the curves and everything. I started creating the images just to see what other types of photos I could capture to see myself in this very different point of view. Ideally the harsh highlights would be unwanted, but when used purposefully, I started to see myself as glowing. The mini-series of the “behind the scenes” images has started to create a life of its own now in which I still maintain the control of how my body is seen by the audience, but now the images are seductive and sensual, something that “Objectified Form” aimed to remove.

 

"Identity" by Cecilie Oedegaard

I believe identity of self is fluid. Social context, culture and personal relationships are all factors that play a major role affecting how and what parts of our personalities are being expressed.

This body of work consisting of three diptychs strive to convey identity as a fluid concept that is highly influenced by our surroundings. By pairing images of self with images of nature or environment I intend to illustrate this idea.

 

Noah Purifoy by Kailey LaValliere

This mini series is an examination of the identity of Noah Purifoy. Purifoy was a sculptor known for large scale pieces created entirely out of found objects, or junk. Although Purifoy is no longer living, his art remains standing on his land in Joshua Tree, CA, which is run by the Noah Purifoy foundation. This is the only information I knew about Purifoy before visiting the sight. As I wandered around his land, I pictured him creating these pieces and was constantly wondering, "Why?" What was his purpose with each piece? What do the pieces say about Purifoy? After taking these photographs, I researched the pieces I had photographed along with Purifory himself. He was born in 1917 in Alabama to sharecroppers. Purifoy was an activist through his adult life and faced adversity as a black man in America during the 1950s and 60s.

After looking up the sculptures, I discovered that each sculpture has a name, which better helped me understand Purifoy's identity. Purifoy's background included working as a social worker in L.A., early in his career. He created Shelter as he reflection of his work as a social worker. Purifoy worked in conjunction with the harsh nature of the desert, recognizing how the sun, wind and heat effect his art. I think that his realization is also a reflection of himself. He moved to the desert in his 70s because he wanted to retire, but could not afford life in L.A.. Just as he aged and deteriorated, so did his sculptures. Purifoy's work is a direct reflection of his life and his experiences as a black man in America.

 

Identity by Quiana Jackson

I have always been curious as to how the members of my own family see themselves. We tend to go about life individually only stopping to partake on each others dreams, ambitions and inspirations. As a mother and a wife it has always been my responsibility to support the ones I love either being second to the military, a cheerleader for my son or a "model" for my makeup artist daughter. I am often asked about my husband's absence as he is never home courtesy of the US Army. I am asked about my son the basketball star or if my daughter has ever thought about investing in her future as a makeup artist by sending her to New York to make a name for herself. Each question has lead to me the conclusion that the things they love has become their identity and somehow has engulfed me as a part of it. When I am seen I am a visual remembrance of my family. Their identity has become my identity. I am known as the military spouse instead of Quiana. The team's head mom instead of Quiana and the "lucky" parent to a daughter that does my makeup. Since I love them, I will sacrifice my identity until I can give the world notification that I have an identity of my own.

 

Identity: Insomnia by Shannon Polugar

I'm up late, out late, and normally the cat is in bed well before I am. It is not deliberate, but a symptom of insomnia, which plays a big role in my self identity. I'm always moving, and after too long things seem in a haze. This mini-series is viewed as a triptych to better emphasize the contrasts in how insomnia effects me. The first image it is dark of night, but with vivid color. The second is bright and welcoming, but still I can't slow down. The third is almost a malaise, wanting sleep, but the haze in my mind of being awake so long keeps me from seeing it through.

692_Polugar_7_1.jpg

 

We all can't look like James Franco, can we? by Brian Edwards

This series was was actually inspired by a recent perusal of photographer Dan Winters website. As you all know, he has shot many celebrities, including actor, athletes, and other VIPs and as much as I thoroughly enjoy his work and looking through his site, I was also struck by how much my own perception of myself is often contextualized in terms of other men and often these men are actors or other celebrities (sports figures, etc.) that often fit stereotypes of what men should look like, how they should dress, and behave, etc. I may have had something loosely resembling a six-pack in high school, but that was after playing football, baseball, and taking weight training during my last two years. In any case, I decided to explore male identity in terms of how we compare to those we often look up to. The very first picture is sort of a baseline; it's just me wearing a blue t-shirt. The next six images alternative between Dan Winter images of Tom Hanks, James Franco, and Morgan Freeman and self-portraits that very loosely were taken to resemble the posing and lighting that San Winters used in his portraits of these celebrities.

 

Identities by Claudio Mortenson

What defines one's identity? What makes us what we are? What tell others who we are? My project "Identities" explores one of the many aspects of human identity: The signs of presence.

Each one's identity is sculpted from the very inside of our personalities, shaped and polished over years till it gets to the surface and overflows to the spaces surrounding us.

I have been always fascinated by the elements and clues that leads to peoples identity. Books in a shelf, pictures over ones table, small objects that give way something about the person that chose to own that thing. Some of this things become so special to the point of becoming a symbol of one's identity.

My pictures here, explore this connection between objects and a persons identity, employing different approaches to isolate and expose this objects to the viewers appreciation.

 

Identity by Jiheng Yan

For the midterm, I created a mini body of work of three photographs of me without glasses. It has always been a question since I find out I'm nearsighted and I have to wear glasses to get to look at the things clearly. Fifteen years have passed, I have never got a chance to look at myself without wearing that object which is not a part of my body. In this August, I went to an ophthalmologist to get my first pair of contact glasses. For the first time, I can look into the mirror to see my appearance. In the mirror, that 'stranger' is looking at me. He is making every move I make but in a mirrored way. That experience makes me feel extraordinary. In this three photos, I would like to show the experience that I had. I choose to take self-portraits to simulate it. Two of them are two sides of my face, the sunburn near my temples are indicating the fact that I have been wearing glasses for a long time. And the second photo is trying to show how I feel when I have the first look at myself after 15 years of wearing glasses.

 

Being Me by Dianne Morton

As a child, I found deep solitude hiding in my bedroom while quietly reading books.
Eternally a rule follower, I learned at a tender age that following strict guidelines was never enough.
Matters and consequences.
As a fine artist, I convey memories of a troubled childhood through my photographic imagery.
Delving deeply within aloneness, I have discovered grace...and a beautiful journey.

Colorized Photography: Modern Views on Historic Photos

by Shannon Polugar

The advent of and exponential popularity of digital photography has meant the loss of numerous film types and color processes. While some can be recreated through the digital process, they cannot be truly replaced.  Paul Simon’s lyric, “Momma don’t take my Kodachrome…” may have come about three decades early, but perhaps the song is more relevant now than it was in 1973.

The color photography process as we know it is less than half as old as photography itself. There is more than a hundred years of history documented in photographs that are in black and white, and other monochromatic tones. Hand-painted photographs were popular, but to the modern eye they are far from realistic.

“Two hand-painted stereoview photos of the same group of children in Japan, 1904. Despite being two images taken in series of the same scene, they are painted differently.”]

“Two hand-painted stereoview photos of the same group of children in Japan, 1904. Despite being two images taken in series of the same scene, they are painted differently.”]

Our minds have become accustomed to seeing the world of the early photograph in black and white. It may be nostalgic, and we may hold the tonal qualities of the monotone images as something to emulate, but the argument can be made that it disconnects us from the realities that existed in those photographs.

Artist Jordan Lloyd takes these old photographs and brings them into the familiar reality that is how we see our everyday world: color. As Lloyd says, “We don’t live in a black and white world, neither did they!”

“A split view of a photo of the daughters of the secretary of the Japanese Embassy, in Potamac Park in Washington D.C. from 1925 colorized by Jordan Lloyd.”

“A split view of a photo of the daughters of the secretary of the Japanese Embassy, in Potamac Park in Washington D.C. from 1925 colorized by Jordan Lloyd.”

Lloyd goes beyond simply coloring the photographs. There is extensive research put into each photograph, ensuring at the very least, as in the case with the girls in Potamac Park, that the colors are accurate for the time period, and to the extreme end with the colorization of Harry Burton’s photos from 1922-1925 of the King Tut excavation, careful examination of field notes and locating modern photos of the objects to color match.

“Four colorized photos from the King Tut excavation, commissioned to be colorized by the original photograph’s owner, The Griffith Institute, for ‘The Discovery of King Tut’ exhibition in NYC."

“Four colorized photos from the King Tut excavation, commissioned to be colorized by the original photograph’s owner, The Griffith Institute, for ‘The Discovery of King Tut’ exhibition in NYC."

What is different about colorizing photographs now versus when they were taken, such as the stereoview example? Lloyd states that today’s technology allows a level of realism that could not previous be replicated, and that with the internet, global access to historical documents assist in the detailed research required to “provide authenticity to the original historical document.”

There is criticism though of this type of work. Critics call the works ‘revisionist’ and disrespectful to the original artists, who are long gone and have no say. Lloyd counters though that his works are not meant to be viewed out of context, they are supplements to the original – not a replacement. He also avoids colorizing photos that were taken in black and white for artistic intent, and focuses on images that were taken for “editorial purposes of historical prosperity,” as had color been an option, these photos would have likely been in color. Even Burton tried, though was unsuccessful, to make color autochrome photos of the excavation. Color was wanted, but not available.

It is my own personal feeling that when we see these old photographs in color, reasonably represented as they would have been seen by the people who lived them, that it brings us closer to the feelings and reality that would have been when the photograph was taken. There are lessons there too for how we work between choosing color and black and white photography now: while many view black and white photography as more pure or artistic, there is much to be said about how color attaches us to the ‘present’ of the photograph.

https://www.pixartprinting.co.uk/content/controversial-art-colourising-past/

http://resourcemagonline.com/2015/11/colorizing-history-how-jordan-lloyd-and-dynamichrome-brought-color-to-king-tuts-excavation/60624/

http://dynamichrome.com/

http://www.tutnyc.com/