16 February 2011

The Two Landscapes/Les Deux Paysages - part 2

The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.
Julia Margaret Cameron

They face off at each other. The beloved but derelict amusement ride and the national treasure that was despised at its inauguration. 

Parachute Jump, Coney Island
Eiffel Tower, from the Champs de Mars

Winifred, by some accounts the patron saint of virgins and chastity, stands overlooking a former whaling town once know for prostitution; Ingres the Neoclassicist now lumped together with his adversaries the Romantics. 
 St Winifred, Hudson NY
 Ingre's grave, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

I will go back to Paris in a couple of weeks.What should I photograph? Kurt Vonnegut wrote "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God"...so? Would you like to dance?

25 January 2011

Return from an Hiatus

“O Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form; Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form…” 
from the Heart Sutra
After an 11 month hiatus it would be unreasonable to expect that anyone is still following this blog. Yet I persist.
In looking back at the last year’s calendar: from the trip to Paris for the 4th International Exposition of Pinhole Camera photography, the campaign for public office, the end of the job that I had for the last ten years, it is a wonder that I did any photography at all. Yet I persist.
And now, another show  - la cinquième exposition internationale de photographie au sténopé - is upcoming in Paris, at the Andre Malraux Cultural Center in LeBourget actually, and once again I am in it. Only one other ‘stenopist’ – that’s the French for pinhole camera photographer and it does sound a bit more elegant now, doesn’t it? – has been in all five of the exhibitions curated by Marie-Noëlle Leroy and mounted by her, Arnaud Levenes and Jean-Claude Beaumont in La Capsule, the exhibition space in the art center of the Mairie of LeBourget. 
It is a striking contrast that while our municipal governments, our national foundations and our regional cultural centers are cutting back, offering less, barely surviving in the times of budget constraints, European institutions can find the resources to mount these international exhibitions. As small and ‘peculiar’ as this practice of pin-hole camera work is, last years exhibition travelled from Paris to Barcelona at the Centro Civic Can Basté and then on to the  Musée Municipal in Orense in Galicia and another stop is in the planning stages. This year’s show is already booked again for Barcelona in October. There is a commitment there to developing and sustaining a civic cultural life that does not need to mouth the platitudes of ‘market forces’ to find its justification.  But I digress.
This year’s exhibition is on the theme “Alive” and what that means. As Marinoel wrote: “The previous exhibitions were attached to show the environment in which humans evolved. This time, human being becomes the subject of images! Portrait or representations in feet, legs or eyes, back or hands ... nude or with clothes, what visions our dear tiny holes can show us about this so complex human being ?” (http://foto-grafik.blogspot.com/2010/07/call-for-entry-alive.html )
How one approaches an answer to defining ‘Alive’ depends on one’s philosophical, ethical or religious background.  I chose to explore an answer that refers to the Buddhist conception of the ‘sentient being’ as composed of the five senses and the unifying activity of consciousness. Within Buddhist practice the self is seen as impermanent and not a fixed entity. The human person, this sentient being, is composed of the five senses and consciousness, feelings and volitions.
These skandas, or aggregates, are what I have attempted to photograph in a symbolic way: Touch, Sight, Smell, Taste, Hearing and Consciousness. Each of the five physical phenomena had a tactile answer that needed to be worked out, but what of the intangible, the immaterial mind? How would a photographer answer that?
Recently I went to New York to see the exhibition at the Japan Society of the calligraphy and drawings of the 18th century Zen master Hakuin. (http://www.japansociety.org/event_detail?eid=46394dff ) It was there that a possible answer presented itself: the painting of the Enso, the circle formed in ink by a brushstroke in a rapid gesture. It is used in both Tendai and Zen practice as the embodiment of the unitary relationship of mind and body, of enlightenment, or of the universe or of the full moon. It is one of the most common calligraphic subjects and at the same time one of the most enigmatic.
But again, how would a photographer answer this? By following the example of the calligrapher: to make the photographic ‘mark’ unhesitatingly, without conceptualization, no burning, no dodging, no extensive manipulation, just the unimpeded effect of light on paper, the bare burned silver of the circle of light. This may be as close as a photographer may get to the uninflected act of the drawing arm and hand placing ink on paper. 
As usual, all of these images are for sale in a limited edition. If interested please do contact me as soon as possible if I am to make it over again for the opening in March. Yes, it has been too long a time away from this blog….but see, I yet persist!
For the list of exhibiting artists:  http://capsule93.blogspot.com/2011/01/vivant-alive.html

28 February 2010

Of Monuments and Memorials

"The dead have no remedy in law; all they can do is haunt you"
Hilary Mantel
"Monuments differ in different periods. Each age has its own."
Phillip Johnson

While Theodore Gericault may recline in elegant splendor, palette and brushes in hand, surmounting his memorial, surveying his neighbors in Pere Lachaise's cemetery, here in the Hudson Valley anonymity and stolid muteness marks many a memorial.

Theodore Gericault

Two squared off blocks of stone, their inscriptions mostly washed away by time and rain, stand together as plain-spoken monoliths, family memorials of kin long-vanished from our community.  
Two Headstones, Stuyvesant

Others lean against themselves still displaying some local sculptor's vision of eternal grief in the bas-relief of urn and weeping willow. While Gericault has his 'Raft of the Medusa' as memorial to both his art and their lost lives, these simpler forms mark lives ended in the 1820's and 1830's - at about the same time that he died.

 In the Butler Cemetery, Stuyvesant Landing

And some lost cemeteries have all but returned to forest, their Civil War veterans' status noted by Grand Army of the Republic markers, but more often covered by the cast off leaves of the encroaching trees.

Abandoned cemetery in the woods


24 February 2010

The Two Landscapes/Les Deux Paysages

The few moments of communion with the world are worth the pain, for it is a world for others, an inheritance for others, a gift to others in the end. When you make a world tolerable for yourself, you make a world tolerable for others.
Anais Nin
What is it that has drawn my eyeto the vineyards of Bordeaux and the espalier of the dwarf apple trees of the Hudson Valley?

Barns and Orchards, Orchard Road
The Vineyard of the Chateau 'Le Clavier'

Or the monumental archetectures of Brooklyn and Paris? Their weight, their gravity?
And the persistence of nature: the last tree in Brooklyn and the skeletal dancers before the great Arc?

The Last Tree in Brooklyn

Arc de Triomphe from Av Foch

Though the cultural and historic differences of each region are abundantly clear, thers is much to find in the landscape that sees a similarity of purpose in design and intention to cultivate, arrange and domesticate an environment.

St Emilion from Rue Couvent

Gleason's Farm, from the Southwest

20 February 2010

Sing in me O Muse...

"To say to a painter that Nature is to be taken as she is, is to say to the player that he may sit on the piano"
James McNeill Whistler

"I do not photograph nature. I photograph my visions."
Man Ray

Muses come in many forms. Each is a manifestation of visions received. Between the accidents of time and light, I never know what may strike the film. And will that energy be sufficient to leave more than a trace? And will the vision be compelling? Will it speak to me and what story will it tell?
Sing in me O Muse...

Zephyra II


Succubus II

Madonna and Child

15 February 2010

And portraits?...yes, and portraits...

“A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he’s being photographed.”  
Richard Avedon

“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportions.” 
Francis Bacon

The effigies of the dead in mortuary stillness, their tombs, their inscriptions, are not the only portraits that interest me: these faces of the living, in their studied preoccupation with their encounter with the camera, the length of exposure, the stillness and concentration to record their likeness and what may result, the stories that they do not tell, but imply, these also inspire my work.
Jamie S. 
 Kristina K.
Mariette, in ecstasy
Diana B.

07 February 2010

Paris-Pere Lachaise Cemetery 2007

By means of an image we are often able to hold onto our lost belongings.
But it is the desperateness of losing which picks the flowers of memory,
binds the bouquet"

From some of the photographs made in Paris in March 2007 on a particular day in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the day happened to be Passover. At one point, in passing the memorial to the victims of Auschwitz, I took a stone, a flat stone, and placed it at the base of the memorial. It was one of the small flat stones that I carry in my bag to level out the base of the pinhole cameras as they sit on the tripod. It seemed to be the appropriate thing to do.
Oscar Wilde and his neighbor M. Papeil

Un Ange, au repos

Chopin's grave - Pere LaChaise Cem
Alfred de Musset

06 February 2010

Other Views... the familiar landscape of my town

“The real tradition of great things is not to re-do what others have already done, but to recapture the spirit of those great things and to recreate them in another time” Paul Valery

It may be apparent that I consider Atget a mentor.
And like him and many other photographers, we revisit things that we have photographed previously, sometimes as a conscious, intentional attempt to record the passage of time on objects and at other times by the simple habit of the daily to-an-fro. Proximity and happenstance, habit and occasion draw us past familiar locations or treasured points of view. Like Atget’s photographs of the corner of the rue de Seine and the rue de l’Echaude or any number of parks and petit coin, I pass by places familiar and yet ever changing. Here are some variant views of the local landscape.
       The Mills, Stuyvesant Falls

Scott Ice House Ruins, Nutten Hook
   Ice on the Hudson, Nutten Hook 
VanAlen House, c.1737

31 January 2010

Great thoughts stir within me at the sight of ruins

“Great thoughts stir within me at the sight of ruins. Everything gradually crumbles and vanishes. Only the world remains, only time endures… I am walking between two eternities.”
Denis Diderot
We are surrounded here in this area with the memories in the landscape of Henry Hudson’s exploration of this valley, of the remnants of the first industrial revolution and its dependence on water power and with the ruins of a bygone industry: ice harvest from the river. Water is everywhere in the landscape. No parched desert vistas here. The history of the last 400 years of this valley has been dependent on this element, and it has been plentiful. It is hard to make a photograph of the landscape from which it is missing. Here are some from the area near my home. 
Ice House Ruins, Nutten Hook
The Mills and Lower Falls, Stuyvesant Falls
VanAlen House
Ice on Trees, Lower Falls, Stuyvesant Falls

28 January 2010

Vernacular Monuments: the Barns and Farmsteads of Columbia County

Vernacular Monuments: the Barns and Farmsteads of Columbia County
Throughout the landscape of my county there is the evidence of a once thriving agricultural industry. While dairy farming is still the predominant land use, the vibrancy of construction is over. The age of great barn building is done. Farmers now, when they building anything at all, would more likely build bunker silos, poured concrete slabs with open raised walls, great scoops in the ground, than the cylindrical monolith of the standing silo. Whether wooden staved or ceramic block, flat capped or metal domed, these phallic eminences dot the hillsides and valleys; some still attached to a working barn, other as solitary sentinels guarding phantom farmsteads long lost to memory or sight.
These were the first subjects that I began photographing with pinhole cameras some years ago. They had the advantage of not moving, holding still for the long exposures, not like the livestock that moved around freely and so left but shadows in silver.
Here a few of these images.

Flag on a Barn, Stuyvesant Falls

Barn, County Route 20 (since demolished)

Two Topless Silos, County Route 9 & Ten Broeck Rd. Austerlitz
[published in the Photo Poche series in vol. 114 "Le Stenope" on pinhole camera photography, image #50]

Twin Barn and Pond, New Forge Road #2

24 January 2010

From the Luxembourg Gardens to Art Omi...

As Atget had his favorite places to photograph, I am thinking here of the Parc de Saint-Cloud, the Tuilleries, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Parc des Sceaux, I also have some favorite places, especially the sculpture park Art Omi in Ghent NY. It is only a few miles from my home here in the Hudson Valley. I have seen it grow from its initial installations of sculpture in landscape to a venue for music and writing retreats as well as site specific installations. Here are some images made there. 

23 January 2010

No Marker for Atget?

So I ask myself 'Paris, with a marker on every other old building... 'Mazarin's mistress farted here' or 'Stendhal's cousin caught the clap there' ... so why is there no marker at 17bis rue Campagne Primier? This was the home of Eugene Atget, the photographer of Paris par excellence! Successor to Baldus and Marville in the documentation of the great physical and social change going on in Paris, its destruction and re-invention and predecessor to Doisneau and Cartier-Bresson. A genius and either the last romantic or the first modernist, depending on your disposition, yet there is nothing to mark the home that he had for decades, just up the street from Man Ray and Berenice Abbott, a few paces from the Passage d'Enfer - one of my favorite street names in Paris. On my last trip back I made pilgrimage to see his home, at least from the street, and to record as he might have done a Parisian doorway. This is the portal that he passed thru so many times, lugging his heavy pack of camera,  plates and tripod from Montparnasse to the 'Zones', from Raspail to the Parc de Saint-Cloud.
So again I ask, why no memorial to one of the greatest of photographers in the city of which he is the formost photographic memoirist?

22 January 2010

More For The Paris Show

In addition to the image posted previously 'Fire Maiden' for the element Fire, there are three other images that will be presented at the Andre Malraux Cultural Center in LeBourget:


for Earth,  'Magna Mater, Fecundata et Horribilensthe Great Mother, Fruitful and Terrifying, bearing her machete to cut down what she has brought forth and nurtured, now ready to harvest.


for Air, "Zephyra" the West Wind, the carries us with a true course to the home port, resilient and steady breeze

and for Water, ' Lorelei', the singer of the mountain stream, murmuring within the spring torrent of the waterfall, between the solidity of rock and the cascade of the rushing flow. 
All the prints to be exhibited will be silver gelatin ans toned with sepia and selenium and are available in a limited edition of 12 1/2" images. Please write for price and availability