On digging ARhT.

In my favorite podcast, On Taking Pictures (#192) there was a question about getting into “modern art” on otp192 and I thought I’d jump in with my own thoughts since I had an interesting struggle with art a few years ago.Movie Passengers (2016)

Even though I was never really big into art per se as a kid, I went to college majoring in architecture and slipped into a heavy emphasis on the visual arts, but I think a lot of it was just on the joy of making stuff in an an intense studio environment. But I did also enjoy going to the SF-Moma on a semi regular basis.

In grad school (again in architecture) I had some more theory shoved into my brain and I had also become much more cynical seeing the art industrial complex merely as an outgrowth of conspicuous consumption by the rich and powerful. Between this cynicism and the additional theory which put TOO much context in my art viewing experience … I went blank. I completely lost the ability to appreciate art. Pretty much any kind of art. It was total information overload.

The big, big turning point for me was in a video arts class I had with a quirky teacher. We ended up not meshing very well in the end, but early in the class there was a moment for which I will be forever grateful for. During a class discussion I talked about how I had gotten to the point of just not giving a shit about art. I must have mentioned that I like making art, but I find all that BS surrounding high art just uninspiring to the point of boring meaninglessness. And he responded “Ahh, but don’t you realize the viewing art is also creative experience?”

And something clicked. Not that day…but a couple months later. I was in an art museum (primarily to check out the building by Renzo Piano) and started looking at a Rothko (one of the two colors abstracts with brown on top and white below). And I decided “fuck it, I’m going to enjoy looking at this piece…even if I look at it in a way that I think would have made Rothko puke”. so I stared…and at the edge between the two colors, where the brush strokes had a bit of their own definition, I started to see an arctic landscape with an overcast sky and an igloo in the distant horizon.

And I was delighted! It was juicy to revel in such a transgressive pictorialist viewing of the work of such a prominent Ab Ex painter. For years I had looked at art as the outgrowth of various external forces…as case studies for my own current project…as a commentary of society…as a polemic within the critical dialogue of the period…but this time I just enjoyed the art for what it brought out of me. It was the first time in forever I actually just enjoyed art.

All that education was great, it put everything in context, it helped me understand the theoretical value and significance of a lot of these pieces that I had been plopped in front of. But really, this wacky moment was what brought me back into truly appreciating art –realizing that once the artist released the work, they were out of the picture. And with me standing there, I (not the artist, not the zeitgeist, not the art historian) had the right to take this image and take it wherever the fuck it needed to go. The viewing of art is my creative experience and I had the right (responsibility?) to make the most of this moment.

Some photography thoughts post-China

I wrote this in the On Taking Pictures Podcast Google+ group but I thought I’d repost it here.

For the past four weeks we’ve been in China, visiting my wife’s extended family out in Hangzhou, crashing at great-grandma’s one bedroom pad doing a show and tell of our toddler. When I get around to culling my images I’ll post a gallery of pictures, but here were some photography thoughts I didn’t want to lose before I go back to work in a couple days..

1) As noted in previous posts, I brought my Nikon D40, 24mm f2, 105mm f2.5 MF lenses and the 35mm f1.8 AF lens. And my iphone. The iphone won the day. Of the 3800 images I took, only 800 of them were from the slr (and yes, I really need to get much better about being selective before pressing the button). Even though the D40 is a small SLR, the extra hassle of pulling it out when trying to wrangle a toddler made infrequently used… or by the end trip, left at home. Also, for low light and non-artsy photos the extra DOF from these mini-sensors is a huge plus. (remember when minimal DOF was all the rage?)

2) And speaking of traveling with an iphone. A couple days before leaving I woke up and realized that I need to swallow my pride and buy a selfie stick. I had seen some folks use it with great fluidity and skill and the cheap ones selling for only 10 RMB ($1.50). And wow, what a really handy tool — not just for shooting pictures of yourself — and I had quite a bit of fun with it the last couple days, as you can see in the picture. It was also awesome at getting some views and angles you wouldn’t get otherwise. And even for photos which you could take normally, sometimes the extra stick helps you stablize the camera which is never a bad thing. But you do look utterly ridiculous like a fool.

3) Weather. It rained pretty much the whole trip – completely nonstop for the first couple weeks with a few days of sun in the last couple weeks. If I was a dedicated photographer, It would have been a great opportunity to get out and not worry about high contrast dynamic range. But unfortunately it just ended up being dreary and we were kind of cooped up at home. But then again, the goal of the trip was kicking it with great grandma and the toddler…so risking getting sick was out of the question.

4) It also snowed (very lightly) the last night before we left Hangzhou to head back home. It was very pretty and super cool since my daughter had never seen snow before. And I realized why I would never want to be a landscape photographer. God it was miserable outside. But I’m certain its moments like these when all the super pretty pics get made, but I ain’t gonna be out there.

5) As you might have noticed from the comments above I am unabashedly a CJ Chilver (a lesser photographer) fan. I think his thoughts are a really great way to frame the photography hobby for someone like me who enjoys the aesthetic challenge as an amateur, especially one focused on one’s own life and family as their primary subject.

6) Software. Apple Photo is just mediocre.And the whole icloud backup thing is a complete trainwreck. I wanted to have some selects posted in the cloud just in case if something went haywire but wow apple makes it confusing. I think I ended up just backing everything up to the 5gig free limit. (oh and WTF happened to G+? I come back and they’ve messed everything around, and not for the better.)

7) Hardware (Metaphorically speaking) We had previously made a photobook of the Baby’s 1.5 years via Blurb. It was one of the best things we did in preparation for the trip. It got read by everyone that visited by grandma. If you haven’t taken some of your digital shots and turned them into something you can hold, then stop surfing the interwebs and go make a book.

8) This was our first trip with the baby. I’ve always been a Jeffery style of traveler. For me its all about slowing down to smell the roses in a new environment. But wow. When you got a precocious toddler, things go even more slowly, days start late, and end early and you certainly don’t cover half the ground that you used to handle. It was totally cool, but totally different. If you vacation at Bill’s speed, make sure you hit your bucket list before you make a little one.


familiar faces (otp95)

One of the rare afternoons with sun on the china trip, I took a series of photos of the baby sitting on the living room couch. They were all with the 35mm, but I played with the arrangement till I came up with something I liked. I’ve been trying to remember that I am not just limited to single shot images for my assignment responses.

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