Tag Archives: Photography

Exhibition Invitation

The opening is near. January 21. Two more weeks.

Here’s the invitation and if you are in the area, please stop by on January 21st for the opening reception. Then check out the calendar of events and hopefully you can attend some or all of them. I’m a bit excited but still have to get the work to the gallery and up on the walls. Next week.

LAND | SEA | STONE 2017 Exhibition Invitation

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Traces on the Hardway

In my last post I announced that the Antarctica photos would be shown starting in late January 2017. When the curator looked at that work, he also saw a project I did in the late 1980s, early 1990s, on the granite quarry industry on the islands of Maine. He felt both sets of images would work well together and after some initial reluctance, I agreed. They are both about big things, icebergs and granite blocks, that reflect man’s indirect or direct effect on his surroundings.

Below is what I wrote about the work when I first exhibited the images in the 1990s. However, the three images only sort of reflect the actual work. In real life each photo below is a part of a larger piece that combines two or more photos with text. The pieces range in size from 36 inches by 42 inches up to 42 inches by 72 inches. The long, narrow panorama at the bottom is actually 42 inches high by 18 feet long.

The text might discuss the nature and mineral composition of granite in one and in another discuss the health and safety issues the quarrymen faced. One covers the socialist and union activities on an island as the workers and management fought it out. It was a brutal industry that endangered the workers and left them to the whims of the owners who often would pit one ethnic group against another.

Enough of this. I will discuss one complete image more in-depth in the future. Stay tuned!


Quarry: Wharf and Boat

High Island, Mussel Ridge Channel, the first quarry I explored with my older boat, Jeanne, at anchor.

Sailing on the coast of Maine since the early 1980s, I would occasionally see large granite wharves on some of the islands. I wondered who built them and for what reason they’d be on what seemed to be wild, uninhabited islands. Finally, one day in the summer of 1988, while waiting for the fog to lift, I rowed ashore on one of these islands to explore. Finding nothing, I assumed that the island had been uninhabited forever. But as I sailed back to Portland, I made note of all the islands with large wharves. During the winter, my research revealed that these had been granite quarry islands, and at one time had been part of a huge industry in Maine.

In the summers of 1989 and 1990, I visited every quarry island from Port Clyde to east of Jonesport that could only be accessed by boat. If I could easily drive to the quarry, I didn’t photograph it. Some had been small, one-man “motions;” others had been large, two-thousand-man sites. When I started the Granite Quarry project, I realized the story I really wanted to tell was that of the men who worked the quarries. I wanted to pay tribute to them and indirectly pay tribute to my grandfather who, like them, was an immigrant who came here looking for work. He was a modeler who made the patterns for the ornamental iron and bronze work that adorned many of the buildings and monuments constructed in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. It’s really easy to make very beautiful photographs of these quarries, But this project is about the men who worked the quarries and carved the stone. Almost all were immigrant, blue-collar workers, and many of them highly skilled. These were men two generations older than my grandfather. This project is a tribute to these men and also to my grandfather.

Quarry_Dix with two Capitals

Dix Island, next to High, that at one time had three quarries and a cutting shed where the carvers created beautiful blocks, like these capitals. They are all that remain on Dix today of this industry.

Photographs, like archaeological remains, are often incomplete. They address what’s in front of the lens, but they can only suggest the entirety of that which was once present. These photographs record the physical traces of the granite industry that flourished on the islands off the coast of Maine during the Beaux-Arts building boom which existed during the period of economic growth between the Civil War and World War I. In the 1890s, Maine shipped more tonnage of stone than any other state in the Union. That stone built many of the monumental private and public buildings, churches and bridges, and even paved the streets on the Eastern Seaboard. The population on the granite islands of Penobscot Bay grew from a few families of sheepherders and fishermen to hundreds and even up to two-thousand quarrymen and stone cutters on some of the larger island quarries. These islands had boarding houses, churches, town halls, and schools to serve the men who came from Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Finland, Sweden, and other countries to work. One even had a 450-seat opera house.

Quarry: Palmer contact sheet

Palmer Quarry, on Vinalhaven, where the columns for St. John the Divine were quarried.

By the start of World War I, the new steel-reinforced concrete technology replaced building with granite blocks. Also, railroads became a cheaper means of transportation than sailing vessels, so island granite became expensive. Today, barely a trace of this industry or of these immigrant workers remains.

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Big News

The big news is that I will be having an exhibition of the photographs I made a year ago in Antarctica at the Art Gallery on the University of New England’s Portland Campus. The doors will open January 26, 2017 and the work will be hanging until April 23, 2017. We have yet to decide on dates for an opening or closing party or gallery talks or other events. At least the dates have been locked in place.

How did this come together? In this case I edited down from the original 3,000 or so RAW frames made during the three weeks aboard Pelagic Australis to about 36 images which where then tweaked before being printed digitally.

Then curators were invited to see the work, discussions were had, negotiations were held, directors were consulted and the decision was finally made just after the new year.

Art Gallery on UNE's Portland Campus

Façade of the Art Gallery on UNE’s Portland Campus

I’m happy. I’m also amused that my mostly white photos of ice will be displayed in a white cube in the middle of a Maine winter. What could be more appropriate?

But—and this is a nice but—there’s more. The Antarctica photographs will be hung on one floor, while an older body of work I did which documented the remains of the granite quarry industry on the islands of Maine will be on another floor and a few images I made while hiking around with the Incas in Peru after the sail to Antarctica will be hung on the third, lower level. I will talk more about how these three bodies of work mesh together in a later blog post.

And I have plenty of time to make all the frames, which is going to be a big job. More about this later, also. Stay tuned, as they say….

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Blue Ice and Photoshop

Thanks for your comments. For some reason, comments do not show up on my iMac in the studio, only on my iPad, which I rarely look at when I’m not traveling. I just discovered them last night.

To respond to some questions and comments, no, nothing is “photoshopped,” and those are the actual colors of the ice down there. That said, each image is taken into Photoshop and worked to bring the values in balance and to ensure that the colors are as true and neutral as possible.

A photograph can be merely a record of what’s in front of the camera or it can be an object that stands alone, independent of the subject. All photographers have always burned and dodged (You think Ansel Adams subjects actually looked like that in real life?) and that is what Photoshop is really for. Gabriella and I worked for an hour with each image, on average, which is comparable to my experience printing in the wet lab back in the day. (And thanks for checking out her work.)

So why is the ice blue? When snow falls, it is airy so when light strikes it, all the wavelengths are reflected back to our eyes. As the snow piles up, it compresses forcing the air out and transforming the snow into solid ice. Over hundreds of years in a glacier, that ice sinks deeper and endures huge pressure, forcing all the air from the ice. Once the air is out of the ice, the longer wave lengths of light, the light on the red end of the spectrum, are absorbed, reflecting the shorter wave lengths on the blue and green end of the spectrum.

Then a berg is calved off from a glacier exposing that ancient and highly compressed blue ice.

Iceberg_1320

You can see the fresher, white snow lying
on the older, compressed blue ice.

Also, bergs reflect the shorter wavelengths of incidental light giving a blue cast, which is the same phenomena that makes the sky look blue. In certain areas in the Antarctic and Arctic, microorganisms can also color glaciers, not unlike a famous green glacier further to the east in Antarctica.

When we arrived on the Antarctic Peninsula, we were all amazed at the amount of color in the landscape. Initially, I thought I’d work in black and white down there, but once I arrived at Deception Island, I quickly realized that working in color was what it was all about. We had also wondered what made the ice blue, so Wyatt did some serious research in the extensive Pelagic Australis library to answer our question.

I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog and the photos. Thanks. Stay tuned, since much is happening.

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What’s Been Happening

It’s been seven months since I returned from my South America adventure and while I have not posted anything, much has happened. One of my goals while in Antarctica was to photograph as many icebergs and glaciers and frozen landscapes as I possibly could. And that I did, coming back with close to 3,000 frames from the three weeks we spent on board the Pelagic Australis sailing down the Antarctic Peninsula.

Sorting through those 3,000 images at first seemed daunting until I sorted them by subject, and then kept scrolling though until I had a sense of what I wanted to print. My goal was, and still is, to have an exhibition of the work somewhere near Portland, Maine, my home base, so I can share the work with others.

The initial sort was simple. Put all the ice/berg/frozen landscape images in one folder; birds, whales and other critters in a second folder; people and the boat in a third, etc. That still left over 1,000 images in the ice/berg/frozen landscape folder, so I kept scrolling through until I narrowed them down to 150. Way too many, but a good start. Then the hard part began: how to get those 150 down to a manageable three dozen. But I did, eventually.

Since I’m six years into my retirement and therefore have spent six years away from working seriously with Photoshop, I hired a wonderful technician to bring me back up to speed and to oversee the printing of the images. What’s even better is that she’s an incredible image maker. I encourage you to check out Gabriella Sturchio’s work.

We have proofed, edited, tweaked, and now printed about 24 images. They look beautiful.

I’m currently inviting curators to look at the work with the intention of mounting an exhibition at some point in the next year. Stay tuned.

Here are a few of the final images. Enjoy them.

 

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Three Photo Exhibitons, New York City

On the way back to Portland, I stopped in New York City for two nights so that I could take in three photography exhibitions. It’s still part of the trip, so I guess I can discuss the work.

While I was in Peru a friend sent me a review of the Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris exhibition at the Met. He was a late 19th-Century French photographer best known for his documentation of the transformation of Paris under Haussman’s direction when the older parts of the city with the narrow streets and twisty alleys were razed to make room for the grand boulevards we know of today’s Paris.

Charles Marville, Construction of the avenue de l'Opera, 1876

Charles Marville, Construction of the avenue de l’Opera, 1876

In adjoining rooms was one of the most well selected small survey exhibitions I think I’ve ever seen: Paris as Muse: Photography, 1840s to 1930s. Only 43 photos, but they ranged from 1840s salted paper prints from paper negative images Fox Talbot did of Paris street scenes to Cartier-Bresson and Brassaï small camera images done in the 1930s. Twelve images were by Atget, one of my all-time favorite photographers, who worked during the first 25 years of the 20th Century.

What has always attracted me to Atget’s work is how he began as a “documentary” photographer—a term he actually used, making images that were good records of what was in front of the camera—but had transformed by the ’20s to a much more lyrical or poetic photographer who was creating metaphors for his world view.

Eugene Atget, Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Genevieve, 1924

Eugene Atget, Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Genevieve, 1924

While the two images above seem similar on the surface, Marville’s records the facts of the reconstruction, while for me Atget’s reflects through the darkness of the Romanesque church on the left the bloody massacre of priest and nuns hundreds of years before, and the more enlightened symbol of the Pantheon in the rear. I also like this photo since a photographer friend lives just outside the frame, to the right.

But the exhibition I really stopped to see was the Jerome Liebling: Matter of Life and Death exhibition at the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea. Jerry was my grad school mentor who passed away a few years ago after a long and productive life both as an image maker and teacher. Starting just after his service in WWII, he worked with the members of the Photo League in NYC, went on to start the film and photography program at the University of Minnesota, where I studied with him, then started the photo and film department at Hampshire College.

This large exhibition contained black and white work from his earliest days in the city to later color work. The photographs were selected by his daughter Rachel Liebling, a good documentary filmmaker, and contained many personal favorites that I’ve known since my grad school days to some, especially color work, that I had not seen before. Rachel’s strong editing showed the diversity of subject matter over the years, but the underlying passion for and connection with his subjects was visible in each and every photograph.

Jerome Liebling, Man Eating Lunch, Home for the Blind, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1961

Jerome Liebling, Man Eating Lunch, Home for the Blind, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1961

Jerome Liebling, Women and Peaches, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, 1995

Jerome Liebling, Women and Peaches, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, 1995

Three excellent exhibitions. If you’re in NYC, check ’em out.

 

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Musings

Took a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood Sunday afternoon and came across a big photo show by an Argentine photographer, Marcos Zimmermann. Good, solid, black-and-white images in the documentary or, as the French call it, reportage poétique style. Nice to see.

I recently did a tour of the Teatro Colón, the Buenos Aires opera house, and couldn’t help thinking about Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo. No relationship, I know. But still, being in the building conjured up scenes from the film. I had similar visions while taking the train along the river to Machu Picchu—scenes from another of his films, Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Herzog actually filmed Aguirre on the same river that flows past Machu Picchu, but further east in the rainforest, just before it joins the Amazon.

OperaHouseInterior

Teatro Colón

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Art and Mausoleums

A day of visiting the newest and latest and the oldest and deadest. MALBA is the equivalent of MOMA in that it shows the best in what was happening here during the 20th century. I’m so used to the NYC-centric scene in the States that a bit of gear-shifting was in order. What became obvious was that the artists in the collection were looking at Europe—primarily Paris—as a source, not New York. But, the early 20th century NYC artists were looking at Paris, also, so it’s all the same. I sensed a more vibrant palette, more figurative work, and references to indigenous culture, in general.

What I’ll miss is a show opening in a few days of the work of Mario Testino, a Peruvian  photographer who someone said is the South American Mapplethorpe. Not sure about that. I’d say he’s more like Helmet Newton.

20140311-095210.jpgMy last stop of the day was the Recoleta Cemetery, a small city of mausoleums. Nice, but I’m just not into dead people and their over-the-top monuments to themselves. Sorry. But, I’ll admit that these structures kept an awful lot of designers, modelers, pattern makers, bronze foundry men, stone carvers and more very busy.

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