Last week I had the opportunity to go to Plymouth, Wisconsin on business for a training for a machine we have where I work. If you don't know where Plymouth is, it is about an hour north of Milwaukee, and about thirty minutes away from Sheboygan, which is on Lake Wisconsin. After the training sessions, I drove around Plymouth, Sheboygan Falls, and Sheboygan to see the landscape and the towns. I'd never seen any of the Great Lakes, so seeing Lake Michigan was a must. I ended up going to North Side Municipal Beach both evenings I had free. The first evening wasn't really planned, I just ended up there. The second evening, however, was planned: I saw on the weather forecast there would be bad winds out on the lake, causing large waves closer to shore, and sure enough, they were about 6 feet high, which drew out some surfers and jet skiers.
At this point in time, I can't remember how I came across the work of Jake Weigel, but I think I must have been looking for more work similar to James Balog and Krista Wortendyke and David Hockney. Nor can I remember exactly when it was, but I think it was towards the end of June. Not that that's really important.
However it was that I came across Jake’s website, I do remember the first image I saw:
Part of his Reconstruction series, Woods gives the viewer the sense of lying on their back, gazing up into the cloudy sky, wondering if the clouds overhead will finally let go of the moisture they are carrying, and nervous that the bare trees will offer no protection should rain begin to fall.
This "photographic collage," as Jake calls it (I myself, don't know whether to call pieces like this collages or mosaics), was different than almost any other I'd seen before. It is from a different perspective than the others, and the photograph is more about story than it is about seeing a forest in a different way.
The concept is pushed even further by using apparently the same image repeatedly to create a whole new composition in itself as in Spiral:
I think this sort of piece requires just the right photograph as a starting point. The way the cables from the pole arc and then “connect” to themselves again in each subsequent frame is what creates the spiral. Another photograph may dictate different treatment, a different pattern.
Head over to his website. He has a very extensive body of work, ranging from medium format film photography to sculpture.
Two weeks ago my family went to Bear Lake for a few days. Most of the photographs I made while at the lake were the "motion" photographs that I included in my last post. I made a few of my traditional style photographs with my digital camera, and even more on film, which aren't developed and scanned yet. Once I get them done, I'll be posting a lot of what I've done over the last few months since I got back into film.
A few months ago, I was out photographing and the wind was blowing too hard to make the photographs I wanted to make; the photographs were blurry from camera shake. So, I decided to really exaggerate the camera movement and panned the camera from right to left, and left to right, and up and down and came away with some very pleasing results. Ever since then, I've made more of these "motion studies" whenever I've gone out to photograph. I'm thinking there are some real possibilities for a strong portfolio in this process.
These next few images were made by rotating the camera during exposure, rather than panning, and the last two were made while panning and rotating the camera.
I love how serendipitous this process is. Serendipity is the main reason why I'm so passionate about the lumen process. I discovered that particular process towards the end of my education at BYU Idaho, and it was a nice and needed change from the exactness of working with the Zone System.
I'm really drawn to the way these photographs in motion erase the details of the landscape and reduce it down to its most basic elements. Deep shadows are erased and colors become more pastel in some cases, and even more saturated in others. Shapes emerge that are only revealed, or that are plainly created by the camera's movement.
This is a process that I'll surely be pursuing.
Last month Gina and I took a trip to Seattle to celebrate our first anniversary. We had so much fun seeing the sights, and playing tourists for several days. Seattle has been one of my favorite places ever since I lived there for a few months while my brother Jesse went through treatment for Leukemia. It was fun to take Gina to some of the places I knew, and just as fun going to new places together.
While we were there, I was able to make lots of photographs. Here are all of my favorites:
I've been out quite a bit in the last month gathering photographs for these photo-mosaics I've gotten into making, and thought I'd share a few of the pieces I'm working on.
This first one has images made on three or four different occasions—once in the evening and twice in the morning just before and after sunrise.
This next one has images made on five or six different occasions, at dusk, and at dawn and late afternoon.
This last one has photographs made on two different occasions, once at sunrise, and the other at sunset.
It's been a lot of fun conceptualizing, composing and then piecing together all the photographs that make up the larger piece. It's real time-consuming, both in the making of the photographs, and in the editing and arranging. I've got several hours already put into each of these photographs, and they're not even close to being something I'd say is a finished piece of artwork.
In a way, I feel as though I'm rebelling against the style I've worked in in the past 13 to 15 years, and it feels good to break from my "norm."
Four images of a wheat field while the sun sets with the camera panning in motion with a long exposure.
A few days ago, I published a post on the work of Krista Wortendyke. In it, I explained I first saw her work in an email newsletter, and that it really "struck a chord." I didn't really elaborate on that in the post, because I wanted to focus on Krista's work. Today I'd like to talk about the way it affected and has already influenced me and my own photography.
I've mentioned in previous blog posts how the creative impulse has really taken hold of me again and I've begun sweeping the cobwebs out of the recesses of my mind that drove my creative thinking. It’s not that I quit exercising my creativity altogether—I just found different outlets, like tying flies and fly fishing, and I didn’t exercise photographically often at all. Or, I at least didn’t engage in it seriously, or with any real direction. It gradually fell pretty low on the list of priorities. It is true that I would occasionally think about a project that would help me get serious, but that’s as much work I put into it. Add to that the fact that after leaving grad school (the reasons for which I still haven’t ever fully addressed here), I haven’t really been part of a community to offer any valuable feedback or critiques beyond a “thumbs-up” or a “like” on Facebook or Instagram of any work I ever did do in the past several years. And that has been the hardest struggle.
So, as I’ve been going out around Cache Valley to photograph, and reading material to help get my brain in gear, I’ve been wondering and pondering on what to do for a project, and several ideas have popped up. I’ve always thought ever since moving here, about doing something with the Bear River. It’s a heavily exploited resource, so there’s lots I could say with it. But then I remember Craig Denton’s book “Bear River: Last Chance to Change Course” and shy away from a project of my own on the Bear River. That happens to me all the time: I think of a project or subject or process, then learn of or remember that someone else has done that exact thing or something very similar and I give up on whatever plans for a project I may have started to formulate. But I recently heard a quote from Mary Virginia Swanson who said (to paraphrase) that you should photograph the ideas or subjects that come from within. To photograph what you’re passionate about. She went on to say that after a while you will come into your own style. And then I later heard another paraphrased quote from Robert Adams: Art can’t awaken us if it merely copies what we already have. So, the first quote gave me some validation and encouragement to carry out a project that someone perhaps has already done. The second quote gave me the warning I need to not just copy. Which I’ve always had in mind when making photographs (though sometimes I’ve made photographs knowing full well it looks exactly like another photograph from someone who came before). In the Adams quote, he said something about taking what someone has already done (and this is where the real challenge lies) and to make it better. And he’s right. Every turn I take, it seems like I’ve seen something like it to varying degrees before. There’s little in the Arts that hasn’t been done before. Which can be debilitating, because I don’t want to copy. I just need to figure out how to improve upon work that has influenced me. That’s when a voice creeps in my head and says “How are you going to improve upon Mark Klett? or James Balog? or Peter Goin? and the list goes on.
Now let me discuss some thoughts on the project I have swimming around my mind, as well as what is an underlying element to all of my photography. I’ve always been fascinated at the way a photograph can freeze moments of time. Whether the length of that moment of time is only 1/500 of a second, or if three hours passed to make the exposure. My lumens, for example, are exposed anywhere between three hours and a week or more (I’ve done them as long as a month, but I feel like a day-long, or two-day-long exposure is sufficient for what I am trying to achieve). Within that time, the plants I use in the process die, along with any insects or other crawly things that are in the plants’ roots or leaves, and things begin to rot and decay fairly quickly, especially if it’s a hot summer day. The paper really changes from the intense UV light that is exposing it. The viewer may not know just how much time elapsed in the making each print, but the passage of time is a preeminent element in the creation of them. With my “camera photographs” (I use the term here to separate them from the camera-less photographs that lumen prints are), I almost always try to use as slow a shutter speed as possible. Within reason. I’m not usually interested in freezing motion in my photography. I aim to show motion—flowing water, tree branches swaying in the breeze, the streaks of headlights as cars drive by.
Which brings me back around to the photography of Krista Wortendyke, and the chord that was struck. In the blog post I did on her work, I explained (actually, I quoted her artist statement) that her photographs are composed of multi-frame images taken from video games, and photographs found on the internet to make a composite image that blurs the line between what is real, and what is fiction. Upon seeing that photograph in the email newsletter, I knew I had a direction I could take in a project on the Bear River. By making each photograph up of a composite of many photographs, I can show the passage of time in each individual photograph that makes up the whole, as well as the passage of time measured in days, weeks, months or even years, showing the effects of time and changes of seasons of a scene in a single photograph. Any changes in water levels of rivers and streams, the sprouting and death of leaves on trees, and any changes that Man might make on the landscape could all be observed in one image. That email arrived in my inbox at about nine a.m., and I wasn’t able to sit still or concentrate for the rest of the day. My mind was exploding with new ideas and locations to photograph and methods of display. In that post, I explained it wasn’t the first time I’d seen work done the way Krista created her photographs, and that I was familiar with James Balog. Even before I knew of Balog, Tyler Hopkins, a friend from college was doing mosaic-, multi-frame photographs. And since I came across Krista’s work, I’ve discovered a few more photographers working in this similar vein, such as Jake Weigel.
Over the past two or three weeks, I've been out a handful of times to start gathering photographs for finished pieces. I've returned to a few locations on different days, so that the larger photograph has photographs made on two different days.
Here is the first one I started working on, with photos made on two different days, and is by no means finished:
These pieces, as I mentioned above, may not be complete for up to, and maybe even more than, a year, since my goal currently is to include frames from all four seasons, from different times of day, under various weather conditions.
It had been a very long time since a project hit me and got me so excited as this one has made me. Stay tuned for more updates!
About eight or nine years ago, I created a blog titled 52 Photographers, where I would feature one photographer each week of the year. I don’t remember now just how many posts I made on the blog, but I know I didn’t make it a whole year. The purpose of the blog was to help me seek out photographers I hadn’t seen before to keep the creative juices flowing.
I recently had the thought of resurrecting that blog, but I don’t have the time to make it a weekly thing. So, I’ll make it as much of a regular thing that I post about on this, the Departures Blog. And so, with no further ado, I’ll introduce the first photographer I’ll be featuring: Krista Wortendyke.
It wasn’t the content of the photograph that grabbed my attention so immediately and completely. It was the way she had pieced multiple images together in a multi-frame mosaic. I had seen seen work in this same approach before though—I have been aware of James Balog’s photographs published in a book titled Tree: A New Vision of the American Forest. But it had been so long since I'd seen or thought of Balog's work, that I'd nearly forgotten all about it, so it was if I were seeing work done like this before, not in terms of content—in this case, a fireball in an unnamed or even unknown desert, presumably from an explosion, and a large, black and gray plume of smoke rising into the sky—but in technique.
The body of work "is an exploration of the way imagery and information from movies, videogames, newspapers, and the Internet come together to form our perception of war." She goes on to explain: "Explosions are war’s most universal and most spectacular signifiers. We are never falling short of this imagery. I have made use of these magnetizing images to show not only how the lines between fiction and non-fiction blur, but also to show how a mediated experience can become indecipherable from a real experience." I find the concept intriguing, and the implementation is quite apropos to the subject matter.
I love coming back to these photographs. There are so many things that go unnoticed on a first look because there are is so much imagery to take in in each piece. And with so much of war and violence in the news, the imagery of war has become so commonplace and mundane, and with the quality of graphics and the immersiveness of war video games, it is easy to confuse reality with fiction.
Take a look at Krista's website and other projects here.
*All images used by permission of the artist.
I've gone out several times over the past weeks, around Benson, and the Cutler Marsh, and I'm feeling like I'm really getting to know the Bear River and Cache Valley on a deeper level, though there's still so much more to discover.
I also bought a 6x9 medium format rangefinder recently, and it's been fun getting back into film photography, even though I haven't gotten any of the film developed yet. It's been nice to have to slow down and not take the "shotgun approach" that digital can allow you to take. I've noticed I approach the photographed scene just slightly differently with film. I'm sure the focal length of the lens and the fact that it's a rangefinder with no light meter has something to do with this change.
Here are some photos from the last few outings.