I sometimes feel transported back in time by the simplicity of the rural landscape around me. I can imagine that it is the middle of the Nineteenth Century with no wires, no automobiles, no cell towers. On a wintry day with snow on the ground, the landscape becomes even more stark. Working with the most modern of photographic tools, I still felt compelled to create a monochromatic piece suggestive of old glass-plate days and wonky lenses.
It’s always exciting and fun to have a new project for a client. This current request for a four seasons collection had me considering works depicting spring trees. The image making process for me is always intense, so each trip through my collection of images brings back memories and emotions.
This image was made in Bucks County, PA early in the morning from a position where I could place the sun behind the early spring buds. Their rich colors were emphasized by the the back lighting, a polarizing filter, and contrast development in Lightroom.
It’s kind of nice to be thinking about spring on a cold, windy winter day.
My ongoing photographic series on barn cats continues with this new image of Peanut. Sometimes, the personality of an animal just strikes a chord. Peanut seems to engage in behaviors that scream cuteness. She finds ways of putting herself into places and situations that are associated with innocence and youthful curiosity.
One of the nice things about this project for me is that I live with this small colony of cats on a daily basis. I get to experience their antics and make use of those experiences to create images that speak to larger concepts.
This image is the result of both my relationship with this cat colony, and an understanding of this particular kitten. My goal with this project is to create imagery that speaks to human emotions as experienced through other animals. Whether it is a kitten curled up in a bowl or a human baby curled up in a basket, the emotions are the same.
I had initially approached this situation on my stomach working eye-to-eye as I typically do in this project. But I realized that the true impact I wanted would best be achieved looking down on Peanut and graphically using the roundness of the two bowls. Roundness is a soft shape which is consistent with the desired feeling I wanted in the image.
Peanut and the Bowl is now available as a Limited Edition pigment giclee print from my gallery on-line.
For the last few years, I have been working with the cats that live on our farm to create images that speak to their lives and personalities. I’ve been trying to make images that are authentic, honest, and representational of their hardships, and everyday lives. The work I have been offering as prints as part of my “Barn Cat Series” have been well received. This year, one of my favorite barn inhabitants gave birth to a wonderful little girl that has been an absolute delight. We have named her Peanut. She is tiny for her age and engages in behaviors that literally have made me laugh out loud.
I keep a close eye on her to see what new adventures and discoveries she might have. To create images that are personal and of her world, I must work at ground level. When possible I like to be at a level even a little below hers, as when she is on a raised garden bed, or porch. Sometimes however, emphasizing her small size by working from above is the best way to speak to her vulnerability.
At some point every artist grapples with the question of what is art. I’ve had several working definitions which have ultimately been less than satisfactory. As I have spent more years in the creation of new works, and have read more about art history and theory, I have become more ambivalent as to whether a definition of art is even possible.
One aspect of making art that has really struck me is how dependent I am on having creation time. When I go too long without making new work, a sort of depression comes over me. I’ve known this for some time, but have only recently tried to figure it out. I have come to the conclusion that two different factors are involved. One is the actual creative process, for me that means the making of new images. Science has already shown that the creation process activates reward centers of the brain. The second factor is the aesthetic pleasure I gain from experiencing the world through the creation process. I need aesthetic experiences! Through the process of making images, I experience the world in an amplified aesthetic way. In fact, I believe this second factor is the driving force for me more than any particular need to create.
For me then, art is the expression of the aesthetic pleasure I gain from experiencing the world through the creation of art! That makes art rather like a tautology.
For the image above, which I made just yesterday, my experience of seeing the sun light reflect and refract through the dew drops was magnificent. As I made each new image I felt exhilarated and a sort of secret satisfaction that I was privy to something unique. It is important to me that my tools don’t get in the way, so for this type of close-up macro work I really enjoy working with Olympus Micro Four-Thirds gear and specifically their 60mm f2.8 macro lens.
My approach to the medium of photography is as an artist. Because of this, I try not to have preconceived notions about how photography “should” be done and think instead only of the imagery I want to create. I do however work within the medium to create images that are best rendered as a photograph, not in a contrived way in order to make it look falsely like another medium.
My approach means that the images I create are conceived to be made primarily in the
field through the use of traditional photographic methods, i.e., camera and lens. For an impressionistic image like the one above (titled Opus 1), I used an old 120mm f1.9 Carl Zeiss Jena film projector lens which had been fitted with an adapter giving it an M42 mount. With that mount, I was able to then add an additional adapter to allow it’s use on a Fuji digital interchangeable lens camera.
As a film projector lens, it has no focusing mechanism, no aperture control, and no way to communicate with the camera. The M42 adapter on the lens has a built in helicoid which allows me to “focus” it buy turning the lens and causing it to be closer to or further away from the camera sensor. With no aperture, the lens is only usable at it’s f1.9 rating. This large aperture means lots of light gets in and depth of field is very thin. But for me that’s the whole point of using this big, hazy, scratched, and fungus growing, chunk of glass.
The lens is a beast and unruly on a camera, but I feel the rendering matches my aesthetic very well. As I continue to develop a view of the world which is more impressionistic, I find myself wanting to use this lens more and more. For the image above, I had been struggling with modern traditional lenses to isolate flowers in this meadow and simplify the background. The fall off of focus with this projector lens is very sudden and creates a unique type of bokeh that I have not achieved with any other lens.
Many people think that Opus 1 is a painting. I inform viewers that it is in fact a photograph, but one done in a painterly style. By painterly I do not mean the use of artificial brush strokes, but rather an emphasis on color and form instead of linear definition.
The first edition of the Shady Grove Farm Open Studio Show was exciting and rewarding for both Linda and myself. On Saturday and Sunday, and in rain and shine, we shared new work, conversation, and experiences in our studios.
Our show of June 9-10 was an opportunity to expose both previous and new buyers to our most important inspiration — Shady Grove Farm. Our farm serves both as the place where we create and prepare our work for buyers from around the country and even around the world. Many of my recent pictures have been created in the meadows and gardens on the farm. In addition, my Barn Cat Series is now going on its third year and has been very well received.
I think it is always interesting to see where artists work and to experience a location that is especially important to driving their creative imagination. Linda and I were able to offer that experience with this first studio and show and now can begin to plan our next! We’re already excited about it. Until then, we have the busiest six month show circuit period we’ve ever scheduled. So, it’s back to the studios for us.