Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Fine Art Opportunity

It only comes once a year– about forty professional artists with regional, national, and international renown, gather at the elegant Cana Ballroom in Boerne, Texas to show collectors and lovers of the arts what they have been creating over the past year. Next weekend, October 16 through 20, the 11th annual Texas Hill Country Invitational will be hosting these artists in the region's most prestigious art show and sale. These artists will be exhibiting works in the media of oils, pastels, acrylics, water colors, photography, bronze, stone, glass, ceramics and jewels. And attendance at any of the events is open and free to the public. 

Many of the artists from last year are returning, but you can also look forward to some "new blood." Dawn del Alamo, a glass artist, and Pam Ameduri, working in mixed 3D media, will be new additions as well as others. Widely known sculptors, John Bennett (2010 Texas State Artist) and Linda Sioux Henley (whose life-size bronze  work appears on the Texas Capitol grounds), will be part of the returning crew. And I will be there showing my own work in fine art panoramic photography. 

For several years now, the THCI has been a highlight of my art-showing year. The atmosphere is electric, the conversation rich, and the art exquisite. On top of these things, this year (and last) the setting has been the elegant Cana Ballroom. This is a true jewel of the Hill Country: a wonderful and spacious art-friendly environment, situated atop the highest hill in Boerne, with a sweeping view of the Hill Country through the northern exposure of a wall of glass. It is a special time to be surrounded by so many superb works of art, while immersed in the natural beauty of the Hill Country. 

The show's events begin with the en plein aire "Paint Out" on Wednesday and Thursday. This event is recognized this year by the prestigious Oil Painters of America, and will host numerous painters creating works in the great outdoors in locations all over Boerne. If you have never checked out a "Paint Out" such as this you will find it an intensely interesting opportunity to watch accomplished artists produce a work of art before your eyes. You can talk to them while they work and ask them about their techniques, philosophy of art, etc. All works produced during this event will be available at a silent auction held at the show's Preview event on Friday. Part of the proceeds of the auction will go to public art in Boerne. 

On Friday, Oct 18, from 7 to 9 pm, the THCI show and sale actually commences with its Reception and Preview. This will be your first opportunity to see the forty featured artists' work and reserve your favorite piece, before some other art-lover "steals" it! The evening will also feature complimentary food, beverages, and live music. At 8:30 the "Best" awards will be presented. This will also be your opportunity to participate in the silent auction of the paintings produced during the "Paint Out." 

On Saturday, October 19, art show and sale hours will be from 10 am – 8pm, and will include a slate of demonstrations and art lectures throughout the day. These demos and lectures were quite a hit during last year's show, with many artists giving considerable insight into how and why they produce their art. Beverage and food trucks will be outside the Ballroom during the day.    

Sunday, October 20, wraps the show up with your final opportunity to view (and buy!) these wonderful works, from noon – 3 pm

Do yourself a favor and take the time next weekend to head to Boerne and experience all that the Texas Hill Country Invitational has to offer. 

PS– if you are interested in staying overnight, special hotel rates are available at Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott and Americas Best Value Inn— just use the code word "ART" when you call.
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Sunday, September 29, 2013

LAVENDER SHADOWS

A few years ago an opportunity made itself known to me to participate in Blanco's "Lavender Festival." A fine art show was attached to the festival and I had been invited to show my work there. The Lavender Festival is usually scheduled for the first weekend in June and is a veritable smorgasbord of lavender-based creations– pastries, candies, sachets, paintings, even wine– any and all things created, with lavender as the common ingredient.

There were crowds of folks as I showed my art that weekend, and Blanco's town square was ebullient. The show was fairly successful for me, and the pieces I displayed were enjoyed and appreciated by many, even those not buying. During a fairly quiet moment in my booth, however, an older lady scrutinized my work but said nothing for quite some time. Finally, she broke the uncomfortable silence: "Hmmmmm...I really like your work, BUT..."

I walked up to her and tried to understand her intentions: "Yes, can I help you? I heard a 'BUT.' Is there a problem?" She responded: "Yes, there IS a problem. I love your work, Bill...BUT...where are your LAVENDER PHOTOGRAPHS?"

With some trepidation, I tried to respond: "Yeah, yeah, I know...this is a 'Lavender Festival' and I have no photographs of lavender. I'd like to have some, but I've never had the opportunity to take any."

"Well, I'll tell you what...I've got a small, private lavender farm just outside of downtown. Here are the security codes to both of the gates that will let you in. Come anytime you'd like and take some photographs. You needn't stop and ask first, or even call ahead. But take some lavender photographs...PLEASE!"

LAVENDER SHADOWS, © Bill Brockmeier, all rights reserved by the artist
About a week later, I and a photographer friend who had recently moved to the Blanco area took up Alice Coverly on her more than generous offer and sought out her farm. The security codes worked as advertised and we soon found ourselves alone and surrounded by her five or so acres of lavender bushes. The light breeze was heavy with the perfume, and the shadows were already lengthening with the sun dropping toward the horizon.

The place seemed an astounding fusion of French Provence and Texas Hill Country– the smell and color of France and the vistas of the Hill Country. Perhaps South Texas is not really that far from southeastern France after all.

The next June at the following "Lavender Festival" I was again showing my work to those seeking lavender in Blanco. This time I was heavily armed with my own lavender offerings. The image you see here– LAVENDER SHADOWS (a very limited edition of only 12 on large canvas)– was made as the sun nearly kissed the horizon. Some of the lush, blooming plants had already been immersed in shadow while others were still in the blaze of sunlight.

As I have shown the two photographs from this series, many have made it plain to me that they believe the photographs are paintings. I've tried to assure them that "No, these are not paintings, but photographs." Some have remained unconvinced, and swear that I must have at least applied some little dabs of paint to some of the blooms to make them stand out and appear 3D. Although I use no digital enhancement to the colors or otherwise, they still find it difficult to believe these are simply straight photographs.

Thanks to a friend of the arts, and a lover of lavender, I was able to make some memorable images of this wonderful plant. Thank you, Alice!
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This photograph is available in a Very Limited Edition of only twelve copies. The full, framed size is 19 by 62 inches.    Call now to reserve yours— 210-241-6132.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Good To Be Alive

It was a spectacular and glorious day in La Villita: the deep emerald leaves of live oaks still basked in the moisture of recent rains, the little centuries-old houses huddled in this unique little neighborhood, and the sapphire sky-vault stretched out above. A breeze occasionally wafted through the courtyard before us, enticing our skin with the coolness promised by autumn.  Even a die-hard fan of South Texas summers like myself revels in the first cool days of September.

Photographs hanging on the front of the San Martin House in La Villita
La Villita ("The Little Village") neighborhood is wonderful in so many little ways: its tight proximity to the Riverwalk community, the authentic historic architecture, the art-aware ambiance, and much more. But what most draws my own affection are the people whom I encounter in La Villita: both those working there and the ones who choose to enjoy its treasures for just a day. In the presence of good company and lively conversation what more could one want? And yet, the day had plenty more. Surrounded by all these blessings it didn't even seem to matter whether the day ahead would be one of record-setting sales for me or none at all.

The San Martin House in July 1939,
when the house was a mere 200 yrs. old
Every once in a while I remember, yet again, that it doesn't matter so much what my own peculiar agenda for the day might be, but the importance of the day, and of life, is in appreciating the thousand simple blessings that permeate each of my hours– each minute, in fact. It can be good to be alive, especially so if we don't just "get by" and survive through it but learn to fully live in it, even in the midst of simply surviving. Gratitude for the amazing gift that life truly is can make our time here, short though it is, filled with meaning and significance. 

As the sun rises, or the moon sets, enjoy the wonder of what surrounds you and thank Him Who gave it all. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Celebrate Art In Her Garden

IN THE AVENUE OF GIANTS,
© 2007, Bill Brockmeier,
all rights reserved by the artist
You never know where opportunities may come from. I was recently the beneficiary of such when an acquaintance I hadn't spoken with in years unexpectedly contacted me. Sherry Disdier, bonsai artist and long time proprietor of the Bonsai Arbor, emailed me about the possibility of my participating in a La Villita photographic exhibit scheduled to synchronize with Fotoseptiembre USA®, International Photography Festival. Since I had no other shows scheduled for my work during the month of September, I jumped at the chance.

I first met Sherry several years ago when she graciously consented to be one of my subjects in a project I was pursuing at the time that I called a "Celebration of Art in the Garden" (incidentally, this project as well became a Fotoseptiembre® exhibition). This series of panoramic portraits explored the pursuit of arts– in its widely divergent manifestations– in the context of gardens (in their own widely divergent manifestations as well). My portrait of Sherry was a vertically oriented panorama that focused on a relative closeup of Sherry's hands as she worked on a bonsai in her backyard "garden studio." While most of my other photographs in the series merely used a garden as the setting for the pursuit of some otherwise out-of-context artistry, Sherry's art was intrinsically and intimately woven into the very substance of the garden around her. I was blessed to have such a significant and deeply relevant subject for my series.

Sherry's Bonsai Arbor is one of, if not perhaps THE, longest art tenant of San Antonio's oldest art district, "La Villita." She has offered her simply amazing bonsai works, and other art objects, in her La Villita shop for the most of three decades in the historic San Martin/Herrera House #5 along Guadalupe Walk. This coming Sunday (September 22) I will be presenting there one of the largest groupings of my work that I have shown publicly in quite some time. The works I will be showing are nearly all produced in large scale on archival canvas, and whose subjects range from the timeless San Antonio Missions, to the lavender fields of Blanco Texas, to trees of the Hill Country, and beyond.

The Bonsai Arbor is located at 418 Villita Street, Suite 500, near downtown San Antonio (78205). The shop is very near the corner of Villita and South Presa Street (convenient parking is just across South Presa, less than 100 feet away!). The full hours of the show will be about 10am to about 6pm with an "open house" from 12 noon til 4pm. Please check the map for detailed directions.

The La Villita neighborhood itself is an amazing amalgamation of people, art, architecture, history, events, and so much more. Read about its fascinating history.

Come down to La Villita this Sunday and see me and my art...and enjoy the ambiance of one of the unique neighborhoods of San Antonio. And while you're at it, you can try a sample of my "2012 Faccia Del Sole," Hatch chile sherry— while it lasts. This wine that I produced last year is just beginning to come into maturity and is more than I ever imagined it would be. I'll see you there...

Monday, August 19, 2013

ESPADA PRISM

ESPADA PRISM,
© Bill Brockmeier,
all rights reserved by the artist
The San Antonio Spanish Missions are an incredible collection of history, architecture, and living faith.  While the three Missions closest to downtown San Antonio are, by far, the most visited of the five, the two southern-most Missions are remarkable in their own distinct ways and certainly worthy of investing considerable time.

The farthest south— "Mission Espada" (MisiĆ³n San Francisco de la Espada) is actually outside of Loop/IH-410 and on the very periphery of the San Antonio metropolitan area.  Of the five Missions, this one is probably the smallest in size, but it makes up for its diminutive real estate with intimacy, intensity, and authenticity.

True spiritual relationship is founded upon intimacy, and the ambience of Espada is nothing if not intimate (no pretensions allowed here).  The solace and solitude that can be encountered there is almost palpable.  After entering the much-discussed portal, find your seat, enter the quiet, and wait.  The One to Whom this building was dedicated is, Himself, still waiting to visit His peace upon you.

The morning that I captured this image (ESPADA PRISM), the sunlight streamed through the tall arched window, spilling into the dim interior of Espada.  As the light tumbled through the glass, it fell upon the rugged wood benches, reflecting softly from the satin patina— polished by the generations of parishioners that have sat there.

A cross, clearly formed by the framework of the window's glazing is echoed in the small cross on the wall that signifies the "Sixth Station." A coarse woven cloth lies at the bottom of the window, reminiscent of the garment that was stripped from Jesus before He was hung on the cross. Overhead, beams of wood seem solemn and heavy with weight, as the beam that Jesus carried to His place of execution was physically heavy upon His shoulders, and ultimately, as the weight of the world's sin was heavy upon Him on the cross, and He cried out: "Lord! Lord! Why have you forsaken me?"

Brought down to earth, the beam of light finally rests upon the kneeling rails, illuminating their vividly-hued woven coverings.  The colors seem to be the very spectrum itself, the various wavelengths of light broken apart and spread out from the original white light. I reflected upon the diversity and distinction of individual Believers, refracted, as it were, as individual "colors" from the pure, white Light of the Holy Spirit Himself.
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Note: this is another of Bill's very limited editions on large-scale canvas (20 copies only) from his San Antonio Missions series of photographs


On Espada Prism

   – © Bill Brockmeier

Light.
Living,
   in Truth
   and Beauty—
      unapproachable.

Streaming down,
 the Beam's divided,
   separated,
   cut asunder
 by beams
   vertical,
   horizontal.


Spear point,
 piercing upward,
 separates
      blood from water,
      marrow from bone,
      spirit from flesh.

Horizon,
 cutting outward,
 divides
   hell from heaven,
   death from life,
   dark from light,
   night from day—
The First Day.


The Light cries
 and bleeds,
 weeping great drops of blood,
   dripping down,
   streaming down
 upon the children.

Bloody drops separate,
 cut by bloody hearts
   into tongues of Light,
 resting on the Children.

Light,
 now more finely divided,
   becomes the promise-bow.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

All Is Not As It Seems

The tag-line/motto that I use conspicuously here on this blog claims that the core reality of photography lies at the interaction of light and matter, the intersection of energy and mass. I have been thinking about this recently in relation to how physical and biological systems detect light. 

I mentioned previously here that I had been reading about the Stiles-Crawford effect and in doing so came across detailed descriptions of the infinitesimal workings of the light-sensitive cells– the cones and rods– of the human eye. Within these cells are contained micro-miniature energy conversion plants, material manufacturing facilities, and supply transportation pipelines. And below it all is an incredibly intelligent organization scheme, or command structure, which keeps it all running smoothly and efficiently. 

The functional regime which I casually referred to as an "energy conversion plant" is what is directly responsible for the all-important light sensitive aspects of the eye. As photons from the external world flood into the eye they are organized and redirected into the formation of a replica image on the retinal surface at the back of the eye. This retina, which some liken to the film in an old-school camera, is the organ of the eye which is responsible for taking these tiny packets of light energy and transforming them in a near-miraculous manner into electro-chemical energy signals that are sent to the brain for further transformation and analysis. 

Embedded in the retinal tissue are the light sensitive organelles themselves: the rod and cone cells. Within these tiny electro-optical instruments are organic dye materials, the molecules of which are stacked disk-like in the rod cells as if they were columns of Necco wafers and in the cone cells like leaves that are being dried as they lie interleaved in the pages of a thick book. The electro-chemical bonds of these stacks of dye molecules become excited as they absorb the incoming photons and their energy. The photons themselves die and are no more, while the dye molecules'  new-found energy is passed along the length of the cell, becoming the electronic signal that can be passed to outside systems. The signal continues along the electro-chemical pathway that comprises the whole of the optic nerve and into the brain itself.

NECCO Wafers, © New England Confectionery Company (NECCO)
What provoked my thoughts in all this is the commonly heard analogy of eye and camera. How often it is said that "the eye is like a camera, with its lens, iris, dark chamber (camera obscura), and light sensitive film at the back"– as if the camera were the foundational and superior system. We reason that a modern camera, with all of its incredible complexity, inter-working systems and subtle design, must be the pinnacle of imaging systems and data management, and think the eye to be a mere semblance of such obvious engineering excellence. 

But as it turns out so often, not much is like it seems. My years of working around and with vision scientists, and seeing some of the results of their experiments, have taught me that the human visual system ("system," because it entails so much more than simply the eye) is an incomprehensibly complex and subtle creation. The interplay of multitudinous features and schemes leaves one breathless when trying to understand how they all relate. And the engineering and design philosophies (if one can use those terms) underlying the whole system should make any self-respecting engineer (whether optical, mechanical, or electrical) blush with embarrassment at her own feeble attempts. 

My point here is not to disparage the engineer (I am one!) but to point out the simple fact that when it comes to imaging and optical information systems, the human eye and its larger visual system is without peer in this wide world, and perhaps, in this wide universe. At least we've not yet seen anything which beats it.  Some cameras, or even other biological visual systems, may exceed human vision in a particular narrow technical aspect, but nothing exceeds its overall performance, utility, and flexibility. 

So, enjoy your modern (or old-school) camera for what is, but never lose sight of the matchless design and astounding craftsmanship of the visual system that opens its two "shutters" for you each morning. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Knowledge of Ignorance

My work as a research optical engineer involves the intersection of lasers and human vision. Recently, this prompted me to take a look at what is frequently referred to as the Stiles-Crawford effect. Although the effect was discovered back in the 1930s I read a much more recent review of the history of this discovery and its subsequent development.

W. Stanley Stiles first began his experiments investigating the glare effects of looking into oncoming headlights while driving at night. While the glare and its attendant problems were his primary concern he stumbled onto a totally unexpected feature of the human visual system along the way. Although I won't go into what may be for you totally boring details of the effect, suffice it to say that has to do with the highly directional light sensitivity of the retina's cone cells. Of course, these cells are the ones that are primarily responsible for the eye's ability to discriminate color and to detect small details. 



Visual Interface, © Bill Brockmeier
all rights reserved
While the effect itself is very interesting to me personally from a number of different aspects, what most caught my attention was that 80 years later those closest to this problem still have no conclusive understanding of its mechanism. It is simply amazing that with all of the modern biological microscopic imaging, high powered computer modeling and such that this simple effect still escapes a clear definition as to its cause.

The article went into some detail concerning modeling work that had been done over recent years to "prove" a waveguide theory as the basis of the effect's operation. This work has shown the theory to be inconclusive at best. Other theories were likewise recounted in the review, as were their shortcomings.

The review delved deeply into very minute details of the structure of the cone cells– how they are organized, and how they most likely function. An incredible level of understanding currently exists of what goes on in these tiny detectors of light, and yet, this understanding does not yet provide a full picture of how an effect discovered nearly a century ago fundamentally works. Perhaps a full and accurate explanation lies just around the corner...or perhaps not.

It seems that regardless of one's pursuit in life, the more one understands about it and the more expert we become, the more we understand our own ignorance and how little we really know. Deep and real knowledge always seems to bring with it a strong dose of humility. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

WE HAVE THIS TREASURE

This photograph was composed at San Antonio's historic Mission Concepcion.  Although the most complete and original of the five missions, Concepcion may be the least visited. In my extensive series of photographs of the missions I have found Concepcion the most difficult to photograph– not because because it lacks any beauty, but rather, because it possesses some inscrutable, ineffable qualities that are problematic to capture.

WE HAVE THIS TREASURE,
© Bill Brockmeier, 2012
all rights reserved, also known as: 

THIS LITTLE LIGHT
This particular cropping of the image was distilled from a larger view of the sanctuary which included other elements of the sacred space. This limitation of the overall scene tends to extract the viewer of the photograph from the original location and brings more of a thoughtful, abstract quality to the image. The overall effect of this image is to cause the viewer to raise their vision upward, from the little light below to the more celestial bluish light that illuminates the upper portion of the image. The objects in the image become unconnected to the floor upon which the viewer would be standing and this moves the viewer's thoughts from down here below to up above.

While the depth of the original and complete image was very much locked within the original location, the depth of the cropped image is definitely moved beyond the simple physical reality of the original space. This second crop, although derived from exactly the same image as the first becomes an entirely different photograph.
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This photograph is available in a Very Limited Edition of only 8 copies, printed and mounted archivally on special canvas. The full, framed size is 20 by 72 inches.    Call now to reserve yours— 210-241-6132.



WE HAVE THIS TREASURE
© Bill Brockmeier, 2012

Eternal Light, celestial blue,
 abides above, unchanged and true.
Yet bending down He pierces through
 a dungeon dome of darkened hue.

Plunging earthward, down He dives
 intent on saving, changing lives
Downward, dawn-ward, on He drives
 'til in their gloom His dawn arrives.

He now reforms His glory light
 to fit and forge it, hid from sight.
New incandescence, warm and bright,
 emits a ray and scatters night.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Revealing Power of Light

Light is by any measure astonishing stuff. Its effects are profound and universal. Without the powerful, energizing influence of the sun's light, life on this planet would not exist. And, yet, it cannot be touched or grasped. You can't open a mason jar at high noon, wait until it is full of sunlight and then close the lid, hoping to store some of this wonderful elixir until the dead of winter when the sun is low. 

Arguments have raged on for centuries concerning light's fundamental nature. How should we define it? What is it, down at the core of its reality? For a long period of time the best minds believed it to be a particle. Then, more detailed experiments demonstrated it to be a wave. And later yet many claimed it was both. Clearly, it is not just a particle, nor a wave, or even both (these are simplistic and very limited analogies), but it is simply what it is– light– in all its glorious mystery, and unable to be defined conclusively by men.  

The art of photography obviously depends intrinsically on light, as its very name declares: drawing-by-light, or making images through the agency of light. Most other arts also make great use of light, albeit in less obvious ways. The painter who views an incredible natural scene and strives to interpret it on canvas is making great use of the sunlight which reflects and refracts from the portion of the universe within her field of view, is focused onto the retinal sensory apparatus within her eye, and which finally forms a model of that universe within her mind; modified and manipulated by her experiences, beliefs, and moods. Even after she has completed her work, the viewer and appreciator of her art relies completely on the light to illuminate the work, and to repeat the process of perception. 

Bright Idea, © Bill Brockmeier
All rights reserved
Although we will never fully plumb the depths of the true nature of light, we can certainly appreciate some its more obvious aspects.  I have titled my blog here "Revealing Light" because of light's marvelous ability to bring forth understanding where something was previously hidden. It is almost impossible to overstate the significance of this revealing power of light. In fact, in day to day conversation we often directly (without fully realizing what we are saying) refer to this unsurpassed power that light possesses to bring forth understanding from darkness. We use terms and phrases like "illuminate," "bring to light," "enlightened," "it dawned on me," "shine some light on it," and one of more recent vintage: "focus like a laser beam." 

Photography depends upon this unique revelatory characteristic of light for much of its artful power. Countless photons stream from various directions onto the photographer's subject and into the scene. As they interact with the material surfaces they encounter, they either become diminished, bounce off, shift angle, or are otherwise modified by the subject. Some of these altered photons make their way into the entrance pupil of the camera's lens, bringing with them new information that came from the subject. Just as humans are affected as they interact with each other, or with the things and ideas swirling around them and are changed somehow by the interaction, so photons are forever changed as they encounter objects and conditions in their path. One of Solomon's Proverbs says that "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." That is, people are profoundly changed as they "rub up against" each other. And so, light is changed as it "rubs up against" the universe around it, picking up information and understanding of the things it has encountered. 

For the photographer, the final piece of the interactive power of light is when these photons, carrying information about the subject, encounter the photosensitive material surface within the camera– whether that be silver-based film, or the highly purified silicon from which the photodiodes of a digital camera are made. When this final encounter happens, the photons deliver their load of information and the photograph is crystallized– made manifest as an artifice. The photon, then, is no more. It has given up its life for a new existence: the image, the photograph.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

THE INVITATION: a Diptych

Open Portal (Damascus Road) and
                Open Window (Jacobs Dream)


This dual photograph came about in a rather circuitous manner, which I will not go into here, but can be found in a previous post. The initial recording of the photograph was mostly unremarkable. I do remember, however, being impressed by the artificial "canyon-like" space between the two limestone walls of Mission San Jose's sanctuary and convento. The walls are fairly close together, built of limestone blocks, and the roof is simply the sky above– reminiscent of "The Window," a unique slot canyon in Big Bend National Park.

I first composed a vertical panoramic shot toward the west, and later realigned from the same location to compose another vertical shot to the east. At the time, there was no attempt to connect one image with the other.
 The sky overhead was mostly a high, thin layer of nearly homogeneous cloud cover, with some blue showing through directly above. The thin layer allowed some direct sunlight to reach the surface of the earth, so shadows were clearly cast, but they were somewhat diffused and softened by the cloud cover.

OPEN PORTAL
© Bill Brockmeier,
All rights reserved.
OPEN WINDOW
© Bill Brockmeier,
All rights reserved.
The completed images are certainly complementary. These are bookends, or maybe parenthetical symbols. They are strikingly symmetric in composition and geometry, yet assuredly asymmetric in subject, tone, and feeling. When they are properly viewed together, the view to the west (OPEN PORTAL) is on the left, with the view to the east (OPEN WINDOW) on the right.

The view directly up into the sky displays strong geometric symmetry between the two images. The precision of the symmetry is all that more amazing when I realize that I had made no such attempt at symmetry when I composed them separately. The symmetry of the compositions continues downward from the large lit space at the top, to the middle and somewhat smaller open spaces, and finally to the smallest bits of sky below that. These three open views to the sky in each image are likewise separated in the compositions by corresponding spans of rock.

The colors revealed in the sky in the two images, however, are asymmetrically flipped: OPEN PORTAL shows the bit of blue at the top, while OPEN WINDOW registers the blue toward the bottom. This bit of asymmetry causes the eye's interest to circulate in a clockwise pattern when viewing from one image to the other. And while the shadows on the ground in OPEN PORTAL continue to sweep upward in a continuous arc with the tops of the walls overhead, the situation is distinctly different in OPEN WINDOW. Here, the primitive wooden beam/ladder is quite out of place with the arc formed by the windows and the opening overhead. The beam, instead, seems to be trying to emulate the direction of the arc in the other image.

Beyond the purely geometric aspect of the dual composition, there is a richer and more significant parallel between these images. The image toward the east I have called OPEN WINDOW for obvious reasons. I have subtitled it JACOB'S DREAM. The primitive, undecorated subject takes one back to the dawn of history– maybe even pre-history. The crudeness of the hand-hewn beam adds to the primeval atmosphere. Mystery abounds in this image: the disparate shapes of the stacked windows, the unknown purpose of the beam, and why is it stacked there?

I have come to see that this image reminds me of the story of Jacob's fleeing from his brother Esau in Canaan. On his way to a place he'd never been, he finally tired and rested in the wilderness. Lying on the open ground, he placed his head on a rock for a pillow, and dreamt a dream of cosmic proportions. He saw the heavens opened, and messengers of God ascending and descending on a ladder– a stairway extending from the earthly plane on which he lived and slept to the heights of God's abode in unapproachable light above. Though he was fleeing for his life, he was reminded of God's promise to both him and his progeny. God's Invitation was extended to Jacob to enter into and receive the promise.

The image toward the west I have called OPEN PORTAL. Although there are numerous parallels and congruencies between this view and the other, the change in subject, perspective, and sense is dramatic. Where the eastern view was primitive and mystical in nature, this view is refined and accessible. The crudeness of the rough hewn beam in OPEN WINDOW is countered here by the finely conceived and crafted stone carving of the portal. The geometric symmetry between the two images is echoed by the two palms in terracotta pots flanking the portal. Overall, this setting, while still old by present standards, seems much closer to our own century than the view to the east.

This image recalls for me another "Invitation." In an era later than Jacob's by nearly two millennia, another young man was flying like the wind from his own city to a foreign place. This Saul, however, was not in flight for fear of his own life, but he was driven by his determination to hunt and chase down others to the point of their destruction. But his plan was interrupted by a vision as overwhelming as Jacob's had been.

Fully awake and filled with violent intention, he was knocked from his mount by a surrounding light that was far brighter than the noonday sun. The intensity of the brightness and the realization of the sad truth of his own life not only instantly struck him blind, but profoundly changed the course of his life. The LORD of Life, Whose followers this Saul had sought to destroy, had sought even Saul, and invited him to follow Him and receive His promise.

These two Invitations, though separated by a score of centuries, are, yet, fundamentally the same. And this Creator of all life continues to extend His Invitation even to this present age. He still reveals Himself through dreams, even violent visions if necessary to capture our attention, and calls us to receive the priceless promise he offers.
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These photographs are available in Very Limited Editions of only 10 copies each, printed and mounted archivally on special canvas. A special discount is available when purchasing the pair as a diptych.  The full, framed size is about 72 by 20 inches.    Call now to reserve yours— 210-241-6132.

Monday, May 27, 2013

BELOW FROM ABOVE


Most cultures have revered trees as a symbol of prosperity, longevity, and the tenacity of life. This enigmatic image is one of a series of photographs I am producing that celebrate the joy and richness of life as exemplified in trees.  I call the series: "Trees of Life".

WATERS BELOW FROM
WATERS ABOVE
© Bill Brockmeier
This photograph makes great use of the unusual format of a vertical panorama, and spans nearly a full 360° vertical field of view. Imagine standing near the edge of San Pedro Springs, near downtown San Antonio, looking down towards your feet and then gazing upward along the trunk of a great cypress tree.  You look directly above you at the overhanging cypress boughs, then down behind you at trees beyond the springs and finally, down into the springs themselves.

I am fascinated by the connection of water, earth, and sky, and these three find their most profound and living relationship in the life-forms we call trees. The wonder, and the practical and aesthetic value of trees is inestimable.

God planned and planted the original Garden of perfection, in the center of which stood the Tree of Life. This Tree represented His perfect provision of life unending and abundant. A future reestablishment of such a Tree was revealed to the prophet Ezekiel, and centuries later, to the prophet John on the island of Patmos. Ezekiel described this Tree of Life (though not using that specific term) in the plural: "trees." John, writing much later about a very parallel vision, seems to lean back on the original description in Genesis as "the tree of life," but he adds an interesting twist by claiming that this "tree" (singular) exists on both sides of the river. One tree, but existing in more than one place at a time.

The Tree never withers, or lacks for water, its root penetrating deeply into the ground below, continually moistened by the River. The Tree, never dormant or inactive, produces fruit every month. And its leaves are sufficient for healing, even on a global scale.

Trees are marvelous wonders of the natural world. Their complex biology boggles the mind, and their astounding aesthetic design causes the imagination to soar.

If you haven't yet, plant a tree, and watch it grow as you do!

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This photograph is available in a Very Limited Edition of only 12 copies, printed and mounted archivally on special canvas. The full, framed size is 20 by 72 inches.    Call now to reserve yours— 210-241-6132.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

FIRMAMENT


Some time ago, I was traveling by commercial airlines from the San Antonio area to Boston. I am always fascinated by the ability to travel across the continent by air and I delight in the view from such an elevated platform. When the plane's wheels touch down on the runway at my destination, it always seems too soon.

This flight was just such an eye-full since nearly the entire trip we encountered various forms of exciting atmospheric conditions. This was a great time to try some of the photographic experiments that I like to play with when confronted with such great subjects: huge, towering thunderheads, long stretches of unbroken cloud cover, and unusual sunlit conditions. Often, these experiments are interesting but never materialize in usable photographs since the cabin windows so frequently are very poor in optical quality.

Things like age-crazing, general scratching and scuffing, and big gooey smears of hair gel take a huge toll on the ability to take decent photographs. On top of that, reflections of bright things in the cabin can dominate the view as well. To mitigate some of these issues, I usually try to bring with me micro-fiber cloths to clean the window, and it's also a good idea to wear as much dark clothing as possible to reduce reflections. This trip I was doubly-blessed with a high quality, clean window, and sunlight directions that minimized any reflections.

At one point in mid-flight we were flying near 30,000 feet (over 5 miles up) and traveling along between two layers of clouds: a very high layer of thin clouds, and a lower stratum of complete cloud cover (the earth's surface was entirely hidden behind it). The colors of the sky, where it could be seen, were absolutely entrancing– from a light cyan/turquoise near the surface of the earth (the normal sky-blue we see from down here) graduating to a much deeper and purer blue looking up above the horizon.  When gazing up as high as I could see out of the window, the sky was nearly black, but still discernibly blue (maybe a blue-black or "midnight blue").

FIRMAMENT, © Bill Brockmeier, all rights reserved

I tried some different techniques to capture some of this scene, which overwhelmed me with the vastness of the layering of the clouds, and the pure beauty of the unadulterated colors.

I didn't look at the photos until several weeks after the trip, and when I did I found quite a few semi-interesting shots, but nothing that really stood out to me...until I came across one that I took as we flew between the two layers of clouds.  The image really took me back to when I was observing and enjoying it in person.

Recently, I decided to go back to that photograph and try it out in large scale on canvas. After the photograph had been printed, coated, mounted, and framed I sat the completed work up against the wall in my studio and was amazed at how it had come out. It looked to me, and had the feeling, much like the abstract paintings that I so admire. Then it hit me. Turning it upside-down, I thought "let's make it a little MORE abstract." This new composition, which placed the earth at the top of the canvas and the sky below it, was definitely superior to the conventional view.

The very dark blue of the highest atmosphere was now at the bottom of the image, giving it much more a sense of stability and solidity.  The light gray solid cloud cover was now a band of light towards the top, with the brilliant cyan/turquoise streaking between the two. The deep blue below, although actually a view of the high atmosphere appears to be almost water-like. But if it looks like water, where is the horizon, the distinction between the atmosphere and the ocean? The whole effect is a bit mystifying and one is reduced to the pure simplicity of enjoying the colors and the structure of the image, without being able to really ferret out what is going on.

The more I have looked at this image, the more it seems to me shrouded in the enigmatic mists of the original Creation itself.  Some of the opening phrases of Genesis ("Beginnings") say that "...God made the expanse (the firmament) and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse 'sky.' And there was evening and there was morning– the second Day."
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This photograph is available in an Extremely Limited Edition of only three copies, with just two remaining. The full, framed size is 20 by 72 inches.    Call now to reserve yours— 210-241-6132.

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Note: this article is the first in a weekly series that will showcase my Very Limited Edition photographs. For more information on these editions and how I produce them, click here or on the Very Limited Edition link in the upper right. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

A New Feature

Some of you may have stumbled upon my blog expositions of my Very Limited Edition photographs, but many have not. I will be changing that here by occasionally featuring one of these editions as a main blog article. As I post these edition articles I will remove their presence in the "Very Limited Editions" static page, currently linked to on the right sidebar of this blog.

Bill processes a Very Limited Edition canvas
The reason for doing this is due to the limited nature and number of static pages allowed in this blog. As I add to my limited editions I would eventually run out of my ability to add new ones as static pages. So after some consideration of this situation I have decided to post all limited edition photographs (both current and future) as main articles.

This will also allow you to easily search this blog for all "limited editions" and get a full categorization and listing of them, OR, you could simply click on the label "limited editions" which appears in the "tag cloud" down on the right sidebar. Then, you can easily click on an edition in the listed articles for a view of the actual photograph as well as an article describing the image and any other interesting tidbits that relate to it.

Thanks again for reading, and you can now be looking forward to articles on specific photographs.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Immersion


Hidden behind a viewfinder
("The Photojournalist,"
Andreas Feinenger's
portrait of  Dennis Stock)
Hiding behind a camera isolates a photographer from their subject, whatever that subject might be. There is a way to break through the isolation and though it should be obvious, many never try it.

It seems like forever since I last wrote concerning the mechanics of composition. And you may not remember that when I first approached the subject I said that there have historically been three main modes of accomplishing this. Well...I actually touched on only the first two: the groundglass and the viewfinder. Hmmmm...whatever happened to that missing third?...and what even was it, anyway?

Whether looking at a surrogate of the final photograph on a groundglass (or its modern digital counterpart), or at a limited view of the world through a viewfinder, a photographer is usually isolated to some degree from the world he hopes to image. However, there is a third way of composing the image that actually connects the artist to the subject and immerses them in the world.

Hidden behind a groundglass
In the 1920s and 1930s, cameras had sufficiently progressed technologically to where they were relatively portable, light-weight, and technically simple to operate. Smaller, faster photographic materials ("film") coupled with faster lens systems also had a major impact. These factors had the distinct effect of allowing the photographer to leave the studio behind and begin finding photographic adventure "on the street." It was a monumental leap for the photographic artist to see her art and craft as not simply that of portraiture and still-life in the studio or even of landscapes (if she dared venture out of doors). She could now join the rest of humanity where they lived much of their lives– in action and on the street. This was the beginning of what we would today call photojournalism.

The groundglass obviously became a totally useless antiquity in this new setting. And even though most cameras still contained a viewfinder, those who looked for the real breath of life on the street (and wherever life happened) couldn't be confined behind the optical system of a viewfinder. They preferred to walk among their people, maybe with the camera held at their waist instead of raised to their eye, looking their subjects directly in the eye– eye to eye.

This visual communication allowed the artist to be in real human relationship with their subject, however brief that might be. The subject now saw the photographer as another human being rather than some kind of bio-opto-mechanical-hybrid monster. And the photographer could now see their subject as not simply some image to be composed within a little rectangular frame, but as a real, living and breathing person who existed within a larger environment.

This alternative mode of composing an image abandons the precision of framing and composition that is offered by the groundglass and the viewfinder, but it definitely makes up for this deficit with increased intimacy and immediacy with the subject. This mode takes some practice to get right, but muscle-memory will eventually take over and make "aiming from the hip" second nature.

Try taking photographs with your camera at waist level— don't worry, with modern cameras "film" is cheap, no, FREE! Take as many as you like, attempting to frame the image you desire. When your practice sessions are over you can easily discard your attempts. Do this often, over a period of weeks and months, and you will see a steadily improving ability to point your camera from waist-level at anything you are looking at and capture an image that accurately frames the one you imagined.

A side benefit of all this is that you can also gain a deepening aesthetic sense that can free you from overly depending upon precision and analysis. Enjoy your new-found freedom!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Pumping Blood and Pushing Daisies


Some art strikes its recipients with thunder and lightning. Other art yields its secrets much more slowly and slyly.

At the recent Parade of Artists in Boerne I had wonderful extended periods of time to talk with some of my fellow artists as well as with the art lovers who came to visit. In talking with my brother-in-the-arts, Harold Teel, I asked him to give me a little insight into how he approaches his work, and some of the little things he does to make his art unique.

Many of the significant details that he weaves into his paintings may be missed by the casual observer. Harold pointed some of them out to me in his painting SPRING ROUNDUP and I will try to recall his tour here.

SPRING ROUNDUP, © Harold Teel, all rights reserved by the artist
On the surface, the watercolor painting is composed mainly of two human legs, both clad in chaps, boots, and spurs. The one on the left is the left leg of a cowboy and on the right is the right leg of a cowgirl. There is clearly a romantic involvement here as the legs are closely spaced and the boots are nearly touching.  Moreover, the cowboy's gloved hand clasps the corresponding one of the cowgirl as he extends to her an offering of freshly picked daisies.

A subtle detail missed by many is the tiny heart-shape embossed in the center of the cowboy's spur rowel— evidence of the cowboy's intent.

Heart in the spur's rowel
As I am looking here at the painting, I notice some other parallel details: the half a heart-shape shadow on the lady's chaps, the heart-shape formed by the blue sky (seen beyond the nearly touching legs) and the two clasped hands above, and the near-heart-shape formed by the lady's boot shadow and the dark toe-end of her boot.  I also notice several (three, four, maybe a half-dozen) other hinted-at heart shapes in the image which may be conscious, unconscious, or even subconscious— but perhaps, accidental and serendipitous.

It's also interesting how the heart-shape itself, a purely abstract contemporary icon for "love" (it really doesn't look much at all like our blood pumps), is composed of two symmetric pieces, joined together in the center— what a great graphic device for two joined by love! And the tension between the heart's pointy-end below and the very rounded-end above seems to mirror the tension that exists in real love between its sharp/compelling aspects on one hand and the comfortable/relaxed freedoms on the other.

Eye of the daisy
And then there is the reverberating device in the form of a daisy: the obvious botanical daisies themselves, their shadows, and the profiles of the two spur rowels...with their corresponding two shadows.  And don't miss the detail of the lady's spur rowel with a yellow center, just like the real daisies above. Then, unseen, and above and beyond the image's border, is the daisy-like profile of the sun itself which is obviously and brightly illuminating the entire scene.

Of course there is even much more to see in the image than what I have stated here, but you get the idea. Take your time when observing art. Look beyond the immediate and the obvious. And even look beyond the subtly designed details. Learn to appreciate each piece for what it is, and it may yield up some surprising secrets.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Down— But Still Up

My two spring shows, the Arts and Conservation project and the Parade of Artists, have come and gone and I have two main observations. One: the fine-art market is still depressed, and two: the appreciation of fine-art is still alive and well.

As an artist I'd like to believe that fine-art is an intrinsically important and valuable commodity to the general public. But reality and common sense make it plain that it is not as important as things like food, gasoline, and a place to live. Imagine that.

Art lovers visit my booth
at the 2013 Parade of Artists
I first noticed the downturn in my own sales about four or so years ago– the same time that the US and world economies took a heavy hit and have yet to recover. People and corporations alike not only have less cash reserves but are still uneasy where this is all headed. They are loathe to spend money on anything not a necessity. And art certainly falls in that category. Let's face it– fine-art is a luxury good and I don't expect to see brisk sales until the economy in general rebounds to a rosier outlook.

The second observation is that people still have a keen interest in and appreciation of fine-art. At my second show venue I was together with eight other artists. Although I was back in the far corner from the entrance to the facility there seemed to be not only good traffic through my booth, but those coming through seemed to be generally animated and upbeat about what they were seeing.

One young couple, in particular, stuck in my mind as being particularly interested in my work. I spent probably fifteen minutes or more talking with them about the photographs they were looking at. And they were not only interested in the photographs themselves, but wanted to know in detail the background of why I chose the specific artform that is my forte and how each photograph came about. I was almost certain I would make a sale, but, alas, it didn't happen. In the end, however, I was gratified that someone seemed to deeply appreciate my work, sale or not.

Later that night my wife and I spoke about some of the events of the day. She had volunteered (thanks again, "Pootie-Pie!") to act as our wine and refreshments "wrangler" for the two evenings and had been stationed at a different corner of the large room. Her location gave her a different perspective from my own and her perch allowed her to witness the interaction of the show patrons and many of the artists. Before I had said anything she mentioned a young couple (turned out to be the same ones I had remembered) that stopped at the booth of every artist and engaged each of them in extensive and intense conversation about them and their work. She said it was great to see these young people with such an appreciation for fine-art.

Although it somewhat deflated my estimation of the uniqueness of their appreciation for my own work, it still gratified me to see that awareness, comprehension, and affection for fine-art in general is still out there.

For those of you engaged in producing art, but have been discouraged of late concerning your sales, just "keep on keepin' on," because there are still many out there who are interested in what you are doing.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Speaking of Art

Wine was poured and conversation about art flowed freely as those who love creative pursuits gathered at
The Cibolo Nature Center, (© Lake/Flato Architects)
the Cibolo Nature Center on Thursday evening. It is hard to beat the beautiful combination of spectacular spring weather, good food and drink, stunning musical ambiance, engaging exchange of thoughts, and compelling art. These were marvelously evident at the special opening of the "Our Hidden Treasures" Art and Conservation project at the Center.

I never tire of hearing what people are thinking and feeling when they experience creative works. And it is equally fascinating to listen to an artist lay out their own process of producing these works. Art is about communication, and communication is, itself, an art to be appreciated.

I look forward to the rest of this weekend as I transition to representing my work in the "Parade of Artists." I love rubbing elbows with fellow artists who have such a desire to express the recesses of their hearts to others. And also I love hearing from those who come out to appreciate these creative efforts.
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Side note: you can read a brief article on me and my work in the April issue of the Boerne Chamber of Commerce newsletter here (check page 23).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Two-fer One


(click for a detailed map of
the various Parade locations)
Having recently delivered my two pieces to the Conservancy project I am now finalizing selection of the pieces I will be exhibiting in the Parade of Artists, a production of Boerne Professional Artists. This show will also be running in Boerne on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of this coming weekend. The show will be hosting about thirty professional artists at various locations throughout the city. As most of the members of Boerne Professional Artists are represented in some of Boerne's fine-art galleries, they will be on hand as their galleries host an opening of the show on Friday night, complete with complementary wine and hors d'ouevres.

I am one of the dozen or so so members who are not represented in Boerne galleries, and we will be exhibiting our work on "other walls" at a few different venues in Boerne. I have joined with eight other artists to form a temporary "atelier" (gallery/studio) at the Boerne Chamber of Commerce just across Main Street from Boerne's Plaza. We will also be hosting an opening on Friday evening with wine and food.

The Parade will be an incredible smorgasbord of fine-art, encompassing a diverse spectrum of mediums, styles, and sensibilities. The talent of the participating artists is first-class, and the level of their work is remarkable. Of course, all work is for sale and you are sure to find some piece that you "can't live without."  You will find works of oil paintings, pastels, watercolors, sculptures (bronze, stone, and more), photography, and MUCH more.

Take the free trolley to each
venue on both evenings!
As I mentioned, the opening festivities will be on Friday from 5 to 8PM, and includes wine and food at most locations. The show continues on Saturday from 10AM to 8PM (again with wine and food from 5 to 8PM). Also, a free trolley from venue to venue is available both evenings. It embarks from the Chamber of Commerce on the northside of Boerne (beginning at 5PM) and takes approximately 30 minutes to make the entire route.The show wraps up on Sunday from 12 to 4PM.

Come join us this weekend in Boerne for a great show of some wonderful art, pithy conversation with their creators, and some wine and culinary treats while you're at it.  And don't forget to take a favorite piece home with you, to enjoy for years to come!



Sunday, April 7, 2013

Frenetic Activity

Life sometimes seems in a "neutral gear" mode when to all outside appearances nothing of significance is happening.  Then, suddenly, a flurry of activity is upon you and you wonder if you are going to keep up with it all.

As I have mentioned a few times over the previous months I have been visiting a large and special parcel of land in the Hill Country of Texas with the goal of producing at least one work for the "Arts and Conservation" project of the Cibolo Conservancy. Although I have been wondering how it would all turn out, I am pleased with what finally came about through these efforts. The project happens only once every other year so it is wonderful to be a part of this infrequent event.

The work I have chosen for exhibition in the show is titled "BEFORE THE FALL." This panoramic photograph takes in numerous cypress trees along a mostly unvisited stretch of the Guadalupe River between  Comfort and Twin Sisters, Texas. I have produced the image in my special archival process on canvas and framed it appropriately in a fairly rugged, yet elegant, dark wood.  The pallet of soft green and muted orange of the autumnal leaves of the cypress trees plays a counterpoint to the hard, textured surfaces of the trees' trunks.

In an "artist's statement" to appear alongside the exhibited photograph I have written:
"Living things— displaying scars of their battle with the elements, and yet ever new with the soft evidence of recent growth and renewal. These are the venerable cypress of South Texas. The Kilpatricks' conserved parcel on the Guadalupe is an extraordinary space where these botanical giants dance with water, sky, rocks, and deer. Although cousins of the evergreen conifers, these goliaths of the Hill Country are just turning from the green of summer to the amber/orange of autumn and will soon drop their leaves, to be swept away by the river below."

BEFORE THE FALL, © Bill Brockmeier, 2013, all rights reserved by the artist

The other photograph I will exhibit in the show is titled "DARK MIRROR" and is the image which juried me into the show. All of the selected artists' juried works will be displayed along with their current project works. I have displayed this image here in previous articles about the "Art and Conservation" project and show. The image is a panoramic view captured at the Pedernales Falls State Park, just after the sun had set. My artist's statement to appear alongside it reads:
"Water and stone constitute the "warp" and "woof" of this unique landscape textile that the Creator has woven in Pedernales Falls. The organic softness of liquid contrasts with and complements the durable and inert nature of hard rock– but in the end the water has its way and changes the face of the stone through erosion. Most visitors to the Park see it in the bright light of day, but I composed this image just after sunset, when the crepuscular light had tranfigured the landscape into a dark garden of mysterious beauty."

DARK MIRROR, © Bill Brockmeier, 2013, all rights reserved by the artist

Both of these photographs are available in very limited editions of only eight photographs each and were produced, mounted, and framed using exclusive archival, museum-grade processes. The full size of both framed works are 48 inches long by 14 inches high. The initial retail price of each will be $700 and when the editions are sold out, no further images will be produced. You can see both of these images in person (and all of the other wonderful art!) at the "Arts and Conservation" show, "Our Hidden Treasures," at the Cibolo Nature Center, in Boerne, Texas (check out these links for the location and details). The show exhibits art works of diverse media (not only photographs!) and will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 12 and 13 (FRI-SAT) and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 14 (SUN).
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As it often seems to happen I have extended lengths of time when no shows are scheduled, and then suddenly multiple things seem to happen at once.  This has been the case over the past few weeks as I have been preparing for two shows which will be happening simultaneously this coming weekend.  The other show, Boerne Professional Artists' "Parade of Artists," will be happening at the same time— more on that later.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

From Inanity To Insanity and Back


The modern state of photography– which is digital from end to end– has become a ubiquity, transforming it from the exclusive province of a few dedicated professionals and passionate amateurs to something entirely different. The capture of photographic images is now everywhere, at all times, and for every purpose– sometimes even for no purpose at all. I suspect (though I haven't actually seen credible estimates) that the number of photographic images captured in just the past five years has probably exceeded the total number of photographs recorded in the previous one hundred and eighty years.  Niepce could never have imagined where this technology would go when he gave birth to it at his French country estate in 1827.

We hardly even think about taking photographs anymore, it has become such a natural and almost automatic act. See something that interests you?– just lift your phone from your pocket, touch its screen, and voila– there it is! Touch the screen again, and there it is on Facebook for all the world to see and marvel at (or maybe not, if it's a photographic record of what you are having for lunch).

Want to see that image in some more "artistic" manifestation of itself?  No worry– you no longer need access to an expensive and difficult-to-master chemical/silver darkroom, or even some excessively high-priced photographic software package. You can simply use the freely-downloaded "app" that already exists in the same phone you took the photo with. Simply touch your screen a couple more times and, for absolutely no monetary (or even temporal) cost, you can be an instant Brady or Adams or Cartier-Bresson. Or so you think.

Photo of me taking a photo of me in the mirror
taking another photo of me in another mirror
The democratization of the photographic arts and sciences is, I believe, a very good thing overall. It has (or will soon) put the amazing power of photography within the palm of nearly person on the face of this earth. This is bound to result in some incredible art that never would have existed otherwise. But I am wondering if all of this instant photographic gratification is taking a toll on our ability to really "see" the world around us, on our capacity to truly experience and enjoy this world.

Holding a camera and intentionally aiming it at something in the world forces us to see in a different way. It is this alternate vision that is the basis for the art of photography. But it is possible to have too much of this good thing. A few years back I realized that I almost always had a camera at the ready– I just didn't want to leave open the possibility of missing that once-in-a-lifetime shot. Those unusual moments when I didn't have my camera with me I would look around me and be thinking– "Oh no!... just look at that!...if only I had my camera, what a shot that would make!"  I found myself elevating the art (or potential art) over the reality from which it was derived.

Since that time I have resolved to take periods of time away from the camera– and away from the desire and compulsion to produce art– and to come back into direct and intimate contact with the real and vibrant world around me. These are times I seek to lay aside my drive to create in order to simply relax and enjoy the real Creation. These usually prove to be times of refreshment and preparation for a whole new (and unexpected) direction in my creative pursuit.

If you happen to find yourself taking photographs too frequently, too casually, or maybe too compulsively, think about taking a break from it all. Lay your camera aside for a while, or hey, you might even lay your phone aside, and find yourself rediscovering an older and deeper way of experiencing the world.  Try it, you'll like it!
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A note to my readers— you may have noticed that my fairly regular (weekly?) blogs have been missing for a couple, no, a few months. Multiple factors (extended business travel, and a physical injury making typing difficult) conspired to knock me off my routine.  Putting the blog off for over a month soon became habit. But I am "back in the saddle" now and ready to ride again.

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