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.

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