Future focus... or not

Rain (via lensbaby) - 062711
I first heard about it from a photographer friend on Facebook.  Another friend asked me about it over the weekend.  Today I read an article about it at Slate.com.  It is being touted as the biggest evolutionary jump in photography since... the beginning of photography.  It is called Lytro and soon you wont have to focus on whatever you photograph.

Looking about isn't a techie-gadget blog, but some things catch my eye and Lytro is one of them.  In current digital and film cameras, the photographer composes the shot, focuses, and shoots.  The depth of field is regulated by the aperture and determines how deep the focus goes into the scene.  Inside the camera, the image is captured on a single plane of film or sensor.  Lytro is a completely different way of doing that.  The photographer composes the shot and pushes the button.  No focus or depth-of-field to worry about.

Lytro does its magic by taking multiple images at the same instant.  When you download the photo package to your computer, the software lets you decide what is in focus and what isn't.  This works really well when your image has details in multiple layers of depth.  This technology can also work for 3D images as well.  You can watch the silly video below or play with some Lytro photos at this site.  It is fun.

Some professional photographers feel threatened by this.  All those years of study and thousands of pictures learning how to master depth of field, special focus, and technique are useless because this camera takes care of that.  Now everyone can take a photo and have the power to adjust the focus after it is shot.  Amateurs are going to think they are pros because of these new powers.  As a professional photographer, I am not worried.  I believe this is good for the art.

First, my digital camera is a 13mp full frame camera that creates large RAW files of a single image that I focused to the way I want it.  The Lytro will create a photo that has the same focus, but its resolution will not be as high.  This makes the Lytro more of an amateur camera with users not expecting to make large prints of fine detail.

Second, my choice of focus and depth is important, but regardless of whether it is film or digital, most of the work occurs in post processing.  I touch up the photo (But not overly so.  I hate waxy-skinned perfection), dodge and burn, adjust saturation, crop, and perform other bits of my magic on the image.  The focus was only the beginning to making it a finished image.  I enjoy having that control over the process.  I doubt amateurs will do much more than select focus, maybe de-saturate it and call it good.  It will not be a refined and finished image.

Third, the old adage, "The tide raises all boats." is true for photography.  By improving the quality of amateur photographers shots, it will force the pros to improve as well.  I know I always have room to improve my craft and art.  I welcome the challenge.

Finally, I have to add that most amateurs don't consider composition of the image.  They don't often think of how a certain shadow, texture, color, or expression will work with the overall photo.  They take snaps of their friends at parties and put them up on Facebook.  I know this sounds elitist on my part, but I've earned a right to differentiate my work from the masses.  That is what separates it from amateur stuff.  Lytro is going to change how we photograph things, but it want necessarily make every photo art.  It is the artist that does that.

Video Note - This video is from a memorial concert for George Harrison.  It is great to see the Clapton, Starr, and other great musicians having fun singing this song.  George's son Dhani looks like a young version of his dad.


Evolution in Art

Young Spartans, 1860- Edgar Degas

“If the classical body is a representation of man’s baseness, then the evolutionary body is a return of that which has been repressed. And if the classical nude represents pure form, intellect, rationality… … then the evolutionary body figures the subject as hopelessly bound to his corporeality “ - Martha Lucy – Reading the Animal in Degas’s Young Spartans [1].

What a difference a few centuries makes in the Western art world. Up through the Baroque period, artists were experimenting with ways to portray the human form, whether lofty and noble, mortal and liminal, or debased and low down. Even with all these varied ways of showing the levels of humanity, there was usually a respectful acknowledgment, or at least nod, to the church and religion. Then along came Darwin and his The Origin of the Species positing the theory of evolution. Artists, academics, and other influential groups starting to represent scientific principles that were contrary to church dogma.

In Edgar Degas’s painting, Young Spartans, there are three groups of people. In foreground left, a group of bare breasted women tauntingly and challengingly face toward a group of men. On the right side a group of nude young men face toward the women, sizing up their potential adversaries/mates and stretching as if readying for competition or a fight. Between the two groups stand clothed characters in the background, observing the upcoming competition/courtship.

In Lucy’s article, the author proposes the characters on both sides, but especially the young males represent Degas’ intentional use of evolutionary theory to mock the historic classical artistic values honoring the perfection of the human physique. The group of men is shown in all different poses that could represent the major steps of evolution, from crawling on all fours to a limber, classical body.

While writing about this, Lucy uses multiple times the term “atavistic” which comes term “atavism”. Atavism is “tendency to revert to ancestral type.”[2] This “tendency” to show traits of our ancestors is evident in the development of the human fetus. The developing fetus will grow through stages where it has a tail, has similar structures to non-vertebrates and then lower vertebrates until it becomes a recognizable human form. The atavistic growth is evident in Degas’ rendering of the men going from ground crawlers to upright males. This willingness of purposefully including evolutionary elements into the artwork is not a subtle subversive message aimed at religion, but an obvious attack on the principles that humans are stationary beings near to perfection and modeled after God. Instead of using a religious theme to promote the propaganda of the church, Degas is potentially using his painting to promote the ideas of science and evolution. This anti-church act may have resulted in his death a century or two earlier, but must have been more acceptable as science and its disciplines were being accepted by the academic and higher levels of society and culture during this period of Degas’ art life.

1. "Reading the Animal in Degas's Young Spartans" by Martha Lucy - Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide - a journal of nineteenth-century visual culture.

2. Altavism – Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atavism


I left my heart in NYC... last year. Part 3 - Valya

Valya - 0621111

On my penultimate night, I met up with Valya, a model from Brooklyn.  We had discussed concepts ahead of time and got to creating photos right away.  Valya gave me her best stuff to photograph.  One of her many qualities I appreciated were her nuanced emotions and expressions that while subtle, told volumes.

Valya had a photo shoot in Baltimore that morning, caught the train back to New York and met me for our session.  Her work ethic and passion for creating erotic, conceptual art and experimenting at the end of a full day shows how important this is to her.

This ends my small series reminiscing on my trip to New York last year.  Goddamn, I love that city, its museums, buildings, culture, attitude and the people I met and created art with there.  My fellow students, instructor, Valya and Moon, and the thousands of characters in my own New York love story that I saw every day made it a life-changing trip.  Thanks.

Valya's Blog - Highly recommended.


I left my heart in NYC... last year. Part 2 - Walking

Courtney - NYC Library - 061911
 You have to walk around to get to know a little bit more about New York.  We walked through upper, mid and lower Manhattan.  We strolled through Greenwich Village, Chelsea, SoHo, Central Park, Little Italy, the Highline Trail, Queens, Coney Island, to every art museum, and to a few bars.  We walked to almost every restaurant, choosing them by their menu posted outside.
Chelsea walk - 061911

Near the high line - 061911

Near SoHo - 061911

Greenwich Village - 061911

Harlem - 061911


I left my heart in NYC... last year. Part 1 - Moon Marie

Moon - 061711a

I know Tony Bennett sings a different belief of where his heart is, but my mine is in NYC.  It has been one year since I went there with a class for a week long adventure.  Over the next few days I will post a few new pics from that trip.  For today's post I want to reflect on my work with Moon Marie.

On my third night I worked with the great model, Moon Marie.  We tried many different settings, poses, themes and intents.  I appreciated her attention to detail, staging and direction.  During the first break, I realized I shot the first hour at the wrong ISO - 2500.  She was very agreeable to stay an extra hour to redo some of the shots.  Her professional attitude made it a pleasure to work with and her enthusiasm for trying new things made the session fun.
Moon - 061711b

I am not sure if I like the black and white or color versions of this photo.  One thing for sure, Moon is a beauty.

Moon's blog - I am honored one of our photos is there.  


If they think this is porn...

"Pornographic Billboard?"  - Photo by Sacramento Bee
 A billboard (at left)  promoting a chain of tanning salons was vandalized and labeled as porn in the small California town of Auburn two days after it was installed. The vandals covered the billboard with a black tarp and the words, "No porn in our town" written across it.  The billboard features a woman in a bikini and  cowboy boots laying on a rock.  The same billboard has been up in nearby Sacramento for over a month with no complaints against it.  You can read more about the incident at the Sacramento Bee website.  

Valya - 061611
If they think this is porn, then I guess I had better reconsider putting up my billboard in Auburn based on this photo of Valya.  She is clothed, but I am sure this would be way over the line and is porn to them.  IT HAS HER IN A BED!!!  I have to admit though, my photo is much sexier.


"She could taste trouble on my mouth"

barbed wire - 061511

Troublesome Houses by Bonnie Prince Billy came up on my Pandora station a few months back.  I missed half the lyrics before I started listening to it.  After jotting the song name down I downloaded it later that night.

Even though this was my first exposure to this song, Z, over at Any Fucking Day (a great blog), introduced me to this great musician.  I highly recommend you listen to his music.  Pretty good stuff.

Troublesome Houses
I once loved a girl, but she couldn't take that I visited troublesome houses. She'd say, when I got home, to leave her alone. She could taste trouble on my mouth. When she was gone I missed her, I did...and still went to troublesome places. I couldn't withstand a glorious day without seeing these troublesome faces. And quiet eluded me, and keeps from me still, though I need my own bed and it's solace. Day's noises steal in and copper my will, and I face the evils that follow us. I once had a house, and my family knew where to find me if ever they needed. Troublesome houses were foreign to them. They thought all papa's orders I heeded. Now they can't fnd me; they don't have my numbers, and just hear reports of my doings. Troublesome houses are not in their minds, though it's in those I do all my moving.


A couple more of Candace Nirvana

Candace Nirvana - 061411

Candace Nirvana - 061411
Back in February I had the privilege to work with Candace Nirvana again.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND HER!  She always brings her top talents and makes magic happen.  I will let these two shots speak for themselves.


The masked work of James Ensor

Self-Portrait With Masks - 1899 James Ensor

“The mask traditionally functioned as a complex carrier of meaning. For Ensor, it seems also to have allowed for boundaries to be blurred, and for certain questions to be raised? “ - Richard Kalina – Looking for James Ensor

The purpose of a mask is to hide identity while adding a new one. We wear masks for special occasions, Halloween, and to commit crimes. According to this article, James Ensor used them to both hide the identity and to place a deep symbol into his art.

Ensor’s mom owned a shop that sold masks. Growing up around masks must have given him an appreciation of the power they hold. He knew real people existed behind the mask, but by wearing them gained new identities. He used this ability to switch persona as metaphors in his photos.

The Astonishment of the Wouse - 1889 James Ensor

In the painting, The Astonishment of the Mask Wouse, Ensor presents common characters (e.g., an old woman, a helper,etc.) that are part of every day life and hides them behind masks. By masking these characters, the familiarity of the character to the viewer is loss because the mask makes us see a hidden side of them. We wonder if the mask represents what the wearer wants us to think of them. The mask may also represent what they are trying to hide from us, but comes out when we try to see humans as being more complex than initial appearances allow.

We all wear masks that present us as different people in different circumstances. At work, home, church, public meetings, on the bus, etc., we put on disguises to protect ourselves from our secrets. In Bruce Springsteen’s song Brilliant Disguise, he first sings of the disguises worn by his wife:

So tell me who I see 
when I look in your eyes 
Is that you baby 
or just a brilliant disguise 
Later in the song he confesses that he wears a brilliant disguise as well: 
So when you look at me 
you better look hard and look twice 
Is that me baby 
or just a brilliant disguise… 
… God have mercy on the man 
Who doubts what he's sure of.

Maybe Ensor used masks to show that we all wear them to pretend to be something else. I think he also painted them to show that while we think the mask looks one way to us, those looking at us see something much different, something unintended and unwanted.


And the band played on...

jacqui and truck - 061211

We caught the direct flight from Missoula, MT to San Francisco.  After take off, I put my iPod on and this song by the great Canadian "politically satirical folk" band, Moxy Fruvious came on.   It is aptly called The Drinking Song.   The lyrics are both nonsensical and beautifully poetic.

This song makes me think of artist/musician friend Joe Crachiola and I don't know why.  Maybe it is just that I'd like to be in New Orleans listening to some great music, creating some great photos, eating great food, and drinking a great bit with him.

This song also makes me think of old and recent endings in my life.  Those moments when something ended, yet parts of me hasn't accepted the passing or impending passing.  By the end of the song my eyes were all tearing up, but felt sadly comforted by the tune.

The Drinking Song - Moxy Fruvious
And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred.
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn,
My senses finally blurred..

He was a rock
Til the end, a solid reminder
Couldn't deny a friend
We lived in the noise and
The sweet amber poison
Peeking up the skirt of the end
And we'd drink
Two gnarly dudes and some records
Much like plates of black food
We filled up our faces
Saw some far places
Stood on the roof in the nude.

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred.
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn,
My senses finally blurred..

Between poles, he said,
"We're like cows in the grass.
Brushing off flies
Chaise lounging around
Standing up falling down
Til we no longer opened our eyes."
And we'd drink
Ever notice how drinking's like war?
Cup o troops oe'r the guns
Til the end of our health
A campaign 'gainst myself
Armed with bourbons and scotches and rums

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred.
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn,
My senses finally blurred..

Think of bombs
We're poised on the edge of disaster
Whether it's right or it's wrong
We opened the window
Played some nintendo
Sang a few bars of some pretty old song.
"Irene good night. Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I'll see you, in my dreams."
Oh to dream, those impotent
Bones of extinction
Flying graceful and free.
None but the best,
Cause the man cannot rest
Til he's finally beaten his me

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred.
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn,
My senses finally blurred..

Til the end, he passed out on the
Sundeck that morning
Quietly saying goodbye
But I was so hammered I sputtered and stammered
Told him he couldn't just die
He was a rock
Went straight for his own armegeddon
Face froze in a grin
Ambulance flying in, I never drank again
Can't really call that a loss or a win

And the band played on
As the helicopters whirred.
Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn,
My senses finally blurred..



Off my parents porch - 2010

I just spent three hours writing a tribute post to my Mom, who just turned 75.  I was starting to put in the links to key bits, embed video when I hit "undo" and it erased everything.  She is a very humble and powerful woman.  Maybe this is a sign that I should respect her privacy and keep it simple.   Happy birthday mom.  I love you.

We are up in Montana celebrating it with her.  It is sunny.  Flathead lake is beautiful.  The state is flooding from huge snowfalls and continuing rain.  I am enjoying it.


A f*#$*@g website

Jacqui and Truck - 060811

I have a goal to build a website this month, or at least get it going.  So many things to consider: commercial sales of prints? blog? how many photos? how many portfolios? which photos? how personal? artist's statement? links to others? do I offer portrait services? colors? fonts? logos? aaaaaahhhhhhhhh.

Not the worst things in the world to worry about.

I need one to showcase my art.  Many people ask to see it and I need to share it more.  The next question is which photos?  Nudes, erotics, landscapes, editorial, conceptual, travel, portraits... I could keep going.  I will only put up the best of my stuff regardless of genre.

Ok.  This is a boring post.  The picture of Jacqui is good though.


She Wants Revenge - An Exhibit Exercise

Judith Slaying Holofernes - Artemisia Gentileschi

I got an interesting assignment in my art class last semester.  I had to go to a few local art museums and find a piece I appreciated and build my own "exhibit" around it based on a unifying theme.  The themes could not be an artist (Dali), artistic era (Baroque) or region/country (Italian art).  I had to find pieces of art during the periods we studied and virtually borrow them for our fantasy exhibit.

I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and saw a photo of Andy Warhol's gunshot wound scars taken by Richard Avedon.  After learning about the circumstances behind the shooting, I found my theme, women who seek vengeance.

I decided the women could be real, fictional, or mythical and be represented in paintings, sculpture, film, or any other artistic medium.  The artists could be men or women.  I found it interesting though how male and female artists depict their avenging ladies.  Artemisia Gentileschi's three paintings of the biblical Judith story as she beheads Holofernes has passion and conviction in the justice of the moment.  Artemisia was one of the few successful Italian Baroque woman painters.  She was raped and treated poorly afterward (belittled, tortured, and commoditized) early in her adulthood.  Did that influence the anger and disdain you see in Judith's face?  Please compare it to the painting of the same story by Caravaggio.

Now, on to the show.

She Wants Revenge
a fictional exhibit

She Wants Revenge

This exhibit shares with the viewer the theme of women seeking violent revenge or punishment on those who wronged them.  The reasons for the revenge could be stolen loves, betrayal of trust, political differences, or rejection.

While all of the works have one or more avenging women, most of the pieces were created by men.  You are encouraged to look at each piece and consider the story, the characters and the artists and performers to compare how feminine vengeance has been portrayed for the past 500 years.

1. Judith Slaying Holofernes 1614 - 1620, 2. Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes 1625  3. Judith and her Maidservant 1613-1614
Artist: Artemisia Gentileschi
Media: Oil on Canvas Painting
Movement: Italian Baroque
Location: 1. Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Napoli Italy, 2. Palazzo Pitti, Florence 3. The Detroit Institute of the Arts.
Images Sources: Wikipedia

Judith beheading Holofernes - Caravaggio

Medusa’s Head on Athena’s Shield - 1595-1596
Artist: Caravaggio
Media: Oil Painting
Location: Florence
Movement: Italian Baroque
Image Source: wikipedia
Notes: Medusa was born and grew into a ravishingly beautiful woman.  She was a priestess in Athena’s temple.  She and Poseidon, “God of the Sea”, slept together in Athena's temple.  Athena became angry and changed Medusa's beautiful hair into snakes and her face so horrid that her onlookers would turn to stone.  After Persues beheaded Medusa, and he put her head on Athena’s shield as a weapon.

1. The Sons of Niobe Being Slain by Apollo and Diana 1660 -1670, 2. Death of Niobe's Children 1591  3. Les Enfants de Niobe tués par Apollon et Diane  - 1770
Artist: 1. Jan de Bisschop, 2. Abraham Bloemaert, 3. Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier
Media: 1. Brown wash over black chalk, 2. Oil on Canvas 3, Huile sur papier
Movement: 1. Dutch Baroque, 2. Dutch Baroque (Northern Mannernisms), 3. Romantic
Location: 1. The J. Paul Getty Museum , Los Angeles, 2. Statens Museum of Kunst, Copenhagen 3.Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, Rouen.
Images Sources: 1. The J. Paul Getty Museum , 2. PD Art 3. PD Art
Notes: As punishment to Niobe, queen of Thebes, for being arrogant, Greek deities Diana and Apollo killed her seven sons and seven daughters from above with bows and arrows.

Maria la Chiquita (Maria the Little One) - 1897
Artist: Jose Guadalupe Posada
Media: Engraving on metal
Location: Posada 36 Grabados, Mexico City
Movement: Mexican Modernist
Image Source: http://www.artoftheprint.com/artistpages/posada_jose_guadalupe_maria.htm
Notes: Maria Villa (prostitute name  - La Chiquita) was a high class prostitute in Mexico City.  On her days off,  she went out with her steady boyfriend Francisco.  He starts seeing another prostitute, Esperanza Gutierrez (prostitue name La Malagueña).  La Chiquita saw them at a restaurant.  In her anger she felt La Malagueña had insulted her honor.  In revenge, she went to La Malagueña’s apartment, words were exchanged and La Chiquita shot her.  As a twist, she used Francisco’s pistol, which he entrusted to her for safe keeping while he went out drinking and to keep him out of trouble.  In her trial she acknowledged the murder as a defense of her honor.  In this engraving, she is standing as if in a duel.  She received 20 years in prison since women were not sentenced to death in Mexico.

Chicago "He had it coming"- 2002
Director: Robert Marshall
Media: Movie
Location/Image Source: Miramax Films
Genre: Musical/Noir

Andy Warhol - 1969
Photograph by Richard Avedon
Movement: Documentary/Post Modern
Location: Surveillance Exhibit - SF MoMA - Spring 2011
Notes: Andy Warhol touching the scar on his belly where Valerie Solanis shot him after he rejected her manuscript.

Kill Bill 2 - 2004 (Opening scene, Beatrix and Superman, Bill’s Death)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Media: Movie
Location/Image Sources: A Band Apart Films
Genre: Exploitation, homage