Category Archives: inspiration

Sad Find

Sad find

More and more, I’ve been met with experiences that bring to light, just how delicate, precious, and fragile life is. What this brings to me, is to be grateful and incredibly aware, of the seemingly insignificant things in life, which in fact, are the most profound.

Last Song

I picked up this little bird, and before I laid it to rest, I studied every last miraculous detail. I found a spot that would honor and echo, its brief existence in the world. A delicate place replete with beauty. At the very moment I placed it back into the earth, my wind chimes rang with ferocity. A fitting chorus, to Its final song.

Planting Seeds

There have been many photographers who have influenced me for various reasons, but there are some who have really struck a cord with something deep within me. Sebastiao Salgado, is one of those few. We are bombarded by images-receiving images, taking images, but many times there is a lack of content, of connection, of purpose, at least for me. When I look at a image, there is either the presence of a soul, an experience, a feeling and emotion that has been captured and communicated, or it’s just a moment that has been documented with no real message or content.  As a photographer, I feel you see, capture, and convey what is in your heart and soul.

Sebastiao Salgado understands what it means to experience this life, to capture the beauty and splendor of this planet, to participate, engage and to revere it no matter what it brings you. We live in a microcosm of our own life experiences-myopic to our own condition rather than realizing we are components of a larger construct.  In our society, I find our methods and outlook to be impatient and mechanical, subsisting on the external and as a result, we are losing touch with our innermost selves. We are deadening our senses.

My Hit and Run project is ongoing, and the other day I came across a opossum. I am especially empathetic towards those things that are “slow” in a society that only knows fast. I mentioned my find to my wildlife rehab friend Jenny, who told me that the other day some of her rehab friends came across a opossum that had just been struck. They checked her pouch and rescued the 3 babies she had in tow and they are now being rehabilitated without their mother. I don’t know what it is, but many Disney films kill the mother off in the beginning: Bambi, The Fox and the Hound, Finding Nemo.

We need to change our focus to one of cultivation, rather than elimination. I think that man underestimates the power and infinite wisdom of mother nature. I don’t think that is one mother that is going to lie down.

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Opossum

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Bats on tamarind trees in the Berenty Reserve in Madagascar,2010. Sebastiao Selgado.

 

Diluted

This recent post by Seth Godin, rings true. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/09/the-shower-of-data.html The more you have of anything, the less valuable it becomes. I witnessed this phenomenon first hand with the aftermath of Irene. In my neighborhood, it had been less than 24 hours without power and many of my neighbors, some even equipped with generators, were “freaking out” I spoke to a NYSEG worker who told me he had received threats. What does this say about us as a society?

Before the hurricane hit, we were preparing for the worst with the idea of possibly having to evacuate. In my preparation, I collected all the essential things I would take with me. To my surprise, my most precious items filled 1/2 a backpack. They consisted only of irreplaceable mementos. I didn’t even think to take my camera. (I would reconsider this had I taken a second pass! I would grab my 35 and 50mm 1.4) But equipment and technology can be easily replaced. (It was also this storm that made me realize the importance of data storage off site)

The excess of anything whether it be data, lenses, equipment, clothes, information, dilutes it’s importance, and we also lose our connection to any of those things. We’re a distracted society, attached to attraction itself. It becomes an addiction. For me, whenever I feel I’m getting dangerously into this frame of mind, I remove myself from the situation. I “step away” and do something really base. Like taking a walk, only using one lens, doing something that requires mindful practice no matter how mundane the task may seem, so that I can remove myself from that frenetic repetitive mindset and re-connect to discovering the value in something-anything, whether it be walking my dog, or washing the dishes. The richness of actually experiencing something returns, and I feel whole once again.

Often times I come across a genre of work that is new to me in a way that I need to explore. Whether it be conceptual, landscape, or street photography, at times I might not feel a connection to it until I read the artist’s statement. Once I have digested their manifesto, suddenly I look at the same body of work with a new found appreciation. It’s as if a veil has been lifted, and I have a whole new level of understanding of the work that I just looked at a few moments ago. I suppose I could apply this situation to all my life circumstances, encounters, and relationships. A new approach with new information, rather than just from one point of view–mine.  I am continually grateful for the opportunity to learn, grow, and continually adapt.

Serge J-F. Levy is a preeminent educator, and an intuitive and responsive artist. I feel he takes a daring approach to street photography that can only be accomplished by someone with a great deal of sensitivity. I had the opportunity to be a guest blogger for Feature Shoot where I had the chance to interview Levy on his project “Excuse Me Sir Did You Just Take My Picture?” I found his approach to street photography revealing and bold–directly involving himself in the experience rather than merely acting as voyeur. Despite the apparent defensive reaction from his subjects, there appears to be a more subtle level of vulnerability, which can only be captured by one who senses, and feels.

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I also had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Falzone on her beautifully moving body of work “Grace.” This is a long term project that is near and dear to her heart, as it is an ongoing documentary about her aunt Grace as she suffers from Alzheimer’s. I also grew up being close to my grandparents, and in my family the older generation were highly revered. I feel it is something that we have moved away from as a society-an important connection to the wisdom and intelligence of the elderly, who have transcended challenges we will never know––as we become more youth obsessed.

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Feature Shoot: “Grace”

Falzone is a story teller. She is devout in her eloquent manner of capturing every day moments––bringing a sentiment and compassion to her aunts tribulations.

Though both projects are very different in nature, there is a common bond that unites them. A quiet despair, and an ability to present unguarded empathy. Thank you Feature Shoot, Susan and Serge. I’m proud to know your work. You may view their projects in their entirety on their websites.

www.sergelevy.com  

www.susanfalzone.com

Pablo and Cake Doodle

This past weekend I went to see the Picasso exhibit. Fantastic as expected, I could have gone endlessly round and round the Guggenheim spiral marveling at his life’s work. As a friend recently wrote to me “Happy New Year, it’s June already” I can’t believe that it’s been several months since the completion of my last project. Usually never out of project ideas, I always have several floating around in my head at once, unsure of which one to pursue and develop. Recently, I  threw a project idea out to a fellow peer. She said “I dunno, it’s not as strong as your last project.”  That got me thinking. I don’t approach a project with the idea that it will top my last body of work. It’s like comparing your children to each other. Each one has special traits and talents that are unique to each one.  I understand the saying of only being as good as your last project, but one has to be careful about competing with oneself in that regard––pitting your work–– against your work. When I come up with a project idea, it’s purely spontaneous. It doesn’t occur to me to have an agenda, the intent of making some kind of splash. My ideas are generated when I’m not trying to hard, and riding the creative stream. It’s actually out of my hands and more a call to action, then something I actively contemplate.

When I watch my daughter create, she just creates. There is no inhibition, no thinking, no obsessing or judging. There is no filtering, no screening, no fear of the end  result. There is no pause or contemplation. It’s a constant outpouring of creativity and she is just a conduit for the source. We are all conduits and have access to the same uninterrupted stream of creative consciousness, but we are often the dyke that prevents us from gaining access.   She just does and is, and what she ends up accomplishing is pure genius. These are not the boastings of a proud parent, but my observations as an artist. She is able to express her essence in a completely pure and unrestrained, no limitations way that is so freeing and so beautiful that I’ll do anything to preserve her process–– protect her untainted pysche before institution and society robs her of it.

I have an app called “cake doodle” on my iphone where you choose your cake, and then are given endless decorative topping choices in which to decorate and frost it. I am astounded by the endless permutations and combinations she comes up with, without redundancy. I can’t help but compare her compositional skills to Pablo himself. Though it appears her approach is completely random, there exists an undeniable precision. There is a feeling of complication, but without congestion. Surely Picasso would demur at the thought of being compared to a cake app. But he should be honored to be in the same company as Maggie.

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“Till The Fat Lady Sings”

You plan the shoot you spec it out and then it’s a wrap. The funny thing is, is that it never fails that the best shots are either at the very beginning of the shoot when you’re just getting prepared and warming up. The mental or emotional attachment isn’t the same as when you’re ready and geared up to shoot. It’s then that there’s this shift where things become result oriented.  I don’t think there has ever been a time where when I wasn’t looking, the best shots presented themselves. It’s like life. You can make all the plans you want, cross your i’s and dot your t’s, be as prepared as you possibly can and in the end life happens as it’s going to happen anyway with or without your permission and many times you just have to fly by the seat of your pants. I’m not saying don’t be as prepared as possible. I mean I’m actually the type of person that makes my grocery list according to where the items are in the aisles. I have the store memorized. And even as I write this post on letting go of control, I’m always trying to optimize at all times as much as possible in everything that I do. However, the key is “balance” and awareness. Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s. They scramble their merchandise without notice so that the cereal isn’t where it was last time so my list system is useless in their paradigm. And THAT is how life is. Plan all you want, but stay loose. Anything can happen.

I still arrive with a mental image of what I want and will arrive to the location with that plan in mind. Sometimes it works, often times it doesn’t. The main thing is to not have any attachment to that plan. Because then force comes into the picture and force is always met with resistance.  It has to come naturally. The tighter you grip the more elusive the shot will become.  When it’s time to shoot and you’re in the zone and your subject feels that energy and is also in the zone, that’s great in of itself. The synergy of the shoot. But when there is a break, a lull, a changing of the guards, that is where serendipity takes place. The true genuine unguarded moments and if you’re able to capture those, it’s just the best.

Joe McNally was on assignment to shoot a portrait of Linus Pauling. He had packed his camera bag and was leaving the property and as Linus opened the gate to let him out,  his cat climbed onto his shoulder. Joe saw the moment and caught the shot and that was the winner. It’s unmistakeable.

Linus Pauling by Joe McNally

Last weekend I photographed Jennifer and her pet bird Elmo. They are very bonded and I wanted to capture them in a portrait together. I got some satisfactory shots but as I was preparing to leave, she was holding him and petting him as she leaned against the wall. I had just put my camera away and pulled it out again and it was this shot that I felt most expressed their relationship. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

“Symmetrical Cows” A Nod to Chris Buck’s “Symmetrical Cats”

I find animal behavior forever fascinating. It’s my favorite pastime. Recently I’ve spent countless of hours on farms, and often times the natural compositions these animals take on is simply uncanny. Chris Buck has 2 cats. They produce such symmetrical compositions (which he sometimes tweets about) http://twitter.com/#!/MrCHRIS_BUCK/statuses/141941957957132288 that if they weren’t 2 completely different species, you’d swear it was a trick. I was inspired by Chris’s humorous posts and extracted my own footage of symmetrical farm animals as a nod to his domestic felines. Oh, and including one pair of symmetrical pigs.

Bells and Whistles

There is a man who plays his guitar at the 68th street station in Manhattan. He mostly plays classical guitar, which I love, and if I could learn another instrument, that is what I would play. He’s simply marvelous and I could stand there all day not only listening  to him, but watching him. When he plays, it’s watching pure joy. When he knows he has an audience, he lights up inside. He’s fantastic and his instrument is a piece of crap. It has cracks throughout it’s body, with old stickers and tape holding it together, yet the music that comes out of it is full bodied, nothing missing, pure soul. It’s not the instrument. It’s the musician. No bells, no whistles.

68th street subway station

November – The Beauty of Tom

People say that Turkeys are ugly and stupid. I beg to differ. I think they are fascinating and incredibly beautiful. In fact Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the turkey our national bird. They are proud, inquisitive and sensitive. I have  sat among a rafter of turkeys and if you speak, cough or sneeze, they all “gobble” in concert. It’s as if I was the grand poobah at a lodge meeting.

The turkey trot is something to behold. The Tom’s are beautiful and proud as they strut, grunt and shake their feathers. Their wattle turns red when they are upset or during courtship (so either they were upset by my presence, or trying to court me. I’m assuming the later since all the tom’s were doing the trot!)  It’s the most wonderful thing to witness.

The feathers on wild turkeys are incredilby iridescent. The colors would be impossible to reproduce on a pantone chip. This month,  I choose to celebrate the beauty of this fascinating bird.

the turkey trot