I’m again participating in the Atelier Exhibition at the Griffin Museum of Photography.
Atelier 25 opens tonight and runs through March 31. I want to thank Meg Birnbaum and Amy Amy Rindskopf for leading the exhibition. My work is from the “Lost in the Water Project.”
Last week I posted a series of images of the water flow at the South Natick Dam, along the Charles in Natick, Massachusetts. Using long exposure techniques I’ve enjoyed studying the way the water flows around its various obstructions. My interest in the water, and enjoyment of being at the water is hardly new or unique of course. The flow of water has been providing sustenance and soothing to humanity for as long as we’ve been here (though it doesn’t seem to help us much in weeks like this one). Focus on water is of course also not unique to humans. I was reminded of this recently while continuing to photograph here.
Of course this fellow does it for a living. Note that these are long exposures. But he’s not moving. Those who photograph wildlife routinely will generally confirm that wild animals never actually stand still. They may be quite, but not still. He’s staring at the water and continued to do so for a good 20 minutes. He then changed positions and continued his focused attention. A young couple nearby struck up a conversation and reminded me that he’s doing that because he has to. We listen to the water because we like it. How did it all start? We’ll see this fellow again soon.
Technical note: These images were shot on film, TMAX 100 and Pan F 50. Both are wonderful films, still available. There is very little grain visible except under a magnifying glass. I sometimes shoot with film just to make me think about things in a more contemplative fashion. I found it most helpful here.
I’ve been striving diligently to simplify my images. I can speculate as to my motivation for doing so, maybe it has something to do with how messy the world is these days. I also have a tremendous fondness for the work of folks such as Michael Kenna. (If you’re serious about photography or art, please hit the link. You will not regret it.) More pragmatically though, this effort requires reducing the number of elements included within the frame. Turns out this is not as easy as it might sound. Life around us is filled with complexity. It is in fact messy. So, much like creating sculpture, you have to keep taking things out. Unfortunately, unlike when working with sculpture, you can’t just pop out a tree. OK, you could with photoshop if the tree is positioned just right and if you’re really good at doing that type of work. The result though still frequently looks as though the image is missing something that was popped out in photoshop. Alternatively,I find that I have to think about a potential image in a new way.
Recently I’ve been spending time at the South Natick Dam along the Charles River in eastern Massachusetts. I find it very restful there. It is also a wonderful place to photograph. On one side of the River you can even sit in the shade while photographing the River in bright, hot sunlight. It’s almost too easy.
But it is not a simple place to photograph. Again, there is a great deal going on. So, as Bill Neil says, you have to edit out reality, often by using a telephoto lens. I once had an exchange with Bill in which I asked him how he might go about managing some issues in a wide angle shot. His answer: “I’d never take a shot like that. Too messy.”
I’ve posted many pictures of flowing water here including in my most recent post. Typically, I want to give the viewer a sense of place by providing the context for the water’s flow. What if you ignore the need for a sense of place, and just explore the water? What you find are structures in the water’s flow. Every photographer who photographs water knows this of course. You can see structure if you shoot at around 1/4 of a second to maybe two seconds. After that, the water just glows, which has a beauty in itself. I’ve become interested in the structures that emerge with just a bit of a slow shutter. What do they reveal? I’ll let you be the judge.
I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving. We did, it was great spending time with family as always. I had much to be thankful for this year, including a more experimental attitude. Why not?
I’ve been exploring the Blackstone River area in Massachusetts over the last few months. It is striking just how much psychological as well as environmental territory the River covers. Though it remains quite polluted from centuries of exploitation, stretches of the River are quite beautiful and natural. Other stretches are, more complex. No stretch of the River though, at least that I have traveled, requires more effort to understand than the Blackstone Valley Bike Trail in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the River originates. Along this two mile or so stretch you will see the River, a super highway (Route 146), an active freight train yard and line, as well as legacy tracks, a Walmart and Sam’s Club, trees being cut by a beaver, beautiful small falls and rapids, trash and signs that say stay away from the water for health reasons. It’s all right there. Nature and civilization crash into one another at top speed in places and this is one of those locations.
I have photographed there for months, searching for the right way to capture the feel of such a complex place. I’d used most every technological trick I could think of, but ultimately wasn’t satisfied. I decided to go back and try again, this time with black and white film. Digital is just capable of making pictures that are too perfect for this location it seemed to me. Nothing about this location says “perfection.” This work, like this location, is incomplete and some of the images you see here may not survive the next cut. This is where things stand though at the moment.
Shooting on film is interesting of course. I realize that the look can be replicated in software using a digital means of capture. But that somehow doesn’t seem quite right at times. What is really different about shooting on film is the process. You do indeed slow down. You have to for economic reasons if nothing else. For a time, you have to step away from the technological (rat) race. It’s quite refreshing.
Tech Notes: Shot on Kodak TMax and Ilford Delta films using a Nikon F6. The later, for my money, remains the finest 35 mm camera ever made. Negatives scanned on a Nikon 5000 film scanner and finalized in Lightroom/Photoshop (You can’t really escape the technology can you.)