May 20, 2015 | 1 Comment |
In the summer of 2013 I had the fortune of travelling to Ladakh, India, a remote Himalayan kingdom that is now far Northwestern India, bordered by Pakistani controlled Kasmir and Chinese controlled Tibet. Ladakh’s high desert rises from valley floors at 12,000 feet to the mountain peaks at 20,000ft. Water from the Indus River is skillfully directed through lush fields then on to irrigate countless other valleys in India. The Ladakhis live in carefully organized communities of adobe homes where they maintain cattle and yak, pashmina goat herds, make mud bricks for export, hone their traditional crafts, keep cultural ways of life and practice an intense spirituality. It is a place where monasteries seem to float above military bases and vast expanses that shimmer in the intense, clear light. Translated as “The Land of High Passes” Ladakh is a region of sunshine and snow, of dark temples and bright spirits.
I happened to meet fellow photographer Christopher Michel in Delhi when he was doing what he does best, photographing people with his happy-go-lucky-how-could-you-say-no direct approach. We happened to have the same somewhat unusual camera and lens combo so I struck up a conversation. Little did I know we would be traveling to the same place and often shooting standing shoulder to shoulder with several thousand other people.
One hundred and fifty thousand ethnic Tibetans were gathering in Ladakh for the ancient Kalachakra ceremony, a two thousand year old ten-day teaching given by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. I went as a student of life, to see and experience with camera in hand but no specific assignment or shot list. It was not easy. The mid-summer heat of India was as hard on the equipment as it was on the attendees. It was difficult to breathe, move, and photograph in the dust, smoke, heat and an international crowd of so many, packed into a tight space and hurrying over long distances to get there. There were near mob-scene moments as well as times of great kindness that transcended language barriers. The intense sun cast deep shadows in the desert while the traditional adobe architecture had dark interiors often only illuminated with butter lamps and a single strong shaft of light. The experience was overwhelming and required great openness to each moment, the physical stamina to endure heat and altitude as well as the willingness to play well with others.
Every extra moment from sunrise to starry night was spent exploring the stupa fields, monasteries, city of Leh and village life with friends met along the way. Chris’ focus on the essence of each moment was an inspiration and his photographs reflect his incisive eye, whether the subject was people or place. During the two weeks in Ladakh we did not share work or even review our own images. There was limited electricity for anything beyond charging batteries. Several weeks later I happened to come across a blog article about Chris’ work in Ladakh and immediately suggested a collaborative show to benefit Tibetan culture at Tibet House US. Fortunately Chris agreed to my out-of-the-blue request and the curator of Tibet House US, Zola Nyambuu, was happy with the show we proposed. So began the coincidental collaboration of “Envisioning Ecstasy.”
The show has forty black and white photographic prints of landscape, portraits and details of Ladakh during the Kalachakra. These range from arid desertscapes to lush irrigated fields reflecting the mountains. There are images from the Kalachakra as well as incongruous graffiti overlooking the capitol city, Leh. Curious camels, luminous nightscapes and the famously painted Indian trucks balance the spiritual iconography. A traveling circus with a lotus-decorated ferris wheel loomed above the vast desert providing an unforgettable personal and photographic experience.
“Envisioning Ecstasy” also has a conceptual aspect in the form of eleven large-scale lumenographic prints based on illustration based photographs originally sketched during the Kalachakra. Two projected animations bring these drawings to life and complete the show. The story behind many of the documentary images was captured in Chas Curtis’ keen videograpy. Chas’ evocative timelapses and captivating clips from ceremony to circus were seamlessly edited into a luminous video interview by Kyle Ruddick. The video is a multi-media presentation of “Envisioning Ecstasy” and will be screened at the opening. The show is accompanied by a catalog, Envisioning Ecstasy and a clothbound book, 108 Visions : Ladakh During the Kalachakra, thoughtfully designed by Michael Motley, which offers glimpses of the journey from small details to sweeping vistas. Books and print sales benefit Tibet House US, which brings the concept of collaboration full circle.
All of this work was greatly enhanced by John Paul and Seth’s dynamic duo Art of Processing and Art of Creativity. The workshops are an intense immersive experience for honing artistic vision, voice and direction. And of course any workshop with JP and Seth is a lesson in that all important art of playing well with others, one of my favorite photographic mantras. Photography is often seen as a solitary pursuit and though it has it’s quiet moments, communal creativity widens the collective perspective. This golden rule underpins the entire show of “Envisioning Ecstasy.”
“Envisioning Ecstasy” opens at Tibet House US, New York, May 20 from 6-8pm and is on exhibit until June 26. Two publications will be released for the show: a catalog, “Envisioning Ecstasy,” and a hardcover book, 108 Visions: Ladakh During the Kalachakra. Please contact Tibet House US regarding show information and books.
In June 2015, Olaf will be co-teaching ‘Visual Conversations’, a creative photography workshop with Eileen McCarney Muldoon at Maine Media College in Rockport. They will also be running a LightDance workshop in Brooklyn in Sep 2015.
Olaf Willoughby is a photographer, writer and researcher. He is co-founder of The Leica Meet, a Facebook page and website growing at warp speed to over 7,800 members. After conducting many interviews for the Leica Blog, Olaf was recently interviewed there too. Read his interview here.
Here, Olaf shares his thoughts on interviewing and being interviewed.
What Makes Photography Tock?
This was the question uppermost in my mind when I started interviewing photographers for The Leica Blog some time ago.
We’ve all worked on ideas which tick like a Swiss watch. They have a magic flow resonating with ourselves and others. But some don’t, they linger on that haunting to-do list and never quite get done. Why?
Photographers are often considered not to be the best judges of their own work, so asking a direct question was unlikely to be productive. I was wondering how to tackle this dilemma in my interviews when, luckily, I stumbled on this quote from Duane Michaels,
‘Photographers look too much. They have to start thinking and feeling and make that the source of their work. Don’t just look for curiosity’. (For more words of great wisdom check Sean Kernan’s interview with Duane Michaels here.)
I understood. It identified for me what I love about Michael Ackermann in ‘End Time City’and the shortcomings I see in my own work. Time and again I pressed the ‘thinking & feeling’button in my interviews and it always resulted in a deeper more engaging response.
So when the Leica Blog turned the tables and interviewed me on my ‘Leica in London’Street Photography project (link below) I felt well prepared. Yet initially I fell into the same trap. Rationality ruled. It was only when I let go of the left brain that I could articulate the bigger picture.
Seeing that I had sat on both sides of the interviewing table JP kindly suggested that I might like to share any learnings on his blog.
Working through the process from the questions, to pulling together the images and text and finally telling the story, here are three pointers emerging from my interviews which have helped me to show the work of others in the best light. I hope they work for you too.
Question the questions
Let’s start at the beginning. The fact that I (or anybody else) am asking the questions doesn’t mean they are the right or the best questions for you. If you have thought through your project then you’ll know the one or two critical points you want to get across. Sense check the questions to see if they put the spotlight on these areas. If not, suggest changes or take advantage of the more generic questions to make your point. No apologies if this sounds ‘duh’, obvious. Apart from the big and experienced industry names, most photographers are honoured and excited to be interviewed. Often too excited to pinpoint how they think and feel about their project and whether the questions really search out the soul of their work.
Image courtesy of Taubman Museum
This is a guest post by a John Paul Caponigro Next Step Alumnus who lives and works in Roanoke, Virginia. He has curated an exhibition entitled which will be showing at the through March 28, 2015. An exhibition of his work will open at Virginia Tech’s Center for the Arts on December 5, 2014.
About 18 months ago I was asked to join the staff of the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia as an adjunct curator of photography. The position was part-time and my job was to act as a proposer and organizer of exhibitions and to meet with others in the curatorial staff to discuss and plan our future programs. The Taubman Museum opened in 2008 and was a successor to several art museums in Roanoke, a small railroad heritage city in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The facility consists of nine galleries, an exploratory gallery for children, a theatre and an auditorium. It shows all kinds of art including painting, sculpture, ceramics, decorative arts, film, folk art and photography. In recent years it has exhibited works by Dorothea Lange, Edward Burtynsky, Alan Cohen, Civil Rights Photographers of the 1960s, Roanoke Times Photojournalists and several local photographic artists. The notes for one of its current exhibitions “Beg, Borrow and Steal” states that photography “plays a significant role in much of the work, which is represented in the exhibition by artists John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, Richard Prince, David Salle, and Cindy Sherman; all of whom are using manipulated photographic images to create dense collages or appropriating stereotypical portraits in humorous ways.”
It has been a valuable experience. I have learned that curating is a basic skill that all artists need to use in evaluating their work. We need to examine our artistic influences, create collections and bodies of work, see their evolution over time. Peer review also is vital in artistic growth and again is another data point in the personal curating process. Professional curating is an extension of this skill.
The Speed Curators
For the past several years I have taught workshops in digital creativity. We use mobile phones as a basis for this practice, but we always start with an exercise in “speed curating.”This is valuable because people start to learn the elements that attract their eye and verbalize those aspects. Recently, I have had the pleasure of participating in leading continuing education programs for art teachers at the Taubman Museum. Some of it has been adapted from my mobile photography courses, but the speed curating exercise is a vital part of the day.
The exercise begins with about 200 5”x 5”of my iPhone prints spread out on tables in the library. I tell the group “I am setting a timer for 6 minutes. During this time you can look BUT YOU MAY NOT touch the images. Don’t touch. Your assignment will be to choose between 6-8 images that work together and that you will present as if you are a gallery or museum curator. After that you will have 6 minutes to collect your images and then we will take them in the next room.”
It is always interesting to see the personalities at play. Some aggressively grab images and others hang back only to be disappointed that some of their favorites have already been taken. They have to either rethink their collections or find similar images. This mimics a curator’s dilemma of sometimes not being able to get all the works he or she wants and having to substitute work.
In the board room we talk about why we have chosen our images. The art teachers are used to talking about their own work as well as the work of their students. Each has a different idea and a different style. Some strictly look for artistic elements such as composition, contrast, color and form. Others use the images to tell a personal story or struggle that they are working through. Some even use song lyrics or musical references. All bring their own creative views to the collections. The act of rejecting and culling is as valuable as the act of inclusion. The same is true whether curating personal work, a personal collection of other artists, or for an institution.
Campbell Gunn, a fellow alumnus of John Paul Caponigro’s workshops, has created a portable collection of curated work. He finds photographers that he admires and organizes them in a collection on his iPad. Campbell says: “I simply create a dropbox master folder with subfolders for each photographer I am interested in and then as I find images that I think are instructive for my own visual reference library I copy them across. Then I have a Lightroom catalog that I use as a database which then syncs with an iPad app called PhotoMgrPro. The theme is developing ‘visual literacy’ or a ‘pattern language’. As with all languages, if you have a basic vocabulary and understand grammar, you can combine words or phrases to create new sentences (or in this case images) – without falling into the trap of being derivative or repetitive. It helps you find your own voice by understanding what it is in others voices that resonates most.”It is important to note that you should only copy low res images for this collection, keep them for your private use, and don’t copy images from books. Copying images from books is against the law in some countries.
From “Two Generations” to “Generations”
When I started curating I had a number of ideas for photography exhibitions and busily contacted artists and curators from other institutions to attempt to work up presentations for our curating committee. My projects were competing with space and scheduling of other exhibitions in other media. The Taubman Museum keeps variety and balance in its programming and even within each medium is careful not to overdo one type of painting or one type of photography. For example, a fine documentary photography exhibition that may of been available to us was discouraged by the committee because of recent documentary exhibitions. The committee was interested in the Paul Caponigro and John Paul Caponigro exhibition that had shown several times in other institutions and encouraged me to explore this work.
I was delighted because not only has the Caponigros’work strongly influenced my own, but John Paul is my mentor and friend and there was a comfort level that was valuable in planning this exhibition. The Caponigros were very gracious in making their personal collections available to us and sent us a list of the works that had been exhibited.
We found a slot in our gallery schedule that worked and it was one of our larger galleries. Our Deputy Director of Exhibitions and I walked into the gallery and realized that we could have a very sterile show. It is a large room with almost 200 feet of wall space and is an average of 40 feet wide. I saw a long row of father on one wall and a long row of son on the other. The room would have very little flow, very little interest. We needed more work, we needed a better design.
With help from the artists and our Exhibitions staff we came up for a design for the gallery that included temporary interior walls to add interest and variety to the presentation. The walls allow for a dialogue between the two artists. Some of the interior walls have images by father and son that are related, others have a single artist in direct contrast with the other.
I am a fan of John Paul’s book Process and he had prepared some of the images in that book to form a framed presentation that was ready to display. We thought that it would be very useful for educators to have JP’s thoughts and illustrations on his show in its own separate section. Although the images were set, it became a challenge to provide text within our guidelines for display. Our solution was to take quotes from the book—under fifty words a piece—and let the images and text guide the viewer through that part of the exhibition.
With the addition of the Process materials we had a show that embraced both the artists and the artistic process, the two generations of vision and work, and the generation of ideas. We also designed the exhibition in a way that would help slow people down during their walk through the gallery and stimulate discussion—perhaps even argument—about the merits of each artist’s work and their use of two of photography’s main technologies. It has become an illustration of photography’s history, the creative process, and for many their first exposure to two major artists.
“Ends of the Earth is a dramatic, photographic voyage of the world’s ice caps and glaciers that depicts the magnificent beauty of the frozen landscape in large format color images.
Martyn Lucas grew up in England and was first introduced to photography by his father, a photographer who taught him composition, contrast, and how to perfectly capture a landscape. Lucas’ natural talent for landscape photography has led him all over the world, seeing and preserving each new place through the lens of a camera.
Inspired by the Polar Regions, Lucas has quite literally travelled to the Ends of the Earth to photograph the world’s ice caps and glaciers. These photographs, each breathtakingly beautiful, leave the viewer stunned as they are given the rare opportunity to see the vastness of Antarctica: the coldest, driest, and windiest place on Earth. Carefully photographing the urgency of global warming and the ice melting at alarming rates, Lucas has been able to present the unseen dilemmas of the world’s climate system.
Like viewing something out of a dream, this haunting exhibition promises to deliver the extreme beauty and silence of the frozen tundra, as seen through Martyn Lucas’ artistic vision. Each work complements the others when viewed as a whole, and yet each is a distinct work of art on its own.
The artwork of this incredible photographer is nothing short of captivating, revealing the massive size of the ice and the strong current and movement of the icy water. Viewers are welcome to come celebrate this incredible exhibition January 10, 2015 for the opening of Ends of the Earth, located in the Bunzl Gallery. Visitors of The Bascom also invited to Martyn Lucas’ Artist Talk and Reception Saturday, March 21, 2015 from 5 to 7 pm at The Bascom. Experience the wonder of Martyn Lucas’ Polar Regions photography through this breathtaking assemblage of photographs. ”
For more information, please contact The Bascom at 828.526.4949 or visit www.thebascom.org.
December 18, 2014 | Leave a Comment |
Alumni Jerry Grasso’s photographs are featured in the current issue of LensWork magazine. It’s a dream come true for him. Congratulations Jerry!
“One of my “bucket list” items was to be published in what I consider to be one of the most prestigious magazines dedicated to the promotion of fine art photography in the world today: LensWork Magazine. I have been a subscriber since 2004. In fact, I credit the podcasts of editor Brooks Jensen as one of the early influences on my artistic training. There are so many great, brief articles related to photography; more than enough food for thought.
I am humbled and honored to say that my series, “Moorish Influences”, has been accepted and will appear in the December issue #115 of LensWork. My interview and images will also appear on the Extended Edition dvd. And, one of my images even made the cover of the issue!
This series is an exploration of the progression of the impact the Moors had on Spanish architecture from 711AD to 1492AD. This impact can best be described as ordered repletions, radiating structures, and rhythmic metric patterns. These designs captured in my work are based in spirituality. The Islamic view of the world in general emphasizes and symbolizes the infinite nature of the one God. For them, there was an infinite pattern of forms that extend beyond the world and symbolizes the infinite essence of God.
I would like to thank John Paul for his training, guidance and support over the years. Also, I would like to thank my fellow Next Steppers for their encouragement and artistic suggestions that have helped me solidify my goals and techniques.
My dedicated perseverance and determination continues to sustain my passion and my vision. I look forward to my continued growth as I explore new projects and experiment with new visions. And thanks for indulging me in my moment of success!”
Louisa Paez Michelin’s new exhibit opens tonight Thursday, Dec 18 from 6-8pm in Boca Raton, Florida.
Disko Bay #4, 2013
Sam Krisch’s new exhibit Elements opens at Virginia Tech in Blackburg, Virginia Friday, December 5, 2014 (5-7 pm) and runs through Sunday, February 1, 2015.
“The sheer power and splendor of nature in far-away places is the subject of Sam Krisch’s photographic practice. Over the last five years, Krisch has journeyed to remote locations ranging from the Mohave Desert to Antarctica to capture stunning images of ice formations, the raw force of turbulent waters, and empty expanses of desert landscapes. This exhibition presents a selection of the artist’s digital photographs created between 2013 and 2014, in which his approach to composition verges on the abstract, taking the work beyond documentation into a world of pristine, yet daunting, beauty. These are gorgeous, even idyllic landscapes, tinged nonetheless with the terrifying knowledge that these worlds are slipping away in an irreversible trajectory caused by human forces. Krisch lives and works in Roanoke. He is the adjunct curator of photography at the Taubman Museum of Art.”
By Olaf Willoughby
“A Visual Conversation sets up a rhythm, a pattern of communicating in which images fit with one another, with a chosen text, a piece of music or artwork of any kind. It helps develop our voice and vision.
Working through a series of Visual Conversations, each becomes a stepping stone which exercises the creative muscles and takes us beyond our regular shooting routines.
Visual Conversations work so well because they are based on the centuries old principle of ‘call and response’. A tradition of improvised exchange evident in everything from Hindu spiritual chants to modern day blues/gospel and jazz. From Japanese Renga linked poetry circles to folded paper stories.
How does this work in practice? I select an image which resonates, share it with you and ask you to shoot an image which rhymes, fits or starts a conversation with the original. Pretty straightforward, although there are systematic approaches to doing this. And still more ways of building that into a dialogue.
Now what if I select a painting by Rothko, or a poem by Edgar Allen Poe or Roberta Flack singing, ‘The first time ever I saw your face’? It’s a little more difficult. It requires more intense study and understanding of the original work of art to interpret it photographically. It stretches our minds to think about art in new ways.
Or how about if we develop the conversation into a narrative through storytelling? There are multiple permutations leading into other exercises…. I’m sure you get the idea. Add into this group discussion and feedback and it becomes an exciting learning experience. Each call and response takes us out of our routine and asks us to think differently about our photography.
But that’s not all. What makes this special is that your creativity can be extended beyond assignments into the process itself. As you’d expect, some Conversations involve working solo but others take ‘the road less travelled’ and involve working together on shared projects.
There is a spectrum of co-operation in the arts. Whilst some prefer to write books alone in coffee shops, others operate in collectives. Some partner up at different stages in the production process (choreographer/dancer, author/editor) and some of the most famous simply collaborate. Think Lennon & McCartney, Picasso & Braque. Look around. Every movie, play, symphony, rock ballad, even architectural space and garden involves artists working together. Yet collaboration is rare in photography. There are examples like Bernd & Hilla Becher or today, the Starn Twins but they are few and far between.
Occasionally we catch a glimpse of the collaborative spirit in photo workshops. At the end of the day, participants gather to share their solo work and you can feel the buzz in the air as people are amazed at the different ways of seeing and shooting, even though they were often at the same location.
Sharing projects captures that buzz and helps us let go of the need to control. We both give and receive in creative decision making and come to see our own work in a different light.
I’ve experienced the benefits of Visual Conversations and collaborative projects first hand. They are fun but clearing the creative blocks arising from routine ways of working can be challenging.Expect to be jolted. But also expect to benefit from taking a different approach to your photography and returning to your personal work refreshed and enhanced.
I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with Eileen McCarney Muldoon, a talented photographic artist in Jamestown, Rhode Island. We’ve captured that creative buzz and put it into a workshop. We’d be delighted if you would check it out. Even better, the course includes complimentary access to Leica equipment.
Plus a guest appearance during the week from a world renowned digital artist. I’ll leave you to guess who that might be!”
- Starting Oct 5th 2014, a one week workshop at Maine Media College, Rockport
- Co-teachers: Eileen McCarney Muldoon & Olaf Willoughby
- Visit: http://www.mainemedia.edu/workshops/photography/visual-conversations
- Sponsored by Leica. Complimentary access to Leica cameras & lenses.
American Premiere of Ken Carl´s Photography Exhibit: Joy Possible With Special Guest Jo McGowan, Executive Director of the Latika Roy Foundation.
“In India people with disabilities, who constitute almost four to eight percent of the population are still fighting to get equal access to healthcare, education, employment and inclusion in society. Despite the magnitude of the issue, both awareness of and scientific information on disability issues are lacking.”
Award-winning freelance photographer Ken Carl will be displaying various photographs from a spiritually-altering trip to India where he was sent to capture the essence of the Latika Roy Foundation, a resource center for children and young adults with special needs. Calumet Photographic, 1111 N. Cherry Ave., will host the display from May 9 to June 2, 2013, and all images will be printed by fotoflōt.
Through an opportunity with Momenta, an international journalistic based organization focused on creating unique opportunities for photographers and non-governmental organizations throughout the world, Carl’s goal was to expand his knowledge and horizon, capturing a glimpse of life in a part of the world with which he wasn’t familiar. In the end, Carl obtained much more of this venture.
Regardless of Carl’s years of experience and expertise, the project came with challenges. “After two days I just felt a sense of failure and it was really hard,” said Carl. Going through the initial photographs, Carl didn’t feel as though he was capturing what was necessary. “I thought, ‘I’ve been given this amazing opportunity and I can’t get an image out of it.’”
With that, Carl took advantage of the days he had left. Along with integrating himself even more at the foundation, he asked for permission from the executive director of Latika Roy Jo McGowan to visit students at home and photograph them along with their families.
During his visits, Carl was able to capture nothing short of amazingly true images that exhibited the struggles and realities of families with their special needs children.
“These children have disabilities yet that fact is not a barrier to being a positive light,” said Carl. “The human spirit can never be disabled.”
Two years later, with photographs full of color, emotion and joy, Carl is ready to give people outside of India insight into the school in Dehradun and bring awareness of those with special needs.
“This trip brought and heightened awareness in my photography,” he said. “I want to share the message that joy is possible through sharing, caring and treating each other well.”
Dates of Exhibition: May 9, 2013 – June 2, 2013
Reception: May 9, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Location: Calumet Photographic Chicago, 1111 North Cherry Ave.
Information on the event can also be found on Facebook.
March 7, 2013 | Leave a Comment |
Feedback on work produced during a workshop is an important part of each learning experience. Useful feedback usually starts with identifying core strengths before a discussion about how to improve (no matter how successful images are) and identifying possible next steps.
Here’s a collection of participant images from our Antarctica Crossing The Circle 2013 Voyage and a quick note about each image’s core strengths.
Ginette Vachon presents peak action in a way that elicits empathy
Cathrine Spikkerud enlivens an other-worldy stage with quiet understated action
Nancy Leigh animates an already dramatic stage with an energetic gesture
Marilynn Nance uses rhythm and perspective to make an historic building even more interesting
Robert Pettit use repetition to create a play between balance and imbalance
Fusako Hara explores the transitions between realism and abstraction
Benoit Feron uses line and texture to reveal natural processes
Jodie Willard uses opaque layers a strongly felt sense of space through design
Karin Pettit use transparent layers to portray depth
Norm Larson uses abstraction to portray not just an external reality but also to suggest an internal state
Celie Placzek uses number and proximity to suggest community
Jim Brewster uses negative space to highlight important figures amid chaos
Dennis Lenehan uses mass and volume to create dramatic contrasts
Geir Morten Skeie employs a delicate palette to create a transcendant mood for a monolithic structure
Joelle Rokovich expresses contrasts in scale to express size and distance with a minimalist efficiency
Only 9 spaces are left.
keep looking »
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