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Kernan Creativity Workshop – Day 2


Sean (Kernan) used a great metaphor today. “For me, discovering photography was like finding a white horse in the woods. You get on and it runs away with you. I spent a long time learning to control it. Now I spend a lot of time trying to get it to run away again.”
I knew the week would be different. I knew I would be kinetically and theatrically challenged. I know Sean. I didn’t know how I would find a personal connection to the exercises. I did today. I’ve always been fascinated by birds flying in flocks and fish swimming in schools in unison. We participated in a bit of that ourselves today. This connected with my interest in sensed but unseen patterns.
Today involved more motion. Sean patterned a lot of today’s activities on an acting method called Viewpoints (Anne Bogart and Tina Landau). We moved to varied music. We gestured in response to architecture. We walked patterns in unison. We made shapes with each others bodies. We followed and reacted to each other’s rhythms and gestures. None of us are trained actors/dancers, most are complete novices, and yet the results today were surprisingly expressive.
The picture for this blog entry is an improvisational exercise in motion Sean Harris and I did together. It was surprising. It felt good. Onlookers enjoyed it.
I use other art forms (forms I intentionally remain an amateur at) improvisationally (being spontaneous and suspending judgement), looking for reminders of what it takes to enter, sustain, and direct flow states. Doing this helps my professional work. You can develop an instinct for flow. You can prepare for it. You can learn to enter it faster and go deeper with it. But you can’t will it to happen in any traditional sense of the word.
Letting go was a big theme today. When we tried too hard it didn’t happen. When we cast aside ego and intellect another part of ourselves kicked in – and things worked. It seemed to me that true mastery comes when this happens. Technique is learned and facilitates expression and reception but is aimless until it’s put in the service of something. Curiously, that something always seems to involve surprise for the creator. Discovery. Break through. So what does it take to get into that state with photography? How do you know when you’re there? How do you sustain it? How do you direct it?
I’ve got a few clues but no definitive answers. Sure I want more and I’ll keep searching for them. But I’ve come to understand that the questions themselves are more useful than the answers. They keep you on your toes. They keep you awake. Trust the process. Out of engaging the process unexpected answers come.
Who’s Sean Kernan? Find out here.
Read my in depth conversation with Sean here.
Read Sean interviewing me here.
Check out Sean’s blog entries on the class here.
Check out Sean’s creativity workshops here.
Check out my creativity workshop here.

Kernan Creativity Workshop – Day 1


(Kernan, Heisler, Maisel)
Last week, I taught my workshop Illuminating Creativity. Now I’m taking a workshop on creativity!
This week, my friend Sean Kernan is teaching a special workshop for instructors only at the Maine Media Workshops this week. Sean has a very different approach to teaching creativity than I do. He too loves to collaborate. In the past, he’s brought in people like Alan Arkin and the dance company Pilobolus.
Who will be taking the workshop with me this week? My wife Ardie. Oh and some guy named Jay Maisel. And another great photographer named Greg Heisler. And another great photographer named Elizabeth Opalenik. And another great photographer named Allison Shaw. And many more! I have no idea what will happen. I just know it will be a great week. Stay tuned! Every day, I’ll try to share at least one highlight here.
Today started with meditation. Nice move. It increases awareness. It focusses attention. It reduces judgement. It encourages receptivity. I often think we don’t focus on or speak about enough the states we’re in when we produce work, particularly the states we’re in when we produce our best work and how to get there. Meditation is one key among many. Play is another.
On the first day we played a number of theater games. Walk an imaginary line. Throw an imaginary ball. Play an imaginary game of tug of war. It worked when the participant focussed. It worked better when another participant cooperated with them. The event was changed by the group observing and focussing at the same time. Group dynamics (and how each of us responds to them) are fascinating. Collaboration can be extremely stimulating.
We walked and watched ourselves looking while focussing specifically at things and monitoring peripheral vision simultaneously. Taking notes in class made me even more aware of the elements in play while doing this. A significant new object or space demands attention. Moving objects demand attention. Motion produced by moving your body is less demanding. Focus of attention moves when a stronger pattern is observed. All patterns are contextual (patterns within patterns).
We watched Charlie Rose’s interview with sculptor Richard Serra. Serra speaks very visually about his primary passion – space. Its clear sight is one of the primary senses he experiences space with. At one point in the film he walks through his sculptures and the camera follows while he describes the experience of space produced by his sculpture. His physical gestures as he navigates his labyrinths make a statement like “This is the inside of the outside. This is the outside of the inside.” understandable. His sculptures give us a heightened experience of space. His work offers experiences of archetypes of space.
Moving in space seems to be the theme of the day.
What’s this have to do with making images? Nothing. Everything. None of us expect to make finished work this week. All of us expect to have a better understanding of what it takes to make better work at the end of the week. Sometimes not focussing on a final product, but focussing on the process instead reveals more and in the end, if that understanding is applied later, more work and higher quality work may ultimately be produced.
Who’s Sean Kernan? Find out here.
Read my in depth conversation with Sean here.
Read Sean interviewing me here.
Check out Sean’s blog entries on the class here.
Check out Sean’s creativity workshops here.
Check out my creativity workshop here.

Epson 2880 Printers at The Fine Art of Digital Printing – Workshop


See it first and use it at Caponigro & Holbert’s The Fine Art of Digital Printing workshop series. Epson’s newest 13″ photo quality printer, the Epson R2880 (list $799)(“The world’s best 13″ printer.”) will be available for participant use at the Hallmark Institute of Photography July 20-25.
Last fall, at the Brooks Institute of Photography, participants were able to use the recently unveiled Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper. Special guests often appear, like Gregory Heisler and Vincent Versace. There are always many surprises in these workshops!
Gregory Heisler said, “Together, Mac and John Paul cover all aspects of fine art digital printmaking in a logical, easily understood format. They generously share their time-tested techniques, sure-fire shortcuts and invaluable personal observations while patiently demystifying the process of digital printmaking at its highest level. Yet they never lose sight of the ultimate goal: to realize the vision of the artist. The image remains paramount.”
Vincent Versace said, “Rarely, if ever do you get the oppertunity to have a teacher show you something that changes the way think and create. Even rarer is when lightening strikes twice. I have never had workshop experience effect me and my work as profoundly as the workshop taught by John Paul Caponigro and Mac Holbert.”
This premiere workshop is the chance of a lifetime. Learn from two master digital print makers at the same time, fresh off their highly successful tour in the Epson Print Academy. The workshops will be held in the state-of-the-art labs of today’s premier photographic educational institutions. This workshop will expose you to a world of new possibilities. The workshop translates photographic language and practices from traditional to digital and exposes participants to a world of new possibilities.
Only a few spaces in both venues are left. Register today!
And if you want to get priority status for next year’s FADP workshops sign up for the Waiting List.
July 20-25, 2008
Hallmark Institute of Photography
Turners Falls, MA
October 26-31, 2008
Brooks Institute of Photography
Santa Barbara, CA
Find out about the Epson R2880 here.
Find out more about The Fine Art of Digital Printing workshop here.
Find out about The Fine Digital Print workshop series here.

Epson R2880 Printer – Equipment


Epson announced it’s newest 13″ photo quality printer, the R2880 (list $799), May 27. It began shipping June 2. Epson’s Patrick Chen calls it, “The world’s best 13″ printer.” And he’s right.
The 2880 is a step up from the 2400.
1 It’s fast.
2 It handles diverse media types, both cut sheet and roll, up to 1.3mm thick, and can print directly on CD/DVDs.
3 It uses Epson’s most advanced ink available today – Epson Ultrachrome K3 with Vivid Magenta. This is the same ink available in the 4880, 7880, 9880, and 11880. Three black inks deliver superior exhibition quality black and white printing. Vivid Magenta extends color gamut, particularly in reds, purples, and blues.
4 It has an improved print head (similar to the 4880/7880/9880) that creates extremely fine ink droplets and is specially coated to dramatically reduce nozzle clogs.
5 The new 16 bit compatible driver gives users more control with one screen setup and customizable menus. Not only can you save presets but you can also eliminate paper settings.
6 It incorporates radiance technology, a new mathematical architecture, developed at Munsell Color Science Laboratories at Rochester Institute of Technology, to improve ink selection and dot placement, maximizing color gamut, producing smoother gradation, and reducing metamerism.
7 Its mist collection system sweeps up stray ink droplets, reducing the number of nozzle checks and cleaning cycles necessary, and prolonging the life of the printer. This technology was actually inspired by printers on the space shuttle where stray droplets in zero g can become a significant problem.
It’s rocket science for your desktop.
Read more about the Epson R2880 here.

Karen Daspit / Workshop Participant – Illuminating Creativity


Karen Daspit lives in Hawaii. This is Karen’s 3rd workshop with me. She’s been photographing, sketching, and writing all week. Like most participants she had serious doubts about how relevant free associating with words could be for her photography. But she trusted me and the process and gave it a go. In less than an hour she had new ideas for 6 new bodies of work that were all relevant to her current vision. It’s thrilling to see people make these kinds of breakthroughs and see how enthusiastic they become. Then again, Karen’s always enthusiastic. I think there’s a connection between her positive attitude and the results she’s been getting in her photography. Her work is currently featured in the 2nd Annual Photography Masters Cup Yearbook.
“I have recently spent five days in Maine attending John Paul Caponigro’s workshop “Illuminating Creativity”. It should be noted that workshops, in general, are something I have only discovered over the last 10 years of my life. A workshop of any kind is a great way to take a vacation from the “usual”, and meet other people who share a common interest. There are many dimensions to workshops. The worst case scenario is that you become exposed to a new environment, learn something new, and go home somewhat rested.
How do you teach people from varied backgrounds to be illuminated, or, to discover and use their creativity? JP, has a long tenure as an artist, instructor and writer. He is a VERY creative person. More than this, he has developed through extensive study, a set of organizational and expressive skills that work in his own realm. He is also very capable of sharing this set of skills with his students. This talent, although simple to explain, takes much more skill to share. And this he has done, for me, and to me, over the last 5 days.
When you follow JP’s writings on his web site, it becomes apparent that he advocates certain methodologies. Readers are exposed to a variety of articles. There is espousal of palate selection, creation of an adherent body of work, and tips on how to evaluate your work for inclusion in a particular body of work. This is all above and beyond the technical attainment of Photoshop skills, which we all strive for.
Creating a “body of work” has become a cumbersome task for me. I have struggled long and hard to create my first BOW. I am now approaching the next step, of creating a second BOW. I have been again undaunted by the scope of the task. This workshop has made that task seem approachable for me, and I will attempt to tell you why.
One of JP’s exercises stands out for me. He requested that we all define our work in one word. With a second step of “free association” we all wrote down words that came to mind that reminded us of the said single word. I had a page full of words that made no real since to anyone but me. Then, he had us categorize these words. You would have to attend the workshop to find out how he spurred us on, and articulated the task. Basically, we wound up at the end of the afternoon with the ability to SEE and READ things that were of importance to us personally. We were able to borrow other people’s words and combine them into meaningful phrases. The synergy of the group contributed to our individual insight into what it was we might be interested into exploring further in our own work.
The net result is that I have ideas for new bodies of work. New words like deterioration and origin are now incorporated into my own perception of the work I do. I want to rush out and photograph dead leaves, beautifully decaying vegetables and rusted vehicles. This is truly thrilling for me. I have been illuminated creatively.
The workshop is much more than this single exercise. We have been exposed to a variety of creative tools that we can all use to better discover our roadmaps. Tools to better understand our processes, make them more efficient, and better articulate our inner desires have been presented. Mostly, JP stood strong on the platform of his experiential discoveries and shared them selflessly with all of us. What more can we ask?
One of the descriptors that we came up with was “transformative indulgence”. That about sums up what this week was for me.”
See Karen’s Flickr gallery here.
Find out about the workshop here. Get Priority Status for the next Illuminating Creativity workshop with absolutely no risk here. Just click “I’d Like Priority Status!”.
Find out about upcoming events here.

Christopher James – Artist's On Art


Alternative process master Christopher James speaks in this in-depth conversation.
“The salted paper process is unpretentious, low in acidity, with hints of pencil lead and musty cork and intense spicy aromas of cinnamon, beach plum, and low tide. It has an “old world” nose and often pampers the optical palate with a touch as light as a feather. A perfect salt print has shades of aubergine and is delicate, subtle, understated, and prized for its shyness.
The kallitype is a muscular and exuberant process possessing, upon first impression, a rich, briary, saddle leather, and full bodied character that would pair well with sardines or fried clams. It is so black it even tastes tarry. But if the intensity of the blackness borders on too severe, it redeems itself with textural finesse. Often mistaken for platinum, the kallitype has a reputation for yellowing in its highlights, a condition that can be rectified by developing it in a soothing blend of sodium acetate and ammonium citrate.
The anthotype is a charming and organic process that celebrates all of the components of a great honeymoon… flowers, alcohol, and long exposures to sunlight. It is a fragrant and aromatic process that is chemical free, magical, and yields a romantic and diffused image that Pre-Raphaelites and grammar school children love.
The gum bichromate process is a mischievous little technique that is renowned for rewarding the playful and patient. Practitioners who indulge in this time consuming exercise are universally pleased with a full throttled and multi-chromatic runway to creative adventure. Gum prints are dense, chewy, and robust and improve with age. When they have reached their perfect end, they are loaded with opulent, even unctuous layers of fruity coloration, and a huge bouquet with a plump, luxurious, texture that is quite decadent.”
Read the full conversation here.
Read this month’s issue of Camera Arts and see a portfolio of Chris’ work.
Find out more about Chris here.
Find his new book here.
Sign up for Insights and get previews of upcoming conversations here.

Making The Visual Verbal – Creativity


It’s a privilege to be invited to guest post on Scott Kelby’s blog. Vincent Versace and Joe McNally contributed excellent first and second guest Wednesday installments. Mine’s the third.
I’m hoping guest blogging becomes an industry trend. I’ve already got several invites out to select colleagues who will join me here on my blog and I’ll join them on theirs! So be on the look out for more guest blogging!
The title of my guest post is Making the Visual Verbal. Do you think pictures should be seen and not heard? If so, you’re half right and half wrong. Commentary is no substitute for an image. Sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words. But, there are times and places for commenting on images. In fact, often words and pictures can complement each other synergistically to create a total effect greater than the sum of the parts. And, there are many different ways of making useful comments. Find out how and when in this essay.
Read the full post on Scott Kelby’s blog Photoshop Insider.
Download my related PDF on making Artists Statements here.
Read many of my Artist Statements here.
Hear me talk about my work here.
Remember to set up your RSS feed for automatic alerts on new posts for both Scott Kelby’s and John Paul Caponigro’s blog.

Nocturne XII – Statement


This was originally written this for my book Adobe Photoshop Master Class. There’s much more to say about this image. That’s as it should be. Words work best when they open doors, not when they shut them.
I had been pursuing seascapes, studies in proportion and color, visual equivalents of music: sonatas, preludes, etudes, and variations. It was time for a nocturne.
Generally my preliminary studies, in pastel, contain only a little variation. They match two tones and two colors. This helps strip the image down to its bare essentials making visible the dominant relationship without a great deal of distracting variation. Everything is played against those two notes. They set the key of the piece. Proportion is critical.
In Nocturne xii, detail is equally important. The tiny points of light that shimmered across the water looked like stars in the sky. While the stars in the sky moved so slowly that they looked still, these came and went in the wink of an eye. There are two different senses of time at work here. Both are brought to the same time, the unchanging time of this image. The stars in the sky are separated by vast distances, while the points of light on the surface of the water are all held on a single plane. One is deep, the other flat. If you see the surface of the atmosphere, you can’t see the stars, while if you can’t see the surface of the water, the starry reflections disappear. Surfaces reveal and conceal.
They say we can’t see color at night. By comparison to day, I suppose that’s true. However, if there’s a significant amount of light, there are wonderful colors to be found at night.
Many people don’t consider black or white to be colors. It’s true that a pure black has no bias toward one hue or another. It’s also true that every hue shares something in common with every other hue; they coalesce around a scale of brightness (dark to light). Some consider black a color for color is what we see. Aside from the one pure black, there are many blacks that have subtle tints of one hue or another. Each has a character all its own.
I’ve been interested in making images of night for some time. My initial efforts with paint were frustrating. I couldn’t see the image and the subject at the same time. This forced me to paint from memory. This is an attempt to make a photograph from memory. A traditional photograph would not have rendered the night as I experience it. If I had made this image from an exposure at night, the waves would likely have turned to mist. The long exposure needed would render the water as pure motion. Like my preliminary studies, there would be a definite horizon line but little detail. It would be soft but not still.
Rather than deferring to the vision of the camera eye, I’m now able to render either what my eye has seen or what my mind’s eye can envision.
Read more Statements here.
See more images here.