Today we experienced the class participants assignments. The assignment was “extend the photograph”. “What?” we all asked on Monday? Sean cited past examples. Polaroids were positioned throughout a space (the space we were holding class in – one of the Polaroids was still in position next to the Exit sign years later) inviting viewers to search the area carefully. A viewing device was directed toward a scene and when used a composition of an orange in the tree was revealed out of the chaos of the total background. A flashlight illuminated a patch of gravel while audio played of footsteps running for minutes and then abruptly stopping, referencing a rape in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was so open ended, we struggled with the assignment all week. That means we all came up with more ideas than we actually executed. It was a great assignment.

What happened this year? Here are a few highlights.

Jeanne Reilly constructed an accordion display of the Center for Maine Contemporary Artists exhibition space.

Elizabeth Opalenik constructed a book shelf, part photograph and part found objects, inviting the viewer to interact with the piece.

Alison Shaw created two pieces – a dyptich of prints of water submerged in water and rephotographed and a group of 9 atmospheric nautical images presented in a grid.

Sean Harrison filled an old doctor’s bag with eggs and photographs, collecting ideas.

Tara Law performed a candlelight reading of her writing sitting on lace beside one of her photographs.

Virginia Hastings created a trail of clothes leading to her performance piece, silently reading a magazine in her slip and curlers in the bathroom below a postcard of Marilynn Monroe.

Maria asked us to partner up, one person the photographer and the other the camera leading them blind to a composition of our choosing before asking them to “make the exposure” with our eyes. Along the way we searched for her installations.

Jay Maisel presented a stream of consciousness slideshow.

Greg Heisler made two 20×24 prints with guides to view them at a specific distance to intensify the impression of space within them.

Arduina Caponigro constructed a manageable landscape of white sands made of salt in a pinhole camera with varying tops to control the light and tiny rakes to change the dunes.

Dee Pepe created an altar installation in a dark room with smoke and candles referencing the burning of her mother’s home.

Russell Kaye did a performance piece around the theme of moving, with boxes of photographs and film, destroying some of them in the process.

Sandra Lee Phipps first displayed environmental self-portraits dressed in orange and then left the building to release orange balloons in an orange cloak symbolically releasing a self-image.

People let go in many ways.

What did I do?

The idea struck me immediately on Monday when we got the assignment. It was a breakthrough moment. I got confirmation that the idea was good when I tested it at home on Thursday night in the open air. The response of the other participants further confirmed my impressions. What I did for the assignment wasn’t just an experiment. It’s a new mode for my work that I’ll start presenting this summer.

I projected one of my images of a sunbow in a dark room so that you couldn’t see the image. Then I invited viewers to find and help create the image by scattering flour in the air, which created a moving 3 dimensional screen. The still two dimensional image became a moving three dimensional image. A point became a line. A circle became a cylinder. Pieces were always missing but the mind completes the unfinished. The angle of view changes the appearance dramatically.

How did I come up with this? Mix part Milton, part Speed Racer, part scientific diagrams, part Richard Serra, part James Turrell, and a lot of the work that I’m doing now. The experiment really worked for me. I’ve been wanting to do environmental sculpture for over a decade. This is practical and timely. I’ll post video of one or more on site installations on YouTube during my summer exhibition open studio event (August 2 – 3).

The big message I got? Just get started!

Stay tuned!

Check out Sean’s blog entries on the class here.

Check out fellow participant Russell Kaye’s blog here

Who’s Sean Kernan? Find out here.

Read my in depth conversation with Sean here.

Read Sean interviewing me here

Check out my creativity workshop here.
Check out Sean’s creativity workshops here.

You can take Sean’s workshop at MMW this summer!

After meditation. After making marks with Japanese ink. More movement exercises. Free form modern dance improvisations.

We did a lot of distributing weight between partners – leaning, pulling, propping, lifting. For me, the most interesting was an exercise where we paired up. One person was the ‘sculptor’. The other person was the ‘clay’. The sculptor moves the other clay’s body into position with the corresponding body part – i.e. to move an elbow move it with an elbow. The flowing shapes were fascinating. At the end, Sean asked us to stop. And then asked the clay to walk away while the sculptor held the position. The shape of the sculptor was as expressive as the shape of the clay. You could see the missing clay in the void left behind.

Today was challenging. My flow in the first two days was excellent. I struggled more today. Trying to see how this relates to photography is a real stretch. Trying to see how I’ll apply it in teaching is less of a stretch. It’s good for team building. It’s good for improvisation. It’s good for shifting gears. It’s very collaborative. So how does an artist working in isolation with inanimate objects work this into his or her process?

My interpretation of what Sean is leading us to is that when we let go of convention (aculturated habitual responses – a language) and ego (our individual constructs for dealing with convention and society) we get down to an inner core (often unexpressed or highly filtered). This emptiness is full of potential. If you trust the process and just keep going, authentic responses emerge naturally.

We had a great breakout discussion at the end of the day. I learned a lot about Sean and his orientation to photography and other disciplines. It’s pretty courageous to consider giving up photography in order to seek a more authentic response in another medium like writing a novel, which he did temporarily. It’s pretty honest to respond, when asked by a publisher for 60 to 100 images, that, after a long career in photography, he has trouble finding more than 40 of his own images that really hit the mark for him. Those images still provoke a shift in consciousness.

So what do you do after a long day? Go drinking! My family (my wife, son, father)(and my assistant David Wright) had dinner with Sean Kernan, Jay Maisel, Greg Heisler. Afterwards, Jay and Greg came down to my studio and we drank wine and talked long into the night. It’s not surprising to find that we’re all our own worst critics. That’s good, as long as we don’t carry it too far.

Check out Sean’s blog entries on the class here.

Check out fellow participant Russell Kaye’s blog here

Who’s Sean Kernan? Find out here.

Read my in depth conversation with Sean here.

Read Sean interviewing me here
Check out Sean’s creativity workshops here.
Check out my creativity workshop here.

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.


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