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colourful stuff

Blue gate with pink flowers

An awful lot of my photography over the last year or two has ended up being black and white.  I never set out to do this – it just sort of happened, largely due to there not being much colour around a lot of the time.  Vivid colour really used to be my thing, and I seem to have become a bit set in my ways with the black and white and find it quite difficult to produce colourful images these days – I’m so tuned into black and white tones that I’m not really seeing the colour any more.  This is something I’m going to work on, and in the meantime I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking and reading about colour and its uses.  I thought I’d share some of the more interesting stuff with you.

Even as a little girl, I understood that one person’s perception of a colour might not be another’s.  There’s good reason why I ended up studying philosophy, and you could easily have spotted the nascent philosopher in me at a very young age, when I went around wondering if the red I saw was the same as the red someone else saw.  This surely isn’t normal for an eight-year-old, and obviously I had no idea how to actually answer that question.  Recently I came across this article on colour dictionaries.  It doesn’t entirely solve this particular problem, because there’s still no way of knowing if the colour you see in the dictionary looks the same as the one I see, but it does provide a means for figuring out if the thing you saw was the same colour as the thing I saw (even if we saw the colour differently – I hope you’re following).  For example, colour dictionaries were used for bird identification and even to catalogue things like chrysanthemums. The modern version of the colour dictionary is Pantone’s colour chart, which is used by graphic designers, the fashion industry, interior designers, and anyone who is anyone in the creative world.  And if you’re interested, Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2017 is Greenery, a rather pleasant mid-green – according to Pantone it’s a ‘life-affirming shade……emblematic of the pursuit of personal passions and vitality’.  Well, there you go.

Orange roses, macro

I love to use a lot of colour in my home, and our walls are painted various shades of terracotta, aqua blue, coral, green (a bit brighter than the Pantone colour above) and scarlet.  When we moved into this house, what is now our snug was painted a kind of dull mushroom brown.  The room gets very little natural light due to an extension on the back of it and I found it really quite depressing to be in.  I pondered over what to do with it – it was never going to be a light and bright room whatever colour it was painted, so I reckoned we should work with it and do what we could to make it feel warm and cosy.  I’d seen a colour I loved but didn’t know where I could use it.  It was a warm, deep coral and I had a little tester pot to hand.  One day I couldn’t stand it any more and I whipped it out and painted the chimney breast.  I loved it.  In the end we decided to go all out and painted all four walls this colour.  You can see the result below.  Everyone says they really like it, although there’s always a second or two of shock when they walk in.

The snug

And if you think this is a bit tame and you’d prefer a tad more colour in a house, try this one.  I think that’s more than I could live with myself, but I love its happy, cheerful spirit.

Adult colouring books are the thing at the moment, but the MapYourProgress site has a whole new take on them.  They supply Creative Progress Maps – each black and white picture is made up of ‘swirls’ that represent steps towards your goal, and you colour in each swirl as you achieve that step.  You might use them to record your progress in paying off a debt, losing weight, moving closer to an important date, or anything that’s measurable in small increments. This really appeals to the child in me, although most of the things I want to achieve don’t lend themselves to such uniform incremental steps, but I guess I could allow myself the pleasure of colouring in a few swirls every time I take a step forward.

The film director Derek Jarman once wrote a book called Chroma which is, as you might guess, about colour.  It’s a strange book because it mostly consists of him free-associating around one colour at a time, with scraps of proverb, myth, legend, facts, and autobiography thrown in.  I didn’t think I’d finish it, because there’s no real story, no plot, no feeling of getting anywhere, but it’s strangely compelling to read.  It’s made all the more moving by the fact of Jarman’s growing blindness as he wrote it.  Jarman is famous for his film Blue, which showed only a single shot of a vivid blue colour, accompanied by a soundtrack describing his life and vision.  He was already partially blind when he made it.

Something I’d never thought about much is the role that colour plays in writing.  It’s true that I’d always liked Tennyson because he uses colour so much and so well in his poetry – he paints a scene with so much sensual detail that you feel as if you’re there and can forgive him for his rather Victorian sentiment – but I hadn’t considered using colour in a more metaphorical way when it comes to writing.  Then I came across this blog post from Cigdem Kobu where she interviews Monika Cleo Sakki, who has this to say:

‘Another way to “write with color,” is to be guided by the energy of a color. To embody it in the way you write, the style you go about it, and the atmosphere you create.

Let’s say you want to write with a fiery Red: Write fast. Seek action. Introduce a major event upfront. Use short sentences and to the point. Tempo. Momentum. State bold opinions. Strike taboo subjects and daring concepts. Include blood, speed, sweat, or tears.

And of course, color can be a source of inspiration. What stories come to your mind when you think of Blue? Or Brown? As themes?’

And also:

‘One of the most important things when it comes to design is to choose your palette. A limited palette, that is. Of course you can decide to go rainbowy and all, but then you dilute the power of each color, and the bounty of colors becomes your one color, one message, one mood.

So, when you start to write, ask yourself, “What is the leading color of this scene/feeling/memory and so on”? Your answer will intensify how you see scene/feeling/memory and how you make it come alive, even without using one word that describes a color… It’s like your secret weapon!’

Sunset, with tree branches

And finally, I’ve got some photographers for you who really know how to rock it in terms of colour.  The first is Floto+Warner, who produced their incredible Splash of Colour series.  They froze the action of colourful paint as it was thrown/projected into the air, and refer to the results as ‘floating sculptural events’.  Quite spectacular.

The second  photographer is Ursula Abrecht, whose work I came across and immediately loved some time ago.  Her images are highly abstract landscapes dissolving into soft swathes and swirls of gorgeous, luscious colour.  Lately she’s applied the same techniques to shots of modern architecture, with interesting results, and some of her flower images are exquisite, but my real love is for her colourful landscapes.  I hadn’t realised till I went and had another look at her site that you can buy prints of her images for very reasonable prices – eg, an A4 print for £11.  All I have to do now is decide which one……….

‘Colour is joy.’     Ernst Haas

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a photographer’s miscellany

Reflection on River Trent, NewarkLots of bits and pieces this week, plus a few images that I like with but about which I don’t have a great deal to say.  To start with the images, they were taken by the road bridge over the River Trent in Newark where, on a sunny day, there’s a reflection in the water of the metal posts that fence the road up above.  When the ducks swim through it the reflections get swirled around and this zebra effect is created.  This appeals to me greatly, and that’s really all there is to to say………….

We visited Connected 2016 this weekend, an annual photography exhibition which is on at Patchings Art Centre in Notts till May 21st.  I would have been going anyway, but when I saw the poster advertising it I realised that a photographer whose work I’ve been following for a while was going to be giving a talk at the Launch Event, so that made it an absolute must.  If you haven’t come across Vanda Ralevska, she creates wonderful and very individual images and is currently doing a 366 project on her blog.  I find it hard enough doing my rather more modest 52 Trees project, and how she manages to maintain such a high standard on a daily basis, I really don’t know. I got to meet Vanda, who is a very lovely lady, and her talk was excellent – funny, fresh, interesting and hugely enjoyable.  There was also a talk by Guy Aubertin, who himself creates beautiful landscape photos.  If you’re in the area a visit to the exhibition is well worth it – the standard is high, and the work varied.

I’ve been interested for a long time in methods for teaching the creative side of photography, and Sean Kernan’s approach is unusual, to say the least.  He uses theatrical exercises to give people the experience of cultivating awareness without analysis,  and the exercise in the video below (which has a number of professional dancers taking part) is a lot of fun to watch.

Alison_Sean class from Sean Kernan on Vimeo.

Kernan is also an amazing photographer and well worth checking out.  I came to his work through his still life series Secret Books, which were like nothing I’d ever seen before.

The video above reminds me of reading John Daido Loori’s account of going on a workshop in 1980 with Minor White – someone well known for his unorthodox photographic teaching methods.  Students were expected to get up at 4.00am and participate in dance and meditation exercises, and were often not allowed to pick up their cameras till after a day or two of this had passed.  Loori, at the time, thought this was ridiculous and nearly stormed out; however he was persuaded to stay and came to see the value in White’s approach by the time he finished the workshop.  You can read his account of this in The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life.

Moving on, I came across an article called Why Typical Preschool Crafts are a Total Waste of Time.  The main thrust of the article is that these crafts are both too ‘ready-made’ and thus about as creative as painting by numbers, and more importantly, that they put too much emphasis on the end product rather than the process.  By doing this, the article claims, we’re indoctrinating young children in the belief that you must have something to show for any time you spend on creative pursuits.  There’s a parallel here in that so much emphasis is put on the images we manage to ‘capture’ and not enough on what the process of photographing does for us in itself.  After all, even if you don’t catch a fish, going fishing can still be rewarding.

As someone who can procrastinate with the best of them, I really liked this article’s take on how to use it to your advantage, and found it quite amusing:  ‘All procrastinators put off things they have to do.  Structured Procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you.’

The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.

I have never kept a photography sketchbook.  We were encouraged to do this when I was studying photography, but a blog was thought to be an acceptable alternative.  I kept the blog, which has morphed into the one you’re reading now, but I’m wondering if I’ve missed a trick in not keeping a more tangible and less public sketchbook where I could explore ideas and keep a record of them.  These examples of photography students’ sketchbooks make me want to join in.

One of the first books I read that introduced me to the idea that photography was about a whole lot more than the camera, was Freeman Patterson’s Photography and the Art of Seeing.  I loved this book, still re-read it regularly, and think it should probably be required reading for every photographer.  This interview with Patterson is long and dates back a bit, but well worth reading through to the end.  Patterson is another person whose photography teaching goes far beyond the usual ‘this is how your camera works’ style of classes.  Here he is, talking about the kind of assignments he gives to his students, each one individually designed for that particular student:

…..one person might be given a white sheet and asked to photograph it as a landscape; somebody else might be given the topic ‘outer space’.  We don’t care how they deal with it.  Someone else might be given a colourful shirt and told to photograph it, but only in water.  One of my favourite assignments, and I’ve only given it two or three times, is the Joseph Campbell quote “the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are”.  We gave it to a guy this week from near Chicago and it was just one of those intuitive things.  We could tell this guy was experiencing a period of real personal liberation, and he really carried that assignment off, it was beautiful to see what he did.

And on that note, I leave you with some more zebra-patterned water:

Reflections, River Trent, Newark

Zebra stripe reflections, River Trent, Newark

Zebra stripe reflections, River Trent, Newark

What it looked like before the ducks swam through:

Reflections, River Trent, Newark

 

 

A photographer’s miscellany

Swan reflection, River Trent, NewarkSwan on the River Trent

Another collection of interesting links I’ve come across lately.  No linking theme, not all photography – just anything that caught my interest or my eye.

On Being an Unemployed Arts GraduateThe unemployment of arts graduates is shameful and unnecessary because culture has answers and highly useful consolations to the urgent dilemmas of real people. We just need to get these insights out, package them properly, and commercialise them adequately, so that the armies of people currently serving coffee can put their minds to proper use.” The humanities are a ‘a storehouse of vitally important knowledge about how to lead our lives‘ and instead of universities consisting of departments like History or Literature, they should have instead ‘a Department for Relationships, an Institute of Dying and a Centre for Self-Knowledge’.  An interesting take on how the arts should be put to use to benefit society.

The Book Barge – one of my recurring daydreams has been to kit out a narrowboat as a bookshop and spend my life touring round the canals selling books.  This lady has actually done it.

Michael Pederson’s street art – humorous signs that make you think.

Embracing the night – Jeanette Winterson, writing in the Guardian on why winter darkness is to be welcomed rather than dreaded.

Creative photography ideas – a lot of these are mixed media and most are very ‘studenty’, but for all that there are some very fresh and interesting ideas here that could be taken and adapted.

Technicolour landscape paintings – just roads and telegraph poles, but the colours are wonderful.  Impossible not to smile when you look at these.

Natural media – the rise of ecologically sound advertising that uses natural materials like water, sand, snow, moss, grass, chalk, and milk paint to communicate its message.

Living under a rock – the astonishing Spanish town of  Setenil de las Bodegas, where the buildings huddle underneath huge slabs of overhanging rock.

The Art of Homemaking in a Dugout – a different take on life in the trenches during WW1.  Photos showing how soldiers (although just the officers, I should think) domesticated and decorated their dugouts.

Philip J Brittan – some very unusual and colourful landscape photography.  Won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but it shows how there’s still plenty of room for a different take on landscape.

6 Photographers Invited to Photograph One Man – In an experiment carried out by Canon, half a dozen photographers were invited to capture a portrait of a man called Michael.  “On the day of the photoshoot, each artist was told something different about this man. Each photographer was given a different backstory for Michael, being told he’s one of the following: a commercial fisherman, a self-made millionaire, a recovering alcoholic, a man who’s saved a life, an ex-inmate, or a self-proclaimed psychic. In reality, Michael is an actor who took on each of these roles in alignment with what was told to the respective photographer.”  The resulting images are fascinating and show just how much a photograph is shaped by the person behind the camera, as well as by what’s in front of it.

More ‘little people’ photos from Tatsuya Tanaka – some highlights from the miniature worlds created for Tanaka’s Miniature Calendar project.

Finally, just for fun and to bring a smile:

A trip to the spa

Stand-off

 

On photographing the landscape

Wye Valley, walkerLone walker in the Wye Valley – if you can’t see him, click for a larger view!

Another very ‘linky’ post this week, but it demanded to be written! The last week or two has seen a surprising number of landscape-related things land in my inbox.  The first was Geoff Harris’ article on why landscape photography is often so boring and predictable, with hundreds of images all looking much the same.

“It seems as if many enthusiast photographers (and some of the more predictable professionals) have internalised a landscape photography checklist which they feel they always need to follow. First, they head to the coast, or popular beauty spots. Then there needs to be some of kind of rocks or boulders in the foreground to lead in the eye, then the depth of field needs to stretch to infinity.

This is often balanced by water and sea shot at long exposures, so it looks glassy or milky, and heavily filtered skies that look so apocalyptic, you expect the accusing finger of God to point down through the clouds………A layer of HDR varnish is sometimes applied by cruder exponents of this style, or the golden hour colours ‘lysergically’ cranked up in software.”

Harris does concede that this style of photography is not easy – it’s very demanding technically, and sometimes even physically when it entails rising before dawn and walking miles to get to the right spot – but he argues that there’s little personal expression in the resulting images, and there’s a danger that satisfying the technical and compositional requirements becomes an end in itself.  He calls for more originality in landscape photographs.

Harris goes on to talk about an exhibition local to me, in Southwell Minster, called Masters of Light, which he feels transcends the traditional landscape.  I went to this myself a few weeks ago, and was blown away by the quality and originality of the work there.  You can see several examples of it in Harris’ article.  There were seven photographers exhibiting, and although a couple of them were showing a very traditional style of landscape image, these had something that lifted them above the crowd, and they were anything but dull and predictable.  Of the rest, two photographers really pushed the boundaries of photography – Valda Bailey (whose work I love) and Paul Kenny – and the others spanned the spectrum between these extremes.  It was one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen for a long time, and showed beyond doubt that landscape photography can be varied, interesting, and exciting.

One of the participating photographers, Mark Littlejohn, was Landscape Photographer of the Year 2014, winning it with an image of Glencoe that stands apart from the traditional views.  I grew up in Scotland, spent a lot of time in the Highlands, and to me this image ‘says’ Glencoe in a way that the other classic views I’ve seen of it never have – it’s a place of dark rock, grim beauty, and falling water, and most images romanticise it and fail to express the slightly menacing feel of the place.  Littlejohn has written an interesting article for On Landscape online photography magazine that explains his approach to photographing landscape and displays some of his work.  The full article can only be read by subscribing to the magazine, but there’s a fairish chunk of it available free.

A link to this year’s Landscape Photographer of the Year winners then appeared in my inbox.  This has often been a bastion of the traditional landscape view, but I noticed with pleasure that a large number of this year’s winners have moved a long way away from this.  An image by one of my favourite photographers – Caroline Fraser – was included in the top 101, and it’s a double exposure which is wonderfully unlike the sort of thing we’ve come to expect.  She’s written a blog post telling the story of how it came about.

Sarah Merino has compiled a list of 200+ women landscape and nature photographers.  Female landscape photographers, on the whole, would much prefer to be known as landscape photographers who just happen to be women, and whose work is assessed on its own merit, but it’s a fact that women are under-represented at the top levels in this field.  Some of this may be the common female reluctance to push ourselves forward, but there’s almost certainly more to it than that.  (You can read more about this under-representation in Merino’s article, along with her reasons for compiling the list.)

It takes a lot of time to work your way through more than two hundred links.  I’ve been doing it in chunks since I received the article, and still have many to go.  I thought it might be a nice idea to sift out the photographers that stand out for me, and give links to a few at a time over the course of the next few weeks.  I’ll make a start at the end of this post.

Finally, I’ve just come across another couple of events featuring women in photography.  The Tate is holding a conference in November entitled Fast Forward: Women in Photography which ‘explores the complex and dynamic evolution of the history of women in photography, from early commercial practices, to the impact of World War II on women and their work, to reframing the role of the archive’.  And the Oxo Tower in London is holding an exhibition called Mistresses of Light – I do feel it could have been better titled, but it features some of the best and most interesting female landscape photographers around.  It runs from 9th-13th September and if I could get there, I would.

 

200+ Women Landscape Photographers – a selection from Sarah Merino’s list

This is a very personal selection which won’t reflect everyone’s tastes.  Everyone on the 200+ list is worth looking at and many of the photographers not featured here are masters of their craft.  I had to sift through them somehow, however, so I dismissed most of the more traditional approaches to photography because they don’t interest me greatly, although I did include a small number that I felt really stood out.  I also left out all the nature photographers because, although I love watching wildlife, I don’t particularly enjoy photographs of it.  On the whole, I was looking for something different and something with a very individual voice – images with which I felt I’d like to spend some time.  Over the next weeks I’ll link to a small number of photographers at a time and hope you’ll follow the links and have a look round.

Jennifer Adler – Adler’s subject matter is unusual: underwater photographs taken in mainly freshwater sites.  I particularly like her Rain gallery, in which you find yourself looking up from underneath at the rain on the water.  These are a cut above other underwater photographs I’ve seen, and show a very individual approach.

Valda Bailey – Valda has to be one of the most original photo artists I’ve come across.  She uses intentional camera movement and multiple exposures to create multi-layered, textured images that are quite unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.  Her work is (quite literally) darker than I usually like, but it’s so striking that it doesn’t matter.  She pushes photography to its limits and beyond.

Sandra Bartocha – Bartocha’s work is much closer to the traditional idea of landscape photography, but it stands out from the usual.  Her light, delicate images have an appealing ethereality about them, and in places she makes use of interesting techniques and perspectives.  Her Pflanzen gallery – macro flowers – is particularly lovely.

 

 

A photographer’s miscellany

Red and yellow dahlia

It’s a funny month, August – the summer equivalent of late December, when nothing much seems to be happening and lots of people are on holiday, or at least not working.  It has that air of waiting for things to restart again.  Whatever it is, I’m struggling to find the motivation to write.  There doesn’t seem to be anything I particularly want to say, which is a bit of a novelty for me, so I thought I’d offer some links to other people who do have something to say.  There’s no rationale, or linking theme – just a collection of interesting things I’ve come across lately.

First off, this article on the creative brain includes a lovely quote about creativity from John Cleese:

The idea is that your creativity acts like a tortoise—poking its head out nervously to see if the environment is safe before it fully emerges. Thus, you need to create a tortoise enclosure—an oasis amongst the craziness of modern life—to be a safe haven where your creativity can emerge.

From How Our Brains Work When We’re Creative: the Science of Great Ideas.  Lots more good stuff in here.

These amazing and quite surreal mirror installations:

Mirror installations by Shirin Abedinirad reflect the sky in stairs and desert dunes

The inimitable Patti Digh on how and why we play small:

Patti Digh: The Roar Sessions

Life lessons from the past – want to know how to sweet talk your lady (1656), how to leave a party (c1200), or how to avoid the plague (1759)?  It’s all here:

Top 10 life lessons from books of the past

Amazing photographs of colour splashes:

A splash of colour

Ruskin on why you should stop taking pictures and learn to draw (both article link, and video, below).  I do wonder if Ruskin might have been less dismissive of photography if it was of the contemplative kind.

On the importance of drawing

If you love trees, you’ll love these:

20 of the World’s Most Beautiful Tree Tunnels

Why do you choose the passwords you do?  There’s a lot more to passwords than meets the eye – read all about it in this fascinating New York Times article:

The Secret Life of Passwords

And finally, I’ve always been a great fan of Slinkachu’s Little People in the City, so photographer Kurt Moses’ images of tiny people in majestic settings tick a lot of my boxes:

13 Miniatures Bravely Exploring the Great (Big) Outdoors

 

 

A photographer’s miscellany

Waves and pebbles, Sandwich Bay, KentPebbles and waves, Sandwich Bay, Kent

Every so often I like to post a collection of links to interesting/curious/quirky/useful stuff I’ve come across on the internet.  A lot of it isn’t directly about photography, although I think photography is about life and therefore most things relate to it in some way.  I’m using that as an excuse, anyway, to introduce a few interesting things that are normally outside the scope of what I write about.

Taking pictures without judgement – nice article by Kimberley Poppe.

The Granny Graffiti Gang – love this one! – an initiative set up in Lisbon, Portugal, is providing street art workshops for the elderly, in an attempt to bridge the gap between the generations.  These senior citizens are now busy with their spray cans, brightening up rundown and neglected parts of town.

Perpetual whirlpool of black water – set into a gallery floor by sculptor Anish Kapoor , this apparently bottomless hole contains a vortex of black water, churning and frothing as it swirls.  Quite ominous, but somehow mesmerising.

What is your purpose? – David Brooks, of the New York Times, asked readers to write to him about how they found their purpose in life.  A selection of the letters are published here and make interesting reading.

Water Colours – Toshio Shibata’s gorgeous pictures of water interacting with man-made structures.

Empathy cards – Emily McDowell, an ex-cancer patient, has designed the kind of cards she’d like to have received when was having treatment.  She says:

“The most difficult part of my illness wasn’t losing my hair, or being erroneously called ‘sir’ by Starbucks baristas, or sickness from chemo, it was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didn’t know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realizing it.”

The Souls of Dolls – I’ve always found something very eerie and quite disturbing about dolls.  I never liked them, even as a child – I think probably because they look so human in some ways but at the same time obviously aren’t.  This collection of photos of old and battered dolls from Fabienne Rolland offers a very disturbing take on this feeling.  I was both repelled and fascinated.

Colour Blindness Simulator – have you ever wondered what your photos would look like to someone with colour blindness?  This simulator lets you upload your own photos and select a colour blindness condition.  It will then show you how your photos would appear to someone suffering from it.

Weird and wonderful bookshops worldwide – I’d love to visit some of these!  I have a little fantasy myself of turning a narrowboat into a bookshop and cruising the canals selling books.

Forest Landscapes with stars and smoke – Ellie Davies creates magical forest shots by combining straight photos with galaxies of stars and curls of smoke.  I think you’ll love these – they look like something from a fairytale.

60 tiny love stories to make you smile – I think I may have posted this link before, but it’s worth doing it again.  Small, true, heartwarming stories that make you feel the world’s a good place to be.

The Magic Button – click and it makes everything OK.

 

A photographer’s miscellany, for your delectation and delight

She is too fondLouisa May Alcott

This quote always makes me smile – could easily be said about me (and has been).

I’m at a little bit of an impasse with my photography right now, and last week’s post was on the deep side, so I thought this time that I’d just share with you some enjoyable web links that have found their way to me in the last week or two.  They’re not all about photography, but then, neither am I 🙂

Most of my creativity at the moment is going into cooking. We’ve had a change of lifestyle and diet since Geoff was diagnosed diabetic – which, incidentally, has led to both of us losing weight without even trying – and my current passion is for Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks.  They’re full of gorgeous pictures of mouth-watering, Middle-Eastern-style meals, most of which I’ll never make but which often act as a springboard for combining certain flavours and textures.  So I was interested when I saw this link to an article called The Pleasures of Reading Recipes, which is largely a review of a book by William Sitwell called A History of Food in 100 Recipes.  The book sounds fascinating, but the article itself is also worth reading, not least for this quote:

Buttered toast is notorious for landing buttered-side down. Likewise, it is said that a cat “if dropped, always lands on its feet.” So, Sitwell asks, “what happens if you tie a slice of buttered toast to the cat’s back? When the cat is dropped, will the two opposing forces of butter and feet cause the cat to hover?”

I’ve been giggling at the thought of this all morning.

If you asked me to name one of my all-time favourite photographers from the past, it would be Andre Kertesz. 10 Lessons Andre Kertesz Has Taught Me About Street Photography is not only an interesting read in its own right, but contains some of my very favourite Kertesz shots.  At the end of the article you’ll also find several videos from a BBC programme about Kertesz.  Haven’t had time to watch them yet, but I’m looking forward to doing so.

Do you use mind maps? I use them all the time, especially for brainstorming new ideas, but I’ve always been slightly intimidated by the beautifully artistic mind maps some people seem to produce.  My own are quite messy and don’t have pictures in them because it would take me far too long if I had to start drawing things.  They are definitely not works of art, but purely practical things that are of no interest to anyone but me.  I do like a pretty mind map, though, so I found this gallery of mind map art rather fascinating and very impressive.

Another blog post made me revisit a photo essay I’ve loved for a long time – Philip Toledano’s Days With My Father I’m not a great one for portraiture, or social documentary, but I find this photographic essay about the last three years of Toledano’s father’s life both extremely touching and, in places, very funny.  It’s the most wonderful memorial to one man’s final few years and the love his son has for him.

I’m always bookmarking the websites of photographers that I find online, and I tend to acquire huge lists of bookmarks that I never get round to going back to.  One of the ones I have revisited lately is that of Sean Kernan.  I particularly like his Secret Books portfolio, in part because I love books and would like to come up with an interesting way of using them in photographs, and partly because these are often quite black, with an ominous quality to them which is miles away from anything pretty-pretty but has its own particular dark beauty.  If you’re intrigued by the Secret Books portfolio, take a moment or two and click on the tab that takes you to Kernan’s writing.  You’ll find there an introduction to the Secret Books images and how he was influenced – without knowing it, to begin with – by Borges’ writing.  Here’s a small extract:

One day during this time I was hanging around my studio with nothing much to do, cleaning up in a desultory way (the only way I ever clean). There was an old book out on a table. I went to put it away, but instead I just opened it and gazed. I looked at the way the sharp metal type cut into the paper, at the blooms of foxing in the margins. I smelled its slight odor of papery rot, caught Latin words here and there and made out that they said something about the spirit and devotion. I stood there for the longest time. The book had stilled me.

On an impulse, I went to the closet where I keep a compost heap of props and got four black stones from a Japanese river. I set them out carefully in a line across the pages of the book. And suddenly it looked to me like…a poem. Or a kind of poem, at least. Maybe a Haiku or something by one of the Imagists, something that didn’t narrate or argue but just placed a few simple things before you and invited you to complete the work. This book with its stones was a pure image, the kind that can move from one mind to another and root there in some mysterious panspermic process. Joining things that didn’t logically go together–Latin meditations and Japanese rivers, black stones and creamy paper–broke apart some notion of what these things should say and set my imagination free to work. I had always wanted my photography to do this, and now I saw this wonderful composition open on the table before me.

I took a picture of this poem. And that was the beginning of these books.

After a while there were enough of them to suggest that they might themselves make a book, and indeed had to be a book. So I began to think about what might be necessary to make this happen. Perhaps it needed the armature of a text, but what that text might be and how it might work to unite the whole wasn’t clear. Then a designer friend, Lana Rigsby, saw the pictures and said they reminded her of Borges.

Kernan had been reading Borges some time before, and instantly saw the connection.  I think this is a good illustration of how we can stumble on something good when we aren’t really looking, and how our stumbling is often a result of things that we’ve absorbed somewhere in the past and that lurk in the corners of our minds, out of awareness.  Do have a look at Kernan’s other portfolios, too I also like his Winter Light portfolio, which is more conventional but which gives a real sense of that cold winter light, and his In Prison series, which contains some strong and powerful images.   I’ve just discovered that Kernan keeps rather a good blog as well.

A while ago I heard about this Random Point Generator. You can enter a placename and specify an area around it and the number of points you want.  Then you hit the Get Random Point(s) button and it will give you both the latitude and longitude of the point(s) and a map of where it is/they are.  I’ve always thought this would be a great photography exercise – generate one or more random points in your locality, go there, and see what you can get from it.  I haven’t tried it yet, and it’s one of those things I always mean to do but will probably never get around to, so I’m handing it to you – if you use it, will you share a link to the results in the comments?

And finally, courtesy of Eileen, a link to this free (until 31st October) software download which will work with Photoshop or Lightroom and also as a standalone program: http://www.dxo.com/intl/sony I’m told there are some very nice colour film presets.

 

A photographer’s miscellany

Reflected woods

I come across so many good things as I move round the internet that I thought I’d do a series of occasional posts on the best of them.  This is the first one.

I love treehouses; I always wanted one but never got it (maybe because we never lived in a house with a garden that had big enough trees).  If you’re like me, satisfy your treehouse craving at ‘inhabitat’ website.  These are beyond anything I could ever have imagined.

This Arty Bollocks Generator made me laugh.

David Peat’s street photography is wonderful – humorous and touching. Although he’d taken thousands of street photos over the years, he’d never had any of them printed or shown bigger than a tiny thumbnail on a contact sheet.  When he was diagnosed with a terminal illness at the age of 64, he started sorting through the negatives and the best are now on show in Scotland.  What a shame it took a life-threatening illness to encourage him to share them with the world.

I loved this post About Fear, The Maze, and Freedom on CopyBlogger.

Paul Octavious creates interesting photos using books.  So does Abelardo Morell and his photographic illustrations for Alice in Wonderland are superb.

Turning to Etsy, this is my camera bag to die for. In fact I love just about everything Janine King does.

And this site has the most amazing street art you’ve ever seen.

I have absolutely no idea how they do this, but this twist on the cutting a person in half’ magic trick is incredible.

For any vegetarians out there, the Eating Well site has some great veggie recipes.

I really like the look of Diffusion: Unconventional Photography magazine.

If you’ve ever needed to find the owner of a Flickr picture you’ve saved, this could be really useful.

And if you’re a woman of a certain age, and have wondered about doing some self-portraits, have a look at Patricia Lay-Dorsey for inspiration (click on Portfolios, and then Falling Into Place).  If she can do it, so can you.

That’s all, folks!