All Things Photography: Episode Ten: absolute circularity pinky adams

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This episode marks the spot, that's for sure! What spot? One spot is I had to adjust the size of the font in the episode's logo spot — how is that for starters? Just wait until I hit 99,999 episodes! Then I'll be in a real spot. But, being the procrastinator that I am, I'll put that off for another day. (Typical.)

Moving the Goal Post

Does photography have a purpose? Yes. A singular, posted, purpose? Gosh, no. These questions, and more — about photography as art, as commerce, as reality — arose in the very earliest days of the technology, to a point in the first decade of the 20th century that a group of photographers "seceded" from the prevailing view of the role of photography. Of course, that meant they were touting their own view of that role as the proper one, and they had no more legitimacy as arbiters of the role of photography than anyone else, but they had passion. And talent.

The leader of that, frankly, misguided secessionist movement was Alfred Stieglitz. I don't mention him in the audio because, although he was a very talented photographer, he's not the only voice to have risen, in now nearly two centuries of the technology, to declare some absolute function or role for photography. But there is no absolute — there is just the tool, photography, and you do with it whatever you want. And, thanks to digital technology, you can do it posthaste!

Alfred Stieglitz, founder of the Secessionist Movement. Photo by Gertrude Käsebier

Why Stop at Six?

The publishing company LensWork has worked for nearly a quarter century gathering and sharing the work of photographers through their periodicals that share the name, LensWork. Each issue features four to six photographers, represented by 12 to 20 images apiece, plus accompanying text. It's a great undertaking, but the editors, Brooks Jensen and Maureen Gallagher, felt an urge that resulted in a project they called "Seeing in SIXES." Fifty photographers represented by six images each, with just an introduction by Mr. Jensen and text as supplied — as much or as little as they chose — by the photographers.

Why stop at six, you ask (and I subtitled this section)? "A Seeing in SIXES project is a compact expression of a single nature, possibly a story, definitely a theme, held together stylistically, and making a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts: tight, distilled to the essentials, impactful, deeper than what is possible with a single image." Thus spake Brooks Jensen! (Well, thus wrote Brooks Jensen, but "spake" sounds so much more monumental, right? And despite clocking in at just 8 x 9 inches, and 312 pages, it feels surprisingly monumental.)

They repeated the project in 2017 (the issue I review in the audio) and you can buy that volume, on sale now, for $30 — just in time for the holidays. That's $5 off its regular price. But why stop at 2017? You can buy their first, the 2016, edition for the same sale price. Or, why stop at just one? You can buy them both for $50 — a full $20 off their individual, regular, prices! (Of course, prices are subject to change, but appear to be good through to the end of 2017.)

Check them out further, or purchase them, via this link. Or visit LensWork to see all of their publications and products.

The Photographer Opts for Options

Rebecca Everett might strike you as a pleasant, competent photographer that shoots weddings in sorta-nowheresville Illinois. Sure, the denizens of nowheresville prefer I either use their town's names, or don't bother coming back, ever, buddy! But unless you know where Marseilles, Ill., is located, you'll probably never stumble onto it. (Though, it is a nice little town — and they even carry hummus in the supermarket, so…)

Back to Rebecca! She is pleasant, and she did shoot a wedding at my request, in Marseilles or one of its suburbs (hah!), but she's more than competent — she's highly trained and highly experienced, and it was only by my good fortune of marrying into the right family that she came to my rescue for that event. Then, as I was in Marseilles again, recently, I arranged for a sit-down with her.

So, listen in as Rebecca tells me of her childhood on the east coast, early life in the midwest, training in the west, and employment in the northwest. Plus all the twists and turns and surprise changes in not just geographical, but mental, directions she took. And she hasn't exhausted her options yet!

Rebecca Everett. Photo by Rebecca Everett.

You can contact her by email via purephotobyrebecca@gmail.com, or look for her soon-to-be-updated web page purephotobyrebeccalyn.com

A sad postscript: Rebecca recalled after we stopped recording that her grandmother Carol Tibbetts was a model in the first half of the 20th century — here are a couple photos of the woman, who Rebecca names as an inspiration to her — but Mrs. Tibbetts passed away just a day or two after my conversation with Rebecca. May she rest in peace.

Two photos of Carol Tibbetts, whose name as a model was Tobi Todd, grandmother to Rebecca Everett. Photos are by unknown.

Focus on the Pots, Not the Kettle

We're so used to focusing on the subject of our image that we might not be properly, appropriately, taking the background (or foreground) into consideration. To help us better appreciate that which we should not be ignoring, I suggest you compose photos with the focus on something other than the subject. You might or might not get a usable photo with this technique, but at least as an exercise it can help you, and me, see beyond the obvious. Movies are more immersive with surround sound — the same is true for photography, but you have to do it on purpose.

Someone's discarded lounger becomes fodder for my camera, but I focused on the mountains rather than the chair. The "subject" is still identifiable, and the composition helps draw your eye to the furniture by framing it in colors and shapes.

Even without the clear identity of the burger joint, we can appreciate the composition, focused as we are on the window frame in the foreground.

This pair of images begs the question: which of these would represent the intended final image. In this case, I vote for the one on the left because the image on the right has lots of little details which are more distracting than interesting. By putting it out of focus, we reduce those distractions. Maybe shooting just the one on the right would have felt fine, but in comparison, by reversing what was in focus, we see the wisdom of choosing wisely. (Now that is some circular reasoning, right there!)

The X Down Under

"Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field." Anglo/Australian photographer Peter Adams comes off as a bit curmudgeonly with this quote, and with the others I share. But maybe he was just being direct, a trait I expect from Australians. Then again, that "Anglo" part is because he was born and raised in London, where I expect a more circumspect approach. In that case, my expectations were not met.

He worked in both Britain and Australia, back and forth a bit actually, but in the end I think he probably considered himself an Aussie and was a proud member of their photographic fraternity.

My impression, again, is photographers in Australia are, indeed, more of a fraternity. But this photo of Adams, one of a large collection of portraits of photographers, was shot by Heide Smith, and used with permission. Click here to see her work.

You can see Peter Adams' work at his web site, including books, and his own collection of portraits of photographers.

Hasta la Bye Bye, XXXXL

In case you don't gesprechen sie Romglish, that means episode ten is outta here! Done. Kaput. Finito. It was fun while it lasted, but there's no resting on my laurels. No moss grows under these, well, I do sit a lot making these things, so maybe I'll just say I've never seen any moss growing around here. Could be the dry climate…

Thank you for reading and listening. And thank you in advance for leaving me questions or comments in the comments section, and if you'll wander on over to iTunes and subscribe, you can leave a rating and a comment over there. I'd sure appreciate it.

13 episodes available. A new episode about every 6 days averaging 84 mins duration .