Topic: Series (29 posts) Page 1 of 6

Shirley 4

This is the last post about the new work made in the late winter of 2023. It follows three others, the most recent is: Shirley 3

Looking at this one now, the photograph big on its sheer description of this family business makes me think of an earlier time, perhaps when these tanks and this yard were new. It's easy to build a story around a now older head of the family who started in the heating oil delivery business and it carrying down to his sons and possibly daughters. 

And the last in the series:

A study in "cobbled together", a variety of needs addressed as required over the years. For me, this is about as good as it could get. Many pictures within the overall, details revealed on looking closely. This is the house just to the right of the fuel tanks and clearly home to the family.

The full series is on the site: here.

That closes out my description of the Shirley series. Thank you for coming along.

A note about the blog itself. I've been writing the blog now for over ten years. It has mostly been a labor of love and I have no regrets. It has helped my career in no small way, by serving as a reference and a catalog of much of my work over the years. And, I like to believe it has helped you in your efforts to learn and practice photography. While at times very active with more than one or two posts a week, in more recent years I have written far less. At times, to be truthful, it has felt that perhaps it has run its course. I need to ask for your help here, as subscribers you are my core group. If you would like the blog to carry on, I  need to hear from you.

Just a quick "yes or no" will let me know if you value it. Thank you.

Topics: Series

Permalink | Posted June 6, 2023

Shirley 3

This post follows Shirley 2, about a series of photographs I made this past winter 2023.

Sometimes people criticize my series work for some of the pictures in the series not sustaining the overall tone or intensity of others in the group. I get that, but believe they are not seeing the whole picture, pun intended. Just as in musical composition, there needs to be rhythm and pacing. This picture is one of those, a breather and a setup for what is to follow. As it turns out our frontal empty house had more behind it. We can see that now on the left of the frame. With empty space in the middle, we can see where we are headed on the right, there is the hint of a fuel tank of sorts and a fenced-in propane tank too. Not a stand-alone picture but necessary to link what precedes with what is to come.

Bang! What an insult of a photograph! Very little subtlety, two trucks in your face. Nothing refined, so far from any apparent artistry. Clearly we are no longer up the street at the house Daddy made for Mama. We are in front of a family business with two oil trucks. There is nothing here that looks at all prosperous and this is born out by what comes next.

I've done this before, working to take us out of our comfort zone and into a more mundane and practical world. 

Cambridge, 1994

Hershey, PA 1996

We'll finish this post here, with only two more pictures to finish the series.  Of note again, after working on the files for a bit, starting to make some prints, wrestling with how they should look, I went back to Shirley thinking I could maybe fill the series out, that perhaps I'd find something to deepen it and extend it. Not to be found, as it turned out. Actually, it was plain wrong. I  struggled with that, wanting more but having to realize that what I'd had that first day was it and there was nothing more. My favorite quote from Kurt Vonnegut,"And so it goes."

On to Shirley 4.

Topics: black and white and color,Series

Permalink | Posted June 5, 2023


(Note: due to some technical problems which I do not fully understand the blog has been down for some time. I am told it is fixed so posts will come along fairly rapidly for the next several.)

Back in March I made a new series of pictures from Shirley, MA that are now up on the site: Here.

I'm going to break down the short series on the blog and invite you to come along. I will also reference some earlier works and provide links to those as well. While there are many similarities between this new work and older series from the 80s and 90s there are significant differences as well.

First, a little context. These were made in the late morning on a trip driving locally, close to where I live in Acton, MA. Clearly an "end of winter" day with filtered sun, snow melting in piles, and the temp in the 40s.

As so often happens, the first frame landed like a hint, with the possibility of more to come as I looked to my right. The series ended up being linear as I walked and shot from left to right. I progressed along a lane, with the railroad tracks at my back, sliding along, photographing. In post I made the decision to desaturate the colors, wanting the pictures to reside somewhere between black and white and color. 

Here, the first house, one of three we'll see in the series. Standing there, consciously linking this to the first frame with the barn now in the background. Sometimes, not always by any means, there is a combination of things that work. In this case the light (bright but also flat), the scale (the relationship of where the content is and where I am), and the subject itself (I have often thought about this last one: something gets me about a certain New England architectural period or era).

A couple of examples

Lebanon, NH 1997-1990 (here on site)

Summerhill, Atlanta, Georgia 1999 ( here on site)

We'll look at two more from Shirley, then close this post out. First, the third frame and crucial to the overall series.

We've now moved in and are looking at the left of the same house in closer detail.  As we look throughout the porch and the clutter there is an inscription on the large rock. It says, in part:

                        Daddy gave life to Mama's dream

Now we are into something completely different, understanding something about the building of this house and the family that lives there. For me, the pictures take on a certain significance, a weight and I feel let into something quite personal.

Last in this post, the second more detailed photograph of the house to the right of the porch:

Looking quieter, less used. Perhaps a place to get away from the more chaotic and frenetic activity of the previous frame, which looks like it is the main entrance into the home. These two pictures above are so very contained, no sky, no way out. Beautiful the way the support columns on the right pull back and then turn right. Of note, we have now left the barn behind. Clearly, we are moving on and will now leave this house and its close family behind.

This is also where we'll stop this post, leaving a few more for the next one. If there are chapters here we're about to start Chapter 2. I hope you can come along.

Topics: Series

Permalink | Posted June 3, 2023


Seminaladjective (of a work, event, moment, or figure) strongly influencing later developments

I will be writing for a bit about seminal works of mine made over my career. Pivotal photographs that lit the way, that foretold of other works to come. Or work that I made that established a precedent or a foundation upon which I built a series or perhaps several.  I suggest that you take a look through the links I provide, at the body of work itself, then perhaps if interested search the blog for one or more articles I've written about the particular photographs in question. As always feel free to write to me with questions or comments: here

Let's start with this one:

Nantucket 1980. (here)This was the one that started it all for me. The one where the lightbulb went off in my head that I could make pictures in sequence. This image started over 40 years of making photographs in narrative form. About as crucial a photograph as any I have ever made, not so much for being earth-shattering for what it depicts as what it stands for in my oeuvre.

Wheat 1996 (here)  This one from the first year I made a trip to photograph in the Palouse in eastern Washington.  I was still making my own analog prints in a darkroom in those days. 

This one is 20 x 24 inches and a print of it is in the permanent collection at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.

I was very excited to be photographing in such a minimal and pure environment. I'd never photographed in a landscape anything like the Palouse. Since then I have photographed in the Palouse 24 times over 26 years.

The work from that trip, all in black and white, formed a foundation of photographing in the wheat fields. The Wheat Field pictures are my longest-running series and constitute a huge body of work, in analog black and white, in analog color, in digital black and white and color as well as frequent work made aerially.

Cabela's 2008 (here) The Cabela's work shows some real changes taking place in my thoughts about my work.  Not without packing some punch, the pictures are a little lighter and satirical than other works done until then. They are also my first digital series and looking back, the series would have been far more difficult to pull off with film. The pictures took about 2 years to complete and involved trips to Nebraska, Illinois, South Dakota, Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, as well as Hartford and locations closer by. In all, I photographed in 17 Cabela's stores, all with permission of the company. 

A few years earlier I'd been promoted to full professor where I taught at Northeastern University. This was freeing in that there was no longer anyone looking at my work critically at the University. 

South Shore 1977 (here) The first real focused work I made after grad school and made over a couple of winters after I moved to Cambridge and my marriage ended. A lonely time, (you can see that in the pictures) but also positively dripping in silver with multiple toners and shot with a three-stop red filer to drive the sky darker. 

Museum of Medicine and Health 2014 (here) These aren't the first of my obsession with medical specimens but they serve as a good example of this particular subset of my work.  Others are the Mutter Museum and Reggio Emilia, Italy. My work made several turns in the first decade of the 2000s and this was one of them.

We will stop here with the first installment of the "Seminal Work". You might find it fruitful to think back through your work. What pictures rocked your world and changed your sense of your place in it, creatively? Next up, we will continue to look at work that formed a precedent, was a new way of seeing, or that predicted changes for me.

Stay tuned.

Topics: Series

Permalink | Posted December 12, 2021

The Series Work

Narration, cohesion, flow, connection, sequencing, point made, story line, hinges, contrasts, enigma, on and on.

What happens when you put still photographs in proximity to still photographs? 

Hang two prints on a wall next to each other and right way something is going on. You ask us as viewers to compare one to the other. Stand behind someone doing this and you see their head going back and forth, left to right, forming opinions about darker verses lighter, contrastier verses flatter, closed verses open, receding verses projecting toward us, peaceful verses conflicted, muted verses saturated, on and on.

Same example except now make it three photographs hung on a wall next to each other. OMG! Much more complicated but the general tendency is for us as viewers  is to build a story line, to begin a narrative flow, for we now have a small group so we can go "beginning, middle and end". Our questions might be "Are we into something that is three photographs hung on a wall by the same artist?  Are the three connected to each other in content or intent?" And a big one, "what was the artist's idea, what was he/she trying to say here?" Three has a beautiful symmetry, a lovely pace where we can start, then state with a substantial point and then conclude. Tyrptych, trilogy, the "father, the son and the holy ghost". I think religion was on to something.  

Another way to answer these questions is to refer to someone who's an expert at making series photographs since 1980: me. 

How could a career artist in his 70s' who's been seriously committed as a photographer since 1973 sill be interested in this way of making pictures? To put a picture next to a picture that is next to a picture and so on for at times as many as 35 pictures? Because it all gets incredibly complicated, that's why. Imagine the challenge of making a series that is more than three. Starting out like in a symphony, stating the primary themes and points to come, leading into the main content, explicating, pointing, hinting then affirming later a few photographs down the line, coming across real problems, working to solve and then solving same problems, coming into angst (thinking Mahler here ), strife, anguish, bliss, and then to the lead up to something climactic, the climax itself, and then to finish, to conclude, up or down, major or minor, success or failure, peace or not. Okay, now try to do that with actual content sitting in front of your camera. A barn, a field, a place, an area, a day, someone, a flight, a walk through or down a path. Incredibly hard. Of course that's why I like it. Single still photographs after 50 years of being obsessed with photography? Sure, still do them and still like doing them.  But series work, now that's a challenge.

Want more or at least, verification? Go here (note some of these go on for several posts)

and the most complicated of all, the three series three chapter symphony-in-concept small book called Trees, Sand and Snow:

and here for sale:

Next up? I almost never know.

Stay tuned.

Topics: Series,Commentary

Permalink | Posted February 1, 2020