The spiral curve of the Nautilus shell is one of the most perfect forms in nature.
When I started writing this journal, I thought perhaps I would be discussing camera technique or gear because that's what on everyone’s mind. When people ask my opinion, it is usually about what camera they should buy, after which we move on to discussing the merits of the iPhone. The best camera is the one you have with you.
Instead what happened after that first journal entry in September, an act of nature inspired my posts, and I ran with the topic of most interest, Irma.
Well here we are again discussing gear… and nature. The gear is a flatbed scanner. The work produced is experimental, exciting, different and new. Imagine if you could set your subject on your camera lens to take a photo; that is exactly what the scanner is capable of. It’s called scanography: using your scanner as a close-up camera.
Two pieces of art produced by this method are on display this week at the Art League at Ocean Reef.
“Nautilus” is a 40” x 30” pigment print on canvas; it has been described as modern art, and it received an award.
The second piece entitled “Mangoes” is a mixed-media photograph, a combination of a scan of the summer fruit from my backyard with a photograph of an abstract painting. Someone asked if the fruit on the 60” x 40” museum mount photograph were of actual size. I replied with certainty, they are larger than life!
Since the scanner is designed to produce sharp images of what is on the glass, the images are characterized by super detail, and then soft depth. The tricky aspect of this work is you have to be able to work with your subject being upside down and backwards. One thing about using a close up lens or camera is it often allows you to really see an object.
You have two eyes and you have a vision. Don’t limit your reality to that which is contained in the camera’s viewfinder. Think outside of it.
We hung this piece a while back at Barb and Emery’s, on their covered patio at their waterfront home. Entitled “Blue Waters”, it is a 60” x 48” photograph printed on Somerset Velvet rag paper and surrounded with a hardwood frame under acrylic glass.
This photo is one of my earlier pieces, taken in the year 2002 in the Everglades Backcountry, with film in my Hasselblad camera. I had the opportunity to revisit the piece just a few weeks ago and it reminded me of how much I love to view scenes of blue, clear water.
Much has changed in photography since the days of film; so too has the environmental conditions of the Florida Keys. Though, with digital, we can enhance and color correct, with nature, there is no Photoshop. It is overwhelming at times to think of the serious nature of problems caused by population growth, and the effects of development all throughout Florida.
Each one of us has to do what we can to impart positive change at or own level. Personally I have adopted water conservation practices and I harvest rainwater for my plants. Knowing full well what we apply to our ground is soon leeched through our porous coral substrate, into the groundwater, I am careful to add nutrients to my garden using only the least toxic means: compost and seaweed extract.
Our swimming pool is salt water, never do we add water from the hose; whenever the pool is low, we open the well which feeds the ground water into the pool. Lately I’ve noticed the water coming from the well is a bit more brackish than usual. A couple weeks ago, after filling the pool, within a few days, the pool started forming green algae. The pool tech came and tested the water and he reported it was high in phosphates.
Phosphates are the main ingredient for all life. Phosphates are also what's feeding the algae blooms in the Florida Bay. Who would've thought that my little blue water swimming pool would remind me of the beautiful blue waters in the backcountry.
Citizen scientist… I guess I have some clues to what’s causing the problem; but where is the phosphate coming from and how do we stop it? I guess I have more questions than answers.
Last week I photographed the ribbon cutting and grand reopening of the Cultural Center at Ocean Reef. Though we've all been there before, for twenty years, this moment represented an update.
While update means making new… restoring… refreshing, for me the cultural experiences I’m exposed to while working there, is nothing but new.
My camera allows me behind the scenes access to cultural events; the likes of which I had not even a clue existed. A couple years back, when the Philadelphia Orchestra asked me to photograph their musicians for use in their blog, I got to stand on stage during a warm-up for the evening’s performance. There I stood, frozen, mere inches from the musicians and the conductor, beside their instruments and close enough to read the musical score. Especially then, knowing when to click the camera, is like the etiquette of not applauding between the movements of a musical score… you have to do it at the right time. The slightest noise of my camera clicking would be enough to cause a distraction. When music is loud is usually the best time, and never any flash.
I wandered backstage through a makeshift assembly of tents, drapes and traveling instrument cases, those specially designed trunks that also serve as a personal dressing armoire. A musician told me he had been a musician with the Orchestra for 30 years; as a child he wanted to be a portrait painter, but when that didn't work out he learned of music, the classical kind, from a program on TV. And that was it… he became a musician in the town of Philadelphia that just so happened to have a great orchestra.
Just this weekend as I sat backstage drinking a coffee between performances, I was in the company of world renowned guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli, as he bantered with the Quartet about jazz, the performers, the legends, their lives and their work. After a time, he looked at me and asked if I was there to take a picture. I said no… I am just enjoying being the fly on the wall. I told him If you were to ask me about my idea of a cultural event growing up in Fort Lauderdale, It would have been attending a world premiere at the Gateway Theatre of the movie “Where the Boys Are”. And the closest thing to an art show back then, would have been the Sandcastle Carnival on Ft. Lauderdale beach, where I watched as my father set up the PA system and my brother climbed coconut trees to position the speakers. Life. It’s kinda nice how things work out. As a kid I was able to experience the three S’s… sun, surf and sand, and as an adult I'm learning about the performing arts.
Perhaps I'm exaggerating a bit. Growing up, we did have a chance for cultural exposure and events but we had to travel 25 miles west of town to the Hollywood Sportatorium. Built in 1969 it lasted just 22 years, and the good part about being older (and a little deafer), there we got to see all the great rock bands perform.
And thinking back to 20 years ago, prior to the Ocean Reef Cultural Center’s establishment, it was a minimum 40 mile drive to see a movie; it was a major social event to board a bus and take in a live performance in Miami. Today we have a venue with world class performances, and it is just a golf cart ride away.
Oh, and by the way, as the musician from Philadelphia told me, it’s feedback that tells the musician if he or she is doing a good job. It’s not the establishment… the supposed authority… it is the people, the audience that you move. Only they can decide if a musician has done well.
Now I just need to figure out when it is ok to applaud.
Or maybe I will just save it for the Beach Boys.
This photographic website provides me the opportunity for self-expression, for sharing