Our river is outrageous.
It’s overflowing from melting snow from the mountains.
Recently I discovered an interesting photographer John Gossage and his series of photographs, The Pond. First, I couldn’t grasp the beauty of these photographs. I asked and asked my husband why did he like Gossage’s photography and what did he see in them and what was I missing.
The Gossage’s photographs are weird but when you look at them closely, you began to understand that the photographer found beauty, elegance and moments of grace in the most mundane of places.
This morning I tried to look differently at out river, wild and angry, at the trees in the water slowly awakening to life. I didn’t worry about what to exclude and what to include in my pictures; it came naturally.
Nature is beautiful in every way. And you have to appreciate it and forget about idealizing it. And that is what exactly I am going to do.
I found on Internet some advice from the illustrator Christoph Neimann which can be helpful for us, photographers.
Don’t get too comfortable with places you know.
Neimann says that when you are comfortable you don’t have to analyze your work. Why should you push yourself in a new direction?
Sometimes you probably have to unlearn what you knew and start all over again. And here comes freedom to see differently and do things differently and make mistakes. Plenty of them. And not being afraid that you will be not understood.
I was surprised to learn that Neimann has fear of likes.
Neimann points out that the kind of work that performs well on social feeds is designed to trigger immediate reaction, and that kind of work doesn’t often hold its own in the long run.
Hmm, I didn’t know that the immediacy of all those likes can blind you from creating work with a lasting impact.
Fear of not being good enough.
It’s a very familiar fear. I have it very often, especially when I am deleting one picture after another. At those moments I am always asking myself why am I doing photography?
Christoph Neimann offers a solution for not being good enough. It’s simple. “Practice and become better.” Learn the skills that are holding you back.
Fear of running out of ideas.
“It’s just so hard with them”, says Neimann.
His solution is to create. You can improve on what you are but you can’t change it. So, you have to do things, a lot of things, until something clicks.
That night was special. I couldn’t fall asleep. You know what I am talking about. You lie in the darkness with your eyes wide open staring at the ceiling and listening how the clock is ticking. It’s unusually loud. Your eyes already adjusted to the dark and you can see dark dancing shadows on the walls. They look intriguing but you are frustrated because tomorrow will be another day with a lot of errands and you prefer to have a clear head. You think about tomorrow, you try to chase away your thoughts which don’t want to settle down. And soon you find yourself in the never ending cycle of thoughts which makes you even more frustrated.
Then suddenly you hear a gentle noise outside. Someone is walking in your garden. In the middle of the night. You get up and look at the window. It’s beautiful outside. A huge moon shining at you and four young deer are peacefully walking in your garden.
Your first impulse is to grab a camera and try to take a picture of your night guests. It’s dark but you will try anyway. Your camera isn’t in a cooperative mood and tells you forget about the whole deal. But you don’t want to give up so easily; you take a picture of the moon. One clic. One shot. And to your surprise for the first time the moon looks decent on the screen of your camera; it doesn’t look like an ugly tiny white blab. It looks like the real moon.
On nights like this when you just can’t sleep you suddenly realize that you are not alone; something always is happening in the world. And knowing it gives you a very comforting feeling.
Saturday we had an adventure. I don’t use this word often because usually when we are having an adventure it means something will go wrong but will be very thrilling and often memorable.
Our adventure usually starts with a family hike in the mountains. There are three of us who like to hike in the mountains; our old girl Tasha who happens to be a dog but acts like a spoiled
brat baby, my husband and I.
First step is to get Tasha into the car. And I can reassure you that it’s not an easy task to pick up a 33.5 pounds dog who doesn’t want to be treated like an invalid at her age – Tasha will be fourteen years old in May. At this crucial moment it doesn’t matter that she can’t jump into the car by herself, doesn’t matter that she should be smart and cooperative; she remembers better times when she was young and strong.
Well, we somehow got into the mountains quite quickly. Roads were clear, morning was sunny but to our surprise the mountains were still covered with snow. We should know better but it was too late. We could turn back or hike in the mud, snow; jumping over the pools and sometimes working through them. We chose to hike.
Soon we reached the point where there was a two way road sign. I looked at it and thought that something was very symbolic about it.
I suddenly clearly realized that I often tried to catch up with time worrying that I will never be able to do that.
At this moment standing by this sign I thought that it’s truly never late. Nature never hurries, things are happening in life at their own pace and time; only I am constantly imposing on myself something I will never be able to achieve.
Anyway, we returned back home happy, dirty and tired from the fresh air, sun and wind. Old girl Tasha got her bath and slept for the rest of the day with a happy smile on her face. I took a few pictures. Nice memories. And a very meaningful adventure.
Our old girl Tasha.
Sometimes you can’t have it all and it’s far better to capture the right moment with the wrong settings. That is what exactly happened with this photograph.
First, I was disappointed about it but then I thought about the famous photograph of the war photographer Robert Capa “Landing of the American troops on Omaha Beach Normandy, France”. It was badly composed, blurry and brilliant. What made it so powerful that Robert Capa was thinking about the moment and didn’t care about the technical stuff and flaws.
I began to believe that not everything should be perfect in your photos; some rawness sometimes is good and even desirable.
There are a few goats I met on the country roads. Some I met close to my home, others were several miles away.
The goats I met were young and only recently I met an old goat.
The goats can learn their name and to come to you when you call them.
Baby goats are standing and talking to their mama the minute they were born. They are fast learners.
Goats are easily depressed when they are alone and no other goat around. The goat I met recently (on the picture above) didn’t look depressed at all in spite of the fact that he was alone. Perhaps, he used to be alone.
Cows and horses are my strong obsession. I can photograph them as long as they allow me.
It started six years ago when I bought my first camera. There wasn’t around someone who would help me with my digital camera. My husband had by that time a film camera and didn’t know anything about digital cameras.
During the first month I was afraid to touch any button on my camera; I was sure that if I touched a few buttons, my camera would stop working and my adventure with photography would be over.
I would probably continue to study the manual for the next few months until my husband “threatened” me that if I would not use my camera; he would return it back.
You always have a choice. You can go with your fear or you can look into its face and laugh at it. I decided to laugh at my fear and said to myself that it’s not an easy thing to damage your camera by just gently touching its buttons.
My first photo session took place in the country. My husband and I found a farm with horses and I took a few pictures. One horse wasn’t very friendly; every time I approached her she screamed at me and moved away. I remember how I followed her and talked to her gently while taking pictures but it didn’t work well. She became very agitated and it was a time to leave.
Returning back home I thought that horses are like us; they are very social and can be unhappy if somebody uninvited gets on their territory.
There would be more photo sessions when I would take good and bad pictures but my first one will always stays with me.
It’s everything about the pool on the street. The pools are so rare in our city and they usually are very small. This was a gorgeous pool and huge. Just looking at it you could imagine the reflections of old tall buildings, the doves drinking water, the old trees framing the pool but in reality there were reflections of a yellow ugly pole, dirty grass and the top of a very boring building.
I photographed this pole and dirty grass anyway. With free expression.
I found this graffiti yesterday; it was painted by a very talented unknown artist. My first thought was that it would be nice if I would take pictures using double exposure. But it didn’t work well right from the beginning. Every picture came out so messy that at some point I stopped and thought that it’s time to go home and return back another time. Somehow the idea of leaving this place appeared very helpful. It changed the perception of the situation and the desire to create something great was gone. And most important I began to see this graffiti differently.
I also had a “quality” time talking to a stranger who approached me while I was struggling with my camera and said, ” Some people think that this is life. I think that this is destiny. What do you think?”
I couldn’t think of anything but responded anyway that I think that this is probably fate. Apparently, my answer was OK because a stranger smiled and walked away singing and talking to himself about something very personal.
Austrian born photographer Ernst Haas (1921-1986) is my recent discovery. I discovered him a few weeks ago and since then couldn’t stop thinking about his work.
Once Adam Ansel wrote to Haas, ” I am very happy that you exist. Can I say more? No.”
I am happy also that I discovered this talented photographer and that I was able to buy the book Color Correction which showed his work.
I would like to share with you what I have learned from this unique photographer:
Ordinary can be turned into something unique and astonishing.
It’s very hard to take photos of ordinary simple subjects and turn them into something very interesting. It’s hard to transform prose into poetry.
Ernst Haas found his personal version of beauty. Bored with reality he began to concentrate on seeing rather than looking. And his subjects began to speak for themselves, they became less obvious and more suggestive.
There is always present a poetic moment.
Ernst Haas believed there is a poetic moment. He wrote,”In every artist there is poetry. In every human being there is the poetic moment. We know, we feel, we believe.”
For a long time I believed that I didn’t have this poetic moment. I also didn’t believe that art can be learned. By nature, I am not artistic. I was following some photographers and thought that they have something that I am missing. But later I began to think that art is simply a skill and it can be learned. It just requires a lot of practice. And with this practice you will rediscover your inner artistic nature and your poetic moment.
Forget about art.
Ernst Haas said, that one cannot photograph art.
I like this idea. It gives you freedom. Total freedom is to be yourself, create what excites and moves you, and maybe some day you can call your creations art; if you wish but never try to be an artist.
My favorite quote is from the photographer Duane Michaels, “My advice to somebody starting out: do not try to be an artist, forget about art, don’t even use the word art in you vocabulary. What you have to find out is if you have anything to say – you have to find that bug up your bum. You have to find that thing that moves you that part of you psyche that needs to be scratched, like an itch. Then one day it might become that thing called art, but do not try to be an artist, and do not want to become rich and famous.”
Perfect is often imperfect.
What fascinates me about the work of Ernst Haas is that his photographs are not perfect in the sense of sharpness. Some of them are intentionally blurry and quiet grainy sometimes. But there are colors, light, shapes, shadows, lines that are so intriguing and captivating.
Haas taught me to seek simplicity which can be powerful and compelling. I don’t strive anymore for perfection, I decided not to care about how imperfect my photos are. That isn’t important for me anymore. I would rather experiment, explore and try to focus on what excites me. And never worry is it good or not so good.
Never arrive in your photography.
“Don’t park. Highways will get you there, but I tell you, don’t ever try to arrive. Arrival the death of inspiration.” Ernst Haas
Lately I began to ask myself, “Why am I on a social media”? “Why did I return back to Flickr? “Why am I here?”
I don’t connect with people on a social media, I don’t write comments, I don’t get comments; only on occasion. Am I here just to show off my photographs? Or there is something more to that.
Perhaps, something more to that. I opened this blog to write about photography, how it became a big part of my life and changed it. I know it sounds a little bit pathetic but it’s true. I am a housewife and I lived for a long time quiet secluded life without friends and social gatherings.
Photography took me on the streets were I began to meet some people; talk to them even for a very brief moment. I started the project “Portraits of Strangers”. That was the best thing ever happened to me. I didn’t feel myself anymore isolated and disconnected with world and people. Photography gave a meaning to my life. It gave a purpose and goals. And learning also.
And then… I wanted to share my work with others. It was a good honest determination but in years it turned into an ego thing. Somehow I began dependent on likes and favorites. If I didn’t get them or got little I was upset for the whole day. When I got a few of them my mood improved and I felt excited.
When some day I realized that I am running on a huge social media treadmill to nowhere and I have to do something about it.
All my favorite photographers like Ernest Haas, Vivien Maier, William Eggleston, Saul Leiter and others didn’t care what others thought about their photography. I am sure that they even would not be on a social media and different forums. They shoot for pleasure. They had a confidence and I am lacking it.
Lately I am looking less and less for approval of others. It’s not so easy but I am working on it. And I don’t use the social media as barometer to see if I am good with my photography or not.
Numbers rule the world.
Giraffe in the wild.
Should I call these photographs a project and give it a fancy title? Or let them be just as they are and be happy about what I found? I go with being happy.
First two abstracts in this post were found on the walls of our local dumpster which during many years somehow turned into a true piece of art with rust and cracks on its walls.
And only this one was taken in Salt Lake on a freezing cold evening on the square with a fountain that wasn’t turned off for safety reasons.
When I am at the computer editing pictures or writing I always look at the cover of a little calendar on my desk. On its cover in golden beautiful letters is written a promise – A Year to Remember.
Thus 2016 was a very creative year for me. I got into street photography. That was a year when I first heard about a photographer William Eggleston who became my greatest inspiration.
I remember that his photographs shocked me at the beginning. They were just snap shots of many different things. I looked at them over and over again and I couldn’t understand why he became so well known as the street photographer and so famous. Yes, the colors on his photographs were incredibly beautiful but otherwise I didn’t see something special. What I didn’t understand was that I was looking at real life in Eggleston’s pictures and real life isn’t easy to photograph. To make ordinary things look extraordinary is also not an easy task. William Eggleston was capturing the ordinary, the ugly, the boring and transformed it into the most interesting.
I dare to say that I have one thing in common with Eggleston. I also live in the most boring place in the world but I can learn from this unique photographer to see my place differently. With an open heart and eyes.
Last summer I went a few times per week on the streets and took a lot of pictures. Some were not so good but I didn’t care. I was practicing to see creatively.
And I began to write in English. I never done it before. Something about this blog that gives me a freedom to write not being afraid that someone would notice that my writing sometimes doesn’t flow well. I suspect that nobody reads what I write and that is what makes me more brave.
There is no short cuts in life and there is no short cuts in photography but I truly believe that if you are perseverant and didn’t loose your passion you are on a right path.
Sometimes I don’t know what kind of a photographer I am. Probably, generalist.
Thus, last summer I was wandering on our main historical street and did only street photography. I got influenced. I got inspired by street photographers. Of course, I knew that winter will come and our only interesting street will become deserted. Who wants to wander on it in the freezing cold weather?
I am back on the country roads taking pictures of country life. I am enjoying it. For a while.
Not tall and strong but still there and standing proudly.
Every time I pass this tree I take pictures of it. I take pictures in spring when it’s getting green and seems a little taller. I take pictures in winter when it’s bare and looks so lonely.
For me trees always were the teachers. I learned to listened to them; especially in my first year living in my new country. They became my friends to whom I could talk. They taught me when I had a difficult time one simple lesson: Be Still! Be Still! And This Shall Pass!
And suddenly three guys came out of nowhere. They were dressed so lightly. I took a picture of them. One shot.
Yesterday we went to Salt Lake to have some fun. There was a dinner in Chinese restaurant. Barnes&Nobles. This empty square and two decent pictures. Nice memories.
You come to place like this and you suddenly remember that you live in the desert. And it’s not always beautiful. You have a choice to love it or to hate it.
And you say to yourself that if you look at this tall grass, this swamp differently; you eventually might find this place beautiful. Yes, beautiful when beauty is quiet and modest. Do you remember a saying that all in the eye of beholder? That is so true.
There was a time when I hated Nikkor 50 mm lens. I disliked the pictures taken with this lens. They just didn’t look right to me. I am now getting used to this lens. This morning I even took pictures of crows which came out quiet small but do they really have to be big.
What I am learning from using Nikkor 50 mm lens is that you do what you can, with what you have and were your are. I was in the park. After so many days of snowing and raining I finally was able to get to the park, meet crows and listened to their voices and thinking that they are wonderful birds. A little bit underestimated but still beautiful.