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Monday, 05 July 2010


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What a nice photograph. Has an earthy, down home feel to it. Brings my mind to a place reminiscent of say the early 70's when folks had pie in the sky dreams of living off the land, being natural and the like.

I really like people who photograph ordinary people well and the resulting good photos of ordinary folk. I think, therefore, that this is great. In my experience a lot of people who work this way never become popular or get much recognition, because the viewing public does not understand photographs of ordinary people.


Black and White Photography magazine had a feature on Patricia Dalzell a few years back. Made me want to buy a 4 X 5 camera and get out there.

At just one and a half times enlargement, I bet it's lovely!

So..., what's so special about this photo?

Love the fact that she's using a 5x4, but doesn't the print size rather negates the advantages thereof? Or is that the painstaking process itself aids her technique?

extraordinary, Mike - thanks for posting.

Lovely. Looks like a portrait August Sander might have done were he alive today. Where did you find her work?

I'm somehow mesmerized by the content of this photo. It's seems timeless and the composition is, imho, really REALLY well done.
Even though I see only the small computer representation, I'm still in awe of the subtlety of all those gray tones. It must be very special in real life. Congratulations!

I once took a printing workshop at a well known photographer's house. The first thing he did was walk me into a room full of magnificent prints and left me there to look around. The prints were fabulous, and very inspiring for anyone interested in fine art photographs.

The interesting thing was that none of them were his prints, they were all by other photographers and all superb examples of print quality.

I now own many exceptional prints from other photographers, all superb prints of images I really like. I hang my own prints beside them when my images are comparable. I highly recommend having images you really like, that are also visual references pieces.

I do agree that it has some overtones of the peace/love/beads/bells/communal living era. But if you look more closely a bit longer you realize that it has absolutely nothing in common with that impression. In fact it quickly descends into a rather dark mystery.

Here are the subtle elements of this image that distinguish it from the casual snapshot portrait that a 3-second glance might suggest it to be.

First, that's no hippie-type thrown-together fence. It appears to be a skillfully crafted and nicely-maintained fence. It looks like there's laundry hanging to dry in the area behind the woman, suggesting a rural setting. The plantings in the lower left corner suggest that the photograph was taken in a well-tended garden/yard.

Now there's the woman. This is where all the little peripheral details culminate, as they should, to either anchor the persona of the subject or, as is the case here, to create mysterious ambiguity. She's wearing a casual working-in-the-yard-drying-laundry dress. But her shoes look too fussy for such ground work.

Next, look at her posture. Most of her weight is on her right leg, with the left receded into the shadow. This is a common, and very old device, to establish to create slight visual tension. Now look at her left hand. She's gripping that fence very tensely with one hand as if she's straining to restrain herself from some action. Her other hand is in her dress pocket. What's in there? A vibrating cell phone? A knife? A gun?

And then there's her expression that really puts the cherry on the sundae. That cocked eyebrow on an angrily confident expression is chilling. I don't want to get any closer to this woman.

No, this is no happy snap. This appears to be a carefully crafted portrait of a woman prepared to convert potential energy to kinetic energy. Perhaps she's listening to the response from her just-asked question, "Where you been all night?". Perhaps she's confronting a pesky salesman and is seconds away from "Shoo!". But we're left wondering what's about to happen.

The best portraits, photographic or painted, are very carefully built to use our knowledge/assumptions of human nature and/or the sitter to suggest something just outside what we thought we knew. Little haunting mysteries that tattoo our minds.

These days (past 15+ years) women seem to have been far more skillful at such portraits than men. Men tend to shoot blunt-force-trauma sports and celebrity portraits with no more skill or depth than a beer ad. Women, by contrast, seem to generally have a far better sense of subtle ambiguity and humor. They often shoot for someone who's willing to really look at the image.

This appears to be a very good choice, Mike.

Judging from the quality of the online image the print must be really spectacular. I'd like to make an image as pleasing as this one some day.

That was me...I suggested Pat to Ailsa. In fact, the print I have was a thank-you from Pat for facilitating that publication of her work in B&WP. I found it again this holiday weekend and decided I liked it enough to "formally" (heh) induct it into the collection. Following the advice of Cal Amari, a photo collector I know, I'm having all the "official" collection items framed as I go. I hope to have Pat's print framed by her favorite framer, Becky Pease of Frames by Rebecca in Silver Spring.

Pat was featured in a fascinating "in process" show curated by Joe Cameron in Virginia. A handful of artists agreed to put up "work in progress" and then do a number of presentations explaining how they were proceeding with the work. A fascinating idea and a great learning experience for me. Pat was one of the artists.

While the JPEG is a good representation, the actual print does look considerably richer and more lovely.


I often like to look at a person's face in two halves. This subject has an interesting asymmetrical visage.

I´ve had my share of bad neighbours in my life, I wouldn´t want another one!
Technically it´s lovely image, although there is something brooding in the air! Ken Tenaka is quite right.

re Ken Tenaka - Baker Street Irregular, much? :-)

For me, the expression is one I recognize from quite a few family photos - typically the last shot, after I've said "just one more"....

It looks more to me that she has some form of neurological problem giving her a left sided weakness.

So this is Lizzy Borden ready to strike? LOL Ken I love your imagination and yes the proper fence did somewhat shatter my dreams of hippie chick but dangerous? :) I'll bet more nervous, not comfortable with being photographed.

Is the model mad or something? Why is her eyebrow like that? It looks like she's ready to box you.LOL


What a great portrait. The deceptive simplicity gives way to everything noted in the comments above. Makes me want to get to know this person. And the crisp detail is stunning.

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