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Friday, 30 October 2020


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Who can resist peanut butter and chocolate? There's a certain painter of light who made a fantastic living from contrasting warm glows against cool backgrounds. He had a gallery in many American malls and his works are probably the most widely distributed paintings in history.

This photo reminds me of an essential Lightroom trick for forest photos: use the HSL hue sliders to move the greens towards blue and the yellows towards green. Foliage in dense forests tends to record as warmer than it appears to our human eyes. When playing with the HSL sliders and the eye dropper you might be surprised to find that the moss in your original photo recorded closer to orange than green.

“... out-of-control forest fires that are destructive.” Ironically, those out-of-control destructive fires are actually an important part of the natural cycle. It’s our over-aggressive fire management over the last century or so that’s created the really dangerous fuel loads that feed the worst fires.

For me, the moment I find myself confronted with "Statements" I know it's time to tune into another station.

Why - how - did photographers get pulled into this pretentious nonsense of thinking they have missions and, worse, are required to make statements about them?

Photographers are just snappers; at best they can make pretty pictures that somebody beyond immediate family likes. Some are gifted, and gifts don't grow on trees even at Christmas (sorry kids!) and guess what: the gifted just get on with it without need for bullshit.

I suppose we have to thank the art galleries for devising such gimmicks, aids to shifting largely useless junk. Tell the same fairytale often enough and hey, before you know it, somebody will pull out his wallet snd thrust it your way, delighted at his investment in your art. Guess this world is full of emperors.

[If were you, I'd get over that. --Mike]

As a resident of Colorado under a state wide fire ban, this photo creeps me out.

Completely agree with Rob Campbell's comment.

I really liked your discussion of this picture and the things you encouraged me to think about. I think that because cameras can also "simply" record it's easy to forget that sometimes nothing in the photograph is there by accident, and we do the artist a disservice by assuming that they just got a lucky snap.

Random Excellence is a great series.

Klompching? Did you say KLOMPCHING ?

Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch, KLOMPCHINGING ever closer, my hands slowly becoming claws, my countenance visibly darkening, the word echoing, echoing, till I hear nothing but KLOMPCHING'!!!!!!!!!!!!

This image reminded me of Stephen Lyman’s firelight paintings from 25 years ago. I think both artists were aiming at similar targets. From a firecraft perspective, I'm reminded of the album cover for Jethro Tull’s, Songs from the Wood. I still have that album kicking around here somewhere.

I agree with some of what Rob Campbell wrote above if not the tone. Marketing art is a difficult business for artist and retailer and relies on both reputation and what's popular as much as on the difficult (impossible?) to quantify "quality" of the product.

It seems that by some measure the most successful "artist" of our time is Thomas Kincaid, "Artist of Light". How does the artworld -- the part that isn't Andy Warhol or Platon -- compete with that? I think it is not with "artist statements."

After posting my comment I queued up some Tull for the first time in ages and went off to read the Wikipedia page for Songs from the Wood. I learned that the cover photo for this album is credited as a painting by Jay L. Lee because it’s been altered with pen and paint. Wikipedia also says…"Painting by" could also only refer to the post-processing of the photo. Well…that’s an odd coincidence considering the Tull cover photo is from 1977.

Whoever thought that it was a good idea to photograph fake fires on a field of dry leaves in the woods when wildfires from Australia to California, Siberia to Alaska to the Amazon have been causing massive destruction just in the past year or two alone?

Beyond that, the photo is nothing more than technically competent. There is nothing about it that pauses me in my tracks or go "wow", and there is nothing about it that looks creative or interesting. Just a boring gimmick that tries too hard to be eye candy, the kind that's dime-a-dozen on some of the well-known websites where people display their photos.

Not everything has to appeal to everyone, so I'll pass on this one and wait for something else.

think back to “Oranges on Fire” https://www.lacma.org/larry-sultan-oranges-fire
OR better, go to her website; look at her pages of interviews.

So if the fire is where it appears to be, why are the portions of the trees facing it illuminated in green instead of warm light from the fire?

Well, as a designer, I probably fall into the photo-illustration category by someone... but who needs labels? Just enjoy or view the work for what it is. While I would never call myself anything near a PhotoShop “expert”... whatever that is... my use of it has served me well, though I don’t use it much anymore. The photograph may be a a start and finish point for me, or the beginning of of a visual journey, one never knows.

Yes, I’d say that Ms. Davies’s work should not be reviewed within the context of photography even though it was clearly created with photographs. Trying to reverse-engineer her images is a dead end and misses its point.

There has, for centuries, been a type of imagery specifically constructed to invite the viewer into the frame. I can’t recall the label for such work but it was originally subtly used in political and devotional painting to subconsciously engage the viewer.

The sample of Ms. Davies’s work that Mike presents above couldn’t more explicitly exhibit this conceptual construction. (Perhaps putting a sign reading “Your ass here” to the right of the slightly off-center fire would turn the dial to 11.). Her other works seems similarly constructed towards this effect, often featuring slightly brightish areas where a subject (YOU) seem to have just vacated or is awaited.

More broadly, again, this is a not-uncommon conceptual device that you might find interesting in watching for in both painting and particularly in contemporary photography. You might even try giving it a whirl yourself o get out of the tedious amateur photo composition formulae.

Mike, thank you for pointing us to Ellie Davies and to the IstDIBS website. Both were interesting and I will return.

The problem with this is its naïve thinness. Exemplified by her statement in an interview on her site that photography is “the ultimate narrative tool”, not recognising that this is nonsense. Photographs show, they don’t tell.

As someone who has recently spent considerable time in British woodlands, Ellie Davies barely hints at their extraordinary visual richness.

Also, she is apparently unaware of individuals who work in in similar contexts. Two other British artists who use the natural world in a range of scales, but far more effectively, are Andy Goldsworthy and Katie Paterson.

Goldsworthy is a fine record photographer of his own output, while Katie Paterson collaborates with scientists and other specialists to very successfully expand and question one’s whole concept and sense of time and the universe. http://katiepaterson.org/

Thanks for this post. I checked out her website and am really enjoying her work. It reminds me a little of Tim Simmons, whose work I love.

Was your analysis meant to be satire? Caricature?

This work is clearly in the art photography realm (which is a significant part of the contemporary art world), so it's exempt from any concerns about being staged, etc. Not judging its quality one way or the other...

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