Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The End is Near...

So says the echoing voice of the doomsday prophet. Indeed, 2009 will end and 2010 begin. Like many, I’m compelled to make resolutions for the new year; declarations of intent to improve my life, make more money, help others, lose weight, stop swearing (at least publicly) and so on. The majority of resolutions are often so wildly unrealistic, that they will almost always fail. Even my one and only resolution made each and every year, which is my resolution to stop making resolutions, hasn’t panned out so well.

I’ve essentially given up on resolutions. I don’t make them. Instead, I forge ahead in life, trying to recall lessons learned before making the same mistakes again. Or, I apply knowledge gained during the passing year to make things better in the coming year. If nothing else, I try not to repeat the same actions while expecting different results; I've been told that's one way to define 'insanity'. Harnessing the processes of wanting to do better, of being smarter, wiser, and  doing one’s best in everything one does is, at least for me, the best way to go. It's natural and instinctive.

Certainly, all of ‘wanting to do better’ applies to photography and art. I’m planning much more natural light imagery in 2010 and will be working diligently to find more receptive markets for the work. I also promise to be more attentive to this blog and to my cameras, as well as so many other aspects of my life.

Yeah. I know. I just can’t help myself it seems.

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As 2009 draws to a close, so does my partnership with Savannah’s The Gallery. My resignation as a partner was presented to the other partners in mid-December and I believe a new partner is ready to step in and fill the walls I once occupied with their own work.

I've been a partner in The Gallery since 2006. Frankly, the departure feels a little strange. I practically had to convince myself I wasn’t ending photography; that I wasn’t ending my work as an artist. As with most things, anticipation proved much worse than action, and after making the decision and announcement the proverbial weight was lifted away. It was a personal acknowledgement the time has come to move forward with my work, making introductions into new markets and taking advantage of new opportunities. While I will miss many things about The Gallery, particularly the other artists, some of whom have become close friends, I know this was the right thing to do on so many different levels.

For now, my exclusive representation in Savannah is with Horizon Gallery, located at 206 East Bay Street, Savannah, Georgia, 31401.

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A quick note on my recent show COURSE; you may recall that while the show was a bomb financially, I felt the PR was some of the best I’ve gotten. A direct result of that good PR has been an invitation to participate in the American Cancer Society Art Auction with a commissioned piece, to be held in September, 2010. More to follow on this.

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I want to extend a personal “thank-you” to those that follow and read this blog. Your interest and support of my work is appreciated more than you’ll ever know. If you’re a reader, please become a follower so I'll know you’re here. If you don’t want to be a ‘formal-follower’, please take a moment to drop me a line and say hello. Your comments, thoughts, and well reasoned critiques and opinions are always welcomed.

Some of you will notice the blog's color change. I've always read that white text on black is hard on the eyes, and to a point, I suppose that's true; how often do we see newspapers printed that way? Regardless, I felt the blog was a bit lack-luster and dull as it was. So I epxeriemented with various tones and colors and found that I like the white on black look. Let me know what you think. If the chorus is loud enough, I'll change it back.

Because of a hurting back and general holiday hoopla, I didn’t get the chance to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season, or to keep this blog current. My wish for everyone is that the holidays have been fun, safe, and filled with joy for all.


Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2010!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An 11th Hour Save

My exhibition COURSE: Selected Photographs of the Nude Female Figure, 2002-2009, has run its course. The show came off the gallery walls yesterday afternoon.

It was beginning to look as if this show was going to be a record breaker, and not in a good way. Without question, the artist's reception had the lowest turnout I’ve ever experienced at an opening. Worse, it seemed that none of the work was going to sell, and that struck me as quite remarkable. In the ten years I’ve been showing my work in galleries, I’ve always sold at least one piece from an exhibition. But in the end, the very end, something did sell, and it sold late yesterday morning.

Under the terms of my show contract, I was to be present during the removal of unsold works. The contract specified the take down to start no later than 9:30 am on Wednesday, December 2. However, late on Tuesday afternoon, the gallery director called me. She had fallen and broken her wrist sometime during the prior week, and because of scheduling issues with the artist following my show, I was not to be at the gallery for my take-down until mid-afternoon on December 2.

In a remarkable, if not odd sort of way, things came together in my favor at the last minute. Had the gallery director not broken her wrist; had the artist following me been able to adhere to a delivery deadline, I very well may have had my record breaking show.


Body at Rest, Study #2, 2006

“Body at Rest, Study #2, 2006” was the piece sold. It was one of the show images in my post of October 19, 2009, when I announced COURSE. It also happened to be one of five that I and the gallery director had pegged as a sure seller. Still, we were both keenly aware that any sell would be a tough sell, given the current economic climate. I suppose there’s validation in the sale from that point of view as well, but one thing’s for certain. Five, seven, or ten years ago, I would not have considered one print sold to be representative of a successful exhibition.

Having said that, I also want to say I consider COURSE to be an overall success. Certainly, this was not a successful show on every level. However, it is the show in which the work received a good amount of favorable press from unexpected sources and it is the show in which I established the most beneficial contacts in the art markets. Success isn’t always represented by dollars.

Here’s one other thing I find interesting; the greater portion of my nude work sold in Savannah has not remained in Savannah. It’s always left for New York, Chicago, or London to name a few locales. I can only think of two exceptions, and now I have a third, as this particular sale was to a local collector. I suppose that represents a something of stronger foothold in the local market.
The work from COURSE will be delivered to Horizon Gallery Friday, December 4, for long term display.

To all that did see the show, and to all that helped spread the word, you have my sincere and heartfelt gratitude. Thank you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different...


Aboard BULLDOG

For me, these are very different.

I made these images while aboard two of Crescent Towing’s tractor tugs working on the Savannah River. The tugs, “SAVANNAH” and “BULLDOG”, assist the cargo ships calling at the port with maneuvering, docking, and undocking in the narrow and swift flowing tidal river. The skill of the crews and the tugs themselves made a lasting impression.


Bound for Sea


The Working River

It has been many, many years since I have done night photography on any level. The port of Savannah at night is a spectacular sight. Of course, the work was riddled with challenges; shutter speeds were low and apertures wide, and my shooting platform, the tugs themselves, were constantly in motion. Nonetheless, I got several shots I like. I’m looking forward to getting back aboard the tugs again, this time for some daylight work.


The M/V Charleston Express

This experience has definitely pushed me closer to the goal of getting away from controlled shooting environments and I have to say I enjoyed myself immensely. You can’t get much more uncontrolled than shooting subjects at night without a tripod, and from a moving object, especially when the subjects themselves are frequently in motion.


View From the Wheelhouse of SAVANNAH During Undocking Operations

I can’t wait to do it again.

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Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. Enjoy!

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You'll recall from the last post, in which I wrote about my time aboard "SAVANNAH" and "BULLDOG", that I lost my glasses overboard before we even left for the frst job. I've spent most of life around boats, so losing my glasses to the river was embarrassing - and, as it turns out, expensive.

I managed to get them replaced quickly, a good thing, as I had more difficulty without them than I cared to admit. So on this American holiday of Thanksgiving, I'll add the staff of Boland Eye Center along with LensCrafters and their 50% off clearance sale to my list of appreciation.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Well there's your problem...

Last night, I rode aboard one of Crescent Towing's harbor tugs, the “SAVANNAH”, and photographed the tug and crew at work on the Savannah River as they assisted with the undocking, docking, and escorting of container ships and tankers. It was a good, fun and somewhat chilly experience and I made some pretty good images. At least I think I did,

Before we were ever underway, I lost my eyeglasses overboard. Now I’m experienced at being aboard boats of all types; I’ve worked in the marine industry for over twenty years and I’ve owned my own boats for longer. I know how to move around on and conduct myself aboard boats. But in a moment of haste to get my camera strap over my neck, the strap caught the side of my glasses and flipped them off of my head into the murky and fast moving Savannah River. Gone.

So, while I believe I got some good shots last night, I can’t be sure just yet. They do look interesting. I’ll keep you posted. I should have replacement glasses by Monday afternoon.

I want to extend thanks to Crescent Towing and the captain and crew of "SAVANNAH" for allowing me to be aboard as they worked through the night. Special thanks go to Justin Taylor, Crescent Towing deckhand and aspiring photographer, (and a damn fine one too!),  for making the tug boat opportunity possible.

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COURSE continues to hang, and will be on the walls at Gallery Espresso through December 2. If you’re in or near Savannah, please drop by the gallery to see the work.

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Here’s an old image of model Kirsten, shot in Savannah in early 2006, the beginnings of my work with nudes and natural light.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Artist's Reception...





COURSE has officially opened – albeit quietly.

The remains of hurricane Ida lingered and fussed, and did not move through quickly as forecasters had promised. The weather was simply gross, with heavy rains during the morning hours and by showtime the skies were dark and misty. The evening was blustery, with chilly temperatures. However, the most significant impact on attendance was due to the fact so many of Savannah’s art scene events also took place on the same night. The volume of buyers and lookers seemed to be quite diminished compared to past gallery events. Many of those that did show moved through quickly.

I don’t want to imply the reception wasn’t well attended. There was significant interest expressed in several of the prints by prospective buyers, and some prominent Savannah artists came, for which I’m most grateful. Also, and I just found this out today, the local National Public Radio affiliate had been announcing the opening as a part of their events calendar and a Savannah newspaper columnist praised the work in his most recent column. With the exhibit hanging through December 2, it would seem time is still on my side.

On the lighter side of things, I neglected to check the charge on the little P&S camera’s battery that I brought to the opening. My lovely wife was in charge of taking pictures, and after only six shots, the batteries were drained. She didn’t know the spare battery was in the camera pouch, and I didn’t know she had brought the pouch along with the camera.

The show is at Gallery Espresso, 234 Bull Street (corner of Bull and Perry, on Chippewa Square) and will hang through December 2.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day, 2009



Bridge, 2003



Apse, 2005

The opening reception for my photography exhibit titled COURSE will be at Savannah’s Gallery Espresso tomorrow evening, from 6-9pm. All are welcome to attend; the more, the merrier!

Everything is settling into place. I spoke with the gallery director this morning and confirmed the wine is chilling, the cups are plentiful, and tables are made ready for the food spread. The work still looks fabulous on the walls.

If the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida will clear the area as forecast, we’ll have a beautiful fall evening filled with art and friends.

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Happy Veteran’s Day to those that serve our country. Sincere heartfelt thanks are extended to the men and women who, along with their families and loved ones, have sacrificed their lives and endured suffering for the greater good of all.

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Today’s images are from the film and darkroom days, and are also a part of the COURSE exhibit.

Sunday, November 8, 2009



Work is now hanging in Horizon Gallery. For the initial delivery, I had chosen five pieces, but gallery director Luc Ebner protested five wasn’t enough, so I eventually delivered 13. Nine of those thirteen are now on the walls and I have to say myself, they look pretty good.

The space is still undergoing quite a lot of renovation and I’m holding off on posting pictures here until things are closer to being completed. Luc’s plan, he told me yesterday, is to eventually have my work on three walls between the main floor gallery and the upstairs gallery. I’m still very excited by the opportunity to exhibit at Horizon.

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No new news on COURSE; the show continues to get a good bit of attention from visitors to the gallery space, but no pieces have sold as of yet. My artist’s reception is this Thursday, November 12, from 6-9pm. The gallery is Gallery Espresso, at 234 Bull Street, Savannah, GA. Come one come all, and bring guests!

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Today’s images are from The Revelations Project and were created in 2006 at studios in Atlanta and Savannah.

Thursday, November 5, 2009




COURSE is getting a lot of attention and has been well received thus far; if you’re in the Savannah area please stop by Gallery Espresso for a look. The address is 234 Bull Street, on Savannah’s gorgeous Chippewa Square. The opening reception is Thursday, November 12, 6-9pm. Any and all are invited.

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I’ll be delivering art work to Horizon Gallery tomorrow. Luc continues to work hard to transform the space from the souvenir shop that it had become to a true fine art gallery. I’ve chosen five framed works with which to enter the space. We’ll see where it goes from there.

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I’ve started a FaceBook fan page, as a quick glance to the right will tell you. If you’re on FaceBook and like my work, then please become a fan. I’m not able to post a full range of images under the FaceBook TOS, but it is another way to keep up with show and gallery information, and general information.

Monday, November 2, 2009

"COURSE: Selected Photographs of the Nude Female Figure, 2002 through 2009" is Open!

COURSE: Selected Photographs of the Nude Female Figure, 2002 through 2009, is on the gallery walls and officially open.

The show was hung this morning and if the interest shown during the hanging is of any measure, indications are it will be well received in general. Here are some images of the space.




I apologize for the poor picture quality. Yes, I am a photographer, but I got lazy and took my little P&S camera with me to get these images.

They look much better in reality, I promise. If you're in or near Savannah, go and see the show. All are invited to the reception.

The show details are:

COURSE: Selected Photographs of the Nude Female Figure, 2002-2009
November 2 – December 2


Opening Reception Thursday, November 12, 6-9pm


Gallery Espresso
234 Bull Street
Savannah, GA 31401
912.233.5348

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Light at the End of the Tunnel - and a Small Touch of Halloween Irony

COURSE, my retrospective show which opens at Savannah’s Gallery Espresso on Monday, November 2, is ready. Well, more or less.

The price list has been completed and delivered to the gallery director and the framing will be finished today. The title cards will be printed tomorrow, and the framed work wrapped, padded, and boxed. At 9am on Monday, the delivery will be made; then comes the arranging and placement of the work followed by the actual hanging. One tunnel down; another looming.


As soon as that’s complete, I’ve got to begin readying work to go into Horizon Gallery. I also have to go to Atlanta, to speak with a couple of galleries there and take care of other, more mundane business matters. I was hoping to overnight; visit some friends and my mother, and perhaps do a bit of shooting. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

It’s safe to say I have a stretch of busy days ahead.

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Today’s image is titled “Triangles” and is from a 2006 studio session in Atlanta with model Andrea F.

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Happy All Hallows Eve to all, in the true spirit of the ancient pagan holiday from which it originated, Samhain.

I have to confess to wearing a small inward smile when I think how several Christian churches and organizations often present the "Fall Festival" as an alternative to trick-or-treating and the wearing of costmes, etc. on Halloween. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but it's my underdstanding that a big portion of Samhain was originally rooted in celebrations of the fall harvests.

It seems to me these "Fall Festivals" push the Halloween holiday much closer to it's pagan roots than the wearing of Wal-Mart costumes and children's extortion of candy from the neighbors ever could.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Representation?


An exciting thing happened today. Out of the blue, as I’m driving around Savannah in a pouring rain checking placement of my show postcards, I received a call from Horizon Gallery director Luc Ebner.

He explains that he and his business partner, Michele Snell, now own Horizon and that they’re revamping the space completely. He added he’s been following my nude figure work for a while and feels it to be very good work, and that was why he was calling. “I’m a former photographer myself,” he said in his distinctly French accent. “I worked in fashion and architecture, and had two studios; one in Edinburgh and one in Paris. I’m very serious when I say your figurative work impresses me.” I paused, listening to rain drum on the car’s roof. “Thank you very much for the compliment,” I say, still not sure where this was going.

Then he says he wants to meet with me, as soon as possible. “What for?” I ask, thinking this must have some connection to my exhibition opening next week. The thought I could place some show cards in Horizon Gallery flashed across my mind. “I want to discuss your interest in showing your nude work at Horizon and in being represented by Horizon” he replied.

Represented by Horizon? I nearly hit a tree. Collision avoided, and with nothing of significance planned for the afternoon, I agreed to see him at 3:30.

At this point, it’s important to share my very brief personal history with Horizon Gallery. I’m honestly not sure how long the gallery has been around, but two or three of my partners in The Gallery are also represented in Horizon. A few months back, out of curiosity and while looking for other exhibition opportunities, I stopped in for a look around. It wasn’t what I expected, at least not as an art gallery. Instead, it seemed more of a shop that had some pieces of very well made art surrounded by lots of key chains, bird-girl replicas, handbags and other touristy sorts of things. For a moment, I thought I had gone through a wrong door.

After five minutes in the place, I was certain my work would never fit. It seemed less of a gallery and more of a – well – shop. In fairness, it must be said that Savannah is a city driven by a tourist economy; shops, including many galleries, stock what sells.

So Horizon Gallery had new owners. I still didn't understand why were they calling me.

Luc greeted me warmly when I arrived and immediately shared his vision for transforming Horizon into a true fine art gallery. I sincerely hope he and Michelle succeed. Already, the change that has taken place during the few weeks Luc has been in charge was impressive. Virtually all of the touristy stuff is gone. The space is better arranged and organized. He is building the list of represented artists from those he has chosen to approach; from those whose work he holds in high regard and would buy himself. He says this is why he contacted me.

Flattery works. But more than that, are the facts his marketing plan seems sound and his vision for the gallery is inspirational. And while he’s clearly very passionate about art and the gallery, he remains realistic. This gives me faith in what I heard him say today.

While I’m genuinely optimistic and very much excited to have a new place to show the work, and much comforted by Luc’s sense of purpose, I’m still a bit reserved with the whole thing. The one thing I’m bothered by is the lack of a web presence for the gallery. We didn’t have a chance to discuss this directly this afternoon, but my impression is that something that will be done about it in the very near future. I certainly hope so. Regardless, Luc has me. My work should be on the walls within a couple of weeks.

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COURSE is coming together, with the final pieces to frame now in the works. The print to replace the one I scratched has been made, so hopefully, all will be completed by the weekend. The pieces are scheduled to start going on the walls by 9am, Monday November 2.

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For your viewing interest, an abstraction is included with today’s post.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Show Shakes and Thoughts on the Importance of the Signature

The show preparation continues; today I signed, dated and titled all of the prints and in a few days, the frames will be finished, backed and wired for hanging. My delivery deadline to the gallery is looming. I should make it with time to spare. Of course, I damaged a print when it slipped from my hands and onto the floor, so there’s at least one that has to be re-done.

Signing the work was going along well, damaged print aside, until the framer commented “oh. You sign yours on the back? Most of the other photographers I work with sign on the front somewhere. Interesting.” I stopped and looked down at the print. Where should the photographer sign a photograph?

That’s a hotly debated question. Do a Google or Yahoo! search on the topic and you’ll see what I mean. What can be said is that every artist I know actively signs their work or somehow makes their mark on the finished piece in a way that is permanent. In fact, most art is not regarded as being complete by collectors until the artist’s mark is on it.


Many photographers will sign the mat. I will admit to doing this in the past, but in truth, I always thought this practice was a bit foolish. For one thing, I have nothing to do with the creation or production of the mat; for another, mats are often changed and discarded. It’s not something I do now. Others will sign their prints in one of the lower corners, requiring the print to “float” if matted, if the signature is to be seen. I like the look of prints matted this way, but many photographic papers will not accept pencil or ink, particularly those papers used in traditional darkroom processes. Some inks will bleed through the paper. Then, there’s the question of archival stability with many inks.

I now sign, date, and title my prints on the back of the photograph, in the upper left corner, in pencil. Why? I read somewhere that’s what Ansel Adams did. Or maybe it was Edward or Brett Weston; or Imogen Cunningham. To be honest, I don’t remember who it was, aside from being someone who’s work I admire and respect. If any of you may know, please let me know. Regardless, this is a method that works, not just for me, but for those that buy and collect my prints. Consistency is the most important thing but if a customer wants it done otherwise, I’m happy to accommodate them. Some have had me sign the back of the frame.

A few of the older framed pieces that are to be shown still have slight repairs made to them; mostly, to the frames themselves. Fortunately, none have been badly damaged. The repairs have been mostly to the dust jackets and frame corners, with one or two of the prints requiring a slight reposition.

The largest task that remains to be done is pricing, and that’s the most difficult part for me. I don’t kid myself into believing my work is worth gazillions of dollars, but I know its worth more than free. In past shows, I’ve used a pricing formula used by the restaurant service industry (I know!) that has given me what I feel are fair numbers. Once I calculate the price of a piece, I determine in my own mind if I would buy it for said price. That’s most often the most reliable determining factor. I suppose I should be grateful that I have expensive tastes.

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The image that accompanies this post is one shot during the fall of ’08 in the foyer of a friend’s house. The model is Anna S. and no, the image is not part of my November exhibition. It’s one I think is beautiful; one that I like.

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Whether this is a matter of import to anyone other than me, I don’t know, but I’ve managed to re-link the images from the preceding post that weren’t opening. They open now, in a new window, but they don’t expand. At least something instead of nothing is happening. Blogger has provided an updated editor, which is supposed to improve image handling, so I’m trying it with this post.

Monday, October 19, 2009

COURSE: Selected Photographs of the Nude Female Figure, 2002-2009

And so it is; the title of my exhibition which will hang in Savannah’s Gallery Espresso for the month of November. I’ll close this post with the show specifics; here are some preview images.

Reclining Nude, Study #2, 2009

Body at Rest, Study #2, 2006


This was the show that almost wasn’t, for a variety of reasons. Mostly, it was due to the uncertainty of the economy and the question of whether or not I can afford to present the show remains unanswered. It’s something I’m compelled to do however; not only because I have a contractual agreement to show the work, but because I want to and need to.

COURSE is a retrospective of the work I’ve done with the nude figure. In reality, the retrospective could continue over a decade or more as I tend to be a chronic planner, but I didn’t direct my lens towards a nude body until the fall of 2002. That was when friend and fellow photographer Lisa H. offered herself as my first model; a guinea pig of sorts. All of this came about at the urging of another photographer friend who, after hearing of my interest in the fine art nude print, relentlessly pushed me to try it myself. In many ways, I’m a self-starter, but when it comes to my art, I’m often not. I owe a debt of gratitude to both of these ladies, a sincere thank you from the bottom of my heart.

One thing that has bothered me since I decided to do this show is the term “retrospective.” Isn’t seven years somewhat early to celebrate a ‘retrospective’? Certainly, in the usual order of things, 10 years would be a more recognized milestone. Also to be considered is the fact I’ve been a photographer for 20+ years; even longer if one counts of my time with camera and film as a youth and my school days working in the school darkroom on yearbook and newspaper assignments.

However, of all the work I’ve done, I feel my work with the nude has been my best. It’s what I’m most proud of, what I love to show and talk about. For me, and for where I am with the work, seven years is a good place to stop for a moment, look back, and see where I’ve been. It’s the best way to see where I’m going and perhaps most important, to understand where it is I’ve been.

The show will consist of 15 images, mostly those recorded on film and printed in my darkroom between 2002 and 2004, with a smattering done in 2007 and 2008. Out of the 15, five will be images which were shot and produced digitally from start to finish. This transition from film to digital, which I’ve written about before, has certainly been a major part of this journey. But more so is the transition in how I’ve come to understand photography; come to understand how I see, and what I’ve learned along the way.

Retrospective also takes courage, whether looking inside yourself or showing work from the early days. In making my selections for the exhibit, it became painfully clear my understanding of contrast and tonal range was not as comprehensive as I thought.

If you’re in the area, I hope you can make it to the see the work. Please drop me a line and let me know you’ll be there.

COURSE: Selected Photographs of the Nude Female Figure, 2002-2009
November 2 – December 2

Opening Reception Thursday, November 12, 6-9pm

Gallery Espresso
234 Bull Street
Savannah, GA 31401
912.233.5348

Thank you all for your interest in my work. Stay in touch.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Vision Quest

The images that accompany this post are from a natural light session with model Michelle R. They were made in her apartment on a warm and sunny fall afternoon here in Savannah. I’m opening today’s post this way, hoping such an announcement will be seen as more than the thinly veiled plea for forgiveness, the petition for leniency that it is; all for me allowing so much time to pass between now and my last entry.

An embarrassment for sure; I’ve let more than a month slip by without a single word written, and even fewer images made or worked, as if my very worst intentions for myself and my work were coming to light. Yes, no doubt an embarrassment, but much more worrying, is it a sign of apathy?

I’ll readily admit my head has been in a strange place the past few weeks with regard to photography and art. Little in my gallery has been selling; paper and essential material costs continue to rise; my desire to create new work is somewhat diminished. I know I’m not alone in these matters. I’m one of several owning partners in The Gallery, and the only photographer. No single artist’s work, painter and sculptor alike, is selling well. Certainly, some are doing better than others, but none are doing as well as they did a year or more ago, including me.

My gallery partners complain about lack of motivation, griping their studios are over crowded, jammed almost with inventory. Work once referred to as ‘art’ is now viewed as product to be moved. I have a show opening in November at a local space in Savannah, (more on this in my next post), that I had originally conceived as a retrospective of my work with the nude; a planned 50/50 mix of old and new pieces. Now, it’s likely to be more of a 70/30 ratio, weighted heavily towards the old inventories.

What does all of this mean anyway? The unwillingness to proceed; the lack of feelings of urgency to move forward with the work; these are not good things. For the artist, I believe it’s about fear, something I wrote about in the beginnings of this blog. Speaking very personally, when I’m stuck, going in circles so to speak, it’s almost always due to fear. This time is different though, as fear isn’t the ringleader of this particular circus.

Fear is most certainly involved, but the primary obstacle I’m facing isn’t fear, but doubt – or perhaps more correctly, self-doubt. Self-doubt has caused me to question myself, my passions, and my intent. In short, I’ve been feeling depressed about the collective body of my work and in what direction it may or may not be going. Worse is I’m questioning whether the work has direction at all.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m the type to sit and dwell on my problems. I’m not. (Alright, sometimes I am.) I don’t like to feel like this, and I want to deal with these feelings; so to do that, and do it effectively, I have to know where these emotions come from; why they’ve shown up. Knowing that, I can send them packing, hopefully to a point well beyond where they began. I don’t banish them; these feelings are important. I believe they’re required for balance; a ying and yang ideal. I do however severely restrict their access to me, and to the work. Or I try to anyway.

For the unprepared, looking deep within the self can be hazardous. What you find isn’t always what you’re looking for. The soul searcher must be ready to greet and embrace the unexpected. Sort of a ‘feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway’ thing.

I quickly found myself getting reacquainted with two old friends: fear, whom I’ve already mentioned, and change, whom I’m sure you’ll remember from some earlier writings.

But fear of what? And what sort of change? Well, those are fairly easy to identify and understand. I’ve been working to move from years of studio shooting, particularly with nudes, into more natural environments, especially environments where the light sources are continuous and natural. After shooting almost nothing but studio work for nearly a decade, it’s easy to see why the fear and change issues crop up. What’s puzzling is the lack of motivation.

I recently wrote of my desire to find markets for the work outside of Savannah; not additional gallery representation, but opportunities for exhibitions and shows. This is for the work as a whole, a collection, but it’s something I think the figurative work would benefit from the most. Putting all the work into wider circulation certainly isn’t a bad thing. To do this however, requires access to resources, namely money and time, two things I am currently lacking an abundance of.

Then clarity began to take hold. Looking further within, I realized I’d not shot any new images since mid-summer. More accurately, I’d not shot any work that was for me, for no other purpose than art; no reason other than to create. Of course I’d photographed during this time; documentary and forensic work for my day job, and trade obligations for a couple of models; but nothing from the heart. Mostly, I shot because I had to – and not enough because I wanted too. Figure sessions shot in August and September were done solely to fill gaps for the November show. An impromptu figure session with model Michelle R., where today’s images were born, was shot at the end of a portfolio development session; completely spontaneous and unplanned. That was my sole break in the trend, the only time I shot to create since sessions in July.

That realization was also the first moment of clarity; the first “ah-ha!”

The second moment of clarity came when I understood that I wasn’t shooting completely from the heart. Instead, I was dwelling on the marketplace, concentrating on what type of image would sell to what type of buyer. This is one primary reason I had been a lousy commercial photographer. The times I shot weddings were a disaster; commercial shoots for print adverts or catalogs were assignments which filled me with dread. Portrait sittings were the worst. Clients would see my work somewhere; either at a show or in my gallery, or they'd hear of it by word of mouth. They would look at my website (which at the time, did include a headshot portfolio, designed to draw fashion clients) and decide they wanted to hire me to photograph them or their families. Almost without fail, these people would then want to duplicate what could be done by a large commercial portrait mill, images typical of what's published in church directories or corporate annual reports. When I would explain that was not my style, not what they saw in my portfolio, it was never pretty. My success as a commercial portrait photographer was short lived.

However, in the rare times I could convince a client to let me have my way with them – a tough process, especially when they’re paying - the results were almost always beautiful, emotive, and stunning. In most other situations, images that I shot for me, shot to satisfy my own vision, were always the ones that sold and sold well.

The third moment of clarity came when I acknowledged my vision – or the lack thereof. I began to understand that intertwined with all of this was the sense that my vision had been lost; well, maybe not ‘lost’ per se, but most definitely altered; even a bit distorted. Either way, this was something I’d only just become aware of. Regardless of how my vision had evolved, it wasn’t what it had been. Over the years, I’ve grown and matured with my photography. Vision and purpose were left behind, neglected. I’ve come to understand that vision must be nurtured, must be encouraged. If it isn’t it simply won’t survive.
I titled today's post "Vision Quest." For many indigenous peoples, particularly those of North America, the quest for purpose and guidance, the seeking of a vision, is both a sacred and personal obligation. The artist’s vision is no different, simultaneously being a very intimate and very public thing. To bring nourishment to mine, I’m revisiting art, looking beyond what I see in order to see why I see. For me it’s not just about photography; it’s about the work of my colleagues in Savannah, the work of painters and sculptors, the work of those I admire and appreciate. Reading is also a therapy of sorts; I’m just starting a book titled “Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision” by David duChemin. Another book I thoroughly enjoy, one I find greatly stimulates imagination and vision, is “Invisible Cities” by Italian author Italo Calvino. A friend of mine, a talented photographer and designer who introduced me to the work of Calvino, once told me she keeps a very worn and thoroughly read copy of “Invisible Cities” on her nightstand.

I’m starting to feel a bit better now.

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Typically, I’m not a newspaper reader, online editions included. I listen to NPR, catch the local news from time to time, or check in to the NPR website, Google News or something similar online. Once in a while though, some kind and considerate soul, in this case my wife, will point out something in print that I should see.

In the Tuesday, October 6, 2009 edition of the Wall Street Journal, in the Leisure & Arts section, was an article on photographer Robert Bergman. Never heard of him? Neither had I. Now, after reading the article, and doing a bit of searching online, I desperately want to get to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York to see his work.

Mr. Bergman, who calls himself ‘The Man Who Waited’, is living the story of the photographer as artist in modern America. He has become known for his simple and stark portraits of everyday folk. It was at the age of 63, having photographed for all of his adult life, that he made his first print sale to Agnes Gund, one of the country’s prominent collectors of photography and president emerita of MoMA. Now 65, selections of his work will be shown October 11, 2009 through January 14, 2010 at P.S.1 Gallery, a division of MoMA, and then at Yessi Milo in November, another New York City gallery.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. will also host the exhibit from October 11, 2009 through January 10, 2010. Mr. Bergman has published a book of his images, “A Kind of Rapture” which has been notably received by the art world. I'm going to try and find a copy for myself.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

More From My Session With Kathy and Michelle...

There’s been a fair amount of interest in my photo shoot with Kathy Thomas and Michelle Phillips from late July. I had briefly written about the session in the post of August 11th and put an image up from the work with last week’s entry.

The shoot was done in Kathy’s home on a very warm and sunny afternoon. Kathy lives in an older Savannah home in an older Savannah neighborhood; a home with no central air conditioning. Even with fans on and windows open, even with the nice breeze we had, it was a hot space in which to work. The shoot plan called for using only available window light, which we had plenty of, and it was light of nice quality – when it was consistent. The skies were just cloudy enough to cause real headaches. As clouds passed in front of the sun, the light would change from fully illuminating sun to partial overcast in milliseconds. So while the quality of light was good, metering the light was a constant and challenging endeavor. Even shooting on the aperture priority setting was difficult as the corresponding shutter speeds were all over the place. Another challenge was the space itself. Because Kathy's home is situated on a crowded residential street, and this was a nude session, there were restrictions on which rooms we could and couldn’t use.

My original intent with the shoot concept was to produce a series of B&W images; however, as I wrote in the August 11th entry, the images revealed themselves to work better as works of color. To the purist, this could make the shoot concept and execution a failure, but I don’t see it that way. Looking at the image files that evening, it became quickly apparent the session worked better in color. There was no question about it.

I don’t want to give the impression the shoot wasn’t a success or that it was difficult work. It was a success, and it was also a lot of hard work, more than any of us bargained for. The heat and constant moving around of furniture and equipment added to the load. Nonetheless, our hard work paid off as several good and interesting images were made. Here are a few more of them.

Producing and showing color images has, in years past, been a rare thing for me.

I’d say that 85% of the work I’ve produced in the last 10 years has been monochromatic – black and white. There’s no denying it; I’m an old school shooter. I only emerged from the darkroom sometime in 2004. I’ve been writing about how I’m seeking change; questing for new territories to explore with my cameras. Seeing images in color, particularly images of figurative work, and creating those images is new and exciting adventure.

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You’ve probably noticed I don’t stray too much from the topics of art and photography. I may move about quite a bit within those topics, but pretty much, that’s the direction in which I want this blog to go and I try to stay on subjects connected to art and photography. Many of the photography and art oriented blogs, as well as some others that I actively lurk and follow, are also forums for their writer’s political views, etc. That’s fine, but it’s not my style.

Still, with passing of Senator Kennedy this past week, one can’t help but reflect on who we are and how we got here, as a people as a nation. I’m not going to say anything of real substance here, so don’t get your hopes up. I will say my mood of late has been one of deep self-reflection and pondering, on many different levels; a bit of soul-searching if you will. We’ll see where it takes me, and if it’s something I think may interest my readers, perhaps I’ll write about it here.

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Lastly, while I don't receive too many comments, the few that I do seem to take their time in showing up. If there's a delay in getting your comments read and published, my apologies. It is something beyond my control and I'm working to figure it out.

I'm also at a loss as to why some images link and others don't. Again, I ask for your patience please. I'm working on it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Space-cially Challenged...

Studio space – a good working space, available at a reasonable price – is somewhat hard to come by in Savannah. There is a rental studio in the area, but nothing compares to having one’s own space. Don’t get me wrong; the rental studio is a nice one; fully furnished, well equipped, fairly priced, and owned and operated by a knowledgeable husband and wife team that happen to be friends of mine. I’ve done good work there in recent years.

In an earlier post, I wrote about how I wanted to take my work out of the studio; to play with natural light and natural environments, or shoot in other indoor environments besides a dedicated studio. Go “off set” in other words. This color image of Kathy and Michelle was shot in Kathy’s home using only window light. I recently shot portraits of a friend’s daughter and her friend in natural light, indoors and out. I’ve always believed window light is the best light for any indoor work. Images created in this light are almost always beautiful. I'm making some progress in that direction.

Still, from time to time, I need a formal studio. While I love to give my friends business when I can, the cost of renting a studio adds up, especially when preparing for a show. The economy being what it is, I needed to find a way to cut – or at least minimize – my production costs. I thought I had hit upon the perfect answer.

As many of you know, I’m an owning partner in a local art gallery, a little place called The Gallery. Our space features a marvelous main floor with beautiful tall windows and very inviting lighting. It’s absolutely gorgeous in daylight and at night. We also have a unique lower level gallery, where mostly large and original pieces of work hang. So I thought: why not use the lower level gallery as a shooting space, after hours, when the business is closed? It can’t be seen from the street level, and the floor space is plenty big.

Perfect – right?

Not exactly. I knew the space would have challenges, but it turned out to be more than I had bargained for. The ceiling was the issue, and while the height of it was a problem, the ceiling color revealed itself to be the bigger problem. The entire ceiling – every square inch of it - is white. Not just white, it is a very bright white.
In other words, the ceiling is a very efficient, not to mention gigantic, reflector. No matter what I did, no matter what ingenious ideas me or my assistants came up with to block or redirect the light from the flash heads, the ceiling scattered light far and wide. Since the vast majority of my work done in studio is done on dark or black backgrounds, this is a disaster of moderate proportions for the way I shoot. As evidenced by this image of model Sarah H., it works beautifully as a high-key location. However, I’m not a high-key kind of guy. Well, not much of one, anyway.

The only workable solution was to drape the ceiling in a dark, light absorbing fabric. This proved to be more difficult than it sounds. There are no real attachment points in place and I promised my partners I wouldn’t modify the spaces. Second, having to drape the ceiling each time before a session adds to the costs of the session, if not in dollars, in time spent. Once again, things were becoming too complicated – and complicated is not in keeping with my efforts to simplify and streamline my shooting work flow.

So, I’ll continue scouting new locations; I’ll keep hunting for beautiful, natural light to use as often as possible. Fortunately, my planning is taking me in this direction anyway. And when I need a good, workable studio to use, I know where to find it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Same as it ever was…

Or so it seems; I’ve been afflicted with a bad case of not-enough-hours-in-the-day syndrome. Basically, I’ve been busy.

The busy has been good though, as a large portion of it came from spending significant time in a villa on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina with life-long friends. We’re scattered far and wide over the country now and it had been 30 years since I had last laid eyes on some of them. Those few days spent together were quite wonderful. Work of course, has made up the rest of being busy.

While on Hilton Head, I had the pleasure of photographing one of my friend’s daughters and her friend that joined the family for the trip. These young ladies are both dancers of ballet; they’re both 13; and they’re both tall, graceful and drop dead gorgeous. My make-up artist and stylist came to the villa and together, we spent an afternoon with these talented girls shooting fashion and artistic portraits, as well as some ballet on the beach. I’ll not likely post any of the images here. The two primary reasons for doing this session were for the girls to have fun, and for them to create something unique as a gift for themselves and their families. It was a great time and quite exhausting for all involved. I honestly don’t recall the last time I intentionally spent an afternoon with two 13 year olds. I'd guess it was when I was 13.

Now it’s back to the work at hand. I’ve got two figure sessions scheduled for this week; one is for the evening on the 12th and the other, the evening of the 13th. Both are models I’ve photographed before. After looking through my available inventory of images, I decided to go ahead with these two sessions and cross my fingers they will complete what I need for my November show and opening. Time is quickly running out.

I’m also behind in my film developing, with several rolls from a recent outing with the Holga, plus commissions to develop for friends. I’ll also be getting out and shooting more documentary and editorial work for my general gallery inventories and I’ve got a figure session planned for an outdoor location once the heat and bugs become more manageable. Lastly, and perhaps most critically with a show deadline hanging over me, I’ve got a printing dilemma to resolve. There'll be more on that in future posts, I'm sure.

The figure session shot week before last with Michelle Phillips and Kathy Thomas at Kathy’s home went well. In my initial edits of the images, it’s becoming apparent that this project may work better as color than monotone, something that has surprised me. The lighting was a challenge as the sun darted in and out of the clouds, sometimes with exceptional speed, and because of the location, we were restricted in our usage of certain rooms. Plus, the colors of the rooms are quite neutral and with the mix of soft and hard light, the contrast is all over the place. There are good images in the mix, but another session is in order.

The images accompanying this post are from a July figure session; I couldn’t stand the thought of posting without including at least some photography. I’ll have new images to show when the two upcoming sessions are completed and I promise the next update will include some of the new work.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hello, it's me...

It’s been my hope to update this blog at least once per week. Too much time has slipped by since my last entry, and as I write this, I’m keenly aware more than 20 days have passed. I’m obviously late. To my one or two faithful followers, I apologize.

The amount of photography work not done in recent months has been disappointing, but things are improving. A week ago Saturday, I shot a fantastic figure session with a lovely model and made an abundance of beautiful images. The following Sunday, I did a photo-walkabout-tour at The Savannah River National Wildlife Refuge with photographers and friends Kathy Thomas and Michelle Phillips. These ladies have worked with me in the past as models and assistants, and this next week I’ll be shooting a figure session with them together as models. I believe this will become the start of a new project, and I’m expecting more good work to come from it.

A camera in hand is therapy, at least for me, and it’s been a while since I’ve been able to spend a weekend with my cameras. It was nice.

The recent Saturday figure session has been through a series of tough edits. This shoot was all about me making amends, mostly to myself, for a difficult session from the first week of June with the same model. (If you’re interested, you can read about that session here.) The problems I experienced were all of my own making and while it was difficult to deal with them at the time, I’ve done quite well in stepping back toward the light if I do say so myself. The new figure work has brought me to my good place, a place where I haven’t been for longer than I was aware. I hope you enjoy these images from that session.

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On that same Saturday evening, I stood at the magazine stand in my local Barnes & Noble Book Sellers skimming the latest edition of PDN. I’m not a typical PDN reader but one headline on the cover caught my eye. The article was about how online galleries and blogs of various sorts are changing the way artists are showing their work to traditional galleries, curators, and prospective collectors.

I definitely have a presence online. Along with this blog, I operate two websites which feature my photography. (My website links are posted to the right, under “Bill on the Web.”) Occasionally, I post work on Photo.net, Community Zoe, and Toycamera.com, and I maintain portfolios on three of the photographer/model networking sites. Exactly how much I’m benefiting from it all, I can’t say.

The question of how to best market myself has been buzzing around my brain lately. Mostly, it’s a question of how to introduce my work, particularly the figure work, to audiences outside of Savannah. The closest and most obvious “big” market is Atlanta and I did have a foot in the door there a few years ago. My first show was there; my first fine art photograph to be published was published there; and my first images to sell were sold there. Thinking of landed, brick and mortar galleries and not the internet, Atlanta seems a logical first step.

But are stand alone galleries in Atlanta – or anywhere for that matter - still viable? I think so, but either way I’m coming to realize it’s going to be a start over. I still have friends and acquaintances in Atlanta, but many have moved on. Galleries I used to frequent and have shown in are closed or under new direction.

Getting my work in front of more people more quickly is the main reason I started this blog. The PDN article highlighted several photographers whose careers ‘took off’ after their images were posted on one or two well read blogs. My work has been picked up by at least one blog that I’m aware of, so I’m still docked at the gate; still boarding passengers so to speak. But at least the passengers are boarding.

I’ll confess I didn’t read the PDN article from start to finish; but I did do more than just skim. I found myself wondering, is it true? Instead of sitting down with gallery directors and exhibit curators with my book of images, am I now expected send images to some blogger as email attachments and hope they’re posted and then found by these virtual gallery directors and exhibit curators? Do I produce my book on CD and send it out blind? Is that really how it’s being done?

It was then I realized I’ve not sat in a gallery office and showed my book in at least four years; that my most recent show was planned and executed almost entirely by an exchange of emails between me and the gallery manager. Oh my.

I’ve been caught. The market changed and I wasn’t paying attention. It’s time to catch up.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Something beautiful...

Given the chance, I would rather spend time with one or two friends, or time alone, than go to a party; I love music and prefer it recorded to live; I don’t like turkey and dressing for holiday meals; instead a beautifully grilled medium-rare steak with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli is far better; and I don’t like fireworks. Things launched into the air like missiles, that quickly explode over my head into a shower of burning debris, albeit colorful burning debris, simply don’t enthrall me.

This year’s Independence Day celebration has fit my mold quite nicely. My wife and I spent the weekend with friends in Florida. It’s been lots of time spent on a remarkably not too crowded beach (where my feet were sunburned); lots of talk and chat amongst friends; and good home cooked meals and drink. Best of all, they didn’t make me go to the local fireworks display.

Still, this is a blog about photography. Although there are no pictures of fireworks, no panoramic vistas of what must be one of the last peaceful beaches in Florida, I'll at least share one image of something beautiful.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Thoughts on Models…and the Muse

After I finished my entry for yesterday’s post, I felt unsettled, as if something had been left unsaid. These weren't feelings of forgetfulness; these feelings nagged me to process and reconsider my words. I know now what was bothering me; what was not discussed: the question of anonymity.

Photographer Helmut Newton once said “an anonymous nude is a dishonest nude.” I’m not certain what he meant, or the context in which it was said, but his words have stuck with me. Perhaps this is because much of my work keeps the model anonymous. Often this is by design, as models sometimes ask to remain unidentifiable. Most times, it just works out that way. When I visualize my images, they often don’t include the model’s face. It’s how I see. It’s how I work.

And Mr. Newton, I don’t see my work as ‘dishonest.’

But to the question of anonymity, and Mr. Newton’s statement: why does anonymity bother some people – and why do some insist upon it? In my entry yesterday, I wrote briefly about the dominant views of nudity in our culture and society. In my opinion, the desire for anonymity is rooted in these cultural beliefs.

In the context of these ideals, anonymity allows all participants in the art to be active, to let go, to be immersed in the artist’s vision. Anonymity is a safe haven. No one will know we find pleasing lines, textures, and shapes in the bodies of others, that we can see beauty in the bodies shared by those of our own sex, even ourselves. We can remain a face in the crowd. Anonymity protects us from us.

Of course, there's a real world side to anonymity and figure modeling. It’s sad and it’s silly, but it’s true. Anonymity allows the school teacher, the lawyer, the police officer, to express their creative side, to share their beauty with the audience of the art and at the same time, keep their jobs.

How does the muse feel about anonymity? I don’t know. We don’t talk about it.

It doesn’t enter the discussion unless the model asks for it, and I often prefer they didn’t. Keeping a model anonymous is sometimes difficult for me as it changes how I think; how I see and visualize. Instead of simply seeing, I have to think about not seeing. If I ask you to not think of apples, what do you immediately think of? If it isn’t mentioned, if I allow the shoot to flow as it will, if I shoot as I see, then the nature of the work will take over and anonymity will happen. Most of the time. And if it doesn't? There’s always post production.

Don't believe I've never asked the muse to share her thoughts on anonymity. I approach; she keeps her distance. Always present, always hidden in shadow. Now that I think of it, I’ve never seen her face. I've only glimpsed her body. To me, she’s remained anonymous. For everyone that sees my work, she stands to face them.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"I never saw an ugly thing in my life; light, shadow, and perspective will always make it beautiful." - John Constable, painter.

There are two questions I’m asked most often about my work and both pertain to models.

The most common question people have is how or where I find models. They also want to know why I don’t have any images of male models included in my body of work. The latter is the easiest to answer, so I’ll start there.

The market for male figurative art, particularly photographic male figurative art, is so small it’s virtually non-existent. That’s particularly true for the area of the world where I live and work. I have photographed male models in years past and used to show their images in my portfolios, but I’ve never sold an image of a male nude. So, I don’t invest the time and cost in the production of work that will be difficult, if not impossible, to market. Simple economics.

This is interesting to me, as the vast majority of figurative art produced by the Greek and Roman cultures were of the male form. The male body was seen as the epitome of perfection; whereas the female figure was seen as incomplete and often described as “profane.” At some point, the cultural and world views changed and now the female form dominates figurative work the world over. To this day, male figurative art is more successful as statuary or drawings and paintings than photography.

So: where do I find models for my work? Most often, I ask people I know or those I meet to pose. There are also resources on the web, networking sites that specifically provide a way for models and artists to connect with one another. Model Mayhem, Model Coast, Model Brigade, and One Model Place are some of the more popular ones. I maintain portfolios on Model Mayhem and Model Brigade but haven’t had any real success with them as resources for models. I tend to do better when I look within my own community.

Finding models is challenging for any artist. The search for the model-muse eludes us all. One great thing about figurative modeling is it’s not restricted to certain body ideals, such as those sought for fashion or runway modeling. Anybody, everyone, can be a figure model. Granted, specific projects may call for a certain body type, skin color, age range, or some other criteria. But generally speaking, figure modeling is something anyone comfortable in their own skin, comfortable with who they are, can do. 18 or older, of course.

In a recent conversation with a photographer friend, he shared that he’s had good results finding models using Craig’s List. I was apprehensive about this approach at first; I had tried advertising for models without success in the past. I decided to try it again. This time I was able to make some promising connections. The image above is of a woman that responded to my Craig’s List advert. It's from a recent studio session, and coincidentally, it was her first experience as a model.

Asking friends and acquaintances to pose has worked quite well. But it's not surprising that nearly every day, I see women that would be wonderful figure models. Often, what I see as interesting about them are the very things they see as “unattractive” or “ugly” about themselves. Our cultural ideas of beauty are often based on unobtainable goals. Sadly, we live in a culture where merely being nude is considered taboo; being nude in a public place, or outside of one’s home, even on one’s own property, can be judged as a criminal act. These can be difficult barriers to deal with; but one thing I never do is to try to persuade or “talk” someone into modeling. I’ll give them a business card with my website address and contact number on it, briefly explain what I do, and let them know my work can be seen in a local gallery. It’s their decision to contact me or not. Fortunately, they often do.

I feel I do my best work with new or inexperienced models and I’ve wondered why this is. I've come to the conclusion it's because they have few bad habits to undo and no preconceived ideas of what the art should be. I’m also fortunate to live in a city where a prominent art school is located and where much of the community is receptive to art and the processes of art. Often, models I’ve worked with in the past will refer an interested model to me. My karma must be better than I know.

Models are critical to artists and artists are critical to models. The figure photographer cannot work without the figure model; the figure model’s work cannot exist with the figure photographer. On some level, model and artist are partners intertwined, bound together by the work at hand, giving and receiving in constant, intimate exchange, creating something that is simultaneously wonderful and beautiful.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Are you laughing? This is art! There's no laughing in art!"

I was recently reminded of a conversation with a friend from Atlanta. She worked with me as a studio assistant and later as a model during the early years of my work with the nude. After our third or fourth session together, I asked how she was doing, if she was comfortable working with nude people.

She laughed. “I’m fine” she said. “But you need to lighten up.”

I’ve never had much of a poker face so my surprise didn’t go unnoticed. “These women shouldn’t feel like they’re in a doctor’s office" she said. "If I was going to model, I’d want to know I was going to have fun, that it wouldn’t be so…clinical. This is art, not illustration for some anatomy textbook. Lighten up. Have a sense of humor about it.” She shut off one of the monolight heads; I just stared at the wall. She turned to face me. “Art should be fun.”

Art? Fun? Really?

Certainly, the definition of what art ‘is’ means many different things to many different people. For some, the definition of art is the same definition Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart placed upon obscenity in a 1964 ruling, “I know it when I see it." Put simply, art can be difficult to define. But fun? Perhaps. I like to imagine that’s why Leonardo da Vinci shared the soft smile of Lisa del Gheradini – the Mona Lisa - with the world.

I’ve thought of my friend’s comments often and have decided that yes, art should be fun, as should the process of art. The quote from Edward Weston, with which I opened this blog, would seem to minimize any aspect of fun and art; but having read his daybooks, I do believe that Mr. Weston was an artist that had a lot of fun with his medium. There are few things in this world that genuinely fill me with joy, and creating my photographs – my art – is one of them. And when I think about it, there have been many humorous moments in my studio sessions with models, nude and clothed, and even out of studio, working with no models.

So yes, art can be funny and art can be fun. Here's a couple of pictures to prove it.

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The faithful among you who are following this blog through its infancy will notice I’ve changed the background color to white. Originally, the background was black and the text white. This made the images look fabulous, but it was, admittedly, hard on the eyes when it came to reading. Your criticisms have been heard.

So, while this is a blog with photography at its heart, where the images should always look fabulous, it’s also a blog that’s now easier to read. Continue, please.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Film!

Ah film.

For me, film means photography. Film is photography.

Despite the way that sounds, my intent is not to begin a “film vs. digital” debate; what I am trying to say is film is how I learned to work with light and shadow; film is how I learned about exposure, about seeing, about composition; film was the base upon which everything I know about photographic theory was built. There is now a generation of working photographers that have never used film. It is slipping away from school curriculums and truthfully, I’m having a tough time wrapping my mind around that.

If you’ve read any of this blog, and I sure hope that someone is, you know that I work in both mediums in my photography, though I wouldn’t say I do so interchangeably. When I shoot, no matter film or digital, I shoot as if I’m shooting film and I’m the first to admit doing so has caused problems. Just read my blog entry from June 21st.

Regardless, I honestly believe that because I learned photography in an analog world and continued to work with film long after the digital influx, I tend to be more careful when I work. However, as I began to integrate digital photography into my projects, I lowered my guard and grew more ambitious without regard for the art. It has now bitten me in the butt. Again, read yesterday’s entry.

I will point out the problems I experienced during the studio session have nothing to do with whether I was shooting film or digital. I happened to be shooting more digital than film, but in the same circumstances I would have experienced the same issues shooting more film and less digital. The medium is irrelevant.


Needless to say, after looking at dozens of underexposed RAW image files on my first edit, I was eager to develop the rolls of film I shot during those sessions. I’ve always been confident in my lighting abilities, and having sorted out the majority of equipment issues, confidence had once again taken hold - or at least had its foot in the door.

It’s important to understand some of this film was shot with a Holga toy camera. The Holga is an all plastic camera made in China and can be bought for around $35. Commercial photographers hate them; fine art photographers love them. They’re renowned for unpredictability with exposures, soft focus, and light leaks. Knowing this, I’m always braced for what the Holga may or may not give. While it frequently gives nothing, the images it can give are often breathtaking. I’m a huge fan. These two black and white images were made with a Holga.

Still, as much as I love the plastic-fantastic, I’m not brave enough to commit huge portions of studio sessions to it. I also shot with my Yashica MAT 124G twin lens reflex camera, a 35 year old camera I know to be rock solid.

When time came to process the film, I declared the guest bathroom off limits and set up the chemistry, drying racks, etc. I began rolling the film onto the developing reels in a small portable changing bag or “dark bag.” I’m particular about film processing and I usually only do two rolls per tank to maintain consistency. The first reel rolled without a hitch, but the second was difficult.

The actual development steps went smoothly. It was when I pulled the reels from the tank after the final fresh water rinse that I discovered the problem. The first reel I had rolled was well developed with good negative images, but the second reel was not. The crease in the film was still there and caused the film to stick to itself. Only half of the roll was properly developed. Believing the mistake was mine, I continued to develop, but on the next set of rolls, I lost an entire due to what I now knew was a bad reel.

In spite of all of this, and in spite of the fact I’d not had these problems if I had shot digitally, (I could’ve had a different set of problems altogether), I still love film. I love the way it feels, I love the way it sounds in camera, and I love the process of working with it. I even like the smell of the chemistry. (Some of it.) I purchased a new reel and things are fine. The later sets of negatives look good.

Working with film does present its own set of challenges when it comes to printing an actual photograph. While I can easily develop any black and white negative film at home, printing is another matter altogether. A complete working darkroom is needed to make photographs from negatives. The only other solution is a scanner, and a high quality one at that, if you want to print anything larger than 8X10 or so. Presently, I don’t have access to a darkroom where I can print, so my negatives are scanned and printed digitally. (I’m hopeful this will soon change; see my entry for June 17 where I talk at length about PURE.)

There are considerations with film development for scanning where management of negative contrast and density is concerned. The general rule I’ve heard is negatives that will be scanned should be developed with lower overall contrast – less density. I honestly don’t recall where or by whom I was told this. Speaking for myself, I was taught under the adage of “expose for the shadows; develop for the highlights” and it serves me well. I’ve no reason to deviate. So far, I’ve been able to manage my negatives in PhotoShop and print accordingly.



At the darkroom where I did my work in Atlanta, there was an underlying fear that film would quietly slip away; that it would be there one day and gone the next. The use of film has certainly diminished; and the darkroom, much to my dismay, closed its doors 4 years ago.

But film is hardly gone. In celebration of that fact, all of the images with today’s post were recorded on film - with no manipulation in PhotoShop other than cropping, spotting, and a few tonal adjustments - film stuff.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New Studio Work; Plus an Exhibition Celebrating the Johnny Mercer Centennial

Here are two test images from a recent studio set with new models; models both new to modeling and new to my work. It was my hope these sessions would finish my shoot schedule for an upcoming gallery exhibition set for November of this year. Well, the sessions did bring things to a close, but not quite as I expected. It was also these sessions that started my thoughts on how I and other artists face fear and change, inspiring two of this week’s entries in the blog.

The sessions were done with each model independently over one eight hour day; shooting one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. In spite of my feelings, I pushed ahead with projects I knew should end, and in hindsight, this was a good thing. It served to clear my head, pushing the veil aside, allowing me to see that I was no longer adhering to my philosophies of simplicity and of sticking with the basics. But, as is often the case with things that “clear my head”, the process was not without a few painful moments. I was at least aware of my emotions, so I began each session with a very simple set: a plain paper background, single monolight and white umbrella. It was an honest start.

Still, I was frustrated and stressed during the sessions, and worried my feelings and unsettled energies were transferring to the models. The models did wonderfully and were, as it turns out, fine. (One did tell me she sensed some interruptions in my “flow” at times.) The real problems, as they usually are, were with my own attitude and stubbornness.

However, my troubles were not limited to my state of mind, as I somehow managed to change the shutter speed setting on one of my cameras. I had accidentally turned a control dial, something I didn’t catch for several minutes of shooting. Combined with other technical issues, this resulted in the underexposure of many images, some significantly.

All of these were easily avoided mistakes; mistakes that would have been realized much sooner had my mind not been blocked with frustration. It’s worth noting that had these been film sessions, I would have certainly been up the proverbial creek without a paddle, perhaps even a boat. I did shoot a few rolls of film with each model and have had an entirely different set of issues with that. I’ll save that tale for the next post.

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The centennial birthday of singer, songwriter, and arranger Johnny Mercer takes place this year. Savannah is his hometown, and it’s a big event. At Savannah's The Gallery, where I am an owning partner, we are hosting a show in honor of Mercer and his music. Each artist/partner of The Gallery chose a song title from one of the hundreds written by Mercer and created a work around it.

My piece is a black and white photograph of the Savannah Gryphon, a terracotta fountain statue of the mythical winged lion. The statue was given to the city of Savannah as a gift in 1889, but from whom or in honor of what, I’m not certain. Unfortunately, in September of 2008, it was destroyed when a car driven by a drunk driver went out of control and crashed into it, shattering it into thousands of pieces. A full restoration is now underway.

"Frasier, the Sensuous Lion", by Bill Ballard

Mercer penned a song titled “Frasier, the Sensuous Lion” and I decided my image of the statue fit perfectly with the title. I put the image in the show, dedicating it to the memory of both Mercer and the gryphon. A percentage of the sale price goes to the Johnny Mercer Statuary fund that is placing a bronze of Mercer in the newly restored Ellis Square in Savannah’s City Market district.

The show will be on the walls until the end of June. I’m pleased to say "Frasier" has sold.

The irony of the situation is that I had decided not to put a piece in the show as I didn’t feel I had anything that fit well with Mercer’s work. But after being barraged by emails and phone calls from my gallery partners, I was persuaded to conceive “Frasier.” And so it goes.