Category Archives: Photography

Unusual Pin-Up Photography

The following cheeky pinup photos were taken by Australian photographer Wallyir. I am utterly fascinated and inspired by these photographs made by posing simple wooden artist mannequins, model toys, and other every day objects. Each photos is mesmerizing — and together, the series definitely tells a story!

beginning blank canvas painter and muse at the easel playing up study of a portrait portrait of a muse pinup art photography willyir cast of three wallyir

It seems the photos were taken in 2010 and at least some of them submitted as photography assignments at About.com. There we can really see the photographer’s sense of humor:

Lessons Learned

  • Fine tune D.O.F to have back ground still recognizable.
  • Any dust on such a small subject is very noticeable.
  • Lighting need not be very complicated (or expensive) for a good effect.
  • Using a kitchen bench,Freezer Top or Computer desk to stage your photography will result in those areas being needed immediately or life as I know it could cease.

Other similar works by Wallyir:

vintage motorcycle and girl wallyir

rose et noir pinup figure photography

old ladies black and white photography by willyir

Canadian Vintage Postcards

Old Barrie, OntarioI have been a history fan since the day I first noticed old buildings with the carved and sculpted stonework, the majestic columns and the extras, like gargoyles. My Mother loves antiques. We still have some of the massive pieces of furniture which she told me were called Canadiana, over 100 years old made from trees far older than that even. The wood has become soft to the touch and the colour is lighter than the finished wooden furniture.

Anyway, nothing lasts forever. Isn’t that the sad part of history, architecture and antiques?

This is why I have always enjoyed finding vintage and antique postcards of old Canadian cities, towns and places I have been in the current time. In the old postcards you can see some of what once was and how a building (still standing) looked when it was new. The street views are my favourites. Horses still in the streets, sometimes sharing it with vehicles and sometimes, just horses and buggies. People along the sidewalks, some close enough to see a pattern in their clothes and the trimmings on their hats. Those were real, living people. Not a design someone created to add features to an illustration.

What do you think about when you see an old postcard? Travels? History? Collectibles and antiques? Maybe you see them for the art they are too?

Stick Legs

When I first spotted the thumbnail photo for this ebay listing for a James Wallace Pondelicek nude, I thought that the lines were illustrated legs…

Turns out, the “lines” are not drawn upon the photo, but thin pieces of vegetation on the beach

The photo, titled The Bather, is rare hand signed original double-weight sepia gelatin silver photograph, circa 1924. Taken along the shores of Lake Michigan, this vintage nude was used as the cover for James Pondelicek sampler catalog.

Metallic Fashion Forward

The cover, and other pages, which graced the Coilhouse, issue 03, are from of a series called Avatars photographed by Gustavo Lopez Mañas, featuring the wearable metal work of Manuel Albarran.

A stunning collaboration, these photos; but today I’m all about Manuel Albarran’s works.

Called “Metal Couture” by some, but described by the artist as “Heavy Couture,” it might prompt the knee-jerk response of dubbing his work “Heavy Metal Couture” — but full or partial metal jackets aside, I first fell in love with the artist’s work from this photo (via) in which the metal piece on the face is more reminiscent of some quack medical device — or something from a future society. Steampunk-esque. The fact that the model’s hair is coiled like brains only further emphasizes the look.

In a November 2010 interview with Dazed, the artist said he’d most like to collaborate with Guillermo Del Toro and Ridley Scott. Which makes sense as Manuel Albarran’s main goals are to use his fashion work to further not only his art exhibitions but his film projects.

More images here.

Talking Photography With Alexander S. Kunz

After enjoying the landscapes and nature portraits by Alexander S. Kunz, I wanted to talk about photography with him; the self-taught artist graciously agreed.

Photography — in it’s original concept, anyway — was the means by which to capture a precise moment in time, the way a person, place, or object was. But your works capture something less literal and more ethereal, more emotive and fanciful than a documentation. Before we get to the philosophy, let’s address the issue of “how”… The photos are taken with digital cameras, but are they digitally manipulated or “photoshopped” as well?

Yes, my photos are definitely digitally manipulated. I’m using only raw data – and I process it only in Lightroom. That’s the short answer. But it’s not easy to keep that apart from philosophy. 😉

Forgive me if I get a bit techno-philosophical right away: in my opinion, every photo is “manipulated” somehow. There is no such thing as a “pure” and truthful depiction of reality in general (no matter if it’s film or digital). Reality is simply very different from that what we can and will capture on a photo.

Without getting into too much detail, and oversimplified: the digital sensor records nothing but luminance (and then color through a filter array), and my personal take is: everything that comes after that is part of the manipulation already. Even contrast, saturation, sharpness, color hue are just parameters of that manipulation (different films are different in that regard too). The only fix point in the world of digital photography is the light that the sensor captured. So why should I bother to NOT manipulate anything else if it’s in favor of my perception and what I want to convey with an image? It’s a mindset that frees me from being bound by the “realistic” and documentary approach to photography.

The term “photoshopped” often implies cheating. My alterations are limited to, for example, removing small unwanted elements in the frame, like a piece of paper in the grass of an otherwise unspoiled scenery, or the tip of a twig, a power pole sticking into the frame somewhere. That might be cheating to some of course. And I manipulate color, contrast, light and dark without shame. 🙂 And needless to say, it also includes creating the balance between that what our human eye can see, and that what the sensor is able to capture.

What’s your photographic or artistic philosophy? How would you describe the process of developing the photographic technique to match your philosophic vision of photography?

My philosophy: I want to show beauty, and I picked landscapes and nature because I love being outdoors, I love hiking, walks at the beach, forests and deserts all alike. The beauty that I look for is often found in “small scenes”.

And while I always liked making photos, using film and polaroids or my first digital compact camera was… too static. I felt like not being in control. Having grown up as part of the “generation C64” (one of the first widely spread home computers), and also being something like a computer freak ever since, the marriage of photography with the digital darkroom on the computer was probably the best thing that could happen to me. I’m a digital child.

I quite often find myself looking at some beautiful scenery and making a photo of it, but at home I find that it just doesn’t transport the entire beauty and emotion that I had seen and experienced when I released the shutter (and I also think that’s something that happens to almost everyone). And it can’t – it’s just a photo! A 2D snapshot of a very very short moment in time that lacks the sense of movement, depth, smell, sound… I find that what the camera captures often needs to be refined, increased, idealized, reduced, distilled… to the essence of what actually made me lift the camera and release the shutter.

So, to conclude… it’s this technology that makes my photography possible, and that what my camera captures is the starting point. Sometimes, it’s a long way from there to the final image and requires and includes heavy manipulation, sometimes it’s a light path with just some touches here and there.

“Creating the balance between that what our human eye can see, and that what the sensor is able to capture” is an interesting statement… I want to say something very clever about Le Petite Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry — about how “The essential things in life are seen not with the eyes, but with the heart.” How do you feel about using the “cold” sensor of photographic equipment to move the human heart and emotion?

I find the attribution of “cold” a bit odd. The camera with that sensor is just a tool. Like a chisel, or a brush. Using “technologic devices” to create something that (hopefully) stirs the beholders heart and creates an emotion is common in many art forms, isn’t it? But we have this tendency to refuse anything that is new or modern it’s acceptance at first. Our grandparents didn’t like music made with electric guitars, it was “only noise”, and so on… 😉

As long as it works, it doesn’t matter what that tool is, or how old or new the technology is that we’re using when we create something. (but needless to say, “seeing with the heart” and the wish to capture that what you love with a photo is what makes any passionate photographer get the camera out and make a photo first place.)

What prompted me to contact you was this image, Ask The Mountains:


I continue to be amazed by the crisp nearly pristine quality — something, which when coupled with the cool color tone, I normally would regard as “mechanical” and “cold” — how it moves me in a very good, elated, way. …I guess there’s no real question there. *wink* What were you trying to create with that image?

I wanted to create something that was “more than just another layers” photo. My question to you would be: why does it move you?

I can tell you why it moves me: I’ve been there, and I had this feeling of wide, open spaces, I understood the history and the (in human terms) “infinity” of these mountains, of nature in general; the promise that the world is big and has something new for us every day, the temptation of the unknown and the longing and the thrill of exploration, to find out what these ridges and mountains are, hear their call, go there…

And well… it can serve as an illustration to what I said regarding my philosophy: if you take all that what I felt away, you’d end up with the hazy and somewhat dull original scene that my camera captured. That’s why I bumped up the contrast and the blue saturation so much. I wanted it to look “over the top”, it had to “pop” just that much to give me back that feeling. And hopefully transport some of it to others as well.

Back in the days of film photography, photographers would joke (or ruefully muse upon) the number of shots or even rolls of film they took, wasted, before they took the “good one.” Do you think that’s still true in digital photography? (Minus the rolls of film, of course lol) How many photos do you think you take, even manipulate, before you have “the good one”?

To answer your first question: I think that it’s even WORSE with digital photography. Being freed from the “every click costs” thinking with using film, one tends to simply make more photos. That includes me. 🙂 We’re not wasting rolls of film, we’re wasting shutter actuations. That’s not a bad thing, but culling has become the most important thing for the digital photographer. Very very rigid and extensive culling. (wishful thinking here *grin*)

And to the second question: That’s really hard to answer. If I’m really hard on myself, maybe it’s 1 “long term portfolio quality” photo for 1000 shots taken. I’m happy if I can find 10 really really great photos for my personal selection of a year’s top 10.

A little background. Let’s say I’ve been on a hike for a day and I come home with… 100 photos? Only some 30 of them might actually be different enough to keep them apart – the rest is experiments with different exposures, depth of field, compositions. (It’s the luxury and curse of digital photography. A curse because it’s a lot of material that one SHOULD get rid of and delete pretty soon. The problem is: we’re not doing it.) Of the 30 individual photos, maybe 10 are keepers (for whatever reason). Sometimes, one of them might be “the good one”, portfolio quality. Maybe long-term portfolio quality, ie. it will still stand out in a year or two. Only time will tell that.

Certainly digital photography is much less expensive than film and print photography, and it’s far more instantly gratifying — just slip in the memory card, and voila! No waiting to develop prints. But still many would-be photographers hesitate to begin… What advice or tips do you have for those folks?

Do whatever you’re comfortable with. The hords of tech-gurus that preach things like “if you really want to learn how to use your camera, use the fully manual mode” or “if you want to get the maximum out of your photos, use raw data” might be right, but from a beginner’s point of view, it’s just not the most important thing. If someone decides to get a camera, it should be FUN to use and operate it. Shooting JPEGs in full-auto mode is just fine. The feeling that it might be limiting will come all by itself sooner or later for those who pick up the photography virus. 🙂

I learned a lot about the tech-side of photography solely through the internet and with the information that is available there for FREE. That’s awesome!

But I wouldn’t really trust “the internet” (photo forums or platforms) to get good advice and learn about (more than the basics of) design and composition though. I bought books for that. The average internet crowd might know little about photographic design, style and composition, and still put “nice composition!” as a comment to your photo. Or self-proclaimed “experts” criticize your photo while the only thing they ever heard about somewhere somehow was the rule of thirds (and then no one everrrr is allowed to break it!). It’s annoying to say the least, not very helpful quite often, or even dangerous if you really want to grow as an artist.

I’d like to thank Alex for making the time for the interview and invite you all to keep up with him at his blog.

Review: The Painted Backdrop: Behind the Sitter in American Tintype Photograph

The Painted Backdrop By Jim Linderman

Have you ever thought about the painted backgrounds in antique and vintage photographs?

No?

Well, you aren’t alone.

Until I read The Painted Backdrop: Behind the Sitter in American Tintype Photography, by Jim Linderman (with an essay by Kate Bloomquist), I hadn’t either.

In fact, the story of and between 19th century painters and American photography really has never been told — or, I should say, “hasn’t been explored” until Linderman came along and looked into it via his collection of antique tintype photographs.

Considering virtually every one of the millions upon millions of tintype photographs taken indoors from 1850 to 1920, (and a good number of the few taken outside) had a painted backdrop, it is remarkable  no one has ever written a book about them. This is even more remarkable given the importance of the background in motion pictures today. As entire films are produced by computer, the role of the actor has been reduced to standing before an empty screen mouthing words only later to be placed in a digital backdrop which never existed and never will. In a way, the early painted drops used by primitive tintype photographers of the late 19th century an unreal environment in a prescient manner; the thread connecting them to big-screen computer generated hyper-worlds is real but seldom considered.

He even dares to ask the question, “Could this be because photographers, even then, were so determined to prove THEY were doing the art and not the painter they relegated to the background?”

Antique Tintype Backdrop Being Painted

The author / collector states: “This is an art book about painting and photography (or vice-versa) and how they met in a certain time and place.”   Ever since the camera arrived, the debate about the merits of photography as an art form has raged (admittedly Ansel Adams helped sway a lot of people that it is), and this book and its 75 antique tintype images certainly is part of that debate. It also raises the question about whether or not the painted backdrops used behind the people in the photographs are art, folk art, or ephemera from the photographic industry.  But  it’s that last part, “how they met in a certain time and place,” which really gets to the core of things, the thrilling things, for me.  That’s where we get to the historical cultural contexts.

The book gives a brief historical overview of photography set in the context of culture, art and commerce. There’s a near ode to daguerreotypes and a rather sneering look at ambrotypes before we settle in to accept the (lowly fragile) tintypes as having won the hearts of the masses. While tintypes lack the gleam of their forerunners, the thin tintype’s popularity mirrors how the West was won: Easy, inexpensive, mobility.  The ease of mailing tintypes not only aligns with the power of rail road transportation, but in fact, photo studios sprung up near or at nearly every train station.

Two Antique Tintypes With Same Painted Backdrops

However, Linderman doesn’t end his considerations of the development of photography there; his (rather opinionated) narrative briefly covers paper prints, the Polaroid, and digital photos too. If you find the author judgmental, he is. But his thoughts are historically and culturally sane; and when it comes to art, we all have our preferences — or at least we ought to.

In many ways, Linderman’s brief text is more glorious than the many antique images he shares. For, agree or disagree with the author’s thoughts and opinions, you are rather forced to form your own thoughts and opinions. But none of us are really left with conclusions — at least those we haven’t, in part, jumped to.  As Linderman states, there’s just too little documentation, research and investigation, into what happened to painters when the camera came along — into the subject of photographic backdrops themselves — to reach any real conclusions.

The book raises more questions, really, than it answers. At least for me. But in that most excellent of ways which rather than being too light of a snack, leaving me unsatisfied, this book whets my appetite, makes me want more, leaves me with something to chew on… Technology, commerce, art, and culture collide at a crossroads, supposed “forward progress” exposing values, leaving the role of art and artists themselves as question marks… Not at all unlike the digital situation of today.

Tintype Of Painter Working On Photographic Backdrop

The very fact that we haven’t really put any effort into exploring “what happened” is a testament to how little we value photography, art, and artists, I suppose. Yet art, and more than a few artists, have managed to survive.

Collections and books like this preserve what was — not just for us all to see and enjoy, but to force us to look at what happened and to examine for ourselves just what is all involved in such technological advances and shifts in “style.”

The Elemental Art Of Photography

In a world, a country, with dwindling art and music programs, I’m thrilled to read at History Is Elementary that students in upper elementary grades (grades 4, 5, and 6) will be taught darkroom photography and printmaking.

I’m so jealous — but mostly happy. *wink*

And I hope it starts a trend.

In the article, along with a discussion of use of photography in teaching history, there’s this:

What a terrific opportunity to teach what may be a dying art. Bob Smith, a local photographer in my neck of the woods states, “This is interesting …I guess it’s great to expose them to the way [photography] used to be done, but in ten years, they may have to buy the chemicals themselves to do the developing. I wonder what types of film will still be sold in ten years. You have to go to professional photography shops……just to buy old 120 film that went in every camera since World War II…and they have to wait on the manufacturer to produce the next allotment.”

I don’t have any statistics to back up sales of film and photography equipment, but it seems to me that film photography is on the incline. But maybe that’s just my own anecdotal experiences — which includes my 10 year old son’s intent fascination with an antique camera at our last visit at an antique shop.

Lighthouses

What is it about lighthouses that draws people? People collect lighthouses figurines. People paint and draw lighthouses. People will stop to photograph a lighthouse even when there could be something else more interesting which they did not even notice in the shadow of that mystical, lonely, stark looking building poking the sky.

I think it is the romance, mystery, history and the feeling of adventure – surviving storms at sea and pounding waves. The idea of steadfast lighthouse keepers, daring rescues and pirates hiding their treasure exposed in the roving splash of a beam of light.

They are kind of fun to draw. Even more fun to be down at the water, hearing it, smelling it.

Photo Galleries of Lighthouses:

Lighthouses as Art:

Lighthouses Visited/ Documented:

Hey, Me, Get Out Of My Travel Photos (Not!)

There are just about as many reasons for taking photos as there are people who take them, so it would be foolish for me to try to encompass them all in one itty-bitty blog post. But I do feel I need to respond to this blog post about travel photos by Natalia Forrest. Especially this part:

Much has been written about the modern scourge of tourists with their camera phones, roaming galleries more intent on taking photos of (or more precisely, having someone take their photo in front of) famous works of art than actually looking at the art itself. And call me a curmudgeon, but when I see this myself I give a little shiver of condemnation. It just doesn’t seem right when people are more interested in the artefact of their travels—the photograph, the trinket, the t-shirt—than they are in the actual experience.

I don’t have any data to debate claims that more people pose with art than actually look at art, but as a person who, as previously exposed, takes photos of my children with art at museums, I feel the need to defend those actions.

Forrest, and you, dear reader, may see these photos of people with objects of art — or any photos of art — as pure kitsch. And you’d be keeping company with many a scholared-sort too. But snapshots, trinkets, etc. are artefacts, facts of art, if you will, are precious mementos of the experience we had. And, if we are parents, of the experiences our children had.

Why isn’t baby’s first Monet, his first steps into art appreciation, as important as baby’s first steps walking — and so worth documenting?

And these photos are prompts for sharing the experiences in the future:

“What’s this you stand by in this photo, Bob? You have an odd expression on your face…”

“Oh, that was a majestic whatsit — did you know it was the only piece to survive the mawhozit’s war? Just being in the presence of such history would have been remarkable on its own, but there was something about it which reminded me of a thingamajig in the courtyard of this building we stayed at when I was a kid… Maybe it was the smell of sunshine… Whatever it is, it reminds me of Whosits, my favorite artist because of her use of color…”

Why should a person resist the human desire to keep a piece of something, so that they can recall, recount, and recapture something magical or important? Because other people think it’s kitschy or a scourge to condemn? We’ve keeping personal souvenirs as long as we’ve been people, including burying our dead with trinkets and pictorial images of stuff… I’m certain more than a few people have been buried with photographs.

But perhaps most offensive to me is Forrest’s post was this:

we took [photographs] because either a) we thought it would make a nice picture or b) to remember something by. The photos were for us, not to prove something to others.

Our photos are not necessarily to prove something to others — whether we are in them or not. Excuse us if we, every now and then, believe we are part of the something which would make a nice picture. Excuse us if we want to remember our experience with ourselves participating in it. After all, we travel because just looking at someone else’s photos and/or postcards is not enough.

Perhaps it’s most accurate to say that our photos of ourselves with art, scenic views, etc. are taken to prove — or reaffirm — something to ourselves.

You don’t have to look at them if you don’t want to.

Is Stock Photography Evil?

It is no longer difficult to take an adequate photograph. I say that with confidence, as a person who treats her digital camera as essentially a magic box with a button on one side and a USB port on the other. And yet, if I take enough pictures under good light, I can turn out clear photos of attractive subjects. And I am not alone. The natural consequence of photography become cheap and easy is that more people have taken it up. Between rechargeable batteries and online forums, more people are developing their abilities to a useful level. More people are deciding to try and make a little money from their pictures.

Enter the stock photo agencies. Stock agencies (such as Shutterstock and Istockphoto) accept digital photographs in large numbers, and sell them for a low price for non-exclusive use. At a few dollars each, stock photographs are an inexpensive alternative to hiring a professional-photographer-shot pictures. A few stock agencies, such as stock.xchng, even offer pictures for free. Many professional photographers are, predictably, not thrilled by this development. Some argue that people who sell their photographs cheaply or give them away for free undermine photography as a profession, impoverish working photographers and allow themselves to be exploited.

There is one glaring problem with this argument: they are essentially blaming the apple for gravity. Digital camera are cheap to buy, cheap to use, and automate much of what used to be a complicated process. The internet allows the products of these cameras to be shipped to vendors for free. Given these two technological development, the crash in the market for adequate photographs was inevitable. The destruction of the careers of adequate photographers could not be prevented. You may dislike this development, you may complain about it, but it will not be reversed.

Stock photographers are the absolute creators and owners of their photographs. As such they can give their work away, they can charge as much—or as little—as they like. And there will always be some teen settling for “exposure” or someone in a less developed country who can trade fifty American cents for a hearty meal. No professional can demand higher pay when they are competing with the unwashed masses for skills that are common using equipment that is cheap.

And as a member of those masses I am completely unapologetic. I take photographs for fun and I sell them for a small amount of supplemental income. As a creator of photographs that is my option, my right, and to my benefit. Any photographer who wants to charge full professional fees can no longer be merely adequate. They can no longer do what any member of the public with a compact camera and a steady hand can achieve. And no matter how much they complain about this new reality, it is not going to change.

Stock photography my have crushed the businesses of some photographers at at the lower and middle reaches of the professions, but that is not evil any more than gravity is evil. People will always buy what is cheap, do what is easy, and take what they can get. That is just one of life’s realities–and anyone who thinks berating stock photographers is going to make a difference needs to… well, they need to get real.

John Waters Says, “Contemporary Art Hates You …And Your Family Too”

I subscribe to Modern Painters, but just now got around to reading the September ’09 issue — despite the fabulous John Waters on the cover.

Mr. Waters need not take it personally; I just have a plethora of magazines to get through, and if they aren’t in the magazine rack in the bathroom, well, it just takes that much longer.

Such reading habits, and the fact that my family refer to the bathroom as “the library,” won’t upset Waters either. If you don’t know that, you don’t know Waters. And you certainly haven’t read the magazine feature, which discusses his contemporary art collection, including:

Over the toilet in the bathroom is a Mike Kelley piece that “really pisses people off,” but Waters asks me not to say why, since he writes about it in his book. Also in the bathroom are a funny “Queer Batman” watercolor by Mark Chamberlain and “a Brigid Berlin tit painting; she painted with her tits.”

In Baltimore, he says, “I have the Michael Jackson print by Gary Hume looking through a glory hole right in my hall, which is really scary. Plus, you can see it in the mirror, which is even worse.”

But more interesting, to me, than the art John Waters collects is the art John Waters makes.

Waters calls his art conceptual and says it’s about writing and editing. “Hardly am I Ansel Adams. Or sitting around with a pottery wheel, like in Ghost. The craft is not the issue here. The idea is. And the presentation.”

And I love the ideas and the presentation. Like this piece, part of his Rear Projection series which combines parts of four film-title stills to spell out: contemporary art hates you.

The work’s title amusing title is …And Your Family Too.

In the article, Lawrence Levi describes Waters’ work this way: “Much of his work pokes fun at the art and film worlds he inhabits, allowing him to be at once an insider and a heckler.”

And if you think Levi or I are reading into the art, here’s what the artist himself has to say about it:

The art world “is a secret club,” Waters says. “It is a language; you have to learn everything. You have to learn how to dress, you have to learn how to see it, you have to learn how to talk about it, you have to learn how to read about it. All of it is impenetrable to a newcomer, and it was to me too.”

So let the art of John Waters speak to you, your insecurity over the intimidating impenetrability of the art world — go ahead and laugh, even. But don’t forget to just open your eyes too:

In his 1998 film Pecker, when the laundromat worker played by Christina Ricci tells her photographer boyfriend, played by Edward Furlong, “I don’t understand any of that art crap,” he replies sincerely, “You could if you just open your eyes.” But as his feelings about impenetrability suggest, Waters has no problem with elitism.

PS The book mentioned — which will contain the story of a Mike Kelley artwork above the toilet that “really pisses people off” — is Role Models; it’s to be published in May, 2010.

PPS I’d just like to say, that when discussing anything John Waters, you’re bound to mention bathroom artwork that piss-es people off, as well as “glory holes,” penetration issues, and the word “pecker.”  And I loved it.