Month: December 2017
… on… question of abstraction….
we live in an over-saturated world of images. Images are everywhere we go. In fact they are so prevalent they are becoming mundane. Boring. They’re primarily “pretty” photos of realistic/recognizable subjects (objects, landscapes, people, animals, plants). Abstraction is seldom seen and seems to be less and less appreciated. Is there still a place for abstraction? And what is it?
First, abstraction in photography is very different from abstraction in the paint/sculpture arts. Abstraction in photography is merely the “capture” and/or presentation of any deviation from the perceived norm (no matter how slight) and therefore more passive. Abstraction in painting/sculpture is very different. Painting/sculpture is an active medium unlike photography. In painting/sculpture the abstraction is created compared to documented. And it’s this creative action that I think gives a viewer pause to consider what “it” is. Can photographic abstract also be the result of a creative action? I think it can – but is extremely rare. Because of the nature of photography; abstraction has become such a generalized category that it has become redundant.
Now about our world. In addition to being overly saturated with heavily saturated images is also, thanks to technology, is moving at a faster and faster pace. There is no rest. There is no contemplation. Even the internet with its myriad blogs, photo sharing sites, art sites, etc is not conducive to slowing down to consider what we are doing. The internet has created a culture of clicking “LIKE” and moving on. In one minute I can look at and “like”/”fave” a hundred photos.
For this reason I think there is more and more a need for true abstraction in the painting/sculpture sense. Because these type of abstracts are more likely to cause us to slow down (maybe even stop) from time to time and consider what we are looking at and how we feel about it or what it means to us. So bring on the abstraction. Deviate from the norm. Give people a reason to pause and “rest” on your work.
The images I’m including today are photos of something people would NEVER photograph. I went to the park the other day – one of my favorite hangouts to decompress. I went to photograph some winter scenes etc – you know the kind of stuff everyone photographs that I described at the beginning of this article. The kind of stuff we DON’T need more of. But most of the shots I kept were These here today. Shapes and textures of salt melting ice on asphalt pavement in the parking lot of the park. For me they have their own intriguing wonder.
Your music moment today is a track titled Awakening by Greek artists (and friends) MK-O from their album ETHER. For me this song has the kind of energy I feel in these images. The kinetic energy of salt melting ice. Check out their website http://www.mk-o.com for more.
… on… learning to lose….
I don’t know if I’m the only one to notice this…. Have you ever noticed that it’s no longer how we play the game that matters; it’s all about winning and losing? It’s no longer about the journey but about the end? From the highest echelons of political office down the the humblest individual people all want to be winners – they want to think of themselves and winners and have others think of them as winners. Winning has become everything. And losing has become an issue of placing blame, making excuses, and/or justifying the loss. Reacting angrily with cries of “NOT FAIR” when one loses and complaining about the loss does not reflect well on those who lose. I think this is a major warning sign for the future of humanity. I started thinking about this recently after a competition we had in our workplace. The team I was most closely affiliated with lost. They had such a difficult time with losing that they complained about it all day and following day. I had found it so ridiculous that they should react so badly. But, like I said, it got me thinking.
I think there may be several reasons for this lack of sportsmanship/gamesmanship behavior. The first is analysis or maybe more precisely over-analysis. Everyones got an opinion and they tear apart and nit-pick to the finest detail their own performance as well the performance of others. It is a “gaze” that lasts too long and is too rigidly detailed to ultimately be of any beneficial use; except, to justify and tear down. Now you may say, “what’s wrong with analyzing a situation to become better in the future?” Fair question. What IS wrong (I would argue) is that it does not necessarily make one better unless it makes them a better complainer, whiner when they lose in the future.
Another reason – and we will only see this get worse – starting with our children we teach them that everyone is a winner in events that just by participating you are a winner and so every single participant is given a ribbon or a trophy whatever the prize may be. This is completely unrealistic and we are setting up our children with unrealistic expectation when they grow up and enter the adult world. This is probably one of the greatest tragedies be we are, setting up our children for a lifetime of hurt, dissatisfaction, complaint, lack of acceptance and understanding of one’s position and ultimately this can lead to violence. And who’s fault is it? The children’s? Absolutely not – it’s the fault of the adults to taught them.
I also think that a very likely reason is the switch of emphasis from individual performance to team performance which has only increased with the rise of professional sports. Everyone has “teams” now – even businesses, social organizations, political parties – it seems like absolutely everything is subdivided by the concept of team. And this has completely changed the value of individual performance. Individuals are not fully accepted, “you must be part of a team”, “you must support your team” I personally think this is damaging and ultimately de-values the individual and encourages group-think and sycophantic behavior. Failure to value individual uniqueness and seeing how an individual fits in the bigger picture will lead to the downfall and failure of many groups.
Technology. Okay I can see some of you rolling your eyes thinking, “he’s gonna start bashing technology”. Actually have no intent of doing that. Technology is a wonderful tool that we can use to learn, grow and expand our knowledge, understanding and acceptance of not only ourselves, but also of others. Now, like many things humans have created, technology is a double-edged sword. And information technology has the sharpest edge on that sword. Media and internet make EVERYTHING more immediate (well, more-or-less until the recent battles over net neutrality). As a species that has created these tools we are in our infancy in understanding both the benefits and pitfalls of such tools. And there are pitfalls. I would argue that one pitfall is that with such immediacy of all manner of information we have become less discerning in our consumption and digestion of information. Because there is alway “this…”, then “this… again”, “this…. recycled”, “This…. regurgitated”, “this… analyzed yet again” We are in a psychotic state of always reacting to the next thing and not stopping to digest what was first consumed. One reason I think we do this is that with this omnipresence of new and incessantly recycled information creates the illusion that it is ALL important. And quite frankly, it is NOT that important. In fact I suspect probably 90 percent of all information in the media and on the internet is pointless and without value – much like our excess consumption of sugar in our diet. We don’t need al the sugar that we eat but it sure tastes good and therefore we train our bodies to think that it is important. The media and internet is the same way. It is an addiction. In fact manufacturers are continually looking for new technologies to “connect” us to the so-called information super-highway. But I suspect that at some point what will happen is that just like too much sugar causes our bodies to shut down – too much information will result in a intellectual shut-down. All of this information with it’s immediacy and fraudulent self-importance further exacerbates the differences between winning and losing.
I also think we need to look at religion and how it has become an unwitting disciple to the secular concepts of winning and losing. Many religions view their followers as “the chosen one” with some notion of reward for being part of that group and yes I have seen many that reward people for following while condemning those who have a different way to go. I once volunteered at a homeless shelter for nearly 4 years. Over the course of that time I saw clients rewarded and given favoritism and opportunities just because they learned to talk the talk – but look out because one slip and they were gone. I used to laugh at the news letter for the homeless shelter which was used for soliciting funding and support – because their feature story was for someone that was actually kicked out of the shelter because of a mistake they made. This would happen on a regular basis. There was talk of unconditional grace and forgiveness at the shelter but I hardly ever saw it. Yet it goes on because it has become a community institution. It’s existence has become more important than its mission which is sadly what can be said of most religions and religious organizations. These institutions reward the “winners” and disavow the “losers”.
Celebrity is the final thing that I think causes us to understand the value of losing. In our media and “image” driven culture Celebrities are adored and worshiped. Throughout the history of humanity Celebrity has existed. But with the rise of media celebrity became more entertainment driven. And not only the building up of celebrity but also the tearing down of celebrity. This is a cultural disease that MUST be treated. How does celebrity contribute to the malaise of winning and losing? Celebrities are revered, even worshiped. They are people that others look up to. And because of that, even though they try to deny it – they are de-facto role models for society at large. So many people see celebrities as the only ones who’s voices matter. Many people strive toward celebrity because celebrities are “winners” – But this is part of the great lie. And media technology and the internet displays every single moment of a celebrities life – and for those who follow any given celebrity they “see” what is and isn’t acceptable they judge their own lives by what that celebrity says and does. And when a celebrity falls out of favor people simply move on the the next celebrity – because there’s always one just waiting to take your attention and adoration. It’s all part of “winning.”
Is there any good news? Can we bring the “game of life” back into balance where winning and losing is less of a criticism and more of an evaluation of where things stand? Yes. I’m happy to say there is good news but it will require self-discipline our each of our parts to self-regulate our consumption of media and information. It will require that we look outside of our own beliefs and ideas, seeking to understand and accept differing viewpoints. It will require we be patient with ourselves but mostly with others; because in our current self-centered cultural milieu it will be difficult to see others progressing as fast as ourselves – so we must be patient with them. We must learn to lose and as we learn to do that and accept loss then we will be able to help others in the process.
We need to understand and accept the following facts; yes, we need to do our best but there will always be someone better. Someone will always interpret the rules differently than you. The rules are always changing. The winning moment if over so quickly – it’s only a temporary high. There are ALWAYS more losers than winners. You will lose more than you will win. Acceptance is not defeat. Learning to lose is a great gift. Losing is something that should be taught with grace, understanding and compassion. It’s okay to lose – that’s life. To be a good loser – that’s grace.
I’ve recently been watching old Olympic films. One thing that struck me is the Oath that is taken. To be more precise. the Oath when it was first taken in the 1920 Olympics. “Chivalry”, “Honour” and “the glory of sport”. These apply to everyone. These qualities are the great equalizer between winning and losing. It is about individual values and the value of the individual (whether they play on a team or not).
We swear. We will take part in the Olympic Games in a spirit of chivalry, for the honour of our country and for the glory of sport.
Final consideration: when you win – you’ve got no place to go. When you lose you always have someplace you can go.
Well, this has been one of my wordier posts so if you’ve made it this far – I am grateful and eager to hear your opinions and views on these ideas.
… on… a new baby….
I created a couple of Haiku’s to go with this favorite non-traditional Christmas song.
Heard the baby cry
Neighbors gently hush back to sleep
Thin walls breathe hope
Young woman, young man
Their Christmas gift arrived early
Joy all season long
… on… winter….
Winter has been a favorite season of mine for a long long time. The things I always liked about winter were the cold, ice, snow and wind…. But winters have been milder (thanks to climate change) so I find them less enjoyable than previously. Looks like we’ll have a “green” Christmas – for at least the fifth year in a row…… I remember when Christmas’s were always “white” with snow. Oh well, that’s life. Last week we had some snow so I was able to get out and enjoy it for the couple of days it lasted. Today’s image is proof of that.
When winter comes
Its cold dark embrace beguiling
We search for warmth
Wind howls coldly
Wrapped in sweaters of warmth
Hide in hovels
Boldly we soldier on
Bring On The Night
Light only flickers
Dancing a tarantella
A dark long night-scape
In the northern hemisphere Christmas is also closely aligned with the Winter Solstice – the darkest time of the year when days are short and nights are long (unlike my friends in the southern hemisphere where this is the beginning of summer).
In honor of the Winter Solstice here is some music by the underrated Tin Hat Trio. The track is titled THE LONGEST NIGHT from their recording Book Of Silk.
… on… new creations….
I’ve taken quite a few nature photos lately combined with a new urge to create new works. The two works in this post were both derived from the heavy manipulation/creative edit of the same nature photo. How were these created? All I will say it stems from a sense of play and exploration while working in Photoshop. I hope you enjoy these latest creations.
And for you cryptographers out there I used a simple code to transform the titles themselves into abstractions. So with a small effort you’ll be able to decipher the titles. Enjoy.
Your music moment today is provide by Havenaire. This track is “Calving” from their new album RABOT on the Glacial Movements label.
… on… traveling to/in the US….
So clearly the holidays are upon us. If you will be traveling by plane either to the United States or flying within the United States you will definitely be meeting up with the local TSA (that’s the Transportation Security Administration – not my Initials Terry S. Amstutz). Your local TSA agent will make you feel uncomfortable, offended, confused and bewildered (much like I do – as some of my friends all attest)…. Well here’s two videos to tell you what to expect and what you can and can’t do. Enjoy. HAPPY HOLIDAY TRAVEL everybody! Welcome to the absurd world of travel by plane.
TSA – The Pokey Pokey
TSA – 12 Banned Items Of Christmas (fyi – You can’t fly, but you can drive across the border with any of these items.)
… on… Buffy Sainte-Marie….
As many of you already know I am a HUGE fan of a variety of music. I’ve long listened to Native American music artists From N. Carlos Nakai, Bill Miller, Robbie Robertson, Robert Mirabal, Mary Youngblood, Pura Fe, Brulé, Rita Coolidge, John Trudell, The Black Lodge Singers, Primeaux and Mike just to name a few.
One artist that I haven’t listened to in years is Buffy Sainte-Marie. She was born in Canada and currently resides in Hawaii. Back in the 60’s – 70’s she was best known for her folk and country music along with protest anthems like UNIVERSAL SOLDIER and activism for Native American rights.
Well, the 74-year-old of the Piapot Plains Cree First Nation subject matter has NOT changed. Her music has changed with a dynamic, visceral tone and timber to keep up with the times and lyrically she is as powerful as ever. On the new music her unique time ravaged voice rages like a windstorm which is so perfect for the lyrics she writes and sings. She reinvented herself in the past decade and was recognized with the Polaris Prize and Juno Awards of 2015. Her winning album was POWER IN THE BLOOD and just this year she released MEDICINE SONGS. On the new album she not only has some new music but also has re-recorded some of her classics fanning the embers into a new burning flame. On her website she states about this new album,
“This is a collection of front line songs about unity and resistance – some brand new and some classics – and I want to put them to work.”
You can check out more on this fine artist, humanist, activist, environmentalist through the links at the bottom of the post. But first I want to share a couple of her amazing songs. This is immediate music for our immediate present. So turn it on, turn it up and don’t be surprised if you start to move. 🙂
YOU GOTTA RUN(SPIRIT OF THE WIND)
NO NO KESHAGESH
POWER IN THE BLOOD
Here are some great links
***** I need to give props to my friend and fellow blogger known as “sloppybuddhist” for re-acquainting me with this powerful music artist. Check out her blog at https://sloppybuddhist.com
… on… holiday greetings….
Well It’s that time of year when I start mailing out holiday greeting cards to friends and family. Some of my readers here will be the recipients of one of these cards.
The design is unlikely. It does not feature a photo of smiling people, posed and dressed up pets, holiday foods, decorations, winter scenes, Santa, reindeer, elves, manger/nativity scenes, wise men, glitz, glitter or any other feel-good objectification of the holiday season. In short it does not follow every other cliché of the holidays.
This run-down, abandoned, forgotten building represents the humblest of beginnings and how some of the greatest miracles came out of what others revile, despise, and want to destroy or tear down. I could even make the analogy to the Bible story of the birth of Jesus; there was a poor unmarried couple – she was pregnant – for one of the most mundane activity of registering for a census they went to a town where they had no one to stay with. In fact there was no place to stay but a stable – the hotels/hostels/inns/rooming houses were all full and they were stuck in a stinky drafty stable with animals. The woman had a baby there in the stable (no hospitals around) and laid him in a manger which held the hay that the oxen ate. There was nothing romantic about it. It was difficult. It would have been a royal pain in the butt. Yet, that baby went on to inspire millions.
If that bible story were to happen today imagine a young couple from another part of the country just gets off the bus and there are no hotel rooms available. They are left to fend for themselves in the street. They have no local connections. No one offers them help. that baby might be born in an abandoned building, like the one pictured, its parents feeling the conflicting emotions of guilt for the lack of suitable circumstances paradoxically paired with the joy of giving birth to new life. So do not judge too quickly the appearance of things. Like the front of the card says, “all is not lost” There is hope for the “least” of all things which is represented in the image by the added wreath over the boarded up window.
The text inside the card is a simple haiku that I created.
“The greatest reason
A humble beginning
This season of hope”
I was surprised by this photo after I had gotten home. I remember taking it. I shot it through my car windows which had salt splash and grunge on them. What looks like bokeh spots is actually water droplets on my windshield from the falling snow. It didn’t make for a very good photograph but it was interesting. Before I started my post-processing; I almost deleted the file, but decided to go further and added more textures and layers in an extreme way that almost gave it a painterly look. I also de-saturated most of the colors except for red and green. So again, from very humble circumstances and imperfect photo conditions this image was born. It has always been a personal favorite of mine. I hope you enjoy it too as well as the story of it’s making and how it evolved into a holiday greeting card.
May each and every one of you – without regard for your circumstances find hope in humble beginnings and discover, hidden within, the greatest reason to celebrate and commemorate life. It is in You.
Your holiday music moment is provided by
Low – If You Were Born Today (Song for Little Baby Jesus) from their holiday album LOW CHRISTMAS
If you were born today
We’d kill you by age eight
Never get the chance to say
Joy to the world and
Peace on the earth
Forgive them for they know not what they do
Blessed are the meek and
Blessed are the humble
Blessed are the ninety and nine
Deny the flesh
Deny all that’s evil
Tonight you’ll deny me thrice
If you were born today
We’d kill you by age eight
Never get the chance to say…
… on… the macro verse….
I’ve long been fascinated with macro photography. It’s so hard to do it right. And I’m usually too lazy to carry a tripod around so I’ve never really bothered. But lately, as my previous post shows. I’ve started getting into the so-called groove of close-up and macro imaging. I still don’t use a tripod – all handheld – so the number of useable images are limited.
This morning was a beautiful frosty December morning and I decided to go to a local park close to downtown and only about 5 minutes from my apartment. Here are two of the images I was able to use from this morning along with two new haiku. Hope you enjoy them.
Inhale a crispy frozen breath
I gasp, in love
Whiplash wind storm
When I am lost you bend me back
See what’s behind
The music moment is provided by the Tindersticks. Their song FROZEN from their recent album – The Something Rain.