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now i remember

As hubby and I settled in to watch Downton Abbey last night, I immediately remembered what I had intended to say. The opening scene in the credits is of a dog’s butt. Wagging tail but a definite butt. It seemed such an odd image to start such a visually opulent series. I said something to my husband and he dryly replied that it must be a nod to the American audience. If that is true, I don’t mind at all. I love every scene that Isis, the dog, trots through. And, as much as I am amused by hubby’s conjecture, I doubt that is it. There must be something more.

Could it be that the dog is a metaphor for the faithful and subservient relationship between poor employee and rich employer? In looking for a picture to attach, I find quite a few others on Google have asked the same question. Even Hugh Bonneville, the lead actor whose name appears with the dog butt, has spoken with dismay about the pairing.

 Isis

After all, using a servant to walk with the owner of the Abbey would hardly be believable or as funny. Yes, I believe I understand the reason now and it satisfies me. And, it relates to something I have felt.

As a teacher in America, I am always reminded that I am replaceable, disposable, menial. That is not the message from my students. They have made me feel valuable or, in some cases, loved. I still keep in touch with a group of students in South America when I first started sharing what I had learned with passion. That was 1979. The implication that teachers are minions comes from Admin. Upstairs, Downstairs. The curious part of it is that faculty are the most devoted members of the educational community. Admin and students come and go, but, at least where I teach, the faculty are the core, the vital nucleus of learning. In the classroom, bright minds on both sides of the desk collide and create brilliant sparks.

I apologize for not allowing comments on the blog itself. Posts by some readers on other blogs have convinced me that I would rather leave it as is. But WordPress has cleverly allowed readers to comment privately. That is always welcome.

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1.5.14

I probably have spent one hour outside in the last week. I mean, outside, fresh air outside. In the car, in the grocery show, in TJ Max, in the post office: none of them count. People talk about cabin fever and it might hit me any time but so far, I’m good. Monday Land of Cogs did not happen because of snow. I hope Tuesday Land of Cogs gets cancelled, too.

“Hi, I’m Laura Linney and this is Masterpiece Classic.” I love to say that along with her. Whenever I am watching PBS on my iPad, I stare into the screen during the introduction and try to imitate the eyes and lips like Gillian Anderson, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren. I can see my reflection on the screen and I have no dramatic eyebrow movement like them, absolutely none. I try but I look a little more like Bea Arthur, without any eyebrow movement, other than a Groucho up-and-down forehead stretch.

I started Downton Abbey, Season 2. I have been avoiding it, because I knew it would be another addictive commitment; but, I succumbed because I am weak, weak, weak, a pleasure hound.

Tomorrow is supposed to be 40 to 50 degrees below zero. I may go out tomorrow, out of sheer perversity.

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01.02.14

So odd how photographs of winter and snow can be so appealing especially during the summer, and less so in winter.

This leads me to think about types of pictures I do not like:

  • Pictures of naked people in bed. If that is the cover image for a film, it will never make it to my queue.
  • Nudes in general. I am not prudish but I do not like seeing the idealized human figure unclothed, be it female or male
  • Boring images that look very good
  • Boring pictures that look bad
  • Abstract images, unless the photographer has been very clever and non-imitative
  • Photographs that reveal nothing about the photographer

Picture types I do like:

  • “Snapshot Aesthetic” street images, if the composition and dynamics are perfect
  • Images from extreme angles and perspectives
  • Images with unusual composition, that at the same time, have a deeper meaning or context
  • Images with different kinds of humor, dry, ironic, etc.
  • Boring pictures that look very bad
  • New approaches to the usual, showing me things in ways I have never seen before

Mind you, these are just broad categories.  Do not attempt to see if your work fits in one or the other because I may love your image or hate it, despite what I said above.

 

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The good and the bad

The good news first. The new issue of PH magazine, a Canadian photography publication, came out today with the January 2014 issue featuring my work. I am happy to be alongside some wonderful photographers and hope you take the time to take a look. I love that it is a free download so people can take their time to read and view, as well as share it with students.

Here is the link:

http://www.phmag.ca/magazine/happy-new-year-2/

This aspect of digital information sharing is potent. One reason I take photographs is to share a real moment past with others. The ability of a two dimensional image on paper to move another to feel something from a different space and time is remarkable.  It is the abfab best. I can have a momentary intimacy with a total stranger with a camera between us, and the photograph allows another to be there with me, even decades and decades later.

Being able to communicate with another drives me, makes me feel it is all worth it, even the inevitable rejection and solitude.

I hardly ever sell my work. That does not bother me. It is the reality of my personal situation. If I were to depend on photography to bring me money, it would ruin everything. Of that I am sure. Perhaps it is foolish, or superstitious, but I need to make photographs from a simpler place. Thoughts of money or success are hindrances to me. Do not be offended if your situation is a different one. There are those who do brilliant work and can make a living from it. Just not me.

Which brings me to an entry by Frank Rodick on his blog:

http://frankrodickblog.com/2013/08/13/on-making-art-and-feeling-like-shit/ – more-398

Sometimes it does make me feel like shit. I am not alone and feeling like shit might actually impel me forward as an artist, Mr Rodick says. I believe he has something there.

Okay, now the bad news. About a week ago, the IRS sent me a notice that I owe them lots of money from back taxes for 2011. I was shocked. I always pay my taxes and am scared shitless of the IRS. So, I immediately wrote them a letter with copies of all the information I could, decrying my innocence.

Long story short, I was wrong. The information I had relied on from the accounting firm and an executor was inaccurate. I do owe the money.  I don’t care about money, (the root of most problems, along with religion) and I am sure I can work it out with the Feds but, in the process of figuring this out, I discussed the mess with two people whom I trusted, and they refused to take responsibility for giving me the wrong information.

I went to bed sick. Firecrackers at midnight did not help. This is a very personal blog, as you can see. Time for the Serenity Prayer, a wise mantra for many of us who know.

So goods news and bad news, readers. Happy New Year.

 
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Gag me with a Spoon

What are the criteria we accept for discerning photography now?

The work I see in many galleries, both bricks and mortar and the more recognized online ones, leans heavily toward generic images: landscape, documentary, and portrait. Ninety nine percent of the work is digital color. It is easy on the eyes, bland, and bankrupt. Cloud and sunsets, numb portraits, well-lit domestic scenarios of upper middle class spaces, vacant landscapes. Mute and Large. They are like travel pix, plain mug shots, stock photos. They challenge nothing, stimulate nothing more than the eye at best.

What is the purpose of these images?

I am going to grab four random free stock photos and show you some examples of what I am talking about.

generic2

generic1

generic3

generic4   

These are nice pictures. They are available for download for .99 cents. They look like what win Emerging Artist Competitions. Gag me with a spoon. Now.

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AyAyAy

I watched a very good documentary called Corwin last night, about a very influential writer, essayist, director, and producer of radio shows in the late 30’s and 40’s. I had never heard of Norman Corwin before but his broadcasts were considered by many to be uncommonly good, because he wrote the scripts unaltered and unedited by network owners/execs.

In the late 50’s and early 60’s, the networks moved to television for news and commentary. TV moguls learned to create and push their own agendas with respect to information dissemination. And, Norman Corwin was nudged out. He saw his medium changed beyond recognition.

I can feel his pain. And shock. I look at the recent photographic work that fills the sites of so many galleries, online as well as bricks and mortar.  There is a certain look to a good deal of them. Here are some of the categories:

Ninety nine percent of these are digital color.

1. Subjects staring into the camera, motionless, emotionless, with a simple pale background. They say nothing, unexpressive, muted figures. They are relatively attractive. Usually the figures are young and thin; maybe they could be reject models from an ad agency.

2. Another look is the domestic scene, in color, nicely lit, lots of light, vacuous and generic. Usually the environment is upper middle class, comfortable, and suburban.

3. Then, there is the landscape. Color pleasing, horizontal, frontal, and somewhat rural with fragments of human bits as commentary. There are hundreds of these.

Here is a sample of number 1.

This replaces the masters. This satisfies the buyers. This pushes no boundaries. Ay, Ay, Ay.

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December 23, 2013

Welcome to this reconditioned space, like a freshly painted living room, for my thoughts about photography, random images that have no place on my website, fun things I find, and whatever I want to share with you.

It is also a space for me to write. I love to write. Stories come to my head and I let them free before committing them to text; they are like hummingbirds flying to the shiny red feeder on my porch, here and then gone.

Aging is on my mind these days. I will turn 65 in one week. My Dad turned 98 two days ago. He looked at me, as he was about to blow out the candles on his birthday cake. Straining forward, he exclaimed in awe, “Ninety eight! How can that be?”  I could not answer him. I feel that way and I am 33 years his junior. Sometimes I look in the mirror and I see myself as I think I look. Other times, I see something quite different. Photographs of me are horrific. FaceTime on my iPad is great to use with close family but I feel so self-conscious with others. The screen does not do me justice and I am not ready for my close up, not ready at all.

Every time I see myself it stuns me. That is a considerable amount of stunning going on throughout the day; like being shell-shocked, each time my reflection blasts my view of myself to pieces. I am not particularly vain, but if Obamacare could kindly take care of non essentials, I think I would like a LifeLift, my lips done, some liposuction and a personal trainer, preferable a cranky woman in her 30’s. In the meantime, I will content myself with getting my hair colored, my handy nono hair remover, an occasional facial, and comfy flannel nightgowns.

Until later.

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