Monday, January 30, 2012

David Halliday on Seeing, Really Seeing

Do you want elegance? Check out the work of David Halliday. I have, and did at the newly opened show at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. David's quietly elegant still lives are beautifully composed and have a meditative quality that, if you have ever tried, is difficult to achieve.

I am finishing a wonderfully written book titled, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, a book that uses baseball as the medium for exploring life's challenges.There was a passage I found really compelling about doing and being. "The shortstop has worked so hard for so long that he no longer thinks. Nor does he act. By this I mean that he does not generate action. He only reacts, the way a mirror reacts when you wave your hand before it...Sophie told him to relax, stop thinking, be himself, be the ball, don't try too hard. You could only try so hard not to try too hard before you were right back around to trying too hard. And trying hard, as everyone told him, was wrong, all wrong...The shortstoop has worked so hard for so long that he no longer thinks - that was just the way to phrase it. You couldn't choose to think or not think. You could only choose to work or not work. And hadn't he chosen to work? And wasn't that what would save him now? When he walked onto this field tomorrow he would carry a whole reservoir of work with him, the last three years of work with Schwartzy, the whole lifetime of work before that, of focusing always and only on baseball and how to become better. It was not flimsy,that lifetime of work. He could rely on it."

Anyone who has tried to compose a photograph knows what this is about. I have made many many images that feel contrived, trite and overworked. What I find so amazing about David's work is its presence, it's meditative quality and how we are able to experience these still lives without a middleman. David has somehow taken himself out of the picture and allowed us to have a primary experience with what we are seeing. No small feat.

From the Ogden Museum website...

"A master of light, New Orleans photographer David Halliday, produces lush and elegant images that are both classical and modern. Using window light to illuminate his subjects, Halliday’s direct formal approach offers a fresh take on the historic art prototypes of still life and portraiture. The simplicity of his visual language produces images that transcend time."

The Ogden Museum has had many wonderful sure to stop there if you are visiting New Orleans. Their exhibitions never disappoint!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Christopher Porche West of New Orleans

To walk by Christopher Porche West's studio is to flirt with the muses. There is something about his space that pulls you in, capturing a sense of the soul of New Orleans. When entering into his studio (or to my mind, an installation) one is reminded of the Joseph Campbell boxes. Well aged architectural artifacts encase his photographs with candles scattered through out, creating a sacred environment and offering a testimony to New Orleans's rich heritage. Tucked into the Bywaters neighborhood, it was a treat to behold. West's work is also on display at Snug Harbor on Frenchmen's Street but to get the full effect, you must visit his studio.

"Porché West’s artful expresssions exists at the nexus of photography and sculpture, the point where photography and sculpture converge. Dramatic and thought-provoking photographs are “housed” within salvaged architectural elements adorned with thought-provoking, symbolic objects. The net effect is additive - the sum is greater than the parts - photographs encorported within sculpture deepen the meaning and message of the art."

"It is Porché West’s contention that flat photographs fail to achieve the richness and dimensionality of photographic sculpture. Though a framed photograph can tell a good story, a photograph “housed” in sculpture gives a more nuances and deep narrative. Salvaged architectural debris door casings, flooring, window frames, knobs and pulls give the photograph a sense of place, an authenticity that comes from being at home in the soul of the artist’s works."

"Porché West’s assemblage is cultural “curatorialism” masked as art. The simple behaviors and beliefs of ordinary people are universal and easily understood. Religious faith, death and burial rituals, celebration and suffering are comprehended, if not shared, by all humanity. To see one’s own emotions in the face of a Haitian child or the hands of an elderly woman in New Orleans, is to be reminded that that which binds us together is greater than that which divides us. We are in essence, one."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jennifer Shaw and Her Hurricane Story

Given that I am in New Orleans, I thought I would stick with the New Orleans theme. One of the most creative bodies of work to come out if the Katrina disaster was the work of Jennifer Shaw. The timing of the hurricane and the birth of her child collided and she told her story with the camera.

We left in the dark of night. 2007

In her words...

"I was nine months pregnant and due in less than a week when Hurricane Katrina blew into the Gulf. In the early hours of August 28, 2005 my husband and I loaded up our small truck with two cats, two dogs, two crates full of negatives, all our important papers and a few changes of clothes. We evacuated to a motel in southern Alabama and tried not to watch the news. Monday, August 29 brought the convergence of two major life changing events; the destruction of New Orleans and the birth of our son. It was two long months and 6000 miles on the road before we were able to return home."

At the motel in Andalusia we tried not to watch the news. 2007

The Next Morning We Turned on the TV

"Hurricane Story is a depiction of our family’s evacuation experience - the birth, the travels and the return. These photographs represent various elements of our ordeal. The project began as a cathartic way to process some of the lingering anger and anxiety over that bittersweet journey. It grew into a narrative series of self-portraits in toys that illustrate my experiences and emotional state during our time in exile."

At 3:47 a boy was born. 2006

In spite of it all there’s no place like home. 2007

Jennifer is one of the founders of the New Orleans Photo Alliance, a photographic organization that was started after the Katrina disaster and has blossomed into a wonderful organization supporting the photographic arts. NOPA also sponsorsPhotoNola, the December celebration of photography in New Orleans. It is a fabulous event in an amazing city.

The Hurricane Story is available thru the Chin Music Press. More of Jennifer's work can be seen HERE.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Debbie Flemming Caffery and Louisiana

It all started with this photograph...

Harry's Hands

I saw it at the Catherine Edelman Gallery years ago in Chicago and it took my breath away. It was such a strong, soulful image.
I heard via other photographers that the artist, Debbie Flemming Caffery, was offering workshops out of her home in Breaux Bridge, Louisana. I signed up. I was her only student and we had a blast of a week.It was the first time I had attended a workshop and the first time spending time in Louisiana. Needless to say, I fell in love head over heels with all things Louisiana!

street art, New Orleans December 2011

So much of my experience there was about the culture, the food, the people and the climate. There are times I wish I were a writer as that experience and the multiple visits I made since have been seared into my memory and senses. It would take me hours and hours to write eloguently about my many adventures there.

Here are a few photographs from Debbie's Polly series...

© Debbie Flemming Caffery ~ Polly

"An extraordinary photographic project began one day in 1984, when Debbie Fleming Caffery, a Louisiana native, saw Polly, a black woman in her seventies, on the porch of a cabin she'd been driving past for more than a year. The interior was lit only by the sun that came through its small windows and the flow from a fireplace that had left a sooty pall over everything, but it became Caffery's favorite place to visit and photograph. 'You know when you become consumed with a project?', the photographer asks. 'I went there so often and I thought about her so much--I would dream about her. Going to Polly's was like being vacuumed into a feeling of security and warmth. I would rather have gone to her house than any place during those years.' This devotion is evident in the photographs, and it's clearly returned by Polly, who opens herself to the camera." (from Debbie's website).

© Debbie Flemming Caffery ~ from Polly portfolio

...and her Sugar Cane Series

© Debbie Flemming Caffery ~ Sugar Cane fires

I had so many adventures while I was there. They are all coming back to me now because I am headed back to New Orleans and will be going to Breaux Bridge to visit Debbie and take another bayou tour with Norbitt.

The following photographs are just a few of the images I created while I was there...(minus the Look and Leave work from post Katrina)

© Jane Fulton Alt ~ Portrait of Debbie

©Jane Fulton Alt; self portrait created after a visit to the slaughter house which then turned into the series, Matters of the Heart.

Smoking Cotton Gin, who knew smoke and fire were going to figure so prominently in my work back then

If you would ever consider going to Louisiana for Mardi Gras, they do it differently in Cajun country where they go around to houses on horseback looking for the chicken for the gumbo. "Cajun filmmaker Pat Mire gives us an inside look ... Every year before Lent begins, processions of masked and costumed revelers, often on horseback, go from house to house gathering ingredients for communal gumbos in communities across rural southwest Louisiana. The often-unruly participants in this ancient tradition play as beggars, fools, and thieves as they raid farmsteads and perform in exchange for charity or, in other words, "dance for a chicken."

I may not be posting for a couple of weeks...but then maybe I will!

Stay posted.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Steven Barritt

I just love Rembrandt portraits so I was thrilled to come across Steven Barritt's work, Anachronisms.


In Steven Barritt's words...

"Anachronism - "The representation of someone as existing in other than chronological, proper or historical order."

"This series of images aims to explore the historical and contemporary relationship between painting and photography. Inspired by the paintings of Rembrandt and other old masters I wanted to recreate the mood and feel of those paintings within a contemporary photographic image. At the same time as emulating the tactility of a painting I wanted to retain the basic precept of photography in its ability to render exceptional clarity, definition and subtleties of colour."



"The sitters are all young artists, musicians or actors and represent a new generation of artistic talent who have broad concerns in many areas of study. They represent a return to renaissance feeling where specialisation, the dominant thinking of the last century or more, is slowly giving way to a more holistic view of the world where science and technology are perceived through more artistic, poetic, philosophical and mathematical eyes. Photography is a representation of this feeling being a culmination of Art, Science and technology and provides the perfect medium to express this sensibility."


"The sitters are deliberately made to appear out of their ordinary clothes and are posed and styled to elevate them from their everyday appearance. This provides the sitters with a noble and dignified appearance and generates an ambiguity of time, giving them a timeless and yet of a time quality. The ennobling and immortalising of these young men creates an interesting dialogue between the historical context of production in portraiture and the contemporary value of photographic portraiture. All paintings and photographs can at best hope to produce is a superficial surface rendering of the object. These images are my subjective interpretation of the sitter and yet a sense of the character of each sitter comes through the images."



Oh how I would love to have my portrait taken by Steven!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jennifer Hudson

"I just wish I could take the pain from your body, and put it into mine." How many times have we felt this with our loved ones?
What is so incredible to me is that Jennifer Hudson has actually created a body of work that was inspired by this thought. Jennifer was in the Critical Mass Top 50 this year and her work is haunting and mesmerizing. Her imagination is fertile and we are all the beneficiaries.

In Jennifer's words...

"Medic is a sensitive, intricate glimpse into human relationships during times of need and recovery and a complex, heartfelt exploration of sacrificial love. The work began wholly on one sentence whispered by my husband while we were enduring deeply frightening times together. He held my hand, lay close to me and said softly "I just wish I could take the pain from your body, and put it into mine." I have been fortunate to know incredible love all my life, but at that moment I became suddenly and intensely aware of the magnificent power that exists between people who care for one another. When I was anxious and fighting to fall asleep each night, I began to invent miracle machines; contraptions that heal, deliver hope, legacy, remedy, and redemption."

"Each image from Medic is a thoughtful invention, strange and tender, revealing facets of the delicate human heart. In ten isolated chambers we are witnesses to emotional happenings, exchanges, confrontations, and life decisions. I became particularly fascinated with illustrating the depth of a love relationship by portraying only the individual in many images, exploring the weight of partnership, the sacrificial life perspective, and the burdened, selfless decision-maker."

"In some chambers, we witness life changing moments; mercy, healing, humbling choices, memories recorded and legacies written. In others we see an exchange; affection, tenderness, and sacrifice. In the making of this work, I sought to begin to understand some of the most rare and beautiful relationships in the world, to expose their most frail, vulnerable moments, times of great intensity, and most cherished inner workings."

"Medic is a dark and sentimental collection of stories about great tests in life, purpose, and the most painful, but also the most glorious times to love."

Jennifer has a wonderful blog with more of her work AND an amazing video where she describes the creation of the space in which she photographs this amazing body of work. Click HERE to see it.

Thank you, Jennifer, for putting our heartfelt thoughts into the visual realm.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jan Groover's inspiration

There was a post on facebook a few days ago about the passing of Jan Groover, a fabulous photographer whose work was very informative to me in my early explorations of photography. I searched online for more information and then was not sure if it were true as there were people still "friending" her which seemed a bit odd. Well, this morning I read the official obituary in the New York Times here. The Wall Street Journal also ran an article on her titled, The Poetry of the Ordinary.

© Jan Groover

I have always loved her work and when I first started out taking photography courses at the local art center, one of the assignments was to pick a photographer you loved and try to emulate their style. I choose Jan's work. She composed these incredibly beautiful still lives from very ordinary kitchen utensils.

© Jan Groover

I happily went thru my archives of old prints this morning and found a few pieces I made in the 90's that were the outcome of the assignment. I took it a bit further by adding some color to the silver gelatin prints.

© Jane Fulton Alt

© Jane Fulton Alt

"I think most creative people want to express appreciation for being able to take advantage of the work that's been done by others before us." Steve Jobs

Thank you Jan.