Why do we photograph, draw, paint, sculpt, write and perform music? With respect to taking photographs, the answers are broad and can be aptly observed in our vast growing social media. Looking at Flickr, for example, a viewer has access to billions of images, all seemingly produced by their authors for different reasons. Capturing moments to preserve history for personal satisfaction seems to be the start of a photographic journey for most individuals. I have some of my first images taken at age eight or so with a Kodak Brownie and Black and White 126 film (my father saved them). from the 1950’s. They chronicled objects and events in my life at that time-our black and tan hunting dogs, Midnight and Blue, shots out the car on the way to the hunting camp “up north”, etc. I might safely say that for the majority of photograph makers, this is a terminal destination. Other reasons to make photographs include photojournalism, which we are inundated with daily, both digitally and hard copy. Law enforcement uses photography to document crime scenes and prepare evidence for criminal or civil proceedings. Documentary photographers (Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans immediately come to mind) record history making events, conditions, and social conditions. Photography as Art has less empirically-based understanding, I suppose, as Art in general.
The early photographic artists of the 19th century, shortly after the discovery of the medium, have been referred to as pictorialists, primarily due to their painterly presentation of their subjects. Use of the glass plate collodion process, in addition to wide apertures on early view cameras produced a soft and dreamy image. In the 30’s, artists such as Edward Weston, Imogene Cunningham, and most famously, Ansel Adams, rallied against soft focus and painterly effects, forming the F64 club which touted small apertures and great detail in photography as art.
Today, given the diversity in tools and methodologies we have as photographers, be we making representational photography and simply capturing a moment, or artists whom seek to make images that portray or evoke intended feelings and a sense of place, the avenues individuals have in both equipment and processes are mind boggling. During Edward Weston’s era, one might choose between two or three brands of view cameras, and a limited size in formats (4x5.5x7, or 8x10). As I sit here this evening and ponder my photographic beginnings with a Kodak Brownie, to current fine art photography, with hybrid use of both film and digital enterprises, one thing becomes clear…..the act of making images has become as commonplace as breathing. People who once required more than a modest income to afford the luxury of making images, have been replaced by a vast segment of society that can use a cell phone to record not only photographic images, but audio and video as well. Where does this leave art, as something different than representational photography in our modern times? I will explore this question in future posts.
I am intending on traveling from Rauhallinen Farm to Fayette State Park on Saturday, a four hour and 217 mile drive to Delta County, in the middle and South of the Upper Peninsula, on the shores of Lake Michigan (Big Bay de Noc). Fayette was the site of an industrial community that manufactured charcoal pig iron between 1867 and 1891. The town has been reconstructed into a living museum, showing what life was like in Fayette in the late 19th century. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 (from Wikipedia). I completed a videography project there some years back which has a link in the Videography gallery on this website and below. It was an entirely digitally captured project with a Canon 5D MKII body and a number of L series lenses, utilizing both stills and video. This trip will be shot entirely with film, using both black and white and color, in medium and large format. If I lived closer, I would be there every weekend as the reconstructed village has a plethora of turn of the century buildings and structures that are simply fascinating, as well as being located on a beautiful bay of Lake Michigan. Benny will come with, as the day will be long. Perhaps I will grab a room in the area (Garden Peninsula) and make it a two day event.