A Cacophany of Color

So I finished reading The Primary Colors by Alexander Theroux, and it has left me impatient and excited to read The Secondary Colors.

The book is in a simple format of three Essays: Blue, Yellow, and Red.

As for blue, the first essay of the book, I didn’t know what to expect. It was a mash of many blue things and references that I am too young and not well versed enough in history or literature to understand. After realizing that I couldn’t relate to half the things he referenced, I started to just ebb with the fervor and interest in what he was saying and the book became a beautiful, magical wonderland of color. As for a quick sum up of “Blue”, this quote from the book hits the nail for me:

“‘I used to wonder why the sea was blue at a distance and green close up and colorless for that matter in your hands,’ writes Sr. Miriam Pollard, O.S.C.O., in The Listening God. ‘A lot of life is like that. A lot of life is just a matter of learning to like blue.'”

“Yellow” was a little disappointing for me. Yellow is my favorite color and has been for a couple of years. Theroux kind of focused on the yuck of yellow and how negative of a color it tends to me. But then I wonder if the stigma put on yellow subconsciously affected him; thus, Theroux would of course write a largely negative essay on yellow.

“Red” was interesting. I found myself most compelled by the section on religious references and red foods. The religious uses of red is fascinating because it is used for both male and female entities, but usually a belief system favors red for one gender or the other. The food portion was just beautiful; my imagination was vitalized.

“But whether as a color it is eaten or worn, shunned or feared, seen as a temptation or revered and held as holy, red is a color that is rarely denied an active role, even if one insists upon its gentler connotations.”

All in all, this book is a wonderful way to let your imagination blossom and to experience a synthesis with color that may not have been available by sight. If only Theroux made essays on all of the shades and tints he mentioned, then there would be a fascinating encyclopedia for color.

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Color is Never as it Seems

I feel like a kindergartener in my color photography class. We chose a weekly color (green), we talked about colors and how they make us feel, and now we have to use color to create a sequence, but without adjusting anything on our cameras.

Teun Hocks

We were introduced to two artists: Teun Hocks and Uta Barth. While I think Teun Hocks work is wonderfully whimsical and quite beautiful, I find it hard to relate to in this class because as far as I’m concerned, until our final project, we can’t emulate his use of hand coloring. I understand the moods, but that doesn’t help me with utilizing color shifts in the world to my advantage (which is our first assignment, to use color shifts to create a five-photo sequence.) Uta Barth, I love. I love taking pictures like how she does. I love her work. I love her concepts. But, it seems, that my classmates disagree. They think her work is a copout because she stayed in her house for all of her work. That’s like saying the Swifter is a copout because someone intertwined a broom and a mop. That doesn’t make it any less than what it is because of how it was made. Swiffers and Uta Barth’s pictures are still great.

Uta Barth

Our required reading is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I’m just going to leave that fact there. Our suggested reading is The Primary Colors. That book is wonderful; it’s full of essays about colors. The first essay is about blue. It’s an alternate way of thinking that is very romantic.

Upon my own Tumblr explorations, I’ve found two artists that I think help me out with understanding how color shifts affect mood.

Mika Suutari creates mystical worlds with light and great attention to color.

Mika Suutari

Kilian Schonberger creates beautiful landscapes, also with great attention to color.

Kilian Schonberger

While I feel like I’m off to a great comprehensive start, I feel baffled by this first assignment. I have ideas, but I’m not sure how to rely on color to create mood when I have limited resources (i.e. most of my lightbulbs are a horrid yellow color.) Once I’ve figured out how that’s going to work out, I will share my results with you.

“I often think of that rare fulfilling joy when you are in the presence of some wonderful alignment of events. Where the light, the color, the shapes, and the balance all interlock so perfectly that I feel truly overwhelmed by the wonder of it.” -Charlie Waite

Oh, the Wonderful World of Education

I shuffled my way through the first week of the Spring semester. I’m tackling three studio photography courses (color photography, studio photography, and digital photography) and a critical thinking course. All of this is great, but there are always readings that are simply boggling.

I began with my critical thinking homework (the least creatively tiring of them all so far), and now I’m annoyed. Part of the assignment is to read Anna Chave’s “Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power.” While we only had a 20 page excerpt from whatever larger text it may be a part of, I think I got this gist that art contradicts itself all of the time.

My professor introduced this article as a basis for our thinking for the course; so far I’m thinking, minimalism is a lack of symbolic representation, but yet it has a whole lot of symbolic representation; I have also concluded that even though minimalism is supposed to be some sort of authoritative power, it’s also not.

All in all, I thought photography was the only ridiculously complicated medium. It seems that all of art is, and I am not sure what I got myself into, but I suppose I have no choice. Art is my calling.

Soon, I’m going to post things about color photography for multiple reasons that I will explain. In the meantime, I’m going to attempt to take 600 photos based on the prompt “Unexpected,” order $300+ of photography supplies, and figure out how to make a color shift sequence without changing the Kelvin on my camera.

May the light be with you!

I could never figure out why photography and art had separate histories. So I decided to explore both. – John Baldessari

Truth; the one with the capital T.

On Signal Hill, Overlooking Long Beach 1983 Robert Adams

I’ve been reading through a short book, or rather a small collection of essays by Robert Adams, a photographer who rose to prominence during the New Topographics era.

Beauty in Photography addresses just that, the beauty aspect of photography and Adams constantly comes back to the beauty being based in Truth, capital T, Truth.

“The answer, as Keats knew, depends on the truth about which we are talking. For a truth to be beautiful, it must be complete, the full and final Truth.” -Robert Adams

I keep circling back to this idea that Truth has many hats, especially in today’s society of exploring the powers of manipulation (even though manipulation has been had by photography essentially since its beginning.) I think Truth has a special and very valid hat for photos composed out of truths to make another equally important Truth.

What do you think?

A Ficticious Gallery Event: Human/Nature

As the final “exam” for History of Photography, we were required to curate a show with photo-based artists. My show is entitled Human/Nature, and addresses my incessant drawbacks to romanticism. Upon receiving critique that I needed to back up my romantic notions with history and research to create a contemporary argument, I took this curatorial project as an opportunity to dive into that information. So thus forth is my curatorial statement for Human/Nature (including a photograph from each artist mentioned):

In the exhibition Human/Nature, I aim to investigate 21st century connections to nature that are reminiscent of the romantic sublime natural reverence of the 18th and 19th century. It’s interesting to think of the timeline of romanticism’s existence in an art historical context in that it “ends” near the beginning of photography. Pictorialist photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameran were criticized for their lack of photographic skill. It wasn’t until photography heroes Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen advocated the pictorialist aesthetic, revering nature and the idea of spirit in a photograph. Nowadays, romanticism is criticized as shallow and something of the past. With this exhibition, I seek to confront this with an opposing view. Many contemporary photographers gear toward documenting the human index on nature and question the validity of contemporary culture’s advertisement of nature. The artists I’ve chosen cannot be included because they embrace nature and its existential link to humankind. They approach nature with awe and seek to revive mythological, mystical, and fantastical engagements with nature in the face of a digitalized world. Human/Nature welcomes Romanticism and recognizes it as an innate quality of humankind. It is the intrinsic need to find connection, to look beyond material, beyond ancestry, even beyond the scientific and biblical connection between our earth and our being. These artists—while engulfed in a world that depreciates Romanticism into a dirty, played out world—present their romantic notions in images that evoke that inherent, sublime connection to a natural existence.

“…Romanticism is not something that—in the 21st century—we need to either affirm or guard against as neo-value or revivalist zeitgeist; it is rather, something to accept as an enduring, mercurial, and persistent modern tendency now intractably woven into the fabric of modern psyches and societies, something immanent to modernity and ever ready to be reanimated and reinterpreted.” – Paul O’Kane Arists

David Uzochukwu; I will learn to love the skies I’m under
Eugenia Loli; Pythia, The Oracle instructs the return to nature
Kahn and Selesnick; An excerpt from Truppe Fledermaus
Slevin Aaron

David Uzochukwu, Eugenia Loli, Kahn and Selesnick, and Slevin Aaron base their images on an emotive narrative. Uzochukwu takes inspiration from anything around him and expresses that in an image. His images Pull and I Will Learn to Love the Skies I’m Under place people in surreal places in nature. A man clad in his boxers, hunching toward a mystical green bank of hills. Another man, this time in a suit, seems to be floating in the skies. Eugenia Loli based her collage series New mythology on Greek mythology as inspired by today. She juxtaposes vintage photographs, pulling from perhaps a more romantic era, and scientific images, pulling from futuristic ideas, to create surreal narratives of mythical beings such as Amphritite and the Oracle. Kahn and Selesnick thoroughly create a narrative by creating a fictional performance troupe entitled Truppe Fledermous. This troupe performs in areas with no audience, deep in natural locations. The only proof of the performances lie in the photographic evidence. Slevin Aaron attempts to capture emotion through his own narratives that often have influence from mythology.

Ryan McGinley; Blue Breakdown
Ana Mendieta, from the Silueta series
Acacia Johnson; Origins

Ryan McGinley, Ana Mendieta, and Acacia Johnson have a more fleeting approach to their photography. McGinley goes on road trips to unpopulated areas with beautiful, young models. He encourages them to act on their teenage angst and human instinct; thus, McGinley leaves us with beautiful images of beautiful people engaging in nature as instinctually as possible. Mendieta performed a connection between her body and the earth in her spiritual connection to her homeland of Cuba. Her earth-body works left indexical imprints in an otherwise unbothered nature. “My art is the way I establish the bonds that tie me to the universe,” she exclaimed. This is a crucial theme of Human/Nature. She emphasizes the body’s physical spatiality and its relationship to the world’s space. This relationship breaks down identity, bridging nature and human, allowing Mendieta to create a surreal and fragile temporality in her images. Johnson, mesmerized by the northern landscape, searches for magical moments. Her interests lie in the enduring relationship between people and the mythic landscape; the mythic landscape being the point where the local landscape and the natural landscape overlap.

Eric William Carroll; Atari Sunset

Eric William Carroll is enthralled with outer space and his lack of understanding about it. He focuses on the idea of the word sublime. His work is based off the Grand Unified Theory (GUT), the search to solidify the forces of the universe in one idea in order to reach the Theory of Everything (TOE). He appropriates images from archives and scientific publications to make his own image sans information, futher expressing the unknown. He often links together earth-scaled personal images or objects such as children’s toys and sunsets with vast scientific images of outer space; the juxtaposition questions our relation to the universe and restates the sublime Carroll feels with the unknown.

By placing the works of the eight artists in an abandoned train yard, I force the viewers to experience the sublime as they tread through nature’s overhaul of the building. The 26 pieces of the exhibition exist among nature, as human kind exists among nature and from nature. The location begs the audience to experience a surreal adventure in a place otherwise avoided or ignored; such as romanticism is avoided or ignored in the contemporary world.

As Novalis said, “The world must be romanticized. In this way its original meaning will be rediscovered. To romanticize is nothing but a qualitative heightening. In this process the lower self becomes identified with a better self. Insofar as I present the commonplace with significance, the ordinary with mystery, the familiar with the seemliness of the unfamiliar and the finite with the semblance of the infinite, I romanticize it.”

A Cerebral Existence; Photography’s Theoretic Nature

Photography is amazing; all aspects of it. Consider the actual physicality of recording light. Consider the history. Consider the results of photography.

Photography is such a cerebral medium, more so than all the others. Photography challenges truth by copying life. Truth has been arguably the biggest conflict within the photography world. Bring it back to Hippolyte Bayard who photographed himself “dead” as a dramatic fake suicide in 1840. All to announce his discontent with the government for not recognizing him as the inventor of photography.

Three aspects of my Fall 2014 semester set me up to this conclusion of photography being ultimately intricate: History of Photography, Photo 2, and portfolio review, and a Tumblr discovery glued all of the pieces together.

History of Photography included a reading called Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer. Reading it alone, without real discussion, I concluded that everybody takes pictures and everybody takes pictures of the same things. But push it into discussion, and so many philosophical conflicts pop up. Does it matter what the subject is or who photographed it? Which one affects the value? Do these photos have value if they’re the same? What makes Diane Arbus’ pictures so undeniably hers? Can there be another Arbus? Is there more or less to the subjects photographed over and over?

Photo 2 is the second half of a year of black and white film photography and darkroom printing (I’m part of the last generation at my school to get a full year of it, unfortunate for the future…but yay for me.) In this class, we’re expected to have perfected or near perfected printing so as to focus on content. The assignments varied greatly and challenged us to make our viewers think, to ask questions.

Portfolio Review was the real eye opener. To get into the photography program, you have to present all of your artwork from the entry courses required for the program, write a paper, and see what the entire (four person) photography department says. The commentary I received was that my dedication to photography and my skill are admirable, but I need to know the history of what I’m doing. This critique is based on my constant drawback to romantic imagery without any contemporary commentary. They said “Read everything.” Since then, I have been trying to; there is way more text on photo theory than you might guess.

What brought me to this realization of photography’s complexity was Tumblr. I am a big advocate of Tumblr for its insanely diverse collection of curators, professional and not. So, in search of some inspiration for my own photos, I typed “conceptual” in the search box for Tumblr and 98% of it was photography. No other medium can challenge photography’s theoretic nature. Known or not, photographers and photography filled Tumblr’s search results. And this has held true for many other times I’ve searched “conceptual” since then.

This year I pledge to delve into every crease and silver grain of photography’s intricacy and share its wonders with you.

“The corpse which you see here is that of M. Bayard, inventor of the process that has just been shown to you. As far as I know this indefatigable experimenter has been occupied for about three years with his discovery. The government which has been only too generous to Monsieur Daguerre, has said it can do nothing for Monsieur Bayard, and the poor wretch has drowned himself. Oh the vagaries of human life…!”