The Clarity and Charity of Time

I am not a patient person in general and definitely not a patient photographer. This is often at odds with the analogue, film-based photography that I practice. You might think that digital would be my thing, given my impatience. But no. I have to shoot old school and then practically run to the nearest darkroom.

Like Popeye, I am what I am. Yet, I am now involved in the long process of inputting, organizing and otherwise getting my photographic shit together while enjoying my new, custom-built computer, dedicated to my photo workflow. This means I have been viewing some long-forgotten scans. It’s been, well…eye-opening. It’s like I’m seeing some of this work with new eyes. And perhaps I am.

As I revisit this old work, new images now attract my attention. I still like most of the ones that originally got my juices going, but I’m finding some gems (to me, anyway) that have just as much merit and potential. I feel like a musician who is reinterpreting an old song. I’m thinking of my favorite version of Springsteen’s Born To Run; a very slow live version, not the album version. This is also like the advice that I received (and I still pass on to my writing students) about putting your piece of writing away in a drawer and then coming back days or weeks or even months — and it’s like you’re looking at something someone else wrote. Perhaps they (you) did.

This image is a case in point. I was shooting a light-leaky Agfa Isolette camera. Most of the 15 frames are shit. But a few from this sequence spark my imagination. This was lit with 100% golden-hour sunlight right in my own backyard. I think it has a David Lynchian quality.

Maybe I was channeling Lynch’s eye.

Monochrome Pentimento by CB Adams, Qwerky Photography.

Monochrome Pentimento by CB Adams, Qwerky Photography.

This I Believe - On Artist's Statements

I’m not alone in fearing and loathing artist’s statements. I’ve written my share of la-dee-da and contrarian and tortured artiste and obtuse versions — usually at the behest of whatever exhibition or call for entry had requested or required one. I have come to realize, however, that they can and do serve a good purpose when written with the proper intent. They can be a way for others to understand, with limits, what a photographer is about, who he or she is.

My new approach to artist’s statements is to follow the guidance I received from a history professor at university. He was providing the standard by which he would be grading our term papers. “What do you mean,” he said. “And how do you know.”

I’m not going to present an artist’s statement here. I am, however, gong to say a quick something about this photo — why I like it and why I hope you appreciate it, too. I believe what “makes” this rather ubiquitous bench scene is, of course, the vines and other vegetation growing through it. For me, though, it’s the plucky branch extending from the left, like a feather boa (to this associative mind, anyway), that sets this apart from others like it. I also like the contrasting horizontal lines and patterns, and that sliver of the basement window.

So there. I said it. I made a statement. Talk amongst yourselves.

“Boa” From the Series Closer To Home by CB Adams

“Boa” From the Series Closer To Home by CB Adams

I Ain't No Chimp

OK. We know that there's a term called “chimping” that describes the habit of taking a picture and then immediately going, “Oh, oh, oh,” like a chimp, while reviewing it on the camera’s LCD screen. I shoot some digital myself, but I don't ooo or ahhh, but I do get that kind of chimp face when reviewing a shot I just took. Can't seem to stop that habit.

On the other hand, there's no opportunity to chimp with a film camera. That's one of the aspects I love about shooting film. Delayed gratification -- that's good for most things except sex. Anyway, I knew this shot would be a keeper as I took it. Call it intuition. Call it 40+ years of experience. Call it luck or karma. But it felt good and right and exciting.

Anyone seen my banana?

The Black (and White) Experience

Self-Portrait 1983

Self-Portrait 1983

And now, a few words from this Blogtographer. As I've been recently spinning my social networking web, I have been asked some very pointed questions about myself. Here, then, are the very pointed answers:

  1. Yes, I still shoot film; it's familiar and I love the smell.
  2. No, I'm not a digital-hater; I just don't like the smell of memory chips.
  3. Yes, I'll be featured when the vintage and toy camera episode of "Hoarders" is produced.
  4. No, I do not ever wonder what my photographs would look like if they weren't blurry.
  5. Perhaps I will "like" your Facebook page and "follow" you on Twitter and Linkedin.
  6. No, I am not related to Ansel Adams, but I used to lie about this to impress The Ladies.
  7. You Betcha, I consider myself an artist, but I prefer craftsman.
  8. Yes, I do more than take photographs. I am also a published, award-winning serious fiction writer. So, nanny-nanny boo-boo.
  9. No, sexting is very, very wrong (at my age).
  10. And finally: yes, I know qwerky is spelled incorrectly.

Thanks for visiting my site. Return often. Stay late. Take lots of pictures with whatever camera you have handy.

Bliss & the Poetry of the Found


Bliss

“Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems … A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet,” according to Poetry.org.

That is what I do as a photographer. I find existing things and present them, by way of a camera, as my art. Walker Evans considered the artist as an image collector and that “He collects things with his eye.”

As a photographic artist, I collect visual subjects. I make the decisions of form, such as which camera to render the scene, how to frame the image (what to leave out, what to leave in), film versus digital, color versus black and white and so on. Unlike in poetry, such decisions of form are not “left” to me, they are demanded.

The writer Annie Dillard believed turning a text into a found poem doubles that poem’s context. “The original meaning remains intact, but now it swings between two poles,” she wrote. To expound on that idea in terms of y photography, the original subject remains intact (in a certain way) but its meaning is defined by me.

 That is Bliss.


Tilting At A Windmill


I have said before that I am most haunted by the photographs that I did not take. This photograph is a variation on that theme. I am reminded of a line from Orwell’s Animal Farm: “Windmill or no windmill, he said, life would go on as it had always gone on--that is, badly.”

This windmill has haunted me not because I failed to photograph it – because I did several years ago – but because the lab I was using at the time lost the negatives. Their offer to reimburse me for the cost of the film was not even close to repaying me for the lost images. At least as I imagined them.

This windmill stands near Ursa, Illinois. It’s quite close to a paved two-lane road. I knew I was going to pass it last weekend so I looked forward to reprising my attempt to photograph it. In the past I used a Holga and a Blackbird Fly. This time I had my Harman Titan 4x5. It was breezy, and I did not remember that the windmill actually still spins when the wind is strong enough.

I developed my own negatives this time, so I had no lab to blame if things went awry. They didn’t. I particularly like the dark halo effect that the pinhole provided when pointed into the bright sky. An unexpected bonus. I shall  rewrite Orwell, with the windmill, life went on as it had always gone on – that is, pretty okay. One less thing to haunt me.


Auto du Lac


Many years ago I interviewed the Finnish artist/metalsmith Heikki Seppa. For reasons lost to me now, I asked him to theorize what the world’s great artists would talk about if they were in a room together. Seppa replied, “They wouldn’t talk about art with a capital A. They would talk about the cheapest place to buy paint.”

This photograph reminds me of his comment because I have found photographers to be much more sharing and much less assholes compared to the only other artists with whom I have had significant interaction.  Here is where I connect the dots. I remember a photographer saying that you should always leave a shot or two at the end of a roll of fim,  or in today’s parlance, some space on your chip. The day when I took this shot, I had completed what I set out to shoot, but I left one 4x5 holder unexposed, “just in case.”

As I trudged home, I look over and saw the sun setting over this salvage yard. Fortunately, I still had two shots I could take. Regardless of its artistic merit, at least I had the opportunity to capture it.

When the Wheel Comes Off

"Destination"

Several years ago, when my oldest son was showing an interest in his old man's interest in photography, we were in the habit of crawling under fences, climbing gates, ignoring cautionary signs, and otherwise engaging in trespassing. He was all about color and digital and I was all about black and white and toy cameras. Yet, we were often drawn to the same subject matter. Sometimes, we even tried to out maneuver each other, as if jostling for the best angle at a press conference. We talked about shooting together and ultimately creating a book that we would call "Trespassing." Each spread would feature our individual photographs of the same subject.

Then the little bastard up and moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.

My son was the first person I really went shooting with. Previously, my approach to photography was the same as my approach to writing and masturbation: it's something best done alone. In the past year, I have enjoyed the pleasure of shooting, if not side-by-side then nearby, with a fellow photographer and artist, Jeff Sass. No masturbation has been involved

Mostly though, I still shoot alone. I found a place nearby that technically is private property, but I explore the property anyway because, hey, I don't see any no trespassing signs. I like trespassing. It gives the experience a heightened feel. Acquaintances who do Urb Ex get a similar rush. But I'm too big a pussy to go in those places alone. The open field where I took "Destination" is just fine by me.