Now Showing: VIVA Gallery

Celebrating three wonderful years as a member of the VIVA Artist Cooperative in Viroqua, Wisconsin. I have both framed and unframed prints available for purchase along with samples of my evolving adventures with the re-imagining of Edward S. Curtis’ orotone process. Please visit our cooperative gallery at 217 S. Main St. in Viroqua to see the collected work of our members; come on Saturday morning in spring, summer and fall to enjoy the farmers’ market directly across the street, or visit Sunday mornings in winter to enjoy the brunch served by our award-winning neighbors at The Rooted Spoon Restaurant next door.

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Blue Morpho Butterflies, Gold Dust and Banana Oil

I have been working with printing on different materials from copper and aluminum to styrene (plexiglass) in search of a certain radiance that cannot be achieved even with metallic papers.  My inspirations are pictures painted on glass that my great aunt collected in the 1920’s in Brazil that used the iridescent wings of Blue Morpho butterflies as background, and a method used by Edward Sheriff Curtis that he called “orotone” which involved coating a positive image on a glass plate (basically a contact print of a glass negative) which he painted with gold dust suspended in a lacquer known as “banana oil” for its scent.  The blue morpho method is obviously a dead end not just because I wouldn’t use real butterflies, but because their iridescence comes from the physical structure of the wing surface, which can’t be duplicated.

So I am experimenting with Curtis’ technique,  printing on styrene instead of glass and trying to find an affordable substitute to gold dust and banana oil.  After much effort and many, many failures, I am coming close to a substitute.  Unfortunately, I can’t show these on my website because the medium must be seen in person to be appreciated.  At the end of this month, I will be showing a few of these at VIVA Gallery in Viroqua, Wisconsin.  If you can stop by to take a look, let me know what you think.

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Now Showing! November, 2015

From now until the end of November, 2015, I am showing my work at The Wine Guyz, 122 King Street, La Crosse, WI.  Please stop by to browse my images and those of photographer Paul Hatlem (http://HatlemPhotography.com) and enjoy the good foods and wine offered by our hosts.

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When does a photograph cease to be a photograph?

Landwaves3.jpgLandwaves3source.jpgLandwaves1.jpg
I am often told that my photographs “don’t look like photographs.”  I am a little perplexed by this.  I can understand that statement in the context of a photograph that I have drawn on, rearranged parts within, or deliberately made it look say, more like a watercolor painting than a straight documentary piece.  But I still consider those primarily to be photographs, even if I paint over parts of them with regular old paint and a paintbrush, which I have been known to do.  Hand tinting black-and-white photographs is a peaceful way to spend some time just “doing art.”

I have made up a little gallery for this post of some new works to show the stages of going from point A to points B, C, D, and so on and I ask you “when does the piece become something other than a photograph?”  The topic is some farmland near my home which was formed by sand and wind into interesting rolling shapes.  Add a little contour farming practice running different crops across the downslope to reduce erosion and some lines drawn by the plow and planter, and patterns that fascinate me emerge.  In the making of Landwaves3, it appeared to me that the curves of the top of the hill and the waves from the contour strip almost fit together, so I made a second copy of Landwaves3source, turned it upside down, placed it on top of the original and erased the ridge line.  Is Landwaves3 less of a photograph than its source?

Similarly with Landwaves1, I liked the contours so I just repeated them three times.  Let me know what you think about this philosophical question.

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Do I “Photoshop” my photos?

Do I “Photoshop” my photos?  The answer is “of course I do!”  I have spent thousands of hours over 15 years or so learning to use Photoshop both creatively and efficiently.  Photoshop is basically a bag full of tools named metaphorically after what they do:  there are “brushes” to paint with, a “pencil” tool to draw lines and other stuff, a “paint bucket” for flooding an area with color, an “eraser,” etc.  There are also “adjustments” that can be applied, and probably the most used by all photographers is the “levels” tool which makes it possible to darken the darks and lighten the lights in a photograph, and in the process get rid of dark or light overall fogginess.

But what most people mean when they ask whether I “Photoshop” my photos is whether I falsify them.  The answer to that is “it depends.”  For a photograph meant to document a wildflower or family gathering or landscape, I don’t alter the photo to falsify it, but I often alter the photo to emphasize certain colors, de-emphasize other details in the background by darkening them, and removing that “fogginess” that comes from an excess of black or white pixels.

On the other hand, when I am working creatively, I feel I am free to mess around with any aspect of a photo.  I like to draw, rearrange things, juxtapose parts, and so on and the process is playful and engaging.

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On seeing

I will be explaining my vision as this site is developed.  I spent quite a while not being able to see much detail, but after four eye surgeries, I now see very well indeed.  During the time I couldn’t see well I used my cameras as a way of capturing details to study later, photographing, for instance, a bird I couldn’t quite make out for later identification.  That period of impairment influenced my art profoundly in that I became much more attuned to form and movement and less concerned about detail.  You see the result in the Prairie Winds series particularly.  I have essays planned to include with the various collections on such things as the ethics of photographing nature and the use of Photoshop and other tools to play with images.

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Coming Soon

Welcome to my photography website.  I am still developing it, playing with organization and details, so bear with me for a while.  There are currently two sets of photos on the site, one of recent works from the winter of 2014-2015 which includes barns and landscapes, and another showing my Prairie Winds concept/series on the interplay of wind and the natural landscape and flora of an ancient sand prairie.  If you like what you see, stay posted.  There is more to come…eventually.

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