Tag Archives: Inspiration

New York, New York (in BW)

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There are some books that are written out of order– they start somewhere in the middle and piece together the various strands of the story into a woven tapestry of scenes, pictures, and images.  Not every moment is recorded, and not every scene is explained, but it all becomes one cohesive whole at the end (or beginning) (or middle).

My blog is much the same way.  It’s mostly linear, but I jump around like a nervous flea, unsure where the next juicy tidbit will be, but sure that it will be delicious when I get there.

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Thus so, too, are my images from New York City.  We had three days to wander this massive city, and everything in memory became jumbled.  Some of it comes back in a rush, focusing on the lightspeoplesoundssmells– the hum of a massive life form that is the city itself.  The crush of people was incredible!

Other memories come back in snippets: of hot steam with a faint stink rising up under my skirt, of aching feet, of glimpses of people who stand out in this town where anything goes.

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And yet, somehow, typical me, I find the pockets of quiet in between the people.  My camera lens is drawn to peace, even when there are actually hordes of people around.

Chris, observing me, once said, “Many people, when they need alone time, they go to the quiet of their homes and spend time by themselves.  You– when you need alone time, you seek out people and spend time with them.  Alone, but not alone.

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He’s right.  I become wrapped in the quiet envelope of space that is all my own. I can be surrounded by people and yet hidden in my own pocket of peace.

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I’ll be back in this City That Never Sleeps for a few days starting this weekend.  Hoping to capture a few more shots of this fabulous city!

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//35mm black and white film photos taken with my Canon AE-1 on Ilford HP5 400 film.  Images were taken in SoHo, Central Park, and the Upper East Side (I think that’s what they’re called).  Captured a few in color, so I may throw those in for good measure in another post.

Embarking on a Black and White Journey

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For those of you who follow me on Instagram in addition to this blog, you already know that, starting January 1 of this year, I started on a new project.

Yes, my friends– I am now shooting in all black and white.

And I am not talking about just converting select color photos to black and white, but actually shooting black and white film.  When all 36 frames in the camera refuse to accept any tint or hue.  Only shades of black, white, and grey.  So many greys.  My current films of choice are Ilford HP5 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400TX.

Why?

To be perfectly frank, I decided to plunge into all black and white because I am hoping to develop (ha, that pun) my photography skills.  I don’t have formal photography training, but that doesn’t mean I can’t improve my skills.  And improving, to me, means developing my eyes.

I want my eyes to think as much as they see.  

When I started shooting film, I noticed that I was putting a lot more thought into my images– into the composition, the why and the what of a shot.  Questions I began asking dealt with the ultimate, future image that was hidden within the case of my Canon AE-1. Thinking.  And I saw myself gradually improving, frame by frame.

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Black and white strips away all the distractions.  The colors, however striking to my naked eye, are gone in the final image.  What’s left behind are the bones of my photo: the subject matter that my eye managed to see.  Was it worth it?  Why did I take this in this fashion?  Was it the texture?  Was it the composition and/or placement of the subject?

Why is such a difficult question to ask.

I’m still looking for what I consider to be “my” style.  I am also looking to explore and expand past the inane, generic photos that flood Instagram in millions every second.  Why should others care about what I’ve chosen to spend time, effort, and money on?  (Truth is, I don’t know why they should care; I certainly don’t care sometimes.)

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It’s a path I walk down, slowly and somewhat uncertainly.

I’m excited, as well, to see what happens.  I recently looked at photos from my very first roll of film, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was rather terrible with film (washed out, unfocused, etc.).  But I’ve improved, and I am hoping that someday I will look back on my first rolls of black and white film and chuckle at my inexperience as I chase something else that will make me even better.

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35mm film photos taken in Shanghai, China, during my trip out to Shanghai; January 21 and 23, 2017.

James Turrell: “we are dwellers at the bottom of the ocean of air.”

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James Turrell is a master of light.

We went to the de Young in San Francisco to check out the Ed Ruscha exhibit a couple months ago.  We had tickets to see the museum, too, and we were excited to explore properly.  A friend of mine was married at the de Young years ago, but we weren’t able to fully explore the museum then.  Plus, I wasn’t too interested in photography yet.

Thus, years later, we devoted a day to exploring art.  In addition to the Ed Ruscha exhibit, a main push to visit the museum was my desire to visit the James Turrell exhibit just outside of the de Young: Three Gems, 2005.  (For those of you in San Francisco this fall, the exhibit will be open on Friday nights with a light show.)

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The sculpture is a calm dome of space, and one could sit there indefinitely, watching the atmosphere flow by overhead, contemplating peace and quiet.

In fact, I was almost embarrassed at the loud clack of my camera as I pulled light in to rest on film.  A silent agreement to observe in silence was made.

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We were in a vase of air, the frogs at the bottom of the well, believing, even for a moment, that the sky was merely a changing disk of light at the top of the upturned bowl.  The soft curves of the walls drew me in, held and cradled me like a babe.

Nothing could find me here, I felt.  A breath of a moment.  A slice of peace in our tumultuous world.

It was literally poetry for my eyes.  For my soul.

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Things I think about when I’m left to the whims of my brain:

  • How do I get the same feeling of peace on my own, when I’m not surrounded by a structure that was carefully crafted to force upon someone a feeling of gentle surrender?
  • How did James Turrell decide on the angle of these curves?  What inspired him?  What inspires me?
  • Why don’t I go to art museums more often? Why don’t I seek out art more often, when it makes me so happy?
  • Then, darker . . . What am I doing with my life?  Why did I choose my career path? Why didn’t I choose art?  Wouldn’t sculpture or photography be better?  Where was I going?   Was it the right place to be, at the right time?

Perhaps I should spend more time on my own, thinking, browsing, feeling.  Soul seeking is always a good idea, I think.  I haven’t done enough of it, recently.  Instead, I hide behind a curtain of work and the fog of daily minutiae, never confronting what my teenage self once relished– the art of picking myself apart to find my weaknesses.  But then picking myself up to face the next day all over again.

How long could I have sat there, pondering?

I didn’t want to leave.

But I kind of did, too.

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So off we went.  Sculptures awaited outside, and we walked those green gardens for a while.

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The entire De Young is a work of art, from the artwork hanging within its halls to the surfaces that form the building, and, with an entire afternoon to meander quietly, we did so.

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For those of you who wonder what I look like.  Hello.  I need to cut my hair.

Sidebar: Tomorrow is our election day.  Let’s see what happens.  May there be plenty of James Turrell to go around if the results go awry.

//35mm film photos taken with my Canon AE-1 at the De Young in San Francisco, CA in September 2016.

Inspiration: Looking Up

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I recently went to a talk given by Pei Ketron (@pketron, Penelope’s Loom) in the Apple Store of downtown San Francisco. Her talk was a part of Apple’s #startsomethingnew campaign, and it was the first time I decided to get “out there” and meet someone new from the Instagram world.

Pei’s photography is beautiful, crisp, clean, and just so comfortable to look at. There’s a brilliant quality to her photographs that just satisfies my inner lust for beauty. Go check out her stuff. She’s all about clean lines, symmetry, patterns, perspective, and a lot of things I love.

Also, she’s super nice.

For the talk, she had gone on a walk of San Francisco in search of inspiration (after being instructed by Apple to photography something along the lines of what she is known for, regardless of their “start something new” motto), and a lot of the photos she showed us were of the towering buildings of downtown San Francisco. Looking up at them.

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So, in search of my own inspiration, I also went for a stroll in San Francisco, echoing Pei’s walk. I had my little film Canon AE-1 in tow, and I was determined to take my own version of her photos. Not to copy, of course. But to explore an area of photography I had never tried before.

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It was eye opening. It’s so easy to go day-to-day in a city without truly stopping and looking at one’s surroundings. There is so much we miss as we scurry about our day to day lives! Exploring the Financial District (FiDi) is not something I’ve done normally.  But the shapes!  The sky!  The surreal and abstract nature of the city!  What was especially weird is knowing that these photographs are actually a macro-portrait of all the people working in these buildings.  Crazy, hey?

This blog is about searching for my own inspiration and figuring out my goals in life. It’s also about exploring beauty and taking steps towards happiness. Here we go!