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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Could John Turner Be The Next Undiscovered Vivian Maier?

If you're not familiar with Vivian Maier you can check her story out here. I have some of her books and they are wonderful.

But here is a new discovery and, while Turner certainly doesn't match Maier in terms of being prolific, he does, in my opinion, match in terms of, shall we say, 'wonderfulness'! The video is on CNN so I can't embed it, but it is definitely worth a watch. I particularly like the irony of the image where the 'beggar' is asking the woman who is collecting money herself for a donation. He really had an eye for irony and for catching 'the moment'.

Have a look at the short video: entitled "Photos Found In Suitcase Show A Different Time". A very enjoyable few minutes! 

Quick Quotes: Arnold Newman

"Photography, as we all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality with which we create our own private world."

Arnold Newman


I am always looking for quotes about photography and truth. This one says it with no holds barred.

Newman is one of the greatest portrait photographers of our time. One of his most noted portraits is that of Alfred Krupp, a German industrialist who had been a Nazi and used slave labor during WWII. Newman was taking Krupp's portrait for Newsweek and took the opportunity to use photography to make Krupp look like the devil, and Newsweek did publish the portrait!

Here, from his New York Times obituary in 2006:

"................Perhaps the most famous was a sinister picture of the German industrialist Alfried Krupp, taken for Newsweek in 1963. Krupp, long-faced and bushy-browed, is made to look like Mephistopheles incarnate: smirking, his fingers clasped as he confronts the viewer against the background of a assembly line in the Ruhr. In the color version his face has a greenish cast.

The impression it leaves was no accident: Mr. Newman knew that Krupp had used slave labor in his factories during the Nazi reign and that he had been imprisoned after World War II for his central role in Hitler's war machine.

"When he saw the photos, he said he would have me declared persona non grata in Germany," Mr. Newman said of Krupp......."

 
 © Arnold Newman

© Arnold Newman

 

And the story in Newman's own words, during an interview:

If you happen to subscribe to the blog by email, the video and its link will not come over....visit the main blog at www.howardgrill.com/blog to watch the two minute story.

Fan Ho

Ever hear of the photographer Fan Ho? Neither had I! But when I discovered his work I was simply blown away. Turns out that I had seen and recognized some of his images, but I had never known who took them. Take this one for example:

 
 Approaching Shadow (1954)    © Fan Ho

Approaching Shadow (1954)    © Fan Ho

 

His use of light and shadow, framing, high key, contrast, and the 'decisive moment' is truly amazing. It made me wonder how I had not heard of him or his work before this. It is always a pleasure to discover an artist who you hadn't heard of and whose work pulls you in and makes you see things in a new way.

Unfortunately, Fan Ho was one of many artists and performers who passed on in 2016.

Here is a video (made, as will become apparent, before his death) that reviews some of his work:

Recently a couple of books of his work have been reissued and I am looking forward to receiving my copies. They can be found here.

Penelope Taylor's Infrared Blog

You can meet some great people on photography workshops! And on the last one I attended with John Barclay in Death Valley I met a whole slew of them, one of which is Penelope Taylor. Penelope is a great 'regular' photographer in her own right, but recently became totally intrigued and beguiled by infrared photography. So she went out and learned how to do it with a vengeance!

Her infrared images are different.  She plays off shadow and highlight in unique ways, as in her photograph below.  And all without the dark black sky with bright white clouds that are so typical of infrared. 

© Penelope Taylor

In addition she uses infrared for subjects that are not typically photographed this way. The image "Rogue Wave", seen below, could well have been photographed using the visual spectrum of light. Would it have looked the same? Honestly, I don't know. But I have seen the print of this image and the subtle range of tones and light are absolutely gorgeous.

 

"Rouge Wave"    © Penelope Taylor

Recently, Penelope has started a blog devoted to infrared photography as well as a Facebook page dedicated to her infrared work, and I plan to be a reader of both! If you are interested in seeing more of her infrared work you can read along as well at her Penelope Taylor Photography blog and her Facebook page. They will definitely be well worth many return visits!

Quick Quotes: Jay Maisel

"You should be learning to photograph like nobody else does. If you waste your time trying to photograph like somebody else you're following in somebody's footsteps, you don't know where you're going to go, and you're going to get lost.  Find your own footsteps"

Jay Maisel

I love this quote by Jay Maisel that I heard him say during a video shot with Scott Kelby.  During the hour and a half video they walk the streets of New York photographing and talking about Maisel's approach to photography.  During the walk many 'pearls of wisdom' were spoken!

Just Jo (Johnson)

I was truly surprised and delighted when fellow photography workshop participant Jo Johnson, who is a superb photographer in her own right, asked to interview me for her blog.  I had never been interviewed about photography before and it was actually quite a lot of fun and her questions really made me think quite a bit.

So I am going to provide a link over to the blog and interview. But here's the thing.....keep reading because Jo's blog is fascinating.  You see, she is something of a history buff as well as a photographer, and she artfully weaves her images and words into fascinating historical tales (all true).  In much the same way as some of the history writers we love, Jo makes history fun, interesting and personal. After that check out her photos as well!

Accept The Gift You Are Given

My late teacher and friend Nancy Rotenberg was a very wise woman as well as an extraordinary photographer. She recognized that by having too rigid or narrow an expectation of what you were going to be photographing you were simply setting yourself up for disappointment.  After all, how many times does one go out to photograph sunrise only to find the sky locked in with heavy clouds?  How many times has it rained during the workshop you were waiting so long to attend?  If you are not open to receiving other gifts when those types of things happen you are very apt to go home disappointed or feeling like you 'wasted your time'.

Nancy always felt that one has to have an open mind and an open heart and be willing to take the gift that you are given when it is offered to you.  Often that gift isn't what you planned for or thought it would be.

A couple of Sundays back, my friends and I went to photograph sunrise at Independence Marsh about 40 minutes from my home, only to be confronted by a 'double whammy'.  First, there was little water.  The marsh tends to dry out if there isn't enough rain and, while the marsh is frequently beautiful, when it is dry........well, you get about a twenty foot shoreline of mud. Second, the sky was extremely cloudy and there really wasn't much sunrise to speak of.

At first I was quite disappointed.  But then I finally remembered her words and let myself look around and openly accepted the gift I was given:

 Autumn Colors At Independence Marsh In Western Pennsylvania

Autumn Colors At Independence Marsh In Western Pennsylvania

Copyright Howard Grill

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Quick Quotes: Minor White

"When you approach something to photograph it, first be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence. Then don't leave until you have captured its essence."

Minor White

I ran across this quote and had to write about it because it reminds me very much of my teacher, the late Nancy Rotenberg, and her philosophy about photographing ...... that to make a good photograph you must go 'beyond the handshake'. It is, of course, extremely difficult to capture the essence of a subject, but being still with yourself certainly seems like a very, very good way to start.

Quick Quotes: Jay Maisel

"It's not about going to new places, it's about seeing with new eyes"

Jay Maisel

Another great quote in support of the idea that your best images can be made close to home. They can be made at places that you can visit in all seasons and at all times of day. They can be made when you allow yourself to really 'see'.  Seeing is a skill that isn't easy. In fact it can be among the most difficult of things to do. It seems to sometimes come only to leave a short time later.  Best to work with it when the muse arrives!

Finding Your Vision

We all want to find our own unique artistic vision.  It is not a quest that one sets out to do on any particular day....or month or year for that matter.  It is a slow process that involves many, many factors.....some external but most internal. Certainly developing one's vision is not something that can be rushed. However, it can be fostered, supported, and given the right conditions to grow. So how does one foster, find, and express their vision?

I could try naming some of my ideas, but I doubt I would be able to do nearly as good a job as photographer Cole Thompson in his blog post entitled "How I Found My Vision", in which Cole describes how he found, fostered, and developed his personal artistic vision. Cole is a remarkable photographer and one whose work I find so compelling that I have purchased it for myself.  His advice on the concept of finding one's vision is inspirational. Read it here.

Creating

I know that I said my next post was going to talk about using electronic media to try to find an audience for my Floral Forms project.  But I thought that I would delay that until next time in order to share something that I ran across.  More specifically, a blog post by photographer Chuck Kimmerle that I found inspirational.  The post was entitled "Stop Worrying About People Liking Your Work And Create, Dammit!" and can be read here. A brief quote from the post:

And for artists, especially photographers, the surest path to mediocrity, the GUARANTEED path, is to let that external validation affect and influence our work. By doing so, we give control of our art to others. We lose our voice, and we lose our points of view. We stop interpreting the randomness we may witness, instead reproducing what we think will be popular. Our art becomes generic and bland and meaningless. Welcome to mediocrity.

Chuck Kimmerle

Definitely worth a trip over to his blog to have a read about the importance of finding one's own voice!

Quick Quotes: Timothy Allen

"It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get."

Timothy Allen

It is a trap that we almost all fall into.....thinking that traveling far, waking up for sunrise at 4AM, and standing in the freezing cold along with other personal discomforts adds merit to an image.  Fortunately or unfortunately, the viewer only cares about what the photo looks like and not what the photographer had to go through to get it.

This quote makes you think twice about the fact that sometimes the best pictures may be had close to home.  It flies in the face of the idea that to make better pictures one has to go to more and more exotic places.  And that is one reason that I like this quote so much.

Black And White vs Color

One of my favorite photographers, Cole Thompson, (I hesitate to call him a 'black and white' photographer because I am sure that if he did color photography his images would excel in that genre as well) recently published a blog post with this Calvin and Hobbes comic strip about color vs black and white.  I enjoyed it and thought I would share it here as well. While you are at it have a look at Cole's photography (it is in black and white!).

Copyright Bill Watterson

The Brown Sisters

Photographer Nicholas Nixon has, starting in 1975 and for the last 36 years, photographed his wife and her three sisters posed in the same sequential order.  In 1999, marking the 25th anniversary of the project, he published "The Brown Sisters".  That book is long out of print, but recently the Museum of Modern Art has reprinted it and expanded the book to include the yearly photos taken up to and including 2008. Somehow, the portraits convey much more than just the progression of age.  The Museum of Modern Art apparently also has in its archives most of the actual photographs which can be seen here, though I am  unsure why they do not have them in chronological order on their website.

At the time I was initially writing this post, the Museum's second addition of the book, which contained the 33 images through 2008, was for sale and I was lucky enough to get one.  I believe it is now out of print again, so you will have to make due with the website images.

The book is excellent though, and if the project appeals to you I would recommend scooping one up if they print another edition.

John Sexton and Kim Weston: Interviews

I happen to run across an interesting set of interviews and tutorials that are sponsored by Epson and directed towards black and white photographers. First, the interviews.  Each interview is going to be divided into several parts, with each segment lasting 5-10 minutes.  The segments are going to be released sequentially and only the first one for each interview has been released.  The interviews are with photographers John Sexton and Kim Weston.

I have listened to the first section of each and found them very enjoyable.  They are about the art of photography as well as a bit about (as one might imagine (Ansel Adams and Edward Weston).  Definitely worth a listen.

On the same page are a number of tutorials regarding digital black and white printing.  I have just started to listen to them, so I can't yet comment on their usefulness.

I thought I would share these with you. The 'whole shebang' of interviews and tutorials can be found here: Interviews With John Sexton And Kim Weston.

Stacy Butera

I have always found it interesting that a group of photographers can go to the same location and walk away with vastly different images.  That fact is testament to the old Ansel Adams quote that "There are always two people in every picture, the photographer and the viewer".  So when I run across photographers who spend time making images at sites that I frequent, I am always interested in seeing their work. Through comments she made on my blog, I recently ran across the work of photographer Stacy Butera. Stacy lives in the same general area as I do and apparently has taken the opportunity to photograph at some of the same locations that I have.  I spent some time on her website and really enjoyed the work I found there, which tends to exude a quiet stillness, as exemplified in the image below.

"Shawnee Lake Dock"

Copyright Stacy Butera

Check out her other work at her website here.