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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.

A Mother's Treasure III

I continue to work on my series of compositions making up a mini-project I call 'A Mother's Treasure'.  Details can be found here.  

This particular composition comes from an ornate area on the back of the regal clothes that are worn by the 'king'. I liked the repetitive rainbow shapes placed within the more complex engraving.

 © Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

A Mother's Treasure II

A couple of post's back I found myself wondering if there was a series to be had in photographing two decorative statues that were handed down to me by my mother, who is in poor health. That original post was entitled "A Mother's Treasure".

I think it will, in fact, end up a series. At least I find myself drawn to making more images of these statues (I'm sure that isn't the correct term for them). The only question is whether I will find enough to make it a short series or if it will capture my attention for a longer while. Even when doing a series, I tend to produce the finished images slowly....this is #2 and I'm sure there will be more to come.

 
 © Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

Why Photograph Cemeteries?

As I make more cemetery photographs and potentially see this series evolving into a project, I feel like I must ask myself what the project is really about.  What am I trying to say?  What am I looking for in the images? What is motivating me to make these photos? What would I like to make photos of but have not yet found a way to do so?

Sometimes getting a project started involves far more questions than answers.  But I think that is potentially a good sign!

"Patiently Waiting"    © Howard Grill

So here are some of the answers I have come up with so far, knowing that not all the questions have been asked and that not all the answers are complete.  A few weeks ago  was just going and shooting at a new place and I would not have even thought of any of the questions nor started to formulate any answers. The fact that I am thinking about these issues is what has clarified to me that this is likely a 'project in the making'.


What is this project about and what am I trying to say?

It seems to me that there are several themes underlying this potential project.  First, I know what it is not about.  It is not about cemeteries being scary, haunted, or creepy.  It is not even about them being spiritual. I am not interested in ghosts or in creating backdrop scenes for horror movies.

Most of all, it is a celebration of life.  It is about that we can be remembered by someone long after we are gone. It is about my bringing back memories of people who may have been long forgotten.  There is no way around the fact that it has to be a little bit about dealing with the fear of death as an inevitability.  It is about the fact that ultimately nature reclaims everything. It is about things that are likely dwelling in my subconscious that I don't even realize yet.

 

What am I looking for in the images?

After being out photographing numerous times I have broken down the image 'types' into several varieties:

  • gravestones that tell or hint at a story, such as the image "Patiently Waiting" in this post
  • gravestones that have a touch of humor, either subtly or blatant...believe me, they are out there
  • patterns within stones or made by stones
  • details of statues
  • mausoleum architectural details
  • a sense that it is not all gravestones; that there is nature in the cemetery as well
  • images that send the message that ultimately nature reclaims all

 

What would I like to make photos of but have not yet been able to do so?

This one is easy.  I have no images yet that include human interaction. That is hard for me because I am not one to ask people I don't know if I may take their photograph (though it doesn't necessarily require that). The cemetery is  a place where people come to visit their relatives and friends.  But it is also a pretty place where people go to walk, run, ride their bikes etc....at least the one I photograph in is that sort of place.  I would like to have some images where people are seen doing all those things in addition to grieving or remembering.  I would also like to have some images that depict wildlife such as deer and birds among the graves. We will see how it all transpires and what the project turns into.

Cactus

I often have ideas for several photographic projects floating around in my mind. Sometimes the idea comes first and I have not yet made any photos that would fit it. Other times the idea comes after I have made a series of photos, when it suddenly occurs to me that I might have the start of a small project without having planned it. 

Such is the case with this cactus photo processed in black and white. This is the first photograph I have chosen to process from a small series of cactus images I already have taken.

Euphorbia species of cactus

I will simply have to see if I am able to make and process enough photos of this subject to actually put together a full portfolio. Time will tell!

Projects II

In my post entitled "Projects", I talked about what can be done to garner an audience for your project utilizing my "Floral Forms" project as an example.  In that post I had discussed physical prints and in this post will discuss digital media opportunities. Website:

I plan on putting the project on my website.  Pretty straightforward!

e-Book:

Here is where it gets both interesting and challenging based on the various options and software.  I do plan to make an e-Book out of the project. But in what format? For various reasons, mostly involving software choices, I have decided to go with the PDF format.  But one could also construct an e-Book in the proper format to sell or distribute as an app for the i-Pad.  And if one wanted to, multimedia options can be added, like I did for my Carrie Furnace e-Book.

But here is the most intriguing aspect of the e-book project for me.  I am going to be collaborating with a writer that I have never met in 'real life'.  She is, among other things, a poet who I have corresponded with on-line after reading some of the truly wonderful poems she wrote to accompany her own photographs. After some discussion she has started writing poems specifically for the photos that I want to include in the e-Book.

I am invigorated by the project for a number of reasons. She is a wonderful poet and her words will add a new dimension to the photos and the book, the poems are going to be written specific to the individual images, and I think the idea of working with someone who you have met solely through social media is truly a sign of the times.   More on this to come.....

Projects

What does one do when a self-contained project appears completed?  Or at least completed enough that it can stand alone now even if more were added later?  This is an important question if one of your goals is to get your work 'out there'......if you want to get it seen. Brooks Jensen, the editor of LensWork, has commented on this issue many times in his writings and podcasts.  In the current era there are many, many ways to get your work seen by an audience.  In fact, any one person might choose to put their project into several different formats in order to have it available to a larger audience.  For example, an exhibit is only available to those who live locally.  Putting together a folio that one could sell might limit the number of people that can see your work because of the necessary price point. Brooks has advocated having multiple formats/media so that you do the work in order to make it easier for others to view and appreciate what you have put together.

Now that I have finished my black and white flower project entitled "Floral Forms" and written an artist's statement, I thought it might be worthwhile to enumerate my plans for the project in terms of making it available to an audience.  One of the issues, of course, is that (unless you are intimately familiar with all the software involved) it does take a good deal of time to learn the software and, at least for me, a lot of time to get the jobs done. This takes time away from new projects or from working on the large amount of images I have waiting to be edited and processed.  Nonetheless, I do think it is time well spent because, in the end, if very few people see the work it might as well just stay on your hard drive!

So without further ado, here are some of my thoughts and plans regarding "Floral Forms":

Exhibit The Prints:

Yes, but where?  When looking for a place to have a show one has to be reasonable in terms of how your project might mesh with the venue.  And, oh yes, you must have thick skin and be able to take rejection well.  I thought the project would go well at the botanical garden where I took a good many of the photos.  But how does one present this possibility, especially when unsolicited?

I am sure there are many ways, but the following is what I typically do.  I don't send digital images when seeking a display that was not solicited.  It seems just too easy to me to click through rapidly and be done.  Since I am proud of my prints, I send a series of 8x10 prints, and not on proofing paper.  I send them on the final fine art paper.  That way the recipient has your best work and is able to handle and interact with it.  I send a cover letter explaining the project and why I think it would be appropriate to display in their particular venue along with a short artist's statement.  If the project is a large one I might send 10 or 20 prints rather than the whole project, to give a solid taste of what the quality is.  Really, it just isn't that expensive a thing to do, especially if you compare it to the cost of matting and framing if the recipient is actually interested in giving you a show!

In addition to giving an email address to return contact, I also mention in the letter that I hope it is all right to follow up with a phone call in a week or two in order to see if they are interested.  You need to make the effort to follow up.  The recipient might well be interested but gets bogged down in a million different different things until your prints disappear under a pile of paperwork.  Just because you don't hear back spontaneously doesn't mean they aren't interested.  Also, if they are not interested, the call still gives you that contact and perhaps an informative explanation of why you are being turned down. There are things one can learn from rejection!

In the case of my project, I found out who the correct contact would be to send the prints to at the botanical garden and they are quite interested in displaying the prints in the gallery they have in their lobby. They are booked until next fall and they would like to consider a show for the spring or summer of 2015.  Yes, it is a way off.....but still a great potential opportunity that I am pleased to have received.

Folios:

If you are not familiar with the folio concept (also created by Brooks Jensen) you can find information about the two prior folios I have put together here.  I do plan to make folios from this project as well.  Because the folio holder only comfortably holds ten prints with the supporting material, this project will have a volume 1 and 2.

This post has covered what I plan to do with physical prints.  In my next post, I will talk about my plans using electronic media.  I have one plan that I am particularly excited about that involves a collaboration......but more on that next time!

The Artist's Statement

The artist's statement can be very difficult to write. It is often filled with artspeak that is incomprehensible to the average everyday viewer. I found myself wanting to write a very plain and simple statement to go with my black and white botanical project which I am calling "Floral Forms". I wanted it to clearly state what the project was about without a lot of verbiage that would make the average "non-artist" viewer roll their eyes. The following is what I came up with. Have I succeeded?

FLORAL FORMS

One of the most prominent characteristics of flowers are their brilliant and varied colors. So why would anyone want to portray them in black and white?

We don’t live in a monochrome world. Colors are our reality and one of the first things we tend to notice. In fact, the more vivid the color the more it attracts our attention and becomes an object’s dominant characteristic. Removing that color from a flower, or any other object, allows us to concentrate on other attributes. We can start to appreciate a flower’s form, shape, curves, and lines. We can pay more attention to the various characteristics that previously had to take a “back seat” to color.

It is my intent that these images allow the viewer to see a flower’s beauty in a new way; a way that might have been easily overlooked. Black and white allows us to see differently. It affords a way of seeing that focuses on “Floral Forms”.

Thinking About The Presentation

I think I am slowly nearing the end of collecting my first series of black and white botanicals. Not that there won't be a second series! There might also be other categories sych as cacti, leaves etc..  Yes, I have a bunch of those as well. But at some point one needs to try to assemble a cohesive group into a series that stands alone.  As I think about what 'holds together' the following comes to mind:

1) Subject - While one could have flower macros as well as flower groupings, I think the idea for one project is flowers. By that I mean that if it is flowers it shouldn'e be interesting leaf macros.  The leaves will be another series.

2) Toning - I believe there needs to be a coherance between the sepia toning among the group.  Interestingly, If I apply the same toning settings in Silver Efex Pro, that doesn't necessarily give me results among the series of photos that seem to hold together.  I suspect this is related to the fact that there I like a difference in toning strength between highlights and shadows.  I tend to like purer white highlights that don't look 'muddy' and so I apply less toning to the highlights.  But holding a higher key image next to a lower key image makes it appear as if there is discrepancy in the toning.  This is something I suspect I am just going to need to adjust by eye, as opposed to having a one size fits all recipe.

3) Editing - Obviously one wants to only show their best work, but, even with a number of photos that might be appropriate, you still need to cull the number down (or up) depending on the presentaton.  The 'proper' number for a show (which itself will be somewhat reliant on the amount of wallspace and image size) will be different from the number that might be optimal for a folio or a pdf or an ebook.  Along the same lines, the image size will also depend on the presentation venue.

I suspect this will still take a couple of months, but I am starting to feel that it is time to start thinking about putting things together into a stand alone project.

Copyright Howard Grill

Completion

I have been taking my New Year's resolutions pretty seriously this time around!  The resolutions included getting out in the winter cold and snow to photograph.  Check.  Have a look at my last few posts and you can see that I have been doing that.  Another was to focus on finishing some projects.  I have written about my Carrie Furnace Project before and have made it into an e-Book.  But I still hadn't made it a complete 'portfolio' of prints.  Well, that is now also completed! There is now a complete and formal presentation of the project in the form of a 44 print portfolio.  It comes in a beautiful Pina Zangaro anodized aluminum case that is reminiscent of the steel industry with one of the portfolio images on the front.  The inside of the case is lined with acid free material to give a nice contained fit to the forty four 8.5x11 inch images that are printed on hot press, archival, matte finish fine art paper that is quite thick (330g/m2) with a luxurious tactile feel.  The folio also contains a 4 page explanatory pamphlet about the project and the location, as well as a list of the prints.

The Carrie Furnace Portfolio Box

The image below is one of the forty three portfolio prints.  Each print has an image, the image title, and the project's name on it.

The folio is for anyone with an interest in Western Pennsylvania and its history, the steel industry, or urban exploration and is now available on my website.

Projects

I was thinking today about how really difficult it is to complete a project. When I look back over the last year or two, I realize how few projects I have actually completed.  And even those projects continue to take time to try and get them in front of an audience that would be interested in seeing them.  But, yet, there is something satisfying in the completion of a project, even if the efforts to market it go on. I think one of the reasons that projects are so difficult to complete, at least for me, is because of the part that occurs after the picture taking and post-processing (though that is difficult enough).  I am talking about the part that 'packages' it all.  Does the project get presented as an e-book, a self published book Blurb style......or both?  Should it get packaged as a group of photographs in a stand alone folio?  Should an attempt be made to submit it somewhere as a 'wall art' presentation, matted and framed?  Can a portion of it be written up and submitted as a magazine article?  Clearly some projects can be presented using multiple options from the list above.

The reason I personally find this portion of project completion so difficult is that it involves learning (to some degree) software that I am not familiar with and would not normally be using for other reasons.  This includes InDesign, Acrobat Pro, and any software that the self-publishing companies utilize, etc.  And, while one doesn't need to become an expert with any of the software, you do need to learn how to use it well enough to get professional appearing results, lest you degrade the appearance of the whole project.  And if a wall art presentation is in the works.....well, I find nothing more time consuming and boring than doing my own matting and framing (which you pretty much have to do if you want the cost to remain reasonable).

So, now that it is almost New Year's resolution time, I think that one of my goals this year will be to try to complete some project(s).  I have a few new ones in mind and some ideas for other things to do with some of the completed ones.  These include a project on the 528 boat ramp where I frequently photograph with my friends, black and white flowers, possibly doing a blurb book on my Carrie Furnace project and one or two others.  I don't want to bite off more than I can chew, and so I would be quite happy to complete just two of the above during the year.

We shall see what happens!

Carrie Furnace eBook Now Available

I am pleased to announce that my Carrie Furnace eBook is now available!

I have written several posts in the past related to my photography project at the Carrie Furnace.  In short, Carrie is a blast furnace in Rankin, Pennsylvania (close to Pittsburgh) that was used to generate iron back when Pittsburgh was at the center of the world's steel production.  It was closed in 1978 and has lay dormant since.  It is now being restored and developed into a national historic landmark by the non-profit Rivers Of Steel organization.  I had the opportunity to photograph there early in the restoration process.

I was able to interview and show the photographs from the project to Mr. Ron Gault, who worked at Carrie in the 1970s, and he told fascinating anecdotes about life at the facility.  These comments were recorded and are included with the photos as part of a multimedia eBook presentation.

The eBook is available for immediate download and contains:

  • 63 pages of content
  • High resolution images
  • Embedded audio content - click on the audio icons to hear Mr. Gault's commentary and anecdotes
  • Easy, rapid navigation
  • Formatted for display on desktops, tablets, and smartphones
  • Information about Carrie and Rivers Of Steel

The book can be securely downloaded for $7.99 with 25% of the purchase price being donated to Rivers Of Steel to assist in their mission to preserve the furnace.

Click HERE to go to the purchase page.

A New Project: E-Book

A wanted to post a quick note about something I have been working on for some time and hope to have completed shortly.  I have not published an e-book before, but thought that my Carrie Furnace Project would be a good subject for a book. So keep an eye out for it.  I will put up a blog post when it has been completed and is available.

I do want to mention one thing for those who are thinking about giving e-publishing a try, but have not done it before.  It isn't as easy as it looks or as you might think.  But Brook's Jensen has a fantastic resource available in his Lenswork  Visual Workshop PDF Publishing training DVD.  I highly recommend it if you are considering delving into electronic publishing and are not intimately familiar with Adobe InDesign or Acrobat Pro.

The Carrie Furnace XIV

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. In case anyone is wondering how many images are in the project's 'final cut', the answer is 47.  But don't worry, I will take breaks each time several images are presented.

To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes the incredible amount of noise that one was exposed to when working in the Stove Room, which is seen in this photograph.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace XIII

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes the dangers of working in the Stove Room and how work would be done with two man teams to help alleviate the danger.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace XI

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes what the workers were told instead of the fact that they were being laid off.  In addition, the burning of coke gas, instead of natural gas is discussed.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace X

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes how the laborers would heat their lunches on the furnace and share what they had.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace IX

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes how the men who constructed the furnace took immense pride in their craftsmanship, as evidenced by the purely decorative diamonds welded around the seams of these stack pipes.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace VIII

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes the incredible size of the pipes that are seen in the image.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT