Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Homage to Talbot: The Magic of Light

I've taken a walk through a local forest many times, along the path one encounters a country estate in Tudor style architecture, surrounded by formal English gardens and numerous fountains.  Walking the grounds, passing from one garden to another one approaches a garden shed where the door is always slightly ajar.  I've passed this door for years and each time I peek in inhaling the personality and ambiance of the small enclosed room brimming with garden supplies with a south facing window overlooking one of the formal gardens.  There's something about this garden room that is inherently attractive in a purely organic manner, whereupon leaving I'm always glad I took a moment to just enjoy the space ever so briefly.

Homage to Talbot #1 (sepia)
© 2013, Joanne Scherf

Previously content to just relish the moment, I actually took a photograph of this room on my most recent visit.  It's not that the room had changed; it was still overflowing with rather mundane gardening clutter of stakes, barrels, and ladder leaning against a rather worn stone wall.  But this time in the hours of an early spring afternoon the light was streaming through the small overhead window throwing a soft, muted light into the room.  I finally figured out why the room always appeared somewhat familiar, and the glow of the room always drew me in.  In short, it has to do with Henry Fox Talbot, the author of Pencil of Nature, and father of photography, more specifically the negative-positive development process.  As an avid student of photographic history I kept associating this room with one Talbot captured in 1844; the "Rembrandtish" image of the dark interior of a barn, with a broom leaning against the door jamb called The Open Door; thus for me making the associated familiarity.

Homage to Talbot #2 (color)
© 2013, Joanne Scherf

I've always been fascinated with Henry Fox Talbot, not just for his major accomplishment regarding the discovery of the process of paper photography.  I also associate him with the essence of photography, capturing and harnessing the magical power of light.  So focusing on the light streaming through the window of the garden shed that late morning jolted my memory and created the "a ha" moment for me, even though on a subconscious level I knew it all along.  Henry Fox Talbot stated it best when writing about The Open Door image:

"We have sufficient authority in the Dutch school of art for taking as subjects of representation scenes of daily and familiar occurrence.  A painter's eye will often be arrested where ordinary people see nothing remarkable.  A casual gleam of sunshine, or a shadow thrown across his path, a time-weathered oak, or a moss-covered stone may awaken a train of thoughts and feelings, and the picturesque imaginings.

So, the next time you pass scenes where the light is creating a magical luminance playfully scattering its spell, take a moment to enjoy the picturesque imaginings.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A New Photographic Movement: iPotential

Before moving onto my new photographic art movement idea I think a brief history will provide the context for my proposition.  Below I've listed only some of the highlights of movements identified in this relatively young medium of photography.

Naturalistic; selective focus on one primary object with the remainder slightly blurred.

Pictorialism; soft focus painterly compositions.

Symbolism; an equivalent of reality often sexual or sensual in nature.

Photo-Secession; between Pictorialism and Straight photography primarily of American themes

Straight; clarity of detail and automatic recording of reality.

Futurism; conveys the sensation of movement; translates speed into visual equivalents.

Surrealism; unorthodox juxtapositions, inherent strangeness of reality, manually manipulated.

Humanist; sympathetically documented social reality as witness to humankind.

Group f/64; California-based reaction to Pictorialism; clarity of detail to point of obsession.

New York School; small cameras, natural light, grainy, out of focus, disregard for composition.

Photo-realism; obverse of Pictorialism; translates precision of photography into paintings.

Luminism; precise rendering of chromatic and atmospheric effects; "new color photography"

Postmodernism; questions the notion of novelty or originality; recycled artistic images.

Although photography in general has a short history as a visual medium, the above movements are only a small sampling of its eclectic history.  And yet I find it incomplete in these modern times as it doesn't cover the latest technological advances of the ubiquitous form of image capture today; the smartphone.  For the most part, the typical smartphone user has limited use for the camera function other than to do the perfunctory recording of events, public behavior or the favorite capture of every plate of food before consumption.  That aside, there are a few of us that actually view the smartphone as not just a quick back-up, but also a primary tool in alternative capture of high art, now evident in galleries and museums.

To this end, I propose a new movement that has definite traction as far as movements go. I've only been using an iPhone for just a year but the majority of images I capture have to do with acquiring what I consider the "raw material" for later use, not the typical end product.  So as a visual artist, I'm constantly searching and capturing images that have potential as not only a raw material, but at the same time envisioning what I could do with it; looking into the future in a way.  Based on this approach I'd call my new movement, iPotential© playing off both words of "iPhone" and "potential"  Here's my definition that I'm sure will evolve over time.

iPotential is an intuitive, and pre-visualization approach to the visionary interpretation of the observed reality as abstract inspirations that maximizes the potential of a raw image by challenging the status quo.  Using an iPhone to capture images and infinite stream of apps to shape the final image this "no constraints" approach intentionally creates a final image with minimal, if any resemblance to the original, traveling from reality to absurdity and beyond.  
© 2013, Joanne Scherf

Basically these iPotential images have potential as a totally different format after performing the wizardy of multiple apps to get the desired effect or final vision. Keep in mind, after my iPhone capture, I'm using a wide variety of apps to continually shape, direct, and caress the raw image into a new and completely disassociated end product.  So I'm talking way beyond using the standard apps of choice that just add frames, borders, texture, or aged effects. The end result of iPotential is not achieved by only one button or one app approach.  A single image can go through as many as twenty iterations before I feel I've reached the ultimate interpretation of my vision; the limitations are largely based on one's creative energy.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf
When I'm searching for the raw material I'm also envisioning the end product.  Furthermore, I seek out all types of raw material in the form of landscape,  still objects, architecture; you name it.  I think there are tons of possibilities out there if one only looks from the perspective of potential, possiblities and opportunities.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf
And from an architectural perspective, there are so many building materials that attract me, either glass, steel, or concrete, the possibilities are endless.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

So next time you pass by a building, landscape, or still life object and consider it mundane, envision the possibilities of what this raw material has to offer.  Only in its infancy, I think this new photographic movement.....iPotential© must be taken seriously in this new day of smartphones and who knows what next technological advance is on the horizon.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Image of the Month: April

When I take a moment to reflect on my favorite images, from vintage through contemporary, I find myself attracted to the same elements over and over again.  For me, what really sets an image apart is the use of light, powerful graphic sense, perspective, juxtaposition, flow, and reflection.  If luck is on my side and I'm able to have more than one of those elements available, I definitely feel I'm in the right place at the right time.

© 2013, Joanne Scherf

This is one in a series of images documenting people in their work environment.  It's not unusual that they're walking, but what makes this image interesting and worth a second consideration is the unusual interpretation of a rather normal, mundane event.  My immediate attraction and need to capture this scene were the combination of these strong elements:

  • lighting from underneath, with soft lighting on the edges; not exactly the norm
  • glass walking surface offers opportunities for transparency and reflection
  • leading lines of the walkway naturally guides the viewer from bottom right to upper left 
  • orientation of people is atypical; looks as if they are walking on a banked wall
  • grid design of the floor provides a strong graphic sense and design
Again another example of how shooting what you know or staying close to one's neighborhood offers a tremendous opportunity for creative images.