Monday, October 20, 2008

A Way of Working

My way of working—
I start with no preconceived idea—discovery excites one to focus—then rediscovery through the lens—final form of presentation seen on ground glass, the finished print pre-visioned complete in every detail of texture, movement, proportion, before exposure—the shutter's release automatically and finally fixes my conception, allowing no after manipulation—the ultimate end, the print, is but a duplication of all that I saw and felt through my camera.

—Edward Weston, writing in 1930

You know what you're going to see when you see it. Pre-visualization of the result, before you take the photo. Knowing how it will come out. Sometimes still being surprised, but knowing in many ways. You often know when you've gotten a great photo, and it can be a real ecstatic feeling, and very satisfying artistically.

I was late to an appointment today because I had to stop and take photos at sunset. The lighting was amazing, and the clouds were stunning. Rows of scalloped shapes lining up as the sun painted them for one brief moment before it all turned blue-grey.

Afterwards, as I got back in the truck and drove on, these words kept repeating themselves in my mind:

when the world presents itself to you
so willing to be loved
who are you to say No

This is the photo that I knew would be good when I took it. I knew to wait for the lines to cross in exactly the right place, and the clods cooperated just enough to frame the composition. This is the twinned work of discovery and pre-visualization, in Weston's terms. You don't make plans, but you stay open and pay attention, and the world offers you all of its itself, to be seen. You drop everything to make the photograph, then, because it's most important thing to do in that moment.

Lines, Madison, WI

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said... stay open and pay attention...

Yes, that sums it up. You are waiting for a moment. I always liked photographing the sky. I usually moves quite slowly and it's really just a matter of setting up in the right spot and being patient.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Waiting for the moment, exactly.

The sky can move pretty fast in Wisconsin. After all, there's a folklore saying about the Upper Midwest here: "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes, it'll change." Except for major weather sweeping through, that's often accurate.

I love clouds, too. Patience and waiting for the right light is what it's all about.

3:17 PM  
Blogger David Parachinni-Mariaschin said...

Those who look up never run short of beauty.

Is that a jet trail in the last photograph? If so, how wonderful it is to think that men can take to the sky and mix their own beauty with nature's.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Hi, David—

Yes, that's a jet contrail. It seemed a perfect contrast, all the lines against the natural curves of nature.

I find a lot of beauty in some branches of science and engineering. The aesthetic impulse turns up in some wonderful places.

Are familiar with the SOHO solar observatory? Their website has some amazing art on it:

12:34 PM  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Great site that. I now have a really cool picture of the sun as my desktop background.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Also check out the Buddhabrot site: fractals as spiritual art. This is one of the most sublime science-art sites ever:

1:20 PM  

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