Time for Recovery

SF Monochrome

It’s funny how a few days traveling, some dental issues and work can so quickly shift the environment from one of reflection to one of the constant pressure of activity.

As my posting over the last few days shows, I had time to capture images while in San Francisco. My goal was just to get back into visual mode after some months of ignoring the cameras. But the light in the city and the capability of the tools was enough to very quickly get me into that mode of looking that leads to making images. I brought the Leica M10 Monochrom which is a camera with a digital sensor that captures only black and white images since it lacks the color filters needed to reconstruct colors in a digital image. I brought the Monochrom because I wanted to be deliberate in capture, something that the rangfinder focusing M10 brings. And since my final product is monochrome, the B&W camera takes me a step closer from capture to image- The more casual approach compared to the cinematic imagery I’m made in recent years.

So I more or less picked up where I left off, trying to abstract the bits of the city that I can isolate with my lens. I brought my newer 35mm Summicron lens, ending up shooting mostly wide open in that sharp, defining California light. And I definitely enjoyed collecting the images and there’s a pretty high percentage of interesting captures. So I’ve been having fun doing a very quick set of image adjustments and publishing here and Instagram. The 35mm lens opens up the view a bit. While in San Francisco, I stopped in at the SF Leica store to look at the images on display and look over the cameras and lenses. It turned out they had a used electronic viewfinder for the M, the Visoflex, at a good price. So the rest of the trip was variously shot with the EVF, the glass rangefinder or the back screen.

On Sunday, before heading back to the airport for the red-eye flight back to Baltimore, I spent a few hours at SFMOMA, the wonderful San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Not much going on in the way of photography because of new exhibit being hung. So I spent more time looking at paintings this time there. I’ve noted here a number of times that my formative experience with art was with the Abstract Expressionists, particularly Motherwell, Johns, Rothko, Diebenkorn. The headline show at the museum were the paintings of Joan Mitchell. I’d seen them before, but there’s nothing like a retrospective like this to get to know a artist well. Of interest to me was how she wasn’t afraid as an abstract painter to let here images drift back to the landscape enough that the underlying structure of nature starts to emerge from the abstraction. And color. Color is emotional.

Joan Mitchell, La Grande Vallée XVI, Pour Iva, 1983

While viewing the show and since I’ve been thinking about how abstract expressionism informs the images I make. I like the tension between my formal abstraction and the concreteness of the photographic image. I can’t hide the fact that what I’ve photographed a fire plug. But you have to ask why did I capture the image? What did I see in that moment that compelled me to capture an image and publish it here. One of the ideas that I took away from Joan Mitchell’s paintings is that the view wants some challenge. Enough to make viewing a way of participating in the creative act. You see, art presents ambiguous, noisy sensations allowing the viewer to participate in finishing the creation through inference. If there’s no sense of participation with the artist, looking is boring and no fun.

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