Archive for November, 2010


These young men are connecting with their ancestors.  It is Qingming Jie – a time to remember the ancestors and send them more provisions for their afterlife.  If you cannot be at home to sweep the tombs of your ancestors, then you head for a crossroads and burn money, pictures or models of cars, houses or food to send to the spirit world.

This need for connection to the past is interesting. Part odf it is hope that the ancestors will protect their family, part of it is respect for those gone on.

We can connect this to our customs of leaving flowers on graves or participating in Armistice/Memorial/Remembrance Day traditions.  Looking backward to remember the past, protect the future.

Photography is another way of remembering the past – and protecting the future.  Our connections with the things we create images of brings forward all of the personal experiences to express our feelings or our vision of what we are taking.  The photographs of lifestyles, lansdscapres, wildlife, people, war, beatuy … all preserve the moment and can serve to protect the future of them.

Galen Rowell, in his book “Galen Rowell’s Vision; The Art of Adventure Photography”  talks about an experience of photographing the Seven Simians – a family Dixieland band from the then USSR.  Later this band hijacked a plane to fly to the west.  Half of the band were killed in the ensuing gun battle.  His photo of the children in this band gained additional poignancy after their deaths.  They are now preserved, and a symbol of the desperate journey for freedom that people will take.

“Time always changes the meaning of a photograph” he argues.  Time creates additional connections, changes the way we see images.  Old images now are valued for their gateway, not to the person, but to the time – the clothes, the hairstyles and the activities. The photographer’s expression and vision may be lost because they no longer have a resonance with our times and thinking, and yet, the record of life they made, the pain, pleasure, beauty and horror are all still there.  Connections to the past, and if we use them well, connections to the future.


Reflecting on reflections

The excessive increase of anything causes a reaction in the opposite direction.

The one was taken from a boat inside a cave.  The arrows of light pointing in both directions drew me, as did the reflections.  I love reflections  – in mirrors, cars, water, windows.  They provide opportunities for interesting photographs.  The object doubled, distorted or seen from a different perspective creates new ways of looking at it.

There are times when it is hard to see where the reflection ends and the ‘real’ object begins.

This is the reflection of stalactites and mites above, but to me looks like a new cavern has opened up for me to explore.

The reflections give us opportunities to explore alternate realities, parallel universes perhaps.  Then the question becomes – what is real?  Which one is the reflection?  Are the images within us as real as the images external to us?  Are our visions more real than reality? Do our internal visions reflect a deeper and more real view of the world?

Defining ‘good’.

One photo out of focus is a mistake, ten photo out of focus are an experimentation, one hundred photo out of focus are a style.  ~Author Unknown

A Ming vase can be well-designed and well-made and is beautiful for that reason alone.  I don’t think this can be true for photography.  Unless there is something a little incomplete and a little strange, it will simply look like a copy of something pretty.  We won’t take an interest in it.

~John Loengard, “Pictures Under Discussion”

This photo probably should be tossed out.  It’s blurred, and technically far from good.  But something about it made me keep it.  I like the sense of movement and purpose the horses have.  I like the sense of ruggedness that goes with this country.

Good photos are supposed to meet certain definitions – clarity of at least enough of the image to begin with.  Technical expertise and planning.  With this photo – I was probably aiming at all of those good things.  But, the movement, maybe I panned a little as well, and whatever other problems that happened created something I hadn’t planned and yet it still speaks to me.  So – if an image speaks to you – is that a more powerful and perhaps more truthful definition of good?  If I am the only person the image speaks to, is it still good?

So many of my photos do not speak to me.  So frequently, when I see an image that I had great hopes for, I have a little swear under my breath.  I have to throw out something that doesn’t work, and I really wanted it to.  My planning and checking still didn’t make it work.  There is still something wrong with my understanding of exposure or focus or …  Or what I thought I saw, what I planned to create just isn’t there.  This is when photographs become like dreams – powerful and real during the dream, but in the waking state, they have no power and the idea is jumbled and unclear.

This frustration pushes me to learn more about photography, and I think my rate for ‘reasonable’ images is slowly increasing.  I comfort myself knowing that even those photographers whose work I admire and follow have a large ‘rubbish’ bin as well.

I keep many images that I hope will improve with ‘maturing’ in my back-up drives, but often when I review these treasures, they have soured even further and I toss them out as well.  My discernment grows with the more images I take and the more I read and work on improving, and I find it harder to please myself.  I am more critical of my work and my mistakes.

Not every image that looks bad is bad;  not every decision I made in my life that looked wrong, is; what looked good on the surface could often be empty.