Monday, March 26, 2018

Photographer As Trophy Hunter

Exploding bright pink blossom, a first sign of spring in Cedar Park, Texas
The other day, I responded to a question posed by the wonderful Andy Adams of Flak Photo fame. Andy had asked the Internet, "I'm reading a book about record collectors, American music, and the impulse to collect cultural experiences. Naturally, I'm drawing parallels to our compulsion to make pictures. I wonder, [photographers]: Do you consider yourselves collectors? Is image making like field recording?"

My immediate response was, "I think a lot of photog have bucket lists. You know they want to shoot...this or that. I have always considered it a more humane (possibly?) form of trophy hunting but perhaps that’s just me?" I didn't think it would garner such a response, but it turns out I must have struck a nerve (I mean that in a good way.) A lot of photographers really are trophy hunters in an odd sort of a way. I mean, we do go out into the world with these sort of "bucket lists," you know what I'm talking about here, things like, "I want to shoot the Statue of Liberty," or "I want to shoot a canal in Venice," or maybe, "I want a shot of the Grand Canyon." The specifics of it don't matter really, it's more the notion that we have these bucket lists, of sorts, and we approach the world wanting to check off items on out bucket lists. Once we get said item, and shoot it (with a camera, I'm talking photography here) it's akin to a trophy hunter killing a large beast with horns. We proudly display the finished product, our image, and it gives us a sense of fulfillment. We feel better about ourselves because we bagged one of our trophies, so to speak. To me, I do think the process is a bit akin to trophy hunting in a roundabout sort of a way, although (perhaps?) fewer animals are killed in the process.

This got me to thinking. Would we be better photographers if we opted to forgo the trophy hunting and instead focus on making the personal statement? Are images made as part of the trophy hunting "process" (if you want to call it that) any better (or worse?) than those made just out of boredom or passion or for whatever other reason we might opt to pickup the camera that day? (Money comes to mind, but there are others too.) I don't know that there is an easy answer to this, but it's an interesting question to ponder for a bit.

Speaking personally, I do know that a lot of folks have told me I do better work in the studio-that actually a lot of my "better" work comes when I'm at home, playing around, experimenting really with things about my home studio. I guess maybe I'm free to play in that arena and the pressure of success is a bit off of me there so I'm more freed up and better able to dive in and get better shots? I don't know for certain, as I'm not even fully convinced I'm better in the studio vs. in the field. These questions do have me thinking along these lines though. It's an interesting introspection to say the least. I know I too have what one might call photographic "bucket lists" or things I'd love to photograph, people I'd love to shoot (again, with a camera here, although...nah, kidding, kidding. Camera only, folks!) I do tend to think we can get lost in the trophy hunting aspect of photography and maybe, as part of that, lose a little bit of ourselves in the process. I mean, is our artistic voice impacted by this bucket list maintenance and the process of trophy hunting? I would tend to think so but it's definitely something to ponder a bit more.

Just something to think about a little bit as you might be making travel plans for the year or embarking upon new photographic projects. Are you doing this because you have some desire to check off a box on a list of things you've always wanted to do? Or is it more a heartfelt desire to explore a subject more deeply? Photographer as trophy hunter really does seem to be an apt description these days and I'm not entirely sure this is a bad (or good) thing really. Still thinking this one through and thanks to Andy Adams for bringing it to my attention there.

Feel free to drop me a note with your thoughts on this, as I'm curious and open to different opinions here.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Delicate Nature of Being

Soft, delicate green leaves of nature at the beautiful Hill Country Water Gardens in Cedar Park, Texas
This week, thoughts turn to the delicate nature of being. In case you have not been following the news, there was quite an incident, actually, a series of incidents, in Austin. To put it bluntly, there was a mad bomber on the loose. From what we can gather, a man had left a series of package bombs at various homes around the Austin area. At first, the first bomb that went of, killed somebody but the police were not sure if it was a personal attack or what had happened. Then, as more bombs went off, it became clear that we had a bomber on our hands and he (or she) was randomly targeting individuals. Events culminated with a series of bombs going off including one at a Fed-Ex facility south of Austin, down near San Antonio, and then the man getting caught up in Round Rock, Texas and blowing himself up inside of his pick-up truck.

Needless to say, as the events unfolded over the course of the past few days, a lot of folks in Austin have been on edge. There has been a lot of checking the news, checking the phones for news, calling home to make sure everybody was OK. Heck, they even shut some of the schools down for a few hours after one of the bombs went off. To speak to how crazy it was, our morning traffic report started including items such as, "since the police have closed off part of the road over by [insert latest bomb blast location here] expect traffic delays in that area." Water cooler conversations at work included references to bombers and the latest news and, as the situation escalated, it got even worse. For a while, Whole Foods was shutdown because they had found a suspicious package. It turned out to be somebody forgetting a pack or some such thing but, with everybody on edge, it was difficult to ignore. Everybody's thoughts turned to the bombing and everybody has been in a weird sort of hyper vigilant type of mode where even the slightest mention of something related to the bomber puts us on edge. Nobody wanted to go and pickup the mail, that's for sure. I'm guessing here, and it is but a guess, Amazon lost some business from the Austin area this week, as nobody wanted to deal with packages at the doorstep if they could avoid it. Speaking for myself, I had just signed up for Amazon prime and was about to order some Jocko Tea (since I love the stuff) when the mad bomber struck and so I was left wondering if I would have to resort to Lipton in a bag. Yes, it was that kind of stressful (I kid but only really half so.) Today, bomber be damned, I put in my latest Amazon Prime order.

Just a final note about all of this. Family and friends from what I can gather are all just fine. I did realize that, after they caught him, the bomber is in fact a friend of a friend of a friend. He shows up in my Facebook friends of friends list anyway, so there's that. I can't say I know him personally but we are all but a few degrees of separation apart anyhow. What is that about Kevin Bacon or, for the photographers out there, Minor White? Yeah, six degrees and the back of a napkin ought to do it.

Meanwhile, as all of this has been unfolding, spring is quietly moving her way closer and closer. I had opportunity to park myself outside a bit today and, I hate to admit it, the weather is all but perfect. Not only have I spotted my first bluebonnets, but the display off of Mopac is turning brilliant. I'd say it's almost peak-like in its splendor. Yeah, we're almost officially in bluebonnet season, y'all. Thank goodness the crazy mad bomber has been caught so we can go outside and play.

The delicate nature of being. Being spring, being blue, being sunny, being delicate, being alive; I'm loving it all tonight and I hope you are too. 

Until next time...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Opportunity Weekend - March 17, 2017

Bright yellow petals from a close-up detail of a flower in full bloom
It's St. Patrick's Day! It's almost spring! Although it might not feel like it, there's not only pollen, but some opportunities in the air for you:
That's a lot of opportunities, so I'd recommend you get out there and get some before spring gets sprung.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Snow on the Cactus

Snow on a cactus plant, actually a white cacuts in the Texas Hill Country
It's snow on the cactus weather. This morning, I listened to our local weatherman who told us, "the morning would start out chilly and then heat up." Fat chance! It started out COLD and didn't really "heat up" until late into the afternoon. Thinking it would warm up by about ten o'clock, I put on my shorts. Big mistake! I was so cold, I had to ride my exercise bike just to keep warm. I kid you not, I was sitting in my shorts at my computer when the heat came on. Ugh! March, man, you are killing me. Go home already, March, you're drunk! In other, more positive news, I saw my first bluebonnet yesterday. Yeah man, the wildflowers are coming, the wildflowers are coming. Kind of like Paul Revere only a bit more blue.

That's what I mean by snow on the cactus. Cold one minute, roasting the next. Our day ended up above 70 degrees. How in the heck did that happen? Sure, I'm going to complain come July but, for now anyway, this yo-yo of a weather front is killing me.

In other news, I shot a ton of shots this weekend. I mean like a ton. OK, they don't actually weight anything but probably something approaching two thousand. Dang, I was a busy girl. Too busy, in fact, to notice there was a cactus with snow on it. Or, maybe not, seeing as I landed a shot of that too. Say, "cheese," Mr. Cactus man, I got you too. Snow on the cactus and it's shooting season again. Who would have thunk it, right? I hope you get out and shoot come springtime. Get some man.

Until next time...

Monday, March 12, 2018


Reflections of bare tree branches in a pond in Texas
Reverberations. It's the time of year when winter gives way to spring. It doesn't happen all at once, no, it's a quiet transformation. Little by little, bit by bit, slowly the buds form, then the leaves on the trees, giving way to the wildflowers, and then, before you know it, it's summertime again.

I have yet to see my first bluebonnet of the season. I hear they are out there. I can almost smell them. This weekend, I went over to the water gardens. They had daisies and red bud trees, koi, and lots of bushes. It's almost flower season, in fact, the pansies are almost past peak season. The succulents were there as they always are. The ponds are drained, the trees bare, but you can tell the change in season is sneaking up on us. In lots of little ways, little tells, that spring has, it's making its way onto center stage. This will probably be my last bare tree image of the year. The next tree image? Why, they'll have buds, leaves, maybe flowers, perhaps lots of sunshine and sunny skies. I might even be complaining about the heat. Yeah, it gets like that around here.

Seasons get you every time. Just when you get used to it, BAM! It's changes out from underneath you.

Until next time...

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Opportunity Weekend - March 10th 2018

Beautiful soft detail of a Bradford pear blossom, a white flower native to Texas
It's almost time for spring, at least our trees have started blooming here in Texas. Now, I know some of you are still experiencing what feels like the depths of winter but, trust Mother Nature on this one, the seasons are about to change yet again. In case spring is not abloom where you are, you can have some opportunities to get after and maybe see if your artwork can be all abloom instead. Here you go:
Some great opportunities for you and it would appear it's also photo festival season out there so enjoy the weather.

Until next time...

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Top 10 List - Guilin, Guangxi, China

A serene look at the Karst formation/mountains and the Li River near Guilin, China
I still can't really believe I went to China, but I'm back and thought it high time to post my top ten list from Guilin. So, here it is, I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed my travels.

Here are the top 10 things I've learned about Guilin, Guangxi, China:
10. The village inside the park - there are many parks in Guilin, really beautiful parks, including one that had an entire village contained inside of it. We got to visit the park and speak with some of the locals. Extra special thanks to my guides form the CLI school who were able to translate so well for me and really helped me converse with the locals here as it was quite a treat. The parks in Guilin are a treasure not to be missed should you happen to visit the city or surrounding areas, definitely check them out, as they are a must see.

9. The whiskey is fermented in bottles and called baijiu. In China, they ferment baijiu in caves, storing it in jugs (sometimes hand painted jugs.) I actually celebrated my birthday in one of these caves, we had birthday cake, longevity noodles, and baijiu to celebrate. This was a remarkable experience and I highly recommend you try eating and drinking in a cave restaurant if you are lucky enough to visit Guilin. The process of making the baijiu was fascinating as well. We got to tour the area where the jugs are stored and go far back into the cave as part of our visit. It's quite the underground treat and I mean that literally, as it's all underground once you go inside the caves.

8. The rice terraces - just outside the city of Guilin is a rice terrace landscape which we were lucky enough to visit. The terraces themselves are 650 years old. That's a lot of rice over the years! They receive their name, Longji (Longsheng) or "dragon's backbone" because they resemble a dragon's spine when you reach the top and look down upon them. The top is many flights of stairs up (more than 50) so bring your walking shoes but the village up there is so wonderful you'll soon forget the hike and enjoy the views and the fresh mountain air. We also had some great food up in the little village by the rice terraces. If you go, opt for getting some rice in bamboo poles. They stuff the bamboo long poles with rice and beat them over an open fire to cook the rice. Sounds a bit odd but it was delicious-some of the best rice we had in China and that's really saying a lot as our food was exceptionally good across the board. The village up near the rice terraces is a wonderful visit as well, it's charming and I recommend spending some time enjoying the little shops and artisan markets if you can.

7. The landscape - Guilin is a tourist city and not just for folks visiting from the United States and Europe. Children in China learn in school studies that "Guilin's landscape is the best under Heaven," so a lot of people travel from across China to visit Guilin. The karst limestone formations are dramatic and the river cuts through the city to make for some wonderfully dramatic landscapes. If you do decide to visit Guilin, don't forget to enjoy the view.

6. Buddhist temples - the temples, the temples, the temples, what can I say about the temples? Whether large and public like the temple situated inside Seven Star Park or small and hidden, like the temple tucked away in the medicine market, the Buddhist temples left an impression on me. From visiting temples with offerings hidden inside caves to the grand ornate style of the public temples, complete with monks preparing for evening services, the Buddhist temples are glorious houses of worship that should be visited as part of any trip to Guilin. Do check them out if you go, you won't be sorry.

5. Seven Star Park - the big park in Guilin houses a giant temple, a zoo, lots of stuff inside, including a large lake where President Clinton once gave a talk on the environment. It's like a city in there. There were lots of people playing mahjong and cards and lots of visitors but the park is so large it's also possible to enjoy a quiet moment to yourself, just to take it all in. If you go into almost any park in Guilin, you will find people playing cards, talking, playing mahjong, and enjoying the park like a local. The parks really are treasures and the people really do use them which is a wonderful experience to enjoy. Seven Star Park is one of the largest of these parks and a great place to visit.

4. The tea - I learned a lot from Kevin, our botanist, actually tea expert extraordinaire from the Guilin Tea Research Institute, including attending an authentic tea ceremony and learning loads about tea. I actually got to stand in a field of tea plants and pick a tea leaf from one. I learned how they make tea how they grow tea, how they produce tea, how they celebrate tea, basically all things tea which was a remarkable experience to enjoy. I'm a real tea drinker and it was wonderful to get so up close and personal with the tea experience. This was a bucket list item for me for sure and I'd highly recommend you enjoy a visit if you are so inclined when visiting Guilin.

3. The food - this was a bit of a surprise for me, as, for some reason, I thought the food in China would not be that enjoyable. The food was so good. Lots of vegetarian and rice, yes, but also tons of flavor, spices, wonderfully different types of local dishes and so enjoyable. Each meal was like a new and surprising treat to savor. Lots of passion fruit and pomelos (large grapefruit like fruit), wonderful lotus dishes, fantastic fish, every meal seemed better than the last. The people of Guilin typically do not have sweets with one notable exception-they tend to eat something sweet, almost always a fruit, at the end of a meal as a dessert like finish. I have started practicing this at home now as it's healthy and quite the treat as well. I managed fine with the chopsticks, actually enjoyed working with them, and really loved the food in Guilin. I really can't rave enough about the food. It was fantastic! Now, I have to admit, I'd go back just for the food it really was that good. Healthy, tasty, and good food on this trip, that's for sure.

2. The medicine market - Guilin has a "hidden city" as I dubbed it, or a medicine market inside the city center. This was a fabulous place with lots of merchants selling everything you can imagine and even some things you probably never could imagine, not even in your wildest dreams. Some booths had me guessing, animal, vegetable, or mineral? This hidden city was like a different world and it was so fantastic to be able to just walk around, enjoying all the market had to offer. It's these type of off the beaten path places I really enjoy the most, as they are frequented by locals and really help give you a sense of what a place is actually like, rather than what you might find in a guide book.

1. The people - from the hotel owners to the shop owners to the people working in the airports, restaurants, and tourist sites, the Chinese people really are very welcoming and gracious people. The people really do make a place and the people of Guilin are the salt of the earth. I can't speak highly enough about the folks from CLI, they were wonderful hosts, helping us make the most of our travels and really showing us the heart of the city. The local people are engaging, friendly, and charming. If you get a chance to visit Guilin, I hope you get to spend some time with some of the locals, as they really help make the city the gem it has become.

Some runners up:
  • The restaurant scene and nightlife is really great in Guilin. Lots of different restaurants to enjoy and lots of shopping and events into the evening hours. You will never get bored in Guilin and you will enjoy the food more than you think possible. 
  • The glass bridge and two pagodas area was a wonderful visit. It's part of the more tourist area in the city but it's still worthy of a visit. The pagodas at night are stunningly beautiful and the glass bridge is lovely. 
  • Chinese visas can be difficult to obtain so you will want to get one as soon as you book your trip. Once obtained, they are good for ten years, so you might want to plan for multiple trips to China.
  • I really learned on this trip how much we rely upon nonverbal communication. I did try to learn a few phrases in Mandarin-I can still say "hello" and "thank you" for example, but I found I was able to communicate with some of the locals even with my severely limited vocabulary. The people in Guilin are open and engaging which makes this a bit easier. 
  • Pinyin is your friend. The Romanization of the Chinese language has made it easier (much easier) to travel, talk, and converse in Guilin. Not having the hurdle of the alphabet really helps if you don't speak the language like a local. While I was fortunate to have the good folks at CLI helping me learn the language a bit and providing guides, I would not let a lack of understanding of Mandarin stop you from visiting Guilin. It really is a fabulous city, I highly enjoyed my visit, and recommend you go and enjoy it for yourself if you ever have the opportunity. 
Bottom line...would I go back? You would not even have to ask me twice, in fact, I'd be packing my suitcase at the mere mention of another trip to Guilin. Ni hao, baby, ni hao (hello! And, congrats, as you now speak about half as much Mandarin as I do.)

Until next time...

Friday, March 02, 2018

Opportunity Weekend - March 2nd 2018

An abstract creation featuring lines and swirls of color.
A couple of notes before I list our current opportunities. This week I had some feedback requesting information about shows without entry fees. I do try to pass along opportunities without fees as often as possible but I realize I might not always label them as such, so I'm going to try to do a better job of marking opportunities without entry fees to make it easier for folks wanting to go that route. Also, a friendly reminder, if you are looking to submit your work without a fee, often it's places that hold juried shows where you can submit work for a one person show without a fee. A lot of times you can submit a body of work to these galleries with a little bit of research on your end (and a little legwork) so don't let the fee situation scare you away. I suggest researching galleries with listings like the ones I share here and submitting a portfolio for review if you want to avoid the fees and maybe get yourself a one person show. Of course, that's just a suggestion on my part, you will have to make that decision about your work yourself and I recognize that the same work which is suitable for a juried show might not work as a one person curated body of work. I offer my suggestions in the spirit of trying to be helpful. As a reminder, I do not get paid for this listing and I get no special consideration from any of these galleries or shows, I'm just passing along information trying to help out the art community with this feature.

I do try to label all media shows as well because, while I am predominately a photographer, I realize there are a lot of painters, sculptors, and video folks out there, so I've been trying to label the all media shows as best I can, in order to help you folks out in your journey of finding opportunities. One last point, I always welcome feedback so please feel free to contact me with suggestions or requests. I'm available on most social media platforms as well as here at the blog site and on email if you want to touch base. I'm especially fond of hearing from artists who found opportunities through Carol's Little World, as it makes me feel what I'm doing is worthwhile and helping out the art community as a whole.

Moving right along, let's get to some opportunities for this week, shall we? Here we go:
Lots of photography and a few all media calls for you this week, now it's time to go and get after it.

Until next time...