Sunday, January 27, 2019

I Do Not Visit, I Do Not Want

The famed poet Mary Oliver passed away this week. To honor her memory, one of my poet friends posted the following excerpt from her work:
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world

-- Mary Oliver
This really got me thinking, in fact, it set off all kinds of ideas racing around my head. For starters, the line "I was a bride married to amazement," got me to take a hard look at myself and question what exactly I might be married to? What does amazement look like? They always tell us to shoot what we love, perhaps it's a better plan to shoot what we might be "married to" in her sense of the word. What is amazement and how would I even begin to take it into my arms? What would "amazement" even look like to me? An interesting question, no? As an artist, how would I begin to represent "amazement" over the course of my life?

In many ways, photographers are visitors, yet she talks of, "[not] simply having visited this world." It's poignant. It's a hard reminder that we should not sigh, we should not argue, we should all strive to live life to the fullest. Death comes someday. To all, death comes someday. Are we ever really prepared for it? Are we all mere visitors, having visited this world? Is it even possible to live one's life in such a way as to have no regret, no sigh, no fear, no argue?

The "door full of curiosity," the "cottage of darkness." These are all interesting concepts. I reckon one could fashion an entire artistic project from either of these suggestions, just the thought alone. It's heavy. Is time really, "no more than an idea" and eternity just a "possibility?" There is a lot here to digest yet in a lot of ways what she puts forth is extraordinarily simple. It's a simple thought, a single idea, a common theme, played over and over again, though told this time in a touching manner.

In some ways, we are all visitors. Each and every one of us, at some point in time, is a visitor. We are temporary. We are impermanent. It's just the nature of the beast. We are each given but one short life and it's up to us, to each and every one of us, to make the most of that gift.

I like to think of myself as an explorer. I live with a sense of discovery, always learning, trying new things, exploring new places. By her definition, I guess I am not actually a visitor, as I've lived some of it, some of my life, that way. I wish, at the end of the day, I could lay my head down upon my pillow, when it's time, when it's that time to rest, and be able to say, "I did not visit, I did not want. No, I lived." I think it's how you make the most of it, but thank her for the poignant reminder.

She will be missed.

Until next time...

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Opportunity Weekend January 26, 2019

A close up detail of a zebra striped feather, taken in home studio, Cedar Park, Texas
More feathers to ruffle this week as there are more opportunities to share. Here at Carol's Little World, we are maybe not so good with the puns but we (hopefully) more than make up for it with our opportunities. Here they are:
That's a bunch of opportunities to get after so go on, go out, and get some.

Until next time...

Monday, January 21, 2019

This House is Not My Home

A mineature house with lights as part of the Trail of Lights in Austin, Texas
I've got a friend who insists she is going to win the Publisher's Clearing House. Every year, she's mad about it and goes on and on about how this year she's going to get the big prize. She has visions of that black van, those party balloons, that game show host like character showing up at her door, ringing the bell with the cameras rolling, and jumping up and down while meeting the prize people with glee. She's convinced. It's going to happen for her one of these years, she's sure of it. While I do my best to dissuade her from spending any of her not-yet-gotten winnings, I have to admire her spunk about the whole thing. I mean, she's really convinced she's a winner and they just have yet to pull the black van into her driveway.

Now me on the other hand, I'm convinced I'm going to win another contest. No, I don't have fantasies of the black van running about the place, though I would welcome it, let's be clear. I would so grab those balloons and run out of the house jumping for joy in my pajamas (and you already know how I feel about wearing my pajamas outside now, don't you?) But, somehow, I just don't see this in my future. Maybe because I have always been particularly fond of architecture, or maybe it's because I'm just warped in a slightly different way, but somehow I've always envisioned myself winning some kind of dream home. Yes, it's a house for me, my friends. If I am to win anything (which, let's face it, I probably never will) it would be some kind of a house. I don't know why, but I've always envisioned myself winning a house. Not like I could carry it home in my purse, but there you have it.

Every year, the good folks over at HGTV do just this. They give away a house. They have a contest called "Dream Home" where they give away a fully furnished home, complete with a car, and about enough clams to pay for the taxes and insurance for maybe the first year. Every year they do this. It's amazing really. As you can imagine, why, I'm convinced I'm going to win.

"Pack your bags!" I tell my Publisher's Clearing House winning friend. "I'm moving!"

Sometimes, she falls for it. Usually, she doesn't. This year she flatly said to me, "Where is it this year?"

"Montana," I said, "Whitefish, Montana."

Now, I don't even know where Whitefish, Montana is. Heck, I can barely find Montana on a map and, if I'm being frank, I often confuse it with Wyoming. Aren't they both kind of square? Quadrilateral shaped states aside, I'm moving to Montana, I'm sure of it. Pack your bags, here we go! Montana. A cabin in the mountains, out where nobody can hear you scream. A quiet little get away from the noise and pollution of the city. A cool place to visit in the summertime. I bet it's all of that and more because it's a dream home.

You can be certain I'm never going to actually win the dream home, but it's kind of nice to think about it for a little while. I love architecture, and I like the idea of thinking about what a "dream home" might be like. Would it have a big bathtub? Maybe an old-fashioned claw foot tub or a fancy new soaking tub? What about the kitchen? A chef's dream complete with a high end stove and a monster pantry space? Would there be exposed beams and fancy lights? What about a cozy nook and a comfy fireplace? I think this is why I fantasize about this "dream home" in the first place. I guess I like to think about these things, as I've always been a fan of architecture. A "dream" home represents a blank slate of sorts. An empty vessel. A place you get to imagine, to envision, to fill up even, with your own hopes and aspirations. What would you put in your dream home? Would you make it a quiet place, a solitary refuge from the daily trials of life? Or would you make it some kind of entertainer's paradise, a place in which to host a bevy of extended family and friends? There are so many possibilities here. What about the design? Contemporary? Modern? Rustic? Maybe you fancy a farmhouse or one of those old Victorians? And where would you live? A ski chalet? A quiet place out in the country? An urban retreat next to everything but yet somehow away from it all?

It's an endless source of imagination really. It fills me with a sense of wonder and, I suppose, this is why every year I think I'm going to be the big winner. I guess really, deep down inside, I don't want to actually win the big "dream home," no, I really just want to think about what it might mean to dream about a home. That's kind of better than any contest really, although, I must confess, I would so grab those party balloons and run down the driveway in my pajamas if the opportunity presented itself. 

My dream home, what would it be? It's hard to imagine really and, I guess, when I really sit down to think about it, I'm not sure I would want to win somebody else's vision of a "dream home" although I sure do enjoy checking them out every year. And you know, you just know, that one of these odd years, why, I'm going to win myself that fancy new "dream home" now, don't you? 

Yeah, right. OK, I'll stop now. Dreams aside, that house is not my home.

Until next time...

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Opportunity Weekend - January 20, 2019

A collection of zebra striped feathers, just a random assortment
Playing around with something new this week leads me to post new work. This is the start of some studio work, this one featuring a grouping of feathers. Look for more of these to come but, for now, it's time to stop ruffling and start opportunity weekend. Here are some opportunities for you this week:
That's a bunch of opportunities for you to ruffle your own feathers.

Until next time...

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Opportunity Weekend - January 13, 2019

A ghost image of a tree bathed in purple light, as seen at the Trail of Lights in downtown Austin, Texas
As my friend Tazz Taz says, "you have purple trees in Austin." Yes, we do! While shooting the Trail of Lights, I was enamored with this particular tree. It was quite large and I loved the way it was bathed in this purple light, so I wound up shooting it a bunch. I basically planted myself in front of it, stood there, and shot it for a while. Not how I was expecting to shoot the Trail of Lights but, sometimes anyway, you get what you didn't come in for, right?

For those of you who came in for the opportunities, here they are:
That's a bunch of opportunities to keep you away from trees this week.

Until next time..

Monday, January 07, 2019

Photography Predictions for 2019

An image of a brightly lit holiday light display featuring a toy factory setup, in Austin, Texas at the Trail of Lights
It's been a while since I've made any predictions: an entire year in fact. Welp, it's time to make some yet again, seeing as the calendar has rolled around on us all. Yes, Snowflakes, 2019 is upon us and that means it's time for some predictions. As is typical, I will not make specific predictions (so sorry but you will have to find your own Nikon whisperer) but will go out on a few limbs here and run with some general overall themes for 2019. Hang onto your hat, for here they come:

10. Retro is still popular. Retro will be popular. We probably won't get a gosh darn digital Brownie from Kodak (I can ask yet again, however) but look for lots of "retro" styled cameras, with modern features, of course. Just, you know, old fashioned (looking) knobs and dials on the top, as it were.
9. Niche is still king. Yes, we're all about the niche these days. Say you like shooting street? That's great. It will get you nowhere. Now, let's say you start shooting Street style in downtown Bucharest with a keen eye towards images that have stray cats in them. Score! Yes, we are all about the niche these days and, lately anyway, it seems like the more narrow the better. Look for this to continue into 2019. Niche, niche, niche, niche, niche. It's all you ever love.
8. Foreign markets. This one has been building for a while but it's finally manifested itself in full bloom. There are a lot of foreign markets for art and photography and I expect this to continue to expand well into 2019 and beyond. Corbis got purchased by that outfit in China so now one of the major stock players is, in fact, owned by a Chinese corporation. Photography is global and we are seeing a rise in the emerging markets both in terms of photographers and also in terms of markets. Places like Dubai and China are ripe for stock. It's just happening all around the globe. Lots of foreign festivals, lots of foreign stock, lots of international agencies. We've gone global and I expect more of this in 2019.
7. Stock is swinging, licensing abounds. Speaking of stock and the current, well, markets, stock seems to be swinging again. I see people making sales. There is an explosion of licensing deals happening. Lots of people are jumping on this bandwagon, even amateurs and previously locked out mid career photographers are getting into the game. The rise of on-demand printing, coupled with the expanded market of the Internet and the proliferation of print is making a mini boom in the stock and licensing arenas. There is room for new blood here so look for that to happen in 2019 as well (we might see some new stock stars emerging from the rubble of the great recessions.)
6. Rise of the photographer. It's not just the stock market that's blooming, although that helps. We're also seeing a rise in photography jobs being posted online. After the introduction of the digital camera, and the era when everybody thought they could go out and purchase one, rather than pay somebody, we're seeing a return to the hired gun. It's like the realization has collectively hit us: if you want quality, you have to pay for it and you get what you pay for, as they say. I'm seeing more freelance gigs turn into hired guns and lots more freelance work as people want to try before they buy. There are jobs out there to be had nowadays.
5. Inclusivity. It's the new word for 2019 and it's hit photography in a big way. Gone are the days of the older white male shooter. I'm seeing a lot of "women in photography" and "photographers of color," not to mention lots of previously underrepresented people taking a place behind the lens. There have been movements like the 100 Heroines and the Latino photography community making great strides here and I expect this to continue and expand well into 2019. We are becoming more inclusive both in terms of subject matter and who is behind the lens.
4. Romania Rules. Everyone will go to Romania in 2019. I am seeing more and more images from Romania than ever before. With the crisis in Europe, the changes in places like London and Italy, focus has shifted towards Eastern Europe a bit and Romania seems to hit the sweet spot in terms of underdeveloped and under explored yet still having nice hotels and restaurants. Look for Romania to be a big travel destination in 2019.
3. Mobile Movements. Let's face it, when has mobile not been advancing? This is a pretty safe bet here, nevertheless I anticipate mobile advances in 2019. We're getting better on the mobile front, with some serious advances in the technology even if we aren't upgrading our phones as often as we used to. I expect more advances here in 2019 and can't wait to see what the year brings us in terms of mobile goodies.
2. More Activism. People are accepting of photographers, even photojournalists, who have a "voice." Gone are the days when we were the objective witness in the room. The modern shooter can take sides and even be an activist. It's becoming more acceptable, even downright expected. Photographers are going out with a vision, an attitude, a "voice" in society and they are bringing it home. I can still remember the days you were not allowed to Photoshop smoke into your images or make anybody look "darker" or the like. Now? Why, we're putting horns on people with whom we do not agree. It's a new world and one in which the photographer is viewed as an activist, a participant, not a spectator.
1. Mirrorless Mayhem, More and More Medium Format. If there's one thing that defined 2018, it was the year of the mirrorless medium format camera and I expect this to continue, spill over really, into 2019. On the gear side of the house, manufacturers are making a lot of advances in the mirrorless front and I predict 2019 will be a year where the photography community will be able to absorb these changes. Look for some big shooters to start moving over to these new medium format mirrorless rigs and look for them to grow in acceptance. Sure, it might take a while for us all to get over there but we're on our way, aren't we? I predict 2019 will see more of this, lots more.

A runner up for you? Look for the return of the photo blog and the 'Zine. I'm seeing more smaller publications getting dusted off as well as more folks returning to blogging and the like, especially as social media giants like Facebook stumble on their privacy issues. Expect this to continue well into 2019.

Those are my predictions for 2019, from the trenches, as it were. I do hope you enjoy your new year as much as I have been and happy shooting in 2019 to one and all.

Until next time...

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Opportunity Weekend - January 6, 2019

A horse drawn carriage made of lights at Austin's Trail of Lights
It's a new year. Happy New Year! Don't be waiting around for the perfect glass slipper. It's a great time to start sending your work out if you haven't already been doing so. Here are some opportunities for you:
That's a bunch of opportunities to kick the new year off on the right foot.

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Four Images to Define the New Year

An architectural detail of an entryway to a peeling painted lady Victorian style home in Dover, New Hampshire
Happy New Year! This year, I thought I would share an old photography exercise with you that I might like to revisit now that it's a new year. With the new year comes a lot of resolutions. Rather than sit back and say, "I resolve to..." and jot off a list of things I may or may not get done over the course of the next 365 days, I thought it more fitting to offer up a more introspective exercise for the new year. This is one I think you can also participate, so I'm sharing with you, much the same way it was shared with me. Now, I'm not going to suggest one of those "enter a shot a day" type of competitions, because I view these as a bit off the mark as well. I mean, it's great if you can manage to fire off, process, and post a shot a day, hats off to you for that, but I think that just randomly shooting one a day doesn't make for better images, rather it makes for more images. Granted, a lot of times more images do produce better images, but I thought that, seeing as it's a new year, a more thoughtful approach was in order, so I dusted off this old exercise. This one is, I feel, an oldie but a goodie, so I'm sharing with you now in the hopes that you will find some value from it as well.

For this exercise, you are going to be selecting four images that are going to define your new year. The four images are:
  1. Pick an image that inspires you. This can be any image, it does not have to be one you shot. In fact, it's probably better if it isn't one that you shot yourself. Pick an inspirational image. It doesn't even have to be an image, it could be a composition of any kind, even perhaps a piece of music or another form of art. Basically, what I'm saying here is, "pick an inspiration." 
  2. Pick an image you have crafted that you feel is your best work. For this image, I am asking you to select one you either shot yourself or had a significant hand in shooting (if you collaborated that's fine.) Basically, pick something you love, something you are proud of, select your best work. It doesn't have to be from the past year, it can be from any year. You're going for the best here. Your absolute best of the best and, yes, you must pick just one, not like a set or anything. One image and one alone should be selected. 
  3. Congratulations! You have just been selected to take one of the first trips to Mars on the spiffy newfangled Mars rover.  This is a wonderful opportunity and you are going to be traveling to the red planet. Unfortunately, it is a one way trip. That's right, you have been selected to colonize a new planet and, as part of this selection, you are going to go up and populate planet Mars. The space ship in which you will be traveling has limited room for your belongings. Space is limited here but you are allowed to bring a few personal items to make the new planet feel like home. As part of the journey, you can select one image to bring with you. What image will it be? This should be your number 3 selection for this exercise. 
  4. Same scenario different image. You are still going up in the mars rover only to never return again. This time, I'm asking you which image you would like to leave behind. You get to select one image of yours to leave behind, here on planet earth, from which we will always remember you.
It's an interesting exercise. I hope you enjoy doing it. I'll post my answers at some point and tell you what I think they mean.

Think about how these four images might change over the course of 2019. I think that, if you change your four images in any way over the course of the year, you have changed your photographic vision some, and that's more valuable than any meaningless resolutions or 365 competitions. I hope this exercise helps in some way in the new year.

Happy New Year and good luck with your "Four Images to Define the New Year."

Until next time...