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  • Welcome to the new site. Here's a thread about the update where you can post your feedback, ask questions or spot those nasty bugs!

"Exhibition" Pictures for Discussion and Questions Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee, Guest Artist Photographers

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
i can sit for hours without a camera just watching things unfold and i dont get distracted - thinking about camera things would be a distraction - different zens for different folks i guess ...

would you consider using white noise / or noise cancellation headphones to sharpen your visaul experiences up - it should work.


photo zen - capturing with one hand.

Actually, Mark,

We probably need some noise to stay sane! If one is suspending in a chamber in water at body temperature exactly and shielded from all vibrations and sound, one would be very stressed. The problem with alert artists is that we are constantly scanning our surroundings for subjects. It becomes even painful to walk by a tree without stopping or to not to speak to a fascinating person one would like to photograph. Je souffre! Makes me think of the French singer, Marlene Farmer, "Je T'aime Mélancolie". She observes her life as if from the outside commenting on her own sadness.

So back to the idea of a special deep visual experience, I believe it, since when I have my camera this is my pleasure and my suffering. I get distracted by trees, flowers, architecture and other beauty, even just a fallen leaf, and get seduced! So for me, Michael is right. A camera, allows this intense directed focus, even for folk who normally can pass by beauty and not suffer!

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief


Michael A. Smith: Untitled


Near San Quirico d' OrciaCortona


Michael,

I find this so enjoyable. It's as if someone created something balanced and painstakingly drew it in charcoal and chalk.

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief


Paula Chamlee: Untitled

Cortona


Paula,

This is much more intimate! The open outer door seems to make it that personal! It could be that so much of what others might have included, (the rest of each plant or structure that are cut off, for example) would have ruined the pleasure I get from this image as it is now. This is so unexpected a realization as what I thought I was so sure about, (not cutting stuff off like this), has now been made uncertain and far less dogmatic.

This picture is also so different from Michael's "charcoal" textured landscape, (in the previous post), which is so obviously balanced, but impersonal! It's not soul-less, but lacks any directed sense of human interaction. Although with that pastoral landscape by Michael, we recognize the dwellings or marks of humans, but not anyone involvement with them. By contrast, your picture, (which I'd never have thought to frame that way), seems far more invested in human relationships. It's as if the roles of both of you seen in the post #51 has been reversed, LOL!

This is an example of where beauty is not needed for a photograph with considerable human weight! I would never have though such a design would work so well, but there you are, I'm just learning too!

Thanks for sharing!

Asher
 
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Mark,

Asher explained this well, but here is my explanation. One does not need a camera to have a deep visual experience, but when working with a large view camera under a darkcloth, where, by narrowly focusing one's attention, everything else in the visual world is excluded, the visual experience is intensified. And that degree of intensity happens all the time when under the darkcloth, whereas those intense moments are less frequent when the surrounding world impinges on one's peripheral vision. "Intense" may be a better word than "deep" in my writing, but both words apply. There is certainly nothing superficial about the experience.

Working with a digital camera and making many exposures and dealing with them later on the computer is, in comparison, while making the exposure, a relatively superficial experience, for in that situation one need not necessarily be fully engaged. And as I believe I wrote earlier, it is the pleasure in the process is what it is all about for us. And the more intense the experience, the more pleasure in the process, for ourselves in any case. We understand that may not be true for everyone.

Michael A. Smith
 

Jim Shanesy

New member
Michael:

If the finished prints are just the icing on the cake, so to speak, why do you go to such great lengths to make truly fine ones?

Jim
 

Mark Hampton

New member
Mark,

Asher explained this well, but here is my explanation. One does not need a camera to have a deep visual experience, but when working with a large view camera under a darkcloth, where, by narrowly focusing one's attention, everything else in the visual world is excluded, the visual experience is intensified. And that degree of intensity happens all the time when under the darkcloth, whereas those intense moments are less frequent when the surrounding world impinges on one's peripheral vision. "Intense" may be a better word than "deep" in my writing, but both words apply. There is certainly nothing superficial about the experience.

Working with a digital camera and making many exposures and dealing with them later on the computer is, in comparison, while making the exposure, a relatively superficial experience, for in that situation one need not necessarily be fully engaged. And as I believe I wrote earlier, it is the pleasure in the process is what it is all about for us. And the more intense the experience, the more pleasure in the process, for ourselves in any case. We understand that may not be true for everyone.

Michael A. Smith
Michael,

thanks for coming back on this... it cleared up some issues for me in your approach to makeing work.

cheers
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Michael:

If the finished prints are just the icing on the cake, so to speak, why do you go to such great lengths to make truly fine ones?

Jim
Jim,

Hello!!!!! Collectors are in line for the prints as soon as they are available. That is the end result of work of an artist if one is so fortunate. :)

Asher
 

Jim Shanesy

New member
Jim,

Hello!!!!! Collectors are in line for the prints as soon as they are available. That is the end result of work of an artist if one is so fortunate. :)

Asher
So then the finished print is not just a bonus, is it? In my opinion, it's an integral part of the artistic process. The high point may occur while you're looking at the ground glass, but you haven't really closed the loop until the final product is finished.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
So then the finished print is not just a bonus, is it? In my opinion, it's an integral part of the artistic process. The high point may occur while you're looking at the ground glass, but you haven't really closed the loop until the final product is finished.
Jim,

I'm just now doing a shoot I've planned for months using a beautiful model relating to objects. I can tell you that the high point is my amazement looking through the viewfinder and seeing what i'm about to capture. Of course I'll be superbly happy when I make the prints and delighted to make sales. However, nothing to me is as thrilling as having coaxed objects in good light to become a work that has magic. That's the highpoint of creation. At that instant I know thew print will be follow and that's just labor.

With pictures that requires a lot of "post"work, the thrill may be delayed to the print, but to me, nothing matches seeing it all as one clicks the shutter!

Asher
 
Jim,

The finished print is truly a bonus. But why go to the extremes we do to make such fine ones? The answer: anything we do, we do fully. How can one not do anything as well as one is capable of doing it? There is also great pleasure in the process of making the prints. If there were not, I would have someone else print them, or perhaps not bother at all. And making prints and finishing them, is, as you said, an integral part of the process.

If someone wants to buy a print, that is a double bonus, but Paula and I never make any photograph because we think it will sell.

One incident: In March of 1979 I was leaving the Chiracahua National Monument in Arizona, and as I exited, there it was--the perfect foreground, mid-ground, and mountains in the distance. The clouds were in exactly the right place. There was great light and no wind. It was pretty a scene as I have ever stumbled across. I said to myself that if I made an exposure of this scene I would surely be able to sell many prints of it. But that would have been the only reason I would have made the exposure.

I did not make it. The memory of that experience is safely in my brain, and that is good enough for me. I did not make the exposure because it was too easy. Because I saw the entire picture ahead of time, there was nothing to learn from it. There was no challenge. No growth would have taken place by making that exposure. And I am fond of quoting the poet e.e.cummings who said in one of his lectures at Harvard, "An artist, whose every agony is to grow."

Michael A. Smith
 

Jim Shanesy

New member
With pictures that requires a lot of "post"work, the thrill may be delayed to the print, but to me, nothing matches seeing it all as one clicks the shutter!

Asher
I never see it when I click the shutter. That's part of "post" work. I see it when I compose (or maybe I should say "find") the image on the groundglass.

I once got so excited when making a negative that when I began taking the camera down I dropped my lens onto a marble floor and ruined the diaphragm. That picture cost me $350.00 for a new shutter. Part of the excitement, I think, was some anticipation of what a fine print I could make of it. I just can't regard the print as a bonus. To me it's core to the experience of seeing and not just to the process.

Ansel Adams said: "There can be craft without art, but there can be no art without craft." I've seen many prints of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson and most of them are awful prints. Sublime compositions, poor to no craftsmanship. Since he didn't do his own printing and therefore never mastered his craft, to me he was not an artist. He was a master photographic illustrator.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I never see it when I click the shutter. That's part of "post" work. I see it when I compose (or maybe I should say "find") the image on the groundglass.

I once got so excited when making a negative that when I began taking the camera down I dropped my lens onto a marble floor and ruined the diaphragm. That picture cost me $350.00 for a new shutter. Part of the excitement, I think, was some anticipation of what a fine print I could make of it. I just can't regard the print as a bonus. To me it's core to the experience of seeing and not just to the process.
Yes, Jim,

It's stunning to see a camera fly to the ground. It seems to happen as if in slow motion and there's nothing one can do! At least you got the picture! My fear is losing orientation, myself and dropping from a height I shouldn't be in the first place!

Ansel Adams said: "There can be craft without art, but there can be no art without craft." I've seen many prints of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson and most of them are awful prints. Sublime compositions, poor to no craftsmanship. Since he didn't do his own printing and therefore never mastered his craft, to me he was not an artist. He was a master photographic illustrator.
This is an important topic itself so it starts a new thread here.
 
I'm with Jim Shanesy and Ansel Adams. Truly, there is no art without craft.

Craft, as I see it, is a general term referring to the artist's control of the process of getting an idea out of their own mind and into the mind of their audience. Photographers do this by making pictures of such and such a form so as to influence the perceptions of a receptive viewer in the desired direction. If the influence goes to plan the art is successful. But craft takes many forms and sometimes it is not as it is first perceived.

Henri Cartier-Bresson is often credited with spectacularly prescient camera-work but that wasn't really his shtick. I believe he was an arch organiser of resources and a self publicist without limit, conscience, or shame. But it takes real obsession to relentlessly chase grotesque or sensational subject matter. It is no mean thing to expose a thousand negatives a day and have people rush you the contacts sheets on demand and then often throw them all away. Successfully badgering skilled darkroom workers to turn assorted negatives into elegant masperpieces requires the personal ferocity Cartier-Bresson was never afraid of exploiting. I see H.C-B as a psychopath with a camera but a genius all the same.

The legend of Michelangelo as a singular creative genius is fiction largely perpetrated by Giorgio Vasari, the ultimate art groupie. Michelangelo was the pinnacle of a busy arts industry and had plenty of willing assistants to rough-out the blocks of marble prior to his finishing touches. And he ended up famous, irascible, influential, and immensely rich. Again the craft here is an amalgam of genuine personal skill, self publicity, and the will to command artistic production.

As modern exemplars of "grand craft" I could nominate Robert Mapplethorpe, Annie Leibovitz, Jeff Koons, and Tracey Moffatt. If you hire the best sets, lights, models, designers, studio help, laboratory staff, promoters, and publicists you too can become a famous photographer and fine questions about who actually did what become irrelevant. Who gets the credit, that's what's relevant.

Ever the contrarian I decided to embrace a different form of craft when I committed to photography. My mantra is: Each of my photograph is made out of light-sensitive materials, one at a time, start to finish, and in full, by my own hand. Mantras have consequences and mine may well be anonymity. But it is worth it. I want the same sort of personal creative thrills that Jim Shanesy writes about, that Ansel Adams recounted in numerous articles, that moved Edward Weston to supreme achievement.

Working in solitude, doing everything, can be lonely but when things go well it is a very sweet place indeed.
 

Jim Shanesy

New member
Henri Cartier-Bresson is often credited with spectacularly prescient camera-work but that wasn't really his shtick. I believe he was an arch organiser of resources and a self publicist without limit, conscience, or shame. But it takes real obsession to relentlessly chase grotesque or sensational subject matter. It is no mean thing to expose a thousand negatives a day and have people rush you the contacts sheets on demand and then often throw them all away. Successfully badgering skilled darkroom workers to turn assorted negatives into elegant masperpieces requires the personal ferocity Cartier-Bresson was never afraid of exploiting. I see H.C-B as a psychopath with a camera but a genius all the same.
While HCB may have been what I consider a photojournalist, his protege (or perhaps I should say "photographic emulator") Raghubir Singh was a masterful artist. I don't know how he produced them but his prints were gorgeous. He gets my vote for the best street photographer ever. He used a 35mm camera and Kodachrome 25 film, employing the simplest of methods.
 
Jerome and others:

We would like to continue if there is interest, but we have covered a lot of ground--the most important things. What we suggest is that you ask questions and let us know what you are interested in and how we can help and we will respond.

Michael and Paula
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Michael and Paula,

Welcome back from your journeys! We're looking forward to more images as well as our questions!

From me, to what extent are your pictures altered in character by your choices of lenses for your unique cameras? "What is your stable of lenses and how have they influenced your work?", if I have phrased the question the best way!

Asher
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
Thank you for coming back. I would like to know a bit more about your personal history, what brought you to photography, what training you have (formal or else) and how it was useful, how you became recognized as art photographers, what you did as photographers when you started. Thank you in advance.
 
Thank you for coming back. I would like to know a bit more about your personal history, what brought you to photography, what training you have (formal or else) and how it was useful, how you became recognized as art photographers, what you did as photographers when you started. Thank you in advance.
That, Jerome is a question that requires a very long answer, one that is written about extensively in the book that accompanied my twenty-five year retrospective exhibition at the George Eastman House in 1992. The book, Michael A Smith: A Visual Journey is available from our publishing company, Lodima Press. There are not many copies remaining. The book sells for $125, but I will offer it to you and to anyone else reading this forum for the old price of $95, plus $10 shipping (in the USA, more overseas or Canada). There are 176 well-reproduced reproductions in the book and a wonderful essay about my career in photography up to that point.

Briefly: I am totally self-taught as a photographer (as is Paula). I knew making photographs as an artist would be my life's work before I even knew the term f-stop existed. I had no art background, having failed an art course in high school, which i had to repeat. So little did I know, that in 1966 I was shocked to learn that a camera cost as much as $150 (for a very basic 35mm Pentax--an H1A).

I was, and still am, interested in photographs--pictures--not the technical stuff. Although I have written a few technical articles, I really have no interest in that aspect of things except as the knowledge allows me to make better prints. I did some tests once, made 40 test negatives, made curves. It was meaningless and I threw it all away. If one understands exposure and development relationships fully, and the operative word here is fully, one need never do any testing. I once taught a course at a major art school/university called Theory and Technique. For a semester I did not make one exposure, nor did I go into the darkroom. I studied this stuff. Being self-taught, when I was hired I barely knew the difference in a 35mm camera between a leaf shutter and a diaphragm. Heck, they looked the same to me. But I learned that and a lot more. Fortunately, I have forgotten 99% of it as it is not relevant to making pictures with a camera.

That last paragraph is not really an answer to your question, but I could not resist.

Michael A. Smith
 
Evolution of use of longer lenses for abstraction into a 2D space.

Michael and Paula,

Welcome back from your journeys! We're looking forward to more images as well as our questions!

From me, to what extent are your pictures altered in character by your choices of lenses for your unique cameras? "What is your stable of lenses and how have they influenced your work?", if I have phrased the question the best way!

Asher
That is an interesting technical question, Asher.

Originally, for the 8x10 all I had was a "normal" 12" lens [~ 300mm] --equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera. Many, though certainly not all of my photographs, were of relatively close-up subjects. Over the years I acquired a few other lenses--a wider one and a longer one--but did not use them a great deal.

Then, after photographing for nine years, I took a seven-and-a half-month photography trip to the west, where as I put it, "the tradition I am a part of had flowered." The deep spaces there, for me, demanded that I use longer lenses. This is because I have always been interested in abstraction. It was relatively easy for me to make close-up photographs have a sense of abstraction about them, but to take in a deep space, a deep recognizable, inhabitable space, and still have the photographs have an underlying abstract structure abstract, that was, and remains, an interesting challenge. Long lenses compress the space, making it more two-dimensional, more abstract.




Michael A. Smith: Bryce Canyon





Michael A. Smith: Shore Acres

And subsequent to that first trip I acquired a number of long lenses.

Then I began using the 8x20, a camera that necessitated the use of long lenses to cover the 20-inch length of the negative. But what is interesting, with the 8x20 even the widest lens I have that covers the negative is a long lens top to bottom for the 8-inch dimension , which is the same for the 8x20 as for the 8x10.

Over the years I have acquired a whole array of lenses: the ones I have that cover the 8x20 camera--the camera I use almost entirely when I am working in black and white (I use the 8x10 these days mostly for color work), are 14", 16.5", 19", 24", 30", 35", and 42". The lens I choose to use is a function of the space before me.

I hope that answers your question.

Michael A. Smith
 
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Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
At this time when we are encouraging photographers to exhibit with us May 1-3 in Los Angeles at our section of the Photo independent Art Fair to be held, contemporaneously, next to Paris Photo LA, I would like to remind us all of the work by Michael and Paula.

These two photographers are interested in very different subjects, but have in common an ability to make impressive pictures that collectors seek and have found their way into a number of museums, including here in L.A. at the Los Angeles county Museum of Art collection.

Notice that while each picture has a subject, they are also balanced and the photograph is not equivalent to the subject. The photograph, instead is an impressive set of marks in balance over the entire territory of the composition.

That, as best as I can report, is the sense that both Paula and Michael wish to convey. If the work does not also have your passion in some way embedded, it wont work.

Asher


P.S. This seems to be right to me, since have always felt that beauty alone is insufficient to make art. There has to be some humanity, mystery, incompleteness or intrigue in it too.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
It seems that nobody has noticed - sad news:

http://www.michaelandpaula.com/mp/index.php
Thanks Michael for this notice!

Michael Smith and Paula Chamlee both have made their mark on the last major period of thriving large format photography as a way of life.

We do owe both a debt of gratitude for their contributions tomOPF and devoted guidance in our first major exhibition of selected works representing our forum .

On behalf of the entire OPF community, we offer heartfelt condolences to Paula and know she will continue their mission as leaders in creating, sharing and teaching seeing with a photographer’s eye, composition and the art of printing analog with analog media.

Asher

Asher
 
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