Monday, January 28, 2013


Our senses afford us the experience of life. The arts that derive from our senses are the rewards of care, value, as well as the gifts of many others that make up our world. Although we are flooded today with the arts of the senses we are yet to become immune to their heritage and influence.

It was a very different world we lived in when we could not share in worlds of spirits not our own. And what is our own is more now a commonality than an exclusion. Life has become much larger as our world has become smaller. Yet we cannot accept others or get along with them because their spirits are somehow foreign although as human as our own. We become smaller not larger by taking without giving the appreciation of all the many others that share their spirits with us.

I have learned that one spirit teaches another. My spirit was first awakened by music. Then the necessities of life interrupted and I became aware of a visual spirit I found in photography. Although it consumed my interest in and dominated my spirit for some time, I have gradually returned to a life  involving both the audial realm as well as the seeing one.

Little by little the two spirits I follow have come together with a little help. That was a four year long project of working in photography to illustrate many different kinds of music. It opened my ears to music I had not known before and provided new challenges to my being able to see the world as photographs. But most that sight and sound can be related spirits, not antagonistic worlds unto themselves. That is not unusual as many listen and look at the same time. But the extent to which they are related is seldom thought of except by circumstance. An opera, a musical theater, naturally bring all the spirits together. But we do that intentionally and it seldom occurs without trying and deliberate effort.

However there are many instances in life around the world like carnival in Venice and Rio where it is a natural coincidence, others as well I am aware of too that are less obvious to most people.  The spirits of sight, sound and motion live well together when people get together and celebrate this life we all take part in. So why not enjoy it all as one where our spirits flourish together.

This can happen individually too if we want it to. It doesn’t have to be passive, just having music as a background to daily tasks. The spirit of the images I create and work with can be related to the sounds I care about; conjoined together enhancing each other. It only requires an openness to something that is only divided in our minds as to how things should be, but should they? 

Many of the photographers I have known have also been musicians, or is it vice-versa. One I have recently corresponded with works at both music and making photographs, but apparently keeps each realm unto itself. That seems natural, but is it really; or is it the result of a culture we live in that assumes divisions that may not be true but endured none the less. My faith is that the spirits we all live with are one and the same, so dividing them is maybe a false promise, to what I do not know. 

I have learned after a lot of being oblivious that what has made me appreciate the spirit of sound and sight are from the same being just human. What divisions and limitations we apply to ourselves as part of being in a culture are real but not an imprisonment. We are really free to be as fully who we are as we have the courage to be.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


A couple of years ago or so a friend alerted me to a really good quality LCD display that supports professional-level digital image editing and color management. It is the Dell Ultrasharp U2410 display that when introduced had a list price of $599. Since then many of my readers have purchased this Dell U2410 and not one has faulted its very good performance.

Now a reader brought my attention to the Dell Ultrasharp U24110 being on sale for $200 less than its introductory list price. Now this excellent performing product is available for just $399. So even if you don’t need a new display LCD display today, get one now so when you need it you will have one. Just go to

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Recently an article has appeared in severals place on the web that is based on a exhibition and story by Mia Fineman a curator of photography at New York’s Metropolitan Museum. It looks at the pat, mostly the Pictorialist dominated history of photography that began just before the beginning of the 20th century,but brings into question the use of Photoshop in this current digital era of photography.


“By tracing the history of manipulated photography from the earliest days of the medium to the release of Photoshop 1.0 in 1990, Mia Fineman offers a corrective to the dominant narrative of photography’s development, in which champions of photographic “purity,” such as Paul Strand, Edward Weston, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, get all the glory, while devotees of manipulation, including Henry Peach Robinson, Edward Steichen, and John Heartfield, are treated as conspicuous anomalies. Among the techniques discussed on these pages—abundantly illustrated with works from an international array of public and private collections—are multiple exposure, combination printing, photomontage, composite portraiture, over-painting, hand coloring, and retouching. The resulting images are as diverse in style and motivation as they are in technique. Taking her argument beyond fine art into the realms of politics, journalism, fashion, entertainment, and advertising, Fineman demonstrates that the old adage “the camera does not lie” is one of photography’s great fictions.” Metropolitan Museum of Art book description on

MIA FINEMAN: Most of the earliest manipulated photographs were attempts to compensate for the new medium's technical limitations -- specifically, its inability to depict the world as it appears to the naked eye.

The idea for the exhibition grew out of a question that was posed at nearly every presentation on photography that I've given or attended in recent years: How has digital technology, especially image-processing software like Photoshop, changed photography's relationship to truth?

I discovered a connection between trick photography and stage magic, which was the most popular form of mass entertainment in the late 19th century. Stage magicians often performed illusions featuring decapitation and "talking heads," and this motif was quickly picked up by photographers, both professional and amateur.

Photographers have always used whatever technical means were available to them to create the pictures they wanted to create -- Photoshop is the latest tool. That said, I do think there's a tendency among some contemporary image-makers to overuse digital tools and effects -- but it's mostly a matter of taste. In the commercial world, especially in magazines and advertisements, digital retouchers sometimes get sloppy, but the general public has gotten very good at spotting telltale blunders like missing limbs or misaligned body parts, models with weirdly poreless skin, and errant shadows cast by absent objects.


Most experienced photographers realize from working with the process that every photograph is a distortion of reality, it is never true to objective reality or for that matter to what we see with our eyes. And for that matter neither is human vision anything but another kind of manipulation of objective reality. We are all fooled by our own minds to believe what we have learned to be “true”.

Fortunately many photographers in the last 150 years of its history have also written about their ideas  of what making a photograph is and should be. From soon after the beginning of the use of the process in England and France there  has been a movement of enthusiasts to have photography accepted as one of the established arts. Fortunately many of these statements have been published in a single book: A PHOTOGRAPHIC VISION - Pictorial Photography, 1889 - 1923, edited by Peter C. Bunnell.

Although much of what was written by many, some of whom have images referenced by Mia Fineman, smacks of political ideology of one primary purpose, that photography becomes an accepted medium among the arts establishment. In that regard various techniques were promoted as being more or less art-like, while a few argued for using a technique that rendered images truer to the nature of the photographic process, Sadakichi Hartmann in particular. One statement in 1896 by Gertrude Kasebier however was more autobiographically candid, indicating that what is true to a photographers vision should not be subject to the styles of what is commercially successful. “The key to artistic photography is to work out your own thoughts, by yourselves. Imitation leads to certain disaster...... New ideas are always antagonized. Do not mind that. If a thing is good it will survive.” 

The concluding 1923 section is edited by John Wallace Gillies after receiving letters from Clarence H. White, Dr. A D Chaffee, Edward Weston, Alexander P Milne and W H Porterfield as Statements by Pictorialists. Gilles comments leading into the series of letters. “In the Pictorial section of photography one can make almost any kind of statement he pleases, and some will nod sagely, ‘Yes‘ and others will disagree with great heat. It is right or wrong as it happens to strike the other fellow. There is nothing absolute, nothing settled. It is an art, or not an art as we please to have it. Stieglitz at present makes his pictures sharp and is ready to tell everybody that a fuzzy picture is not the thing. Clarence White likes his pictures softer, and has  held to that view, which speaks well for his opinion. Steichen made them fuzzy years ago, and now cannot get them sharp enough. So what are we to think? Each one has something to say and each statement is different. One might think from this that Pictorial Photography must be an art, for we find the same conditions among painters, all wrangling about what is best. True it is, therefor, that photographers have all the indispositions of artists and, if that makes art we surely have it in photography.

By Edward Weston
Dear Gillies:-
“You ask me to write a short ms. on “Pictorial Photography,” in other words “illustrative photography,” for such is my understanding of the word pictorial. Well I cannot, for it has been years since I left the genre field, and anyhow there are so many painters well fitted to carry on this little by-product of literature. Forgive me, Gillies, for playing with words, but really, is not just “Photography” good or bad, significant without “Pictorial” or “Artistic” tacked on?  .............

Gillies Note:
Mr. Weston, my very good friend and a man of impeccable honesty, has fallen in with words, written by gentlemen who use them to hide behind. With the exception of Sherwood Anderson and John Tenant, these gentlemen who talk glibly about logic of things, using photography as a blind, are all more or less lost in delusion and smoke a sort of mental pipe together when they produce their manuscripts.


In America, and where else, did an unusual talent from Hollywood become the modern popular leader of Pictorialism in William Mortensen. But after being Cecil B. DeMille’s still photographer his individuality and self-driven vision soon drove him out of the studio dictatorships to Laguna Beach where he set up a small studio and taught students, created his own photographic visions while writing books and articles in popular enthusiast magazines. 

When I was still a photography student in Santa Barbara I drove down to Laguna Beach and visited with Mortensen. Some twenty years later, after his death, I was an editor at Petersen’s PhotoGraphic magazine and obtained an assignment to publish a retrospective of William Mortensen’s work in PhotoGraphic. I was helped by his widow and supported in this effort by the Photographic Society of America, as well as by several of his students from his years in Laguna Beach. 

Since then in 1998 The Center for Creative Photography Arizona Board of Regents published William Mortensen, A REVIVAL. His vision was democratic and reflected in his own words, “the man whose interest is in the picture itself. He may seek his picture in many different fields: in landscapes, in character studies, in portraits, in still life, in the ‘pure’ representations of textures. He may pursue his pictures with a box camera, with a luxury model miniature, or with an eight-by-ten view camera.He may prefer straight contact prints, paper negatives, fresson, or bromoil transfers. But, when all is said and done, his basic interest is the picture itself. Not how it was secured, or what process was used in making it, or what it may accomplish; but simply and solely the picture.”


Although many professional photographers in their hire to others accept the vision of who has hired them, so manipulation if there is any is for the purposes of the vision a photographer is hired to produce; it is just a job to solve someone else’s problem in a way that satisfies their vision. Many of us who have made a living by being a hired photographer realize they are not creating their own vision, but one for someone else. Even if you are making portraits for someone sitting for your camera, the vision created by the camera is the subject’s vision, or you may find few who will recommend you to make a portrait of them. The images a professional photographer makes for himself these days, are referred to by them as ‘personal work’; and from the better known of them you will find expensive coffee-table books of this kind of visualization.

If you want to create photographs from your own personal vision, you must be a photographer who is working only for one’s self, no one else. I think this is reflected in what photographers say about themselves. The manipulation and retouching now, in many cases is not done by the photographer before release to the client, but usually afterwards by pre-press technicians and retouching specialists.  Photographers are not ‘manipulating’ images to fool anyone else, unless of course they are part of a circus side-show or represented in YouTube, FaceBook or the like, seeking to go viral on the web. Manipulation of images to result in the best image you can imagine is not a dishonesty by most photographers, it is just a refinement of one’s own vision. 

In my collection of books and magazines, mostly about photography, there is one, ‘VERUSCHKA’, Trans-figurations, by Vera Lehndorff and Holger Trulzsch 1986, done before Photoshop, involving every imaginable manipulation of the subject envisioned by both the model-artist Vera Lehndorff (Veruschka) and her partner Holger Trulzsch. Whose visions are they; are they both, or either Veruschka or the photographer Trulzsch. Not one or the other surely, but only they really know. If it is anything it is a truth that vision is as consistent as the subject and image are and can be from any human perspective.