Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

AfterImage Series

Post 15

In real time, I'm writing this poised between Christmas 2011 and New Year's 2012: HAPPY HOLIDAYS, bloggers.

In blog time, it's still summer, and I'm in Harrington, Maine, working on installations of palm-size petrograph beach pebbles, printed with images of immense shadows thrown by rock formations onto the walls of the Grand Canyon.

In my previous post I showed images of the pebbles against a sea grass backdrop. Those photos were taken on the property of our rental house, which sat at the confluence of a tidal inlet and a bay. This group, shot on a sandy beach and at the tideline itself, was taken at the Petit Manan Wildlife Reserve in Millbridge, Maine. Getting to the refuge involved a 20 min. ride from our house to the parking lot, in the midst of blueberry barrens, and then a half-hour walk across granite outcrops and through a scrub forest to the beach. 

Lichen on the hike to the beach; and below, images of the beach that awaited

To see a set of semi-abstract photos of the beach, look to the lefthand column under "Normal Photos," and click on the image under "Normal But Abstract."

When I first envisioned this series, back in the artist in residence's living room at the Grand Canyon, I imagined taking the pebble shots at the beach, in sand and underwater. It made the most sense to me; I liked the idea of markers of hours--the Canyon shadows--brought to the beach where they would summon aeons--a memory of what the Canyon once was.

Here are some of the shots:

The above AfterImage shots were taken, respectively, in wet sand at the sea's edge and dry sand at the beach's perimeter; same with the ones below. In between the top shots is an AfterImage progression from the dry perimeter into the waves themselves.

And these are some of a the water shots...

I'm not particularly happy with the compilation below, but it gives a sense of progression, at least. I'll work on it...(These are all just working shots; I've really no idea yet what the finished work will look like...)

The pebble shot below was taken at Jasper Beach, an all-pebble beach near Machias, Maine. An snapshot of the beach follows...

Monday, December 19, 2011

AfterImage Series

Post 14

At the end of July Marguerite and I rented a 200 year-old house in Harrington, Maine. Here's the house:

And here's the view:

And here's our dog, Tenby--then 14 and a half--enjoying herself in the seagrass (her 15th birthday is on January 11th)

This is where I got the idea of including grass as one of the backdrops for the pebble designs. It would legitimately represent a phase of the Canyon's development--when the area was covered in shallow seas, fringed with sea grasses, which later became an organic contribution to the limestone--as well as add color and texture to the photos. I thank the dog for the suggestion.

It wasn't so bad photographing the pebbles in sea grass during the day. Biting horseflies the size of small planes buzzed around, but I could more or less swat them away. The dusk shots, however, were a bloody a nightmare. Mosquitos swarmed, literally turning the sleeve of my neon-red rain jacket black, they were so dense, so that I had to cover myself head to toe. Still they swarmed around my face and I thought I'd go mad from the buzzing. That's why there aren't more twilight shots...Here are some:

World Clock, Twilight, Marsh Grass

After Image Twilight, Marsh Grass

And by day:

Canyon Clock, Marsh Grass

AfterImage, Marsh Grass

Finally, here are some of the petrograph pebbles, taken in the marsh grass, which incorporate semi-abstract shots of the landscape in which they were photographed:

We found the work of a couple of artists we really liked while we were in Harrington. Here are 2 of them:

Obadiah Bourne Buell:, and Philip Frey:

Have a look...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

AfterImage Series

Post 13

In this post I'm going to write about ashes. Fireplace ashes, to be specific, which means the ashes of oak trees from my childhood home in New Jersey, chopped by my father and brought to Massachusetts for Marguerite and me to burn.

These images are quick mock-ups of potential, finished work that I made using the "light table" feature of Mac's Aperture program (that's why they have those little white boxes in the lower righthand corners). Each one is composed of individual shots of petrograph designs, created using the Grand Canyon shadow pebbles.

I shot these outside in my backyard in July. I filled a large Pyrex baking dish with fireplace ashes and then arranged the pebbles in the ashes according to different designs. The different colors are achieved entirely from shooting the pebbles at different times of day: dawn (God help me), noon, late afternoon, and dusk, just before dark. The line of AfterImages was shot at dawn, around 8am, noon, 5pm, 8pm, and 8:45pm. 

The image below is the World Clock Series--each pebble's shadow representing the same moment at the Grand Canyon, La Paz, Bolivia, Tasiilaq, Greenland, and Cardiff, Wales--shot, clockwise, at dawn, noon, 5:30pm, and 8:30pm.

I created designs based on the World Clock Series, the Canyon Sundial Series, the AfterImage shape, and several abstract patterns. It was fun but as always, there was a learning curve. I took me awhile to realize I was shooting some of the pebbles upside down, so I had to make a big post-it note about that and stick it on the pyrex dish. And then any indentations in the ashes--fingerprints, pebbleprints, whatever--showed up on film, especially when the sun was low and casting shadows, so I had to make sure the layer of ashes was perfectly smooth. Here's an example of what it looked like when the ashes weren't smooth:

Very moon-like, and kind of cool, except that the ash-shadows distracted from the pebbles.

I got very dirty doing this, and the dog's black coat was streaked in ashes. The mosquitos, especially while I was taking the dusk shots, were fierce.

I also took black and white shots on my film camera, but I'm saving those for another entry...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

AfterImage Series

Post 12

After the milkweed episode (see Post 11), I realized I needed to consider a couple of things. I liked the look of the milkweed images, but they were random and rushed (I worked so fast I knocked myself in the teeth with my camera; I can't even begin to reconstruct how I did that). So...

1. I needed to think out how and where I'd shoot the pebbles--against what kinds of backgrounds? How would they look in terms of texture and color, and what meaning would they bring to the series? 

2. I needed to decide how to arrange the pebbles. I'd come up with the World and Canyon Clock formats, and the AfterImage shape, but what else? Decorative patterns based on Native American geometries? I had to think about that...

3. I definitely needed to number the pebbles on the back and sketch out templates for each design. The clock patterns required particular pebbles, shot at specific times of day, but I had a box of 27 pebble petrographs that all looked pretty similar; I needed to make a shadow time chart, assign each shadow photo a number, and then mark the printed pebbles with corresponding numbers. Below are some of my notebook pages about the numbering system. The wrinkles and dirt on the second two page images come from them having been stuffed in every pocket I own, dropped in the sea, stepped on, you name it.

I also needed to create a system so I could arrange the stones quickly when I was on location with them, shifting from one pattern to another. After a few tries WITHOUT working from charts and numbers, I could see I was in real danger of losing my mind, squatting in dirt, bending over a line of pebbles with a crick in my back and two cameras swinging around my neck, trying to figure out which shadow pebble went where, while simultaneously attempting to switch between my new DSLR and old film camera (for the black and white images), without strangling myself. Not to mention fighting off both mosquitos and curious onlookers....

I thought it would be interesting, both visually and metaphorically, to work with background elements that represented different phases of the Grand Canyon's development: ash, for the volcanic rock; water, for ancient seas and the Colorado River, both of which have mightily shaped the Canyon; and both sand and mud, for the layers of sedimentary rock that make up the Canyon's walls. Later I decided to add colored beach pebbles themselves as a backdrop, as precursors to sand (mainly for visual interest) and also sea grass, representing the metamorphosed vegetable matter in Canyon rock.

Here's an early sketch I made of what I thought the World Clock series might look like, shot against different backgrounds: ashes, sand, marsh grass, and sea water.

A little crude, but you get the point.

There were also ideas that I discarded--or let's say shelved. I thought for awhile about placing the shadow pebbles on a musical scale as if they were notes--maybe a scale I'd drawn in the sand. And then let the tide come in and rearrange them...(I dreamt about copying the sheet music from "Thunder Road" in sand on the beach, with the pebbles as notes, and then photographing what happened to the music after waves moved the pebbles. How would the sea rewrite Bruce Springsteen, and how would that sound? I was first excited about this, then thought it was just plain nuts, then thought it really wasn't such a bad idea, and finally realized it was too hard for now...) Here's a sketch from my notebook depicting the shadow music...

 Here's how the World Clock sketch turned out, photographed. The image on the left shows the pebbles in water; on the right, in twilight on seagrass, which actually looks more like the sketch...