Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Focus On: Eleanors

The Look

Many, if not most or perhaps even all of us strive to comment on the human condition with our art.  Some do that by focusing on things humans have built, some by focusing on things humans have cultivated, some by focusing on things humans find beautiful and some by focusing on actual humans.  

Then there's Eleanors, a photographer based in Vienna, Austria that focuses on ersatz humans in the form of mannequins.  If you haven't seen her work, you're about to.

Steve:  Eleanor, there are any number of words that could be used to describe your work: "artful", "edgy", "dark", "macabre", "glamour", "reflective"...these are but a few that came to mind when I thought about it.

What words would you use to describe yourself? Who is Eleanor; where does she come from? What is your family like? What was it in your early life, your formative years if you will, that guided you to the place you are now?

Eleanor:  A few words I would use to describe myself with: I am an observer, my work is driven by intuition, I like to get to the bottom of things, and I find humor very touching.

I grew up in a small Austrian village, a childhood dedicated to playing and exploring mountains and wood and to all kinds of sport, an absolutely "art free" environment if you will.

Secret Society No 6

I can´t remember how I got hold of my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic. I was about 10 years old when I started to document my family´s life. Soon afterwards I also began to stage funny and absurd scenes featuring dolls, cats and whimsical stuff as well as my poor brother and sister. I have to say that the photos look funny now, but at that time it was a matter of great importance to me, which I took very seriously.

Later when I moved to Salzburg, school and study became more important and it took me quite some time to revive photography.

S:  So, you got your start in photography when you were about 10. How old were you when you put your camera away and what was it that inspired you to pick it up again? When was that?

E:  I never actually put my camera away, it just became less important. It was in my last years at university when I really got interested in portrait photography. Heaven knows why... At that time I also was the front woman in a punk band, and it was kind of getting away from limitedness of mind and mountains:)

I moved to Vienna where I took private photography classes, did quite a lot of self study to find out how lightning works and all the technical stuff to use a proper camera. Since I wanted to learn as much as possible I declined to shoot with cameras that would have done the job for me. After starting with an old Agfa and Canon, the Nikon F2 and several Nikon prime lenses became my constant companion. I was lucky to get to know excellent professional photographers who taught me the workflow in a traditional darkroom.

Private Sphere

After portraying almost all of my friends (many of them artists), I was asked to freelance for a magazine; I also did commissioned work for artists, documented the trip of an European delegation to refugee camps and prisons all over the country as well as political conferences.

New contacts and friends constantly established new fields of research and interest. The first "big" thing that I worked on for a couple of years was music. I was only interested in rock and punk, then I discovered something new: the so called “avant-garde”. I hardly ever failed to photograph a concert of John Zorn, Elliott Sharp, Henry Rollins or Lydia Lunch - just to mention a few. I quickly got bored doing the common stuff and experimented with multiple layers and images in camera as well as in the darkroom. Well trained in sports I managed to conquer barriers at big festivals to get on stage for unique shots. But at the same time I was well known for not being noticed by musicians at work; even nearly touching their instruments. This was new to them and they appreciated it very much. Now I am a proud owner of a large archive of black and white portraits of musicians.

At the same time I also worked for theatre productions, shot rehearsals, performances and took pictures for posters. And I photographed on the set for fellow directors.

I am a person constantly looking for new challenges. So one day the moving image came into my mind.  A friend of a friend was imprisoned for refusing military service and I was asked to do a documentary about the issue - which I did.  This turned out to be the beginning of my later film career; I did and still do documentaries and experimental films, often not only the directing but photographing as well. Music still plays a big role in my films and I did some with and about some of the musicians I have photographed.

Playing With Fire

S:  What subject matter do you find yourself drawn to? What is your inspiration?

E:  I like to get to the bottom of things that constitute life in general, so I´m drawn to explore microcosms. Whether it´s little gestures of human interacting or attitude, a bark or branch of a tree that tells it´s history of development, abandoned places and little things left behind or how damaged mannequins and their body parts get stored. I get touched and inspired by these little incidents, each of them carrying a story and being heavy with mood.

Apart from that I get inspired by the work of other artists, by music or just one single frame of film I discover when editing.

S:  You know, I really get that; using a "microcosm", as you say, as a metaphor for the "big picture". I often find myself pulling in too.  Many times less really can be more.

The mannequins; now there's a metaphor if there ever was one. Clearly your Etsy shop is all about the mannequins; what got you started on this theme? What keeps you coming back?

E:  My fascination with mannequins started by mere chance.  With our gas stove out of action and in desperate need of an alternative means to prepare the morning coffee, I was in a large store in search of an electric coffee maker; a group of undressed mannequin torsos lying upon each other caught my eye. I could not help but notice that these figures were perfect subjects for a photograph. The coffee machine went right out of my mind. Head over heels I went home to come back with my camera. It took me quite a while to assure the store´s chief of marketing that I simply had to photograph these figures! Probably blown away by my exuberant enthusiasm she finally allowed me to take photos. However, this should be just a small taste of what was to follow.

Secret Society No 1

You know, sales assistants sometimes get bored by daily routine and appreciate any uncommon incidents in their shop. Some got interested in what I´m doing. I was asked by one of them if I´d like to photograph more mannequins - what a question! I was conducted to the basement where she opened the door to a near ghostly scene. And she left me alone with a more or less damaged plastic population and its body parts. Nobody cared, and I was able to take pictures for several hours. I shot on high-speed black and white film with available light. What I found in this breathtaking basement is featured in my Secret Society collection.

It´s hard to say what keeps me coming back, it may be the eerie lifelike nature of many of the mannequins. They are sort of mysterious; it’s often a question of "real or not?" When watching decorators working on the figures, at first glance I often can´t say which of them is human and which is not. At the very beginning I even experimented with self portraits taken next to the models, hoping to find essential differences between us humans and our "representations”. Apart from that, I am drawn to beauty, or rather to vulnerability of beauty. New or perfect display mannequins I am not interested in, they don´t suggest having a "soul".

My work with mannequins is an ongoing process. I can find many different aspects of the subject matter. In the beginning, a more documentary approach was predominant. Later on I continued with studies of one single figure experimenting with lighting, textures and multiple image editing. These days I am dreaming of putting on stage an entire group of mannequins dealing with a special subject. This definitely will be a big challenge and much fun!

S:  "Real or not"..."mysterious"; I totally understand, and I think many would agree. I don't know if you're familiar with it, but many years ago, here in the U.S., there was a television show called "The Twilight Zone", and one of the most memorable episodes for me was called "After Hours" and dealt with mannequins coming to life (; kind of "spooky" to be sure, especially for a young lad, but it was well done and made one think.

Anytime, Anywhere

You certainly seem to have hit on an enduring subject with your mannequins; I would think the potential avenues for exploration would be vast. Do you find yourself trying to evoke certain emotions, feelings or ideas? What themes do you find yourself pursuing and do you have any favorites, ones that you come back to?

E:  Unfortunately no, I’m not familiar with the show. The story sounds great though, I absolutely have to watch it some day!

You are right, potential avenues for exploration are vast. Many artists including, Cindy Sherman, Helmut Newton or Man Ray - just to name a few - have been experimenting with mannequins.

Humans are obsessed with self-representation. Even while we understand they are inanimate objects, when mutated, manipulated or uncannily accurate, they have tremendous power to attract and repel, and - as especially for my work - function as a "projection screen" as fellow artists that know me well once told me, even to the point of being the basis of my entire body of work - not just my mannequin photography. If I manage to do something well I succeed to address the unconscious. Most likely they are right. I have to admit that I deliberately try to avoid evoking emotions, feelings or ideas. I also don´t pursue any themes. If something comes to my mind that doesn´t give me any rest I just put it into practice. I would say I am intuitive in my working methods.

Angel of Revenge

S:  Intuitive working methods; I can appreciate that. Get into "the zone", plug into your "muse" and see what develops.

Aside from mannequins and rock bands, what else do you photograph? When you get that itch to go shoot, where do you go and what attracts you?

E:  Aside from mannequins I am drawn to minimalist and abstract photography. All kinds of structures I find interesting, and especially trees are my main subjects. I also really like abandoned places with a lot of "emptiness" around them. Less frequented urban places and the countryside are my favorite locations to shoot; they are free of distractions that prevent elevated concentration.

Additionally I do product photography for small companies where I am luckily permitted a creative license.

S:  Let's talk about your equipment for a moment. What do you carry in your bag? If money were not a concern, what would you like to add?

E:  I’ve been traveling light for a few years now. Shooting on film most of the time, I bought my first digital camera, a Nikon D90, only a couple of years ago. I own a few Nikon lenses that I can use on both the analog and the digital model. Even though I still love my previous equipment, shooting digitally is fine for me too; it provides more flexibility and fits well my desire for independence.

HP Zinker live on stage

You are clearly familiar with this funny game - that I actually loved to play with a friend at least once a month: one person is asking the other "what would you spend the money on in case you win xxx millions?" Well, first of all I would buy a lot of time to pursue my projects; second I would rent or rather buy a large daylight studio; and I´d like to add a Hasselblad medium format camera, most likely a H2F. Hmm, Christmas is coming soon!

S:  Having a full body of work on film, and having turned the digital corner a couple of years ago, what are your thoughts on film versus digital?

E:  From a technical point of view I am certainly fairly traditional. When I was forced to have my images processed, at the expense of handling the chemicals myself, my world fell apart. It took me some time until I was very happy with the new achievement.

Times are changing, and we are changing with them, that´s just how it is. I am trying to appreciate the huge options of shooting digital; it saves time, it´s cheaper on a certain level, and offers possibilities for many more people to be artistically active. To be honest yet, I personally still like pictures taken on film much more.

S:  I totally understand and appreciate your ambivalence; on the one hand I relish the immediacy, flexibility and range of possibilities of the digital medium; and yet, I miss the almost alchemistic magic and tactile nature of the analog medium...but not quite enough to go back on a full time basis.

Urban Jungle

Tell me, which photographers do you most admire and what inspiration have you drawn from them?

E:  There are two photographers whose work first and foremost created my enthusiasm for photography at the very beginning, and I still deeply admire. Henri Cartier-Bresson, the so called father of modern photojournalism, and Robert Frank. Especially Cartier-Bresson´s photographs of ordinary daily life and seemingly unimportant moments still touch me deeply. I share his belief that there is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment, and he should be the one gaining extraordinary mastership in capturing these moments.

The other one "after my own heart" is Robert Frank, notably his divergence from contemporary photographic standards capturing "The Americans". The subtle irony of his pictures, Frank´s use of unusual focus, low lighting and cropping fed my need for exploring new ways in photography.

The next milestone in discovering photographic examples happened to be while I was working for a movie company in London. Victoria & Albert put an exhibition about the history of fashion photography. Primarily I got deeply impressed by post war fashion photography. It was while there that I was introduced for the first time to the work of photographers like Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Lillian Bassman. The social and political upheavals after the Second World War were echoed in fashion photography´s attempt to break with the romantic excesses of its past. Photographers switched their preoccupations to the pose and expression of their models, and began to appreciate that it could comment on, as well as reflect, its subject matter. The temporary opportunity to describe more than simple fashion information however has secured the participation of great photographers.  As Avedon declared "Fashion photography must be about something." Things like how Avedon was experimenting with movement, Penn using natural light or Bassman utilizing elaborate still simple darkroom techniques to create that special mood, once more broadened my photographic horizon. Returning to Vienna I decided to become a fashion photographer and I directly started to prove myself shooting fashion scenes with a medium format camera. The pictures looked quite promising, yet a new film threw a monkey wrench in my plans.


Most likely my continuing passion for black and white photography arises from these great photographers. Whenever I use color in my work muted colors are my favorites. Color sort of seems to stifle imagination.

Here we come to a more current photographer, whose work I admire: Masao Yamamoto. Capturing suggestive, observational images, Yamamoto provides the viewer with an experience quite similar to that of reading haiku (I love Haikus!). His pictures are seemingly mundane and unremarkable, suggesting a deliberate disregard for the technical prowess that is common merit in the world of photography. I like the lack of color in his work and the almost sublime sensation of timelessness that strips away the particulars of life and puts the viewer in touch with things both familiar and eternal.

Responding to my growing interest in mixed media, I stumbled upon the artwork of Doug and Mike Starn who combine traditionally separate disciplines such as sculpture, photography, painting, video, and installation. I am especially thrilled about their “Absorption of Light”, comprised of four bodies of work where the Starns explore the metaphors of light through real symbols such as leaves, trees, moths, and a Buddha sculpture.
Finally I also have to mention directors such as Ingmar Bergman and Luis Bunuel, the father of cinematic surrealism, whose films certainly have an impact on my "world of visual imagination".

S:  Eleanor, what's next? From a photographic standpoint, what does the future hold for you?

E:  Primarily I am busy with getting organized and financing a big project with the mannequins. It will take place in a studio with a larger number of the figures. To make this happen extensive preparations are required. I am very excited about this; it will be a big challenge though.  Beyond that I plan to acquire specific painting techniques to utilize along with photography.

Secret Society No 17

S:  Eleanor, I want to thank you for spending this time with me; I've very much enjoyed learning a bit more about the woman behind the mannequins! Best of luck to you!

E:  Thank you very much Steve, it was a pleasure for me!


PhotoGrunt is Steve Raley, a photographic documentarian from Seattle, Washington.  He captures images wherever he goes, and he  frequently even uses a camera.  His work can be seen on his websiteblog and his Etsy shop.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mosaic Monday: Musically Inclined

1. Concerto Masterpiece by JW Photo

2.Candence by Brief Moments

3.String Theory 2 by Lizgrandmaison

4.Like music to my ears by violetbellaphoto

5.Impromptu by ClydeKellerPhoto

6.Songbird by alicebgardens

7.Accordion Man by ANJacobsen

8.Piano Keyhole by Tinyturk

9.Accordion by Krista Glavich

Focus On: ClydeKellerPhoto

As photographers, our "eye", our "vision", our "perspective" is in a very real way a product of our life experience.   What we shoot is dependent on what what has come before; what we've done, what we've seen, what we've been exposed to...even what we've shot before.  Not only are we standing on the shoulders of those who've come before, but looking back on our own body of work, you might even say we're also standing on our own shoulders.  Our previous work is the lens through which we perceive and approach our future projects.

This week I'm sharing with you a conversation I recently had with Clyde Keller, of ClydeKellerPhoto.  Clyde has been considering the world through a lens, and recording what he's seen for a good number of years.  And in that time, as you'll soon see, he's had an opportunity to record some memorable moments in modern history.  And while he offers us a look back, he continues to look to his next exposure.

Steve:  Clyde, we've been following each other's work for some time now, and as you know, when I encounter images I find interesting, I'm curious to find out more about the person behind the lens. So, tell me more about yourself. Where do you come from? What was it like growing up? What were the forces that directed you to a life in photography?

Clyde:  I grew up in the Portland, Oregon area and have lived in the Pacific NW, so my images are drawn from this geographic area. 

I was drawn to photography at an early age. Both my father and grandfather used Leica cameras and presented slide shows of their Kodachromes on special occasions. Looking at their beautiful scenic photos, I got hooked. 

By the time I was in the third grade I learned how to use an adjustable camera to take pictures on a grade school field trip to the Portland Zoo. My classmates happily (and speedily) snapped away with their Brownies, but I struggled with measuring light, setting the exposure and learning how to "guessimate" the distance. That SLOWED me down, let me tell you! But I learned that it was worth it, and was thrilled to see my first efforts. By the 8th grade I had built a darkroom, owned a Pentax SLR and was heading towards serious work. 

It was the devastating Columbus Day Storm on October 12, 1962 that changed my outlook away from making traditional (camera club) pictorial imagery and into the realm of documentary reportage. I was completely drawn by the damage caused by hurricane force winds that had uprooted trees, downed power lines and damaged homes and buildings. My adult next door neighbor, Howard, was an avid photographer with a beautiful Ansel Adams grade darkroom who inspired me to do achieve superior results. He instructed me on how to use a densitometer, develop fine grained films and practice the zone system. That was a bit daunting, but these storm pictures represented both a technical and artistic challenge. So, off I went with rolls of 35mm Afga KB14 B&W film which were later developed in a German developer (cult status) called Neophine Blau. The results convinced me of an even greater potential that serious studied work could bring. But I opted out for the faster speed films in future work. I was leading myself into the realm of the photographing social landscapes.

After the Columbus day Storm, I became completely absorbed with "reality", and as an observer, began to explore historical and contemporary themes. This has continued throughout my life as my interests have expanded to include a variety of progressive issues centering around the human condition and advancement of human rights.


S:  Clearly, you've been honing your craft for some time, and I get the impression you've been making your living at it for a good portion of that time. Is that the case? And if so, what was your situation? Were you working for print publications, were you freelancing, were you a photographic gypsy, what? The reason I ask is that you seemed to have some extraordinary access, with your RFK series, the Richard Daly shot, the Ann & Nancy Wilson portrait, etc. How did you happen to be in a position to get these shots, and many others?

C:  Great question!

You might say I stumbled upon many opportunities simply by hanging out, being at the right place and the right time for picture opportunities. This penchant for timing really accelerated as my interest in politics and other subject matter grew.  

I chose to go to public events where I could slip in, and with very little trouble, fit in with the press; I just acted like I belonged there. In this fashion I gained experience, and learned more about the craft of covering an event. In all of this I was always looking for the revealing moment, especially with politicians such as Hubert Humphrey or Richard Nixon. These were not paid assignments; I was there because it was possible (in those days) to get very close to American leaders. One of my favorite portraits from 1966 is of Richard Nixon, who gave me a “look”, which was revealing of his darker more guarded side as he caught me peering at him with my Nikon camera at a political function.  That is not a commercial portrait, but one that has stuck with me and I believe becomes more interesting as we look at him as a troubled character in history. This was what became exciting to me. 

Chicago Mayor RICHARD J. DALEY

As I gained experience and confidence, I was able to find freelance assignments. But even in “work-for-hire situations”, I always made it clear that I was to retain the original film materials.  With this freedom I continued to be on the lookout for the extraordinary moment knowing that I could possibly use it later on down the road. Also, I chose assignment possibilities with an eye on history or on themes where I reserved rights for possible future use. Although I am known for my iconic images of such greats as Robert Kennedy, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley or Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, I have pursued documentary projects concerning poverty, agism, migrant labor, land use, nuclear power, war protest and other influences that shape the face of our culture and landscape. 

The RFK photos are quite special because I worked directly for the Kennedy Campaign with Pierre Salinger and others.  This was a lucky break that resulted when I sent the Kennedy folks a small portfolio of about two dozen B&W prints; and, to my surprise, was invited to join in as their official photographer for the Oregon Campaign. I was given complete access to Bobby, and was able to get almost any picture that I requested. Since then, U.S. politics have permanently changed; today, the kind of access and photographs I was able to get just aren't possible. 


There will probably never be a man like Robert Kennedy in American politics again. Much of my interest in human rights comes directly from his influence and his unwavering advancements for world peace, nuclear disarmament, and for ending the cold war.  So, although I have made a living as a shooter over the years, I have always had a personal, almost autobiographical interest in the subject matter I covered. Now, several decades later, it is amazing for me to realize that I have been a witness to some major events in history. I really can't claim to be a gypsy, but will happily claim to be a free spirit, still actively engaged and inspired by contemporary events in this most lively of arts.

S:  Tell me more about the photographic themes you're interested in. Over the years you've spent a good deal of time persuing political and cultural themes and events; what sort of themes are reflected in your work today?  When you go out to shoot just for yourself, where do you go and what do you look for?

C:  I am an observer, often without any concrete plan, especially if I'm “out and about”.  I tend to carry my camera with me to be ready for that special impromptu moment. In this context everything becomes personal. 

Themes vary. I keep an open mind for picture possibilities. Sometimes I encounter a chance picture situation and then revisit older film or digital archives to work with both older and newer images thematically. One of the newer rediscoveries are from my “Doubles” series which began as a lark but have continued to sustain my interest over the years. I extended the scope of this subject to include double entendre, portmanteau and concurrency. This opens up a world of possibility; I just wait for situations to present themselves, and snap! Also, I like surrealism! Add to that anything with visual punch; in these difficult times a little satire or irony can help sooth the psyche!  These can end up getting worked into my "serious" body of work. 


In 2003 we moved to Bend, Oregon to take care of my terminally ill father. The area agreed with us so much that we decided to make it our home. I have lived in both Portland and Seattle, but up here my interest has turned to the volcanic landscape, with a focus on superwide and widefield panoramas utilizing stitching software. 

At the moment I'm quite busy with new projects and wrapping up old ones. I'll be working this Fall on a new book which features my documentary images of Robert Kennedy with my friend Terrence Paupp. We are drawing from my archive of original original film materials and then making film scans and are engaged in preparing these images for print. It is very much like a video or film production with an intense and demanding schedule, leaving me with less time than usual for other photographic work. Even so, I have been assisting Canadian director Dan Forrer with his wonderful documentary film project on the birth of Hip Hop music, which will use some of my vintage images. Highlighted among these images is one of Rosey Grier, who has a strong connection to the birth of Hip Hop. 

I'm also preparing for a photo show in Portland this November as part of the publication of a new book on Ken Kesey, for which I have provided a cover and the photos inside of the book.  Also, I'm thrilled that my portrait of Warren Beatty [Cover Illustration for Peter Biskind's biography, "Star"] is going into paperback through Simon & Schuster, UK,. It will be appearing in bookstores worldwide in January 2011. This is an exciting period!


S:  Talk to me for a moment about equipment; digital or film, where do you stand?

What do you carry in your bag? And, taking money out of the equation, what would you add?

C:  I forgot that this question of whether shoot with film or digital might still be a consideration or of interest for some photographers. 

I've been shooting with digital cameras now for almost ten years. Rather than take a stand I'd simply say I'm comfortable with both with the provision that if the situation arises where quality is sacrificed or pictures cannot be obtained because the medium can't "deliver the goods" then by all means consider the alternative. For example, if you need high ISO for reportage photography at night or possibly in darkly lit interiors then a D3 Nikon or other high ISO digital camera is a logical choice for shooting color or B&W.

In my view it gets down to choosing a medium that one feels comfortable with. Unfortunately the film chemical world has been in decline for the past 50 years in many critical areas. This nudges us on to consider the options available within the newer digital medium.


I've been using Nikon cameras since 1964. So, as you might imagine I've picked up quite a few lenses over the years which can be utilized on both of their film and digital models. A firend recently emailed me asking what new lenses I had bought-- sorry to say, nothing recently. But, I've been thinking of getting a fast 400mm telephoto. 

I have owned many other film cameras including a Pentax 6x7 and Rollei TLR. The Sinar 4x5 is a great studio camera- and can be made to work out in the field. At one time I enjoyed using a 4x5 Crown Graphic. They're all fun. I also made a camera using a German Tessar lens that produced circular photos. This camera featured removable backs. Another “camera” I made used large sheets of lith film which were exposed to shadows [At Night] that were cast upon interior walls. The shutter was the lid of the box which was removed for several seconds to make the exposure. The lith film could be developed under a red safelight by inspection. Contact printing produced prints. With this series I used multiple toning techniques to expand upon the tonal range. They were a kick!

S:  You know, Clyde, I don't think the film question is a point of any real consideration for most photographers today; there are of course the die-hard purists, the toy camera and Holga shooters and those that swing back and forth depending on how they feel that day. Personally, while I regret that the day of film is all but gone, I embrace the digital side, in spite of, and because of, the ease of processing as well as the "instantness" of the medium. I miss the smells and the arcane nature of the old school, but not so much the stained fingers or the mixing or disposal of chemicals. It's a dual edged sword.

The reason I asked is that I, for one, was curious how someone such as yourself, that has spent so many years learning about, using and perfecting the analog medium felt about the digital side. That you land with one foot squarely in each camp, depending on whichever can "deliver the goods" makes perfect sense.

Impromptu moments notwithstanding, do you ever get the itch to just go shoot? If so, what do you do to scratch it?


C:  Well Steve, I share your enthusiasm for the medium and love just about all aspects of photography; it has been a source for immense pleasure and discovery for many years. I must confess that when digital was just breaking on to the scene in 2000, I was quite skeptical. At the time it seemed ridiculous that a less than 3 meg five thousand dollar camera could be taken seriously. But the new medium has proven itself and opened up several doors which were being closed, especially regarding making fine art prints.

This afternoon I took my camera with me to our local International Day of Peace which took place here in Bend, Oregon by the Deschutes River in Pacific Park. I held peace signs and took photos from our local "Peace Bridge." This is a typical example of taking my camera out with me; the resulting photos reflect my interests in World Peace, and I ENJOY taking photos. It doesn't take much of an itch when the subject matter gets close to my key interests. You'd have to drag me to go to a football game because I'd rather go to a music festival, especially a World Music Festival such as we will have here this weekend. It's our own version of Seattle's Bumbershoot...and its free!

S:  Which photographers do you most admire? Which do you suppose have most inspired you?


C:  It was Eugene Smith, the esteemed photojournalist, who's brilliant documentary photography inspired me in my late teen years. I was fortunate enough to have been able to take a workshop from him in 1966.  I was able to learn from from him directly about his struggle to get his photographic work published intact. Smith fought the editors at Life magazine and quit twice over arguments that arose over the selection of imagery for publication of his photo essays. Hearing the recounting of these battles with Life magazine made me realize that great work could come at tremendous personal cost.  He was absorbed in getting at the “truth.” As a philosopher he discussed how he would agonize and be tortured by the challenges each assignment presented. Prints were very important to him, especially in context of their use in a magazine layout. Before Smith came on the scene, the photo essay did not exist. Photos were reproduced at the same smallish size, bullet style. No weight or emphasis were given to individual images. His contribution changed the face of magazine layout.  He argued successfully for using larger images to achieve greater impact, elevating story telling to the level of art. What we now take for granted, he pioneered. His now famous essays such as “Spanish Village” dramatized everyday life in a way the world had never seen.

I love the 1960s documentary work of Sam Haskins, who's seminal publication entitled, "African Image" is a benchmark for me, and a work of true photographic genius. Although well known for his art photography of beautiful women, this beloved South African fashion photographer [now deceased] astounded me when he published his homage to African Tribal Life and Art. His lasting contribution was to link both art and culture in an amazing construct of large scale images that would be presented in pairs across two opposing pages.  By celebrating tribal life in documentary form and then contrasting those pictures with studio photography of  Native Art, he created an astounding visual experience. Because he relied on black and white for both the on-location and studio photography, they,became inseparable in layout form.


Another 1960s photographer, William Klein, was quite influential by his unique and personal vision of urban life. Klein had the ability to thrust himself into the center of crowded street scenes and reveal a coarse rendering of reality that subjectivity bristled with kinetic energy. His work still “blows me away” by his inventive techniques. "TOKYO" is a fine art photo book that demonstrates such an intense visuality that it still takes my breath away 43 years later. He shot entirely in black and white with Nikon 35mm cameras and lenses. His work was often grainy. He relied on high contrast; tonal subtlety apparently holding little interest for him, and he sought subject matter where his unique approach came alive. I marvel at his ability to marry form and content into a seamless graphic presentation as he explored the themes of urban life. Others apparently think so as well with selling prices soaring into the thousands of dollars for this oversized gravure printed picture book. 

I also have to mention the work done by photographers during the Great Depression, especially under the direction of Roy Stryker's Farm Security Administration. When we think of the images which defined that era, the work done by such greats as Dorthea Lange and Walker Evans come to mind. I traveled to the Library of Congress in 1976 to look at the wealth of images that came from the work of the FSA and was profoundly impressed by the variety and scope of these important documentary images. Sadly, this effort was to never be recreated. In this country we never have had the equivalent of the Canadian Film Board whose efforts have supported contemporary documentary and publishing projects similar to the efforts made by these great artists during the Depression. Nonetheless without the work of such gifted artists as Dorthea Lange, we would not have an interpretive photographic record that put a human face on those who struggled sometimes under very adverse conditions.


S:  Considering the breadth, scope and depth of your experience and career, your answers to my questions have offered an unique and rare perspective on photography, photographic technique, the advancement of photographic technology as well as an almost interactive view of several contemporary historical figures and events. I'm curious, what would you like to go back and do again? What would you like to go back and "do over" (yes, there is a difference!)? And, what were you not able to do that you would like to go back and take a shot at?

C:  I've been “knee deep” in similar questions posed by my friends about revisiting the past, such as you raise, for some time now, especially after our domestic financial crisis has continued to devastate so much of  the economy.  With that in mind, I am not inhibited creatively by these troubling times. In fact, when viewed in a totality, these are the best creative times for me in my life. It is the culmination of the entirety of my past experiences that now nurture me. In essence when I revisit my old documentary work or creative projects they are “old friends” that enrich and can still be reborn into new forms reflecting a lifetime of experience. It is this infusion of experience that augments the creative process. To be in the “now” is to live in an energetic personal creative world of unlimited possibilities even under the shadow of these far from perfect times.

S:  To be in the "now" is a very healthy perspective, indeed!

Clyde, I want to thank you for taking this time with me; I've truly enjoyed it!


PhotoGrunt is Steve Raley, a photographic documentarian from Seattle, Washington.  He captures images wherever he goes, and he  frequently even uses a camera.  His work can be seen on his websiteblog and his Etsy shop.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mosaic Monday: Arizona

Where's My Carrot  by ANGELsTIME
It's Chili Outside  by fosterbk
Old Route 66  by xenya
Hedgehog Cactus Flowers  by ljdesignphoto
Jackrabbit Prayers  by rrobertsphoto
Sailing the High Desert Seas  by JoeReed Photography
Saguaro Snows  by sharpobjects
Valley Floor  by AlisonDuBois
Natives  by capow

My hubby and I are heading to Arizona this Saturday.  I've been planning this trip for several years in my mind and I'm so psyched now that I'm literally counting the days!  I've already packed all my camera gear in a neat backpack and I'm ready to hit the trail!  So of course, since I can't think of anything else, this week POE's talent is inspired by all the visions in my mind!  See y'all in 2 weeks!

Pat of photogenicgallery lives in the Northeast USA with her husband, 2 great dogs and "Rocky" the kitty.   Every day is an adventure and every capture with her cameras are happy moments. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

From the Collaboratory

The Verdict is In

Elvis Emu by kclarkphotography

Well, a number of poe team members have been kind enough to respond to my inquiries about their favorite lenses, and between their comments and my own experimentation, I've made a decision about which lens to buy - once I save the money. Here are some of their comments.

Susie of artocard used a 55-250mm zoom lens to capture "Heart" (see From the Collaboratory September 25th). Chuck Nolder of NolderPhotography's "Leopard Cub," also posted on the 25th, was shot with a Canon 100-400mm f/4-5.6 L IS lens. "Gotta love the IS," he says, and I agree. Image Stabilizers are da bomb.

On the other hand, one common thread I've seen in reviews of telephoto zooms lenses regardless of the brand, is that most of them lose sharpness of focus at their maximum focal length. Heide of Heidesphotos, who shot "Sea Otter at State Beach," uses a Nikkor 80-400mm, but has that complaint about her lens.

The same is true for Steve Raley of PhotoGrunt, who says: Well, my "everyday" lens for my 40D is the EF 28-135mm 1:3.5-5.6 IS. The only other lens I have is the EF 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 IS. I like both lenses, and about the only bad thing I have to say about either one of them is that the 70-300mm can be a little soft focused at the top end. Having said that, it does take some tack-sharp shots in between.

Coupling by PhotoGrunt

So, after reading, and hearing from you, and renting a couple different lenses myself, there's no doubt: for me, the best combination is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L II IS USM with a 2x extender. Though I've heard the extenders compromise image quality, I found their effect to be minimal. That combination is much faster and at least as crisp as the Canon 100 - 400mm, also of the L series, with the added benefit of more blur where and when you need it. Here are a couple of examples:

I'm sad to say that family needs will take me away from the blog for a while. Thanks so much for your support these last five months. I hope to be back soon! Fare well. Happy shooting!

Nocturnal by meganlee

Nakedeye17 (Su) thinks of photography as a wake-up call: "Hey, everybody! Are you seeing this?" She loves to capture humor, too, and anything wondrous strange. Find Nakedeye17's shop here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wanderings: Florida

I thought we could all use a little sunshine today. Here are a few of the POE Team's photos from the sunshine state itself, Florida!

Lucie Wicker is a Boston, Massachusetts-based fine art and portrait photographer who enjoys taking pictures wherever she goes. She is particularly interested in nature, landscape, and travel photography. Her work can be viewed on her website, blog or in her Etsy shop.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

200 Yards Photo Project...

Do you live in or near San Francisco, CA ? Here is a fun photo project you might like to take part in...

Basically... A location is picked, a 200-yard radius is mapped and a call goes out to photographers to take pictures within the radius. The best photos get selected for an exhibition at the center point.

Dirty Thieves has been selected for the 2nd venue
(3050 24th Street @ Treat, San Francisco, CA).

The submission deadline is October 18, 2010.
The opening reception is November 13, 2010.

The first 200 Yards show at Heart Wine Bar featured 13 different photographers with 40 photographs and sold close to 30% of the work on exhibit.

Go to 200yards to download the map and read the rules.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mosaic Monday: A Trip Through the B's

A few weeks ago I started looking through the POE Team profile page and designed a mosaic from shops with the letter A.  This week, I browsed the B's.  At this rate, I could be doing Mosaic Mondays for 2 years!
I enjoy the opportunity to admire the work from this team and reading about what inspires the artist.  I definitely relate to brandireynolds who says "I'm inspired by those moments when I sit still and notice the small details..."  Here are the details that caught my eye!

Pretty Petunia by backbonestudio
Lavender and Cottage by BarbaraCarter
Jelly One by barbraziemerphoto
Floating World by batfineart
Hungry Hummingbird by bbrunophotography
Bears Grizzly Mom and Cub by BellaDaze
Red Dawn by bomobob
Possibility by brandireynolds
Classic Melody by briefmoments

Pat of photogenicgallery lives in the Northeast USA with her husband, 2 great dogs and "Rocky" the kitty.   Every day is an adventure and every capture with her cameras are happy moments. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mind's Eye - All Hallows Eve

For this month’s post I thought it would be appropriate to show off some of the POEs finest spooky imagery.   Manipulated and abstract photography lend themselves perfectly to creating scary accidental creations, crafting nightmarish ghost stories,  and altering beautiful images into eerie wonders.  Whether it be light leaks, grainy/vintage textures, hazy lighting, or multiple exposures, this genre of photography can conjure up the spookiest and most haunting creations imaginable.  For this special Halloween edition enjoy the tricks these manipulated images whip up and allow them to treat your imagination.  Happy Halloween! 
One need not be a chamber to be haunted; One need not be a house; The brain has corridors surpassing Material place.  
~ Emily Dickinson

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.     
~Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven
 Both images by Gothicrow"In Dreams I Walk with You"  and "Dusk"
 Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen 
Voices whisper in the trees, "Tonight is Halloween!" 
~Dexter Kozen

There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.   
~ George Carlin

I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.  
~Henry David Thoreau
"Pumpkin" by Erin Reynolds

"Mind's Eye", by Anika Toro, is a monthly post focusing on abstract and manipulated photography.  Anika lives in TN with her baby, husband, and two naughty cats.  She loves taking photos every moment of every day.  
Anika shares her photography in her shop, on her blog, and invites you to collaborate.

From the Collaboratory

Rainy Season

Paris when it rains by turine

My quest for glass continues; therefore, so does my experimentation with various lenses. Last weekend, I rented a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5 - 5.6 L IS lens from Glazer Camera here in Seattle. (A great benefit of having a local shop!)

Rain Curtain on Lake Garda by flywithme

It was a disappointment.

While the images came out crisp and clear, and I was able to achieve a fair degree of closeup, the lens was much more sluggish than the 70-200mm f/2.8 L II, which sells for a couple hundred dollars less. So instead of getting the lovely, wings-extended blue heron shot I wanted, I captured him gawky-looking, wings-straight-down. You'll notice that my photos are not included in this post. Ha!

Rain by flywithme

So, the lens choice for this weekend is once again the 70-200mm, but with a 2x extender to give me some range. I know the extenders compromise image quality. My goal this weekend is to learn how much.

In the Presence of Still Water by CMirandaDesigns

Stay tuned.

Droplets by kellya

Nakedeye17 (Su) thinks of photography as a wake-up call: "Hey, everybody! Are you seeing this?" She loves to capture humor, too, and anything wondrous strange. Find Nakedeye17's shop here.