I had the pleasure to travel to Havana, Cuba in the fall of 2015. While the sights and sounds of Old Havana were a draw, of more interest to me, photographically at least, were the dances and dancers of Havana.
The opportunity to work with the students and ballerinas of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, members of the Raices Profundas dance company (Afro-Caribbean), and the flamenco dancers of Flamenco Ecos was truly a joy. The professionalism of the dancers, the gorgeous (and often deconstructed) surroundings, and the group of a dozen other photographers made this an outstanding experience.
My photographs are now on display through July at "Art in the Parlor," St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, 1187 Wyatt Way NW, Bainbridge Island, Washington. The parish office is usually open 9am - noon weekdays and 8am - noon Sundays.
A Thin Place: A place to go to feel at peace, a place to be in touch with one’s origins, a place to go to feel one's natural self, a place to be in touch with one's soul. It’s a place where the veil between heaven and earth, between the sacred and profane, between our creator and ourselves, is lifted and we connect in an intimate way with the universe. We have all, I hope, felt this once or several or many times in our lives. It could be alone at the ocean, or in the desert, the mountains, or even a cathedral. And, just perhaps, is could be while with another who is in a similar state of seeking - seeking what we may not know but with an openness and experience and seek and commune with our higher power.
So how does this relate to a photography workshop you might ask? Through a series of readings, meditative exercises, solo and small group wanderings (camera in hand), we'll be open to experiences of all our senses and begin to intuitively develop the awareness of translating feelings and experiences with the medium of photography. In this workshop to be held at Neahkahnie Beach (Manzanita), Oregon, we will spend time along the ocean shore, and in the forest primeval. We explore the creative potential of photography to record our feelings and experiences in ways you have not have thought about before. There will be several critique sessions and time for individual one-on-one meetings. Plus some music and meditation. Included will be field trips to Mount Neahkahnie, several locales along the coast, such as Nehalem Bay State Park, Cannon Beach (and the famous Haystack Rock), and/or Sunset Beach. We’ll also visit the Lightbox Gallery (an amazing photography gallery) in Astoria (40 miles north of Manzanita) and see some of the historic sites of this seafaring town at the mouth of the Columbia River.
The workshop, Thin Places and Photo Creativity, is next planned for the Spring of 2018. Click on the "Thin Places" tab above for more information, or contact me at chuck (at) chuckkirchner.com to be put on the mailing list. And please contact me if you have any questions!
While I'm not much for drastic manipulation of photographs, I do see an occasional use for highlighting a particular aspect of a photograph in Lightroom. I can't do this in-camera, but when composing this street photo in Seattle's Pioneer Square, I knew that the young woman's hair color was the focal point in my vision. With the multitude of chairs (all a bright yellow) and with no easy way to remove all clutter in the background, I was determined to compose the photograph as tightly as made sense (it is an environmental street portrait, after all). And then in Lightroom, I desaturated all of the color channels except red and magenta. And this is the result. Fashion shot? Environmental portrait? Street photo? All of these? I'm happy regardless.
And the next time you're "confronted with" an image where your subject, while not dominating the image size-wise, nonetheless needs to pop. Well, here's an option.
An amazing documentary: "Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things". Not overly preachy, not demanding, but insightful. Highly recommend. (I saw it in Netflix streaming.)
Since watching it, I've given a lot of thought about my go-to photography style - simplicity - and minimalism. Minimalism in photography - is it different than simplicity? Hmm. I think minimalism, to me at least, is more abstract, stressing a thought or emotion in as simple a way as possible. Simplicity is removing extraneous components from an image (in camera, of course!) but still with a sense of realism. Maybe these are artificial constructs in my own mind. But isn't that what really matters anyway? Both concepts work for me and are important elements of much of my photography.
Think of Philip Glass, the important minimalist composer. Repetition, notes within a narrow bandwidth, mesmerizing for many, hypnotic, trance inducing. Unconventional, complex in its own way. I wouldn't call his work simple.
To me the following photographs fit int the minimalist camp - more about an emotion or feeling, tranquility in these instances. The realism of the subject matter is not particularly important (though recognizable). The conveying of feeling is key.
Compare these with the following photos which I consider to convey simplicity. Realism, but without anything extraneous. Do I need to show anymore of the person handing the child a gift? Just enough face showing to know the arm is attached to someone! And, again, framing tightly to show enough of the kid in green on the right to ground the photograph, but not add information that's not needed to convey the happiness of the children. The portrait of the young woman doesn't need a full body shot nor just a front head shot - angle and framing emphasis physique and intensity (in the eyes) of this dancer. And the sunset - well, I know we all shoot sunsets - we can't help ourselves. But adding a "simple" element like the tree branches adds grounding and a personal touch to the image.
You may or may not agree with my interpretation of minimalism and simplicity, which is perfectly fine. But I did want to give you my thoughts on the subject and encourage you to visualize and then "capture" using your film or digital camera a simple or minimalism image, however you define the terms. It's not often easy, but can result in powerful photographs.
For the second year running, I've followed the suggestion of John Paul Caponigro and have reviewed my photos for the year. John's suggestion is to identified your a)best photo, b)your second best, and c)the next ten and d)find the common threads among them. Its an exercise in editing, and in seeing the direction a photographer is taking over time. I encourage you to do the same. Without further ado, here goes:
The best photo of the year, taken at Flower of Hope School on Haiti's Central Plateau. Traveling there as part of a humanitarian trip, I was at time overwhelmed by what I was seeing. But here, there was a flower of hope and an enthusiasm among the students. Hope indeed.
My second best photo of the year was in a totally different environment - the hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque. In spite of bad weather the previous evening, dawn of the festival's final day brought out the amazing sight of several hundred balloons taking flight. This one, in particular, speaks to me more as a design and color study then as a documentary. It also embodies simplicity at its core - nothing extraneous - yet you know what it is. And that its floating (upward, we hope!).
The next two photographs were both taken in Haiti. While I've traditionally not taken a lot of portraits, portraiture was an intimate part of the Haitian experience and is moving me more and more in that direction.
Now, back to Albuquerque and the balloons. The first is another study in color, the second emphasizing the multitude of balloons and the partly clouds sky of early morning.
While in New Mexico, I led a wonderful photo workshop at Ghost Ranch. The photo on the right was taken at sunrise near my, shall we say, rustic room. The New Mexico skies are picturesque to say the least. The photo on the left was created at a gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. Motion continues to be a favorite them of mine and seeing perhaps 50 such sculptures spinning in the wind was a photo opportunity I couldn't miss.
Closer to my home in the Puget Sound area, Seattle's Folklife Festival is a near annual tradition for me. While there is such a thing as a Ghost Dance, this really wasn't one of them, instead a contradance. But still with a ghosting effect - slowing down that shutter speed! The photo on the right features two professional tango dancers in perfect harmony.
Finally, the year ended for me on a cruise in the western Caribbean. The photo on the left was created at the cathedral in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. The play of the light through the stained glass on the pews just captured my eye. And yes, sunsets are cliche and overdone but from our balcony overlooking the sea and using the geometry of the ship to to further draw attention to the sunset, well, it works. I made it mine. It's all good.
So, common themes? Well, color (all but one), people (in nearly half), landcapes (or seascapes) in half, and motion in a quarter. But the most common them is being away from home - from Seattle to the Central Plateau of Haiti, Costa Rica to Albuquerque. Being on the road (or ship) always brings out my most intense photographic efforts. Maybe its the time constraint, the fact of being there here and now and for a short period. Whatever it is, travel and photography and idelibly linked in my mind and spirit. So, Journey On!