Fall Barn Artists Show

OK, it is really heading into Winter, but our next show is this coming weekend: Nov. 13 (10-5) and Nov. 14 (noon-5). We have some great artists joining us so it should be a fun weekend. Former Hallmark artists Jean Kalin and Jan Manco will be showing their beautiful watercolors. And I am also excited to see the reactions to some of Kathy’s new pottery–especially her Raku– and Carl’s full size carvings of Native American faces. He is really getting quite good at it. And I have been cranking out some new images of Platte County and the West. (When I am not cleaning out my darkroom-turned storage closet.)

Dos Epiphanies

I had two photographic epiphanies recently:

1. I have always wondered how I tread the line between being a documentary shooter and an artist like Ansel Adams. On the one hand, I have always admired the FSA shooters like Dorothea Lange and have tried to follow, as I also taught, in the shadows of the Missouri Photo Workshop and Cliff Edom. On the other hand, who has not been held breathless upon first seeing a real print of almost anything by Adams. When I saw some of his prints held by the curator of the AA Gallery in Yosemite a few years back, I felt like I was in a cathedral. My heart beat like a Gregorian Chant.
So, what is the common thread that binds me to both types of shooting and holds me in the debt of the photographers who practiced their respective crafts? It dawned on me recently that Adams’ Group/64 and the FSA documentarians did have something in common. The artists of Group/64 sought the fine detail, accuracy, and realism that a small f/stop can help an image achieve. No soft focus, no surrealistic emotional effect, just the artistic truth of what they saw. So, too, the documentary approach demands–as Edom often said–telling the truth with the camera. No manipulation, only the unadorned truth.
I would argue that both approaches in their own separate ways create ART. Place Adams’ Moon and Half Dome next to Lange’s Migrant Mother and the answer to that argument is clear. Two monuments to Truth from two photographers whose ultimate goals were really quite different. Upon coming to this realization, I have not felt photographically schizophrenic for days!!
2. My second ephipany has to do with shooting in a creek with two relatively expensive cameras. It was a beautiful fall day, and I was following my neighbor Carl to a place along an un-named creek that feeds into Owl Creek, which runs through his property here in Platte County. I planned on a little water and had on my rubber boots, but I did not plan for 20 ft. high muddy creek banks that had to be manuevered. In short, after having shot some interesting underwater acorns in the creek, composing them with some colorful fall leaves floating on the surface, I had to extricate myself and my cameras up the creek bank that had not been much of a problem getting down. Roots failed me. Footholds gave way. And one final “running” leap ended with a thick coating of mud like chocolate pudding covering my lens. I was disgusted with myself for trying to force the situation, and muttering to myself all the way, I wandered the creek bed for 100 yards and found a manageable exit. I spent some time when I got home with a Q-tip and alcohol (rubbing, not drinking) cleaning every crevice of my lens and camera. Lesson? Next time, I will carry a plastic bag or something to protect my cameras and lenses even in what seemed to be a fairly gentle landscape on a beautiful day.

UN Plaza Art Fair

The Barn Artists are taking their show on the road on Saturday, Sept. 25 and Sunday the 26th. Carl, Kathy, and I will be at the UN Plaza Art Fair right across from the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Our booths will be on the grounds of the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church from 10-6 on Sat. and noon-5 on Sunday. No Charge.

I’m excited to be accepted to this show, not only to rub shoulders with some fine area artists, but also because this event is sponsored by PeaceWorks which has been actively promoting peaceful solutions to the world’s problems for decades. Each purchase of art will add to the efforts of PeaceWorks. Art for a Cause in the best sense!
I have been working to add to what I will exhibit; trying to get a good balance between my western photos and my Platte County work. Carl and Kathy will have some new work as well.

A Forgotten Photographer

I am a fan of nearly all the Roy Stryker-led FSA documentary photographers of the 1930s. A name that slipped by me (and probably many others as well) was Marion Post Wolcott. Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, and the small group of shooters hired by Roy Stryker to document Depression-era America were very familiar–partly because they went on to do further outstanding photojournalism work–but Post Wolcott was not a name I had ever heard of until I read Paul Hendrickson’s book in the early 1990s. The book, “Looking for the Light, The Hidden Life and Art of Marion Post Wolcott,” was a revelation. Marion Post, her name at the time, had fallen through the cracks over the years mostly because, as the book weaves her story, she got married and devoted herself to her husband and children.

I re-rediscovered her yet again as I browsed through my library recently. As happens often I started thumbing through the book and had to sit down and read a good portion of it again. It was with a certain sense of loss that I looked again at her wonderful photos collected in the book. I was reminded of how impressed I was with her images the first time I saw them. It was as if Ansel Adams had applied the range of light of his Yosemite images to simple scenes of rural depression-ravaged America. The images glowed with a beauty that seemed to haunt the content. To me, I saw a style and a sensibility that was different from the other FSA shooters. That is not to say that Lange, Parks and the others were somehow less than Post Wolcott. I think they are some of the greatest photographers to ever pick up a camera. But I guess my view of Post Wolcott’s photos is colored by a sense of loss, of what might have been achieved had her camera been pointed at post Depression and post War America. That, in fact, is part of the book’s thesis.
This is certainly a book worth exploring. We can always learn something from the lives of great photographers. Even if their shooting life ends too soon. Even if it ends by choice rather than death. As with the short, but stellar life of poet John Keats who died in his 20s, we have to be satisfied with what is, not what might have been.