Desert in bloom, Superstition Mountains, Gold Canyon, Arizona, 2013
The company responsible for decorating a dining room opening this week at Sagewood, the retirement community where I live, recently selected this image as one of the new restaurant's six art pieces. (The theme of the restaurant itself uses the same title as this image, which made it a good fit.) They printed this image nearly four feet wide, so that it's detail will be visible from a distance. When I saw this large print for the first time, a message came through that was not immediately apparent to me. This layered mass of wildflowers became more than a mere carpet of color. It becomes a metaphor for the desert itself, a matrix of color and textures vividly contrasting to our pre-conception of what a desert looks like. The huge sizing of the print on the dining room wall made the spines on the cactus so visible that they powerfully contrast to the soft, delicate colors of the yellow Brittlebush blossoms arrayed below them. From a distance, an "S-Curve" composition becomes apparent -- the image flows out of the lower right hand corner and moves from purple and green to the bright yellow of the Brittlebush that sweep back across the entire frame into the row of Cholla cacti that carries us back across the uppermost layer of the image. This photograph makes a powerful counterpoint to the closeup image "Desert Surprise" that follows this image in this gallery. (The restaurant designers also made a large print of that image and used it to contrast with this one on an opposing wall. On the side wall that runs between them, they have placed four large paintings of vividly colored desert blossoms.)
Desert surprise, Gold Canyon, Arizona, 2013
I made this image just as the setting sun grazed the bright violet blooms of a desert cactus. The sun also defines the sharp spines exploding around them. The luminous blossoms and their surrounding spines stand in sharp contrast to the already shaded masses of yellow wildflowers that fill a softly focused background. By slightly darkening the edges of the image in post-processing, I further stress the incongruity of this contrast in colors, telling an emphatic story of nature itself at work.
Coffee shop, Miami Beach, Florida, 2013
The lavish scale and color of this coffee shop’s décor was surprisingly elegant. I contrast the vivid coloration of this stylized painted diner to the monochromatic black pail holding inexpensive white plastic forks, bringing this image a touch of incongruity in both content and color. The brilliant color flows through into the lower right hand corner of the image, illuminating the shelf of a cabinet holding condiment packets.
Shredded safety fence, Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, California, 2012
One of the most common travel photography clichés involves seagulls perched on piers. I resist such opportunities whenever possible, but in this case, the seagull has chosen a pier post draped in the shredded remnants of a vivid orange plastic safety fence. Such fences are often used to cordon off danger areas at construction sites, and this one has seen better days and obviously is no longer functional. The gull, pier, post, and water are virtually flat and devoid of much color, while the orange plastic net provides shocking contrast, grabbing our eye and holding it. Meanwhile the gull reacts to this intrusive barrage of color with utter dispassion. I’ve built this image around incongruous color contrast and placement, turning a mundane cliché into an image that asks the viewer to think about the possible reasons for such a net, and the bird’s matter of fact response to its presence.
Youthful visions, Monterey, California, 2012
A 200-foot long construction wall, surrounding the site of Monterey’s future Market Hall, has been transformed into a colorful vegetarian dream by noted artist Khalid Hussein working along side of a dozen local high school and college student artists. I moved in a particularly colorful segment of the wall featuring vivid primary colors and waited for this child to bring it to life by stepping into my frame.
Origami cranes, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California, 2012
Origami simply means “paper-folding.” Japanese culture has elevated it to an art form. The crane is a symbol of love, honor, loyalty, grace, and beauty. This tower of folded paper cranes, placed at a grave of a Japanese man, was no doubt left here as a powerful token of respect, love, and compassion. Each folded paper crane is beautiful in its own right, and the mass display, with its strikingly vivid colors, intensifies the effect. The prime colors of red, yellow, and blue are all here, as well as a strong representation of violet and green. The multiple colors stand out strikingly in contrast against the dark blue marble grave marker. I cropped the image tightly, forcing the multi-hued tower to explode upwards from its base.
Tour bus, Barcelona, Spain, 2011
Barcelona’s “hop-on, hop-off” double-decked tour bus waits for customers near the port. The ticket agent and bus alike wear red colors, and its vivid hue drew my eye. I abstracted the bus by slicing it vertically at the front, pairing its incongruous hopping frog logo with the ticket agent who holds a pen to her lip. I also liked the way the curve of the window echoes the curve of the upper deck railing.
Trumpeter, St. John’s Cathedral, Valletta, Malta, 2011
A detail from one of the gilded arches supporting the central nave of this spectacular cathedral features a “putti” (a figure of an infant depicted as a young male) blowing on a huge trumpet. He is surrounded by Baroque embellishments. I fill the frame with gold, symbolizing wealth, power, and most of all, triumph. The cathedral was built by the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John in 1577. This group of 700 European nobles, along with 5,000 soldiers, had defeated an invading Turkish force of 48,000 just twelve years earlier, earning the city of Valletta its reputation as an impregnable fortress. This trumpeter may well have been commemorating this victory.
Marketplace, Paute, Ecuador, 2011
These women, selling the products of their farms at a Sunday market in Ecuador’s Andean highlands, wear the primary colors of their culture – vivid red, blue, and yellow skirts, offset by the pristine monochromatic Panama hats on their heads. I also liked the variation in expression and hand positions as they change from person to person. The variation in costume underscores not only their cultural background, but their varying personalities as well.
Taxi stand, Sayausi, Ecuador, 2011
The bright yellow colors of the taxis dominate the image, but the large stone wall in the background draws the eye as well. Even when the taxis are away, the huge yellow stones, interspersed with blue, white, red, and green ones, call attention to the nature of the service. I liked the relaxed poses of the drivers as well. I did not even speak to them – they simply stood by their taxis in a relaxed and natural manner.
Sweet treats, Chordeleg, Ecuador, 2011
They may look like ice cream cones, but they are not. These colorful confections are cones packed with sugary white, pink and yellow frosting. I photographed a tray of them from the side, bringing into play the colorful plastic spoons inserted into each of them. The vivid red, orange, green and brown cones form the basis of the image, arrayed neatly upon the well-worn blue tray. Chordeleg is a destination favored by Ecuadorian tourists, primarily for its jewelry. When shopper’s fatigue sets in, many indulge in such sweet treats as this.
Wall drawings by Sol LeWitt, MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, 2011
I juxtaposed two of LeWitt’s wall drawings featured in a semi-permanent retrospective exhibit at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The drawing are in separate rooms, but my frame and vantage point makes the two into a powerful expression of color, perspective, pattern, and rhythm. The color bands at left are muted and earthy, while the vividly colored steps at right feature the primary colors of red, blue and yellow. Yet both seem to hang together, linked by a band of black and the gray end of the wall that divides them.