Thursday's Totally Informal Transglobal Challenge for January 31, 2008 - "Movement"
To see how other PBasers interpreted this challenge CLICK HERE.
This was my most challenging Challenge thus far. I am so ill at ease with shutter speeds. I know next to nothing about them. I can only remember one other time that I set my camera on Tv, and that was during a snowstorm last winter when I wanted to capture the individual snowflakes as they fell. So today's theme of "movement" definitely stretched me beyond my comfort zone. But that's what it's all about. Hey, I even got out my tripod! And my husband Ed was a patient model as I kept saying, "Play some more boogie woogie!" That's when his hands fairly fly across the keys. What I didn't expect was this digital double exposure, but I kind of like it.
My regular PaD visitors might also enjoy checking out my most recent Duality. CLICK HERE
to see it.
more winter nudes
I now have nine images in my "Winter Nudes" gallery. CLICK HERE
to see them.
And I thought "Facing Up to My Face at 65"
was an emotional series to photograph and post. How could I have known what I'd be doing five months later? Actually, I couldn't have imagined this even a week ago. I mean the idea of taking and putting up nude photos of myself and my friends would never have occurred to me. But I didn't know then what I know now: This work is NEEDED in today's world! How else can we counter our culture's insistence that the only beautiful flesh is firm, taut, thin and young. Well, guess what? There are billions of us out there who will never again be firm, taut, thin and/or young. So what are WE supposed to do? Cover ourselves in shame? Diet ourselves sick? Use all our money to buy the bodies we want from "cosmetic surgeons"? Ply ourselves with pills to take away our appetites? Work out at the gym for hours every day? Give up and become couch potatoes? Or can we learn to embrace our bodies as they are, to celebrate all our curves, even those we wish we didn't have. ESPECIALLY those.
For me personally this series is profoundly life-changing...and I've only been at it for four days! But it's the last two that have been getting under my skin, the days that I've been taking and posting nude self portraits. Yikes. What would my proper southern mother say??? Good thing she isn't around to see this. She always knew I marched to a different drummer, but I'm not sure there's even a drummer in front of me this time!
OK, so that's my little girl speaking, but my old-lady self? She's cackling with delight! And that 65 year-old crone is being revitalized. For too many years, whenever I thought about my body it was only in relation to the disability, or maybe the swimming and exercising at the gym. But my body as a sensual object? Hadn't considered that in a very long time. Now when I take these self portraits, that's exactly what I'm feeling...my sensuality. And it feels darn good. Your responses feel good too. Women & men, old & young, sending public comments & private messages. In every case you are letting me know this work is important, that it's changing your attitudes about your own and others' bodies. That's all I need to know.
winter nude SP
At 65, there are two parts of my body of which I'm especially proud: my feet and my upper arms. My feet because they are still small and pretty, ie., no corns, bunions or misshapen toes. I'm not putting people down who have such foot concerns, it's just that I'm lucky I don't. Now, I can't take any credit for my feet, but I most definitely DO take credit for my upper arms. As you can see in this self portrait, unlike most women my age I have no "wings" under my arms. And let me tell you, that takes work! For me it means swimming the freestyle for 18-24 lengths twice a week, and working out regularly with a trainer at the gym. Yes, my friends, since March 2004 I've been pumping iron, doing leg & arm presses, cardio training on the ellyptical trainer and lots of other tough exercises twice a week. And being disabled doesn't mean Matt goes easy on me, either. He knows I'm a bulldog and treats me accordingly. I guess my being a former marathon runner makes me an athlete for life.
So when I started taking self portraits of my unclothed body for my new WINTER NUDES
gallery, it made sense to include photos that highlight my favorite parts. You can see my flabby belly later! Oh yes, I'm also fond of my unshaven armpits. I threw out my Lady Schick razor 13 years ago and haven't missed it for a minute. I mean, this is the way I'm made, so who says my underarm hair isn't pretty? It's so strange how we women let ourselves get hoodwinked into thinking we have to be with or without certain parts of our bodies to be considered "pretty." I say, hogwash! And that goes for those ultra-high fashion spikey high heels that mess up women's feet and give them chronic low back pain. Throw them out, women! T'ain't worth it!
I guess this new series of work is tapping into my feminist sensibilities BIG TIME. So be it. That's what art can do--touch your innermost being and dredge up feelings you didn't know or had forgotten you had. I sense this portfolio is going to be touching lots of people's sensibilities. I've already been getting comments to that effect, so keep 'em coming...
new gallery: "Winter Nudes"
I woke up Sunday morning with a nasty cold. Perfect excuse to stay home and play with some of the photos I took of my friends on Saturday. I wanted to start a gallery even though I didn't have many images. Not yet, that is. I definitely intend to pursue this theme and already have a date set up with one of my friends to pose for me next week. As I spent time with these images, I found myself trying to find ways to express the sense of fluidity and softness I saw in their beautiful bodies. Even though I only ended up with four images to put in my new gallery, each one represented many other versions. As you can see, today's image is a different version of the one I posted yesterday.
To see my new gallery called "Winter Nudes", CLICK HERE
What follows is the introduction I wrote to accompany the gallery:
There are seasons of life just as there are seasons of the year. While Western culture tends to idealize the springtime of life, especially when setting standards for physical beauty, we women of age know there is much to be said for having bodies that show all that we have lived. There is beauty to be found in every wrinkle, fold, crease, ripple, stretch mark, bit of flab and fullness of contour. This gallery celebrates women who are coming into the winter of their lives with grace, wisdom, sensuality and adventuresome spirits. I invite you to view these images with respect and gratitude for their willingness to share their unclothed beauty so fearlessly.
a winter nude
Women's bodies are so beautiful. Especially older women's bodies with their folds and creases, their ripples and flowing tides. The difference between a young and an older woman's body is like the difference between a sonata and a symphony. Both are lovely but one has many movements, a sense of time passing, of stories being told, of a beginning, middle and end. The beauty of a young woman's body is fleeting, whereas the older woman's body has settled into itself, it has no place to go, no clock to watch, no plane to catch. It is complete unto itself.
These reflections came after a day spent with two of my best women friends. We've been meeting to make art together for years, and today we dared to remove our clothes and let our naked bodies become our art. I was privileged to photograph my two friends, and one of them then photographed me. We didn't know it was going to unfold like this, but that's the nature of the beast: creativity has its own plans. Once the first of us dropped her modesty, it was easy for my other friend and I to do the same. Trust. Respect. Admiration. Courage. Playfulness. Comfort. Sensuality. All combined to produce feelings of love for our bodies and awe in the face of our friends' bodies. We were touched by magic.
As I looked through the viewfinder, I could not keep from expressing my appreciation of the beauty that I was seeing. Both of my friends said my affirming comments made them feel better about their bodies than they had felt in years. But it was true. They were stunningly beautiful. They ARE stunningly beautiful. After they'd left and I'd started working with some of the photos, I entered a state of awe-filled gratitude for the gifts these wonderful women had shared. The gift of themSelves.
With my friend's permission, I share here one of the photos that emerged from our time together. And I am delighted to say that she has agreed to come and pose for me again. How wonderful it would be if this were the first of a new series of work. May it be so.
Sometimes I get a bee in my bonnet--forgive the pun--about a certain photo that I want to use in a duality. I can spent days trying to come up with a good match for it. I'll try different ideas until one finally hits me right. What I'm after is the unexpected, the surprising choice. It's a real mind-bending exercise, I can tell you. This photo of the fly in the flower proved to be one of my tougher challenges. And my finding a match ended up being pure luck.
I'd gone to the pool on Thursday with the idea of photographing one of the women floating with what's called the "noodle" under her arms. I'd hoped it would look like wings. It didn't. After swimming my laps, I got out my camera in the hopes that someone would be doing the breast stroke. I thought maybe their arms would resemble wings. But there was not a breast stroke to be seen. However, I did see Peggy right in front of me taking her ongoing swimming lessons from Tim, our lifeguard. Now, this is a senior's swim hour and Peggy is one of our older seniors. I've never asked, but I'd put her at least in her mid-70s. She could even be in her 80s. And now she's learning to swim for the first time in her life. And doing really well with it too. I thought I'd take some shots of her swimming to print out and give to her next week. The joys of finally having a photo printer!
I downloaded those photos on Thursday night, but it wasn't until I went back to them on Friday that I saw the possibility of Peggy being a match for the fly. When I'd cropped both images and lined up her arm with the fly's wing, I realized this was it. And you know, she's a match more than just visually, for Peggy does now have wings she'd never had before. She IS flying!
I dedicate this duality to Peggy and all the elders who keep growing and stretching their bodies and minds into new shapes.
I've just posted three new images in my Dualities gallery. CLICK HERE
to see them.
Today I'd like to offer a BIG thank you to all of my regular visitors. I so appreciate your faithfulness, especially during these past weeks when I have not a faithful visitor to YOUR galleries. It is not through lack of interest, but because there aren't enough hours in the day (or night). This Duality series is like an infant--it makes constant demands on my time and attention. Especially now that I'm preparing this portfolio for submission to a magazine. And the creative energy keeps flowing. As I was printing and reworking a number of the images on Wednesday, three new Dualities appeared! I now have 40 Dualities, 30 of which are already printed. I'll soon be preparing a CD with files to send along with the printed images I choose to submit. I also need to write a one-page biography and another one-page introduction to the series.
So I ask for your continued patience. Hopefully things will calm down soon and I can again have a more reciprocal relationship with you, my PBase friends. I miss seeing your work. You always teach and inspire me.
Thursday's Totally Informal Transglobal Challenge for January 24, 2008 - "Machinery"
It's because of this nifty machine that I've been able to get in our middle school pool twice a week for the past six years to swim laps. Let's hear it for machinery!
To see how other PBasers interpreted this challenge CLICK HERE
This Duality is courtesy of PBase. Usually I have to think of matches myself, but not this time. You know how PBase posts four of your photos in random order at the bottom of your Profile page? Well, a few days ago these two images showed up side by side. Even though they were in color, I knew I had something. So today I found the originals and finished the process. I've just added it to my Dualities gallery
The past three days have been spent printing out the Dualities in black & white. Some of the selectively colored ones work in B&W, but others don't. I'm preparing a portfolio to submit to a photography magazine. It will be my first attempt as a photographer to break into the publishing world, but I figure I have nothing to lose. All they can do is say no.
The more I use this printer--the Epson Stylus R2400--the more delighted I am with it. The blacks are deep and rich, and all the tonalities are wonderfully nuanced. Until now I didn't realize that printing is as much a part of the creative process as taking the photo in the first place. These high quality prints are showing subtleties in each duality that I hadn't noticed on my monitor. Some work and others don't. For this reason, a number of my dualities are undergoing change, some in small ways and others quite significantly. I am loving the process! I've always been an editor at heart.
Starting last week my friend Pat Kolon is doing much more every Monday than bringing order out of chaos in my house: she is producing bliss in my mind/body/spirit by sharing her gift of massage therapy. Am I the luckiest person alive or what? If you're a regular visitor here you might remember my January 8th photo blog entry that showed Pat bringing order to our kitchen cabinets. (CLICK HERE
to see it) Today she continued that project--we have a kitchen with LOTS of cabinets--but before she got started in the kitchen, Pat gave me a half-hour chair massage. That's where the bliss came in.
So which would you prefer: order out of chaos or bliss? I'll take bliss first and, if there's time, we can get to the kitchen cabinets!
free-falling into creativity
Creativity is a window into another world. Even if our intent is to show exactly what we see around us, the act of choosing our subject, point of view, area upon which to focus, ISO/WB/aperture/shutter speed, the moment to release the shutter button all combine to move our photo beyond the objective into the realm of originality. And everyone knows that originality is fraught with mystery. It is the place where all the "why's" crowd around the "who's", "how's", "where's" and "when's", hoping to be noticed. But all too often they aren't. Our minds get in the way, keeping us focused on everything but the essential question: Why did we take this photo exactly as we did? So often we don't hear the quiet voice asking this question because we don't want to. Its question makes us uncomfortable. It brings up "stuff" we'd rather keep hidden...even from ourselves. Especially from ourselves.
I know a photographer, a superb artist, who says he is giving it up. His photos are no longer what he wants or expects. He feels dry as a desert creek bed in the middle of summer. So he is saying thank you and goodbye. And why not? Isn't photography supposed to satisfy the photographer? I say not.
Creativity is not about satisfaction or inspiration or success or even expressing what you think you want to say: it is about mystery. It is about jumping off the cliff of knowing and free-falling into the unknown. It is about having not the slightest idea what you are doing, saying or becoming. True creativity is a mess that you don't want to look at, much less clean up. It is all about trust. Blind, unthinking trust. It's about forging ahead even when you think your work stinks. It can also be about taking time out. But not giving up or giving in to the feelings of despair and worthlessness that may assail you day after day, night after night. Once an artist, always an artist.
And who is an artist? Every single human being on the planet. We are ALL artists. We are all creative. We are all unique. Our choice of media is what sets us apart from others. And it may take a lifetime to find our particular niche, to find the artistic medium that fits our eye, ear, hands, voice and body. Or we may have different chapters of life, each of which is expressed through its own artistic means.
When people say to me, "You are so creative", of course I'm pleased. But I want to hold up a mirror so they can see themselves reflected in it, so they can see who and what I see--that they are artists too! You, who are reading these words, are an artist. No one in today's world or in the past or future has your vision, your creative gifts, your unique ways of working with the tools you choose. That's why it is so important that we encourage our PBase sisters and brothers in their search for excellence. And that we keep them from beating themselves up when they feel they've fallen short. My most significant creative breakthroughs have often come out of what I saw as a mistake, a failure, a bust. That's when the real Muse can get in. She slips in through the cracks of our failed expectations.
Funny how this simple photo of our kitchen window led me to this exploration of creativity. Maybe it was because I had no thoughts or expectations when I started to write. I just let myself free-fall into it, like jumping off a cliff.
investing in oneself
When you spend time with a photographer like Paul Strand you see what originality looks like, especially in the context of his times (1890-1976). In this book published in Aperture's Masters of Photography series, I saw photographs from 1915 that looked like they could have been taken yesterday. I was particularly struck by his abstracted studies of light and shadow. By the way, the quality of prints in this book was quite high. You could see a wonderful range of values and detail in all of Strand's black & white photos.
Later in the day I was surprised to discover that my own work holds up well when seen in print.
This week I bought my first photo printer, an Epson Stylus R2400. If you're familiar with photo printers you know this model has received consistently excellent reviews, especially for black & white printing jobs. It is also very expensive. I had a hard time talking myself into buying it. In fact I first bought the Epson Stylus R1400. But after printing a few color shots I could see that I wasn't getting the quality I'd hoped for. And I also knew from all the reviews that its black & white prints were weaker than the color. Since most of the photos I intended to print were B&W, it seemed shortsighted not to go ahead and get the best printer for the job. So I returned the R1400 and bought the R2400 instead. Today I set it up.
My first prints were of my Dualities. I didn't even bother with color but only focused on the B&W images. I printed seven of them on Epson's double-sided matte paper. I could not be more pleased! The tonality, range of values, crisp detail and accurate reproduction literally takes my breath away. To my eye, this series looks better in print than it does on screen.
Holding your photos in your hands is very different from seeing them on the computer. They become real. For the first time I feel like a real photographer. And it feels good. My intention is to print out and submit my Dualities to a respected photographic magazine that specializes in portfolios. I now see the investment I made in buying a high quality photo printer was worth it. And all it took was believing in myself. Why was that so hard?