Thursday

Thank you



As we bring another year and our first decade for the century to a close in a few days, I have been reflecting on my first seven months of blogging. I had not known a thing about blogging, let alone visited any blogs. Well, all this has changed now.


With 17 post published and another 33 at Four Seasons in a Life, I am truly thankful for those who have stop by, had a look at my photographs and read the words to my thoughts. I am especially grateful to my regular readers who have chosen to follow, including the ones who elected to follow anonymously; I cherish your company just as much.




As we are about to enter into 2010, I look forward to our continued friendships, sharing each other’s art, ideas, and personal stories in the coming weeks and months. Maybe even one day we may have the opportunity to talk on the phone or possible meet in person.


I do not know what will await us in the coming year; I do know that visiting your blogs is like comfort food we long for on a cold evening or when we have a need to feed that sweet tooth in the afternoon. Your blogs have enriched my life on many levels, from knowledge to inspiration, to guidance, as well as offered a break from the days routine with a little much needed humour.


I thank you for your presence in blogesphere
and for sharing your world
with me and all of us.

Egmont




Saturday

Irving Penn remembered





Irving Penn, June 16, 1917 – October 7, 2009


Regardless of ones profession, there are those in our field whom we admire and excel to be like, so when I heard from a friend more than a month after of Irving Penn’s passing away on Wednesday, October 7 at the age of 92, I sank into my chair feeling hopeless, feeling I had just lost my best friend.





Even though I never met Irving Penn, his unique style had a significant impact upon my own work when photographing people. I first became aware of his work when I purchased “Worlds in a Small Room”, which was published in 1974 by Penguin Books. This thin square publication now well worn with kindness over the past thirty years, it is still my most favorite cherished photo book.





What was striking about this collection of black and white photographs was that the sets were bare of any distractions; this way the focus was always on the individual or groups pictured. In addition the lighting remained consistent, always a cool natural northern light that produced considerable details and deep dark shadows, which were rich in depth.





Despite a number of the photographs in the book were taken inside a building with numerous large windows facing the north that flooding the interior with an even flat neutral light that painters love and Irving embraced, the majority of these photographs were shot in a large ‘make-shift’ tent that Irving traveled with. It’s large size, that of a modern day living room, allowed Penn complete control of the daylight, while the tents canvas also served as a perfect backdrop.





The combination of these features I applied to my photography when photographing clients and friends, though my tent was the inside of a studio and the northern light a single strobe light inside a large soft-box, it emulated very well Irving Penn’s vision. The only thing I did was add a large fill card opposite the light source to bounce light back at the subject, softening the shadows and also maintaining the details in the darker areas. Even today a number of my digital still-life photographs are set in a room that has the northern light exposure.





Besides Irving Penn's lighting approach to photograph, I admired his compositional style of angles, shapes and the drama the elements created as he filled the frame with the person or model when working for Vogue magazine. Above all, Irving Penn never stopped growing as an artist by resting on his laurels. He was always exploring new ideas, not only in what he photographed, but also investigating and trying different printing methods, including producing a number of his images as palladium prints.


With his passing, he was the last survivor of three who defined for several decades what fashion photography was all about. Now Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and Irving Penn are all together again. May they share a glass of wine and reminisce how their lives paralleled one another.

Irving Penn, June 16, 1917 – October 7, 2009

Richard Avedon, May 15, 1923 – October 1, 2004

Helmut Newton, born Helmut Neust├Ądter, 31 October 1920 – 23 January 2004




Irving Penn’s “Small Trades” exhibit at The Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
September 9, 2009–January 10, 2010.








Irving Penn
Small Trades
Virginia A. Heckert and Anne Lacoste
J. Paul Getty Museum
272 pages, 9 1/2 x 12 inches

259 tritone illustrations
ISBN 978-0-89236-996-6
hardcover, $49.95






NOTICE: All images featured in this article retain their original copyrights to whom they were issued.




Tuesday

A thought, a wish shared







clear
      silent
            water

with
      no beginning –
      no end

there
      dreams of hope
            drift




Thanksgiving Day memories





Wishing you a memorable feast this Thanksgiving Day

As the year slowly proceeds to close a chapter and open a new one in a few weeks, we gather around with our families and friends, sharing laughter as well as a few tears. We find ourselves reminiscing, rediscovering old and almost forgotten passages in our lives; we infuse a warm internal breath into these memories before passing them along to another generation for safekeeping. Though the stories are altered with each subsequent retelling, there changes over the years weave the very fibers of fabric that binds families and friends together under one blanket.


Thank you for stopping by and I hope you are
surrounded with the sounds of laughter
and the fragrances of good food set
among family and friends on this
Thanksgiving Day.

Egmont


Saturday

Self-portrait with shattered mirror



There have been a number of self-portraits over the last thirty-five or forty years, which have marked periods and events in my life, and over the course of these many years the photographs have captured various stages of appearance and the state of my health. Mostly all but one were shot in a controlled environment, carefully setting a stage in my studio with a proper background and lighting, including an extra long cable release. However ‘Self-portrait with shattered mirror’ was unplanned and completely spontaneous.


I had been on another one of my photographic excursions, documenting empty structures that were surrounded by a new residential and part business redevelopment on a former company owned community referred to as The Hercules Dynamite Factory. The majority of the former homes and other structures were boarded up, but in some cases, concealed openings could be discovered that teenagers had created looking for adventure and excitement.




Self-portrait with shattered mirror
Ladies Room — Hercules, California, May 22, 2005
Digital duo-tone


Through one of these openings I had entered and explored for the past hour or so, a number of smaller rooms that were adjacent to the ballroom and dining hall, all of which looked as though it dated back to the early 1940’s. I had closed my eyes, pretended to hear the Andrews Sisters singing and stomping their feet to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B or Rum or Coca Cola, with walls reverberating the energy of the band and the sound of a clarinet. Yet all that could now be heard was a deadening silence interrupted by an occasional vehicle passing by.


I continued photographing, focusing at times on areas of the building that could tell a visual story of a child being physical and mental abused and that which it had suffered be reflected in the remains of these interiors, when I came upon the ladies room and a shattered mirror.


From a technical standpoint this is not my best work, when viewed from the esthetics and especially what it represents personally, the photograph captured the essence of a childhood lost through the eyes of an adult.




Monday

German reunification twenty years later



I remember following the news for almost four weeks with great intensity as East Germans were successfully escaping to the west and when the Brandenburg Tor opened on September 11, 1989, it signaled the end of a divided Germany. I wanted to fly to Berlin, taking my son with me and for us to be part of the history in the making. However Armont was only one year, a month, and three days old at the time when the fall of the Berlin Wall was marked officially down on November 9, 1989. To personally mark the event, I started a 36 x 36 inch painting, which for me represents my own beginning as an artist, even though it would take another ten years before I would pick up my brushes again, and seriously returned to the profession of painting.




The Berlin Wall – Section 276, January 17, 1990
Multi-Medium on canvas, 36 x 36 inches (91.44 x 91.44 cm)


The abstract painting noting the fall of the Berlin Wall is one of the few canvases that were created spontaneously, reaching for whatever paints and art materials I had on hand. Using acrylic house paint, model craft spray paint, children’s crayons and of course oil paint, I went at the canvas as if lead by a mysterious hand guiding me through the various stages and the multiple layers until it was completed. In the end The Berlin Wall – Section 276 also represents what I encountered in 1974, when standing before the wall for the first time.


I grew up in the shadows of the Berlin Wall as construction started August 13, 1961 while living in Southern Germany, attending a private boarding school until my return to Californian the following year. I found myself in Berlin nine years later attending the HFBK as a guest and once more in 1974, when I decided to take a train through East Germany rather than flying to Berlin.




 My East German passport stamps


The train ride took several hours, stopping at most towns along the way. During our trip into the DDR, our train was boarded by East German soldiers with submachine weaponry and remained posted at each end of the compartment until we reached the West Berlin border. We were also treated to East German propaganda, handed out by the DDR Cultural Ministry personnel upon our first stop after entering East Germany. The experience is one I am grateful for, despite the lapses in memory which is also weak on a number of other points, especially the details of what the landscaped looked like, other than empty.


I still have a number of those booklets and smaller pamphlets that were handed out that day. They are in some box that have not been opened since they were packed when I moved out of my San Francisco apartment to get married some twenty-two years ago. I did find my out-of-date passport, turning to the page the East German border control stamped my arrival, departure into their land. With the subsequent arrival and departure stamps on the same page a few days later, as I returned to the West the same way I had left, with a long train ride though East Germany.


The Berlin Wall remained closed until September 11, 1989, six months later on March 10, 1990 Germany reunification took place.



Postscript:
At Four Seasons in a Life you can see photographs of the remaining Berlin Wall and it's refurbishing by the original 86 international artists in time for the celebration to mark twenty years since its downfall.



Tuesday

Children’s Hands at Play



The structures usefulness has long outlived its purpose and been abandoned by the military and turned over to the National Park Services. These concrete structures of fortifications imbedded into the coastal hillside against an enemy that never arrived, are now left to the elements and to the many mischievous hands at play in the garden of forgotten childhood.


Sounds of the ocean are muffled; a sea gull’s shrill can be heard off in the distance, piercing the sky as it fills the void. My footsteps upon the lose gravel disrupt the surrounding rhythms measuring the intervals of time.


Gazing in through the window frame, as it is absent of glass or the iron bars, I behold a chamber adorned by the hands of many, they who have left behind a trace of their presence by any means possible.


As the right leg climbs over the ledge of the window, I slowly begin my descent, intruding into a realm of unknown. Here where ubiquitous voices have sanctified impenetrable walls, now harboring the transgressions of our silence are the cryptic, enigmatic symbols. They, which converse in a mix of language, colour and texture, ever changing as transient voices add or subtract to the layers when their dreams collide.


Though surrounded by the ghosts lingering between the overlapping layers of indifferent pigmentations of colour, I find myself alone in this space, losing track as the hours pass with the swiftness of a sparrow.


I leave this place the same as I had found it, though richer for having stayed.




















































Notes:

All digital photographs featured in this photographic essay were taken on April 17, July 8 and July 12, 2007, at the Battery Mendell, located at the Marin Headland in Northern California and under the supervision of National Park Services.



Saturday

My first ‘Blog Award’






As I greatly value each ‘Follower’, I have also had the good fortune of establishing friendships through the private exchange of correspondence, which I hold very close to my heart. So when I received this heartfelt and sincere ‘blog award’ from Trudi at Two Dresses Studio yesterday, I was deeply touched and of course very surprised. A big thanks followed by a California style bear hug for Trudi.


In the 144 days in which I have been blogging, I have been exposed to some incredible artist and especially seeing things in a different perspective. This wonderful venue has added to my life with richness that cannot be measured in words and I know that as I continue my on-line presence, these mentally enriching and visually stimulating treasures, along with the friendships that continue to grow and blossom, will only become more priceless.


To select even a small handful of blog artists is difficult, especially since Trudi also honoured Donna at Layers, with whom I also share a wonderful friendship. There is Sophie who mentally stimulates me, or my friend of many years, Gun, along with Seth, an incredible altered book artist, and others who would all be well deserving of this award.


While I ponder further I wish to express that any award given is not about the award, but what one feels in the heart about that person, therefore I ask you to look at my blog roll and find a new contact that applies to you and make a new friend.


In the end I feel this is the best gift I can pass along, since it rewards you the reader and the new friend you have discovered.



Tuesday

Influences



Artist working with different kinds of medium experience from time to time different phases, adjusting ones visual compass, afterwards returning to any project left undone and seeing it with a new vision. As I have looked back these numerous weeks upon the body of my work, from writing, photography, collage, painting, or drawing, even my attempts at combining any of these expressive forms, it seems I am still seeking a different structure of expressing my thoughts or creative urgings, not having settled into a comfortable set of combinations with a predictable outcome.





A repetitious humdrum of beautiful patterns
Engine World, Emeryville, California
Digital duo-tone photograph, June 12, 2006


In reviewing my body of work, I look for a common thread that unites these various elements and forms in the end a unique composite identity by which I am identified and one recognizes the artwork as being of my hand.


Yet there is also the work that is an exploration of an idea or an opportunity, one that is infused with the influences of time and distance. What is created is not entirely ones own, rather the results of ones education, ones exposure to the ever changing surroundings. And though art is what we make it, it is still a reflection of what surrounds us.


My artwork is no different; it has not escaped these influences, despite my reclusive lifestyle.





The industrialization of the machine
Engine World, Emeryville, California
Digital duo-tone photograph, June 12, 2006


Like many of us, we remember one or two things with vivid detail going as far back as our childhood, even if it is just an image we remember. For me I recall when Mr. Crawford, my sophomore high school art instructor and for an additional two more years, showed us paintings by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. Unbeknownst to my instructor, the exposure to Mondrian’s work and class assignment that followed, which was to recreate our own version of Mondrian’s artistic style had forever a profound impact in how I viewed everything around me and how I would interpret what I saw in artistic terms.


The primary coloured squares and rectangles acting as weights to balance the vertical and horizontal black lines, intersecting into non-representational form in neoplasticism style of De Stijl, these areas became for me mathematical sequences with which to build upon a compositional idea that is then overlaid onto the sectio divina (Golden proportion).





March of the machine
Engine World, Emeryville, California
Digital duo-tone photograph, June 12, 2006


Though Mondrian’s compositions continues to have a considerable influence, it is occasionally draped by supplementary influences affecting my other work and as I photograph the rows and rows of transmissions, motors and other vehicle mechanics, I am reminded of Margret Bourke-White’s photography. In 1929 she started working for Fortune and a year later for Life magazine, when she became the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union, capturing industrial images at a tractor factory in Stalingrad. Her career as an industrial photographer in which she captured the beauty and power of machines, later became known as the photographic essay technique.





1513.C — 3.0-1 Transmission
Engine World, Emeryville, California
Digital duo-tone photograph, June 12, 2006


While the many images I produced at this location are not consciously following in the style of Margret Bourke-White’s photography, a selection of images were treated as rich duo-tones with a slight overall softening to emulate a series of industrial photographs she took. The photographs I represent with this post, not only pay tribute to her body of work, but also remains true to my own vision and voice as a fine art photographer.





Infinite
Engine World, Emeryville, California
Digital duo-tone photograph, June 12, 2006




A narrative with ones self



It seems as we approach the end of the year, we become more reflective and nostalgic. Having watched the leaves alter their shade of colour the passed several weeks, I sit at the kitchen table looking out through the open door and observe a single leaf depart from a twig upon the arrival of a sudden gust of wind. The leaf tumbles to the unseen currents of air in a dance, before reaching the ground, joining others already there. This sudden gust of wind that subsided just as fast as it came, also set into motion an orchestrated eruption of harmony when it touched upon the wind chimes, filling the empty spaces with a choral of song.


 
The arrival of winter as autumn passes
Grizzly Peak, Berkeley, California
Digital duo-tone photograph, December 27, 2005


In another six days we officially enter autumn. The pumpkins have already arrived at the markets and since last month stores have been displaying their Halloween merchandize. In the meantime California is in the midst of an Indian Summer with temperatures hovering above the nineties. Though this is my favorite time of year, I can do without the heat and so can the garden.


As the days become shorter, my thoughts resume their journey back to  these last six years, continuing a conversation with myself that started mid-July. A narrative dissecting the memory entrenched in the recesses of translucent layers that are forever shifting, analyzing an unknown future filled with imperfection of an impassioned hope.


I decided to rework the image ‘The arrival of winter as autumn passes’ to compliment the ‘Ancient One’. Though the photograph is part of a larger series, it is one I seem to identify with most. It keeps resurfacing whenever I think about the end of autumn, the beginning of December, or the end of the year. The image has become a link to my past and what would have been the last few days of my life.


Both photographs reflect metaphorically who I was or what I have physically become. The spirit is still another matter, as it has remained cloistered in silence like an unborn, left seeking a path to the self.



The Ancient One



Most of July and all of August have been weeks spent reflecting and being in a state of melancholy, with little sleep between the passing of one day and the arrival of another. As if storm clouds linger close by, ready to erupt at any moment into a torrent of challenges to blind my sense of direction. In the meantime September lies before me as an unknown terrain yet to be explored or its chapter written and while there are no guarantees; each day to which I rise, is a gift not to be spoiled and this is especially true, because the last six years have been a challenge.


After a two-month hospital stay in the spring of 2003, which required a subsequent four and a half year recovery, stage three cancer was discovered and appropriately dealt with. This was followed eighteen months later by a heart attack and thirty days afterwards was compounded by an unscheduled open-heart triple by-pass surgery in January 2006. Yet after all this, I remain standing, unsure if I would be able to face another major challenge.



Finding solace with the Ancient One
Grizzly Peak, Berkeley, California
Digital duo-tone photograph, December 7, 2007


No longer as resilient or defiant as before, I come to identify with the old tree I christened the ‘Ancient One’ when I first came upon it almost two years ago. At that time I felt an internal urge to return to an area with which I had identified during the period when I had my heart attack and the open-heart surgery. It was in those thirty days when a three-day period produced some of my most personal work. These images of fallen twigs, leaves and other fragments of nature gathering upon the ground under a soft rain, returning to earth in the cycle of ‘dust to dust’, were foreshadowing my own destiny. Had I not intervened two days prior of my scheduled death, much would have been left unfinished and unsaid. To this day I feel closest to these images then all my other photographs combined.


Since the day of my open-heart surgery when I cheated my demise unknowingly, it feels like Death is seeking revenge. Playing shenanigans with my mind and emotions in a game I know it will eventually win. But for now this tug of war continues indefinitely and like the ‘Ancient One’, I shall stand strong, despite feeling hollow at times. Though today I am a former self of the past, whose body now is scared and beginning to shows its age, I shall rise each day, contemplating upon creativity, and in doing so create art by which I shall be resurrecting my identity.



Postscript: When the time is right, I will share with you the images in which the heart and soul became one with the mind.




Saturday

Forty years ago today



This weekend marks forty years since the Woodstock happening. To mark this occasion there have been numerous specials on television and to my best recollection, there will be a few more specials. Though I never attended Woodstock, I grew up during the psychedelic period and I was never far away from the Haight and Asbury district, the happening in the Golden Gate Park known as Be-Ins, or the idealism that we embraced.


In spirit of the psychedelic times and the many posters post cards I collected of the Fillmore Auditorium and still have and are safely tucked away, I decided to pull a number of photographs taken back in 2005 of a single wall in the city of Berkeley. This wall was covered from top to bottom; side to side with all kinds of posters and these digital photographs reflect the times of forty years ago. I recollect the wall held my attention and interest for hours. These posters ranged in subject matter from political, a few which were defaced with passerby comments; to others announcing new CD releases by rap artists and a small number of others advertised upcoming concerts. Some were partially ripped by those trying to remove them for their collection, only ending up in failure but leaving behind wonderful abstract patterns. These pleased my sense of the artistic esthetics, as I moved my tripod every couple of feet, adjusting its height, focusing on extracting the right balance and composition within the viewfinder for another exposure.




My memory of growing up in an age of the Viet Nam war is mostly about the unity of the people and the music we shared, a sound so very different and one which reflected our shocking unconventional lifestyle and who we were. There were the British imports, the innocent looking Beatles to the bad boys, the Rolling Stones, in between we find the Animals, the Yardbirds, the Kinks and more. We to have our very own menagerie of performers, like Carlos Santana, Canned Heat, Janis Joplin and the Big Brother Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and so many more who appeared at the Avalon Ballroom and Bill Grahams Fillmore Auditorium. Of course there was also Pete Seeger, Joan Biez and my favorite artist, Bob Dylan, the poet, whose lyrics was the nations conscience.


As I look back, I do so with fondness. Remembering Carlos Santana who was playing the bongo drums with other musicians on the steps of the San Mateo College campus and later I attending a recording session at a small studio on Alameda de la Pulgas, where Carlos was laying down one of the tracks that later appeared on the Abraxes album.
I also remember joining on campus a few peaceful protest marches against the war, and having wavy blond hair shoulder at length, while dressed in suede bell-bottoms, a lose colourful shirt partially unbuttoned, a stylish rawhide vest lined with natural fleece and sporting thin green glass shades, topping off a mod-look.


The generation that I am a part of is one that certainly has brought about all sorts of change and I shall not begin by listing them here, however once more we are standing on the precipice of a major shift in this nations direction, as we have voted a leader among men into office who is trying his best to bring about a better nation, a better America. A generation of dreamers still believing in the impossible . . .


What were you doing forty-years ago today?



The Iris



Growing up in Europe in the early nineteen-fifties, art, music, and religion were taught on Saturday. I remember art would focus on being able to draw geographical maps, followed by botanical illustrations and then city or landscapes. The medium employed for maps was India ink with coloured pencils or occasionally just some watercolour, whereas botanical drawings were in pencil with watercolour, based on the traditional methods dating back to the herbal handbooks of the Middle Ages and European Renaissance.


The training received in Germany has stayed with me not only in the way I approach drawing or painting a botanical subject matter, but also in the course of photographing a single flower, when I set about the subject matter by balancing the scientific view with an artistic presentation.


There have been other major influences, in particular the books I have collected over the years on the history of herbal and botanical illustration, including the art books focusing on the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age when painting floral arrangements was at its height.



Golden Galore, Iris

Digital duo-tone, 2007


Another major source of influence for me, came from a small publication by the German Photographer Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932), who captured several thousand photogravures over a thirty-year period with the purpose of not just documenting various plants but also with the intended that they serve as guides for industrial designers and art students to demonstrate the structure and the beauty inherent in plant form.


These highly stylized photogravures with their soft and warm earthy tones have a magical quality that is very seductive, especially to anyone partial to early photographic exploits and the romance associated with it. Though I have undertaken several projects of photographing flowers, it has always involved colour and never having the end result be a Black & White or duo-tone print.


When asked if we have a favorite flower, I am sure we will have an answer, as for me there are several, a distant fourth are tulips, especially the parrot strain, then the English garden rose we find climbing trestles in a British countryside garden, followed by second place, the German Bearded Iris. My all time favorite the Peony, a flower that sadly has not taken hold in my garden.



Incognita, Iris

Digital duo-tone, 2007


On the other hand you will find the front yard hillside covered in various species of iris, some which our neighbor presented us when he terraced a section in his back yard a few years ago. Since then I have almost every year purchased a dozen different species then planting them between the blue clusters in order to break up their colour dominance.


This year again I missed my chance, by the time I thought about it the nursery had sold out and this was also the second year in which I did not photograph any of the blooms, even though there was one spectacular specimen that is only a memory now. That particular species had exceptional colour and it was flawless, yet I have always believed that showing only floral perfection was short sighted, as there is also beauty in a blemish or even a decaying flower, which makes it unique from the rest. The same goes for converting a colour photograph to a black and white so that the focus might be not on the flowers exceptional colours, but rather on the textural qualities we seem to otherwise miss.




Wednesday

A discovery turns into an artistic vision



Over a period of three years I have photographed the telephone poles in the city of Berkeley, California, because over time fliers of advertisements are transformed into remnants of paper tidbits to which I am drawn because of their abstract nature.


As new fliers are stapled to the poles, old ones are torn off, leaving behind fragments held in place by which they were fastened. It is these snippets of randomness that have evolved from just being a captured photographic image, by becoming an artistic vision, a concept that is replicated on canvas or on a wooden pallet.




The eye that sees you, 2006


By not only gathering photographic evidence but also actual source material from telephone poles and from billboards, especially walls that were plastered with posters; larger pieces of art could now considered possible.




HOWL, 2008

Multi-Medium on canvas, 36 x 36 inches (91.44 x 91.44 cm)



The transitional period from working with just representational photographs to actually attempting a painting or a collage painting occurred in stages that continued for almost four years, beginning with HOWL, a painting which took 2½ years to complete.


Just before HOWLwas finished, another canvas was started, using materials torn from billboards in Berkeley and Emeryville and applied in a more graphic design application, rather then using the embodiment approach as with Orderly Confusion.




Beauty Re-defined, 2008

Multi-Medium on canvas, 24 x 24 inches (60.96 x 60.96 cm)



The key distinction between the first two paintings lies in the usage of the collage material as being the initial surface upon which the painting is build and the word ‘BEAUTY’ is spray painted on. In comparison to HOWL, the illusion of torn materials were first painted, then newsprint was adhered to, only to be torn off, before adding the local newspaper covers simulating posters.


Before HOWL was considered completed, the first four lines from Allen Ginsberg’s 1956 poem Howl were added, bringing together the social implications of the newspaper image and purpose of the painting to which it had evolved into. Though Beauty Re-defined was also finished with a handwritten commentary, it however reflects graffiti by the hand of a stranger.




Orderly Confusion, 2008

Multi-Medium on canvas, 10 x 10 inches (25.40 x 25.40 cm)


The smallest of the painting in this genre series also represents the truest forms of embodiment textural qualities of the telephone poles one finds in Berkeley. In order to achieve true embodiment and visual authenticity, an integral part of this collage painting, actual pieces of ephemeral material were collected from telephone poles I had photographed, along with various rusted and almost new staples and then reassembled in a design of my choosing. Paying careful attention to duplicating reality, any painterly evidence had been carefully disguised as not to draw immediate attention to it.



So far each piece of art has had its own individual approach, interpreting how to define what had been seen and photographed and Pangaea is no different, despite its much cleaner and highly refined graphic layout.



Pangaea

Multi-Medium on wooden pallet, 24 x 36 inches (60.96 x 91.44 cm)



The materials used came from telephone poles, billboards, and a large number of posters that had been plastered on walls at a number of different construction sites and were carefully torn from these locations with the intent of using only specific pieces of interest from the actual posters.


Since no other materials other than the collected pieces of papers had being used, careful attention was being paid to the interaction of each piece and its overall placement in the composition as a whole. Making sure that visual movement and points of key interest was given with no more and no less of attention then the piece next to it, even though one item by far outshined all others and remains the main focal point in the composition.



There are plans for a few more collage paintings, especially one very large endeavor, measuring 4 x 6 feet (121.92x182.88 cm) in size and utilizing source material and paint.




The Foundry



Grips


Most people drive from point A to point B with little thought to the structures that can be seen along the road, let alone what might be discovered among some of the non-descriptive side streets that appear as just another dead end. Yet it is in such locations I had hoped of finding exquisite textures, accidental random patterns having turned into abstracts that would please my visual senses and the esthetic ideal of an undisclosed beauty.


A few months after my open-heart surgery it was necessary for me to travel several weeks on a regular bases to Berkeley, when I had decided to explore the area between Berkeley and Emeryville. There are a number of small streets that branched off Fourth Street, where a number of industrial businesses and warehouses can be found.



Luminescence and the beast


On my very first excursion I had discovered a unique site with an open shipping gate and no visible individuals around to keep me from having entered. To me, this was and is nothing more than a green light, an invitation to continue, so I had ventured passed the gate and cautiously explored the premises.


Besides the large main building, there were two smaller structures, all empty of machinery or anything else, however for me I had just discovered an abundance of textures, but it would need to be ignored in favor of the architecture and the surrounding ambiance. For the site resembled either a slacher or futuristic film set in which survivors of the human race battling each other over petroleum or other rare commodity. I had discovered a photographers dream and I had been standing right in the middle of it.



Thor’s mighty hammer


A couple days later I had returned, trying to gain access once more in order to focus on some other interior areas I was previously had been unable to capture, because on my last visit, all three memory cards were filled, but the day I returned, everything unfortunately was sealed off tighter than a drum.


Not wanting to be discouraged I had decided to seek out other possible sites in the area only to be rewarded beyond my wildest dreams. On this one street I had discovered three different businesses I knew I would want to spend numerous hours, if not days, exploring and capturing the kind of images I had always admired and studied.



The earth shaker


In previous times I would just have just trespassed because when I had asked for permission, the answer received was always a resounding ‘No’, so it come as a huge surprise when two of the firms I asked, said they would check with the property owner and for me to call back after few days.


The situation at the last company was very different as the owner himself approved my request, which allowed me to proceed to the warehouse immediately, where I quickly set out capturing the very shots I felt were beyond my reach.


A week later I called Coulter Forge and learned that I had been given the opportunity to photograph and upon my return visit, John, one of the managers, showed me around the grounds and we agreed on some fundamental ground rules for my safety.



A menagerie of tools


Whenever the weather was overcast and I had the energy—considering I was still in recovery—I would stop off at the front office of Coulter Forge and ask if it were all right to take some more photographs. By now I had also learned what clothing to wear, especially how to protect the shoes from the materials that covered the ground of the foundry, however my tripod was another matter and always required cleaning after each visit.


Over the next couple of months there were about five, maybe six visits to the foundry and every time it felt like seeing an old friend, as the surroundings and I became more comfortable with each other.


No longer being dazzled by the location, I had been able to see beyond the machinery and discover the intimacy of many years and the many hands that had left their mark and were now being ‘written by light’ into images the mind beheld when the camera had been positioned on the tripod.



Matrix and punches


The first couple of visits the focus had been on the over all environment and the larger machinery, with subsequent returns this had shifted towards discovering the human elements, like the tools they used day in and day out or any personal belongs accidentally left behind and forgotten.


Even though the workshop is dusty and dirty from all the different metal fragments, there was a certain charm and beauty that I found totally irresistible.


It has now been almost three years since I last visited the plant and at some point I would like to go back to arrange a time and capture individual portraits of the crew, for as one looks at these pictures it feels like the nineteen forties or the fifties if not even earlier in the century.



Tools of the trade


I also cannot help but wondering how much longer such an industry as this can remain in business as it competes against a global economy or the rapid technological changes and yet I feel that if we lose such a place as Coulter Forge to modernization, we lose not only a place of business where everyone is family, we endure a far greater loss of human possibilities and endurance.



Numeric punches




This post is part of the series: We are all Addicted to our Past . . .
All images taken with a Sony DSC-V1, full frame