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.