Quickie

Untitled Nude, 2016

Untitled Nude, 2016

Hi, everyone.
I’ve been rather busy lately so I haven’t had time to make a proper blog post in that time.
So, rather than go without posting anything, here’s a quickie:  a photograph from my only photo session that I’ve done with a model this year – in this case, with the lovely Cassie Opeia.
More to follow, so stay tuned.
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Take a Walk on the South Side

3674_03 - South Bank
When I went to London last month, I wasn’t sure if I would take a film camera with me.  After all, the trip was more about museums and theater than photography, so I figured, “Why bother?”
Well, I did bother.  Two years ago, on a similar trip, I brought my Holga with and made some photos with it.  I think I brought it with me last year, too, but I made no photos with it.  Perhaps it was because of the illness that I came down with while staying in London last year, but at the last minute I decided to take the Holga with me, after all, to try to get some film photos this time.
I didn’t expect to do a lot of photographing, so I only brought half a dozen rolls of 120 film with me.  Given that, I set aside one day for making photos.  On the chosen day, I first took the underground south to Waterloo Station and walked over to the National Theatre, where I bought some tickets to see Terrence Rattigan’s play “The Deep Blue Sea,” starring the actress Helen McCrory (who was in the Doctor Who story “Vampires of Venice”) along with a friend who was arriving from Holland.

3674_01 - South Bank

From there I began my photographic journey, and as the National Theatre is on the south bank of the River Thames, I decided to walk east along the south bank.  Eventually I crossed a bridge over to the other side and made my way back west, but these photos – from the first half of the first roll – were made on the south side of the river.
As I’ve written before, I like the Holga (a cheap plastic film camera, for those who are unfamiliar with it) because it’s small and lightweight and affords the photographer a great deal of freedom.  Sure, none of the photos made with it will resemble anything that Ansel Adams made, but with its plastic lens and soft focus, it sure can resemble some of your favorite 19th century photographs.

3674_04 - South Bank

So, I just walked along, not feeling that I had to try to create a great piece of “art,” instead just looking through the viewfinder and pressing the button whenever I came across something that I thought was visually interesting.
It’s not possible to focus through the viewfinder with a Holga, but one can turn a ring on the front of the camera which supposedly focuses based on distance, with a single person icon on the ring meaning a close object and some mountains meaning far away, and a few other icons in between.  I routinely forgot to turn this dial, and quite honestly I don’t know how much of a difference it would have made had I remembered.
Being that the camera is a rangefinder, though, it is a good thing that I remembered to take the lens cap off.

3674_05 - South Bank

*******************************************************************************

Finally, on a different note, I see that this is the 500th blog post that I have made from home – or at least, I think it is.  It’s not my 500th blog post, as I have made some from the road while I’ve been traveling, and to be honest, I’m not sure if the numbers have been entirely accurate as I’ve numbered my saved posting files over the year. Still, this one is listed as number 500 in my list of files, so I guess it is a milestone of sorts (whatever the actual number may be).

3674_06 - South Bank

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Bodies of Influence

Nude, Maine, 2003

Nude, Maine, 2003

“No art is created in a vacuum.”
That’s a phrase that I like to say about creating art.  Oh, I’m sure that it has been said by many people before me using different words (or perhaps even the same words), but what’s important is this:  nobody creates anything without being influenced in one way or another by the world around them or, in some cases, by the world that came before them.
This applies to musicians, painters, writers and, of course, to photographers.  Mozart was influenced by the world around him.  So were Picasso, Hemingway and Avedon.
For example, there’s a symphony by Mozart in which the music in one of its movements sounds remarkably similar to the music of the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel’s oratorio, “Messiah.”  I once heard a program about this Mozart symphony on a classical music station, and rather than say that Mozart copied it, the host simply said that this music was “in the air” at the time and Mozart used it.  (Hmmm.  I wonder how the “in the air” defense would have held up in court should Handel’s estate have sued Mozart for plagiarism.)
Certainly, my own photography has been influenced by many things.  Obviously, the work of other photographers is one source.  A number of years after I had begun to photograph nudes, I even began to ask myself how much longer I could go on photographing models in the same Edward Weston poses.  (The great photographer Lucien Clergue said that Weston was a big influence on him, too, as I’m sure he was – and is – to many others.)
Still, there are different ways in which artists can be influenced by the works of others.  One is stylistic, when an artist adopts a particular styles used by other artists.  Then there are those who may intentionally choose to copy something that another artist has done, though perhaps to do it in their own way.
What I’m writing about now are a couple of my photographs that I believe were influenced by specific works produced by others, but where those influences were not intentional.  I think that when we see works of art (or anything, for that matter), those things are filed away in our memory banks.  Just because those files are not open (that is to say, in our conscious thoughts), they are still there, to some extent, in our subconscious mind.
Such is the case with these two photos.  The first one (above) was a photo that I made of model Hope Hoffman on my first trip to Maine in 2003.  We were working in a field that had an overturned kayak on it, so we decided to use that as a platform for Hope to pose on.
In this photo, Hope is stretched out on top of the boat, her back turned to me, with her right arm languidly stretched out along her torso.  I imagine that I may have asked her to put her arm there, but whether it was my idea or hers, there was obviously something I liked about it as I chose to photograph it.
Some time later, however, I realized that I had seen that pose somewhere before, in the painting “La Grande Odalisque” by the French painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.  I was definitely not trying to copy that pose, but the idea of a model seen from the back with her right arm stretched out must have been there in the back of my head, so I went with it.
"La Grande Odalisque" by Ingres

“La Grande Odalisque” by Ingres

Naturally, being a two dimensional visual art like photography, painting is an obvious influence on photographers – but what about sculpture?   As I have written before, I studied classical art at university, and I have said that I see my photographs as something of a continuation of that classical tradition.
However, what about non-classical sculpture?   Take a look at this next photograph, which I made in the summer of 1995.  I had attended my very first art nude workshop at Woodstock, New York, the weekend before, and one of the photographers I met there invited me to join him and a few other photographers to work with some models the next weekend.
Untitled Nude, 1995

Untitled Nude, 1995

Being pretty new at this type of thing, I probably wasn’t too certain of what I was doing.  On this occasion, working with this model, I just asked her to put her arms up over her head, with her hands pointing inward.
As you can see from the photo, this is what she did, and I probably gave myself a mental pat on the back for having come up with an interesting, original pose.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized that this pose was not original, at all, as I had seen it before on the figure below.
Pre-dynastic Egyptian figure, c. 3500 BCE

Pre-dynastic Egyptian figure, c. 3500 BCE

This particular piece, in the Brookyn Museum, is a so called “bird woman’ figure from pre-dynastic Egypt (that is, before the time of the pharaohs).  It’s made of pottery and dates to around 3500 BCE.  I studied Egyptian art as well as classical art, so I was definitely familiar with it and similar pieces.  Like the painting by Ingres, I just love this figure for its simplicity, beauty and elegance, especially the way that the arms sweep upward.  There is no doubt, then, why I would subconsciously use such an object as a basis for creating a photograph.
Finally, to end things on a slightly different note, here’s an example of art imitating art in a totally independent manner.  I was working with BlueriverDream in Vermont last summer, using the curved stump of a tree in the forest as a prop.  She is a very creative model, good at making interesting and beautiful poses, and I believe that she herself initiated the pose that you see here in this photo.
Nude, Vermont, 2015

Nude, Vermont, 2015

On this occasion, a particular work of art did come to mind for me:  Jacques-Louis David’s painting about the French revolution, “The Death of Marat”  (below).  I mentioned this to her afterwards, and I believe that she was unfamiliar with the work.
"The Death of Marat" by David

“The Death of Marat” by David

So, I guess it is possible to create a work of art that looks similar to another one without any intent, conscious or subconscious, to do so.
Either that, or there are only so many poses that can be used for either a painting or a photograph.
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The Lone Wonder

The Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza

The Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza, 1980

I guess that most of the people reading this have heard of the Seven Wonders of the World, even if you may not be able to name most (or even any) of them.
Of course, I am here referring to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Apparently there were several such lists given by writers in antiquity, but the best known list is the one given by a 3rd Century BCE Greek engineer named Philo of Byzantium and the 2nd Century BCE Greek poet Antipater of  Sidon.
These seven marvels of the ancient world were the Hanging Gardens of Bablyon (modern Iraq), the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the statue of Zeus at Olympia in Greece, the temple of Artemis at Ephesus in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes (a Greek island), the tomb of Mausolus (the original “mausoleum”) at Halicarnassus in Asia Minor and the pharos (lighthouse) of Alexandria, Egypt.
(Then there is the so-called “Eighth Wonder of the World,” which I have heard described variously as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Houston Astrodome and Andre the Giant – but that, of course, is another story.)
Diagram of the Great Pyramid

Diagram of the Great Pyramid

The only one of these seven wonders which still exists today in a nearly complete state, and the one that I am writing about now, is the Great Pyramid at Giza.  Built in the 26th Century BCE for the Egyptian king Khufu, it has stood mysteriously on the Giza plateau for over 4,500 years.  As writer Mike Dash wrote about it in his 2011 story for Smithsonian.com (here):
“That the tale (of Napoleon supposedly spending a night inside the pyramid) is told at all, however, is testament to the fascination exerted by this most mysterious of monuments–and a reminder that the pyramid’s interior is at least as compelling as its exterior. Yes, it is impressive to know that Khufu’s monument was built from 2.3 million stone blocks, each weighing on average more than two tons and cut using nothing more than copper tools; to realize that its sides are precisely aligned to the cardinal points of the compass and differ one from another in length by no more than two inches, and to calculate that, at 481 feet, the pyramid remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for practically 4,000 years—until the main spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed in about 1400 A.D. But these superlatives do not help us to understand its airless interior.”
The Ascending Passageway

The Ascending Passageway

Ah, yes, the interior.  A lot of people may think that the Great Pyramid is a solid mass of stones, but it is not, as there are a number of chambers within.  I had the opportunity to go inside the Great Pyramid on my trip to Egypt in 1980, and while these photographs that I made inside are far from my best, I am still posting them here as the place that they depict is worth showing.
The Grand Gallery

The Grand Gallery

 

The Grand Gallery

The Grand Gallery

 

The Grand Gallery

The Grand Gallery

As the diagram above shows, after entering the pyramid through an initial entryway, one begins to climb up through the Ascending Passageway.  This passage is pretty small, as can be sign by this photograph of a friend who was pretty short, so tall people really need to bend over to get through.
After climbing up hunched over through this fairly long (or so it seemed) passage, things suddenly change dramatically as one enters the high ceilinged Grand Gallery.  This open space continues climbing upward for a good distance until, at the top, once must again bend low to go through a small passage that leads to the final destination – the burial chamber – where the king’s empty sarcophagus can be seen.
The king's sarcophagus

The king’s sarcophagus

On a photographic note, one clear memory I have of this chamber is that – while I did use a flash for lighting here –  it was pretty difficult to focus my camera on the great stone box as the only source of illumination in the room was one dim light bulb mounted on one of the walls.
(If you’re wondering, the Queen’s Chamber and Subterranean Chamber are normally closed, but some special tours now allow entry into them.)
Of course, as with so many other things, even the best of photographs and the best of written words can in no way convey the experience of entering the Great Pyramid at Giza.  My humble “impressionistic” photos certainly cannot, but I hope that they at least give people a tiny inkling of what it’s like to enter the dark and mysterious recesses of this last great wonder of the world.
Egypt's first pyramid: the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara

Egypt’s first pyramid: the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, 1980

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Old (and New)

Nude, Vermont, 2015

Nude, Vermont, 2015

I did my first photography of the year this month.  In London on my recent trip, I shot six rolls of 120 film with my plastic Holga camera.  Next, this past weekend, I shot my first photos of the year with a model – also half a dozen rolls of 120 film.
These were the first photos that I had made since I was up in Vermont in August of last year.  I need to scan some more photos before I can begin presenting the new ones, so here, for now, is a photo from my last roll of film last year, featuring models Blueriver Dream and Kelsey Dylan.
I’ll post the newer photos as I am able to do so.
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Return from the Road

Door Knocker, Rome, 2009

Door Knocker, Rome, Italy, 2009

I just took a look at my blog page and I see that I have not made a new entry for about three weeks.  Once again, I plead guilty with an explanation:  I just returned from a ten day trip to England so I was away from home, and prior to that I was busy preparing for the trip.
I am still feeling pretty tired and have a lot of catching up to do, so I’m afraid that I won’t be posting any new photos here right now.  Instead, as I made some new friends while I was away who may be seeing this blog for the first, I’m posting some of my favorite photos from over the years for all to see.
Moving ahead, this trip was one mostly for going to the theater and visiting museums, plus a few days at a Doctor Who convention, but I did bring my Holga camera with me and put a half dozen rolls of 120 film through it in London.  I hope to get to those in time, plus the photos from my trip to Ireland last year which need to be organized, as well as the photos from my 20th anniversary art nude weekend last August – and more.
As always, stay tuned.
Nude, California, 2004

Nude, California, 2004

 

Tofuku-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan, 2004

Tofuku-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan, 2004

 

Nude, Nevada, 2006

Nude, Nevada, 2006

 

Temple. Luang Prabang, Laos, 2006

Temple. Luang Prabang, Laos, 2006

 

Studio Nude, 2009

Studio Nude, 2009

 

Monks, Samye Monastery, Tibet, 2007

Monks, Samye Monastery, Tibet, 2007

Untitled Nude, 2015

Untitled Nude, 2015

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Avoiding the Crowds

Nude, Iceland, 2014

Nude, Iceland, 2014

It’s been a month and a half since I posted any new photos from my trips to Iceland in 2013 and 2014, so I guess I’m due to write one.
That 2013 trip to Iceland was not the most successful photography expedition I’ve ever gone on, but it was instrumental in the greater success of the 2014 trip.  One of the negative elements of the earlier trip was the weather, as it was the coldest summer in memory according to many of the Icelanders that I met.  Still, as the saying goes, we can talk about the weather, but there’s nothing we can do about it.

3551_02 - Zoe

On the other hand, planning where to go on a trip is something we can definitely do something about.  The trip in 2013 was my first trip back to Iceland since 1995, so in many ways I acted like a tourist, going to places well on the beaten path that I had seen before and wanted to see and photograph again.  To be sure, these are great places to visit, but a lot of other people go to see them, too, which makes art nude photography rather difficult to do there.
One of my goals, therefore, for the 2014 trip was to find good locations for photography off the beaten path.  This I did by reading books, of course, but also by finding places not written about in books but only found by searching on the internet as well as by communicating with local people.

3551_05 - Zoe

One of the most popular – and spectacular – places that I visited on the earlier trip was the Skogafoss waterfall, by the town of Skogar.  I got a really good photo here in 2013 of one of my models, Aubrey, standing in front of the fall, appearing minuscule next to it. (See below.)  In fact, it may be my best photo from that trip.
Still, photographing nudes here would be very difficult due to the crowds, and even very early in the morning might be tough because there’s a campground right next to the fall.
On the other hand, Skogafoss may be the best known waterfall near Skogar, but it’s not the only one.  Through my research, I found out about another waterfall not too far from the town that almost nobody goes to.  There are reasons for this, in that you can’t just drive up to it, which makes a hike necessary, and on that hike there’s a section where you’ve got to scramble up a trail made of loose rocks that has you walking on the edge of a precipice, which caused me to take off my back pack and hand carry it at one point.

3550_11 - Zoe

However, getting there is not overly difficult, and when you go get there…..well, it is a spectacular waterfall in its own right.  It’s not as big as the more famous Skogafoss, but it has a drama of its own and on the two occasions when I went there, absolutely nobody else was around, even though it was around midday.
On the first occasion, Zoe West accompanied me, so here are some photos of her with the waterfall serving as a dramatic backdrop.
Aubrey at Skogafoss, 2013

Aubrey at Skogafoss, 2013

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