Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Photographing the Photographer" Diptychs

"The universe as we know it
is a joint product of the
observer and the observed.”
Philosopher / Mystic
(1881 - 1955)

While looking over some old photos (going back to trips to Scotland in 2009 and Greece in 2008), I ran across an interesting set of pictures taken by my wife that I turned into what I call PPDs, or "Photographing the Photographer" Diptychs. My wife, an avid videographer and occasional still photographer, took a series of images showing yours truly in the act of "doing" photography.

Some of her photos contain "me" only in the sense that I am somewhere in the picture, but the shot itself is focused on something else; a landscape, our rental car, a hotel, the front of a restaurant, whatever. But many of them are (as my wife confessed) deliberately focused on my (not always elegant) photo machinations: my scurrying to and fro like a frenzied zombie, climbing, prowling, bending, scrunching up like a pretzel, maneuvering my body and tripod for decent angles. A few actually catch me in the "act" of going click.

For many of these I was able to find and match the "shot" I was capturing (or a shot taken at nearly the same place and time) with the shot my wife has of me doing so. I made a few diptychs to show my wife and friends, who all enjoyed them, commenting that the diptychs reveal something not normally seen, or appreciated.

The diptychs show two different - but obviously correlated - experiences by two different people of ostensibly the same "experience" (almost the same). While my wife and I were obviously both at the same place and time, we were looking at the world from our own (not quite identical) local reference frames and slightly different perspectives: she, as an empathic observer of "life (in this case, her husband's) in environment," and I, as landscape photographer immersed in Scotland's innate physical beauty. To my eyes, our respective images of a given time and place, combined in diptych form, achieve an interesting transcendent synergy. While neither image, if considered alone, shows anything more than it does by itself, when reflected upon simultaneously with its partner provides a tangibly more meaningful, deeper glimpse of our shared experience.

I have posted a small portfolio of ten such "Photographing the Photographer" Diptychs (8 from Scotland, 2 from Greece); if nothing else, it gave me an opportunity to revisit some of the many spectacular sights and visual delights my wife and I have been privileged to see. It also gives an opportunity to those of you (you know who you are ;-) who have, from time to time, seen a bespectacled photographer bent over a tripod somewhere, seemingly trained at nothing in particular, and been puzzled about just what this bespectacled photographer is looking at? My wife has kindly provided an answer.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Churchville Photo Club Talk Slides

This is a short note intended mainly to provide a link to the slides (about 5 MB, Adobe pdf) I used for a talk I gave on June 20 to the Churchville Photo Club in Pennsylvania.

My presentation used selected images and portfolios to illustrate (and give at least some credence to the sincerity of) my ongoing journey toward self-discovery as shaped by physics, tao, and photography.

I'd like to thank the club's president, Felix Gomes, and Vice President, Marty Golin, for their kind invite and hospitality; and all the attendees who endured not just the 2+ hours worth of (what must surely have been less than completely intelligible) "babble-speak" about the philosophical dimensions of fine-art photography, but did so in a non air conditioned room that barely shielded all those enclosed within from the 90+ deg(F) heat and 90% humidity outside. (By the time I finished, I felt - and looked - as though I had just escaped from an unsupervised sauna set to an inhuman "Danger: lethally hot and humid" setting!).

But while the conditions were far from ideal, the venue itself - nestled within a wonderful nature center about an hours' drive from Philadelphia - could not have been more idyllic. My 12 yo son, an avid naturalist, and I arrived about an hour early, and had an opportunity to walk the grounds and just revel in the quiet gentle ambiance of the center. We both promised to return here for some quality time whenever the opportunity for such a trip next arises: he, to just explore and look for insects and frogs; his dad to train his "other eye" on the beauty of the park (I was sans camera gear for this entire trip, and felt, as all photographers do, considerably less than whole).

Later that evening, and after my talk (that I was happily surprised to see my son sit through in its entirety; this was the first time my son had heard me speak on photography - his take: "Not bad, dad." I'll take it ;-), he and I shared a magical moment of shared bonding, punctuated by a few hugs and a hint of a tear or two on our cheeks. And this experience had nothing at all to do with my talk!

After many handshakes, discussions, and chats with people as we all made our way to our cars - I should mention that my talk ended fairly late, way after sunset - the last car except ours finally left, and my son and I turned to our own car parked in a corner. At this point, it was essentially pitch black, with but an insignificant light some distance away. As our eyes adjusted to the dark...

...we both froze in our tracks; jaws dropped. An otherwordly event was unfolding before our eyes. I briefly entertained the scary thought that I must be having a seizure! There, in front of us - to the sides; all around us - were more fire flies than my son and I have likely seen in all our combined years on this planet! Clusters and clusters of hundreds upon hundreds of fireflies; flying, spiraling, blinking, flashing, and - collectively - putting on a dazzling fourth-of-July-like display that would put to shame (as my son later described) any fourth-of-July show that we'd ever seen.

My son and I just sat in revery on the grass, not speaking, not thinking; mindlessly - dare I say Tao or Zen-like? - absorbed in one of nature's wondrous dances. After 20 minutes or so, my son turned to me to give a hug, and said, "Dad, I'll never, ever forgot this day!" (And neither will his dad :-)