The Visual Voice Continued…
Our last blog endeavored to give you insights into both our histories of artistic development and the technological advancements and inventions that helped to get us to the new millennium – Year 2000.
Y2K: The Millennium…..
Working in technology one spent an inordinate time preparing for the end of the world leading up to New Year’s Eve at the turn of the century. Media reports of the breakdown of civilization, chaos, famine and all never materialized as I watched from the roof-top above my IT resources viewing the New Year’s fireworks ring in 2000 with only minor nuisances. Then the media had the gall to ask; “Why did you all get so worked up about this?” The irony was stifling.
Yet a new millennium continued the upwards trajectory of progress along numerous paths.
The internet continually progressed in ways few could predict creating turmoil similar to the industrial revolution a century before. Bricks and mortar became a liability to some. So many buggy whips fell by the wayside as entrepreneurs spawned whole new industries.
One of these was Adobe and their nascent product Photoshop that gave the early adopters, myself included, “a room with a view”, a visual interface to bring forth our electronically captured images as never before. This was still very rudimentary yet revolutionary in the same breath. It also provided a method to allow us to gather feedback from our efforts much more rapidly than in the past. This permitted forging adjustments to the refinement of our techniques as well as advancing our overall education efforts. The rise of on-line content on the Internet also began to quicken the pace of learning from the current and past masters. Something that in the past took over a lifetime for most.
What Guttenberg’s printing press imbued to society by allowing common man the purview of history, time and place; Photography invested to the common man the realm of space and the cognitive revolution of the perceptions of our world. Both of these were the secrets of the “Masters” prior to each invention, reserved for their interpretations to us commoners.
All the technologies continued their advancements until we arrive at the internet today, the vast wealth of knowledge sources yet often the wonder of who to believe as there are now so many rivaling and often discordant sources generating conflictions of the brain.
Digital photography, cameras, lens, storage capacities, high ISO capabilities, fast precise auto-focus and so much more surpassed all expectations and continue today albeit at a slower pace as much of these are very mature technologies at present.
Additionally, the computer and internet based image development applications, cloud storage, on-line image sites and blogs of information and insights have evolved until they are near ubiquitous presently.
This frequently instills too much information overload yet by maintaining constant focus one is apt to continue personal knowledge accession while FINALLY beginning the coalescence of this information into an intelligible coherence.
The 10,000+ hours spent these past years in capturing images and continually reviewing and improving both their technical competency and constant expansion of our visual literacy and we are at the precipice of lifting the veil defining personal style and vision and peering within. A tremendous journey towards this wisdom but also a joy to have arrived at what becomes a continually integrated temporal and spatial realm for the duration of this “mortal coil”.
So let us begin by stepping back briefly one again…..
Val and I began photographing music performances with near novice sensibilities. We had an awareness that much of the strife that was occurring in the technical dimension was also revolutionizing the musical industry. Whereas we had in the past numerous interpersonal opportunities with rock artists, these avenues rapidly reshaped into big business and their ensuing and ever numerous restrictions grew along with egos, most to the detriment of the actual fans.
Branches from the original rock and roll sphere, splinters along these seams and angst among fans brought disillusions but also insights. As Val and I progressed we also regressed. With clarity came the realization that our rock originations were based on idioms that were right around us the whole time. Blues!!
Our first date was going to see Johnny “Clyde” Copeland at Mancini’s in Pittsburgh. From there we began. Slowly we would seek out these blues artists and enjoy their artistry. We also realized that the access and sensibilities were much like the early rock days yet taking a camera to these gigs, while enjoyable, was often a frustrating event.
Instead of the current large arenas with well-lit stages and considerable day time festivals, much of our new pursuits were in dimly lit clubs with extremely limited sight lines for photography.
These resulting images were often poor representations of what the perceived experience held in our remembrances. I continued to admonish myself that many great rock photographers started from these same environs. I had no inklings or aspirations of ever becoming prosperous or famous doing this. It was a developing passion and many new friendships of like-type folks began to take hold. We also began to develop friendships with the musical artists over time.
As always in my impelled world, I knew I needed to progress my skills from an aesthetic and technical standpoint. After each gig I would return home and download in the wee hours of the morning. I would then spent enormous amounts of time analyzing my efforts. Very slow shutter speeds due to the low light was the larger obvious problem. My tendency to jerk the shutter as movement occurred just as I was taking the image caused more junk. A frustrating sense enveloped in that I controlled near nothing in the intended scene’s environment that I was attempting to capture. The lighting placement and their intensities, the equipment placement on stage, the artist’s movement during the performance, and on and on.
In an effort to resolve what we could, we began to arrive for performances very early as it was most often first come first served to get the better performance seats with sight lines. One quickly understood where these were but this also required additional insights of the stage itself and anticipating the equipment setups. Slowly as we began to see repeat performances of the artists we could anticipate somewhat better where we should try to position ourselves.
We also spent time understanding the etiquette necessary for capturing images while minimally detracting from others enjoyment of the shows. Again this was problematic in the small venues. Even the shutter noise during acoustical performances detracted from both the audience and the performers’ intimacy. Really quite frustrating. No flash most often helped but when it was necessary or permitted one needed to develop considerable restraint in using this. Again from an etiquette perspective.
We began to also do blues festivals as these were becoming somewhat financially feasible and had begun sprouting up regionally. Several had been around for a number of years but only recently had we become aware of them. We started to attend many of these. We asked for pit access but were turned down for most as we were unknown and unproven as well. Probably just as well since my skill sets were limited.
We applied our learned skills at these venues from our club experiences. Show up at each stage early for front row access and position where we felt would be best given that once the show started we would be positioned there for the duration. After each festival I would try to quickly post process the best selection of images and try to produce a CD of these and provide to the festival promoter. We had begun this with club owners and most seemed appreciative.
Blues and Landscapes:
Growing up on a farm I had nurtured an intimate reverence with nature. Often the blues festivals were in a rural area and Val and I also began trying to capture the natural areas around the festivals during the off hours. I was quite an insomniac so lack of sleep was not an issue with trying to burn the candle of life in such a way. Val most often kept up with me as well.
These activities began to dovetail towards our dual loves of the performance and nature.
Each had its own requirements from a photographic standpoint. Whereas there is a reason the festival photograph area is called “the pits”, standing on a solitary mountaintop as the dawn envelops you with surreal brilliance is extraordinary. Yet both permeate a pre-cortical mental space that elicit emotional stimuli at a mammalian level. Sensation and perception often become intertwined.
As time progresses Val and I worked to find a balance between performance art and landscapes. I also began development of cityscapes as a natural progression of landscapes and, being in one of the more photographic cities, began to cultivate early morning twilight and dawn captures giving credence to Mother Nature’s vagaries.
An often overlooked aspect of the Pittsburgh area with the convergence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers converging to form the headwaters of the Ohio River is that this considerable quantity of water tends to create its own environment independent of what most weather meteorologists predict. Knowing this and gaining the experience that the subtle changes created by the very slight temperature increases as the sun creeps towards the horizon and the slight breeze this creates still rarely prepares one for the often amazing images that develop, many times quite rapidly.
Conversely, the introduction of LED lighting into stage productions of performance artists and, over time, the skills of these operators increasingly to utilize these more creatively then in the past have given rise to changes in the possibilities of artistic captures of these events.
Val and I also began many journeys into the desert southwest of the US for photographic expeditions and slowly gained a familiarity and knowledge of the vast region and its epochs of geologic past. Many exceptional memories of solitary sunrises and ink stained starry nights gained prize vibrational locations in our psychophysical memories.
Over several years we were capturing over 700 artists performances per year and travelling extensively for landscapes as well. I also photographed the Pittsburgh region as well, averaging 70+ photo ventures each year.
Adding in the extensive operational overhead of downloads, backup, cataloging, and maintaining a side business and our web site, we finally started to “run on empty” too often. Our catalog of images was near 1/2 million unique images. We decided it was high time to objectively review our current status and re-define our goals for the next decade or so.
We can now turn our attention to “Vision”!!
To be continued…..
Being and Time,