It is time. Closing the door on the last 3 years. It is right, which does not make it easy. Rooms filled with color, books, cats and life stand empty. Filled with memories and sunshine. How full can emptiness be.
In the three years I've been photographing, there were a handful of times when I lost myself in the photographed object. I know this sounds weird, so let me try to describe such a moment in a non-poetic way ...
Yesterday, when passing by the kitchen window, I saw the magnolia tree in our front yard projects interesting shadows on the wall separating our building from our neighbors'. I grabbed the camera, went outside, and standing less than 2 feet from the wall started to compose images out of the patches of shadow and light. As there was a little bit of wind and the sun was constantly changing position, the light forms changed all the time. For what must have been at least half an hour, I moved a few inches at a time and ... created 70(!) images of a very ordinary concrete wall. A few people passing by asked if I am trying a new camera. Nope, I was not. I was getting lost in the shadows of the magnolia tree.
Saying my goodbyes. To the beach, the gardens, the art and the streets. This time, I took my camera (testing the new Pancro 400 film) to Venice. About 45 minutes walk from Santa Monica and light years away. The ultimate blend of Van Gogh murals and Green doctors, public opinion on display ("f**k Trump" shorts ???) alongside "The Shul on the beach". Homeless and muscle beach. Loneliness, dreams and living art. Farewell Venice, will miss you, stay well.
...and this seems to be one of those times when the spirits chose me ... A last visit to the Arboretum in LA before returning to Israel. Soaking in ideas, getting ready to renovate my own garden. Imprinting images in memory and on film. Gardens are always the places that's hardest for me to leave behind. To all the peacocks, trees and turtles, ponds and ducks, squirrels and spirits - farewell, I will miss you.
Books are my earliest and most consistent love. They provide comfort, connect me with my father, make a house my home. There was only one rule about books (besides curbing my obsession with buying them...) - you do not write / mess up books. Ever. Well, almost ever. Until now. A few month ago, I started altering one of my very favorite books, "The Secret Garden," rediscovering the story and making it mine. Something compels me to re-imagine, page after page. Snippets of text reveal a story beneath a story. And somewhere, between the two, a new door opens.
I've always struggled with taking pictures while travelling. On one hand it is nice to have visual memories to look at, on the other hand ....at best the photos look like nice postcards. They may show the place but do not show how I felt when I was there, so why not just buy a postcard?? So this time, when we went to Yellowstone for a week, I tried a different tactic. I took the digital camera, for the "inside the safety zone" pictures. The analog Mamiya medium format one, to work with and see what is it's "golden spot", where will it shine the most. And .... the Diana F+ camera that was gathering dust on the shelf after the 1st film I shot with it was a disaster. With the Diana, I decided to give up all caution and just play. Whenever something caught my eye - I captured it. Piling images one on top of the other, in the hope that the resulting image will not show "a thing" but the excitement and awe of being surrounded by such an abundance of life and beauty. We returned home, and scaredy cat that I am, I sent a few of the films to a lab for development (so I will not mess them all up...) and started to slowly develop the rest at home. Three done, three more to go. And trust me, the Diana will not gather dust on the shelf anymore ;)
How can one begin to understand the latest decision made by Donald Trump - abandoning the Paris climate agreement? Many people reacted with both words and acts. I am still too aggravated for words, and for now, I would like to remind the guys in the White House the words of John Muir:
The world, is ours to enjoy, to delight in, to cherish and to keep. So in a hundred years from now, our great grandchildren will still be able to walk in the shade of the great Redwoods, rather than jog on flood protection walls. Maybe this should have been a tweet rather than a blog post ...
Eclectic, surprising, filled with Art, food and life - for the last two years I'm getting to know Los Angeles, discovering one of the most fascinating cities I've seen. Mostly, I'm blown away by the vibrating art that can not be contained by the pristine museum walls and like a colorful and noisy river flows right through the city streets, filling its alleys with living works of art.
Ten days ago, my husband and I went on a spray painting workshop and graffiti tour in the LA Art District. (Yes, he painted as well :)). After finishing our masterpieces, we went for a short guided walk in the neighborhood. A world of color, letters and social meaning take over walls, alleys, the side walk, even garbage bins. A Mercedes commercial is being shot just outside the small cafe where we had a tasty little dinner. Cheers LA!! May you continue to be your eclectic, liberal self for many years to come!!!
For three days last week, I learned to speak Ballenesque. Taking a workshop with Roger Ballen is like learning a new visual language. I went to his workshop because I wanted to understand how his mind works. How does it give birth to such images. Well, no one (including Roger) really understand this, but after hearing him talk about his work a few threads emerged.
"I am a formalist" he said at the beginning of the first day, and indeed he is. Form is at the base of each one of his images. Lines and shapes are echoed, each squiggle has an aesthetic reason. Form creates meaning rather than the other way around.
The prominence of background. Starting with wires and textures on the wall, moving on to drawings (created by him or others) and ending up with background becoming foreground in his latest series, Ballan's work has an unusual emphasis on the background. An interesting mirroring of the psychological tone of his work.
Like the background, drawing becomes more and more important in his work, unlike people that slowly disappear.
More than anything, he believes in constant, disciplined work. Each one of his projects took years to complete. Day after day after day after day of taking pictures would eventually result in new ideas. Tenacity, patience. No shortcuts. Slowly creating a new language: Ballenesque.
Four and a half months before leaving LA, every experience becomes more precious, tinged with a bit of sadness: soon this will come to an end.
Don't get me wrong, there are many things I am looking forward to when returning home to Israel, but the LA art world that open its gates before me, this world I will sorely miss. And not just the large, breathtaking exhibits we planned to go to (Minor White, Picasso...) but the ones we encountered by mistake, when waiting for a tour to start, or just passing through the room in order to get to the exhibit we wanted to see. Like last Sunday, John McLaughlin' "Total Abstraction".
We had 15 minutes before the start of the Picasso and Rivera tour, and started peeking at the other exhibits in the building to pass the time. I am not a huge fan of completely abstract work, but something in the coherent simplicity of the room demanded attention. This was one of three rooms showing work by a painter I never heard about John McLaughlin. The plaque on the wall described his Japanese influences and had a quote that caught my eyes:
"Asian paintings made me wonder who I was. Western painters, on the other hand, tried to tell me who they were."
For the first time, I turned around and looked at abstract images differently. All of a sudden the focus of the paintings changed. Instead of looking at the painted lines, I focused on the spaces between them. Listening between the lines to echoes of me.
Surrealism is one of my favorite art movements. It is a pretty recent "love" but and quite surprising given my classic upbringing and education. I instinctively enjoy its witty way of making me look deeper at images, making me think. But knowing (intellectually) is very different than understanding (emotionally), and it seems the the world decided it is about time to teach me the difference between the two...
For the last few weeks, I had to come to terms with the nearing end of Irene, my mother in law, a person who was very dear to me. A phone call in the middle of the night separated the world as it was, from the one it became - a world without her. After the funeral and the traditional "Shivaa", only starting to grasp the enormity of it all, my husband and I returned to Frankfurt, Germany to take care of the things she left behind: furniture, clothes, apartment... Taking a few hours off from this gruesome task, we went to see Magritte's exhibit. Moving from image to image, without the benefit of the audio guide (German only :(...) - a light turned on.
The images, besides being aesthetically stunning, were an exact reflection of my state of mind. A world that makes no sense, where there seem to be two coexisting spaces: an internal one that holds up to a reality that no longer exist, and an external one where the sun is shining (actually it was kind of cloudy), the trees are full of buds and someone else will soon move in to her apartment. Just as plausible as a pair of pants standing by themselves on the table.
I realize, and not for the first time either, that there is some part of me that understands things before the mind does. More then once, I fell in love/felt compelled to do something without really understanding why. On my unexpected love of Surrealism, it seems my brain finally caught up with the ??/mind/spirit/whatever it is that fell in love in the first place. Now, back to being the rational me, I start wondering what/where is this "understanding" mind. Where does it hide? Where does it go when the body it was connected to is gone ...?
Death is one of the hardest things to comprehend. The world changes. We realize permanence is an illusion, a figment of our imagination. When the physical body is gone, the spirit is stronger than ever. Breath becomes air.
Wandering, camera in hand, looking for what else is there. For the first time, experiencing the truth Minor White expressed a long time ago. "One should not only photograph things for what they are, but also for what else they are".
I have been photographing for two and a half years now. Have a great digital camera, good lenses. Got better at composing an image, at processing it....and yet, I never really understood what photography is. "Writing with light". Using light to turn a blank piece of paper into a printed image. Watching the image appearing on the paper, not line by line as it is spit out by the printer, but slowly taking shape under the yellow darkroom lights. Dodging and burning are no longer done by hitting a key on the computer. They shed their digital guise and return to their origin - manipulating light in order to shape the image.
Six weeks in the darkroom, four days a week, three hours a day. Does is always work as I want it to? Nope. Can I better control the image digitally? You bet I can. But if you had a pill you could take instead of eating your favorite sushi. Faster, more efficient, same nutritional value, would you go for it?
The true alchemists do not change lead into gold, they change words. Sometimes, they use light to change it into images. Pure magic.
January 21st, 2017. At 52 years old, this is my first demonstration. Being a very private and quiet person, crowded, noisy places are definitely not my cup of tea. Neither are street photography or iPhone photography....yet there comes a time, where personal preferences aside, I will go march with hundred of thousands of people, in downtown LA at the Women's March.
Armed with my film camera (who remained unused ...) and the iPhone, I stood in the fully packed Metro, with hundreds of people who despite the lack of space, joked, smiled, talked. The kindest and most considerate crowd that ever traveled on public transportation. We all exited the Metro station, passing under the most appropriate overhead sign "exit to Hope street" and could barely believe the amount of people overflowing the streets. For the next couple of hours, mainly stood in the crowd, as it was impossible to really march - people filled the streets from the starting point to the end point of the march route. The pussyhats (why didn't I order one??), the signs, the singing - the air was filled with good energy, fun and hope. Hope, that despite the new president, we shall overcome. Or as one of my favorite signs said - we shall overcomb ;).
Yesterday, I spent the day at the annual PhotoLA - the biggest photography event in Los Angeles. Soaked in the work around me, enjoyed seeing my work on display. Such events allow me to climb a few more stairs, get a bit more perspective on the breath and depth of the world of photography. Every step mean the bar is set a little higher, making me want to become a better artist. Wandering around the labyrinth of booths, I stopped by the 21st editions' table. Last year they had on display Sally Mann's book, and for at least 10 minutes I was glued to the floor, barely daring to touch it. As she is one of my favorite photographers, I assumed this year I will be less inspired by their display. Boy, was I wrong.
On a small table, next to some of his prints, was Wynn Bullock's artist book (if anyone can gift me 18,000$ to add this to my art library, please let me know ...). "Relativity". Excerpts from Einstein's letters and Platinum prints of Bullock's magnificent work. A feast for the eyes, a real treasure. Below, two sample pages I shot with the iPhone. "Wood" print alongside Einstein's thoughts on "the common element in artistic and scientific experience" (text reproduced below), and another spread which includes one of my absolute favorite images.
"What do artistic and scientific experience have in common? Where the world ceases to be the scene of personal hopes, wishes, wants, where we face it as free creatures, admiring questioning, beholding, there we enter the realm of art and science. We do science when we reconstruct in the language of logic what we have seen and experienced; but when we communicate through forms whose connections are not accessible to the conscious mind, yet we intuitively recognize them as something meaningful - then we are doing art. Common to both is the loving devotion, the being above the personal, removed from our will"
Oh, yeah. The bar jumped very high this time .....
Most of us, have a smell, a taste, a sight that instantly makes us smile. For me, it is the snow. Perhaps because of childhood memories from Romania, perhaps because it embodies a quiet, serene atmosphere I love. Or maybe it is because of the way it covers all visual noise, turning every plain grass and tree branch into a beautiful sculpture.
I have been to Yosemite three times now, and while this park is beautiful in every season, there is nothing like greeting the New Year in a forest covered in snow. Happy 2017!!!
The year is almost ending and the holidays are just such a good time to feel thankful, and it seems I'm best at expressing myself camera in hand. On the first Hanukkah night, despite still being down with the flu, I could not refrain from photographing. No big celebrations, just small everyday moments I am thankful for. The well dressed snowmen puppet I got as Hanukkah gift, our funny, loving cats and their gifts (no, we did not buy them gifts, our friends did. It seems we have now five different types of mice toys scattered all over the house. )
This was a good year, I learned a lot, created quite a bit, grew up as a person. I am truly thankful for all the people in my life that made this year so special, love you so much!
Looking forward to a great 2017, and meanwhile - happy Holidays everyone!!!
No place is boring if you have a pocket full of unexposed film, said Robert Adams. Or maybe just an iPhone....
I usually do not photograph on my morning walks. After all, this is the only exercise I get, I'd better try to keep up a good pace and burn some calories. Once in a while, my solitary walk is replaced by a more leisurely walk & chat with my friend Patti. On these occasions, we walk the length of the Palisade park overlooking the beach and the adjoining streets. Beautiful but nothing extraordinary. Until you take a second look.
The memorial plaque under the bench - who was Marion? Who loved her enough to have her immortalized in the rose garden? A hidden gate leading from the front garden - to where? A tiny plant the color of the Mediterranean sky, a lion head at the bottom of the wall. Why is he there? How can one not smile at Lulu the dog or at Moses who is lying on the bench, his head on his owner's lap?
No place is boring, and not because of the unexposed film or iPhone in the pocket, but because having them makes us look rather than see. And once we look, we notice the details and realize what great photographers said a long time ago: no place is boring. And photography - its not really about the equipment...
I'm in Frankfurt, Germany now for almost 3 weeks. My mother in law, a beautiful human being, who you may know from my ongoing series "A portrait of shadows and light" fell and broke her leg. At the age of 94, this may be a minor surgery, but it is a major trauma. For the first time in my life I am aware to how fragile life is. Like the few leaves that hold on to the bare tree branches.
It is here, when I sit next to her that I realize how the will to live is what fills the frail body. When she is depressed, the light goes away from her eyes. When I say something that makes her laugh - her face seems to fill up, her eyes glow.
When I am not in the hospital, I spend most of the time in her small apartment. Photographing, writing, drawing. Capturing her presence around me even when she is not here.
She is better now. Just moved from the hospital to a "Parents home". Surrounded by family pictures, weekly news magazine and her favorite crossword book, she seems to be slowly getting back to herself.
Outside, there are fewer and fewer leaves on the trees. End of November.
"Good artists copy, great artists steal". The first time I read this quote in Will Gompertz book "What are you looking at?" I was stunned. Really? Steal?? After reading a bit more, a light bulb went off. "Stealing" as a first step towards making something your own, is very different from copying someone else's work. Learned something new.
Fast forward almost a year. My better half and I visit the LACMA museum in LA, one of our favorites. One of our personal jokes when visiting museums is deciding which piece of art we would like to take home. Hubby can't decide between two: a Picasso's blue period painting and "Young woman of the people" by Modigliani. As lately I've been playing with collage, without thinking much, I blurted "I will make you a Modigliani" and snapped a picture of the painting.
Well, here it is. "The key to your very own Modigliani". Perhaps this does not make me a great artist, but I am definitely evolving as a wife :)