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Thread: The Local

  1. #1

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    The Local

    I found this in Howard Jacobson's L.S.Lowry lecture (as transcribed in the Guardian), and it resonated strongly:

    ... provincialism becomes an artistic strategy: not a misfortune of birth or temperament, but a wilful rejection, not simply of metropolitan fashion and facility, but of the very idea of a gravitational centre. You haunt the margins because the margins are where independence and originality are to be found.


    I am a big fan of L.S.Lowry's "Lonely" landscapes, which unlike his well-known urban scenes are rarely used as a peg on which to hang nostalgia and sentimentality. They have just a tad too much niggling oddness. The seascapes are Sugimotos before Sugimoto, and there is a photographic concentration on the drama-less mundane that fascinates me. I would like to be able to reproduce some of their personality.

    Any others here who are proud to be provincial?

  2. #2
    MJSfoto1956's Avatar
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    Re: The Local

    Quote Originally Posted by Struan Gray View Post
    Any others here who are proud to be provincial?
    Think globally, act locally is a phrase of great practical wisdom that supports the concept of being "provincial".

    Perhaps the best thing is simply to be a good steward in this life.

  3. #3

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    Re: The Local

    Personally, I was never much for giving "names" to artistic styles. Each persons work should be unique and individual. When you approach a particular style for the sake of emulating that style, you are being derivative. Admittedly, we are all guilty from time to time of being derivative. And that's not always bad. A few years back, I attended a showing of Ruth Bernhard's exquisite black and white prints. The local critic lambasted her for being derivative -- which she was. Her nautilus shell had been done, and her nudes were strikingly similar in approach to Edward Weston. OTOH, she did them (in my opinion, anyway) much better than the works she emulated. Lost to the reviewer were several works that were uniquely Ruth Bernhard.

    Provincial? I suppose that defines some of my own work as well. I know I like much of the work described as provincial. But as long as you continue to produce striking images, who cares what we call your style.

    By the way, I love the photo you posted. One can get lost exploring the image. I kept looking for hidded creatures.
    Michael W. Graves
    Michael's Pub

    If it ain't broke....don't fix it!

  4. #4

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    Re: The Local

    Yes! Not needing to visit Yosemite, Iceland, Zabriskie, Antelope Canyon, Utah, or pilings in the Hudson River, or wherever, while being able to affirm the visual meaningfulness of 'the local' makes infinite sense to me. Not that I wouldn't be thrilled to visit and photograph any of the above, but I'd hate to feel that there was nothing worthwhile to photograph until such time as I could. Here are a few images from just around the corner. (All but two of these were taken with a Shen-Hao 4x5 using Delta 100 or Tri-X. One was with a C220, and one with a Pentax 67)

    www.johnvossphotography.blogspot.com
    Last edited by John Voss; 30-Mar-2007 at 08:13. Reason: Added some information...this is an LF forum afterall!
    ----------------------------------------------------

    www.johnvossphotography.blogspot.com

  5. #5

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    Re: The Local

    There is nothing any better or any worse to photographing what's in your own neighborhood versus what's half way around the world. Each of us choose to photograph what turns us on. Some of us find the process of traveling to new locations to be something we enjoy and something that contributes to our work, others prefer to stay near home. There is nothing wrong with either approach, it's a personal preference.

    Almost all photographic subject matter has been photographed before, be it mountains, lakes, oceans, pilings, trees, people, animals, etc. Everything has been shot before. The trick is doing it in a way that is unique to yourself.

  6. #6
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: The Local

    Some years ago I came to the realization that New Mexico and the SW was such an extraordinary place that I could spend my entire career photographing here and not even come close to exhausting its potential. And so I have pursued that fairly single mindedly. 38 years later and now 56 years old, I still feel the same way. But I also feel some panic like time is running out, as landscapes get consumed by developments, and I have accomplished so little. I have found in recent years, because of teaching in Chicago and having family in England, that a bit of travel gets me out of visual ruts, but the focus of my work will alway be the SW and New Mexico in particular.

    Nice work John.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 66
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  7. #7

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    Re: The Local

    'Proud' is probably a bit combative, or at least implies a hierarchy. I too love travelling and exploration, and having twice moved to live in foreign countries where I did not speak the language I have learnt at first hand how my perceptiveness changes as I traverse the spectrum from fresh off the boat to established pillar of the community. There are good photos to be made at all points on that spectrum.

    When you are new somewhere you see all the things the locals never think about. After I moved here I was struck by how Swedes are much less concerned with privacy, leaving their curtains undrawn while getting up to all sorts of fascinating activities. They also have a passion for road signage, populating an average urban crossroads with as many as thirty different traffic signs, all shouting so loudly in your eyes that they might as well be raspberry bushes for all the good they do. And then there is (or was, things are better now) the dismal visual state of Swedish shopfitting and merchandising: like flitting back in the 70s Scotland of my youth.

    I'm bedded in now, and past all that. Instead I'm looking for just the right light to hit the witchhazel flowering in the railway underpass. I'm hoping for another berry year on the whitebeams and rowans so I can go hunting waxwings with LF. And I see holes in the fabric of the town where I know there should be elms and grubbed out salix. I know the significance of a new bicycle parked outside the house with the lovely patterns of mould on the harling.

    That dog rose bush has always been one of my favourites. I love the way each year's shoots strike out in a new angle, all in parallel and wearing the season's new colour. Michael you were right, I had to wait three years until the wren did not nest there, but the rabbits were less pernickety and tolerated my tripod without apparent concern.

    Friedlander's "Stems" and Meatyard's collected work helped me to settle down when creaky knees and snotty-nosed sproglets stopped me hankering after the Brookes Range and the Bogda Ola. I am sure I would have fun with LF in either of those places, but I am also glad to have found a place in my photography for a more contemplative pace.

    PS: John, your work has exactly the sense of knowing its own subject that I like.

  8. #8

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    Re: The Local

    Quote Originally Posted by Struan Gray View Post
    I'm bedded in now, and past all that. Instead I'm looking for just the right light to hit the witchhazel flowering in the railway underpass. I'm hoping for another berry year on the whitebeams and rowans so I can go hunting waxwings with LF. And I see holes in the fabric of the town where I know there should be elms and grubbed out salix. I know the significance of a new bicycle parked outside the house with the lovely patterns of mould on the harling.

    That dog rose bush has always been one of my favourites. I love the way each year's shoots strike out in a new angle, all in parallel and wearing the season's new colour. Michael you were right, I had to wait three years until the wren did not nest there, but the rabbits were less pernickety and tolerated my tripod without apparent concern.
    Very eloquently put. Wonderful language; I know exactly what you mean, albeit from my own corner.

  9. #9
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    Re: The Local

    Once upon a time I had a Jeep's front end rebuilt, and the mechanic started talking to me about Baja. I gave him a blank looked and asked why he was talking like I'd been to Baja. He replied, "I know that wear pattern! That's Baja." And I replied, no, I'd only been in Washington state. "But Washington doesn't have roads that bad." Yes, it does, and I've been on them lots of times. There are many places that I want to go again, and cars can't go there.

    Right now I'm waiting for the right light to photograph the side of a building a couple of blocks from me. The clouds have been playing games with me, so sometime they are going to find someplace more interesting to go and play, and then I'm going to photograph an old painted advertisement for an old feed and flour store. Construction is coming, and then things will change.

    I have a few photographs I made in Oregon and Idaho, but mostly its my back yard of Washington state. I've never been to Yosemite, and I might never get there. I'd rather take a trip along the Snake river than see Yosemite. There are so many places in Washington state I haven't explored, and I never know what is around the bend.

  10. #10

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    Re: The Local

    Struan, I agree: the word proud has a defensive connotation.

    I have tried to shoot landscapes, wide open expands of nature that inspires so many photographers, but at the time the negative was developed or at best in my first print I had this strong feeling that I would never pursue the fine print because the subject didn't interest me. I find landscapes very hard to "interpret", I find it difficult to filter them, so I walk, and when I find a place (it can really be anything) that interest me and that puts me in a prolific mode, I know that the shot I envisioned is probably not going to be the best one. That's why many times I stay hours in the same place and wait for my eyes to open.
    Sometime the images I retain more successful are the ones that I see through the camera when I am not composing, when my eye meets the ground glass accidently.

    I guess I can be called local, since I shoot mostly not too far from where I live.
    I am not really interested in showing a slice of what I see as much, I think, saying something.
    Struan, great thread, and beautiful writing.

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