This is a variant of a photograph published on this blog in 2016, but I came across it recently and wanted to take a second run in post-production; there were some color aberrations and soft-focus issues I thought I could improve upon. This was taken in January of last year while I was driving around south of Kansas City. As a general rule, photographers are trained not to photograph into the sun, but there are definitely times when it makes sense to break the rules. Getting this lovely silhouette of a single tree with a mercurial cloud-scape behind it took several tries before getting it right, but I am incredibly pleased with the final result.
Living in the southwest, people always ask me what Kansas was like – or, more accurately, they assume that Kansas is as bland as it’s Wizard of Oz depiction. Living in a valley surrounded by four great mountain ranges here in Tucson, the assumption is that Kansas is flat and boring, which isn’t entirely an inaccurate assessment – the plains states possess an incredibly subtle beauty and you have to have the right eyes to appreciate it.
I’m hoping today’s image is an expression of that beauty that folks can appreciate, regardless of where they hang their hat and what state they call home.
“Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.”
Sometimes I’m amazed by what I don’t see – that I can walk down the same street I’ve walked down a dozen times and see something interesting or beautiful that has always been there, but that I have never noticed. The exercise of abstract photography makes it easier to actively look, everywhere you go, and it makes life – even the most boring parts – undeniably more exciting.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
One man’s vandalism is another man’s art, I suppose. Not that I necessarily condone the act, but I’ve enjoyed finding and photographing all manner of graffiti throughout the years. By photographing these things, I have the opportunity to frame the image, manipulate the saturation and apply subtle edits, and make somebody else’s art into my own – photography is the appropriation of reality, which is alchemical in its own right, and I thoroughly enjoy the process.
“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.”
I like that abstract art asks questions and provides little (if any) answers. It guarantees a unique experience from each individual pair of eyes that look at it. It’s mystifying to some; I’m not so foolish to think that there aren’t people who just do not enjoy abstract artwork. But I would challenge anybody to visit the Mark Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. This was the artist that did it for me.
Looking at photomechanical reproductions in text books, I would go so far as to say that I utterly loathed the prominence and popularity of artists like Mondrian or Rothko. Standing directly in front of one of the canvases, though, is a completely different experience. I was transfixed. Seeing a painting or a photograph on a wall – seeing the actual thing – is different than seeing it in a book and trying to puzzle-out why it’s so damn special. Most Americans will never set eyes on the actual Mona Lisa – it’s referenced in pop culture, in films, and reproduced in coffee-table books and art tomes. And we all have an idea of what it is. Seeing the actual art object, to look at the texture of the canvas that was actually touched by the artist’s hand…that’s a whole other game.
“To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk.”
I don’t have a lot to say about today’s image. I was on a bike ride through the warehouse district, and I stopped several times to make some pictures. There’s something about these industrial textures that resonates with me, and I don’t feel like spending the time or energy trying to intellectualize it.
There’s something beautiful and perplexing about this kind of imagery to me, so I use my camera to document it.
Notice, of course, that it’s an industrial textured photograph in red, white, and blue, which aligns itself with an old series I never finished about the corruption and death of the “American Dream.” One of these days, I may draft an essay. But for now, I’ll let the images just exist on their own merits.
Another month has begun, and I’m excited to start working on some new images. I had a lot of fun last month digging through old, neglected, previously unpublished images from my many journeys to Mexico, but this month gives me the opportunity to start making new images. No more dusting-off the old – I intend to bring my camera everywhere I go and make brand new pictures every day, beginning with this one.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and abstract art doesn’t necessary stimulate everybody, but I thoroughly enjoy looking at the world through the camera lens, studying the details that would otherwise go completely unnoticed. That’s what this month is going to be about – peering through the macro lens and looking for the textures and details that we often never notice. It should be a pretty good time.