The Importance of William Henry Fox Talbots Experiments

“If it is practiced by a man of taste, the photograph will have the appearance of art (but) the photographer must…intervene as little as possible, so as not to lose the objective charm which it naturally possesses.”

Henri Matisse
Portrait of William Henry Fox Talbot by John Moffat, 1864.

The development of photography can be traced back to the failed attempts by William Henry Fox Talbot to draft the beauty of the landscape at Lake Como by hand in 1833.  He wrote: “How charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durable and remain fixed upon the paper! And why should it not be possible? I asked myself.” 

Photography as Art

Although photography is often described and evaluated in comparison to the traditional arts, it was at this moment the power of photography as an objective expression was envisioned. “One advantage of the discovery of the Photographic Art will be, that it will enable us to introduce into our pictures a multitude of minute details which add to the truth and reality of the representation, but which no artist would take the trouble to faithfully copy from nature” 

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Thank You Bill

Hand holding a tattered photo of a marine.
© 2018 Ira Gardner

I was in Portland with a group of students standing on the train platform near the airport.  We were getting ready to head downtown for a day of photography and touring art galleries.  This man came up to me and asked me if I was a photographer.  He could see the large camera bag hanging from my shoulder and the cluster of students with Nikon and Canon camera straps around their necks.  I explained that I was on a field trip and he immediately told me about all the places to go and how to get off the train and catch a connection up to the area around Portland State University.  He said his name was Bill and talked about how they film lots of movies in Portland and that they have lots of craft service food trucks and RV’s for the actors.  They sometimes gave him a free meal.

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Veterans Day

Image of birds flying over a lake with a snowy mountain and clouds above in a format like a chinese scroll painting.
© 2018 Ira Gardner

Veterans Day 2013

This morning was cool and sunny.  It is a Monday holiday and I am home alone enjoying a warm cup of coffee and getting ready to settle into reading a good book by the fire.  Filtered sunlight comes through the windows and the view from my front door reveals a scene in which the driveway is once more covered with fallen leaves in spite of my son’s recent valiant effort to rake and gather the piles into a fortress wall covered in blue and green tarps, awaiting the day I will rent a trailer to haul them away.

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Walker Evans: On the Outside Looking Inward

Photograph of Walker Evans by Edwin Locke
Walker Evans photo by Edwin Locke

A portrait of America

Walker Evans’ documentary photography is best known for his portrait of depression era America.  Two significant collections that come to mind are his book projects, Message from the Interior and American Photographs. In these photographic collections we are presented with precise images about the depression and a portrait of what is distinctly American culture.

To try to understand the photographs of Walker Evans is to put oneself in the position of being on the outside and peering in.  Viewing these photographs creates a sense of voyeurism and estrangement from the subject matter that is similar to looking at one’s own middle-aged appearance in the mirror; you can easily identify yourself and yet have difficulty recognizing what you’ve become.

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Photography since 9/11

A photo of two mannequins.

“Our sense of the world is now ruled and shaped by images…” ~ Susan Sontag, 2003

So much about our world has changed since September 11th 2001.  Not only have world events transformed our sense of security and our place in the world, but also our understanding of ourselves has been changed by the proliferation of digital cameras since 2002 when cell phone cameras were first introduced in the United States.

Photography since 9/11 has become a vigilant effort to keep tabs on loved ones in a hopeless effort to feel safe again.  Over 200,000 images are uploaded to Facebook every minute and it is estimated that more than 880 billion photos a year were made by the end of 2014.  To photograph and to share images has become as natural as speaking and in many cases has reduced the use of written communication in our culture to a short text message or tweet. Continue reading “Photography since 9/11”