Monthly Archives: January 2011

Texture x 3

Grating, Shadow, Adobe

If you feel that you’re missing out photographically, there are a couple of easy tricks that can snap you out of the visual doldrums.

The first is this: get closer. Maybe even a lot closer. Getting closer not only lets you see detail you might otherwise miss, it also changes how things look through the lens (lenses bring their own depth of field and angle of view).

The second is this: get low or get high. You are used to seeing things from your own eye-height. Of course everything looks familiar and ordinary from that perspective! So squat. Or, you could climb up on a chair.

The more you do to bust up your visual routine, the more you’ll stretch your idea of what’s beautiful.

A Year Ago: Waiting

Dog in Doorway, Georgetown, Washington DCI stood there for a minute or two taking pictures. The dog never came down off the porch…
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Condensation in a light fixture.

There was a little bit of a thaw today and some sunshine. That it coincided with a weekend prompted hordes of people to pour forth from their cocoons. It was a busy day at the mall (I went to return a jacket that didn’t fit right).

Water was cascading off roofs at the corners where gutters were failing to do their jobs. The melting was fierce, though I doubt it will last long. Seepage and condensation gave me this picture (and about twenty others, I so loved this pattern).

A Year Ago: Because it SNOWED today…

Roots, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DCI photographed these tree roots at Dumbarton Oaks the other day…
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Make It Forward!

Knit Textures
Okay, so here’s the deal.

The first three people to comment on this post will receive a hand-made item from me. The catch is, you must pledge to post a similar opportunity on your blog or Facebook page, and subsequently make hand-made items for three people who respond to you. And you must do it within six months.

Do not be intimidated by this! It doesn’t have to be anything big or fancy or complicated. Just something fun you make with your own two hands and give away. This idea was conceived by the ever-brilliant Lynn. I love the vision of a wave of hand-made gifts spreading out across the country (and maybe the world!) to ever increasing numbers of people.

So, comments are open now. I will contact the first three people who take the pledge to Make It Forward and get their mailing addresses.

If you miss this opportunity, don’t be too sad; I plan to do it quarterly.

A Year Ago: Suddenly, A Crowd Had Formed…

Everard's, Georgetown, Washington DC…at Everard’s in Georgetown.
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Ice Tree

Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC

Winter can’t last forever, can it?

A Year Ago: A Winter Garden

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DCDumbarton Oaks garden is one of my favorite places in Washington. To be more accurate, it’s one of my favorite places anywhere.…
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Melancholy Beauty: lacrimae rerum

Why is modern industrial, urban, or residential decay so compelling? What’s at the heart of the appeal of what some people call “ruin porn?”

While you can point to the beauty of the muted tones of weathered paint, the fascinating patterns revealed by flaking paint and rust, or the visual contrast created by organic life overtaking the man-made, it is disingenuous to claim that the thrill is purely aesthetic. Yes, the quality of light in these spaces can be magnificent, but let’s not forget that we are, metaphorically speaking, whistling in the graveyard.

These places help us visualize an apocalyptic end-of-days. This is how we see the world after a nuclear holocaust, complete energy collapse, or some horrendous biological plague. These images are how we imagine not our own, singular mortality, but what it would look for our society or our species to die. These photographs and videos are squarely in the traditional vein of the Vanitas or memento mori.

A Year Ago: An Old Love

Great Falls, VABack in the day, all I ever shot was black and white. I developed it myself. I printed it myself. In a darkroom.…
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This site gains an extra layer of poignancy since it was an amusement park: fun, frivolity, laughter, youth, escapism, all the exact antithesis of its current state.



Once upon a time, I earned my living taking pictures of people. It’s been a long while, though, since I made a photograph of anyone that was anything other than a casual snapshot.

There’s nothing technically good about this image of Crystal. Not much is in focus, the subject is at least partially blurred by motion, the low lighting required a high ISO which made it very grainy. It breaks one of the commonly held rules of portraiture, which is that the center of interest should include the subject’s eyes, clearly rendered.

But it is exactly the fact that her eyes are shut which makes this picture compelling for me. That moment of interiority, of calm, that moment when the camera’s gaze is not registering—that’s the moment that something true appears.

I had forgotten how much I like discovering that opening, the brief period when the subject of a portrait is fully present and is generous enough to show you something authentic of herself. It is a special form of exchange, of conversation. It emerges from trust and courage.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy making portraits.

A Year Ago: In Knots

Plastic wrap in tree.This is not technically a great photograph. And surely no one would imagine I’m in favor of plastic pollution…
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Showing Your Work

Concrete and light dazzle.

Until modern times, “showing your work” was a virtue largely restricted to solving math problems. For works of art or craft, the goal was a perfection of surface and the appearance of effortless ease. No one wanted a whiff of the sweat involved or a hint of the inevitable trial and error behind a successful result.

Only gradually did our culture warm up to the charms inherent in working sketches, false starts, stray chisel marks, and paint drips. Only recently in our aesthetic history has a degree of naivété or clumsiness been perceived as possibly appealing or indeed especially authentic.

Now, it seems, the pendulum has swung distinctly in the other direction: surfaces that are too seamless feel cold and mechanical, classical proportions appear stiff and academic. We look for evidence of the hand, of the human fallibility that bespeaks an individual’s vision and passion.

A Year Ago: Great Falls

Great Falls, VASure, I took pictures of the rapids. I’ll probably post at least a couple of them…
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Flood Light

Waiting area, Dulles International Airport

What do you see?
I see a man walking on water inside a building. A miracle.

What did I photograph?
A waiting area at Dulles, late afternoon: the floor has been buffed to a highly-reflective shine. The mixture of late-afternoon sunlight with interior fluorescent and incandescent bulbs is difficult to capture accurately. Still, it’s close enough to the view that caught my eye.

I want to say that, for the most part, you are not going to see things like this unless you are looking for them. I don’t mean to suggest that this is a fantastic photo, or to brag that I am somehow special for seeing this sight. I will say, however, that the wonder and I delight I experienced when I noted these elements coming together, and the great pleasure I take in sharing them with others makes my life better.

I challenge you to notice something beautiful—one thing—and point it out to someone else every day for a week.

A Year Ago: Blue Grass

Dried foliage in the Bishops GardenIt was l’heure bleu. I had run out, camera in hand, as the sun broke through the clouds…
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Dulles Departure

Entering the secure area at Dulles International Airport

I saw my brother Aaron off at Dulles International Airport.

Security screening has been moved downstairs and out of sight. For some reason, saying goodbye and then watching your loved one descend into the unknown is more distressing than watching him join a jostling crowd taking off their shoes, putting their carry-ons into plastic trays, and being subjected to various and sundry other indignities.

A Year Ago: Mosscape

Moss and other stuff on the ground.There’s a whole world of beauty at our feet. I challenge you to go for a walk this afternoon. Take a watch with you.…
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A few weeks ago there were a lot of people posting around the web about the still photographs of Shinichi Maruyama, especially his series of “Water Sculptures.” I was interested in those, but I really love this high-shutter-speed video. I recommend the HD, full-screen view!

[via ze frank]