A Sense of Place – Seeing Beyond the Labels
February 5, 2017
“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” — Henry David Thoreau
A mid-January trip to the Florida coast to participate in “The Art of Seeing” workshop led by Les Saucier and Janet Garrity took us to some beautiful beaches at the Palm Coast on the Atlantic and Sanibel and Captiva Islands on the Gulf Coast for sunrises, sunsets, lighthouses, seashells and waterfowl.
I plan to share images from these beach journeys later, but in this post I wanted to focus on our trip to the quaint little town of Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, located between Ft. Myers and Sarasota. The town has no gas stations and many residents get around by golf cart. There are no retail chains on the island, so it has become a go-to destination for tourists who wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan living.
Spending about 6 hours in Boca Grande, including a fabulous lunch with fellow photographers at “The Temptation” restaurant, I had the opportunity to explore the town and practice my skills at street photography, as well as intimate scenes of the huge banyan trees.
But I was especially drawn to photograph “Our Lady of Mercy” Catholic church on the quiet end of Boca Grande’s Park Avenue. I spent well over an hour settling into the feeling of the church and attempting to capture its spirit through the lens of my cameras – both color and infrared. My love of black & white film photography during college, and the beautiful play of light and dark in and around the church inspired me to convert the church images to B&W.
My goal was to convey a sense of place, as well as my own feelings of peace and comfort created by the palpable silence in the church and the play of light in the simple architectural symmetries. The church was built in 1950 with portions of the exterior made of blocks of coquina (coral). I was also consciously working with one of the themes from Les Saucier’s workshop to “see beyond the labels”; attempting to convey something more than just the fact that these are pictures of a church.
Personally, the experience brought back mostly positive memories and emotions of my own childhood and early teens with my family’s membership in a small town Episcopal church in Dade City Florida. The predominant feeling that was enlivened in the little Boca Grande church was the sense of the awe and mystery of spiritual connection that for me has always transcended religious doctrine.
I welcome comments on what these images evoke for my viewers…
Check out the Wikipedia post for more details and interesting historical perspective on Boca Grande.
Growing up with Santa
December 9, 2016
Our grandson, Martin turned 3 years old in early November and over Thanksgiving week, we were present to join in for the day-after-Thanksgiving visit from Santa in Oxford MS. This was the first year Martin wasn’t in tears from the Santa adventure.
But you can see that he still wasn’t quite sure what to think! Our daughter and son-in-law were much more excited about getting to see Santa than Martin was.
I enjoy exploring the history of cultural traditions like we have around Santa Claus and Christmas, bringing good children gifts, and coal for those who have been misbehaving. Once I got past the age of believing in the ‘real’ Santa Claus around the age of six or so, I remember reading a picture book we had about the origins of Santa Claus beginning with real historical Saint Nicholas.
Since I no longer have that book, and wasn’t sure of the details, I searched and found a fun website, Why Christmas with an article that verified my recollection of Saint Nicholas and how he came to be the patron saint of not only children, but also sailors.
While none of the stories can be fully verified, one in particular contributed to the modern day tradition about Santa coming down the chimney and depositing gifts in stockings hung on the mantle. Here’s the story quoted from the website:
“There was a poor man who had three daughters. He was so poor, he did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn’t get married…. One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house (This meant that the oldest daughter was then able to be married). The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later with the second daughter. Finally, determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father secretly hid by the fire every evening until he caught Nicholas dropping in a bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done, because he did not want to bring attention to himself. But soon the news got out and when anyone received a secret gift, it was thought that maybe it was from Nicholas.”
Back to our own story with Martin’s Santa encounter this year, it was a happy ending in spite of a bit of trepidation evident in Martin’s expression. I had fun watching and documenting the event with my camera. Turning the photos into a story that inspired a bit of research into the Santa Claus tradition was the icing on the cake.
Finding your creative voice, discovering the magic
November 30, 2016
“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing–and keeping the unknown always beyond you.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe
We are all artists, creating the journey that our life becomes. Making art is simply a way to explore and practice the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical elements of our power as creators. I love the quote from Georgia O’Keefe because it reminds me that the important thing is to keep exploring the art of creation. It’s a continual discovery into the unknown and making the unknown more visible to ourselves and the world.
I expect that discussions about “finding my personal voice”, or in the field of business, “what is our differentiating value” are common across many forms of creative endeavor. Often we may undermine our own exploration and discovery with self-doubt, premature judgement and narrow rules or beliefs about what makes “art” or what makes a business product or service of unique value to its intended audience.
So here’s a reminder to myself and anyone who may need it right now, that finding your unique or differentiated voice is a continual process of exploration, discovery and new creation. Nothing in life is static. If we aren’t continuing to explore and create anew, then we have curtailed or even stopped the journey to new possibilities.
Enjoy the play and the magic of the journey without getting too hung up on arriving at an imagined pinnacle of perfection of what it is to be a “successful” photographer, artist, entrepreneur, business leader (or add a noun of your choice).
Keep playing, creating, practicing — and your voice will make itself visible and heard. That’s what creating the images in this post are doing for me, and I hope enlivening a similar inspiration for my readers!
Check out my online photo gallery for my continuing journey of finding/creating my own voice.
Transitions, Transformations & Transmutations
November 21, 2016
“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.” – Ansel Adams
The camera has long been a companion and guide to my life’s journey. Whenever I have camera in hand, I begin to see the world through a more receptive mindset, opening myself to the spirit of the subject and my own feelings about what I’m seeing.
Both the act of shooting in the field, and the post-processing of images become a personal practice that reveals new opportunities to create and experience the life I wish to live. That requires a mindset of openness and receptivity to the world around me, and exercising my power to choose what I want to put in or leave out of the camera’s frame of view.
Practicing photography in this way got a huge boost during the height of Autumn color from a week long workshop my wife Bonnie and I attended in Maine with photographer, artist & teacher, John Paul Caponigro. If you don’t know of JP, be sure to check out his website for a wealth of resources on creativity through the art and craft of photography.
With JP as our guide and coach, the 9 workshop participants visited beautiful spots along coastal Maine and Acadia National Park. JP’s instruction during daily meetings as well as in the field centered on building a “project” around which to create a set of images that communicated a specific idea or theme that we felt passionate about.
My project took on the form of a series of images that I feel convey the idea of Transitions in life that present opportunities to break out of old paradigms & beliefs to create anew. The theme is relevant for me personally, as I enter a transition from full-time employment in consulting sales to my own business offering mentoring in creativity empowerment for entrepreneurs and artists / creators.
I also believe there is a lesson for us all in this time of national and global turmoil to center ourselves in the power we have as individuals to create what we wish to have in our own lives; and not depend on others to do it for us.
There is so much beauty in the world, and so much potential in human consciousness to create a life of abundance and possibility rather than violence, aggression and divisiveness. I hope the images in this post and the related slideshow give you a few minutes of solace and reflection as respite from the turmoil going on in the media and political events. The 5-minute slideshow is here in YouTube.
All photos are my own. Music and quote is credited in the last slide.
You can also find (and purchase) these photos in my ChrisAllenImages portfolio site.
Visual Metaphor, Imagination & Story
September 4, 2016
“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams
Having well developed skills in the technical aspects of photography are certainly important in making impactful images. To riff on the comment from Ansel Adams, I would say that the artist’s intention and feeling of connection with the subject are perhaps even more important.
In this post, I explore three ideas that I keep in my back pocket when out on a photo shoot: Visual Metaphor, Imagination & Story.
Metaphor is defined by Random House as, “something used…to represent something else; symbol; emblem”. In the visual arts, we often create images that make us think of something else, or represent something beyond the literal. The image above isn’t unique in it’s use of the visual metaphor of a path or trail leading into the light. Many paintings through the centuries invite the viewer to think of life’s journey by including a winding path in the image. For me, this scene used that visual metaphor, and I consciously worked the composition and sun’s rays through multiple shots and angles to express what I was feeling — a sense of my own life journey finding fresh ways to see and experience beauty in the world and the opportunity to bring more light and happiness into my own life and those whom I connect with. Let me know if the image evokes that feeling for you.
Imagination is defined as “the faculty or action of producing ideas, especially mental images of what is not present or has not been experienced”; also “the ability to face and resolve difficulties; resourcefulness.” Similar to metaphors, this idea takes us beyond literal interpretations into something we can create or dream into existence through our own creative power. Abstract compositions like the Lotus blossom invite us to imagine or create worlds of our own beyond the actual subject of the image. What do you see in this image? By the way, have you noticed that the word “imagination” originates from the word “image”?
Story is defined as “a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale”. Everyone says, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so we all know that images can be powerful ways to tell a story. Journalism, both in print and online, uses photography and other visual arts to illustrate the story being told. Conveying a story in a photograph is obvious in street photography, or images of people like the one above, but conveying a story in nature photography is a bit more challenging. My last photo below of a magical valley of fog at sunrise attempts to invite you into your own story, and perhaps uses a combination of all three ideas, visual metaphor, imagination and story.
Check out my portfolio site at: chrisallenimages.com for many more photos available for purchase. And subscribe to my blog on the home page of the blog site to keep up to date with my latest “Photo Musings”.
Energetics of Touch
July 27, 2016
“Touch seems to be as essential as sunlight.”
Diane Ackerman; author of two dozen highly-acclaimed works of poetry and nonfiction, including the bestsellers “The Zookeeper’s Wife” and “A Natural History of the Senses,” and the Pulitzer Prize Finalist, “One Hundred Names for Love.”
Those of you who read my May 1st post will know that I have been on a healing journey from an April 25th fall resulting in two fractured vertebrae. I’m almost fully recovered and 95% pain free after 3 months of physical therapy, massage, chiropractic and acupuncture sessions. I have continually maintained a mindset of gratitude and patience with the healing process and never bought into suggestions “why aren’t you better already?”. These things take their own time, and I find that a mindset of patience with the natural healing process is really important.
When you look at the modalities I pursued for healing, you will see that they all involve hands-on bodywork and the sense of touch. Those who need scientific verification of the healing power of touch can find ample evidence in the literature, but for me it needs no proof beyond my own experience. I know that there is research on how receptor cells in the skin carry electrical impulses to every part of the body including the brain and all the organ systems. Chinese medicine and acupuncture are based on ancient wisdom about meridian pathways in the physiology that carry impulses from the skin’s surface to very specific organs and this is used for healing effect, including pain relief and actual restoration/balancing of proper body functions.
Connecting these ideas to photography and the focus of this post is an idea inspired by my own journey of spiritual and creativity development that all the senses are intimately connected with one another; and with our inner consciousness or sense of Self. As a visual artist / photographer, I always seek to create images that engage the viewer on an emotional and deep level of awareness that simultaneously reveal the beauty and inner essence of the subject, as well as serving as a mirror or window into our own Soul as human and spiritual beings.
Is that really possible? Well, I don’t know for sure, but it’s a passion that I seem to be called to explore and share!
In this last of three posts dedicated in turn to the Energetics of color, typography and touch I’m sharing some of my photos that to me, enliven the sense of touch through the capture of textural qualities that “painting with light” through the photographic medium has a unique ability to produce.
While the application of textures in post-processing through software presets is all the rage among digital photography enthusiasts right now, and I have explored them a bit myself; I still find that the technology of the lens and the camera’s light sensor are already capturing an element of texture in the image and can awaken the sense of touch for the viewer. My journey of exploration is whether or not the combined visual/touch sensory perception of the photo can enliven a healing effect in the physiology of the viewer. For me as the creator of the image it certainly does.
My images are interspersed through the text to hopefully keep your interest through a rather long post! I invite your comments on my rambling, or as I call them, “Photo Musings”.