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Archive for the ‘Minimalist Photography’ Category

Walking from the parking lot to the terminal, the usual roar of the jets captures the senses. But entering the modestly sized Tucson airport terminal building, the mood changes. The architecture—clean lines, iodized metal surfaces, cylindrical in theme and minimalist in appearance—announces an airport small enough to find one’s bearings, and appealing to the the harried air traveler on a hot desert day. The simplicity of locating check in, boarding gates, the whole sense of a reasonably human-scaled enterprise contrasts so nicely with those massive, impersonal and rather terrifying places like Phoenix Sky Harbor to say nothing of LAX or O’Hare.

We were there to send our daughter and baby grandson off to the challenges of LAX, sitting in a sort of waiting alcove near Southwest Airlines ticketing, while I strolled about and happened to look up. In fact I was the only one there who happened to look up, catching from the corner of my eye glimpses of what? Aladdin? Ali Baba? Scherazade? Wait—flying carpets? Yes, flying carpets, curling with the breezes, magically translucent colors of many colors, many shapes, going this way and that, up and down, across and back. Ah, is this airport art subliminally suggesting to my primal brain the freedom of magic carpet conveyance? If so, it worked. As I say, no one else there seemed to notice the floating world above, even when I was moving tables and chairs, kneeling and and pointing my camera ceiling-ward.

It’s possible I imagined it all. But no. No amount of photoshopping could create the scene. And I don’t use Photoshop anyhow.

I don’t know the name of the artist who created this public art, but I do know these translucent pieces of magic carpet art cast a spell. Maybe, just maybe, in a thousand and one desert nights anything can happen. SRE (all photos © S R Euston)IMG_2451 - Version 2

 

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The following selection of photographs has at least in the photographer’s mind a kind logic. Situated somewhere in the interstices between architectural, abstract and urban landscape photography, there pictures represent a kind of personal record of  everyday objects or structures  (most without artistic pretentions) whose geometry “says something”—arcs, angles, lines and circles all mixed together whose random juxtaposition creates everyday scenes that have an abstract intrinsic order, sometimes even subliminal overtones that hint at a sort of beauty in the mundane world of the mass produced built environment. SRE

PLAIN GEOMETRY

(all photos copyright SR Euston)

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It is said rather obviously that the photographer works creatively with light.  After all, exposure meters measure light, film chemicals and pixels respond to light. The “quality of light” that attracted and still does attract so many fine photographers to the southwest, particularly those working in black and white, has created a sort of mystique around qualities of natural light scattered and reflected off of adobe, mesas, distant ranges, badlands, thunderheads.

Of course, it can equally be said that photography is as much about the absence of light. No shadows, no picture. Southwest landscape, for instance, is all about strong shadows, as well as the subtlest shadow gradations from faintest light to darkest dark. Hence, the yin and yang of expressive picture taking—sol e sombra, light and dark, the day and the intimations of night.

Shadows can be extraordinarily expressive, and sometimes become the real subject of the shot (for me, this is oftentimes). Shadows often convey a feeling of the hidden behind the obvious, of a question mark. This is the evasive, emotion-laden impact of shadows, so expressively demonstrated in some still and motion picture photography of the mid-twentieth century. Shadows can also emphasize bright, crisp architectural geometry, intricate organic traceries of nature, complex abstract design and a hundred other esthetic and emotional states and qualities.

Of course, muddy or totally black shadows can ruin a picture. That is, in emphasizing shadows and given expressive intent, exposure is the great leveler. And if my experience is at all common, always will be the great challenge!

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One of the most exciting denizens of the Sonoran Desert is the Saguaro—spiny, grey green sentinels towering above the palo verde, mesquite and cholla desert. Last week we took a stroll up the Bajada Wash Trail in Saguaro National Park’s Tucson Mountain West District, just north of the Red Hills Visitor Center.

Picturesque, statuesque, these saguaro are among the “old ones” of the desert forest. Up to 150 years old and weighing in at 16,000 pounds or more (that’s 8 tons!), they rise 50 feet above the dirt and broken rock. Here’s a slide show of some of the grandest:

IN A DESERT WASH

© SR Euston

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It’s about a four hour drive from our place on the southern Oregon coast to Eureka, California, where our daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren (Boys 14, 11 and 8) live with a dog, a cat, five chickens and a duck, all on a kind of urban farm. We are spending Thanksgiving in Eureka this year, a “To Grandmother’s house we go” in reverse. As we leave on Wednesday, the weather in Oregon has just opened up after a storm. By the time we reach our daughter’s place in Eureka the skies have cleared. This holiday weekend has materialized the kind of weather residents of the wet and green northwest coast  take solace in.  Afternoons in the 60s, the evenings a bit chilly but the air full of remembrances of harbor and sea and winds and douglas fir and redwood forest. This wonderful weather imparts a holidayish patina, a warm autumnal mood  as we sit down to fresh turkey, fresh cranberries from our own Curry County,  and about ninety accoutrements of a good Thanksgiving feast.

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This slide show is a sort of travel log of this Thanksgiving weekend,  beginning with shots of the rugged Curry County coast, then down Highway 101, the Redwood Highway, to Eureka. It includes a few family pictures, but features lots of photos of a picture packed place called the “North Jetty”.

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The Humboldt South and North jetties, massive linear rock filled projections into the ocean,  protect vessels entering Humboldt Bay from notoriously dangerous Pacific storms. But more to the point for our son-in-law Tim, the North Jetty is a favorite surfing destination, and rolling long period waves are out the afternoon of our visit, as were wet-suited surfers out for a sporting chance at some pretty decent waves, peaking at 15′ or more. Tim has brought us here to find what we will.

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The North Jetty is an a photographic puzzle.  Several other photographers were out, kneeling, craning necks, searching for a certain angle. But many who were carrying cameras seemed uninspired. For me, it  was my first real opportunity to shoot large waves from a side angle, as opposed from straight on from shore, opening up possibilities especially for B/W, emphasizing  the sinuous, emergent power of the long period swells. But equally interesting is the jetty itself. To exploit this subject, one must like geometry.

Contrasted with the oceanic rolls and swells and wave crashes, the jetty is one solid piece of Corps of Engineers construction, including seemingly randomly placed hulking concrete structures looking a bit like giant jacks—like the kind kids once and maybe still do play with. The camera sees shapes and forms and lines and mass in all this. And that is just the beginning, because all this solidity frames a churning kinetic sea.

On our return trip, we stopped in Arcata, and while Ann and Dawn shopped, I came across a couple of urban shots that ratcheted down the drama of waves into in a quiet mood of a dwindling late November day.   SR Euston  All Photos Copyrighted

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The structure, the form is the thing. The genius of the arch? I’m still in awe how engineering of the soaring arcs, meeting at the keystone, holds up the mass of Roman aqueducts, Gothic cathedrals, or even more humbly, rough hewn, adobe brick Spanish mission porticos. Even more remarkable, this elemental architectural and engineering form, going back to Roman times and before, has a symmetry of restful gracefulness, yet in cases—like in bridges—also power and boldness.

The architectural arch has been copied and recopied, oftentimes as a decoration, aka fake. It flourished especially in the California mission style of the first half the last century, only to remerge in subdivision McMansions, east and west, in an odd pastiche of styles. But if one is not a purist, even modern decorative arches I think can present  photographic possibilities of formal power.

Below are photo interpretations of mostly developer-designed modern mission style architectural arches from southern Arizona, some used for structural support, some as mere decoration. Also included are two bridges of very different design from coastal Oregon, and arch forms from historic, much photographed Mission San Xavier de Bac, south of Tucson, and crumbling arch ruins from Tumacacori Mission near Nogales. Here is authentic architecture straight from the Spanish-Mexican period.

I though about, but buried immediately, the idea of including a shot of the golden arches at the nearest McDonalds.The sacred and the profane so to speak. It could have been open to a lot of pseudo-philosophical interpretations, maybe even landing in a museum exhibit.  SRE

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Our world can be overwhelmingly complicated. Despite the seeming simplicity of binary systems, this digital age is, except for the initiated, of mind-boggling obtuseness and sometimes depressing frustration.

Then there is deep science. No matter how moving it is to hear great physicists talk about the “elegance” or the “simplicity” of this or that set of equations, the rest of us know it’s beyond our poor faculties to even understand their weird notational language. And certainly we are all sinking into a labyrinth of informational, high tech and media overload, a world in which Google trumps sleep.

Art of the early 20th century brought a vision of basics, at least to the visual arts and architecture. Ironically, the industrial age stimulated a sparer vision. Clean lines, obvious geometry, apparently (but not really) simple composition. Color might be riotous or disturbing, but the external world was stripped of what the artist saw as superfluous. Photography followed, sort of.  Abstract pictures, by say Man Ray, were curiosities, but Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston etc. in the U.S. gave photography the aura of fine art. And the essence, as I understand it, was fidelity to the medium—sharp, accurate, clean but expressive.  All in all a tall order.

So here goes with what I often see in my viewfinder as non-complex, maybe even a bit simple.  A visual respite from complication. Most of these pictures are from the natural world, hopefully teasing the visually basic from the ecologically complex. A few shots are from the designed-built environment. Nothing manipulated by Photoshop. It is true I’m using the very digital tools I critique. But then consistency isn’t the thing it used to be.  SRE

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