Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

August 30, 2008

John Szarkowski – Mirrors & Windows

Filed under: Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 7:24 pm

I am currently reading my annotated copy of Mirrors & Windows, American Photograph since 1960 by John Szarkowski. Which discusses aspects of photography in the 1950’s which influence if not set the stage for contemporary photography in the 1970’s (book published in 1978). In retrospect, my habit of making a bunch of notes both in pencil and ink on a first edition book may not be very laudable.

Most interesting is Szarkowski’s discussion about the divergent work of Minor White and Robert Frank, and for me, perhaps precursors for today’s photographers & photographs. And of course, the implications for my own work. The way that Szarkowski discusses both White and Frank and the then current practitioners in the late 70’s, is helping me understand the critical language used to discuss current photography.

FYI, White, along with Walter Chappell, it is the “romantic view“, as an evolutionary of Stieglitz and subsequently Weston; a love for the eloquently perfect print, intense sensitivity to mystical content of the natural landscape and minimal interest of man as a social animal. Subsequent photographers per Szarkowski categorization in this path are Paul Caonigro, Jerry Uelsmann, Danny Lyon, Ralph Gibson, Judy Dater, Robert Mapplethorpe and Robert Rauschenberg.

And for a long while, I could easily categorize my own natural landscape photography in this philosophical path. And seeing Lewis Baltz’s construction photographs in this group, gives me pause to re-think if perhaps my current urban landscape photographs are perhaps still in line with this romantic view.

Then there are the photographs of Robert Frank who provided a “searing personal view of this country (Frank is Swiss for those not familiar with his background) during the Eisenhower years. Frank is the vanguard for the “Realist view“, providing a “sophisticated social intelligence, quick eyes and a radical understanding of the potentials of the small camera, which depended on good drawing rather than on elegant tonal description.” As stated by Szarkowski, in the realist view, “the world exists independent of human attention, contains discoverable patterns of intrinsic meaning and they by discerning these patterns, forming models or symbols of them with the materials of this art, the artist is joined to a larger intelligence.”

And of course, the realist view in the 1970’s that of Gary Winogrand, Henry Wessel, Tod Papageorge, Diane Arbus, Lee Freidlander, Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, Edward Ruscha and Joel Meyerowitz. And I guess, not surprising for me, there are some photographers whose work I identify with as someone whom I thought were doing some interesting work, which I feel inspired some of my own urban landscape photographs.

By I appreciate that Szarkowski also notes that both of these photographers are not purely one or the other, that you can find aspects of both thoughts in the others work. In other words, you are not purely realistic or romantic, but some blend of these and somewhere on the pendulum as it swings back and forth through and during your life.

And so I continue to re-read this book, which also motivated me to purchase a used copy of John Szarkowski’s discussion of Eugene Atget. What the heck, if I am going to be writing my thoughts in the margins, why worry about a pristine new book, eh?

Best regards, Doug

August 22, 2008

Subtlety assessment

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Doug Stockdale @ 8:04 pm

As I continued to chew on this whole subtlety question (and thanks to Paul Butzi to working the question a little deeper), and specifically to how I am developing my photographs for my current series, I tried a little test.

What if I attended my monthly print review, placed five of my new triptychs of this series in front of the group, but only my trial proofs on 13 x 19″ photo paper and provided no additional information, would they get it?? The group has been meeting monthly for over 15 years, half are exhibiting in galleries, so I think that this is sophisticated audience.


August 19, 2008


Filed under: Projects/Series — Doug Stockdale @ 10:13 pm

I have found myself coming back to the Human/Nature exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and mostly to one image by Bart Michiel made in the present-day of the World War I battlefields near his home in Belgium.

The images have been described as very subtle by the art critic Alice Thorson. Michiel is quoted as he seeks out “happenstance traces and features on the land that refer metaphorically to combat“. In the case of one photo, the tractor tracks cut through a field that “evoke the tanks that rolled through the area during the battle of Verdun”. Yep, I agree, that is subtle.


August 15, 2008

Richard Kalvar on Photography

Filed under: Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 4:00 am

In photograph magazine (Sept/Oct 2007), in an article written by Mia Fineman, she has the following quote from Richard Kalvar (Magnum photographer); “I like to play with the relationship between reality and the appreance of reality, which is the photograph. But you have to play by the rules. If not, the tension is lost.”

August 13, 2008

Olympic inspiration

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Doug Stockdale @ 5:10 pm

Watching the Olympics the past couple of days has inspired me to work on my “Business as Usual” series. I have been looking at and editing this body of work for the last four months, but I have been struggling with the thread that pulls it together. I think that I may have found that out, but I still have some further developmental work to do.

So now I have whittled it down to about 100 prints, which are lying on the floor. Also wrote the first draft of the introduction to help pull my thoughts together. Checking my conceptual innovation factor;- )

To futher help with getting some momentum, Alan Wu just sent my “Business as Usaul” chop (traditional characters; Zhou Chyang Ying Yeh) that we had developed together and he had made for me by my favorite stone carver in Shanghai (Pearl City, Third Floor, directly off the stairs). Thanks Alan! My secret ingredient for my Limited Edition folios;- )

Best regards, Doug

August 12, 2008

Quote of interest

Filed under: Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 9:31 pm

By Lyle Rexer in the May/June 2008 issue of photograph magazine;

As with identity, so with photography; apperance is a costumed pose, and what lies beneath it can only be implied, never fully revealed“.

August 11, 2008

Latent Memories

Filed under: Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 8:34 pm

“Brie, France, 1968” photograph copyright of Henri Cartier-Bresson

During a recent photographic image review on Stills, one landscape image brought up a reference to this photograph above by HCB. It is one of those images that is also similar to another photograph by Brett Weston, that I have always enjoyed. Something about that tree lined road that pulls me in. To be able to walk that road.

Which is probably why I was connecting so much with the tree lined roads in JiaShan and the region South of Shanghai. I know understand that this image was a latent image that I was carrying around and that when I saw the similar roads in China, I resonated like a tuning fork.

This visual/mental connection was enough to get me engaged, I began to look harder and see what it was about where I was standing that continued to connect with me. I went from the head (aha, I know this area from someplace before) to the heart, the emotional thing that was underlying & creating the connection that was now saying, “photograph me!”

Best regards, Doug

August 9, 2008

Random thoughts – again

Filed under: Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 5:19 pm

I am still reading Joel Meyerowitz’s interview in Cape Light, interesting ideas about photography, seeing, experiencing, color versus black & white, etc. Maybe I will elaborate more, but the one question I have is, that what was written in 1977  relevent today? hmmm.

Julie O’Donnel in a recent article here, made a comment regarding about “a lack of conceptual innovation” as a judgement about her work. Wow, point on for me! Then I read about Meyerowitz’s take a risk, which is easier for an established photographer. I do worry sometimes, I wonder if ‘they’ will get it? And if not, will they judge the effort as being too shallow? Rejection! And so I come back to my (mcuh saner) thoughts that this work is about me ‘getting it’ and okay if others do to. Or not.

Which takes me to yesterday and the photo with this article. Yesterday was graduation day for my granddaughter from Pony School. It was fun, hot and I think I got bitten by something very small. I have a lot of photos of her riding and the such. Fun. Maybe help one of the instructors with getting some camera warrenty work to fix what she thinks is a lemon camera.

But at one point, while waiting during a crayon moment for the class, I started watching a rider in the jump arena. Now you have to know, this is probably my first experience in a horse area. There were some elements that I found interesting, so I shot a number of frames of the rider passing by, framed by the gate, but those photographs just did not connect with me. Then she reversed track and looped around and rode away from me. click. Something connected.

Something more interesting.

Best regards, Doug

And for trivia, this journal recently plowed pass the 30,000 view mark.

August 6, 2008

Richard Misrach

Filed under: Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 4:19 pm

Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery, SF, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, LA, and Pace/ MacGill Gallery, NY

A brief article about Richard Misrach and some of his current landscape photographs made in Hawaii, was just published in Smithsonian (Augutst 08)

A couple of excepts: So even his picture of a lone couple on a beach can be vaguely unsettling: their isolation underscores their vulnerability, and the photographer’s long-range viewpoint is clearly that of someone watching….he scannned th negatives into a computer, and sometimes digitally removed people, heightening the feeling of isolation.

And Misrach states in the article, the new work is of a piece with his focus on people and the environment, but he says “its much more about our relationships to the bigger sublime picture of things”.

Interesting to find this article while I am working through my thoughts, feelings and landscape photographs that deal with realationships and staring to bring in a human element.

As well as my thinking about digitally altering my photographs to further emphasise a concept. So that gets to the question, am I a documentarian who is showing you what I have found and seen or not? I could see how Misrach’s photographs could be accepted as a form of recorded reality (documentary), but in fact they have been altered. Thus the patterns of people on the beach are a design element that he created to develop his concept and point that he was working on.

Interesting and makes you wonder about some of his earlier environmental work and how much and to what extent those photographs were altered?

August 5, 2008

My blog intent – still evolving

Filed under: Art Market, Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 10:15 pm

I wrote the following as an updated note to an earlier entry, but it probably needs a seperate published manisfesto:

I have been trying to reconcile the writing I do for this blog versus The Photo Exchange, were I am the current Managing Editor, so for this subject (The Business of Fine Art Phtograph) and similar topics regarding the business of (Fine Art) photography, I will be posting those on The Photo Exchange. Thus, this journal will be more about my development of my photographic projects, series, singular images, photographs and the like.

Unless I have some technical glitch I want to crab about or want to extrol the benefits of some equipment, I defer to the ton of other blogs who think that this is more important than I do.

I realize that this declariation will probably reduce my readership to a mere pitance, but in am writing  to fete my thoughts and feelings about the work I do, so be it.

But I will probably change my mind about this again tomorrow;- )

Best regarsds, Doug

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