Arriving Somewhere

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I’ve got a few thoughts kicking around my head today but I am going to try to keep it tied down to just one or two. Recognition… or fame… or acclaim, or whathaveyou.

I admit that I have often struggled with the recognition that my photography earns me. In one way I have the opposite challenge of many, where they struggle when they don’t get enough recognition I often struggle with the notion that nearly any recognition is too much attention. It seems a weird thing, I know, and I have often pondered on it. I think it comes from a couple of reasons. The first is that recognition isn’t my goal. It is not what I am after when I put my images in front of an audience, so when that is what I get in return it feels inappropriate somehow. I do appreciate the giving of recognition. I honestly appreciate someone caring enough to pass on a compliment or to offer praise, I realise where that is coming from and I think that is a good thing. But I guess I put my images out there in the world not to earn that or collect it. It is if random passers-by on the street stopped and offered you money. Sure, it’s cool, but it would also  make you feel weird.

So why put my photography out in front of an audience then, if not for that recognition? I think I like doing it because I like the community of photographers, and what we are collectively capable of, and I want to do my part in making that collective bigger and better. I like putting my work out there, with my written thoughts, because I know it is capable of inspiring or motivating or enlightening, and that the ripples caused by those things will lead to the making of brilliant photos by others. I like enabling and encouraging and watching those I know grow and succeed and reach new heights. That is a cool thing.

But here is where a sort of weird stream of thought might start to sound even more strange. In a certain way, the recognition for the pictures is hard for me to comprehend because to a large degree I don’t care about the pictures I make. I do, a little. But not a lot. And here is what I mean by that.

Draw a line representing a journey. At one end, the beginning, you sitting at home with the cameras tucked away. Photography is not near at hand and it is just an abstract idea of something to do. As you move along this line you progress from that beginning point to being out looking, to finding, to creating, to returning home, to developing the film and seeing the negs for the first time, to scanning them, to printing them, maybe to publishing them at the very opposite end of that line. Now, different photographers will put their emphasis point at different spots on this line. I know some who would place it at the publication spot. Everything they do is toward the goal of having the work published or displayed in a gallery or similar. Some would place there point of emphasis at the print stage. They make the prints and they are happy. I know some whose point would even fall far to the left, much closer to the beginning. What they love is the planning, even if the execution never fully materialises. My point is somewhere between the looking and the creation. That is the peak of my hill, so to speak. My best moment of photography is that grey zone between searching and finding. The farther away from that spot I move, the less excited I am. I have noticed this about myself for a while now. I love seeing my negs developed and while I enjoy seeing the initial proof prints or scans quite a bit, it is not quite as exciting as the first glimpse of developed film. I am moderate good about getting my choice images scanned, but I wouldn’t say it excites me. I’ll do a somewhat decent job of editing, but my interest is really waning at this point. I only print when I am about to change my home display. I have sometimes remarked that I am a photographer who just happens to make pictures. Or that my favourite part is the process versus the results. All this I think is circling this notion that the most important part for me is somewhere well before a physical artefact ever gets made and is even earlier than the creation of the image itself.

What spurred these thoughts? Well, my mind is often tumbling something around regarding my photography. I like to think about it. Not as a problem to be solved, I don’t ever want to fix it, it might only make it worse. But I do enjoy the mental engagement, so I ponder when I can.

If I was going to offer a moral to this story, and caution to any who would be brave enough to accept such from this writing, it would be to realise that it is ok for you to choose any point on that spectrum/line/journey/process as what is most important to you, but let it be your choice and not a choice you are adopting from the beliefs of those around you. If the images are important to you, great. If it is making prints, great. If it is publication, great. If it is sketching and daydreaming ideas to turn into photos, great. If it is collecting the gear that you swear you will use… someday, great. There is no wrong answer here for you other than any answer that is not your own, but rather adopted from somewhere else. That is all I think I have right now. I’m sure you’ll hear more from me soon enough.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Simple Pleassures

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Over the past couple of years, my appreciation for the simplicity with which the world is rendered by black and white film has grown. I have exposed many a roll of b&w over the years, but more often I find myself appreciating how much quieter black and white is. Sure, the scenes can still be dramatic, but there can sometimes be a brashness to colour that I don’t seem to find as much in black and white film. It makes for a simpler, quieter world…. at least how I use it. And I guess that is the chicken meeting the egg. Is the world really that much softer of personality in black and white, or do I see and record such a world when I am in a black and white film mentality? Am I finding what I seek, or seeking what I find?

There is something to be said about how a film or a lens or a camera influences and feeds how you think, look and photograph. The technical qualities of a specific camera, or roll of black and white film aside, it is important to be aware of the mental process that is engaged when using a certain piece of equipment.

Is the world simpler and quieter in black and white, or do I make it thus because I was in a mood to go looking for it and chose the right equipment to pursue that? Yes and yes and sometimes no.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

A Quiet Time

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Getting away from the noise of the city and replacing it with the noise of the open landscape. This noise has a harmony and place to it within the greater context of the music of the world than the sounds of the city, which can be harsh and jarring. Noise has been something I have been noticing more over the past few years. I am not sure why. While I love photographing in cities and seeing how they change and grow, I also find I dislike their inharmonious clatters, rumbles, bangs and booms. Give me the meditative rumble of an ocean, or the sound that twilight makes as it seeps into the world, or the birdsong of a quiet forest, and of course the sound of chirping Crickets under serious Moonlight. Quiet is often underrated. But I think we also build up a tolerance to the noisy noisiness around us where we live and should get out to appreciate some of the non-human sounds of the world more often too. Though I have noticed that we have a tendency to go into such areas and then proceed to fill them with our own sounds and noises nonetheless. So I make a habit to go to places like this whenever I can and make as little noise as possible and then appreciate as greatly as I can what I then hear.

http://www.berndkugow.photos/

The Poppy Seller

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There is a part of me that definitely prefers doing long exposures in black and white. I could say it is partially due to the colour shifts I get from filtering through stacked NDs, but I have largely wrapped my mind around those. No, my reticence comes from my frame of mind when I stop to make these types of images. One of the big reasons I do these long exposures is because of my interest or fascination with time. Often, but not always, time is what I am making a photo of here. Time is usually my subject. So when it comes to composing these images I generally think in terms of working to get rid of elements that don’t belong. And if I am building an image about time, I want to get rid of things that don’t relate, because if they don’t support then they distract. Often colour is not in this equation. It is easy to be enamoured of colour and to include it simply because you like it, but if the photo is not about colour. If it is about other things, such as time, then colour becomes a layer atop your subject that to some degree or another obscures it. So while colour is always tempting to add, I have to be careful to actually make images that make use of that colour as part of the message, thought, subject, what have you. I have to make sure that I want to direct some part toward that colour. So usually I don’t want the colour to be overtly important in these types of photos… it is not what I am trying to impart. But there are occasions where I want to mix colour and time. This is one of those occasions.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Random

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The basic ingredients for this image look a bit like this: Nikon, Daguerreotype lens, Rollei Retro 80S film, Hoya R72 filter. But for spice I involuntarily added some grain issues, which left a texture across the image, and throw in a healthy dose of chance timing. So once framing and focus are achieved, you are flying blind in terms of the exact timing of an image at the moment of exposure. But I have learned many things over the years. Patience is one of them. I know few other things as patient as Mother Nature. Also the fact that nothing is ever certain, that the wind will change and nothing remains static for long. So if one opportunity is missed, it is only a matter of time ‘til another comes along. And that there is beauty in the random. One has no control over how the wind churns the waves or how the trees dance. Yet the resulting random mix of influences can create unexpected and beautiful confluences of events.

http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Spectrum

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True to my style I will try to do something new photographically on subsequent visits to a well explored location. While not technically a new technique for me, I decided to work on some infrared photography, particularly in the Hasselblad. It has been a while since I have done much infrared and even longer since I have done much in 120. And I believe I could count the number of rolls of infrared I had shot in 120 on one hand. So that was the direction I went in.

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On a related note, this will not be the last infrared you see from me this year but the odds are decent that the next images you see will be in full colour. But that is all the tease I am giving you for now.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Flaws

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A thought to share today as I was reminded of this recently… it’s simple: don’t introduce your work by apologising for it. Put another way, don’t show your images and then tell everything that’s wrong with it. This happens a lot, and mostly with novice photographers who have not yet developed a level of comfort with the presentation of their photography with others. By pointing out the flaws in your image before your audience can point them out, I guess you maintain some sense of control over it. Or maybe it is harder to hear that criticism from others, so you deliver it yourself. Or our work is so deeply personal and we have a tendency to focus on our shortcomings. Also this doesn’t seem as pervasive in other art forms. I don’t think I have ever heard a painter, writer or sculptor telling everything they did wrong, or didn’t do right. There might be something to ponder there…

It is good to be able to look at your images and see how they could be better or different. In fact, the day you look at your photography and think the photos are perfect is the day you should panic. The trick though is to learn how to let your photographs be what they are, and to present them as such, and then to listen carefully to what others think they are. You take that feedback and weigh it against your initial assessment and see what you have at that point. It is not an easy process to learn… or maybe it is just not a short process to learn. Or both. But that is my advice and encouragement for today.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Haunts Of Ancient Peace

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The goal isn’t the pictures… it isn’t even to make the pictures. The photographs just happen and are a by-product of what I am really doing.

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But what exactly is that? I don’t know that I can adequately explain it. I suppose in a certain sense my pictures tell that story, but I think sometimes the audience tends to fixate on the picture itself, the artefact or object, and not the underlying reasons for that image’s existence. I don’t think I share images because I want to share the image. In a weird way I don’t really care about the picture. It is far less important to me than why I made the picture, and I suppose that is what I try to share when I share images. It is also why I am never quite comfortable accepting praise regarding the images I make. I appreciate the thoughts behind it, but it feels like it either misses the point that was driving me, or subverts the meaning of what I was doing slightly. If that makes any sense. There is something deeply spiritual for me when I stand there in ancient woods. I can talk about it, or write about it (as these are natural things to want to do when something moves you on such a level) but one of the other forms of communication I am effective at is photography, so it is also natural for me to want to communicate via imagery. The photograph is just the vehicle. But if you were to linger a bit more on the spiritual aspect of it, I could comment that the photograph is an idol of sorts, and the worship of an idol versus that larger entity which the idol represents… Yes, I know, it is all a bit out there and weird to describe it this way, but at the moment they are the best words I have to describe something whose description has long eluded me. I am not critical of enjoying a photograph, but at the same time I am aware that there is something much better worth admiring above and beyond that photograph. At least that is how I feel when it comes to my photographs.

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These are the days, the time is now

There is no past, there’s only future

There’s only here, there’s only now

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Berlin Kino 400 or The Joy Of The Delay

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I tell people that I like film photography because I don’t feel the pressure to share the results immediately. I like taking my time. I also like thinking about what I am doing or have done. I love spending time with my images and as such that means sometimes they don’t get shared for weeks, months or years. These images are about three months old now. I just finished this first roll of Berlin Kino 400 Black and White Film. Developed in Adox FX-39 and then file it until I am ready. There are several advantages to this. I find that whenever I allow an image, or its idea, to matriculate naturally through my consciousness that the end result is always better. It is when I am in a hurry to share something, and therefore put less time into thinking about it and what it means or stands for, that the results are flatter. But another advantage is it allows me to draw out experiences like this. As my memory of the place matures and evolves or even degrades, the photos can come back in to fill in the gaps or liven of up the colours of the memory. But mostly I just like having the time to figure out my own images and settle on what their value to me is. And sometimes this does take a little while to do. But I also think, especially when social media is involved, it really helps to have that stuff figured out and answered before you put it out there in front of that wider audience.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Standing In The Rainbow Rain

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This had actually been an image I had tried to make before.  My attention was caught by the curve of the treeline and the distance trail of light. It was one of those quiet kind of photos that I like to make. But it was a dark scene and on that particular outing my intuition in terms of exposure was off. The resulting image was too thin to use. I actually forgot about it pretty quickly. I have underexposed too many photos to remember. Overexposed too many as well. Heck, properly exposed even more, and far too many to recount. And that is how it goes. You make images, some turn out, some don’t. Sometimes you make mental notes and sometimes you don’t. I didn’t think much of it until a recent expedition saw me standing in the same spot. I had forgotten about this image til I looked through the trees and there it was… not like an old friend but more like someone you met once whose face you recognise even if their name eludes you immediately. So I went at it again, this time remembering that my initial attempt had suffered underexpose. So I took my gut instinct and doubled it, or something like that… intuition piled upon intuition. It was a tricky scene to estimate because the lake was so dark, but that is why I like film. It generally tends to cast a kinder eye on guess work or tricky scenes like this.

Anyway, I like the result. It captures a bit of that isolation and quiet solitude that one feels standing up here.

http://www.berndkugow.photos/