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/

Liberation

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Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented? Well, who are you not to be? As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence liberates others.

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/

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/

Young Harrison Young

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Is it easy to keep so quiet?
Everybody loves a quiet child
Underwater you’re almost free
If you want to be alone, come with me
Is it easy to live inside yourself?
All the little kids are high and hazy
Nowhere to go
Everybody wants to be amazing

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The world’s rotten
Dress light-cold to be forgotten
Eat your pearls on Sunday morning
Keep your conversations boring
Stay with me among the strangers
Change your mind and nothing changes

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You should try to get some sun
There’s a little bit of hell in everyone

http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Berlin Trilogy

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On October 17th, 18th, and 19th, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of “Heroes”, and in collaboration with Arts Brookfield and WNYC’s New Sounds Live, Jonathan Meiburg, Emily Lee, Sadie Powers, Lucas Oswald, and Josh Halpern (Shearwater and Loma) were the nucleus of an all-star lineup performing Bowie’s entire “Berlin Trilogy” of albums  (1979’s Lodger, 1978’s “Heroes”, and 1977’s Low) at the magnificent Winter Garden Atrium at Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan.

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Shearwater Manchester Nov 2012

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Jonathan and David

https://shearwater.bandcamp.com/album/shearwater-plays-bowies-berlin-trilogy-complete

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Boys keep swinging. Me in my Hometown 1978

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Heroes

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Sound and Vision Home 2019

http://www.berndkugow.photos/