Monday, November 24, 2008

This photo is from one of the first ink bath shoots I did. I reshot it because I felt this one looked too much like a spa treatment- the image shows too much of the rest of the room. This kind of shoot always made J really nervous, so I had to be sure to do these kinds of messy set ups when he wasn't home, and have it all cleaned up by the time he got back.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This is the Stephen Hawking cover that Mackenzie Stroh shot in the mathematics department at Cambridge for Discover's December issue. Mackenzie is a photographer who has handled difficult jobs beautifully for me before, and I had complete faith in her. Mackenzie has a body of personal work, of portraits of people who have had medically necessary plastic surgery, that I saw when I was at Newsweek. These images impressed me as being truly sensitive portraiture, of a difficult subject that could have easily been sensationalist, but in her hands was empathetic and moving. In addition to this personal work she also has some beautiful portraits of A-list celebrities, and her lighting is always perfect. These factors made her the only photographer I wanted to trust with this high profile job. Stephen Hawking rarely grants portrait shoots, his assistant told me that he "gets a bit bored" with the process of being photographed. He is nearly completely paralyzed, and responds with eye movements and the assistance of a computer, so Mackenzie directed his eyes only. As far as I am aware, this is the only studio portrait of a contemporary Stephen Hawking, and I am proud of the results.
To see more of Mackenzie's work look here:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Here is the Raphaelle Peale painting "Melons and Morning Glories" and the Sharon Core photograph "Melons and Morning Glories".
I'm tempted to compare these on botanical terms alone- is the type of melon that Peale painted available? Look at how much thicker the rind is. Perhaps the melon in Core's photo is a new hybrid variety- with a specially cultivated thin rind. Also the modern morning glories have much bigger blooms- another new cultivated variety?
Morning Glories have some specific properties that may have been significant to Peale. For instance, the blooms live only one day- blooming in the morning and dying in the afternoon. The seeds contain hallucinogens, and some varieties are poisonous.
Seeing the images side by side does raise the question of meaning- what is the point in remaking an image like this?
After all, the idea of a photographic version of a painting is not new.
Nonetheless, I still think that the commitment that shows in Sharon Core's photographs raises them above the level of gimmickry.

Sharon Core photograph courtesy Yancey Richardson gallery.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Raphaelle Peale

Here is one of my favorite paintings by Peale. This painting is a still life too, even though it appears not to be at first. My handkerchief photograph was influenced by this painting.

I had some black feelings after seeing the flawless Sharon Core show at currently at Yancey Richardson gallery. She is a technical wizard, and not just to show off, but as an integral part of her project's concept. The monumental patience this work must take is frightening to contemplate. The details in these photos are powerful and perfect- reflecting cleverly the painted surface Core is conjuring. These are two of my favorite images from the show. Have you ever seen corn silk shown to such advantage? Core is clearly evoking the American painter Raphael Peale, as is apparent even before you read the gallery's press release.

In the meantime I have been struggling with trying to make decent photos with that dreadful 4x5 of mine. Perhaps it is the lens- whatever it is, I can't seem to make a good photo with this set up to save my life. Somehow everything comes out looking flat and dull. My results from last weekend's shoot were so discouraging I had dark fantasies of giving up photography forever. Perhaps a more practical response would be to replace my 6x7 so I can shove the 4x5 back into a corner of my studio and forget about it for a while.
Photos courtesy Yancey Richardson gallery

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I am hopeful about America's future, suddenly. I feel proud of my country and grateful to my fellow citizens. It was great to see the determination to vote at the crowded polls voting here in NYC- if there were any McCain supporters about, you wouldn't know it.
Photos courtesy Robyn Twomey.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Here is my best and biggest project, Oliver. I've been looking forward to this Halloween for years- first as an adult bored of costume parties, wishing I had a child to enjoy it with, then as a new mom with an baby that was too young to appreciate it. This year was great. We went trick or treating up Bedford ave and ended up at the kids parade. Oliver's auntie and uncle and I raided the candy bag for favorites (Smarties! Candy Corn)! while Ollie bugged out on sugar, looking for all the world like an addict with glazed eyes searching for more, more.. as only a boy raised on brown rice and avocados can.

This photo by Dr. Gary Settles was made using the schlieren technique, which involves a lens, a curved mirror, a razor blade and other objects. This technique reveals disturbances in the air. I've ordered the surprisingly expensive book by Settles all about it, and plan to make some of my own, although it will be hard to do better than this candle image. I don't know what it is about these photos, but they have a sweetly dated look. Is it the colors? The clothes? Of course the technique itself is low tech, especially compared to the new kinds of scientific imaging of turbulence you can see nowadays- all digital renderings. To see more schlieren photography and the the New York Times article about it:

Photo: Gary Settles/Penn State