Monday, August 3, 2015

New or Old Approaches

In the beginning, photography was  captive to available techniques for developing. Daguerreotype, then ambrotype, tintype and albumen all reproduced portraits and still life's with a classic and beautiful sepia  tint that finally gave way to gelatin silver printing of fine art black and white photography in the twentieth century.

Painters in the Renaissance  and Baroque periods intentionally used low key techniques to intensify contrast and define mood. This "chiaroscuro" style, used so effectively by Caravaggio and others, often featured deep shadows from which shapes and figures emerged to heighten drama and realism. This style gave way to more colorful works like the impressionists.

Early pictoralists used an assortment of techniques to emphasize the "artistic qualities" of their photographs. Even today platinum/palladium printers such as Taskeshi Shikama and experimental artists like Adam Katseff present dramatic images that beg viewers to interact with their images to form personal  thoughts and emotions.

So in my new projects, I have used the camera and computer to create images that hark back to the sepia prints of old. With some, I try to enhance mid tones. In others, I go to the extreme with a dark and foreboding look. It's as though subtle light is allowed to escape from darkness to reveal low contrast detail and enlightenment. This forced engagement between photographer and viewer makes these techniques both challenging and exhilarating.

It reminds me of a quote from Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It:
"All there is to thinking... is seeing something noticeable which makes you see something you weren't noticing which makes you see something that isn't even visible."

These images explore the bounds of computer processing and the "dry dark room", reflecting on the beauty and grace of earlier styles.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Moods from Israel

A year ago at this time, Susan and I were in Israel for an unforgettable visit. Along the way, two unexpected souls crossed our path and left an indelible impression on our mood. Israel's Future (at left) was taken near the Jerusalem Cardo, a little girl with expressions of innocence and apprehension about the future, alone but not abandoned, hopeful of a safe and productive life. Rachelle (below) was our guide at the Yemin Orde orphanage. She had made aliyah from Ethiopia and embodied all our hopes for future peace and friendship among nations.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Deep Shadows

One of the virtues of black and white photography is that shadows create high impact moods. Two examples are shown above. The Cliffs at Page accentuate the setting sun's shadows, presenting a mood of pending chill in the last light of evening. Canyon de Chelly's Rock Range features a black band of foliage at the bottom that draws the eye up to the majestic rock icon in the center, made all the more prominent by the shadows it creates. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Beach Roots at Staten Island, Summer 2010

Here's one of my new favorite images. I love the contrast of lights and darks, of fine hair tentacles with the large roots and bulbous base, of various textures and shadows. Guess it's a photo only a mother could love, but I thought I'd share it with you in case you missed it walking on the beach last summer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yosemite on High

Seems like a good time to contemplate the powers of nature. Ansel Adams was at home here with the dominating clouds above snowy ledges and dark cliffs. For photographers, Yosemite presents a pallet of tones from the white whites to the sky filtered to black and everything in-between. It’s tempting not to try to breath in the fresh air of the place from this image.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Treading Water Image

Welcome to a Pac-Man Convention, a lily pond at the Grounds for Sculpture in Trenton, NJ. The pads seem to float in space until you see the underwater rocks for perspective. A lot of visual excitement here if you look closely, without the distraction of color. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Since we are all photographers at heart, I hope you won’t mind my occasional intrusion with a photo and caption. My own thoughts about an image might spark an idea for your own work or play.

If you’re from the Southwest, you have probably known about the church Georgia O’Keeffe made famous in Rancho de Taos. Every photo or painting of this monument is different. I think my image speaks to the contrast between heavy masses and soft, almost feminine, curves. It’s amazing something so organic could be man-made. I like it in black and white because it accentuates the lines and shadows that give it such character. Enjoy. And Happy Thanksgiving.

Ira Thomas