Eleanor Callahan, Muse 1916-2012



Make a Chain, and Don’t Break It

TT Patton, here in downtown Barrington, has offered to provide postage for letters and postcards mailed from their store during February (I’m late to the table) as part of the Month of Letters Challenge: http://ttpatton.com/2012/01/31/you-write-we-post-together-we-celebrate/ which takes place in the spirit of NaNoWriMo and the late lamented SoFoBoMo (look ’em up for yourself).

Jamie (she of BACT fame) proposed that she would shoot a certain number of negatives per week this semester–as a discipline, but also intuiting that it does a body good. Lenten discipline often prompts a negative stimulus (“I’m giving up… homework!”) but it works the same way. Jerry Seinfeld is known for “not breaking the chain”: http://lifehacker.com/281626/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-secret?tag=softwaremotivation

The point is to generate work on a more regular basis, not waiting for one’s Muse to strike.


Long ago, I aspired to emulate Ken Josephson’s pattern of attending to photography one way or another on a daily basis. Why would it be otherwise? Mr. Steiglitz referred to weekend shooters in a derogatory tone in the era when the hand camera was first trendy (along with bicycles). The key in many domains is to attend to one’s endeavors consistently: piano practice, creative camerawork, poetry, cycling, omelet-making, bonsai, meditation… whatever. It’s not easy.

Keep Going Back

About his series Zuma, John Divola wrote:

These photographs are not meant to be documents of painting, or sculpture, or even of environmental works… No element is of greatest importance. I am most satisfied when the line between evidence of my actions and what is already there is not distinct. These photographs are the product of my involvement with an evolving situation. The house evolving in a primarily linear way toward its ultimate disintegration, the ocean and light evolving and changing in a cyclical and regenerative manner. These photographs are not so much about this process as they are remnants from it. My participation was not so much one of intellectual consideration as one of visceral involvement.

Here are excerpts from a dialog with Dinah Portner:

Q. Do you think of photography as a concrete way of dealing with ideas?

A. No, it’s not that they are ideas, per se. I see art as a dialogue about experiences and the way you experience things. And primarily, what I am dealing with is visual experience.

Q. So the dialogue is between you and the environment?

A. No, the dialogue is between me and whoever sees my pictures.

Q. How much does chance play a part in what you’re doing?

A. Well, a great part. And, as a matter of fact, the more I can get in there that is un-preconceived by myself and still make it work, the better I like it. The greater degree to which reality exerts itself and lesser degree to which I exert myself, the better as far as I’m concerned.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no separation between art and photography. Photography is a sub-category of a broader category which is art. Sculpture has a long history, but just because somebody was using sheet metal for nothing but repairing automobiles, until one point when somebody started to use sheet metal to make sculptures, doesn’t make too much difference.

Q. But, in a sense, photography has a completely different vision, because it is not object oriented as much and it becomes a window for something else.

A. Well, that’s one thing it is. It is an object. It is an illusionistic depth. And, I guess the number one realm in which photography seems to function is that it has a claimed authenticity. The light bounces off the subject and passes through the lens and burns the negative. And the light passes through the negative and makes the print. So the print is linked to the event by a chain of physical causalities. It’s like a piece of reality, rather than purely a document.

Dear Erin

A Photo Devoto alumna writes: “What do feel is the biggest problem facing photography today?”

Musicians work together; actors collaborate; writers interact (however tenuously); educators collaborate perforce, as do politicians. Of these professions, perhaps we’re most like writers, in that we don’t have many situations in which we can truly collaborate.

Mr. Andrews, of Oregon or Nevada or Oklahoma, puts it nicely: “Prints are currency. Jpegs are not. Most of us are sitting on a motherlode. Maybe we’re hoping to sell our photos or have them collected by someone or using them to prop up the kitchen table or who knows. Why not let them circulate? Give them away. Swap them. Mail them to strangers. Post them on street poles. Get them out into the world. Maybe they’ll meet a cruel end but some will wind up in caring hands, and at least every photo will have an opportunity. Chances are after you’re dead, some of these photos will still be out there. The more you give the better your odds. Not to mention it feels good.”

Kirk Tuck, at http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2011/09/is-print-dead-was-analog-photography.html#more says: “We need to make and share more prints.  That’s where the rubber meets the contextual road.”

W. o’ W.: Alvin Langdon Coburn

“Photography is too easy in a superficial way, and in consequence is treated slightingly by people who ought to know better. One does not consider Music an inferior art simply because little Mary can play a scale. What we need in photography is more sincerity, more respect for our medium and less respect for its decayed conventions.”  Alvin Langdon Coburn, in The Future of Pictorial Photography, 1916

Why jpegs Don’t Always Suffice

Of late, a few artists in the World of the Glowing Hoodies have been making pictures that will present a (welcome) challenge when the time comes to upload them to the College Board. They (the physical images) remind us that form is at least as important as content (cf. Winogrand), if not moreso to the point of total dominance (cf. Groover).

Here is a statement from Laura Plageman that addresses an aspect of this in her series Response:

“In this series I am responding to photographs both as representations and tangible objects. Through physically altering enlarged prints and then re-photographing the results, I create works that oscillate between image and object, photography and sculpture, landscape and still life. While they may appear illusory, the resulting pictures are documents of actual events and are thus as authentic as the original representational images contained within.

“My process unfolds through observation and experimentation – I let the image and its materiality dictate its direction. Playing with paper and with light in unplanned and organic ways, I look for new ways to perceive the space, form, and context of my subjects. In some works, large pieces of the original image are torn out while in others, smaller parts are more subtly altered. I use a large format view camera throughout my process so I can control perspective and record as much detail as possible. Whether focused on a ripped paper edge or a nesting bird, I hope to reach a place where picture elements interact and merge in unpredictable and expressive ways.”

Even more pertinent to the current AP work is this caveat regarding the posting of work by Dirk Braekman:

“We would like to inform the visitor that this website is merely a documentary tool. Please keep in mind that the rendering of the original prints on a digital platform is only approximate and involves considerable loss of quality, contrast and depth when shown on most computer monitors. With their very specific tactile values, textures and the (mostly) large formats, the original photographs are thus extremely difficult to reproduce. It goes without saying that only seeing them in reality can do them justice.”

The BAL “Teen Art” Show

…held a lovely reception last week on Friday night. The show extends to April 15, so hie thee to the stacks before you figure your tax.

Annnnd it was my surprise birthday! Thanks, Leslie!

Here are the Library’s PR pix as well:

As soon as an award list is published we’ll add it here.

UPDATE: Here ’tis.

Best in Show: Alicia Parrish

Gold: Kristen Holland, Zachary Rowe, Rachel Parker, Samantha Labar, Stephanie Walterman, Michelle Henneberry, Nicole Galanti, Yin Ming Wang.

Honorable Mention: Joyce Gaffney, Jamie Gray, Kristina Bastidas, Michael Colby, Alexa Hanaford, Lauren Captain, Justine Kaszynski, Fay Jenson.

(Hmmm… twelve of the seventeen share a certain 7th hour class.)

Team Vivian Update

The folks at the Gray Lady admits they’re playing catch-up regarding the saga of Vivian Maier, but they’re making up for that with a brace of posts. As promised last year, we’ve/they’ve only begun to scratch the surface of negatives in the newly processed film.




Pick Sunday’s NYT for the Magazine feature.

(Kelly, did you get a badge?)

W. o’ W.: Gyorgi Ligeti

Ligeti wrote: I lay my ten fingers on the keyboard and imagine music. My fingers copy this mental image as I press the keys, but this copy is very inexact: a feedback emerges between ideas and tactile/motor execution. This feedback loop repeats itself many times, enriched by provisional sketches:  a mill wheel turns between my inner ear, my fingers and the marks on the paper.  The result sounds completely different from my intial conceptions:  the anatomical reality of my hands and the configuration of the piano keyboard have transformed my imaginary constructs.


Ligeti said: “The music from the ‘Sonata form’ tradition, the big symphonic enterprises: all of this belongs to the German tradition, which was the strongest tradition in the 19th century. But even then, Paris was a cultural capital. Of course, Debussy had undertaken a decisive revolution in the beginning of the 20th century. But jazz arrived (and, before it, ragtime, Scott Joplin) and imposed a combination  of influences – it is not African, nor Irish nor French, not even American – it’s everything all together, the first musical expression to be multicultural. Shortly after there is a popular dimension in jazz, notably with Armstrong.  I find this very interesting because it is spontaneously creative, distant to today’s commercial phenomenons that are designing popular culture. At the turn of the 30’s, jazz was a unique and spontaneous explosion, the most beautiful stylistic expression of the century. I don’t know if it is still possible that an art of this importance can continue to develop because marketing now instantly grabs new musical forms from the street.”

Next Year’s Roster!


to next year’s new members

of the

Advanced Placement

2-D Design class:


Bianca Adams

McCall Braun

Grace Barbolla

Delaney Crouch

Mikayla Johnson

Marian Jostock

Jessica Loomis

Imran Mohsin

Claudia Nielsen

Kayli Putman

Michele Riefenberg

Stephanie Walterman

Maggie Ziolkowski


They join returning artists

Kristina Bastidas, Lauren Captain,

Alexa Hanaford, Fay Jenson, Sam La Bar,

Nikki Nixon, and Zach Rowe. Welcome in!