Tag Archives: art

Ghost Man, Columbia Heights


This is a case of where the mechanics of photographing lead to something emotionally resonant in a powerful way – the blurred moving man under other circumstances could be considered a flaw, but here becomes a metaphor.

The Primitive Eye: Learning to See Through a Pinhole September 12-October 24

Do you want to improve your photographic vision, but find yourself frustrated with your images? The Primitive Eye is a six-week guided exercise in seeing. The course meets on Tuesdays from 7-9pm, September 12 to October 24th. The only requirements are that you are ready and willing to tackle some challenging assignments, and that you obtain a pinhole objective for your camera. This could be a pinhole in a body cap, it could be a custom pinhole objective, or it could be a dedicated pinhole camera that shoots film or photographic paper. It could be a digital camera or it could be a Quaker Oats tube.

By stripping down your gear to the most basic of photographic tools, the pinhole lens, you will be forced to contend with the three fundamental components of a photograph – light, composition, and time.

Foggy Bottom Metro, Waiting
Foggy Bottom Metro, Waiting

Light: light itself, with directionality, quality, and quantity, must be critically accounted for in pinhole photography. There’s no gaming the system with a fast lens.

Key Bridge, Georgetown


Typically, pinhole objectives are wide-angle. Because they are so small, composing through the objective is difficult at best. You have to carefully plan your composition, or you have to open yourself up to serendipity. Either way, you have to know how your camera sees before you set it up, or you’ll have no control over what you get.

Pan-American Health Organization HQ
Pan-American Health Organization HQ


Pinhole objectives force a recognition of the importance of time in a photo. With modern, automated cameras that have mechanical shutters that freeze slices of time as small as 1/8000th of a second, and electronic ones much faster, we are used to thinking of photographs as truly static objects, and movement and blur are objectionable. With pinhole photography where a 1 second exposure is quite fast, you must carefully plan for how movement will be captured by your camera, because it will. It will also force you to re-think the notion of a photograph as being time-less and two-dimensional, and being time-ful and four-dimensional.

The Primitive Eye: Learning to See Through a Pinhole is a six-week class on how to develop your vision through simplification. Strip away all the bells and whistles of technology, and you have to concentrate on the fundamentals of photography: light, composition, and time. To register, go to the Photoworks website or click here:

Register for: The Primitive Lens

Pinhole Resources

Where to find:

Pinhole Pro – multi-aperture pinhole for various DSLR/Mirrorless mounts

B&H Photo – pinhole cameras

B&H Photo- Pinhole Body Caps

eBay – pinhole

Work to Inspire:


FslashD – Pinhole Photography (my work was published in their inaugural anthology volume)


U Street Graffiti – Palladium Print

In my latest iteration of my Intro to Platinum/Palladium printing class, I dug up some old negatives I had made, since my student this time was sufficiently skilled with wet darkroom processes and not interested in getting into shooting large format (in my standard group class, we take my Canham 5×7 out around Glen Echo and make a dozen or so negatives for students to work from). This was a print from that session.


It’s a memorial to the transitions on U Street. This is graffiti art that has since been obliterated by gentrification and re-development – the alley where this was has been re-graffiti’d, but with “sanctioned” artwork a bit more sanitized and easier to interpret.

This print is a 5×7 palladium print. The usual chocolate-brown color is missing because I gave this emulsion mix a shot of NA2 contrast agent to give it a bit more snap. The NA2 contains platinum, which is what cools off the image and makes it more neutral. If you’d like to learn how to print this way, contact me through the blog and we can schedule a class, either one-on-one or I can fit you in to an upcoming class at Glen Echo Photoworks.

Meet And Shoot – Columbia Heights

Today was my session of the “Meet & Shoot” class I co-teach with several other instructors at Photoworks. The class is a five or six session workshop on street photography where each instructor takes a group of students out for a guided photography excursion to a location of their choosing. Students can sign up for all sessions, or pick and choose which ones they want as their schedule and/or instructor preference dictates.

This time, I had three new students and three repeat students from the last time I taught this class. Due to some last-minute scheduling snafus, three of the students were unable to make it, so it was a very intimate walkabout, and I was able to teach as much as I was playing shepherd.

We met at the Columbia Heights Metro station, and once the crew was collected, we took a walk up to the little plaza in front of the Tivoli Theater where a saturday farmers market was in full swing. My three students, seen below (L to R: Matthew, Suzan and Bobbi) wandered around and took full advantage of my guidance for the session to use color as a foundational theme. The farmers market was a perfect opportunity, with all the fruit and vegetables on display.

Columbia Heights is an ethnically diverse neighborhood, with a strong Latin-American presence. This is very obvious in the colors and styles of signage on shops and restaurants, and makes for a great subject for a color-based exercise.

Here Bobbi, Suzan and Matthew are examining some signage on a Dominican restaurant on Park Road.

We continued along Park Road over to Mount Pleasant, another neighborhood in Washington DC that also has a significant Latino presence. I took the opportunity to discuss including graffiti and public sculpture in your work as a “street” photographer. If you’re going to include other peoples’ art in your photography, make sure that you have a solid reason for doing so- it’s fair game as documentary, or if your capture and interpretation is transformative (abstract/close-up, for example), but if you’re planning to exhibit and market photos of other peoples’ art, even if it is displayed in public, you’re at best in an ethical gray area, and potentially in a copyright violation scenario.

Street photography is very much about found images – you’re not setting out to intentionally create compositions, but rather responding and reacting to things you encounter, like this poster that fell into the street and got run over until the rough pavement surface pierced through turning the whole thing into an abstract composition.

We had a great morning of shooting, and wrapped up for a chat at a cafe on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan (another neighborhood bordering on Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights). I’m very pleased with my students, and I’m looking forward to seeing their images from today at our recap class in three weeks.

Alternative Process Revolution – Philip Jessup

Another artist interview from the Alt Process Revolution series – this one with Philip Jessup, another Canadian photographer. One of the great things about this touring show is that it brings greater visibility of Canadian photographers to the US audience – I think many US photographers are aware of many other photographers from their own country, but with the possible exception of Yusuf Karsh, most could not name a single Canadian photographer living or dead.

Philip Jessup

Tell us a bit about your photographic work:

  • How did you get interested in photography?

My landscape photography is an extension of my professional work over the years advocating solutions to climate change. Many of the effects of climate change—rising sea levels, warming global temperatures, increasingly erratic precipitation patterns—are placing wilderness and communities that depend on them under unbearable stress. Many of these areas are likely to vanish, like low-lying atolls in the Pacific. I see my job as documenting such areas, so that if they do vanish or change in some unrecognizable way, humankind will remember them.

  • Do you feel your work is influenced by other media/periods/genres? If so, which ones, and why?

I’ve been influenced stylistically by other landscape photographers whose work I love. Eliot Porter, who was the first landscape photographer to work extensively in color, has always inspired me, his ability to find the abstract in the real. Other photographers who work I admire include: Fay Godwin, Harry Callahan, Brett  Weston, Toshio Shibata, Wynn Bullock, and the Canadian Edward Burtynski, who has taught us to find beauty even in the devastation being inflicted on the environment.

  • What is your experience with analog photography? Digital photography?

All of my early work dating from 2003 was shot with medium format film, Fujifilm’s Velvia 50. I love its wide color gamut and detail. From the start, however, I had my reversal film images scanned at high resolution and then printed on a Lambda using Cibachrome and later Fujiflex media. Today I shoot with a digital camera, process the images myself, and print on my own Epson P7000. I’ve been able to achieve rich, long lasting color prints this way. I would go back to Cibachrome if the media were available. Today, I occasionally shoot using film just for the pleasure and self-discipline, but in Canada availability and processing is limited and quite expensive.

  • What brought you to participate in the APR show? 

I’m always interested in exploring new ways to create an image that deepens the experience of my work with the viewer. Multiple gum over palladium produces a highly subjective final print that feels to me like a memory or a remembrance of something that is past or lost. The theme of my own work, which is trying to capture the beauty of landscapes and communities that may vanish, is a good match for this process. I also like the extreme longevity of these images. Again, it is a good match for my own goal, which is to memorialize imperiled landscapes so future generations won’t forget.

  • Do you see a continuing role in your photography practice for alternative processes?

I’m keen to explore the potential of alt processes to emotionally charge the images I place in front of the viewer. The exhibit at Glen Echo is the first step.

Alternative Photo Revolution – Interview with Brittany Fleming

As some  of you may remember from my Rendering the Spirit show, I interviewed the artists participating in the show via email. For APR, I did the same. With 40 artists participating and a quick turn on the time-frame, I’m only posting a few interviews.

Today’s interview: Brittany Fleming

Tell us a bit about your photographic work: * how did you get interested in photography? 

Born and raised in rural Ontario, Brittany spent most of her adolescence outside experimenting with a camera. It was during a three-month backpacking trip to Europe that her interest in travel and photography was sparked. “Being able to combine my passion for travel with photography opened up a new way of thinking. I came back to Canada knowing what I wanted to do.” 

Leaving Fergus behind, Brittany left for school in Ottawa where she completed a two- year photography program at Algonquin College. Before graduating, she started her career as a Lifestyle Photographer with Union Eleven, where she currently works. 

* what kind of work do you produce (how would you categorize your work)? 

I currently work for a studio in Ottawa, Union Eleven where I`m a lifestyle photographer. The work I show for galleries is my Street photography & Photojournalism. 

* what themes or subjects inspire you? 

I am currently working on three projects that are close to my heart. The first is about urban development and the ever changing cityscape. I document this environment through street photography. The second is an ongoing project about agriculture – showcasing farmers from our past, present, and the future of farming through a photojournalistic lens. Lastly, I am combining street photography and photojournalism to bring light to the human rights issues of our time, specifically women’s rights. 

How do you see your work in relationship to the larger art world:

* did you come to photography from another medium?


* do you feel your work is influenced by other media/periods/genres? If so, which ones, and why? 

On backpacking trips I was able to connect with locals. I have the ability to connect the camera to the heart, to feel the subjects and their story. An anthropologist at heart, my aim is to show the social landscape of my time. Deriving my photographic influences from Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Walker Evans, Garry Winogrand, and Lee Friedlander, I always try to keep the human condition in focus. 

Could you talk a bit about the piece you submitted to the APR show? 

We all want to feel equal. My work is strongly influenced by this innate desire, and I’ve chosen to expose it through a female perspective. 

Captured in this photo are a group of people at the women rights march. Showing the young girls looking up to their mothers sparked a strong emotion. Thinking about this young girl, her past, present and, future. 

I too, yearn to feel accepted and equal. My hope, by sharing this image, is to show how truly brave these women are and how grateful they are for their rights and freedoms. We all have the power to go ahead and face our fears, follow our passions, and do so with grace. Our successes and failures are what will shape the generations of tomorrow. 

What is your experience with analog photography? Digital photography? 

When i was in school for photography we uses 4×5 cameras. Other then that I primarily shoot with my DSLR. 

Do you normally print your own work, or have others print for you? 

Bob and the team at Alternative Photo Services do an amazing job at printing my work for me. They are experts at bringing my images to life. 

Have you ever worked in alternative processes before? 

No this will be my first time 

 Brittany Fleming

Glen Echo | Glen Echo Park in the Ballroom, Backroom

March 28
Viewings will be taking place from 1-9pm with a formal reception from 6-9pm. Admission: Free

New Orleans | L’Entrepot

March 31-April 1
Private reception on Friday March 31st from 6-9pm.
General admission is $10
VIP Collector ticket is $30 admission + chance to win a unique permanent print
Stay at home ticket $25 for a chance to win a unique permanent print
Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite.
April 1st, viewings will be open to the public from 1-9pm. The Julia Street First Saturday event is from 6-9pm with all gallery’s in the area having receptions

Toronto | Connections Gallery

May 15-June 17
Opening May 18 from 6-9pm
The Toronto portion of the exhibition is a part of the Contact Photography Festival

#ContactPhoto #202Creates #202Fotos #acreativedc #glenechophotoworks #photoworks #altprocessrevolution #DylanEllisGallery #ConnectionsGallery #Toronto #NewOrleans #NOPA


Changing Mural – Black Boy & Garuda

I had photographed this mural before. The other day I was doing a walkabout in my neighborhood and passed it again, to see that the artist had re-worked the mural in new colors with new designs.

here are the original photos I took, in color and black-and-white.

Black Boy, Garuda, Color
Black Boy, Garuda, Color
Black Boy, Garuda, B/W
Black Boy, Garuda, B/W

The artist came back and re-worked the piece, keeping only the head of Garuda and the head of the black boy as compositional elements, and completely re-working the color palette.

Black Boy, Garuda
Black Boy, Garuda
Black Boy, Garuda (Detail)
Black Boy, Garuda (Detail)

This is one thing a traditional photograph can’t do – it can’t evolve over time being reworked into a totally different yet fundamentally similar image. At the point you transform a photograph this much, it’s no longer a photograph. It’s figurative and not literal. Part of the intrinsic quality of a photograph that makes it valuable and meaningful as a photograph as opposed to a painting is its relative immutability and the appearance of a binary 1:1 relationship with reality. We know of course that photographs CAN lie, and that they have figurative, non-literal properties, but the descriptive quality of a photograph is so powerful that we WANT to view them as purely, literally descriptive and non-figurative – “Photos don’t lie” and the visual equivalent of “if it wasn’t true, they couldn’t print it”.

So the question to you is, is this the same mural, or is it a different mural entirely, now that it’s been reworked?

Toronto Distillery District

Some random photos of the buildings and spaces at the Distillery District in Toronto.

Ivy, Fire Escape, Distillery District
Ivy, Fire Escape, Distillery District

The central plaza in the middle of the distillery district is occupied by this interpretive sculpture designed to reflect the history of the complex, and provide a focal point for people to converge upon. I don’t know how comfortable it would be to sit beneath it; while it certainly provides shade, all that copper would make for a terrific radiator on a summer day.

Distillery Sculpture
Distillery Sculpture

I went for a more abstract look with this composition – this is about angles and forms, and visually leading lines. The structure is a chute used to move barrels of liquor from the top floor of the distillery to the waiting trucks to be loaded and sent out.

Distillery Chute
Distillery Chute

The sign of the distillery still graces the covered walkway between two brick and stone structures in the distillery complex.

Gooderham & Worts Distillery
Gooderham & Worts Distillery

Museum Exhibition Catalogs

While I was in Paris, I went to see a major exhibition at the Musee D’Orsay, Masculin/Masculin, a retrospective of the male nude in art from 1800 to the present. It was beautifully presented, almost overwhelming in size and scope, and extremely memorable. At the time, I thought about buying the catalog because it had outstanding reproductions of the work in the exhibit, including many works and artists I was unfamiliar with. I decided not to because of the size and weight of the catalog, especially considering that it was only available hardcover and my bags were already close to the weight limit. After I got home, I was kicking myself for not buying it after all. I got a second chance, however, when a friend who lives in New York told me he would be going in early December, and he offered to bring me back a copy. It arrived today, just in time to be a Christmas present to myself.

This got me thinking about museum exhibition catalogs. I generally try to buy them for exhibits I’ve enjoyed when I have the chance, because it serves as a reminder of the work exhibited, and it goes a long way to helping support the museum mounting the exhibit, especially when the museum (like all the galleries of the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art) does not charge admission. As a result, I thought I’d list the exhibitions I’ve collected catalogs from.

In rough chronological order, descending, they are:

  • Charles Marville, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2013
  • Masculin/Masculin, Musee D’Orsay, Paris, France 2013
  • Photography and the American Civil War, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2013
  • Faking it: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2013
  • 40 under 40: Craft Futures, Renwick Gallery, Washington DC, 2012
  • Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2010
  • Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, 2010
  • Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, 2010
  • Truth/Beauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art – 1845-1945, Phillips Gallery, Washington DC, 2009
  • Faces of the Frontier: Photographic Portraits from the American West, National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, 2009
  • Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice, Boston Museum of Fine Art, Boston, 2009
  • Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC 2008
  • All the Mighty World: Photographs of Roger Fenton, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2004
  • Segnali di Fumo: L’avventura del West nella Fotograffia, Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy 1994
  • Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Columbus, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1992
  • Treasure Houses of Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC 1985
  • Tutankhamen, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC 1977
  • The Family of Man, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1955*

*obviously I did NOT attend the Family of Man exhibit, as I wasn’t even a fantasy in my grandparents’ minds in 1955. But I do have the exhibition book.

Also note that I’ve listed where I saw the exhibit, not necessarily who published the catalog.

Perhaps the oddest is the Segnali di Fumo catalog, purely on account of the incongruity of going all the way to Milan, Italy to see photographs of the American West (well, I didn’t GO to Milan to see the exhibit, but happened upon it as I was leaving the Castello Sforzesco), with a significant body from the Amon Carter museum in Texas. Which I haven’t been to yet, but really ought to. It would also help close the loop on my France trip, for it is there that the first known photograph ever is held – Niepce’s first known heliograph of the view out his studio window at his estate near Chalon-sur-Saone (that I couldn’t visit because it was closed for the season). I’m sure I’m missing one or two from my collection, and my collection of catalogs is a pale shadow of the total number of exhibits I’ve been to either because no catalog was produced (producing an exhibition catalog is a major undertaking and not done casually or cheaply) or because I couldn’t afford it at the time.

Another day I’ll put together a catalog of my photography monographs, as I know this is of interest to some. It’s not a huge collection, especially in light of my overall library size, but it is a work in progress.

From Anonymous Vernacular by Jeremy Moore

I read this post by my friend Jeremy Moore the other day and wanted to pass it along. I wholeheartedly agree. I still push myself to go to see contemporary shows because I want to see what people are doing, and while it’s not a universal constant, I am disappointed more often than I am delighted by what I’m seeing on the walls. Too often the idea that the concept should take primacy over the craftsmanship has evolved so far that the idea of craftsmanship seems to be not just second-fiddle, but non-existent. Prints that aren’t spotted, contrast corrected, burned/dodged, or color corrected are far too common. I think it’s a symptom of the age that thoughts no matter how unfinished are all given equal value, and he (or she) who can shout their idea the loudest gets credit. Sometimes it feels as if you’re back in high school at the Model UN debate club and the teachers have stepped out of the room – everyone’s still on-focus enough to stick to debating the topic at hand, but all sense of moderation and argument has been thrown out the window – “I think the solution to the Arab-Israeli problem is to give Jerusalem to Tibet and let the Buddhists run it!” “And why do you think that would work?” “Because!” “Nuke em’ all and let God and Allah figure out between themselves which bodies belong to whose faith” and so on…