Photography and Music

It has taken a long while for me to come to the realization that there is an inextricable link between my love of music, my piano playing, and my photography. Some of my greatest photographic inspirations come from music, and I often play music while I’m working in my darkroom. The way compositions flow in photographs often remind me of specific musical compositions, so it goes without saying that not all the artists that inspire and inform my photography are photographers, or even visual artists.

One unassailably epic work of genius that serves as a source of inspiration is Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto in C minor. Like waves lapping onto a beach, there’s a graceful ebbing and flowing of the initial melody along with the arpeggiated piano accompaniment. Just when you reach the climaxing più mosso and expect a torrent of virtuosity from the pianist, you are instead treated to one of the most beautifully tender and intimate melodies ever written. Every exquisite melody within the concerto has a raw, undulating contrapuntal movement from which it’s immense power is drawn.

It is with this same poetry that light works to gently reveal the beautifully nuanced shape and form of the world around us. Just as each interpretive choice a musician makes informs a careful listener, every photograph is a small window into the mind of the photographer. Silence allows us to fully appreciate a powerful fortissimo just as shadow gives refuge from form and breathes life into composition.

Beauty takes many forms but can be found everywhere by those who seek it.

The Triumphant Return of Film?

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day
— Paul Simon

 In June of 2009 the Eastman Kodak company announced the discontinuation of Kodachrome. The film’s 74-year run defined the aesthetic of professional photography due to its extensive use by National Geographic. Paul Simon showed his reverence for Kodachrome’s role in coloring our world and memories in his 1973 song. While Kodachrome defined an era, it was only one casualty among many in the ensuing decades. Photographers watched in horror as their favorite film stocks vanished. Film appears to have found its place in the 21st century as a niche product purchased by a small but dedicated segment of professional and amateur photographers. Several boutique manufacturers have found creative ways to maintain profit margins while keeping production scaled down. This is particularly impressive when you consider the fact that film is one of the most complicated consumer products ever made.

At the beginning of this year Kodak published a press release that delighted film photographers around the world. Kodak announced plans to revive one of its most iconic film stocks in the fourth quarter of this year. Prior to its discontinuation in 2012, Ektachrome had been used by generations of photographers and was widely loved for its ability to give rich, yet very natural looking colors. The reintroduction of Ektachrome appears likely to coincide with Kodak's release of a new Super 8 video camera. As a photographer who regularly uses film I can't wait to load a roll of Ektachrome into my Canon F1 and give it a try. Now, if only I can find an inexpensive slide projector...

Refugees Welcome

As the bell tower of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church tolled five o’clock, protesters with pro-immigration signs began to appear at 60th and Dodge streets. Within 45 minutes, hundreds of people from all cultures, nationalities, and professions lined Dodge street to show support for refugees. It’s an issue relevant to Omaha as at least two local resettlement agencies were recently forced to lay off employees due in large part to the recent executive order. According to Pew Research, Nebraska settled more refugees per capita than any other state in 2016.

Photojournalism is a unique discipline. It demands the photographer sum up a complex event in relatively few images while applying principles of classical composition to split second decisions. It’s a ballet of light and the decisive moment.

Architectural Abstracts

Burnout. It's something every creative person experiences on occasion but is always difficult to recover from. Architectural photographers seem especially susceptible to creative block. There's only so much you can do with a building as viewers naturally expect specific criteria to be met; the geometry must be perfect, lines straight and parallel, color accurate, and perspective natural. If your photograph fails to deliver on any one of these conventions people will immediately notice something is "wrong."

Every now and then, when I'm feeling a particularly strong lack of creative motivation, I find giving myself an absurd task or handicap forces me out of my comfort zone. Renting a 200mm lens and making myself photograph buildings with it, as I did this weekend, certainly qualifies. You might as well ask Itzhak Perlman to perform a Paganini Caprice on a violin with two strings. Just for reference, my most used focal length is 24mm, a 73.7 degree angle of view. Not only does a 200mm lens have a comparatively microscopic 10.3 degree angle of view, it has no tilt or shift movements necessary to correct distortion. In other words, if you even slightly tilt the camera up or down the image will be hopelessly distorted.

This series of abstract photographs was a satisfying challenge, and I hope they're as interesting to view as they were to create. Can you figure out where they were taken? Hint: They are not all taken in Omaha but none are more than a short drive away.