Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Art In The Time Of COVID (Appologies to Gabriel García Márquez)

 Art has always been my compass and my passion.  Art has also been and continues to be my means of communication: an expression of that which I see/feel and how I interpret these sensations.  My "art expressions" have gone through many iterations: photography, illustration, portraits, landscapes film, pastels, oils, digital, watercolors to name several.  Although during each specific phase of my dedication to art, I devote myself to a particular focus, my mind is always crowded with ideas.  I avidly study art in all of its marvelous forms for inspiration and these explorations add to my desire and need to create.  Not necessarily create the art I study, but give my inspirations a new spin.  For example: if I were studying Michelangelo's sculpture, I do not yearn to carve marble but rather to incorporate the master's delineation of the human form and shape into my creation of still life.  Or if I am fascinated by the animated art produced by Disney's wonderful artists, I may learn new techniques for composing for my architecturals. Fortunately, I am able to continuously study the masters to expand my skills and perspectives.

Years ago, I met a man who became my mentor: Murray Miller.  Miller was a genius portrait painter.  Effortlessly, it seemed, he created pastel and oil studies and portraits during our weekly art forays to the 3-hour pose at the Salmagundi Club in Greenwich Village, NYC.  Miller studied all the greats of portraiture, Raeburn, Sargent, Velasquez.  And he taught me to appreciate nuances of tone, line, form, and especially light. Advising me  to paint still life in order to understand these and space, composition, relationships, Miller showed me how still life could help me to build a foundation for photographing and painting my subjects.  I began to photograph and to paint still life under his tutelage.  The spacial aspects of still life are invaluable concepts that teach how to effect 3-dimentionality on a 2-dimentional canvas or in a photograph.  Although still life is perhaps usually more "quiet" than other subjects, it is equally as powerful a statement.  I painted still life and photographed it for years, but then moved on to primarily focus on other subjects. I think that art can be a cumulative venture: I tried to take all the opportunities and means I could to express my vision, journeying from one application to another while utilizing all of the previous lessons.

To the ends of skill building: upon graduation from college, I became an architectural draftsman by day, while pursuing commercial and fine art photography and painting by night.  I have always drafted, designed, drawn and photographed architecture. Therefore, throughout my other art experiences, architectural photography threaded through all I artistically endeavor.  However, COVID-19 put the breaks on taking photographs of buildings where I would be out and about in the world.  "Quarantine: Perfect opportunity to de-clutter my very cluttered house," I thought early on.  As I packed boxes of objects to give away, I began to examine the bowls, jars, silvery trays.  The textures and shapes seemed so interesting.  I juxtaposed form with design with line.  As I set these up in my studio window space, I saw how the north light enhanced each object by itself and in tandem with the other pieces of the composition. I began to think of shapes and colors in light as well. Colors always evoke flowers for me. Remembering a series of photographs I took at the New York Botanic Gardens right before COVID-19, I began the delightful pastime of delving into florals.  

Photographing flowers is similar to that of still life.  Although flowers are living beings and many still life objects are inert, it is the task of the artist/photographer to give each life: a 3-dimentional presence on a flat surface.  Therefore, during COVID-19, I used my time to create still life and flower photographs: infusing my days with art.  It has been a strengthening and productive experience.  I certainly did not wish for a pandemic and am deeply saddened and disturbed by the tremendous havoc, pain and illness COVID-19 has caused.  However, I as always, turn to art for peace, hope, beauty and purpose. I hope for an end to the pandemic and the devastation it has caused throughout the world. As I anxiously wait with all humanity for health to return, I will look to art for comfort and purpose.

"Pears" Color Photography Still Life-Ellen Fisch 2020

"Apples"Color Photography Still Life-Ellen Fisch 2020

"Hydrangea" Black & White Photography Still Life-Ellen Fisch 2020
"Eggs" Black & White Photography Still Life-Ellen Fisch 2020

"Gladiola" Sepia Photograph with Color-Ellen Fisch 2020

"Rhododendron" Color Photography-Ellen Fisch 2020

"Orchid" Color Photography-Ellen Fisch 2020




Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Art of Architectural Photography: Exhibiting With Other Photographers

Recently I was pleased and honored to participate in a group photography exhibition at Jadite Galleries in NYC.  In all, there were six of us showing photography as our form of self-expression: each photographer exhibiting different subjects.  It is stimulating and informative to be part of such a group.  I exchanged ideas about the art, craft and technical side of photography with my peers, while enjoying the social aspects of the event as well.

I have taken part in many group exhibits as well as solo shows of my photography and art.  I find that the most wonderful part of group exhibits is the shared passion that brings us together.  We also contribute information, vision and ways of producing photography/art.  Most times photographers get together anywhere an immediate bond of photography is formed.  There is so much to exchange: what we are photographing; past and present influences; exhibits; the cameras and other equipment we use.  Shop talk. 

At an exhibition with a number of photographers who are passionate about their work, there is also a palpable excitement: a coming together of creative energies and perceptions.  Then, there is the mix of friends, family and clients who drop by at the opening and throughout the exhibit.  It is always fascinating to me to meet new photography enthusiasts.  They share their ideas and impressions and especially how the photographs affect them, the viewers.

Exhibiting my photography is a significant part of my art for without a viewer, my work is only half finished. My photographs are created to be seen and experienced, just as I see and experience  through my lens. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Art of Architectural Photography: Releasing the Image from the Stone

There are some concepts that resonate with the very soul of an artist.  They are often gleaned from studying the masters and/or their works.  Several of these principles have long guided me in my work and have greatly influenced how I look at the world.  Years ago I  appropriated one idea from the great Michelangelo, who claimed that he merely released the statue from a block of marble. A second fundamental belief I follow comes from another genius, Mies van der Rohe: less is more.  I subscribe to these two tenets in my work as well as in my life.

In order to release a work of art from the figurative block of marble (of course for Michelangelo it was a literal piece of stone), I must first see the form and understand the way in which it will emerge from its surroundings.  In the case of the marvelous staircase railing in The Breakers mansion of Newport, RI, I saw a fluidity of line and form that cascaded into a helix shape, suspended in not only space but time. The magnificence of a form so free as to seem weightless commanded my attention and I did not notice the other elements that visually "encased" this wrought iron railing when I took the picture.  I mentally released the form from its environs.

The many other elements in the image that I shot were subjectively taken away to create a clear focus.  I do this often when I take pictures.  I simply consider an image in terms of post production, frequently Photoshop.  Unwanted telephone wires, window air conditioners, cars are filtered out of the photograph through the lens of that which I wish to appear.  As Mies van der Rohe said: less is more, and so I eliminate unwanted visual distractions.  In my mind, there is a central focus to my photograph and the supporting components must not only reinforce the "star" of the work but elevate it.  To that end, first as I took the picture and later back in the studio, I freed the staircase from two beautiful oil paintings in wonderfully ornamental frames and some stunning light fixtures.  I then removed, in my opinion, the distracting color and converted the image to sepia, a preferred medium for many of my architectural photographs.  I find that sepia softens the space and, perhaps creates a timelessness.  The staircase's wrought iron railing emerged as a thing of great beauty, an ageless work of art celebrated by the other curves, lines and values of light and dark in the photograph.

Here are the Before and After images:

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Art of Architectural Photography: Beautiful Palette Colors- Blacks

Colors have allure and vibrancy.  Colors dance off the photograph as they create the dynamic tensions or dreamy flow within selected palettes.  However, trying to create with some colors is a Herculean task for me.  I always found reds to be especially difficult to work with, or certain blues.  These powerful eye-catching colors can take over the composition and render a photograph disjointed or exclusionary.  Titian, the great painting master, used reds in an unparalleled way and allowed his entire compositions equal footing with the force of the Cardinal's robes.  Monet used many blues in his Impressionist paintings and very successfully incorporated other colors that are afforded their own distinction.  I am enamored with all colors, each for its own attributes.

Blacks are compelling in their variety, dynamism, depth, richness, delicacy and beauty as colors.  Within the blacks palette, there are soft, hard, strong, light, luminous, shadowy and a host of other color characteristics.  Throughout my career as a photographer I have studied the richness and artistry of the various tones of blacks, marvelous additions to any photograph/artwork. And, especially working in Black and White architectural photography, I need to compose with the Blacks areas of the compositions in order to give prominence and form to the darks as well as the lights.  However, using a blacks palette for abstract photography is quite another story as the forms are created not by subject but by my own composition.

In working with my current theme of abstract photography, I have been fascinated with focusing on monochromatic color as a structural guide for composition.  Blues, greens, sands have all been utilized as unique hues, but with enormous range of spectrum within their own color grouping. My first book was of abstracts within the whites palette.  This palette was chosen arbitrarily so that I could envision how abstracts of different styles might have a connection through values of tone and hue. Whites, because they can be indistinguishable from each other and actually "lose" form and content, proved to be a benchmark in my experimentation with a series connected through a single palette but with all of its various iterations.  Working in this monochrome palette, I found that I could accomplish many of my goals and thus, I proceeded to blues, which were another challenge. Once I had a collection of abstract photography in various blues palette I sought out another color of great beauty yet, like whites, challenging in its properties: blacks.

Blacks, like most colors, have limitless variations within their "category" of color; however, these can easily dominate an abstract and/or create challenges when I am attempting to bring forth forms because of the way in which the darks blend into each other.  Further, adding too much light takes away from the notion of an abstract dominated by the palette of blacks.

Composing with the wide array of blacks colors, I have come to a greater understanding of the relationships of dark tones and how they interact within a specific composition of an abstract.  I think that abstracts are a little like jazz in the sense that I can riff off components in the composition as they "happen" rather than focusing on a particular subject or form.  The Blacks especially allowed for this as I was compelled to create and bring forth forms and line without compromising the overall elements of using darkest and lighter darks.  Working with and studying the Blacks palette greatly added to my knowledge of all photography and will certainly further my ability to create realism as well as abstract photography and art in the future. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Art of Architectural Photography: On Creating

It is the passion of every artist to create.  Many artists also exist to realize their creations.  For others it is the journey.  Personally, the journey or the process of creating works of art is the allure of art, its absorption, immersion and gratification for me.  I am most satisfied with a work I am creating just before its completion.  Not to say that my photographs do not live up to my expectations: often they do.  But it is not the end result that keeps me completely engrossed in photography: it is the process of finding the subject; photographing the subject from as many angles as possible; the post production of retouching, composing and "getting it right" that has made and still makes my journey so wonderful.  And many times, I am thinking of my next images as I complete the several I am bringing to fruition.

All that said, there are dreams that elude artists as well as those that come to be.  A dream that many artists experience is to create something totally unique.  An out-of-the-box or completely exclusive work or genre that only pertains to themselves and their art.  Many search for this elusive prize.  Numerous master artists have never archived this particular accomplishment of creating something, a style unlike any other: all their own.  To be sure, artists may never even consider creating a novel approach or technique or result that they deem important or even related to making their art.  I, however, have long fantasized about going where no one has gone; perhaps being the first.  To that end, I have studied art and in my travels, I have first and foremost relished seeing the art of others in places that define their art, yet are universal.  For example, when I traveled to Spain for Sorolla and Sweden for Zorn, I finally could (almost) conceptualize how light is expressed: the brilliantly hot light of the southern Mediterranean and cool, softer light of the North.  And my resent trip to India gave me some understanding of Eastern forms and compositions at times little utilized in the West: great, pointed arches; fanciful fretwork and other aesthetic elements.

Attempting to incorporate the new to expand upon my photography has been a marvelous journey in itself.  The meshing of my experiences with my own perspective has given me the will to dig deeper and continue to evolve as a photographer.  Initially, my love of black and white and sepia architectural photography developed into other areas of photography and subject.  And while I continue to explore the new, I cherish my past interactions with my camera and post-production.  Thus, my new focus on abstract photography has grown out of many sources.  I returned to abstraction, which I (and many others in the art world) studied in college and graduate school in the  1960s and 1970s. Of course then we looked towards the earlier abstracts of say Kandinsky, Miro and even back to cave drawings, which sometimes took on abstracted qualities.  Only currently, I come to the genre of abstraction with fresh eyes.

My recently self-published little book of abstracts also contains a secret, for often abstracts have many hidden meanings.  The book is a compilation of years of seeking composition, line, texture, form and the other principles of photography and art.  It is part of a journey that will be expressed in a number of books.  Take a look if you'd like to travel with me. 

Folio of abstract photographs created in a whites palette. Each abstract photograph has special associations with imagery, identity and imagination, thus inspiring connections.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Art of Architectural Photography: Visiting an Old Friend

Recently I posted The Flame Tree, a photograph I created a decade ago.  The mainly sepia landscape with an autumn blaze of colored leaves was designed and enhanced in post production.  It has been licensed for poster art and also reproduced as greeting cards, and while I've seen my photograph throughout the years, I am always surprised when I come across it again.

The image was shot in RGB (color) and softened to a dreamy sepia for the mood I wished to express.  The pop of colorful foliage marks my love of the fall season and evokes several marvelous occasions when I found myself on a quiet, misty lake with a lone beautiful tree.  Chancing on such a spot always nourishes my creativity and spirit.  I deliberately down played the background while accentuating the tree, yet it was a task to impart some significance to the complete composition.  Somehow, it came together to form the image I envisioned. I picked up a lot of skills and information while crafting the effect I was seeking in the photograph.

In revisiting photographs, such as The Flame Tree, I may feel as though I've succeeded in expressing that which I envisioned.  I am always, in viewing my work, prompted to think about the process of creating the photograph.  There have been a few images that were simply point-and-shoot photos: lucky shots.  Others require a good deal of effort.  There are those images that take so long to complete that I can't believe the amount of time I have spent on one photograph: Birch River, is 65+Gs and is saved on about 35 disks!  Are the photographs any the more or less for the labor and thought that went into them?  Not really.  If I've communicated an idea, a place or a feeling then it matters not the process to get the image right; only to me, perhaps, is the actual creative journey meaningful.  The learning and the work that goes into my photography brings me much closer to it.  I develop a connection with my work as I explore what the Raw image offers me.  When I complete a work, I feel as if I know it well.

And so, in posting The Flame Tree I had an opportunity to share an old friend with any who would like to take part in my experience of that time in autumn and my glad surprise of the flash of color on a misty day. 

A few of my photographs I'd like to share that are reminiscent of autumn, my favorite season:

Newport, RI: sepia photography

Queenstown, NZ: color photography

Sugar Hill, NH: color photography

Newport, RI: black and white photography with color
The Flame Tree: sepia photography with color

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Art of Architectural Photography: How (and Why) to Create Abstract Photography

Abstracting is taking a form and focusing on one part of that form to emphasize it or create a new form out of that aspect of the original subject.  For example, observe a burning candle and paint/draw/sculpt only the dripping wax or the flame.  That might be a way to abstract the original image of the burning candle.  Or: use the spokes of a bicycle wheel to form a composition.  These parts of the total may make up their own totality.Abstracts can ALSO be a part of an idea and not a physical subject.  For example, think of clouds.  The shapes of certain clouds may be your idea; however, you may want to take parts of that concept to create an entirely new form/shape or composition. Emotion can, as well, lead to an abstract photograph.

Abstraction has long been a painting genre.  Going back to ancient cave paintings, symbols can be viewed as abstractions of either physical or mental/emotional subject.  Some of the cave paintings are representational and others are distorted, probably by intent rather than lack of skill or the erosion over time.  I prefer to think that the cave dwellers were as capable and communicative as were any artists in other ages throughout time.  Well then, painting and drawing are hands-on practices and abstraction with those mediums can be accomplished with the brush or pencil or pen.  What about photography?

In the darkroom, there were/are a variety of ways to abstract an image: double exposure, using bleach or salt, combining chemicals and so forth.  Although digital photography poses differences as opposed to film, in the area of abstraction there are limitless ways to abstract a photograph either in the digital camera or in computer post production.  In this post, I will suggest some of the post production/computer ways to create abstract photographs.

1.  First, chose a subject from your photography/image library in your computer.  Or upload an image into your computer.
Your subject may be anything from a panoramic shot of the Grand Canyon to a raindrop.  Or as suggested before, it may be an idea or emotion, such as excitement, clouds, a festival, happiness, longing.....anything and everything may be used that appeals to you.

2.  Isolate that aspect of your subject on which you would like to focus.
Is your raindrop a specific shape you like?  Does it hold a reflection of a garden?  Do the striations of rock in the Grand Canyon create a beautiful color palette for your image?  Does the feeling of excitement suggest jagged lines or swirls to you?  Is a festival like a drip painting or enormous numbers of dark and light dabs?

3.  Once your subject is clear to you, think of form, composition, tonality in terms of lights and darks, color or monochrome, design.

4.  If your subject is part or all of a physical shape, put it on the appropriate sized "canvas" in your computer's application of choice.  I use Photoshop CS3 (still!!).  If your subject exists in your mind, select a "canvas" size that you think would be the right proportions on which to conceptualize your idea.

5.  Look at/imagine the subject as it will appear on your canvas.  And if necessary, re-proportion the canvas.  The proportions of an abstract are just as important as those of a representational work.

6.  Find your main focal point on the canvas.  Would you like the viewer to see the upper right quadrant first?  Bottom third?  The only choice that is not the best is dead center/  When a canvas has a main focal point in its very middle, the rest of the canvas has a way of "disappearing."  Look at the works of some abstractionists and you will see that rarely is dead center the emphasis of the work.  For that matter, the same apples to realism. Critical to the work is that when finished, the eye of the viewer "rove" around the photograph to see everything in all parts of the image.  That is what creates a good composition.

7.  Once you have laid out the composition, examine what Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, or whatever application you are using has to offer in the way of augmenting your subject.  I always preserve my original image, copy it in another document, use layers and in this way no elements of my initial photograph are destroyed or unalterably distorted.  In Photoshop CS3, I like to experiment with such filters as liquefy, noise, paint daubs, plastic wrap, glowing edges and so on.  I begin work with these experimentations until the abstract begins to emerge from my original subject.  My premise is that I have an idea in my mind, but the computer will help me by providing the keys to unlock it.  Just as when I take a picture with my camera, which is an invaluable tool for capturing a photograph, my computer assists me as any art "equipment" might.

8.  If you like, try different plugins.  I have an array of plugins available that sync to Photoshop.  I use these to experiment with as well.  There are many such tool on the Internet that offer a free trial.

9.  Crop out what you think doesn't work.  Abstracts are ever changing images that, in my opinion, are far more fluid than representational photography usually is.  Abstracts represent so many different things to an ever changing audience.  Therefore, adapt your composition as you go.  In my mind, creating abstract photography is a little like jazz improvisation: notes are added, left out, changed.  Altering the proportions of your abstract composition, particularly with the ease of computer cropping, can be a significant part of creating the work.

10. Another option when creating abstract photography is to overlay multiple photographs or parts of photographs on your image.  Combining textures, colors, design, and even other subjects may enhance your photograph.

Most of all, I find that through abstracting photographs, I can produce better representational images. Abstraction teaches me the fundamentals: composition, values (tonality), color proportion, line, form.  It is also fun and a marvelous way to experiment with the wealth of technology photographers have at their fingertips.

Steps in creating an abstract photograph.  After the images, I describe the process.   

Metalic Rose: Abstract Photography

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4
Step 5
Step 6
Creating Metalic Rose:
Step 1: Metalic Rose began with a graphic design I created years ago.
Step 2: I changed the color of the graphic and overlaid an image of crumpled satin to create more textural interest.
Step 3: On a separate layer, I added a photograph of a rose with dewdrops above the background texture.
Step 4: Using a mask, I painted out sections of the rose where I wanted the texture background to come through.
Step 5: Using a gradient, I added tonal interest by emphasizing the darks and lights.
Step 6: By converting the image to black and white, I "popped" the lights and darks, especially the dewdrops in the dark areas of the photograph.  I then used several plugins and overlays to develop the "metalic" look I wanted.

Note: Although Metalic Rose is recognizable as a rose, is it? Do you see something other than a rose?