Photography

Visual Sentences

When you make art it can be a challenge to find the right language to explain what you’re doing. One might say that an artist needn’t ever explain him or herself. But art is a good conversation topic precisely because no two viewers or listeners share the same perspective. And since a viewer doesn’t share the artist’s own perspective, since a viewer isn’t intimately familiar with the history of choices the artist made in pursuing a certain visual result, the artist must offer the viewer a stepladder for reaching a vantage point that allows a work’s potential to be seen. That “stepladder” might be a word or phrase, a bit of language that gives the viewer a suggestion of where to look, how to begin understanding the piece at hand.

I’ve been describing my effort in photography as “photo pairing.” That’s been my language so far. I’m looking to create pairings or marriages between images that give rise to a kind of contrapuntal dialogue, where each image gains from being situated next to the other, where the viewer’s eye is guided seamlessly back and forth between the two images in such a way that no one image steals all the attention.

Some new language occurred to me the other day, as I was trying to make a video. Each photograph in a pairing can be thought of as an individual “word.” Together the two photographs combine, like words, into a “visual sentence.” The sentence draws out a deeper, and more specific meaning than each component word or image would convey on its own.

So instead of saying I’m working to create interesting photographic pairings, I’m going to try out some new language. I’ll say that I’m working to compose “visual sentences.” Sentences that mean more than the words they consist of. Sentences that teach us something. Here’s a video where I’m using this new terminology:

Photography

Photo Pairing

As a photographer, I strive to create pairings or marriages among disparate images. The goal of photographic pairing is the same as the goal of musical counterpoint. In counterpoint, we take two independent melodies and play them at the same time, hoping to discover something new in their dialogue, hoping the melodies may express something in conversation with each other that they could not or would not express on their own. When we take two photographs of different subjects, captured at different times and places, and position them side by side, if we’re lucky, we may achieve the same result — a conversation might arise, a dialogue between the two images where each individual seems to be enhancing the other, helping the other realize its full potential.

The idea of pairing photographs occurred to me sometime during the Covid lockdown of 2020 when I was contemplating my next steps as a photographer. I have been pursuing the same “thing” as a photographer since I first displayed my work publicly in 2011. In some sense, my style hasn’t changed or evolved in all that time. In a decade plus, I have been seeking better and better examples of the ideal that has captivated me since I first began.

I take closeups of everyday subjects — a chain link fence, a shriveled leaf — using them as raw material for graphic abstractions. I’m interested in these subjects both for what they are, and for what they offer visually, for what lines, textures, and colors they provide. I want the image to look like the thing itself, not like a photograph of the thing. When I print the image, I want to feel amazed, almost afraid to pick up the print, because it looks so real, so palpable, because its texture is so boldly accosting, because it seems to be alive and in motion even though it portrays a still subject. I want the image to delight in its squareness, meaning that it should be a dynamic square, with a sense of motion or activity throughout, addressing all four corners of the frame, in such a way that the composition breaks the symmetry of the stable, solid, unbudging square while still appearing balanced, harmonious, proportionate inside those walls.

Every once in a while I’m successful in achieving these goals that I’ve just begun to describe above. Every once in a while I’m left with something perfect. A photograph can be perfect, this medium lends itself to perfection, I don’t mean to toot my own horn. The flaw of a perfect photograph is that it is too perfect. Sometimes I want more variety, more diversity from a perfect image. My biggest revelation in my past couple of years of photographic works is that when I’m unsatisfied by a “perfect” image, I can sometimes find what I seek by pairing that image with another. Through coupling, through marriage, a photograph can extend beyond itself, becoming something bigger and greater than it can be on its own. My personal library lends itself to this kind of coupling because, again, my style has remained the same over ten years. An image from 2011 can find a partner in an image from 2022, with them both appearing to have been shot on the same day.

Since I began pairing my images in 2020 I’ve accumulated a few dozen examples that excite me and that I would like to share with you in time. To begin, I’ve made these two videos about what I’m pursuing:

Photography, Seasons

Fall 2020

Fall leaves can look like fire. Here, I see a ring of fire circling a negative space. When we look into that space we see nothing but a blur of still-green leaves above:

These leaves, rustling in the wind, all the same shade of red, look to me almost edible, like ornamental candy wafers:

The branches and stems here call my attention to all the work that had to be done in spring and summer to bring moisture and nutrients to so many leaves, then young, now orange and resplendent and soon to fall away:

This image recreates for me a bit of the swirling sensation that I experience when, in a forest, I notice that even the things I thought were still are moving:

Taking a closer look at a cluster of leaves glowing in the sun, we find there’s still some green to be seen and remembered as it cedes the stage to brown:

Sometimes a photograph that seems a mistake turns out to be more than that. Here, motion blur combined with shallow depth of field creates a composition that looks chaotic, but for me the diagonal stems give it structure and the smaller leaves in the background that are clearly in focus anchor this image as a photograph. A photograph that reminds me of an expressionist canvas:

In this image I don’t see any one leaf that’s particularly remarkable. The leaf that’s most clearly in focus is also shaded, so we aren’t able to enjoy its full visual potential. But this image teaches me that a composition doesn’t need to contain a “star” to be effective. The shallow depth of field makes the background seem like a watercolor and I like how everything hangs from those two stems at the top:

Here is an enchanted forest. The original version of this image was pale and badly overexposed, and nothing is quite in focus, so I considered discarding it. I find that trying to salvage a flawed image is usually a waste of time; better to go out and take another. But there are exceptions. My efforts to vivify this image in post-processing resulted in a product that represents — pretty darn well — what I think I actually saw. Just the other week, my mother told me that one of my grandmother’s first jobs in the 1930s was colorizing black and white photos. I wonder what my grandmother might have done with the original version of this image, which was nearly black and white, and how much the end product might have resembled what you see here:

My eye is drawn to fall leaves that glow in the sun. Sometimes I have to remind myself to look at those beautiful leaves that don’t happen to be illuminated at the moment:

Of course, I’ll always be a sucker for sunlight, whether it’s lighting up a thousand leaves or just one:

The images here were taken October 17th and 18th in Hopkinton and Berlin, Massachusetts, though I feel like I’ve been collecting them — maybe just the idea of them — for much longer. Dear viewer, thank you for joining me on my Fall journey this crazy year, 2020!

Rudi

Photography

Jul 2 Fireworks

After years of photographing Boston harbor fireworks from my vantage point in East Boston with short exposures, I finally decided to work on the long exposure technique. Boston’s July 4th fireworks happen over the Charles River but this year there were also July 2nd fireworks over the harbor as the conclusion of Boston HarborFest’s Parade of Lights.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Photography

Random Fireworks

On Thursday May 2, at 10:30PM, I was in bed when an unrelenting series of booms and thuds convinced me the world was about to end. It turned out to be random fireworks. Having lived near Boston Harbor for years, I’ve seen lots of fireworks and I know that these shows are sometimes put on by private organizations who see fit to use their spending power to inflict their own “private” celebration on the entire city. Still, I couldn’t imagine that such a thing would be happening at 10:30PM so early in the season with no warning. Once I realized that the world wasn’t ending, I got out my camera and took these photos.

 

RudiSeitz-BostonHarborFireworksMay2019-1.jpg

RudiSeitz-BostonHarborFireworksMay2019-3.jpg

RudiSeitz-BostonHarborFireworksMay2019-4.jpg

RudiSeitz-BostonHarborFireworksMay2019-2.jpg

Photography

Fireworks

In the past few years I’ve enjoyed photographing fireworks when they happen over Boston harbor and sharing the images on Facebook. I feel these photos had become part of my Facebook identity. Looking back over my history there, I also see dozens of post about my musical projects and I remember struggling to describe the technical details of those projects in a way that might be accessible to my non-musician friends. With fireworks, I could just post an image and rely on the fact that people would want to see it because it’s the sort of thing people want to see. It always felt kind of decadent and fun to share something with incontrovertible popular appeal. Living in East Boston I have a good view of harbor fireworks and I end up seeing fireworks so often that I sometimes think “Not again!” But this past New Year’s Eve of 2019, the weather was rainy, the show was abbreviated, and I couldn’t get any decent shots, so I now feel a renewed interest in photographing fireworks the next time I have the chance.

rudiseitzjan2018fw-2
New Year’s 2018

rudiseitzjan2018fw-3
New Year’s 2018

rudiseitzjan2018fw-4
New Year’s 2018

rudiseitzjan2018fw1
New Year’s 2018

rudiseitzfireworksaug30-2018
Aug 30, 2018

rudiseitz-aug-31-2017-fireworks
Aug 31, 2017

rudiseitzfireworksnewyear2016
New Year’s 2016

Earth, Photography

Boston Flooding, 2018

Back in January 2018 my neighborhood in East Boston experienced significant flooding along with many other coastal parts of the city and region. At the time, I posted a few flooding-related photographs to Facebook and now, as part of my resolution to leave Facebook in 2019, I’m moving the material here. All three of these images employ the selective colorization technique that I wrote about in my post on Salient Color. They are all taken at the site of new condo developments on the East Boston waterfront near the Maverick T Station. The third image, “Sold Out,” was taken by Kannan T. and edited by me.

 

rudiseitzbostonflooding2018-1
The water does not favor one particular side of the construction fence.

rudiseitzbostonflooding2018-2
The best view of Boston is to be had in this lounge chair at LoPresti Park.

sold-out2
Sold out.

Photography

15 Days, 15 Photos

My process for leaving Facebook will involve reviewing what I’ve posted there and moving the good stuff to my blog. So here’s a start. Back in September 2017 I challenged myself to post one photograph each day for fifteen days.

Although photography makes up a large portion of what I share online, I feel a lot of internal resistance to posting my photographs. What gets posted is a minuscule portion of my growing collection. The resistance comes from a sense that the online world is a spectacularly bad place for concentrating on photos, and that to do justice to the images I love, I should make the effort to print them, frame them, and find somewhere to hang them, rather than taking the easy route of launching them into the noisy, crowded chaos of the internet. The goal of my September 2017 experiment was see how it would feel to bypass this internal resistance, suspend all my doubts, and just freely share my images for a while.

It felt pretty good. I appreciated knowing that my friends were finding some interest or pleasure in the pieces.

Here are the photos I chose to share on each of those fifteen days. On the first day, September 1, 2017, I posted three images of the same subject so there’s actually a total of seventeen photos here. To be clear, the photos were not taken on the days when I posted them; they are all older photos that had been waiting in my archive for a moment on stage.

RudiSeitzSep-1-2017-1
September 1, 2017: Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, View 1

RudiSeitzSep-2-2017-2
September 1, 2017: Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, View 2

RudiSeitzSep-1-2017-3
September 1, 2017: Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, View 3

RudiSeitzSep-2-2017
September 2, 2017

RudiSeitz-Sep-3-2017
September 3, 2017: “Crossing Borders”

RudiSeitzSep-4-2017
September 4, 2017

RudiSeitzSep-5-2017
September 5, 2017

RudiSeitzSep-6-2017
September 6, 2017: One of my interests in photography is finding and documenting unknown and fleeting works of abstract expressionism in dumpsters (example above) and other non-ticketed venues.

RudiSeitzSep-7-2017
September 7, 2017: Jantar Mantar (Garden of astronomical instruments), Jaipur, India, 2016.

RudiSeitzSep-8-2017
September 8, 2017

RudiSeitzSep-9-2017
September 9, 2017: “Gentrification”

RudiSeitzSep-10-2017
September 10, 2017

RudiSeitzSep11-2017
September 11, 2017

RudiSeitzSep-12-2017
September 12, 2017

RudiSeitzSep-13-2017
September 13, 2017

RudiSeitzSep-14-2017
September 14, 2017: Here’s a beautiful and harmless Cross Orbweaver spider that’s been spinning and re-spinning its web in my garden in the past few days, catching mosquitoes and flies, and meanwhile being photographed by me. I’ve been doing a personal experiment this month, trying to share more of my photography — some images from my archives and a few new ones like this. I’ve really appreciated the feedback and commentary from everyone here — it has encouraged me to go out and take more photos. After tomorrow I’ll probably stop the daily posting for a while, leaving this experiment as 15 photos for 15 days, but I’ll be back…

RudiSeitzSep-15-2017
September 15, 2017