Category Archives: Contemporary Photos

Differences between contemporary photography & early photography

A Rose From Any Other Angle

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Pink Roses in Our Flower Garden by Walt Holt, 2015

With so much to do and see in the summer, I decided to make the rest of the month about capturing the season in photos.  Regarding my own photographic expertise, I can evaluate photos but I have minimal talent when it comes to taking photos. Yes, I work with old photos for my books. These days, when researching away from home and with no time to waste, I take photos of material to read at a later time. Unfortunately, usually, the quality is barely good enough to read!  Also, sometimes I take quick snapshot of friends, family, places or event, but few would be good enough to publish.

My husband, Walt, is the photographer in the family. He has always taken photos but, once he retired, it became an more important hobby. In fact, he takes the time to read and reread his camera manuals.  With his artist’s eye, patience and willingness to experiment, he has become an excellent photographer.  Of course, I am biased, but it is true!

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Rose in Full Bloom by Walt Holt, 2015

In fact, making cards from some of his photos is a pleasant escape for me from my own research, writing and writing-related activities.  His photos inspire me. As a result, I decided to share some during the rest of the month.

For those of us with a passion for flower gardening, the hail season is always worrisome. Before they are all stripped by hail, wilted by heat, or give way to fall weather, our taking photos is a way of remembering and appreciating them.

What amazes me about good photographers—whether amateur of professional—is that they see what the rest of us something miss. They see more detail, more colour, more possibilities than most of us experience when looking at the same subject.

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Rosebud by Walt Holt, 2015

I am always encouraging Walt to take photos of our flowers. Clearly, when a rose or one very like it is photographed from different angles, at different times or in different light, the rose can be much more than a rose. It can be an ever-changing experience and “way of seeing.”

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Self Test: Photos With or Without Text

Photos are essential in photo essays and are great in collages. Yes, there is a difference between a photo essay and a collage, but both are interesting, whether presented as art, on a poster, in a book, scrapbook or magazine, or on the Net. Neither form needs text, and in both forms, story or an important progression of ideas might be evident. Certainly for me, with or without text, photos have unbelieveable potential in captivating us emotionally, intellectually and artistically.

 I’m a writer not an artist or photographer. Yet I find it interesting to think about whether photos, on their own, are as effective as those with photo captions.  Often enough, teachers assign photo essays and collages, and some assignments are to be completed with text, others without text.

I firmly believe visual literacy is essential in today’s world, and I often try to promote it when visiting classrooms. But also, I suggest that contemplating how such elements work in our own learning process is time well spent. Might there be a difference in terms of how artists, writers and readers respond to photos appearing with or without text? Personally, I suspect there is.

 So, I’ve included this self text for you. Oh, there is absolutely nothing scientific about it. Yet, I was surprised  when one of my very best friends—who for years was a special education teacher, an elementary teacher and an elementary principal—said that I might be a multimodal learner or close to it. But what in the world would that  mean for me?

Already, I realized that words and print were central to my learning style. Also, I knew that I loved visual works, whether fine art or photography. Too, for me, like many other writers, the senses of sight, smell and touch are important.

Do I learn effectively through oral or sound experiences? I like hearing interesting speakers, but listening may not be my best learning mode. Today, countless slide shows and videos present images  accompanied by music, with or without lyrics. I enjoy the images, hear the music but I have trouble picking up the exact words, perhaps because I am too distracted by the images and music to mentally process the lyrics.

So, think about it.  Do you most enjoy photographs when displayed for their visual and artistic merits only? Do you prefer the type of visual presentation that includes music and lyrics? Do you gravitate to photos accompanied by a context and caption?

 The attached images  aren’t intended as great photo art. Still, maybe great works would be so captivating we would find it more difficult to evaluate our responses. 

Next week, I’ll give you a context and captions for the images, but, think about your preferred learning style and responses. And remember, this is just for fun and has absolutely no scientific basis!

Open Road, Open Mind

On the Road Photo by W.H. Holt

With summer, I look forward to the open road. Like others, I enjoy travel: seeing new places, meeting interesting people and discovering more of our history. But for me, the open road casts another kind of spell as well. When my husband is driving, I become contemplative, and while winding through the countryside, I drift into a dream state.

It seems that I need to escape the city, work and commitments in order for poems and stories to form in my head, and for me, the open spaces possess a kind of magic. Yes, landscape is an important theme in Canadian literature. As well, I grew up on a farm in Alberta’s parkland, and the best family holidays were always in the country or mountains. Perhaps that’s why, when I’m far from busy streets, my mind tends to move from concrete to abstract, from mundane detail to ideas and images.

As trees, prairie, parkland, fields or mountains come into sight, I watch in an almost trancelike state. I imagine living in such places. I people those passing worlds with figures from yesteryear. Then, the sky fills with drama, and suddenly into my head pop poems, short stories and bits of future novels, which I always plan to transform into black and white text. Sometimes the words linger in my thoughts for months, even years, and occasionally, I do write them down. Even if the exact words might be forgotten, the emotion remains. Then, when I finally allow myself the time, the words, feelings and images of that dream state prompt me to pick up a pen or tap out the letters on my keyboard. Whether the recorded words are as inspired as when they initially formed in my head, I can’t determine, but I’m always glad to know that something of the poet and dreamer finds its way to the surface when I’m on the open road.

When I speak of poet and dreamer, do I mean only poets and creative writers? No. Nonfiction writers depend just as much on the muse, but they may shape the material differently from those who work with fiction and poetry. Sometimes, when I’m travelling, the dream-weaver in me suddenly discovers a new relationship within the nonfiction content that I have been contemplating. That, too, seems like magic. Given an open mind and freedom from schedules and practicalities, facts can take on new meanings and their relationships become more vivid and clear.

Whether such poetic states are induced by changing landscape or a sense of freedom doesn’t matter. Travel energizes me and makes me see things anew. So, again this summer, I look forward to the open road and bid welcome to the lurking poet and dream-weaver. I treasure the travel, but for me, just as important is how it opens my mind to the possibilities of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Being on the road frees my imagination and reminds me that “what if” is more than a creative writing concept. It is means of renewing the creative spirit.

Photo Power Unites Us

Writers often praise the power of words, but images are equally powerful. Ironically, I write here of the wonder and power of photos without including images. Yet, for all who read newspapers and magazines or watch TV news and documentaries, the photos and videos from those reports remain vivid in memory for years.

Once again, I have been glued to the TV, not to simply hear the reports but to see images of events half a world away. Videos of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, and of the haunting faces of victims and rescuers, dominate screens in our living rooms. We survey flattened homes and watch communities being swept out to sea. Photos document vehicles floating and destroyed. They show us overturned ships, as well as nuclear power stations that have stood tall, little hinting of the hazard they hold, and then exploding to contaminate air and soil.

I treasure words, but the photos and video carry me to the centre of the tragedy. Certainly, earlier images from Japan impacted the world. Who can forget photos and films of the mushroom cloud after the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan at a time when it was a threat to the Allies? The era during which we live most definitely affects how we respond to images from the past, but whatever our responses, the world comes into our homes through published images, television, films and video.

Through photos, the landscape and experiences of others become more real to me. New Orleans is no longer simply about Mardi Gras and the French Quarter. Egypt and Libya are no longer settings for ancient history, but lands filled with contemporary people struggling to restructure their societies.

The day of the 9/11 tragedies, I was mesmerized by TV videos of toppling buildings, people jumping from office towers, terrorized New Yorkers fleeing on city streets, and firemen entering burning, unstable buildings.

Television has brought us haunting images from Haiti. At Christmas in 2004, I awoke to a TV video of the tsunami that devastated Thailand and Sri Lanka. I will always remember the photo of the crying, half-naked child running down the street during the Viet Nam War. The young man in Tiananmen Square facing the tank as it rolled down the street is unforgettable, and images from other civil and world wars have left me feeling distraught.

Outstanding Canadian photos help us relive our own past, too. Karsh’s portraits documented the famous from around the world, but most young Canadians know nothing of him.  In video and still-life images, we watched Terry Fox, his face filled with pain and struggle as he ran across Canada. But for me, those photos “spoke louder than words” about the determination, dedication and bravery of youth.

 Of course, joyful images are worth a thousand words, too. How lucky we are that someone’s funniest home video can have us howling but not at the moon. Often, it is the antics of animals or children that make us laugh until we cry. Whatever their subjects, I appreciate the work of the amateur and professional photographers, videographers and cinematographers who bring the world into my living room.