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Conceptual Photography

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Ami Vitale

There are rare moments when one is able to capture a vision of the past and a look into the future. I have been fortunate enough to glimpse a group from the nomadic Fulani tribe after they settled, became farmers and now struggle to adapt to a world that has thrust itself onto them in uncompromising ways in the West African country of Guinea Bissau.

The Fulani, who once crisscrossed the continent of Africa tending the precious herds of cattle, was a civilization whose renowned physical characteristic was its constant movement. The movement that they were accustomed to spun the threads of a rich social fabric of traditions and rituals, many of which continue to endure today.

This is the story of one Fulani family’s life; the age-old rites that persist and those that die in an Africa that few can ever imagine. Among the things that sets them apart from most other ethnic tribes in Guinea Bissau is that they are Muslim. Islamic traditions such as female and male circumcision, five prayer times a day, the Islamic calendar and multiple wives are just a few of the traditions that make up the structure of life in the village. Local beliefs and traditions have come together to produce a brand of Islam that is unique to its area and it’s people. From the belief of tree spirits to the use of traditional medicine or "voodoo", the mixing of cultures that took place centuries earlier have produced a society that blends a unique spiritual universe with the often brutal day to day existence of the physical world.

To an outsider the village may appear to be a place where people live simply and are struggling to survive. While part of this may be true, the social hierarchy and politics among members of the tribe are far more complex than any modern western society. The village is a place where people’s lives are caught up in a rigorous power struggle that is influenced by the past, the present, and the promise of the future. It is a place where the dead and unborn play powerful roles in the fate of the living.

In 2001, with the help of the Alexia foundation I was fortunate to witness this culture working from a calendar far different from our own. It was my hope to present a meaningful look into their lives to show the dignity and humor that exists in their struggle to provide for their children in a place that can be unforgiving to the human body and soul.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir, nestled between India and Pakistan has been called "a paradise on earth" ever since the 16th century when Mughal emperors discovered its pristine beauty and made it their summer capital. Indians took their annual pilgrimages to escape the heat of the oppressive, dusty plains and British colonizers found their way around a law that prohibited outsiders from owning land by building floating houseboats on the idyllic lakes. Today Kashmir is more famous for being the axis of relations between India and Pakistan, a “nuclear flashpoint” that could spark an unthinkable war in South Asia.

The conflict has eroded much that once defined Kashmir. Hindus and Muslims once shared neighborhoods, schools, and close friendships, but nearly all the Hindus fled Indian-governed Kashmir after being threatened by Muslim militants, and are now scattered across India. Sufism, which exerted a gentle influence on Kashmiri Islam for more than a dozen generations, has been gradually pushed aside by the fanatical Sunni Islam practiced by militants from Pakistan. For centuries, Kashmir’s Mughal gardens and wooden houseboats offered diversions to weary rulers. But leisure has vanished from Kashmir. No one visits, and fear has tainted the lives of those who make their homes amid its apple and apricot orchards, in its meadows and in the creases of its mountains.

I wandered briefly into the poetry of Kashmir in November of 2001 and could not let go. Whether trudging through the perfectly etched landscape that included rice fields cascading into the valleys like delicately carved staircases, sipping saffron tea in the warmth of a Kashmiri home or being cradled in the tranquility of a wooden shikara, a gondola style boat, on Dal Lake, this place filled me with affection. I wanted to understand Kashmir and delve below the glassy reflections in its still lakes. The mountains were mirrored perfectly until the oar hit the water, a crack rippled through the reflection and one began to sense that all is not what it seemed. Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir once bustled with life and laughter. Now it lies neglected and pockmarked with craters. Hotels have been turned into barracks, guns peek out behind broken glass windows and netting protects the bleary eyes soldiers from the frequent grenade attacks. The surrounding mountains, once lush and dotted with delightful Alpine cottages sit quietly as structures deteriorate and collapse. The poetry of this magnificent culture has degenerated into the language of mourning and everyone here is held hostage to the suffering. The gaping hole of years of conflict have been filled with the corpses of young men and those spaces that remain free lie waiting to devour still more.

These photographs are dedicated to all those who have died and to those that are living in the shadows of those deaths. It is my desire to give justice to the beauty, strength and suffering of Kashmir’s people and to the unique richness of their history and culture. I hope to inspire in others the feelings that Kashmir has given rise to myself, particularly the simultaneous apprehension of beauty and terror. I believe that all the inherent beauty will survive despite humanity’s ongoing attempts to control and destroy it. Because in this intricate place, where truth and fiction are sometimes inseparable, politics and poetry overlap, the pain is sometimes too great to bear, yet joy is still possible.

In February 2002 the city of Ahmedabad, in the state of Gujarat, once famous as the adopted home of Mahatma Gandhi, was the scene of some of the worst communal violence that India has seen in a decade. In retaliation for a gruesome attack by Muslims on a train carrying mainly Hindu pilgrims that left 59 dead, it sparked an orgy of violence that threatened the secular credentials of India. Mobs swarmed into Muslim communities and killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of men, women and children. The city burned as thousands fled their homes and the official death toll was over 1000, though estimates by human rights groups placed the figure much higher. The wounds from this man made tragedy will take a long time to heal as the bloodbath still continues on a smaller scale.

More about Ami Vitale

 

PixiPort, a "Portal To The Arts" is THE online venue for the marketing of fine art photography and its photo artists, showcasing their Fine art photography art works. PixiPort offers educational and informational opportunities in art photography to the public.
This "Portal To The Arts" is facilitated through the web site, www.pixiport.com with the cooperation of many leading professional photo artists under the marketing and direction of Helyn Davenport, an award winning, INPA Honorary Fellow, photographic artist, who's work is a mainstay on the site. Each month different international photographers are showcased.

A very popular and informative portal is "The Quill in Focus" Included in this portal is our poetry section with various poets"CloseUp with Carol Tipping" a very popular feature, offering one on one interviews with the various photographers featured on PixiPort. "The Voice Behind The Lens", which is the very creative written contribution of photographer Michael Dubiner expressing how photography plays a role in our daily lives. This series is updated regularily featuring topics relative to the art of photography.Ken Windsor is the editor of our Pixiporter newsletter. Call to Artists Listings for Art Photographers, events, exhibitons, grants, juried exhibits, opportunities for artists.GLIMPSING AN INSIGHT photo artists Interviewed by Scarlet James. Our weekly photo art gallery has new photos by photo artists which is is updated each week.Be sure to bookmark this photography gallery. Each month we select a photograph as the Fine Art Photography Artist Of The Month 20th Century Art History Art the history of art terms defined. Art Words,Art Terms and Definitions of Art Words where you can learn more about art words and their meanings.
Our site is available in twenty different languages, offering true international access.

surreal art Photography
Lou Oats

Selected Recent Exhibitions, Competitions, Publications, and Collections

2004
Completed photo essay of the Copper Basin Railroad, Hayden, AZ. Completing photo essay of the Magma Hotel, Superior, AZ.
Summer shooting in Chicago: viaducts, street scenes, and creating a series of whimsical digital composites, "Family".

2003
Preparation of two large portfolios for gallery display: Jim's 76 and The Old School.
Creation of this web site for the direct sale of photographs.

2002 (Competition)
Best of Show & Viewer's First Choice--"Superior Mountain Festival Art Show".
First Place, Photography--"Southwest" Art Exhibition, Cobre Valley Center for the Arts. Globe, AZ.

2002 (Juried Exhibition)
"Identity" Exhibition Step Gallery, ASU campus, Tempe, AZ. Composite Digital Images.
"All Digital" Exhibition Harry Wood Gallery ASU, Tempe, AZ. Composite Digital Image.
"Third Annual Photography Show", Quintessence Gallery, Chandler, AZ. Three images.

2001-02 (Solo Shows)
"The Road to Globe" Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Black and white images from 1999-2001 plus several composite digital images taken on or near Arizona Route 60 from Phoenix to Globe, including Superior and Miami, AZ.
"Images of Superior". Community First Bank, Superior, AZ. Black and white images of historic landmark buildings including images from Superior vicinity.
Twenty four images featured at Cobre Valley Center for the Arts, Globe, AZ.

2000 (Competition and Touring Exhibit)
"A Chandler View: Photography within our City's Borders". Chandler Arts Commission. Two photographs chosen for touring exhibit and purchase for public collection.

2000 (Competition)
"Dia de Colores" Festival, Superior, AZ. First Place, photography

Public Commissions
Superior Chamber of Commerce. Historic Buildings photography project for brochure to attract film producers to Superior, AZ.
Champlin Fighter Aircraft Museum, Mesa, AZ. Photographs featured on museum web site.
Pinal County Historical Museum. Photography of unique exhibits for postcard sales.

Publications 2001-02 (Books & Magazines)
Book:"Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun". Twin Lights Publishers, Inc. Three color photographs featured.
Book: "Tucson to Tombstone and Beyond ". Twin Lights Publishers, Inc. Six color photographs featured.
Magazine: Photographic, "Shooting Stunning Cityscapes", Nov. 2002 Featured color photograph.

Public Collection
Chandler Arts Commission, Chandler, AZ

Click for Photo Gallery

"In America, anybody can be president. That's one of the risks you take." - Adlai Stevenson 1900-1965

surreal black and white photograph


GLIMPSING AN INSIGHT INTO THE WORK OF DOMINIC ROUSE by Scarlet James -

A few weeks ago Helyn sent me an email which read "scarlet here is our Featured Artist, I would like you to interview him; his work will INSPIRE you." After I had looked at Dominic Rouse`s `Angeline` I emailed back; It Won`t; I give up. And that was before I`d looked, with eyes wide open and full of envy, at his outstanding, enormously A Mazing body of work; some of which can now be seen on pixiport. So with a blend of trepidation and great admiration I asked Dominic if he would risk a chat; he kindly said yes.

Scarlet: Hi Dominic, nice to meet you, your work is truly beautiful and extremely well crafted, you are a master, an artist.

Dominic: Thank you, but I would never have considered myself an artist until recently. I am a little uncomfortable being called an artist. 'Photographer' still feels more appropriate. Some viewers don't think that what I produce is photography and that's fine too. I simply enjoy making images. What a beautiful way to spend one's time. How I do them is only of interest to trainspotters, copyists and policemen. Why should I care which brushes Leonardo used, I only care that he painted at all. The idea is king and craft its servant.

Scarlet: Brilliant! ! Beautifully put .. I have never thought of myself as a trainspotter, but I would love to know how, see; and watch you making your visions appear. I liken you to a magician who has trained and studiedly practiced his skill to a fine tune then skillfully produces intricate works of art and magic; seamlessly and effortlessly to perfection. But why and how were you attracted to a box with a hole in it?

Dominic: By default. For reasons best known to the gods my career choice was journalism. I did not possess the 'A Levels' needed for the NCTJ Journalism course but I did have the 'O Levels' needed to join their Press Photography course. So I did.

Scarlet: And when and where did your visions and aspirations start, and where were they coming from?

Dominic: I always start with a title which is why great writers are so helpful. A page of Nietzsche could keep me going for years. A love of poetry helps. It is so succinct. The closest art to photography is poetry and all good art is poetic. You may know Freud's observation, 'Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.' Exasperatingly true I'm afraid.

Scarlet: Yes, and I saw from your bio you`ve read the `Dark Ones` Kafka, Neitzshe with a shade of light entertainment from Mr Larkin.

Dominic: I must say I find it difficult to describe Larkin's work as light reading.

Far from the exchange of love to lie
Unreachable inside a room
The traffic parts to let go by
Brings closer what is left to come,
And dulls to distance all we are."
Perhaps I have misinterpreted him.

Continue with interview

David Mendelsohn Black and White Photo GalleryBlack White Photography

Interview by "Zen Within The Frame"
Ken Brody Professional Photographer
and
Christopher Robinson Managing Editor

www.outdoorphotographer.com
www.pcphotomag.com

David Mendelsohn's work has a life of its own. It catches  your  eye, grabs hold of your soul, and pulls you deep into  its framework, so that ultimately you  feel as the image. You become aware if the rain splattering off your back as  you strain to read the headlines on a taxi driver's  newspaper. You can smell the characteristic aroma of the  burning cigar, held perfectly poised in the wrinkled hand of  a green-clad man with a white mustache. You marvel at  how much this man resembles the stark white skull on the  wall beside him. Or, perhaps, how much they differ. No  matter, certainly they belong together.

Well known for his highly graphic, award-winning commercial photography, Mendelsohn did not start his professional career behind a camera. " I came to photography through a rather indirect path," he recalls. "I always had some interest in the medium after my dad gave me his old Argus C3, around my 12th birthday, I toyed with the camera and a makeshift dark room to some degree, but it was simply another one of my interests."

Mendelsohn's first dream was to be a forest ranger. He pictured himself "living in the Rockies, riding horseback along the Continental Divide, hunting down rogue bear." In fact, Mendelsohn had gone as far as transferring to the University of New Hampshire (UNH), where he planned to attend forestry school. Until that is, the department head "put his arm around my shoulder and gently pointed me toward reality. Seems that 20 years form graduation, I would still be planting pine trees." With his dreams temporarily dashed, Mendelsohn found work at the university photo labs, and eventually began to make a name foe himself in publications like, Communications Arts and Print Magazine. During his tenure at UNH Mendelsohn received a National Education Association grant entitled "Route 40," which allowed him to drive across the southern interstate for a month, photographing his impressions. "I found that I enjoyed being behind the camera a lot more than a straight edge, and that I would rather shoot than assign photography. After contemplating my next move, I sent what I considered to be a portfolio to the president of Magnum, Bert Glinn. About two weeks later, I received a call form China informing me that he was sponsoring me for membership."

This was Mendelsohn's chance to join one of the most elite photographic agencies in the world and to have his name associated with the likes of Henri-Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and David Seymour. But he would have to move his wife and child to New York. " For reasons involving business, politics, and quality of life," said Mendelsohn, "I respectfully declined." Instead, he took out a second mortgage on his house, resigned his position at UNH, and hit the streets with a camera. Living in New Hampshire countryside has not hindered Mendelsohn's career. He relies on electronic media to stay in touch with his customers, tow representatives to promote his work, and the local airport to kick off his location shoots in cities all over the world. Among his client list are many prestigious members of the Fortune 200 list, including Lockheed Martin, International Paper, Boeing, IBM, and Amtrak. Mendelsohn could be accurately described as a "driven" artist. "I am driven by fear of personal failure," said Mendelsohn. "Historically, all artists are. I tend to totally ignore the size of a budget or the complexity of a production. From experience, I know that one way or another, I will pull off the shoot. Rather, any anxiety I experience comes form self demand."

The comfort of knowing that the client is pleased with the results, your estimate was within 10 percent, you didn't fall out of the chopper, and your rep has you booked for another job are not to be discounted in an artist's drive for success," he continued. "More important, however, I am haunted by the question of whether or not I was able to build past this personal plateau. Did I create something more original that the last image? Did I manage to push a combination of perception and technique a little further than my last outing?"

The Art of Expression Mendelsohn's acute sense of graphic design and his use of color and balance are what makes work so intriguing. Although his commercial work is primarily color, he also has a love for Black and White. "When one shoots color and black-and-white, two distinct mindset are required," he observed. "Black and White is about pure form and tonality, and quite beautiful in its simplicity. To appreciate a black-and-white image, you are forced to remove yourself from this world and transport your perceptions to another. It borders on the surreal. As most of us see in color, you are compelled as both the viewer and the artist to see things in a different way.

Color, on the other hand, is all around us. There is color in foggy and monotone conditions. There is color underwater. There are significant variations of color in the same subject form dusk to dawn. "I used to avoid shooting until the "ideal" conditions were met. I no longer feel that way. I now feel that there is no perfect color. Rather, it evolves as we watch it and it is simply a matter of opportunities." "It is an easy 'out' to shoot color for color's sake. Our profession has been gelled to death; to overpower an image without consideration of the colors' relationships is to simply point and shoot," he observed. "I am not inclined toward magenta pigs. Rather, if I am to use color as an element of the final design, I want to think about how that shade of yellow on that particular object is going to influence the final 'feel' of the image. "Sure, gelling is important, be it over the flash heads or over the lens. I am however, more comfortable in choosing the light and then modifying it subtly. At that point, I have a palette or canvas I can work with. I might paint something with a car headlight gaffer taped to a stick. I might paint something with spray can. I might even shoot a paintball at it. In addition to paintball guns, Mendelsohn has been known to shoot Nikons, Hasselblads, Linhofs and Toyos. However, the majority of his commercial work is created with 35mm on Fujichrome film and Kodak T-Max. No matter what his approach to photography, Mendelsohn feeds his passion with the art and creativity. "It is an Eastern experience when I shoot," he said, "an attempt at Zen within the frame."

Interview by Christoper Robinson

What kind of gear do you use (both photo gear and computer/scanner/printer gear)?

My hardware consists of Nikons and Hassleblads. Although I have 4x5 and 8x10 formats, they are rapidly disappearing under a pile of dust. I recently acquired a Nikon D1, which amazes me. I tend to bracket both compositions and exposures alot, enough to actually be annoying as the light wanes. Now I have to find a way to use this camera as well. Utilizing the highest settings, the images are sharper than I ever expected, and combining the final TIFFS with Genuine Fractals has resulted in beauitiful prints.

My in-house scanner is an LS2000 and, when used correctly, yields very nice results. Once again, given a combination of Genuine Fractals and PS, I've had my output service folks provide film and proofs, which resulted in very nice offset images up to decent sized posters. As things go, the right desktop scanners will be close to to drum scans in the not to distant future.

We have two G3 Macs w/12 gig internal drives and about 400 megs of RAM (give or take). We have a a nine gig LACIE external disk, but must upgrade as we are now out of space. Can't wait for some of my client's to cut a check.

Our CD Recorder is a Yamaha, Read/Write/ Rewritable (sp ?) which has proved to be very reliable. Everything is backed up with DDS3 tapes, and not often enough.

We also have A G4 Laptop with a beefed up hard drive and substantial memory. That always comes on location with us, especially when we know that we'll be shooting with the Nikon D1. We also have another LACIE CD burner dedicated to that machine. I understand that there are very reliable, very small high capacity Hard Drives that I could have put in that particular chain but I still like to commit the days images to CD's once in the hotel room.

I am still using an Epson Stylus Photo for portfolio work and will be purchasing a 7500/9500 once they get their archival inks straight, as I like my artwork to reproduce in the 20 by 24 inch area. Those are currently being outsourced and printed to IRIS by a very knowledgeable group in Kennebunkport, Maine called Hunter Editions. As far as medium goes, I have fallen in love with Somerset Photo Enhanced, Radiant White available through Legion Paper in NYC. I tend to print on watercolor, rag papers and I have been very pleased with the results. What is interesting however, is that Epson has recently introduced their 2000P. This machine is using special, encapsulated pigmented inks, which actually have the color gamut of their dye-based mediums with the advantage of archival stability in the claimed area of 200 years. It will be only a short while before they adapt these inks to their larger format machines, so I am watching the newsgroups, tapping my fingers and buying lottery tickets.

2, If you could offer 2 tips of advice to the average PCPhoto reader as far as how to achieve the rich colors and striking compositions that you achieve, what would they be? (Okay I recognize that's a loaded question--mostly I'd just love a couple of quick tips for novice/amateur types--maybe a scanning tip, an image processing tip, a printing tip, a shooting tip--could be anything.)

I consider color and light as part of the composition. It is just as important as subject matter. I am intrigued with content, but content actually changes according to the mood you either observe or create with light. If I shot something at the same camera angle at dawn or high noon, in color or black and white, I would consider them to be four very distinct images.

Regarding composition............. Beyond the "rule of thirds" or making sure that trees aren't growing out of people's heads, I have no true formula for composition. I guess I try and just hone things down to their essence and float them in space until it feels right. Everyone has a way of seeing things a bit differently. Instinctually, you'll know when it feels good to you. At that point the journey begins. Your own vision is something to nutured, and consistently improved and your own voice something to be heard.

Regarding the richness in my colors....... Start w/observing light , both natural and artificial. Look hard at both their colors, their angles and their qualities. All light is different and will definitely add or detract from the intensity of your palette. Additionally, don't be afraid with what you have available to you. I no longer consider sodium vapor something that has to be corrected. Rather I look at it as a color of light that, if anything, can be enhanced. Don't be afraid to paint something either with light or latex enamel. Sometimes I'll use the bright beams on my car as tungsten fill on daylight balanced stock. Sometimes I just might go to my vast arsenal of spray paint. Have fun and mix it up. Additionally, film choice is obvioulsy important. I tend to prefer the saturation of Fuji's Velvia or Provia, but have recently been shooting alot of Kodak's VS and SW. Great stuff as far as resolution and saturation. And finally, there is always Photoshop. I don't hesitate to enhance an area a bit if I feel it could benefit.

3, You seem to do a lot with--for lack of a better term--ordinary/mundane object (the radiator, the broom et al). And yet for as drab as these things are, you make them into striking, vivid and dynamic images. Can you comment on that? Are you especially drawn to making the ordinary into something extraordinary?

In the end, I think that we spend too much time being taught what things "do" as opposed to what things "are". I believe that everything can and does have an intrinsic beauty. If it is three dimensional, then by essence, it is sculpture and worth a second look as far as subject matter. Sometimes, I simple take a visit to my local hardware store, Walmarts or Home Depot. It's amazing what you can find as far as props that may kick a concept into a different direction, or simply become the subject matter in and of itself. An open mind leads all to ideas. "How and where can I use this ?" is often a question I ask myself.

      

 

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