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A Venturing into the Labyrinth - a seeker's guide to Pixiport

por·tal pronunciation key (pôr tl, p r -)
1. A doorway, entrance, or gate, especially one that is large and imposing.
2. An entrance or a means of entrance: the local library, a portal of knowledge.
3. A website considered as an entry point to other websites, often by being or providing access to a search engine.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Entering the Labyrinth I came across Pixiport indirectly when I typed "black and white photography" into Google. Among the results was Subr Chaterjee's entrancing work. Working back from that I discovered the black and white gallery and by extension Pixiport's home page. Ever since, I have been captivated by the site's rich and varied imagery, collated by Helyn.

There's no doubt that one's first time visit to Pixiport can be a little overwhelming; I can't think of any other site quite like it! There are so many areas to explore, so many portals to still more portals, that it can feel a bit like being in a labyrinth. This is not an uncomfortable feeling though; to discover Pixiport (although I maintain that it discovered me!) is to pass through its doorway with a willingness to expect the unexpected. As the dark toned pages give up their luminous gifts, one feels one is passing through portals to some really visionary art work.

My mansion has many rooms

What I appreciate most about Pixiport is the way that it can encompass with such ease and harmony so many widely varying styles and approaches to photographic image making. I was looking through Helyn's recommended new work pages last night and although one moment I was looking at the elegantly austere monochrome images of a documentary photographer and the next a subtle study in abstracted colour, this apparent disparity did not matter. Because the message that sang out from every one of these images was vision. It was as though each artist had, like Theseus, gone deeply into the "labyrinth" of their creative process, in order to penetrate their subject totally and return with the prize of a vision realised in communicable form.


I love that word "portal"; when we select an artist's work we are not simply clicking on a link to a Gallery- we are drawing back the curtain of that artist's window onto a transformed reality, a chance to spend a few minutes or many cumulative hours in the presence of their vision. These portals are windows into other worlds plus the world we think we know transformed.

I feel that there are two approaches to discovering photographic vision; and Pixiport thankfully accords equal exposure to artists working in either of these ways:

From the known to the unknown

The first type of photo-artist embraces the digital technology wholeheartedly and seeks to create something in computer that simply wasn't there before. By means of image combination, subtle layering of textures and other manipulations, such an artist uses straight photographic material as a departure point and reassembles and remoulds these records to communicate his or her inner vision. The resulting images invite us to explore surreal worlds; they speak in symbols, urging us to interpret their meaning with words. Others manage to tap into a more abstract realm which asks simply that we by-pass the intellect and allow ourselves to be absorbed in its emotive impact. Gazing into Bob Snell's extraordinary symmetrical cosmic compositions or Corrie Ancone's poetically surreal assemblages feels like an encounter with the world of dreams, a complex dimension of signs and symbols whose meaning one is challenged to intuit and perhaps decipher, while the ethereal abstract colour landscapes of Dubi Roman exert a less overt, more subtly intoxicating appeal which calls to our senses rather than our intellect. All three artists are visionary, shamans who present other dimensions and perceptions; each of them has made the journey into the unknown on our behalf and brought back these altered realities for our reflection.

From the everyday to the extraordinary

The other type of photographic artist sets out to work within an apparently narrower parameter; he or she is content to confine themselves to so-called reality. I say so-called because this often painstakingly technical approach can actually lead to a transformation of the mundane subject matter, so that, ironically, a preoccupation with the real succeeds in becoming surreal. Simple objects can become expressions of far more meaningful concepts when envisioned by such a photographer.

Subr Chatterjee's work will illustrate this better than I can ever articulate it, as will the haunting visions of Charlie Schreiner's Daguerreotypes. Even an apparently straight documentary shot in the right hands can become iconic and suggestive of so much more than the immediate image content; while such photography seems to be reductionist, it actually succeeds in amplifying its subject in ways which expand our perceptions of it.

Look at Rey Lopez's work: under the banner of "street photography" his unnerving close-ups of shop mannequins and other found still lives make us take a second look at what we thought was real. Equally, Judah S. Harris's images of street life are far more than reportage; his carefully crafted compositions and deeply sympathetic portraits raise his work from the status of records to universally pertinent images, that speak of the human condition irrespective of a particular time and space.

Photography can do this. Or rather a photographer with vision can see beyond the subject matter to what the image can become; even realist subjects can become dream- like. Don't tell me that the technically impeccable images of Monte Nagler, rooted in close observation of the scene, do not also succeed in touching some transcendent dimension.

Transcendence: the goal of any artist

Both of these approaches are valid and both succeed in opening our eyes; the former to what was hitherto invisible and is now "born" into conscious awareness, and the latter to what was there to see but failed to be perceived until that photographer succeeded in revealing it. While the first uses reality as a departure point, the second remains tightly tethered to it. Both approaches, however, succeed in transcending so-called consensus reality. But it is only when the photographer has gone into the darkness of their unconscious, the necessary state of unknowingness that precedes creative insight, that they can effect this transformation.

Making the descent

So in a sense, we are all Theseuses searching the labyrinths of our unconscious when we attempt to create. We are all shamans looking to what lies beyond or within the flimsily recorded vision of things which our minds carry around. It takes a photographer with a visionary eye to distill that meaning or essence from the usual visual paraphernalia that passes though our retina. Whether we use reality as a springboard, as in the case of the digital photo artist, or as our sole subject, as in the case of the straight photographer working with traditional materials, the quest remains curiously similar; our task is to probe ever more deeply into the subject of our enquiry. I feel that all Pixiport artists are here because they share that determination to pursue this creative search.


I feel there is a mythological undercurrent to Pixiport; there is certainly something very magical about the process of uncovering its many layers. The Queen of the Pixies seems to be presiding over this realm of imagification; as I press each link the pixels disperse and reassemble like the sands in a kaleidoscope, to reveal a new picture. Every time I come here it's like an adventure; either I am discovering the vision of a new artist or I am attempting to relate to the visions of those artists that I have visited before more deeply.

Finding the thread

There's no simple route map with which to navigate Pixiport, no conveniently linear path with landmarks which we can simply tick off. We have to tread our way more intuitively, following our impulses on the day. Sometimes I will go down a particular avenue, such as the abstract art gallery, and then retrace my steps. Other times there will be a link from one area to a totally new field; these "quantum leaps" are all part of a less structured and more fluid approach to surfing that we need to employ to ensure that we encounter what we do not think we already know.

Theseus unravelled the golden thread provided by Ariadne to help find his way through the labyrinth; it was symbolic of the light of his consciousness, itself enlightened by the faculty of his intuition as personified by Ariadne. Perhaps the common thread behind the many artists that we can encounter on this site is Helyn's discriminating eye; we know that she has chosen each one with care and that they are here by design. There is a subtle logic to the site's construction, and an underlying order to the labyrinth. But we need to work to find our own passage through it, to brave its engulfing presence and to discover its rich secrets.

Your route through this domain will be markedly different from mine; your Pixiport will not be the same as my Pixiport, and long may that continue to be the case. While the territory of Pixiport remains identical for both of us, the maps that we assemble will differ, based on the "threads" we choose to unravel.

The journey is an adventure. And it is always inspiring.

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The often delayed and much awaited release of the prosumer Contax TVS Digital, five megapixel compact camera is finally over. Originally due out in November 1992 and rumored to be released imminently ever since, the camera is still thinly available. This as a review of it's features and functioning as it relates to its use as a Street Photography camera. As far as I know this is the first Street Photographer's review of this much anticipated camera

I will omit most of the specs and product pictures of the camera as these can be found at, and other sites. The images shown above are the front and rear of the camera in it's home designed case which allows the camera to hang from my neck (for reasons which I will discuss below).

I will discuss the qualities I think are essential for a portable Street camera and give you my opinion on how the Contax TVS Digital stacks up to those requirements. The discussion below is not in any particular order of importance. At the end of the article, I will also review some of the additional features of the camera and give you my other comments and opinions on the TVS Digital.


A "pocketable" camera has always been important to me because I need to take it everywhere. Now that I have made the digital plunge, I want the qualities I have available in small film cameras such as the Contax T3 and the like in a small digital camera. I also want the camera to be relatively unobtrusive. In other words, not particularly noticeable; a camera that does not shout; "I am taking your picture". I do not expect any prosumer camera to replace my main digital camera, the elephantine Nikon D1X. However, when I want to put a camera in my pocket or fanny pack or will not have enough room to store it at my destination (a restaurant table for example) size is a very important issue to me.

The Contax TVS Digital is certainly "pocketable". It is slightly larger than the Contax T3, the film cousin of this camera, and the Olympus C 50, my last pocket digital camera. However, it is significantly smaller than the non-pocketable Canon PowerShot G2, a wonderful camera I owned and gave to my wife because, while smaller than an SLR, it would need pockets larger than a giant's to contain it's girth.

I am not certain how unobtrusive the camera is. The one I received is silver whereas I normally use a camera with a black body, precisely because it is less noticeable. Contax claims a black body will be available in April. We shall see. Since the TVS Digital is slightly larger than my T3 and because no neck case is yet available, I have had to slice into another case I had lying around to make the camera hang from my neck, which is the way I prefer to carry a camera when I am walking around taking pictures. This method of carrying the camera requires me to visualize the shot and photograph it from my chest area, hopefully unnoticed, without drawing attention to myself by bringing the camera up to my eye. The case I mangled is not pretty and also may draw some additional attention to the camera, but it works. Also, while the shutter sound can be turned off on this camera to further unobtrusiveness, with my Nikon D1X, I can and do shoot all my images with my right pinky using the side mounted shutter. This shutter was designed for vertical photography but works perfectly as a surreptitious way to trigger the shutter. The TVS Digital, as with all other prosumer cameras, requires you to use the shutter on top of the camera which makes photography much more obvious. I was "made" three times in one day's use of this camera and also warned by a security guard that photography was prohibited in a Mall on the same day. On the other hand, with the Nikon D1X, whose shutter can be heard in a shooting range, the side shutter technique lures people into believing they are not being photographed as they do not see a finger on the top shutter where they expect it to be. They just do not believe their ears because their eyes tell them something different than they are hearing. It works on the same principle as magic does. I have rarely been identified taking an image with that camera.

I am experimenting with the remote control that comes with the Contax. I am hopeful that when I become more proficient with it, my visibility will decrease dramatically because my finger will not be on the shutter when taking the image. My initial use of the remote has shown that it is useful but also limited. The remote appears to be an infrared type and is not radio controlled. This requires an unobstructed line of sight view between the device and the camera receiving window. This means that if I have the camera hanging from my neck my left arm has to be in front of me to maintain line of sight between the remote and the receiving window. This is somewhat awkward and also draws attention. You will notice in my image of the front of the camera, I have placed a small piece of black electrician's tape over an LED. I did this because this LED blinks red when an image is taken with the remote control. There is simply no reason to take all the precautions I have mentioned to photograph surreptitiously only to have a red LED blink at the subject when exposing an image. On a similar vein, many cameras offer active auto-focusing, along with their passive system. These also involve a light emitted from the camera in the direction of the subject to assist in low light photography. With cameras I have owned in the past, I normally cover this light, again to assist in remaining discreet. I have found that this has had little affect on the ability of the cameras to focus in low light. The Contax TVS Digital has a passive only auto-focus system so that is not an issue. The low light focusing capability of the Contax does not seem to suffer from the lack of an active auto-focus system Click to Continue article here     


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 (The author, Michael Dubiner is a professional image maker and lawyer who lives in Wellington, Florida. His work can be seen at and at his web site,



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Global Art is an Internet Gallery and Web Design studio. Exhibiting art by contempory artists.

Global Art: Internet Gallery and Web Design Studio


  H E L Y N  D A V E N P O R T  

Instead of usual BIO-info fragments that often read like an old resume pages, I decided to write a few words about my encounter, which today I consider a firendship, with Helyn. We met some years ago on the world wide web and since then a day does not pass without a brief message from her - ' I need this and that ' which usually means a graphic or a bit of HTML. Such request usually ends with a smiley :) as if she wanted me to know she is not demanding, just quietly and politely asking. Knowing the sound of her voice, I suspect she is not able to be quiet. The words come out like a stucatto of a rapid firing machine gun and that is exactly how she works. Furiously, with a total dedication, and with a lot of heart. Helyn built one of the greatest photography portals and it is shocking her server is not bursting in its seams. The site is for all interested in photography, with presentation of a many artist worldwide. If she likes someone's work, the door to her 'pixiport' is open wide. Add an interactive board, a web design studio we run together, an array of photo experiments of her own, active pursuit of her art, for which purpose these pages are presented here, a 'live' exhibt now and then, a large dog, a flood of messages going in and out, a newsletter, interviews, and you have a recipe for, under normal cicumstances, a disaster.

But Helyn handles everything in a spectacular fashion. Quick maneuvers and sound decisions by this little lady benefit everyone who appreciates the art of photography. I often try to pull her of the path and torment her, just because I can, but she just giggles and keeps on steady.
Helyn's art: be it a standard or a digital camera, a digital image software or her darkroom, the results are equally unique, fascinating and her own. Not bound by her experience or knowledge, she captures her subjects as if they were butterflies - not disecting, not analyzing, but capturing the flight and the beauty.

George Bradford-Global Art

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