Posts Tagged 'photo exhibit'

More than weeds

I don’t usually take candid photos. I’d rather focus on a project that’s several months in duration.

About ten years ago, Ila and I had the pleasure of producing a book called The Faces of Help of Ojai. With the cooperation of the Help staff, we chose about twenty people who volunteered there. Our objective was to take their photos, interview them and publish a book that had their pictures and their words. We hoped the book would tell the reader why people volunteer and would encourage them to follow in their footsteps.

We set up in a small room at Help and blocked out the light coming through the windows. Each subject seated themselves comfortably in front of artificial lighting. I snapped photos while Ila asked the volunteer a series of predetermined questions. We recorded the conversation and extracted a couple of paragraphs that became part of the volunteer’s book page along with a photo.

We published and distributed about five thousand copies of the thirty-page book. I still get a charge whenever it pops up unexpectedly and I remember how much Ila and I enjoyed working together on the project. I was especially pleased to see it displayed today at my bereavement group session. Sadly, many of the book’s featured volunteers have passed away.

Another project involved photographing oil wells. I used unusual angles and close-ups. I enhanced the faded colors of the rigs and emphasized their graininess. Ila was my sous-chef, carried some of my equipment and was welcome company. The project took about four months. When we finished, I took the portfolio to the Union Oil Museum in Santa Paula thinking they might like to exhibit some of them. The response from the museum administrator was “Why would we display pictures of oil wells?” Scratching my head, I went home, put a couple of photos on the wall and deemed the project completed.

About seven years ago I became fixated on the wild flowers that a perfect rainy season had brought to the area around our home in the Upper Ojai. The vistas were filled with plants whose names were a mystery to me. These plants and their flowers must be photographed and identified, I thought. Arming ourselves with a clipper and a bucket of water, Ila and I spent the next few weeks collecting samples of the best they had to offer. Placed in the bucket, Ila nurtured them as though a bouquet of the finest roses.

Each of the plants was quite small, about a foot high. Its blossoms no larger than a quarter. I used a very small vise to stand the plant erect. A black background was placed behind the plant. Using a macro lens, I photographed about thirty of the tiny plants from about eighteen inches away. The plants in the photos could have easily been assumed to be much larger than reality.

We printed the photos as large as my printer would allow. The resulting fourteen by twenty-one-inch prints revealed the intricacies of the stalk, the leaves and, most of all, the flowers. Veins in the leaves were easily distinguishable, much like the avenues though which our blood flows. Tiny hairs on the stalks reminded me of the hair on the back of my neck. Flowers revealed the uniform structures that supported them. Lacy filaments cascaded throughout. The colors were vibrant.

And all the while I thought of these little beauties as weeds. Interlopers that would normally be viewed as pests in an otherwise manicured landscape or garden. So that’s what we called our collection…Weeds. I posted them on my website, produced brochures that we sent to friends and framed a few.

Years passed and the Weed collection remained dormant. I went on to other things, but continued to wonder what would happen to Weeds. Just another project that absorbed part of my life seemed too little. Yet I did little to promote its resurrection. Ila passed away. So, it seemed, had Weeds.

My friend, Barbara, had been working on developing a collection of art for the new Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura. Devoting over six years to the project, she and her committee had accumulated more than six hundred pieces that would grace the rooms and corridors of the new facility. Barbara had seen Weeds and asked if I wanted to see them on the hospital walls. Would I? It was the opportunity I had been looking for.

The new emergency department has twenty-five examining rooms. I had twenty-five weed photos. A match made in heaven. I printed the photos and Barbara had them framed. They were hung.

A week ago, the new hospital opened its arms and invited the public to see the six hundred pieces now housed permanently on its walls. Jackie and I got there an hour after the affair began. We listened to some speeches and, when the formalities were completed, we went directly to the emergency department. Greeted by a security officer, we were told that the department was closed for the evening.

Closed? After seven years was I to be denied entry? Would I need to be injured or ill to visit the emergency department to see Weeds? Mercifully, my guardian angel appeared in the form of Haady Lashkari, the administrator of the Ojai Valley Community Hospital. With just a little bit of sugar delivered by Jackie, he graciously interceded with security and we were admitted to the emergency department for a guided tour. The framed photos were there, reminding me of the winding path we had taken to get here. I thought of all the patients who might be comforted by the photos.

Ila would have been pleased.

Loser…

I never should have let Myrna talk me into this.

“Oh come on, Fred.  We need some more pieces for the annual Art Center photo show. You don’t have to do anything special.  Just help us fill the wall space.  You can just dust off some old thing…pretty puhleeze.”

So I did.

And I got beat out of a prize by a photo of a dead goat straddling the running board of an old truck.  Talk about embarrassment.

I went through the same routine that I’ve repeated, without learning anything, for the last decade.  I shlepped to the Art Center on  Friday morning and spent three hours helping hang the fifty or so pieces submitted by people who were, for the most part, younger than my grandchildren.

Standing back with my objectivity brimming over, I was satisfied that I had honestly scanned my competition.  I then silently mused to myself “my photo is the odds-on favorite to take it all.“  The increased number of awards this year only served to bolster my chances.  I was a shoo-in.

I went to bed that night with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.  I could actually see the crowd elbowing each other for a closer look at my show stopper.  A photo that was perfectly composed, in focus, leading the viewer’s eye to the spot I had designated.  Telling a compelling story about the subjects in the photo as well as providing insight into the mind of the photographer.  God, it was good.

On Saturday, I watched the time pass oh so slowly, anxiously awaiting the start of the Art Center reception.  At the appointed time, Sweetie and I drove to the Center, parked a mile from the door and began a long trek that I can now liken to the Bataan Death March.

We walked through the door and I was instantly drawn to my award-winning photo.  Ok, maybe not first but certainly second.  All right, ok, I’ll settle for an honorable mention.  So where was the award?  Usually it’s pasted to the wall right next to the photo.  Uh, maybe this year it’s real teeny tiny, tucked away unobtrusively, maybe even behind the photo.  Nope.  Not there.  Maybe it fell off.

Like the air being let out of a balloon, my expectations dissipated into the ether.  I was incredulous.  And then I was nauseated.  Then both at the same time.

I thought, ok, so you didn’t make the big time.  The judges must have seen something very special in the dozen photos that beat me out.   Something that I would, as a professional and a right-minded guy, see and understand.  And then I saw the dead goat.

I know you’re saying to yourself “Fred does this every year.  He goes in to the show with great expectations and then whines when he goes home empty-handed.  What a loser.”

Ok, I leave it to you.  Go to the Art Center before July 9.  And tell me if you really like the dead goat.  I’m at your mercy.

Bummer, lost again

Darn it.  I lost again.  Did great work on three stunning photographs and didn’t even merit an honorable mention.  Spent hours at the Old Mill renovation in Santa Paula risking life and limb to get the National Geographic award of the year and all I get is chopped liver.  Where will it end?

The Ojai Art Center Photography Branch hung another standout show at the Art Center this weekend.  Thirty photographers qualified fifty photos in the Branch’s annual show Visions of Change.  Well the only thing that didn’t change was my winning nothing, nada, zilch.

I blame Greg Cooper and Attasalina Dews, the two judges who crowned the winners.  Yeah sure, I know that Greg currently teaches full time at Brooks Institute School of Visual Journalism in Ventura.  And Atta has established herself as a successful wedding and portrait photographer.  But I ask you, shouldn’t they have accepted the gratuity I offered in return for a first place ribbon?  Ingrates.

But enough about me.  Roger Conrad did another class job of curating the show.  And that’s on top of his uncanny ability to herd the Photo Committee members into line over a six month period as they argued about the show’s theme, the color of the table cloths, and the font style for the announcements.  Weighty stuff.

Myrna Cambianica was largely responsible for the goodie table at the Sunday reception.  In addition to the yummies, Myrna’s ecology mania guided her selection of biodegradeables, including the wine cups which had to be emptied within ninety seconds or they would stain your shoes.  Three separate recyclable containers were provided, prompting long lines to form as guests attempted to select the proper bin for their garbage.  Wrong choices resulted in expulsion from the reception.

Food kept appearing as if by magic.  Erin O’Loughlin and Genevieve Woods were stellar representatives of YES.  The Youth Employment Services, a non-profit group of Ojai students, can be proud of the way these young ladies kept the guests’ tummies full and the tables spotless.

The show runs through July 8 unless all of the photos are sold before then.  But have no fear, I’m sure we can find replacements.  So hurry on down to the Art Center.  You can easily identify my photos.  They don’t have any ribbons.

Loser

I’ve been hung

Now that I’ve got your attention.

On Wednesday Sweetie and I saw the inside of city government.  Well, the building anyway.  We spent most of the day at Ojai City Hall, a venerable property that was donated to the city many years ago and is the seat of power in our fine city.

We were there hanging my photos.  With Roger’s expert guidance and help, we spotted twenty-five pieces throughout the building.   They’ll be there until March 12 for all the world to see.   I’m grateful to the Ojai City Arts Commission for their gracious invitation to display my work.

The photos are focused…pun intended…on Lake Casitas and on the oil wells near us.  Sweetie and I have been doing a project at Lake Casitas for several months.  I thought that the old lake should get more respect.  Seems like she’s only thought of as a place where out-of-towners drag their RVs and beer to.  Or her water that sometimes yields big bass to fisherman…at least that’s what they tell us. 

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 The oil wells are the result of months of work trying to make them look alive and vibrant rather than the rusty. ratty old things that they are.  We tried to get some other venues interested in an exhibit devoted to them.  Most said “Oil wells, who’d be interested in those?”  Or they didn’t respond at all.  Must have been the shock.  The director of the Santa Paula Oil Museum looked at me, her eyes glazed over and she said something like “Why would the oil museum want to show pictures of oil wells.”  I couldn’t think of a good response.

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Anyway, you’re all invited to our exhibit.  If you want some free food, come join us on Thursday, January 22 from 5pm to 6:30pm at City Hall.  Sweetie’s cookies will be the highlight of the show, I’m sure.  Sorry, no booze unless it’s in a paper bag out by the trash bin.  It’s a public building, so they only allow alcohol in the Mayor’s office…I think.


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