#SundayBluesEdit Sunday Selection @doctorjazz
Last Sunday I was so busy. It seemed as if there were more blue images than ever before. I stumbled on this image of Ernestine and I thought there was a familiarity in her face. Do I know her? I don’t, but like me David has recently spent a lot of time with images from the past. There is a way that I look into the eyes of the person in an old photograph that helps me understand myself. The universality of humanity. David is a very creative and open experimenter. You will find something in his stream that helps you understand yourself. Happy Sunday!
David: First of all, many thanks to Rebecca for shining this spotlight on my work. I feel honored, especially since her weekly Instagram gathering of photos, the Sunday Blues Edit, has been an inspiration for me, as have her own photos.
I’ve taught writing & literature at Ripon College in Wisconsin for 25 years. I am also a poet, with six collections of my poems published. Photography as an art form has been a lifelong interest of mine, but up until about five years ago it was mostly as viewer, not as creator of anything besides snapshots. I didn’t get serious until acquiring my first digital camera in 2007, which was an entirely unimpressive 3 megapixel point-and-shoot. But soon enough I was hooked, moving on to a slightly better point-and-shoot, and finally my iPhone4.
I’ve also been married for 37 years to a wonderful visual artist–who paints and draws, does printmaking, and sometimes makes photos. Though I’m serious about my photography, I’m happy to call myself an amateur; my wife remains the real artist in the family. Still, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say the iPhone changed my life. I discovered Chase Jarvis’s book The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You at a local library, and that was that: I’ve been more or less obsessed ever since, spending part of most days shooting or editing photos on my phone. I’ve been active on Instagram for about a year now.
Slowly but steadily I’ve been learning about apps and editing, reading blogs on mobile photography, visiting photo web sites, and, of course, exploring the Instagram community (where I am @doctorjazz). Honestly, I’ve been having a blast moving into this very different creative realm. As many have said, mobile photography is addictive, and can help you see the world in new ways. It certainly makes moving through each day more interesting, I find.
In all the arts I tend to love theme-and-variation. As my collection of editing apps has grown along with my skills, I’ve explored a number of different themes repeatedly. My photo “Ernestine Took Her Greatest Secret to the Grave” comes from a recent series I did based on public domain 19th Century portraits, mostly from the Library of Congress: tintypes and daguerreotypes and so on. It’s the first time I’ve tried creating my own images using photos I didn’t shoot myself; so it was exciting to see if I could make them my own. It’s not for me to judge the quality of the results (12 pics posted last week on Instagram), but I will say a couple things about this image, with the usual disclaimer that I work fairly improvisationally, and often only figure out what I want a photo to “say” in the process of fooling around with various apps and approaches.
The haunting thing about portrait photography in particular is that there is always a mystery involved. Often, even when viewing of snapshot of myself at a younger age, I find myself wondering “who was that person?” The past is past, and much remains unknown and irretrievable. In the case of the 19th century portraits I was looking at, even when we have a name for the person photographed, we often have no story. Yet the faces have such presence, such vitality. The woman I am arbitrarily calling Ernestine is vivid and beautiful to me, but if I want to know anything more, I will have to supply her story myself. Part of me wants to, while part of me wants to respect her privacy and whatever mysteries she took–as we all do, I suppose–with her to the grave. I imagine the repeated partial faces behind her (achieved with Decim8 and a number of other apps) all have different versions of the story to tell. Rising from this welter of broken selves Ernestine emerges whole, in the center of it all, with no comment on anything. Here and gone, as we all will be in time, gone into the wild blue yonder.
Please take some time and visit this incredible artist at @doctorjazz on Instagram