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On Portraiture (by Steve McCurry)

The brilliant Steve McCurry’s most recent post may be his best yet.

Focusing on the chance opportunities that have presented themselves over the years, his “portraiture by chance” is as deep (though perhaps not as broad) as any portrait artist I know.

A Constant Music

John Cage’s saying “Music is Constant; listening is intermittent”, was on my mind today after a brief flirtation with meditation. I’d had acupuncture followed by an embarrassingly long sleep and woke up perfectly at peace.

Elephant calm

I lay in bed exploring the aftermath; a slow-blooming calm expanding in body and mind, a flowering of essence. I came downstairs to find my wife meditating in the living room with the doors closed. She’d been at me to get back to a meditation practice long abandoned. This seemed the perfect moment so I walked out to the deck.

Outside_8805

Among the ideas I’d brought with me was that my life is blessed. Our acupuncturist comes to us, so my blissful itinerary went: therapy table / bed / garden. Between the bed and the garden, sitting cross-legged behind glass was my beautiful wife, post treatment herself.

Another thought I brought out with me was that I’d try meditating with my eyes open; “try” because most meditation is an attempt, often interrupted by monkey brain thoughts, ending in total failure. I managed to meditate on a hanging basket until the chroma of a red geranium got me wondering/wandering. I whisked that away. And then I wondered if meditating is just exploring without judgement, something I’ve written about before. Whisked that away. Closed my eyes.

Buddah_aster_sm

A rush of wind reminded me that it had grown cold. I got a jacket, reset. A mechanical noise from the north worried me when I’d come out the first time and it was still there, but again it disappeared under the sound of the wind as soon as I’d closed my eyes. I descended into the plume of nothingness that connects us until the sound of an airplane approached from the southeast. Astonishingly loud. Whisk, whisk. And then another one. And another, each one finally giving way to the rustle of that brisk wind that first welcomed me. I fell headlong into the interplay between the jet and the rustling.

Gods and gardens

Up popped a thought about filming a tiny cabin on the water’s edge and twinning it with the sound of our habitual airport environment – living as we do in the suburbs of airports, really ;) – or the reverse – an urban hodgepodge of city life with the cabin’s quiet soundscape.

Somewhere in that time, before the moment I realized that I was no longer meditating, a car horn burst and I noticed its pitch for the first time, as a kind of music. The mechanical sound, ever-present in reality, only then returned to my consciousness.

That’s when Cage’s thought popped up and I wondered if I could live better by simply separating the car horn from what I read as the aggression it represents; just hearing it instead as another instrument in the orchestra of a constant music.

Why You Should Fire Yourself Once a Year

This wonderful post is from Brooke Shaden, whose portraits are a revelation… please read on….

Photofocus (old site)

 This is a guest post by Brooke Shaden. She is well known for her portraits that show  fantastic realities.  She combines painterly techniques as well as the square format.  She also takes traditional photographic properties are replaces things with otherworldly elements.

If you’re self-employed, or you have a creative passion, it is very likely that you have had a conversation with yourself about running your own business. It is also very likely that you have had the same concerns pop into your head that I have, those being: Am I motivated enough to create work for myself? Can I make enough money? Will I stay on schedule with no one to boss me around? Can I take the pressure?

headshot_smallThose questions ran through my mind like a high speed train when I was considering becoming a full time artist. To be honest, they never stopped rolling around in there, no…

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A Farewell To Winter

A farewell to winter is a slow-going affair. The weather heats up imperceptibly for about a month, while summer sends out its heralds with the occasional, tantalizing hot spell. On the other hand, our autumns are fine since our summers cool in a similar pattern. Both of Toronto’s dominant seasons hang on past their prime.

Ice Storm_Dark Web

But the uglies of winter are gone or going: the salted bumpers and streetcar shelters, stained windows and a host of grubby little visual modifiers that make a Toronto winter ugly – unless there’s fresh snow.

David Goorevitch, Awe and then some, aweandthensome, aweandthensomephotography, aweanthensome blog, art photography, Toronto, Toronto photographers, Toronto photography, Toronto for Photographers, Private Photography lessons, Private photography lessons Toronto, Toronto photography lessons, snow, winter, salt

Snow (and temperature, of course) are the culprits. With winter days that waver around the freezing mark frequently, salt is the only thing that keeps us from careening into one another, on foot or in any other conveyance. Last year’s ice storm tells the grim but beautiful story in one way; while this year’s salt cars tells it in a “grime but beautiful” way ;)

Thanks for stopping by. Have a look around at my other artwork, portraits and commercial photography if you have a little time.

The Gift

Eleven years ago, my kidneys shut down. My death was averted through the miracle of organ transplantation. At least that’s how I felt about the disease that killed my mother but which can now be treated with dialysis. I sent my friends long, happy-hysterical, picture-filled word documents in the aftermath of my euphoric battle with death. My attacker lay strewn along the beaches of Sanibel Island, desiccated by the sun and eaten in tiny mouthfuls by sand flies.

I was dancing the gift of life. My body hummed with electricity. “Nature without check with original energy”, as Whitman would put it. Or it might have been the high doses of prednisone :)

Oo wa ditty

I dedicated my time to that gift. I saw it everywhere and tried my best to record and share it. I had a mission. I wrote a personal mission statement and took up photography as if I hadn’t left it (I had, for twenty-five years).

But death has a way of changing his tactics. We compare ourselves, becoming quick to anger, judgement and pointless debate. It eats away at simple joy, filling us with rage and frustration. It attaches itself to the soul like barnacles, waiting to apply the coup de grace.

Blue salt

Salt and ice eating its way through metal in a blue Toronto winter

I know we all feel that way sometimes. Not just me, but so many I’ve known and loved and others I’ve loved from afar. Reaching back for a mission statement is the last thing to do. I know where my mission statement is – on my desk in a folder I don’t have the heart to open. Better not compare oneself with one’s better self. Maybe it’s the loss of my dear friend Melanie after a seven-year battle with ALS, Death’s ugliest swordsman.

Mel and Jojo

Melanie in better times, delighting and being delighted by my daughter

Here’s something I’ve revisited. It often works for me. I hope it works for you.

Song of Myself (partial, 1892 version)

BY WALT WHITMAN

1

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,

Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,

I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,

Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,

Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,

I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,

Nature without check with original energy.

2

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,

I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,

The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless,

It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,

I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,

I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,Leave of Grass

Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine,

My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs,

The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,

The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of the wind,

A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,

The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,

The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides,

The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?

Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?

Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,

You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

3

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end,

But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,

Nor any more youth or age than there is now,

And will never be any more perfection than there is now,

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,

Always the procreant urge of the world…..

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