cb: What ?
Cam: What ?!
cb: What are you looking at ?
Cam: I’m not looking at nothin’ – you still have my lens cap on.
cb: Well, what do you want? You’re just sitting there.
Cam: I don’t want nothin’. I just do my job. You’re the boss.
cb: Yeah. I guess I’m just having a little trouble making the first move.
Cam: Get over yourself. You’ve never known what you’re gonna shoot in advance. Take a walk.
cb: I walk all the time. You just haven’t been invited yet.
cb: Yeah, whatever. Like you don’t want to go click, click, click.
Cam: Dude. I’m a machine. A computer. Quit looking at me, and get back on the horse.
cb: See – I knew you wanted to get out. OK – maybe as a favor to you. I’ll do it for you.
Cam: Tweaker. Just don’t drop me like you did the last one – that’s all I ask. Give me a shot. My battery is charged, you’ve got two SD cards ready to go.
cb: As a favor to you. I don’t even care, but now you’re getting all worked up, so I’ll do it for you. You should meditate more.
Cam: I should meditate more?!?! That’s rich.
cb: If you were nicer, this would be easier.
Cam: Riiiiight … So this is all about your feelings …?
cb: Do not invalidate my feelings.
Cam: Give it a rest.
cb: Fair enough. Let’s roll. I’m glad we talked.
Cam: Nuff said
(Click, Click, Click)
The other day I was searching through photography files on my computer when I came upon an old friend – a scan of an image I had completely forgotten about. I had scanned the slide of “Icy Trees” in 2004, but hadn’t printed it in a darkroom since 1995, and I originally made the image in 1986. What struck me was that as I looked at this rediscovered image, I could hear the sounds of an icy forest after an ice storm that happened 25 years ago.
I’ve lived on or near the coast of central California my whole life. We’re lightweights around here. It gets below 40 degrees F, or above 80 and you’d swear the sky is falling. OK slight exaggeration, maybe … but the point is we have to travel to get winter. We don’t have to go too far … the Sierra Nevada mountains are nearby, but I was 22 when I took this photo, and the majority of my winter experiences at that time came when I’d visit my family in Massachusetts . The beauty of being an occasional visitor to places is you don’t tend to get bogged down by events that can be a nuisance, or worse. The thought of shoveling snow makes me smile, so you know I haven’t had a snow shovel in my hands too many times. And the thought of freezing rain? I know – roads ice up, power poles and trees crash down. It can be deadly. But this was the only ice storm this coastal Californian has ever seen, and all I remember is … Diamonds Everywhere. Diamond-encrusted everything!
Icy Trees – Taken along the Sudbury River in Wayland, Massachusetts – 1986
When we hang a photo on a wall we’re hanging a window, a portal. As you take a moment to look at/out that portal … you get to go somewhere. And unless you have any of those hard to come by photographs of the future … you are looking back in time. That is what art, photographs, stories can do for us. And then the memories come.
I must have taken “Icy Trees” with my first camera – a 35mm Nikon FM (simple and awesome) and an off-brand Tokina 28-85mm zoom lens. The film was probably Kodak Ektachrome 200 ASA slide film. Guessing by looking at the photo I must have shot it on a tripod, because it actually has decent foreground to infinity depth of field, so the lens was probably stopped down, and the exposure was slow. What that dry technical info means is the photo is not tack sharp. But I tend to be drawn to a more expressive rather than crystal clear aesthetic, and I like the image. Again. I must have gotten lucky with this one, because while I had already been collecting photography books by that time (I worked at a great used bookstore in Berkeley on Telegraph Avenue from age 16 – 19 – Moe’s Books is still going strong, and still has a great fine art book department), I’m not sure how much I knew about including foreground elements in landscape composition at that point. But the icy branch that extends down from the upper left corner of the image leads me into the picture and reminds me that everything is transformed with an icy coating after such a storm. It’s a dark moody image, and I like that it makes me feel that.
But what’s unique for me about this image is how it stirs my sense memory. It’s common to talk about how a photograph looks, but in my mind’s ear while I look at this photograph I can hear the surrounding forest snapping, popping and echoing off of everything that’s coated in hard reflective ice. The heavy, brittle tree branches start cracking with their own weight or the slightest breeze . A good blow and stuff starts really breaking – exploding. I can also hear the frozen river beyond – cracking out loud as the ice shifts. And there’s also that winter smell … cool, clean, sharp – just about the cleanest smell you can imagine. How accurate these memories are is beside the point for me. Photographs are inherently abstractions. They are two-dimensional freeze-frames taken by a subjective photographer intentionally including and excluding the visual elements in a camera’s field of view. They are shallow glimpses of vast reality, but … they can serve as portals. Whereas abstract imagery may take us somewhere mysterious or even unknown, more narrative images tend to take us to specific places guided by our past sensations – journeys back in time. This kind of experience is particularly human. Certainly a dog remembers where she hid her bone, and a crow remembers how to crack a walnut, but we can use an image on paper, or on a screen to seemingly meet again with a family member who’s passed on, or walk again in a forest we may have visited only once. For better, and worse … we can relive a moment of our past with all our senses. And that is (pardon the winter reference) … pretty cool.
Thank you for stopping by,
A LONG TIME COMING
Well it’s finally beginning to happen … Again. Getting more productive with Chris Bratt Photography.
March 2012 – I’m feeling like the second revision of http://chrisbratt.com/ is coming together. Four thousand “Thank You’s” to my brother Jeremy for eons of slaving on the website and accommodating my ceaseless and often out-dated design wishes. Also many many thanks to Michelle Merrill for her initial design of www.chrisbratt.com years back, which was a quantum leap for me then, when I had a website up before I had a clue how to operate a computer.
So welcome to the site, and to a new blog. Of course I hope to keep regularly updating the photos and the blog as well – common goals seemingly often understandably less achieved … but why not start out with the best intentions? The site includes my older more ‘traditional’ landscape-ish photographs, as well as my more recent and often quite abstract work. I seem to continue to move away from static imagery in favor of motion, intentional blurs, and abstract compositions. Not that I can’t go back mind you, and try to remember how to focus …
I’ve had a productive run in the last few weeks:
- I’ve produced a new portfolio with 60 prints of old and new images with help from my talented photo print production friend Erik Peterson http://www.espcolorservices.com/who I used to print with back in the old color darkroom days. The new prints are Fuji Crystal Archive prints by Bay Photo http://www.bayphoto.com/and Epson inkjets prints by Laser Light Photographcs http://www.laslight.com/ (keeping it local don’t you know)
- I applied, was admitted, and then participated in the 2.5 day PhotoAlliance “Our World” portfolio review in San Francisco last weekend – http://www.photoalliance.org/ – FANTASTIC (more on that later).
- And I just hung a show, with help from my ever trusty furry curator Maggie, at my friend Helbard’s brand new photo studio -which has a gallery in in the “foyer.” Check out http://www.mockingbirdmedia.com/home/ in the new building out there on Mission Street in Santa Cruz.
So now … I’m gonna go chill … for at least an hour (-;
Don’t forget to take a moment to simply listen to the rain.
Love love love the rain
Makes our rhododendron smile
Just the sound is sweet
And here’s an old fave rain pic … THANKS for stopping by,