Black And White & Color; Dreams, Themes, And Schemes
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."--Bob Dylan
Each month I surf the web, peruse reader e-mails, and read notes from photographers who want to see their sites in this department. You may be surprised to learn that a large percentage of people I ask to appear in Web Profiles don't respond or decline. Some photographers will only give permission if they know in advance what I'll write about them. They are referred to the past columns (www.shutterbug.com/web_profiles) but that doesn't always work, so I just won't feature their sites. Regular readers know that I sometimes offer constructive criticism but that most of my comments are positive--otherwise the site wouldn't be featured! If you think your site has the right stuff or maybe would like to see specific themes, e-mail me at email@example.com and let me know about yourself or what themes you'd like to see.
Blake James Nolan told me, "As a photographer and illustrator I look to find that realm of confusion that an attempt at creating meaning generates." One way he accomplishes this is through an exhibition called "Colored Black & White." Nope, this isn't Pleasantville, but uses some of that movie's techniques to document the struggles of the people of Cameroon West Africa to powerful effect. Through the selective use of color Nolan says he's "shedding light on the power and strength these people posses and showing their color in a different light." These photographs are housed in a separate part of his site and once there, you can just click back-and-forth arrows to see all the images in this amazing collection. While all are engaging, "Long Walk Home From School" is an especially poignant image, particularly so with his use of selective color.
The "Past Work" collection features 12 galleries and don't miss any one of them. In "Friendship Lost" Nolan captures images of a place shared with a now deceased friend while in "Color Jive" he proves that color is truly his forté with the otherworldly photographs featured. All of these images tend to reflect a photographer exploring his world. Nolan's images document his journey from July 2001 to the present and I look for more great things to come from this photographer.
Far too many photographers put away their camera after the sun sets; not Craig Wassel. He gets out his camera and starts making pictures. What sets Wassel apart from others is both his work's quality and the motivation. The tragic loss of his father was a defining moment for him and he began building a view of his life by creating a photographic legacy to pass on to his children. I urge you to read "About the Artist" for more details and to view the wonderfully nostalgic image "Christmas on State Street" that was made in 1979 but could just as easily been made in `59.
There are 21 galleries on exhibit here; view them all but don't miss the two "Almost" collections. "Almost Black and White" contains toned monochrome images that have an unabashed old-school feel. While the subjects in "Almost Color" echo that in the previous collection, the technique is not too different from what Blake James Nolan was producing but with a completely different result. I kept coming back to his "Bright Lights, Big City" collection that combines drama, color, and technical brilliance. Before leaving this lovingly crafted site, visit "More" and read Wassel's essay "Photography's Digital Battleground" in which he presents the yin/yang of digital and traditional imaging. While I can't quite shake the feeling that advocates of the daguerreotype and wet collodion process used many of these same arguments 100 years ago, it's worth reading.
Alastair Bird is a widely published photographer in Vancouver, B.C., who specializes in commercial, editorial, and portrait photography. His quietly elegant site contains many nooks and crannies, including a Portfolio that opens into three collections: People, Places, and Things. Images are seen as groups of tiny thumbnails, allowing you to view all of the images in all three collections at the same time, reflecting an ease of use that other photogs would be wise to emulate. After clicking on a specific thumbnail you're well inside the collection and use back-and-forth arrows to explore the images that also include captions, without which the photo of a guy on the dock holding a tiny fish would lack some of its not-so-obvious humor.
Over in "Places" you'll find impressive monochrome imagery, especially Bird's photograph of Siwash Rock, one of the most spectacular natural landmarks in Vancouver that has echoes of the "Lone Cypress" on the Monterey Coast that Bird may not even be aware. "Things" contains color images of the kind of bread-and-butter commercial still life shots that must make Bird's clients happy. Before you leave, be sure to visit the Published section that contains a poster he shot for the movie Hitler and Christ. (It's a wonderful black and white photograph of actors Michael Moriarty and Wyatt Page.) Bird says, "I started taking photographs when I was 13, after my folks bought me a camera as a Christmas present. I haven't stopped since." All I can add is: keep that shutter working.
When you talk old school you're talking Bob Keefer, who produces handcolored traditional prints. His Gallery section includes 10 collections, including one on (YES!) lighthouses, so naturally I went there first, only to find one image. The photograph of the Umpqua Lighthouse contains the same wistfulness as Keefer's other images, but I wish there were more. If ever a subject screamed for handcoloring it's Mexico, and his travel photographs, especially the one of festival-goers in a candlelight parade celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe, embrace the cacophony of the sights and sounds of all things Mexican.
My two favorite collections are "Oregon Coast" and "Western Oregon," which echoes the spirit of Keefer's companion site www.therealoregon.com that opens with text that states: "Yes, it rains here." You can purchase an original handcolored black and white photo from Keefer Photography for as little as $45 matted and shipped. And in what must clearly be a trend, don't leave the site without reading his essay "Why is nature photography so boring?" In the final sentence Keefer says, "Nature happens at noon, not just at sunrise and sunset. I'd love to see more nature photography that actually reflects the world outside, and not just the world according to nature calendars." And while I am tempted to add my own comment that there are no boring photographs, just boring photographers, I can only add an Amen.
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