Kissing Frogs; Looking For Mr. Goodsite
“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”—Emad Hasan
When this column evolved from its former Website of the Month origins more than 10 years ago into what it is today, it was a simpler time, Internet-wise. Really good photographers’ homepages were few and far between, but now the web explodes with sites, some produced via the templates and design tools I’ve mentioned here from time to time. Yet, each month it has become an increasingly difficult challenge finding sites for Web Profiles partially because I’ve raised the bar on standards and partially because some photographers don’t reply or turn me down. Nowadays, I try to feature sites that have great photography and great design, although occasionally I’ll sacrifice one or the other if the photography is “that good.” So each month I look at an ever-increasing number of sites to find one that’s good enough and willing to be featured in these pages. I’m always looking for new sites to feature, so if you’ve found one—even your own—that you think should appear, send me an e-mail through my own old and outdated (think of the poor shoemaker) site at: www.joefarace.com.
Art Wolfe’s website is complex yet stylish, reflecting his photography that oftentimes contains multifaceted images made in exotic locations, yet all the while echoing humankind’s great themes. Where to start…that’s not an easy question to answer, but let me suggest you start in Gallery (powered by liveBooks) that contains four sections—“People,” “Places,” “Wildlife,” and “Impressions”—each one, in turn, containing images that may be viewed as slide shows. In “People,” the “Human Nature” collection surprises by showing tender and sometimes humorous interactions between people and animals. Sometimes you see the people’s faces, most times you don’t—the animals are the focus. The “Surreal Land” section of the “Places” gallery contains spectacularly amazing photographs of places most of us will never see in person and none of which contain a single person. And whether the photographs were made in Africa or on Main Street these images are many, many steps beyond mere travel imagery, showing the true art of landscape photography.
The “Camouflage” collection in “Wildlife” shows how animals naturally color themselves to blend in with their environment, and far from being “Where’s Waldo,” Wolfe has created a Rorschach test, not just a photographic version of a Bev Doolittle painting, blending animal and background into something more akin to his “Surreal Land” photographs. “Impressions” contains a potpourri of images, including one on “Light” that encompasses a look at natural light at its most dramatic, illuminating not just what’s there but features often hidden by the hard light of the noonday sun. Throughout all this is such endless variety and outstanding quality that it makes one wonder: how did one guy do all this?
Take a break from the galleries and visit the Learning section, specifically “Art’s Video,” and listen to him describe the process used to create one of his signature images, “Night Fisherman.” In it you’ll gain insight into his techniques, but just as importantly, the kind of person that Wolfe is, speaking from the heart and person to person, not as a teacher but as a guide who is genuinely interested in helping us understand how he makes all these wonderful photographs. It made me want to immediately jump to the Calendar to find out when he would be teaching so I could learn first-hand from this talented and oh-so-human sensei. Art Wolfe is an American master and his masterful site serves as a beacon to any photographer interested in learning more about the world and, in the process, themselves.
You will never see the art of black-and-white portraiture more forcibly demonstrated than the exquisitely executed and sensitive images of Michael Cunningham. An equally gracefully-designed site showcases his work in a Portfolio/Books section containing four collections of photographs from four published volumes. The subtitle for Crowns is Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats but is really more than that. While Cunningham could have easily stuck to one style and made his varied subjects fit his vision, he let them dictate the way the portraits look, producing approaches ranging from high fashion to documentary while allowing these women to show their dignity and, in the finest traditions of portraiture, uses his consummate skill to execute each photograph as a tour de force. As seen by the examples shown, Crowns belongs on the bookshelf of any photographer interested in the art of portraiture and may be the best ever book of formal portraits ever published.
In Jewels, Cunningham moves into the studio capturing Phenomenal Black Women Over 50. Even though he’s working in a controlled environment, each of the portraits is different, reflecting the character of the women being portrayed. A few of the images were made on location yet don’t clash with the overall theme. Queens is a look at black women and their hair. Here we get to see divas and dreadlocks in the studio and on location, and for the first time we get to see both the elegance that permeates Cunningham’s work mixed with a twinkle of humor. In Spirit of Harlem, he eschews the formality of his previous work, taking it to the street with photographs that combine the raw power of street photography with his unending sense of environmental portraiture, creating a portrait of a place and its people showing their vitality and heart. Based on his own portrait, Cunningham appears to be a young man and I’m looking forward to his future work, even more so to a forthcoming stage play and musical based on Crowns. How many photographers get to see their work interpreted on the stage? Not many, if any at all, proving that Michael Cunningham is truly a uniquely gifted individual.
This month’s Reader’s Homepage belongs to Paul W. Faust, a self-taught photographer with an interesting bio, so be sure to read that section first. Most of Faust’s work is found in five major galleries and I was first attracted to “Infrared & Special Effects,” which contains a collection of thumbnails that when clicked opens a larger image that lets you browse the entire set. His IR work is crisp, dramatic, and everything you want in a digital IR image combined with strong composition and excellent subject matter and augmented by real captions! His IR image of a millpond in his native Pennsylvania conjured images of a similar stream near the Dickeyville Mill near where I lived in Baltimore.
His carnival rides photographed in digitally-colored IR are particularly stunning. If you like those photographs, you’ll also enjoy (I did!) the vivid pop art effect he achieves in his “Special Effects” carnival images. His “American Travels” collection features everything from a solemn moment of an Honor Guard at Arlington National Cemetery to the kaleidoscopic neon of Las Vegas lights to Al Capone’s Cell in Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. All are captured in Faust’s signature deeply saturated color, tight no-fat cropping, and dramatic composition. The “Historical” gallery follows this theme as Faust continues his photographic journey across the country in time as well as space. Here you’ll find his personal look at ghost towns, railroads, and graveyards that honor America’s past. If you want to see more of Faust’s images, and I don’t blame you, there are two more galleries here, including “Nature” and “Misc. Images,” as well as sets that can be seen at PhotoWorkshop.com (http://impressions_of_light.photoworkshop.com). Don’t miss ’em.
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