December 2008 Archives

Tuneup .......

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For Victor, Annette and Gigi; Christmas 2008

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Tuneup: A theatre, landscape and portraiture of my favorite piano, in honor of your lives as artists.

Copyright 2006, 2008 Malcolm Ryder

Tuneup ......

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For Victor, Annette and Gigi

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 Copyright 2006, 2008 Malcolm Ryder

Tuneup .....

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For Victor, Annette and Gigi

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 Copyright 2006, 2008 Malcolm Ryder

Tuneup ....

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For Victor, Annette and Gigi

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The architecture of the piano provides a fibrous sounding plane not unlike the sensitized surface of a photopaper's emulsion. It's usually indifferent, but poke it, and it reacts. However, unlike the emulsion, the piano's network of strings keeps no "memory" of its output. Aside from its preparation, it gives what it's got only when and while it is touched.

Now, imagine a photograph that shows its image only when lit ("excited") a certain way, or is otherwise blank. Oh, right, that would be the CRT or LCD, a.k.a television. Moreover, we think of "strings" as being analog instruments; but in fact, compared to how a guitar handles a string, the piano's approach -- if not more digital -- is much more "digitized": one pitch per string (at whatever intensity). The string is a pixel.

 Copyright 2006, 2008 Malcolm Ryder

Tuneup ...

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For Victor, Annette and Gigi

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 Copyright 2006 Malcolm Ryder

Tuneup ..

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For Victor, Annette and Gigi

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 Copyright 2006 Malcolm Ryder

Tuneup .

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For Victor, Annette and Gigi

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 Copyright 2008 Malcolm Ryder

Tuneup

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For Victor, Annette and Gigi

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 Copyright 2006 Malcolm Ryder

Icon... ish.

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One of the main points of an "icon" is to create a finality in an image; its special job is to replace the death of the image's original impact with a permanence of meaning.

This is especially interesting in shots of still-unfolding events. When it comes to picking a "decisive moment", the iconographic mechanism is lurking in the photographer's sensibility like an ingredient in a cocktail; the liquor that puts the punch in the juice, turning "news" into "history" that we'd keep.

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(Photographer Unknown; location unknown; players unknown; outcome unknown; but does that really matter?)

Some pictures become "historic" because they give an image the time to outlast news and become a self-sufficient narrator. In such cases, we like to say that the image itself is historic, but more correctly what has happened is that the image has become iconic while the picture that conveys it is historical (i.e., concerned with history, as opposed to being famous in history).

Yet eventually, the history is less interesting than the iconicity, because it is the iconicity that keeps bringing up the image again in the present, for continued and broader use. Specifically, the iconic image gets to spawn more new pictures.

 As always, a single image might be rendered in many different pictures -- which for example is the whole deal with papparazzi who easily populate at least six different celeb magazines a week, simultaneously, with an effectively (and essentially) identical image ("the Shot") using separately produced, sold and copyrighted pictures far outnumbering the images and editors. Interestingly, it is the sheer repetition of image across so many different outlets that tends to push many of those views into iconicity. For viewers, the multiple pictures blend through selective and collective memory into one image.

 But where most of those magazines and their pictures go out with the trash, someone somewhere may be hanging on to their fave on a tearout sheet -- or even trying to regenerate an acceptable new example shot to replace (or re-iterate) the old. (You'll remember seeing any number of hot blondes today doing their "Marilyn Monroe" gig for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, or other key rag -- and you can bet there will be more coming. In general, those episodes of theater or channeling are much more fun than, say, the hardcore "Rephotographic Project", but when you get right down to it, the two camps are more or less "shooting for the same thing" -- distillation and appropriation of the effectiveness of their predecessors.)

With the benefit of aging (if not memory loss), iconic images often seem theatrical or even cinematic -- that is, contrived -- when re-produced in new pictures. However, that semblance is more about how we get to see images than about the images themselves. For most people above 20 years old, the vast majority of views of history will be presented to them on the stage or screen (including the one you're viewing now), and iconography becomes the way to squeeze the information into the short time frames of the show. 

The bigger point in there is about the distribution of images as opposed to the distribution of pictures. Pictures are not the only game in town, so it raises the question of what the picture is distinctively to do. This can't be taken for granted any more. The New York Times store (nytstore.com) advertises a $675 Edward S. Curtis picture by reproducing the image in the Times newsprint pages. No way would the newsprint picture rack up a $675 bill, but the advertising is meant to say that a high fidelity picture is available under limited circumstances. Meanwhile, the 21st century has kicked in: given the visual quality of the digitized ad page production (far better than the scan below), that big price tag is not even about having the image anymore; it's just about having the picture. The image has already enjoyed the full force of NY Times distribution and subsequent hand-me-downs.

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Copyright Edward S. Curtis? By today's standards, yes; unless of course the rights were transferred to another party...)

As the ad picture's caption correctly says, "this image... is the visual metaphor...". Coincidentally, while the caption meant  "metaphor for Curtis's work", the fact is also that the availability of the image's picture on the ad newsprint is a metaphor for the picture that is being sold at nytstore.com.

My own old picture of the Princeton footballers, which I found and did not make, is not my image, nor is there a price tag on it. But I'm sure that any interest in puchasing it would be merely news, not history. And, what is interesting about the image is not the moment in it, but instead the kind of moment in it.

Vines

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Real-istics

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Copyright of Mary K. Weatherford, as promoted via the Princeton Alumni Weekly magazine Oct 2008.

This painting offers a now classic dual impact of the genre: contemplative perseverence in being completed; and, the great tension between what was excluded versus included in a type of image that has no overt constraining force aside from the artist's sensibility.

We have observed many artists rendering such paintings from prior photographs, but the tour de force is when the painter has fully absorbed the "language" of the subject's own natural generation and can produce a like-ness from scratch rather than re-present it.

Here, knowing which technique was in force may not matter; it is the organization of the image -- the balance of its 2-D and 3-D characteristics -- that do the work. To do this work from scratch, what we would want to do is understand how much of the "literalness" of the image is necessary to agreeing with the decisions about the curves, brightnesses and crossings of lines, spaces and overlaps. That opens up questioning... Is there a "version" of the "same" image that is not vines but instead just lines? Is there a digitally distilled photocapture of found thickets from which a "just as good" composition remains?

Farmer Joe's

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(Postcard)

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Copyright 2008 Malcolm Ryder

 

 

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