Artists’ Imagine Politics: “On Democracy” Exhibit

Fingers press into membrane suggesting an emergence.

"Emergence" ©Russ Widstrand

I am very excited to announce my acceptance into the Newspace Gallery exhibit entitled “On Democracy”.

The Portland based fine art gallery asks the question "What does democracy look like to you?” The exhibit opens Friday Oct. 7 and the selected photographs take various approaches in response to the open call’s question.

My accepted submission "Emergence" is an visceral and emotional photograph showing fingers pressing into a membrane, reminiscent of a kind of embryonic birthing or metamorphosis into another state of being.

The image may have resonated with Claartje van Dijk, a curator from the International Center of Photography in New York, as a metaphor for the unusual tenor of our current political race. Perhaps alluding to the emergence of the socialist pressings of Bernie Sanders and/or the bombastic rise of Donald Trump.

conversations_book

Conversations Book Cover

It is a gift for an artist to have their work recognized by professional art critics and also a wonderful mystery as to how a piece might be interpreted by an audience, or in this case, a curator.

The image was also used as the cover of my recently published coffee table book "Conversations", selected works from the DPG art collective I participate in... "a visual dialogue between 10 pro photographers". The book is available for purchase at the link above.

The opening and reception is on Friday, October 7, 2016, 6-8pm. The show will run through the end of the month. I hope to see you there on Friday night.

Russ Widstrand Photographer - Follow me on... • Instagram •LinkedIn • Twitter • Facebook •

Newspace Gallery • 1632 SE 10th Ave Portland, OR 97214 • Tel.: 503.963.1935


How 2 Sort Lightroom Images for iPhone

As many photographers know, using two Digital Asset Managers (DAM) can be problematic, if not downright painful. I long ago abandoned Apples iPhoto and Photos app, and have been using Lightroom for 8 years or so. A great application.

A problem arrises however when you want to sync to your iPhone from iTunes and maintain a user defined sort order. I finally found a solution using the export feature of LR.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 12.05.35 PM

iTunes window, found in devices > photos

Since I do not use Apples DAM... Photos, I publish files to a folder on my desktop named iPhone. iTunes make use of this folder to sync within iTunes.

The method to maintain a user sort order from LR is to use the export feature in LR.

Create and gather your images into a collection. Order or sort the images you want, if need be, choose User Order from the sort pulldown in LR.

Select all, and choose Export from the file menu. Configure the export window to Rename files using a sequence numbering system, i.e. 100, 101, 102, etc. Choose the pixel size you wish and configure other settings as you please. Export to a folder you have designated as your "sync" folder on your desktop. Name the folder as desired. Save this configuration for future use by clicking on "add" at bottom left of the pane and name it. Click export.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 12.12.51 PM

Lightroom export feature

Launch iTunes, find your device, go to Photos pane, select your folder on the desktop, configure as necessary, and then sync. Upon completion, check the device in Photos app and look in albums to see your images and hopefully in the correct sort order. (Note that I have LR set to overwrite filenames without warning, it is best to overwrite the files rather than any kind of additive solution.

 

Enjoy. Russ


Art Center Features Russ Widstrand

A Q&A from Art Center College of Design's Alumni Tumblr page...

"Sounds of Silence" captured from Art Center's Tumblr page.

"Sounds of Silence" captured from Art Center's Tumblr page.

What have been the greatest rewards and challenges you’ve encountered on your current path? I graduated from ArtCenter in 1982 as a photography major. Since then, incredible challenges have taken place in the photography industry, most of them in the last 15 years. The most impactful shift has clearly been the internet, with its ability to flatten the marketplace through worldwide distribution and democratization… for better or worse. Second to that would be digital technologies, of which I was an early adopter.

Describe a pivotal challenge or decision you’ve made in your career or creative practice? A pivotal decision that most affected my career was leaping with both feet into the world of digital photo-illustration in 1990. This decision garnered worldwide attention for a unique style that I developed.

What are some of your most reliable sources of creative inspiration? Meditation, yoga and journalling would have to be my most reliable source of creative fuel. That and the slow process of waking up often provides inspiration for my visual expression and fine art.

accd_animal_house

ACCD "animal house".

What’s your most vivid or valuable memory from ArtCenter? My most valuable memory from Art Center would be the “animal house” on Marengo that I lived in and shared with artists and designers from all disciplines. The cross pollination that this environment provided was enlightening, creative and fun. That and the smell of fixer from something called a darkroom - now extinct - is what I remember.

My book on the DPG project. Click to view.

Describe your current project, creative practice or career path. 

My creative contours are serpentine. I freelanced for the multinational design community shooting for Fortune 100 companies: developed a unique style of photo-illustration: rebelled against that digital "box" with my “Pear Series” photographs and now participate in the fine art collective the Daily Photo Game. The DailyPhotoGame.com is a visual dialogue amongst 10 professional photographers where a conversation takes place between images.
It is an inspirational challenge every 10 days to respond to another photographer’s work and create my own response in a matter of hours. This short deadline reminds me of Art Center and its creative and unrelenting demands.

Gallery of Widstrand images.

Gallery of Widstrand images on Tumblr. Click to view more.

 

 

What advice would you give a fellow ArtCenter alum considering a similar path? 

Bucking the popular trend in lifestyle photography, I believe that it is how an artist thinks that differentiates them in the context of time.


Two Party System

Two men, back to back, imply seperation and disagreement.

Two men, back to back, imply seperation and disagreement.

Ideas represented through images are my passion in photography. After 40 years in the art form, a pretty picture holds little interest for me, they can be found by the millions on the web.

My approach inclines toward commentary and concept, even in the face of a populace seemingly indifferent to such notions. This image dabbles with the number two, two figures back to back with no common point of view. Two identical shadows cast from nearly identical creatures.

Diving further into the image, the light pole and its shadow acts as a symmetrical divider, further separating the two figures. Ironically, it is that light that illuminates the men, creating their darker shadowed-selves… they cannot see the commonality of its source. So while in the midst of their opposition, this singular light shines equally on both, a potential metaphor to lead them toward unity.

I liken the image to our two party system and the seemingly insurmountable differences that appear to divide our society, politics and country. These differences will again be put to the test through our democratic system in the upcoming presidential election, though I hope we are not heading into more unbridled polarity, bombastic politicians and a populace at odds.


John Cage and Grammy Award

I photographed John Cage - the progressive composer - in the late eighties for the LA Festival of the Arts, Rick Miramontez client. Recently it came to my attention that Mr. Cage - now sadly deceased - was receiving a special merit award from the Grammy’s. The John Cage Trust (JCT) has made extensive use of my image of Mr. Cage and another use was recently licensed for an album cover for Aki Takahashi for her album “Four Walls”.

Album cover portraying John Cage for Aki Takahashi.

Album cover portraying John Cage for Aki Takahashi.

In addition to the uses by the JCT, I reproduced the image of Mr. Cage for an in-house promotion using a unique technique, I called it a painted emulsion. Essentially it is a photographic emulsion hand “painted” onto card stock, exposed to strong sunlight and processed in an old world developer. I used these cards as a mailing promotion to my clients to announce this new process and several commissions resulted from the promotion.

Hand painted photographic emulsion.

As a gesture of congratulations to the JCT for the Grammy award, I donated a dozen or so of these one of a kind original prints that I recently uncovered in a review of my archives and library.

The nearly frameless treatment of the print could be considered an early precursor to my digital collage work.


Mr. Fezziwig’s Party

Shadows cast through holiday snow globes create a darker side of Christmas.

Taking the mundane and creating something extraordinary typifies my approach to photography.

While some might wish to shoot these Christmas snow globes as a subject unto themselves, I found that the shadows of the globes provided a fantasy narrative that I could not have conjured consciously and only through listening to what the subject had to say to me did it become became apparent where the story lay.

These shadows feel like a cross between Dickens and Mary Poppins – with a dash of Tim Burton – animated in characterization and illustrative in their application. I made numerous views of the set-up, some graphic in approach, others like this one rely on my preoccupation with the story in the shadows. The shot was executed on a sunny California winter’s day, the low angle of the sun raked through the globes, casting silhouetted shadows of the figures inside.

While we all wish for good cheer this holiday season, this image reveals the shadow side of these character’s darker form.


The Pear Series

The Pear Series

The Pear Series photographs, works on Polaroid film.

Emotion can be a significant component in a photograph, the medium captures humanity in all of it's raw and varied forms. I chose to express the commonality of our human experience through my "Pear Series" photographs, works on Polaroid.

This body of work allowed me to communicate particular feelings through the vehicle of the fruit. It's feminine form spoke to compassion and nurturing, while the violations present in the work represent the destructive nature of man, both the individual and the species.

One pear is pierced by pins as a metaphor for the pain of the human experience. Shot on Polaroid film.

One pear is pierced by pins as a metaphor for the pain of the human experience. Shot on Polaroid film.

The piece at left, "Prickly Pear" represents the later. The concept came to me, as often was the case, in a quick vision after a long period of gestation. The execution of the image was nearly as quick. In this case, I abandoned notions of beauty and technique for the visceral and the emotional.

The background forms were found objects in my studio. I liked the idea of a contained space, however I also created windows, providing some relief - both literal and conceptual - for the otherwise confrontational nature of the image.

I choose color Polaroid film as my primary medium for these works. The degenerative look of the low resolution Polaroid suited my vision for the Pears; soft, textural and inviting, though again, in contrast to the sometimes conflicted and emotional direction of the series.

Nude PearSplit Pear #2

In some of the series I acquiesce to the notion of beauty, striving to make a pleasing or sensual  photograph while still addressing the concept or emotion. Such is the case with "Nude Pear" and "Split Pear #2", left and right respectively.

Published and Shows:

Exhibition fine art prints are available, email for more details. View the Pear Gallery here.

Please feel free to comment below. Thanks!


Summer Sprinkler

Camera motion combines with slow shutter to abstract water from lawn sprinkler.

Camera motion combines with slow shutter to abstract water from lawn sprinkler.

Water is the theme for the daily photo game and I saw no reason to change it. I liked this image, shot in Montana for today's game.

I had tons of frames to choose from, but this one suited my vision for a twist on the subject of water. It feels somehow out of place in the scene, a liquid anomaly hanging in space.


The Four Pops

Frozen treats in the style of Wayne Thiebaud

I have always been a fan of the painters Wayne Thiebaud and Paul Wonner. They both glorify everyday objects and lift them, through their vision and skill, to the heights of art. Such was the inspiration for my image, shot and submitted for today’s Daily Photo Game.

Robert’s cool image “Shruburbia” gave me the numerical beginnings of my image, the count of four. Add to that, the 102º heat wave this weekend in Portland and what better way to cool down than with an ice cold popsicle. This childhood treat brings me back to my youth and their playful colors dovetailed nicely into my vision for this pop art image.

A quick run to the fabric store for some bright vinyl, build and light the set and cajole the unruly popsicle to stand upright… stay popsicle, stay. Of course, there is the melt factor. As is often the case with art, my initial notion of 4 similar colored popsicles was not to be, they melted by the time I got this figured out. So onto the backups, these green one’s and the twist of the one, off-colored treat… as a bit of whimsy. It was not until I viewed Robert’s and my image together that one can see the happy accident of how these two images mimic each other in pattern.

There is no photoshop trickery here, no compositing, the only edit was to remove some supporting monofilament line. How-to video on YouTube can be viewed here... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ha_0v9wK4B4

Photographers note: The proliferation of digital cameras, the internet and social sharing, devalue the earnest work of professional photographer’s efforts… we get lost in the deluge of cat videos and pictures of lattes. Sharing snapshots, no matter how pretty or engaging, hardly compares with the dedication to concept, executed under deadline, and created in thoughtful conversation with a another work of art. Such is the process we ten photographers of the Daily Photo Game engage in daily and I hope you would take a minute and help by liking, commenting and sharing this image with your network. Much appreciated.


Danger Ahead

Danger AheadSatire is a fun thing to play with in photography. It’s something I think about all the time. My image, shot for today’s Daily Photo Game play’s with this notion on a couple of levels.

Our new streetcar in Portland has these cycling “warning” signs along the line, when I first saw them I thought it was a joke (those crazy Portlandia’ns). The implications struck me as ironic, that is to say something that is supposed to be healthy – bike riding – might nearly kill you. The sign is so explicit, it is hard to believe it's real.

I was reminded of these road signs as I mulled on Robert’s bicycle image “The Joker” and the lightbulb went off.

At first I was content with my image straight out of the camera, however, upon closer inspection of the image, I noticed the corse dot pattern used to print the sign. Another flash of inspiration… that dot pattern, the strong primary colors and ironic subject reminded me of Roy Lichtenstein’s work.

My Lichtenstein treatment of the photograph adds yet another layer – a type layer that is – to the original image, taking the piece in a more satirical direction. What struck me in the pairing of these two images was another implied message, that in playing this photograph, I became the joker as well.

Apologies to Mr. Lichtenstein…

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