This was a photo I took of the Portland Head Lighthouse in Portland, Maine, last year while I was visiting the school in Rockport to see if I was still interested in attending there. I had a friend call me early on a Saturday morning to say he was driving up to Ogden to enter some images in a black & white imagery competition at the Eccles Community Art Center. He volunteered to take a print up if I wanted, I figured why not. Due to the short time frame, whatever I had already finished was what I could choose from. This is the image I entered, so I decided to post it and share some stories/philosophies about it.
I had a full day to kill, so I decided to drive the coast. Knowing the fame of the Portland Head Lighthouse, I decided to stop by. It was a flat gloomy day, so the light was kind of boring, but I decided to pull out the camera anyway. I wandered around for awhile to find the best angle. When I finally settled on a spot, I set up my camera and began to photograph. I had to straddle the chain link fence to get in the position I wanted. After I took a picture, I looked down and noticed that someone had scribbled "put camera here" with a little arrow on the fence railing. I noticed it because the arrow was pointing at the center post of my tripod.
I was now torn. Obviously, I was not the first to stand at this spot, so do I take the picture? Will it be bad or derivative simply due to the fact that somebody beat me to the punch. I decided to take some pictures anyways. Herein lies my dilemma: (That I leave open and do not provide an answer to.) the age old question about originality and creativity. So often a picture is pronounced good if it is shown in a way not seen before. So often I find people trying to be different for difference's sake because that is what they have heard qualifies as good.
I have never seen harm in taking a picture of something that has already been photographed, even if it is from the same spot. I have seen many photographers who will return to the same spot trying to capture something that they missed previously or to create something dramatically different despite its location being identical. Another variation on rephotographing a subject would be Mark Klett (*one of his images posted below) and his Yosemite in Time book where he went back and attempted to take photographs from the same spot at the same time of year and day of famous images by Ansel Adams, Edward Muybridge, Carlton Watkins, and others. Klett then took these images and created fascinating juxtapositions of then and now.
I find irony that in music if someone 'covers' a song, it is completely acceptable and often considered a tribute, in photography it is redundant and uncreative. (Unless you simply take a picture of someone else's photograph, then it is ok and creative, aka Richard Prince.) In training for music one is encouraged to listen to and then try to emulate people you admire, in photography it has already been done and don't do it again. C.S. Lewis provided an interesting insight that he is surprised that people don't read books over and over again because they have already done it. But people eat the same meals over and over again because they tried it once and discovered that they liked it, so they choose to enjoy it again.
Photography operates on a different standard than the rest of the world. In basketball if someone disregards the rules to 'improve' the game then that person would not be allowed to play. Those who become good are those who understand the rules and improve themselves in relation to them, not the other way around. Certain aspects in academia encourage those in photography to disregard all they know and create something new, or to be original, or show me a new way of seeing, or recommendations along these same lines. Is this a strength of photography or a weakness?
I have often wondered if the masters we admired have not fully exhausted there visions. If they had 20 more creative years, would their work be considered redundant or would they extend their vision to levels that we have yet to deem possible? In other disciplines the practitioners are encouraged to stand on the shoulders of giants and then reach further. As artists we are encouraged to constantly reinvent even ourselves or we are destined to become obsolete. We profess to show people new ways of looking at the world, but when I look at the world and then at photography, I think we are more concerned with reinventing the world than in actually seeing the world. Is that why we are considered creative?
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Posted by Travis Lovell at 10:48 PM
Friday, January 18, 2008
The Utah Valley University faculty exhibit is here again. It will be up until February 15th at the UVSC Woodbury Gallery in the University Mall. It is a nice opportunity for the students to be able to see what kind of work their faculty is producing and critique us for a change. I will post my images that I included here but don't miss out on seeing the rest of the exhibit before it comes down.
Two images came from my Religious Imagery project and the other was from my Utah Lake project. I would be interested to hear what you think about the images if you would like to comment.
Posted by Travis Lovell at 4:39 PM
Mike Slade, who has been teaching the still life photography class at BYU, approached me about participating in an exhibit with him. He had a call for entry from anyone that created images in a panoramic format. He told me that the idea for this show was spurred on by his work which was being printed as 7x17 inch images, and a selfish desire to see other photographers images and to see how his work fit into the larger genre of panoramic photography.
It also intrigued me by an additional concept that he had for the show. He wanted the photographers who submitted to also see the collected work so as part of submitting work to the show he asked each photographer to also find a venue to exhibit the show. This enabled the show to be a traveling exhibit that potentially could visit all over the globe. All prints where not to be matted or framed to further aid in the nomadic nature of the show.
Even with the earliest participants submitting he already had images that were out of this world. (No really, one was taken on Mars by the Mars Rover and another was from the Moon taken during the Apollo 17 mission.) The first exhibit is currently up at the Twain Tippets Gallery in Logan, UT and will move to the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City the first of February. More participants have already submitted and hopefully many more venues will appear as well. You can visit the website hosting the work *here*.
Here is the image that I submitted. It is from my Utah Lake project and can be seen in context with other images on my website and also on a separate post on this blog.
Posted by Travis Lovell at 3:42 PM
For those that may be curious here's my family. This picture was taken two summers ago during our family reunion. I basically told everyone sometime during the weekend I would randomly drag us outside with no notice and take the picture. I'm not a fan of the family pictures where everybody dresses up in matching clothes and takes themselves out of their environment. This was taken in front of one of the few still standing barns behind our house. I thought it an appropriate location. This picture did have to be photoshoped a little but I also did this a little different. Instead of compositing all the perfect pictures of everyone I picked the random and most telling about their personalities. I thought this showed our family better. I'm in the bottom left hand corner.
I did try to form a gentle compromise style wise. The last family picture I made I didn't pull any punches. I photographed the family at the end of a long day tearing down parts of the farm after a fire started some of the demolition for us. We were all filthy, tired and looking fabulous. I still remember my little sister Tianna's reaction upon seeing it. She looked at it then back at me and said, "I hate you!" with her smirky grin. That was when I knew I had succeeded in capturing our family in a way that showed more than people usually want to show willingly about themselves.
Posted by Travis Lovell at 11:54 AM