Expanding One’s Vision

Since the pandemic put a temporary end to the traditional opening reception for gallery art exhibits, Robert Langdon, owner and curator of the wonderful Emerge Gallery in Saugerties, NY, has held a Zoom gathering to celebrate each of the gallery’s shows, both those held in the physical gallery and those exclusively online at artsy.net. The participating artists each get a few minutes to say something about the work(s) they have in the show, and the public may also attend on Emerge’s YouTube page. These events aren’t easy to organize, and all of us whose work has been chosen for the various shows are grateful to Robert for being so enterprising and going the extra mile for his artists. The Zoom meeting for Fotographia, which is now open exclusively online, was held on April 18. I watched with intense interest because, in addition to presenting my own work, I was curious to see what my fellow photographers are doing.

The ninety minutes I spent watching in front of my laptop has done more for my potential creativity than six months’ worth of courses or workshops on “expanding your photographic horizons” could have done.  I’m not knocking courses or workshops—I’ve benefitted from oodles of them and am very indebted to the teachers. But one thing I’ve now learned about myself is that when it comes to trying something different (Robert’s allusion to how some of his artists have been “challenging themselves” activated something deep in my brain), verbal input coupled with specific assignments doesn’t have a lasting impact on me. I need to do what I did watching the Zoom: absorb other people’s work and let it sink into my subconscious through the “this can be useful” filter. Not “useful” in the sense of something I can imitate, but as something that will inspire and challenge me to go beyond my creative comfort zone in a way that expresses who I am and not my response to a course assignment.

And so I arrived at church early on Monday morning, and the first thing I noticed was the way the light from a stained-glass window was reflected on a wall. Self-dialogue no. 1: “Do I dare go over with my iPhone and photograph it?” “You know that if you don’t, you’re going to be staring at it for the next half-hour watching it fade.” “OK, I’ll do it, to heck with what anyone thinks.”  

The Result

After church, self-dialogue no. 2 took place as I headed to my car: “Go take a walk around the church property, see if there’s anything worth photographing.” “There won’t be, just the same stuff, sun is probably too high anyhow.” “Go anyway.”

I went. The sun was in a good position and I got some nice shots of the light illuminating some of the gravestones in the cemetery. But the real moment of inspiration came when I went around to the front of the church and something said, “Switch to B&W.” No dialogue this time—I did as I was told. My iPhone has a “Noir” setting that I’ve used before with dramatic results, and the stark contrast caused by the sunlight inspired me to make compositions I’d never have thought of if shooting in color or in more conventional light. Here are a few of those:

As a dear friend of mine likes to say, “Trust your intuition; it’s why God gave it to you.”

And my photographs that are on display in the Emerge Gallery’s Fotographia exhibition? I’ll tell you about them in the next post, but meanwhile, please do visit the show at Artsy https://www.artsy.net/emerge-gallery-ny and enjoy everyone’s amazing work.