The Silk Art Gallery is in an old heritage building in the historic downtown of Port Moody here in B.C.. The only lens I had with me was the new one I had just bought but 50mm was too long to get the whole building in. So I went home to get my 16-35mm zoom. By the time I got back the light was fading. It was the “Golden Hour”. I like the picture. It needs work but its O.K..
I have talked before in these pages about how much I enjoy art galleries and how I feel they benefit me as a photographer. More generally, I feel that every photographer has much to learn from the graphic artists. When I have the opportunity anywhere I love to stop and look at paintings or prints and, if possible, talk to the artist who made them. (For example, in “Hangin’ with the Artists” I discuss the artist Joanne Hastie who I met in 2017.)
This past week I was in Port Moody, a small town near where I live, to see a man about a lens. I found him on Craig’s List and he was selling a Canon EF 50, f1.8 II. I met him in Port Moody in the historic part of town and the lens turned out to be great. It was in like new condition and it was in the original box, with all of the original packaging material and the instructions and registration card. For a collector it was a gem and for a photographer it was a really useful lens (see the picture below). His price was most reasonable so, after trying it out on my camera to make sure it was operational, I bought it. Another treasure for the collection.
The Silk Art Gallery from the street taken with the new lens I had just bought.
Afterwards, walking to my car, I saw a shop in an historic old building right beside my car. I had not noticed it when I parked. The sign out front that said “Silk Art Gallery”. Well, what could I do? It was meant to be. In I went! It was an amazing space!
I am very sensitive to lighting and how it is used. I am old. My earliest recollections are of Fort Langley in the 1940’s. I grew up in old buildings and they always seem to welcome me home. This gallery hit all my buttons at once: the light, the wood floors, the decor, it all spoke to me. It was an added bonus that on the walls was a collection of paintings by Valerie Butters, a painter living in Pemberton, B.C.. Her large floral canvases of ….. what? …. semi abstract flower arrangements in bold wonderful colors filled the walls with shapes and colors. It was all wonderful!
This little gallery is the kind of space I would choose if I were to open a photo studio. I have often thought of that but, I think I’m a poor businessman and should stay away from such ventures. Besides, it would detract from my photography which already suffers from lack of time.
Valerie creates large canvases. They would fill a living room or dining room wall with beauty. There is no way one could ignore this art.
This is one of Valerie’s paintings borrowed from her website. If you click on the picture you will be taken to her website where you can learn about her and see more of her work.
I am always amazed by people who do these things. It doesn’t matter what. It is a bold step to open an art gallery. It is very brave to create a piece of art and put it out there where people who cannot create resent your ability. I often think that I sit at home and make my art but don’t have the strength of these people who go out and do it publicly. The world is so much more beautiful for what they do.
On the walls were a dozen or more canvases, large and full of color. I have complained about the limitations of cameras before and looking at her work brought all that back to me. Cameras simply do not give you the freedom to splash light and color about. The lenses are too sharp, the details in the images too numerous, the color pallet restricted to what is before the camera. The artist, on the other hand, is free to create it all exactly as they see it in their minds without the technology getting in the way. I envy that ability. My Canon camera is so confining. It is like trying to create art in a straight jacket.
Valerie’s paintings are alive with color. The flowers are approximate swirling shapes but the mind has no difficulty filling in the blanks. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we photographers could do that with our cameras!
And that brings as back to the subject in my last article here, “But is it Art?”. To try to do what Valerie has done would mean deconstructing a photographic image in post processing. You would really have to tear into it. But that brings us head to head with an argument amongst photographers about what is proper photography. In that article I mentioned the inaugural meeting of the Royal Photographic Society in London on 20 January 1853 where one Sir William Newton, a miniature portrait painter, complained that his lenses were too sharp and that he could not capture the atmosphere he wanted as a painter. He suggested setting lens slightly out of focus as a means of creating the atmosphere he sought. That brought howls of protest from the photographic community and ever since there has been a school of thought that artistic expression must be found in “real” images. Ah, there is the straight jacket I mentioned.
I see it differently. I create my art, as all graphic artists do, by laying down paint on paper or canvas. I create the image not with a pencil, lithographers stone, or brush but with a camera and I apply the paint with an inkjet printer. It is my feeling that I can manipulate those ink drops in any way that pleases me and the final image is as legitimate as any. Whether or not it is valid “art” will depend on the judgement of my viewers. Whether or not it is real photography is not my problem!
I agree that I cannot manipulate photographs this way if I am creating documentary archives or reporting the news. In these cases, and in some other applications, the viewer is entitled to rely on the accuracy of the representation. But when I create my “art” any treatment is legitimate. There is no rule that photography must conform to be valid. Some may not like my work, it may not be called photography by some, none of that is my concern: it is my vision to which I am entitled.
OK, so, can I create anything like Valerie has done? Well, that is an interesting challenge.
What I did was chose two images from last years pictures from my wife’s garden and set about working with my witch’s cauldron of software and tried to be a painter. I did’t take the time to chose carefully images that would be suitable to this treatment and I did not spend overly long working on each image. My goal was to see if it was possible to emulate Valerie’s work at all (and to write this post)..
These are daisies from Susan’s garden that I took last summer. This image is actually two images that I have combined to create the composition I wanted. I think this image needs more punch – maybe contrast, maybe more saturation. Definitely something. The great thing is that I can control that as the spirit moves me.
When I began work I immediately realized that my images are all shot from above, to capture the faces of the flowers, and so the backgrounds were dark. But Valerie’s images are on white backgrounds which seems much better suited to this type of treatment. For that I will have to wait till this coming spring and summer to complete this experiment. Then I shall take suitable images with a white background inserted behind the flowers or I will pick some blossoms and arrange them on a white background and then photograph them.
Nevertheless, I think that my attempts are promising. I have used different techniques in each image so the results look different. But, overall, I think the images have benefited from the blurring of the detail which has allowed the blossoms’ form to assume more importance.
Nevertheless, I think that my attempts are promising. I have used different techniques in each image so the results look different. But, overall, I think the images have benefited from the blurring of the detail which has allowed the blossoms form to assume more importance.
Black eyed Susans are a great flower. They bloom in the spring and those big yellow blossoms are in the garden till mid fall. I have even seem them looking good poking up through the snow.
Well, I have fallen short of Valerie’s flowing free forms but it’s a start. I have every intention of following up on these ideas when I can find a suitable white background.
And so, that is why I like art galleries. They are full of ideas and enjoyment. If you are a photographer and you don’t go to art galleries every chance you get, well, that is your loss. And the Silk Art Gallery is a great place to start. Very nice people, a beautiful space, and great ideas. Visit their web site, visit Valerie’s website, and get learning!