Time Flies

Just renewed my inLiquid membership and realized that a year had come and gone since I was first juried and accepted as an inLiquid artist. It made me think about all that has happened since that time … I had a couple of shows and prepared for an upcoming one in Lisbon, taught my darkroom workshop and my two courses at the Center for Learning in Retirement for two semesters, met with my Photo Chat group during our monthly Sunday get-togethers over coffee, led a number of photo walks, visited a number of great museum exhibits, and even made some good photographs.

Now that I think about it, that’s a lot, given everything else I have going on in my life. Fact is, that even though I got all of this done there’s so much I more wanted to accomplish that I didn’t. Why? Because I got caught up in a lot of time and brain wasters outside of photography and at its edges that just didn’t matter … taking precious time away from creative opportunities that do matter.

Sound familiar? Have you fallen into this trap? When it comes right down to it, wasting time … and mental energy … on non-essential things that don’t matter and are counterproductive to your overall and creative wellbeing is not a good thing. I know this now because in retrospect I’ve done a lot of it!

In the end there’s only so much time we have, so I want to do something really creative … make more time for meaningful photographs. And I’m not waiting to January 1st! No! I’ve decided to take stock of all this right now, and work to clear away all the non-worthwhile activity and focus on what is important to me. So should you.

A New Show

My one-person show opened at the Bodhi Coffee, located in the lovely and historic Society Hill neighborhood in Center City Philadelphia. It will run for approximately eight weeks. While it’s a small exhibit it focuses on some of my favorite photographs of people.

So if you find yourself in Philadelphia and have a spare moment, please stop by, have a cup of coffee and take a look at my photographs. Send me a note and maybe we can get together to discuss photography over something hot!

Bodhi Coffee is located at 410 S 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147.

Forth Photo Walk Meet Up on November 12th

We are going to take another break from doing our periodic Photo Chat Get-Togethers and instead get together for another Photo Walk Meet Up!

Yes, how about getting together to make some photographs of statues and other fascinating art forms around the Michener and Mercer Museums in historic Doylestown, PA. There are plenty of photographic opportunities from the straight forward to creative surrounding the two buildings that happen to be right across the street from one and other!

Well, if this sounds interesting and fun, how about joining me on Sunday, November 12th, at 10am. We will meet in the parking lot of the Doylestown Public Library, located at 150 S Pine St, Doylestown, PA 18901.

Photographers of all levels are welcome.

Email at info@michaelmarksphoto.com or call me at 215-348-9171 if you are interested.

I look forward to meeting you!

Takeaways from the A Time to Break Silence: Pictures of Social Change Exhibit

This past week I took my two photography classes from Delaware Valley University’s Center for Learning in Retirement to see a small but meaningful social documentary exhibit at the James A. Michener Art Museum here in Doylestown. There always seems to be a great photography exhibit at the Michener during the semester so it really works out well for what I want accomplish, which is to show the students the many photographic opportunities that surround them.

A Time to Break Silence: Pictures of Social Change is being presented to coincide with the 50th anniversary Martin Luther King’s famous speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” and includes striking black and white photographs made primarily during the 1960s. Civil rights, anti-war and anti-nuclear protest, racist acts and other signs of that turbulent time. Almost all the photographs were made by two Bucks County based photographers, Edmund Eckstein and Jack Rosen. Prior to visiting the show I wasn’t familiar with either photographer’s work, which is sad. The work they produced was wonderful and important! One image made in a Sears department store shows rows of televisions displaying the news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination and a anguished young woman sitting in front with her head in her hands. Another particularly troubling and dramatic picture of a nighttime Klu Klux Klan cross burning refuses to fade from my memory.

I walked away from the exhibit thinking of the power and character of black and white film based images and their ability to capture raw emotion. The photographs also served as a strong reminder that in 50 years some things haven’t changed very much.

A Time to Break Silence: Pictures of Social Change Exhibit runs through February 4, 2018.

Ray McSavaney, Explorations: A Photographic Journey

If you are a large format photographer steeped in the “West Coast” School, you probably know about Ray McSavaney. My guess that he is not that well known by the general photographic world and that is a true shame because the black and white images he made of the natural and urban landscape are sublime. This past week I shared his wonderful book Explorations: A Photographic Journey with my two photography classes. Why? Because I continue to tell my students that they need become more open to the photographic possibilities surrounding them. The problem is that we continuously pass by tremendous beauty and meaningful subject matter on a daily basis without thinking twice, and that’s sad.

Published in 1992, the book was selected by the American Institute of Graphic Arts as “one of the 50 best books of the year”, but it is also one of the best books in my photographic library! A major retrospective of his work up until that time, Explorations includes a wide range of subjects from abandoned industrial sites in Los Angeles, to ancient Anasazi ruins, to pristine landscape scenes in Yosemite. Many would walk by the majority of these wonderful photographic opportunities without a second thought. Fortunately McSavaney did not.

McSavaney is a true master.  Each image is wonderfully seen and exquisitely printed.

Included in this absolutely printed book is a very fine forward by photographer and writer John Nichols and a number of insightful essays by McSavaney himself. Finally, there is a useful technical section describing McSavaney’s tools and methods.

The book can still be purchased new through John Sexton’s website $60. It’s a bargain and would be for twice that amount.

Simply said, this is a book that should be in every photographer’s library.

I am fortunate to own a signed copy. It’s a true treasure that I always will cherish and learn from.

Finding Your Passion

I have written a number of times about doing what really matters to you when it comes to your photography … no matter what others think or what is currently in vogue. I’ve also talked about passion a few times. In an entry concerning a successful photographic life, I mentioned that while listening to an interview of several very successful people, I learned that it’s essential to discover what you are passionate about doing, find out what you need to do in order to make it happen, and never settle for something less.

After an outing with my photo class the other day I started to think about this a little more. It’s incredibly exciting when you make a photograph you really care about. Believe me … when it happens you will know the feeling! Sure you can get lucky and stumble into an unplanned opportunity and come up with a keeper, but I think in order to make more photographs that move you – both when you trip the shutter and when your first see the image emerge in the developer – you need to really determine once and for all what you care about. What is it that truly excites you? What compels you? And what are you truly passionate about? Landscape, architecture, nature, portraits or the street – it doesn’t matter! Figure out what it is sooner rather than latter! Then search for it. If you’re driven and really care, you will soon discover very compelling subject matter right where you live … and more often! Great … now do the best job you can to capture its essence and make pictures that are truly yours!

October Photo Chat Get-Together

Yes, how about joining us and getting together to chat about our photographs and the stories behind them. What was your intent in making the photograph, what were you trying to say, was it a success? If you made your print, were there any particular challenges involved?

This is not a discussion focused on gear — the idea is to share insights, get constructive feedback, learn a few things, relax and make new friends!

Well, if this sounds interesting and fun, how about joining me in beautiful downtown Doylestown, PA, in the heart of scenic Bucks County, and we will get together over a cup of coffee.

Photographers of all levels are welcome.

Bring only a couple of prints to discuss. Obviously the prints should be Black and White and should be film based!

The get together will be on Sunday, October 22nd, 10:00-11:30am at the Zen Den coffee shop, located on ‪20 Donaldson Street, Doylestown, PA 18901.

Email or call me at 215-348-9171 if you are interested. First come first serve!

I look forward to meeting you!

Am I An Analog Luddite?

Here’s a newsflash. If you look at my galleries and read my weekly entries you will notice that I’m a black and white film photographer who makes silver gelatin prints in my darkroom. I have done this almost 50 years. I have only exposed a handful of roles of color film and have never made a digital photograph for personal work. I have taken digital photos for eBay and the like, but that’s it. I’ll submit that doesn’t count. I continue to do what I do for the many reasons I have stated here before and don’t have any plans to change my way of doing things. There is something very pure, authentic, and tactilely and visually rich … to me … about black and white photographs printed on silver gelatin paper.

That’s just how I feel, but I would certainly switch to color and digital capture if I felt that this would provide an ability for me to express myself better and provide greater joy in creating the finished product. That won’t happen so I will continue on as I have.

Interestingly enough … at least to me … I only listen to vinyl LPs. And I listen to them using tube electronics. Yes, my preamp and monoblock amplifiers (one amplifier for each channel) use vintage tubes instead of solid-state transistors. I have done this for almost 50 years. I once purchased an expensive CD player that even incorporated a tube circuit, but after one week of listening I returned it to the dealer. I listen to CDs in my car, but that’s it. I’ll submit that doesn’t count. I continue to do what I do for reasons similar to why I use black and white film and make my own prints in my darkroom, and don’t have any plans to change my way of doing things. There is something very pure, authentic, and tactilely and sonically rich … to me … about listening to vinyl and the entire vinyl experience (the record itself, the cover, album jacket and other materials that often accompany the record), especially when played through a tube-based system.

That’s just how I feel, and I would certainly switch to transistors and digital listening if I felt that this would provide an ability for me to have a more tonally rich and engrossing listening experience. That won’t happen so I will continue on as I have.

So what’s going on here? Am I an analog Luddite? I really don’t think so. I do use an iPhone and a laptop after all.

Actually, new is not always better than old … even though the marketing types want us to think so. You often hear commercials for products saying, “it’s new”. When you get to the store it’s the same thing written on the box. The idea is if you need to make a selection you will be swayed by the message of being new. It must work or they wouldn’t do it. Fact is new often doesn’t taste better or work better. Often it’s cheaper made, or has fewer contents for the same price or more.

In the case of digital image capture and digital sound, new technologies have emerged thanks to microelectronics. In most cases the microelectronics revolution has provided great advancements and I would be a fool to think otherwise. It’s just not for everything. Maybe easier, with more features, but not always better, especially when it comes down to what really is emotionally important in art and listening pleasure. Not as a replacement for black and white film and silver prints, and not as a replacement for vinyl played through tube gear … at least not for me.