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Musing June 2017

Big Dreams Make Photographers Great

Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” raises the question in my mind of “When was America great?” I think it’s a valuable question to mull on.

For me, America was great when we dreamed big. In driving to my Virginia workshop I was primarily on the Interstate system of roads. The Interstate system was a big dream, which provided easy transportation for everyone with a car to travel around this country. On the road I listened to “Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon”. In less than a decade, America set out to land a man on the moon and did so! While driving I crossed over and under many rail lines. More than 150 years ago intrepid Americans dreamed of building a railroad from one side of the nation to the other and, again, it was competed in less than a decade. For the last eight years I have photographed a project along the Erie Canal. Two hundred years ago the Erie Canal was known as Clinton’s ditch. It was first derided as a folly yet the project successfully paid back its loans early and opened trade and transportation to the American West.

These things were built and accomplished because somebody dared to dream big. None of these projects were easy to begin, all had their critics, all were expensive, and all overcame unexpected problems and crises. For success each demanded new ways of thinking and discovery to solve the problems.

So what does all this have to do with photography? It is simple. We photographers need to dream, and dream big, about the work we do, the projects we take on and the continuous practice it takes to make our voices heard through our photographs. It doesn’t matter what you choose to dream but that you do so. Following it will be demanding. There will be doubters, there will be critics and there will be those that on the surface seem to support your dream but actually throw up roadblocks.

This is a great time to be a photographer. We have the means to make images using any process or format from Daguerreotype to cell phone. We can produce books, exhibitions, installations and share work using the web in a multitude of ways. Yes, there are millions (if not billions) of photographs being made every day. What’s going to set your images apart from the rest and make them notable?

Start by dreaming big. Big dreams make demands; they require time, expense and creative problem solving. Dreams demand sacrifices but also provide larger than expected rewards. Following your dreams will be harder than you can imagine. They will make demands that you can’t see coming. They will take you to places you never expect to go. Big dreams make you think about what you are doing, question why and how you are doing it and lead you to better understand yourself. Big dreams make you take chances, try new things and meet new experiences head on. Big dreams enrich your experience of life.

Failure is not falling short of accomplishing your dreams. Failure is a lack of dreaming in the first place.

Tillman

June 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Collectors Print Special XXX

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The images in the 2017 Collectors Print Specials are selected from my Olson House portfolio. Andrew Wyeth documented life on this isolated, saltwater farm. He painted Christina, Alvaro and their home as symbols of Maine. I photograph the Olson House because of the light pouring in from the oversized windows, bouncing off the hard surfaces of the rooms. Without the life and vitality of the Olsons, the house lost its appeal for Wyeth and he searched for new inspiration. For me, the inspiration continues as the spectral presence of the past weaves in and out of the light. Different artists… different muses.

The Olson House was gifted to the Farnsworth Museum in 1991. The contents of the house had been removed, including the stove, and the house stood worn and silent. I made Mangle, Olson House, Cushing, ME in 1993. This sink was out in the attached barn. The soft, early morning light created a work of beauty from this simple, utilitarian tool.

All Collectors Print Specials are approximately 5” x7” platinum prints, in editions of 25. The special price of $225.00 is available ONLY during the month of offer and reflects a 45% savings. (Full retail pricing of $500.00 + shipping reinstates on the first day of the following month.) Shipping costs within the continental U.S. is included but prorated to other locations and ME sales tax applies for ME residents. Your print arrives signed, numbered and un-matted – within 30 days of the end of this offer. The next special will be available in August.

A bonus 5thimage is yours when you purchase all four images in this year’s collection. Prints will be sent individually each quarter.

 Please return the following information to me by May 31, 2017 to reserve your copy of this month’s Collectors Print Special. Thank you for your order!

 

Tillman

Musing March 2017

Close Enough isn’t and Good Enough won’t be

I should have two trashcans in my darkroom – one labeled “good enough” and the other “close enough”. When I catch myself thinking a print is “good enough” or “close enough” then the print needs to go into the designated can. This is my own short hand to myself that the print is not up to my standards. It reminds me to question if I’m rushing to get the job done by cutting corners, just to be finished with the print.

Each of the past 10 years Donna and I have aimed to hang completely new work in our home gallery. We have 65 spaces for images ranging in size from 5×7 to 16×20 and sizes between. It takes several months to go from choosing which the images for work prints, selecting from these those for the exhibit and then making the final prints. Throughout the process we continue to tweak the images, print choices and location in the gallery during our (euphemistically called) “blue tape period”.

We’re now at the point where we will title, date and sign prints before they leave for matting. When they return we will take down the old work, frame by frame, clean and install the new image and hang it in place. This requires a full week of careful attention, but the hard decisions have been made so it is not difficult. The best part is twofold: showing the work to people and getting to live surrounded by it for the year.

The work this year is primarily from my trips to China and Japan. Our open gallery/studio day this year is June 17th and you are all invited. I will be giving platinum printing demonstrations throughout the day so come on by anytime between 9 and 5.

About halfway through the editing, scanning and proof printing there was an update to Adobe Photoshop CC which changed the curves for my digital negatives. As often happens, this caused me to stop and reevaluate my digital negative procedure. It took me about ten days to sort everything out but now the prints are looking right to me again. Many prints are still being torn up and thrown away but not because the curves aren’t working.

When I looked at those earlier prints and said “not good or close enough” I knew something wasn’t right. Probably no one but myself would have noticed the difference without looking at two prints side-by-side, but I did and had to do something about it. This is why I’ve always said one of my most important darkroom tools is an industrial sized trash can!

Why do I think this is an important story to share? It is simple. What each of us is doing is our art. Most of us aren’t going to get rich making art (though some artists do and other people win the lottery… are the odds similar)? The rest of us make art, photographs, paintings, or pottery because it brings us pleasure and because we have to. Something inside us would die if we couldn’t express ourselves through our art. We do it because it allows us to tell the world how we see things, what we define as beautiful and about what we are passionate.

There is a difference between, “this is the best I can do today” and “this is good enough or close enough”. As artists we are constantly learning, reinventing, and remaking our craft. As we improve our craft, our vision expands and we see new potential and possibilities for our materials and expression. The more art we make the more our craft improves and our vision deepens. It is an upward growth spiral.

Accepting “close enough” or “good enough” is a slow death spiral. The “best I can do today” inspires growth. Today’s “best” often goes in tomorrow’s trashcan. Stopping at “good enough” can leave you discouraged and disappointed because you know deep down inside it’s not your best. By refusing to accept “good enough” or “close enough” you will push yourself to better work and that is all that matters.

Our mothers’ had it right, “Do the best you can”. It sets a high standard but it will keep our hearts and spirit alive.

All the best,

Tillman

 

 

 

 

Collectors Print Special XXIX

Stove_pipe

Welcome to the first 2017 Colelctors Print Special! These images  are selected from my Olson House portfolio. Andrew Wyeth documented life on this isolated, saltwater farm. He painted Christina, Alvaro and their home as symbols of Maine. I photograph the Olson House because of the light pouring in from the oversized windows, bouncing off the hard surfaces of the rooms. Without the life and vitality of the Olsons, the house lost its appeal for Wyeth and he searched for new inspiration. For me, the inspiration continues as the spectral presence of the past weaves in and out of the light. Different artists… different muses.

The Olson House was gifted to the Farnsworth Museum in 1991. The contents of the house had been removed, including the stove, and the house stood worn and silent. I made Stove Pipe, Olson House, Cushing, ME in 1992. I loved the angle of the light coming across the wall, leaving just a hint of the door to the barn off to the left.

All Collectors Print Specials are approximately 5” x7” platinum prints, in editions of 25. The special price of $225.00 is available ONLY during the month of offer and reflects a 45% savings. (Full retail pricing of $500.00 + shipping reinstates on the first day of the following month.) Shipping costs within the continental U.S. is included but prorated to other locations and ME sales tax applies for ME residents. Your print arrives signed, numbered and un-matted – within 30 days of the end of this offer. The next specials will be individually available in May, August and November.

A bonus 5thimage is yours when you purchase all four images in this year’s collection. You can pre-order all four images when you order the February print special. We can keep a credit card number on file for the year or you can be invoiced and pay by check. Prints will be sent individually each quarter.

 Please return the order form to me by February 28, 2017 to reserve your copy of this month’s Collectors Print Special (XXIX). Thank you for your order!

I hope you enjoy this year’s selections!

Tillman