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Musing December 2016

What’s next?

I have just had the most amazing experience of my professional life! On November 26th Alchemy of Light opened at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. I was completely unprepared for the experience of walking onto the third floor of the museum to be face-to-face with 30-foot banners of my name and images. My work was grouped into three rooms while a fourth was covered with ceiling to floor pictures of me working in my darkroom along with 10 prints from Dr. Li, who had shepherded this project through the governmental maze. The 100+ images (16×20 and 8×20) were beautifully displayed but were almost dwarfed by the sheer size of the walls.

The formal opening ceremony and speeches began at 10 a.m. in the main entrance hall of the museum. (I gave a thank you speech, but not in Mandarin.) The number (and rank) of dignitaries and representatives of every major newspaper and TV station in the country made for a big crowd. An hour long “seminar” was held for about 100 people during which time I answered questions from the curator and the audience. There was a formal lunch with dignitaries from the government, Beijing University and the China National Photography Association. There was a one-hour press conference with more interviews. There was a book signing. There was a formal dinner to end the day. It was 10 p.m. before I was returned to my hotel.

I will probably never have another show in my life that will compare in ceremony or stature to this one. At moments the experience had me speechless and completely overwhelmed but I am so grateful to my hosts for making this exhibit and this experience possible. If I heard it once I heard it a thousand times that “this show is good for Sino-American relations”. Which, in the end, means it wasn’t really all about me, right? I am grateful that my images could be a bridge between two cultures but the reality of this being about something bigger than me makes it easy to return to the every day practicalities of life.

The week before I left for Beijing I was in Alabama to be inducted into the first class of the Alabama Arts Hall of Fame with nine other talented artists (Wes Chapman (dance), EmmyLou Harris (music), Nall Hollis (mixed media) the late Dean Jones (theatre), Bruce Larsen (Sculptor), the quilters of Gee’s Bend (textiles), the late Mildred Nungester Wolfe (painter) and the late Richard Zoellner (painter). This smaller celebration is the result of the collaboration between Athens State University and Calhoun College, which together created the Alabama Center for the Arts. Students from both schools attend classes and work in these two state-of- art spaces for the visual and performing arts. What an opportunity for students and teachers alike!

As I think back on the past two weeks I wonder what’s next? After examining my “life’s work” up to this point and preparing an exhibition of over 100 prints I am still in love with the platinum print. The process still speaks to me and is the way I want my work seen. As I get older the cameras get bigger and heavier so I am beginning to use my digital camera more. I can still make beautiful 16×20 platinum prints from the files I get out of my Fuji X Pro 1 and X Pro 2. (I have several Fuji large format lenses and the digital lenses are equal to any on the market.) I still love working in large format but am now willing to be flexible where necessary.

I still like to work in a project format, that is, to define a topic and explore it deeply. Currently I am in the middle of long-term projects on the Erie Canal and Maine. I will continue to travel and photograph in other places, in the US. (AL, ND, TN, VA) and abroad (China, Japan and Scotland). I hope to get to new places to do my own work and then introduce workshop groups to these locations. I love teaching. Teaching workshops with dedicated and motivated students in interesting locations is something I want to continue doing for as long as it is possible.

I want to continue to make better prints. The more I make the better I get at making them so that means I need to continue printing on a regular basis.

I want to deepen my vision and my understanding of the places that pull me to photograph. I want to understand what calls to me and how I can better bring that calling into a visual presence. I want to keep looking, striving, pushing myself to see stronger and to make better images. As great as these past few weeks have been I want to continue working and creating. I want to be a stronger teacher, to help others make their images better. I don’t want these two events to define a career. I want them to be a comma or semi colon in a career, a time to pause, reflect, gather, and to move on to greater images. I want to continue to experience new challenges and make new discoveries beyond the next horizon and not be focused on what’s in the rear view mirror.

Wishing you all the best this holiday season,

Tillman

 

CPSXXVIII

wrenches

The 2016 Collectors Print Specials were selected from Tillman Crane/Structure to celebrate the 15th anniversary of publication. Each of these images was made in a location where design exceeded purpose and the result is beautiful. Transformed by light these utilitarian spaces become special, often sacred, causing us to pause, rest, reflect, lifting the moment from ordinary to extraordinary.

Wrenches, Chestnut Hill Pumping Stations, MWRA, Boston, MA (plate 8) was made in 1992. These pump stations provided water to the greater Boston area from 1888 until they were taken offline in the 1970’s. The Chestnut Hill reservoir began as a gravity feed system in 1870 but two pumping stations were later added to the site: the Richardsonian Romanesque-style High Service Pumping Station (1888) and the Beaux Arts-style Low Service Station (1901). My father-in-law, Paul Boyd, introduced me to these buildings and I was lucky to photograph them a number of times before the property was sold off for development. Today three engines remain on display in the Waterworks Museum and the rest of the property has been repurposed as commercial and condominiums.

All Collectors Print Specials this year are approximately 5” x7” platinum print, limited to an edition of 25. These images are available for $225.00 ONLY during the month of offer. (This includes shipping to the continental U.S.A. and reflects a 45% savings. Shipping to other locations will be prorated.) The regular price of $500.00 (plus shipping) is reinstated on the first day of the following month. Your print arrives signed, numbered and un-matted – within 30 days of the end of this offer. The specials will be individually available in February, May, August and November.

 Please return the CPS_NOV_XXVIII to me by November 30, 2016 to reserve your copy of this month’s Collectors Print Special (XXVIII). Thank you for your order!

 Tillman

Musing September 2016

Curiosity, Kindness and the Travel Gene

I have (mostly) recovered from my six weeks long Mandarin intensive in Guilin, China. I can honestly say that apart from marriage and parenthood it is the hardest thing I have done in my life. It was also exciting, energizing and totally exhausting.

Unfortunately the day after I returned to Maine I was on another plane to Alabama to be with my mother who was dying. I was blessed to spend some quiet hours with her and share my recent experiences. My mom loved to travel. She organized vacations for our family, often accompanied by the families of her large groups of friends too. After my dad retired they traveled all over the world by boat, train and plane until it became too physically difficult. She was fascinated by my trips because I traveled to places off the beaten path and stayed for longer than a few days. She wanted to hear about these places she hadn’t been, about the people I met, and the local stories that gave her the sense of knowing them better.

As I sat by her bed I told mom about the people, the food, the unrelenting heat, the sounds and smells and how hard the language was for me. She occasionally squeezed my hand when I stopped and I took this to mean she wanted me to tell her more. I told her about the 3 year-old singing the vocabulary song in a restaurant one night and the victory it was for me to understand what she was saying. I described the monastery down the road from the school and how I found solace and peace standing in its quiet confines. I explained to her the traffic and how I learned to cross the street with the crowd no matter what the light said. I shared the challenge of being reduced to ordering my food by pointing, at the picture or sign or the object of my desire, never really sure what I was going to get. I told her about my morning walks with Wolfgang, the only other student near my age, and the little stand where we got hot soy milk and hard boiled eggs for breakfast. I spoke about the young man from Kuwait that I became friends with and my amazement at how quickly he adapted and picked up new words but stopped comparing my inability when I realized he already spoke Arabic, English and a couple of other languages.

Mom loved parks and scenic places. There are several parks in Guilin as well as the Guilin National Park, through which the Lijiang river flows through an area of limestone rock pillars covered in vines and small trees. (These same mountains stretch all the way into north Vietnam.) I told her about Elephant Trunk Park where I met a shaman, who for a donation, blessed me with a year’s good fortune after which I was told to tie a red ribbon to the sacred tree (I did). I told her how I walked to Seven Star Park with its rock formation that is shaped like a camel. (Guilin seemed to have lots of parks with animal shaped rocks.) I talked about how the wild monkeys at the top of one of the mountain trails reminded me of a family story about monkey man. I want to think she smiled at the thought of that story. I droned on and on, sometimes crying as I told her my stories about this latest trip.

I wanted her to see the city streets, which were wide and often tree lined. I described the overly wide sidewalks where the tiny restaurants fed their customers at child-sized tables. All along the sidewalks restaurants were tucked in beside scooter repair shops, mini marts, plumbing/knife/clothing supply stores. Most businesses were small, with only one or two employees.

Mom always wanted to know about the people I met. I told her about the friendliness in the people I met in Guilin. They could say as much in English as I could in Mandarin yet were helpful in a good-humored way. We managed to communicate in spite of times when all I could do was point or indicate my confusion with a shrug of my shoulders. Mom believed in the goodness of people. She believed that if you were kind to others they would return the kindness. That is the way she lived her life, whether in her beloved hometown Decatur or around the world. I’ve followed her lead and it has served me well all these years.

I talked on for hours, not knowing how much she heard me, but hoping she did. I know she was in my heart and head as I was traveling. Death came the next afternoon and we were all blessed to be present to witness her final trip home.

If there is a travel gene in my DNA, I got it from mom. If she had been born in 1983 rather than 1933, I think she would be a world traveler with nothing but a backpack, her passport, and the love of her life, my dad, holding her hand.

As I reflect on both my trip to China and my mother’s death, two lessons become clear:

  1. Be curious about the world around you. Go explore.
  2. Let kindness be the largest and most important thing you take with you.

As I pack to return to Orkney, I will be taking both of my mother’s gifts with me.

Thanks Mom.

Tillman

 

CPS XXVII

img004

The 2016 Collectors Print Specials were selected from Tillman Crane/Structure to celebrate the 15th anniversary of publication. Each of these images was made in a location where design exceeded purpose and the result is beautiful. Transformed by light these utilitarian spaces become special, often sacred, causing us to pause, rest, reflect, lifting the moment from ordinary to extraordinary.

Gauges, Chestnut Hill Pumping Stations, MWRA, Boston, MA (plate 3) was made in 1992. These pump stations provided water to the greater Boston area from 1888 until they were taken offline in the 1970’s. The Chestnut Hill reservoir began as a gravity feed system in 1870 but two pumping stations were later added to the site: the Richardsonian Romanesque-style High Service Pumping Station (1888) and the Beaux Arts-style Low Service Station (1901). My father-in-law, Paul Boyd, introduced me to these buildings and I was lucky to photograph them a number of times before the property was sold off for development. Today three engines remain on display in the Waterworks Museum and the rest of the property has been repurposed as commercial and condominiums.

All Collectors Print Specials this year are approximately 5” x7” platinum prints, limited to an edition of 25. These images are available for $225.00 ONLY during the month of offer. (This includes shipping to the continental U.S.A. and reflects a 45% savings. Shipping to other locations will be prorated.) The regular price of $500.00 (plus shipping) is reinstated on the first day of the following month. Your print arrives signed, numbered and un-matted – within 30 days of the end of this offer. The specials will be individually available in February, May, August and November.

 Please return the CPS_AUG_XXVII order form to me by August 31, 2016 to reserve your copy of this month’s Collectors Print Special (XXVII). Thank you for your order!

All the best

Tillman