Too Many Images.... Trials and Errors
Years ago - I think it must have been a New Year’s Resolution somewhere along the line - I decided I needed to create unified portfolios, serieses of images that could be presented together - gallery worthy or some such. I have continued to work on different concepts and have tried to push boundaries, sometimes even attempting social commentary. This year I haven’t had as much time to work on my portfolios which makes it easier to look upon them with a more objective eye and maybe in the case of the See Currents portfolio, work out some kinks.
The concept behind See Currents was to illustrate currents of air. How air blows and carries. I really have no idea where these ideas come from and I do end up paying dearly for them. My first thought was to use fabric to display currents of air. I bought a LOT of chiffon, thinking, THIS is a flowy fabric easily picked up by a zephyr and beautiful to photograph.
We went on a trip out west to visit family in Palm Springs, CA a grand opportunity to photograph with beautiful landscapes. Of course I had to take my fabric stash, or at least a little bit. One of our “excursions” was to Joshua Tree National Park, a long hike, schlepping my ever heavier camera gear, provided one set of images - unusually focused on me, my "mini-me" and my purple chiffon. I am ok with that little series, the wind was great off of the edge of the cliff. Perfect ‘proof of concept’ type of deal. However, not exactly what I was fishing for.
Next we went out to Salton Sea, since we had never been there, I had only a vague idea of where I wanted to be to get closer to my concept. Turns out Bombay Beach is the place with weird sculptures and terrific ghostly light. In this scene my youngest daughter was my leading lady as I placed her on abandoned abutments and ruins. We had gotten to Bombay Beach in a VERY round about way and it was really past ‘golden hour’. This forced me to really push my camera settings and post-processing as well. With all my schlepping of gear, I didn’t bring the tripod -Note to self- it’s ALWAYS something you dreamed not necessary that you will need. The slog and hours and hours of driving did produce some images that were satisfactory, Mother Nature provided the breeze was blowing so as to lay my chiffon fabric upon its back. However, not exactly what I was fishing for.
With the questionable success of the Cali pics, I moved forward to find other ways to communicate with the currents. Ribbon… Some folks know that when we lived in New York, we had a Cat Toy business. What? say what??? Why yes, a cat toy business. We made cat toys and sold them to pet shops around the country. We had little mice filled with catnip and fishing poles with catnip, we had catnip candies, and catnip fish, catnip pillows and catnip bags. It was fun and not so fun at the same time. We did this for a number of years and actually made a living. That little business kept me home with the kids - I would put those kids to work making mice - good cheap labor if you can find it- a trip to Wegmans and a pile of candy was generally pay enough. I do take credit for their incredible work ethic, now that they are grown. ANYWAY… because of the cat toy business and its eventual foundering, we have a weird array of materials in bulk - talk to me if you want and exorbitant amount of fleece - because after 15 years I still have oodles. SO - I had tons of ribbon that we used for mouse tails and candy ties…. So what do you do with a zillion rolls of ribbon? Why make sticks with a zillion strands of ribbon of course. And since it was yellow ribbon, we got a yellow dress to match and went out on location. No natural wind would bend our way this time… I figured why not use the leaf blower… I mean if you need to move air that seems a natural choice - I think. Felipa was my model on this one, the golden hour at the ready . My next problem arose in that I didn’t have an operator for the leaf blower. Cue the small child - I kind of think I choose to forget certain things - like how I torture my kids. Rosa must have been ten, tops and that would make Victor 7 or 8 - yea, so not totally able to maneuver the leaf blower… but we did get some shots out of that session. Once again, not exactly what I was trawling for or had in mind but certainly exhibiting the currents of air in their bustle of being tormented by a leaf blower.
With the idea that the leaf blower had enough power to bend air to my will, I kept moving… My next willing model was Victoria and I wanted to use her yoga ability and combine that grace with that of the airstream. This time armed with white chiffon and a beautiful fountain in Cary, NC, I employed Rosa and Victor again as my benders of the air. My model, not quite enthused with the white jumpsuit - some Amazon purchases don’t always have the quality one desires. With challeges always at the ready; model in yoga poses - check, kids manning the leaf blower - check, camera woman at the ready - check, hotter than a witches armpit that day - a resounding check. After a few rounds, the exasperated photographer, model and windblowers, did get some images… However, not specifically what I was angling for.
After this session I had to reevaluate.... The leaf blower just didn’t seem to have the punch needed for subsequent sessions. I was also not happy with the amount of fabric I had used and moved. Never to be deterred I continued on, determined to hone my concept.
There was this red dress that Felipa and I found in the thrift store, it was loverly and looked good on her and there was chiffon to match. With my grandiose concept in mind, I bought, oh gosh, how many yards of chiffon - easily 40 or 50 yards - I am not going to go in to the studio, digging and measuring, you will just have to take my word for it. To boot, we had a roof top in Greensboro to work with. - Check, check, check - Now I needed an air mover because again my luck isn’t so great as to get breezes when I ask for them. I rented one of those huge fans - for industrial air moving, the ones on wheels, that are stupid heavy, yea, one of those… jammed it into the Pacifica - the old one - not the new fancy van one- which means the fan was about 4 feet in diameter. SO, we get to the location and since I was maximizing this day and the location, I shot for a local band first (another story - coooool images!). So by the time we got to the fan, fabric and model, time was flying more than any wind - Felipa’s brand new - at the time - boyfriend helped haul the big ass fan up three flights of stairs. We got to the roof, set up the colossal fan, got Felipa into position and just barely had enough light….again with the camera settings and post processing to cheat a little more light out of that evening. A four foot diameter fan will not properly move 50 yards of chiffon… It did alright, and we got some images but just not exactly what I was fishing for. In the dark, we trudged down the stairs with an enormous, leaden fan and jammed it back into the Pacifica and move on… A little defeated.
That Greensboro shoot was about 2 or 3 years ago (’21 - I was wonderfully busy, ’20 - was Covid, so ’19? I suppose, yes?). I haven’t touched that portfolio… See Currents lays latently within the folds of my grey matter. I sometimes ponder the fabric… perhaps, tulle, nylon? Perhaps, the time of year when winds churn. Serendipity hasn’t presented me with any new roof tops. I accept my relative insufficiency. The frustration serves as a tool to learn and we just have to plow through these things. That's part of life - if everything was easy why would we do it? I will not accept the defeat. I will put it on my list of resolutions for 2022, to revisit this portfolio - wipe clean the slate - and begin with renewed vigor as sometimes we must. Maybe all that which came before was to bring me to a new junction where my imagination meets success. Maybe 2022 will bring a lot of new vigor upon its breezes for all of us. Creative flood gates opened anew.