Monthly Archives: July 2012

Parish Kohanim – An Explorer of Light


Parish got his start as a still life photographer. He stated that it was the first time that he really learned patience and the beauty of that patience for the process of taking a simple object and illuminating it; finding out the quality of a simple object. He said that not every object in the world has to be commercial or glamorous, but you can make it what you want through lighting and structure.

Within Parish’s photographs there exists a great spectrum of commercial work. He has done work for many different companies including IBM, AT&T, Coca Cola, DeBeers Diamonds, Sony, Polaroid, Canon USA, Hanes, Fossil and Kodak. His work evokes the eyes and interests of people. He is an explorer of light. The overall essence of his commercial photography makes Parish stand out from the rest and offers a visual story into what commercial photography is. His works are of great quality, being crisp and vibrant with attention to detail. His studies of light and color reflect so much within his photographs and his works show an extensive effort as well as a solid commitment to photography.

It is very true that photographers are an overall collective group of artists. We are patient, hard-working, and we are very much dedicated to our craft and to our images. A lifetime of photography work is a physical representation of not just what we do for a living in our lives, but it makes up who we are as individuals and the achievements that are earned through the creative process. In Parish’s case his hard work and dedication to photography have paid off and you can see that in each and every one of his photographs. His heart, mind, and soul are bound to the camera. His usage of light allows his creativity to come to life.

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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy: Photographs and Photograms



Photographs and Photogram’s is a book that reflects upon some of the first photos taken by Moholy-Nagy. Being a painter before a photographer, he used techniques such as atmospheric devices to create a photograph, as well as the abstract structure of natural surroundings such as shadows and light. Nagy is given credit for two concepts, ‘new vision;’ an education for visual experience through perspectives and optical angles and the other being the photogram; a chemical process by which abstract compositions are created with photo paper exposed to light. He believed that photography was the manipulation of light.

Expression holds such a powerful key to any kind of art medium. Moholy-Nagy represents a unique language between realism and abstraction within the human condition. Representing the struggle of an individual and the social environment. Nagy in a way was documenting the human condition with his photographs. His photograms were also striking and vivid. They evoked emotions that were visually stunning with humanistic qualities of abstract geometrical expression. Nagy said “space is a reality, and once it has been comprehended in its essence, it can be grasped according to its own laws… Spatial creation is the creation of relationships of the position of bodies (volumes).”

Overall Moholy’s ideas and the equations of the natural and the human treatment of materials are decisive from the point of view of both areas of method and ideology. In his book Nagy states, “Man, when faced with the material and spiritual problems of life – can, if he works from his biological center, take his position with instructive success. Then he is in no danger of intimidation by industry, the haste of an often misunderstood “machine culture,” or by past philosophies about his creative ways.”

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Conrad Hall – Through the Eyes of a Cinematographer

Conrad Hall - Through the Eyes of a Cinematographer - Cinematographer - Photography Writing - Photographers Writings - In Other Words - Cal Gaines Photography

What can be said for light and shadows? Do they offer a narrative, or an atmospheric quality to convey the drama of a situation? These questions are relevant but the one statement stands true, without light there would be no image. The late Conrad Hall envisioned his storytelling through photography and cinematography; he developed his own visual language as a creative individual.

Cinematography visually represents “points of view.” The written ideas are then visually born from a lens and in Conrad’s case, his use of natural light and environmental elements. He mentions how important his photography was before moving into cinema with the usage and experimenting of long and short lenses, and variety of angles to create compositions; stories. It is his belief that the zoom lens changed everything about photography and even the aspects of cinema.

Conrad is well-known for his contributions in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Road to Perdition, as well as one of his most captivating films that integrates lighting and shadows so well, Searching for Bobby Fisher. He talks about how lighting can set or offset the emotion of a photograph or a moving picture and how the correct lens can offer layers of different degrees of how an audience relates or understands the meaning behind the photograph or film. Conrad says, “I used a telephoto lens to frame long shots on the posse in Butch Cassidy, to create the feeling of being very close and at the same time very far from them. This was a metaphor to contemporize the story of joblessness due to technical advancements – small bank robbers being put out of business by modern-day superposes.” He goes on to state that this was how to create emotion within story.

As photographers we are at times also storytellers and we use natural surroundings to express all kinds of emotions. People like Conrad try their best in their careers and their lives to create, to mold, and to shape their craft into something that reflects themselves. It is not just mindless point and shoot. It goes much deeper and beyond that train of thought. It is about how we manipulate ourselves into situations while seeking composition. As the shutter opens we are given a world of opportunity to explore the depths of what is in front of our lens.

Overall, Conrad was an intellectual of photography — his philosophies towards an ever-growing industry were his strongest contributions — his overall vision was unique. He made his mark on the world and when you see his work you can understand what he was trying communicate to audiences. His use of lighting patterns, his ever wandering imagination with lenses and his technical ability throughout the environment really shine. If you can visualize it then there is a story to be told across any type of medium. As photographers we each carry our own visual dialect. Conrad says what I think would be appropriate to his honor. “I realized that there was another language through photography, all that you had to do was learn how to use it and you could be a storyteller as my father was. I am a storyteller, and whether you are using music, pictures, drawings, or literature to tell a story, we’re all the same kind of people. We have to communicate. We have this sense of urgency to tell somebody a story that will make them feel one way or another.”

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Portrayal of Honesty – The Portrait

There comes a time in an individual’s life where the portrait becomes necessary. The portrait describes not just a person as a whole or the body that they live in during their life-time, but it defines their story, their path that they chose to walk. This intimate moment that captures something reflective can also capture something upsetting, or obscure. Avedon describes portraits as “a narrative through photos that creates a general profound interest and a story within each frame, some photos are grim, they create powerful “in your face,” gut level of focus”.

The portrait is a reflection of self. The idea of a portrait comes with a complexity of the human face, its landscape as well as the anatomy and the structure holding a level of influence; an interest that soars far beyond the make-up of our bodies. The body is a temporary housing for our souls as it makes no difference how the assembly is built, but it is within the face that each of our layers is broken down and this is where a portrait takes place. The portrait captures tragedy, it captures happiness and even can depict struggle; the portrait can be honest and it can even also be deceitful and lie.

History says that a portrait is an artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality and even the mood of a person. The portrait is generally not just an ordinary snapshot, but a composed image of a person in a still position. This could be stated as a documentation of our time. These moments are filled with interesting people and these interesting people have an effect on the lives of others. The portrait allows people to connect and evolve together. Diane Arbus states “my work was never about myself, I used the “skin of others,” to be farther away from myself.” It seems as if she was trying to say that the portrait provides a reason of her being. We also have to take into account that sometimes a portrait doesn’t tell the whole story that we may be looking for. It can be set up; fake. It may also fill a void for which the portrait of the person really is.

Look at the overall challenge that it takes for one frame or many frames to capture that one instant moment. To stop time and look within the human-being; the figure, the emotion, and what exactly they are thinking as the shutter open’s. This is a portrait, this is a photograph. It is there to construct a moment. It plays an instrumental role and foundation to share thoughts through time. Photography and the portrait offers an element of power that allows us to absorb not just our moment, but also the moments of others in their life.

-Photographs by: Cal Gaines-

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Ben Shahn: An Album from the Thirties




What is a photograph, more or less what makes up a photograph? A photograph is hope, it is pain, it is suffering, and it can be the illumination into the human-condition during harsh times. Around the world photographers document life. Although sometimes showing the trials and tribulations of life the photograph offers a wide magnitude of what is truly under the skin of beings. It may just be the duty of a photographer to not just document (which is important), but to look into the souls of others and see where they have come from, who they are, who they were. Develop a lasting relationship, help someone who is in need. I have always felt that photographers are unique, but also remembering to think with our hearts at times instead of our eyes is also crucial in situations.

Ben Shahn was an artist and photographer in the 30’s. His photographs during this time were carefully selected for Rod Stryker’s Great Farm Security Administration Project. This project was geared towards establishing visual records of life and culture in rural America. His wisdom for people really allowed him to capture the hearts and souls of others. A lot of photographers have this great ability for technical aspects of photography, but Ben’s technicalities came from his individuality; his sought out effort to relate with the people on the other side of the lens. Ben says “Aloneness; the impossibility to communicate with each other, which accounts for the aloneness; the sort of indestructible spirit of man to keep on going beyond the time when he thinks it would be impossible to arrive anywhere.” Ben was capturing the heart of places, poor sharecroppers, middle-class farmers, kids and townsfolk.

Rod Stryker said it best. “Something happens there in those photos, it was the wonderful tolerance, sympathy and feeling Ben had for people – human beings. Ben was a man of great experience – a man with a sense of life. He knew about a lot of things; he knew about people. I believe that he did have the ability to reach out and reach into individuals by his nature, his manner, and his approach when he was taking pictures. In some way people opened up.” As a person and a photographer my value of life revolves around the ability to interact with others and introduce the lives of others in their best and worst times. It is not even just about the photograph but more about the person that comes within it, their story, who they are, and their view of life. To document is to learn and to learn is fulfilling.

Ben Shahn documented a sense of place; his photographs provide us with a look into our past as a country. This period of time was difficult in terms of economic stability as well as social assertiveness during some of the hardest times that this country has faced. Photographs help us endure, photographs show past, present and future. It is said that we have to know where we have been before we can know where we are going. Look at his photos, they truly showed the daily survival of people in rural settings, depressed, and trying to find hope. Here was something to photograph.

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