Monthly Archives: July 2011

Cristina Garcia Rodero

I look at and appreciate a lot of photography.  I spend hours pouring over images and am a big fan of the medium.

I can recall being blown away by a photographer’s ouevre exactly four times — when I first saw the photographs of Diane Arbus, Mary Ellen Mark, Sylvia Plachy and, most recently, Cristina Garcia Rodero.

On a recent trip to Galicia, Spain, I happened by her book, Transtempo, in the bookstore of the Galician Center of Contemporary Art.  The cover image is a haunting depiction of a woman farmer overseeing a grazing mare and her new foal.  The woman is slim, dressed in dark clothes and wrapped in a dark head scarf.  She holds the mare’s lead while the animal grazes — the mare’s new foal standing awkwardly behind its mother.  The weather is murky and the farmer’s hair blows in a wind, her features are obscured by the weather and by the picture’s shallow depth of field.  She and the foal stare directly at the viewer.  The foal is startled innocence (I am that foal); the woman holds a gaze as steady and old as days.  Hers is a look of hardship and salvation, strength and vulnerability.  She holds the mare’s lead as though it is a lifeline out of the gloom — gloom that a less fortunate figure in the background of the frame stumbles through without equine aid.  The foal and I want to follow her.

Garcia Rodero’s imagery is painfully, exuberantly human, aesthetically masterful and important.  She hails from Puertollano, Galicia and is the first Spaniard to join Magnum Photos agency (2005).  Transtempo documents Galicia and her people in an infinite reality, creating “a new story between the gaze and time” (Manuel Rivas in his introductory essay).  Her work in Galicia is part of a larger project Between Heaven and Earth for which she has traveled the world in order to witness spiritual rites and sites of religious and pagan observance.  She searches for the locus of contradiction in our human condition.  She sublimates herself to “an eternal learning about life in opposition to our implacable finiteness” (Miguel Von Hafe, essay for Transtempo).  She is one of the greats.

 La confesion, Saavedra, 1980

A link to Garcia Rodero’s Magnum Photos essay Between Heaven and Earth 

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Lighting – a baby comes a long way

I’m a huge baby about photography equipment.  I’m intimidated by it, and I kick and scream about new purchases.  I’ve avoided lighting for years mostly because of all the scary-looking equipment (and the fact that I do really love natural light photography).  But, I’ve been photographing the Ithaca League of Women Rollers (roller derby) for two years now and categorically state there are few less accommodating places to shoot natural light photographs than sports arenas and locker rooms.  I tried.  For many months, I shot roller derby with super-high ISO speeds trying to convince myself that the grainy, sickly green or magenta cast to my images created an authentic sodium vapor ambiance.  I also spent a lot of time in Photoshop attempting to bend color curves to my will – abracadabra transform these colors into something remotely pleasing!   Then, finally, I started reading The Strobist (the patient shepherd of many an amateur photographer into the land of true colors and full tonal range) and, over time, bought myself  some flashes*.  Now, not only are my derby photographs consistently better lit, I am gaining confidence in my technical skills.  Here is my path, in photographs:

An early photograph shot with high ISO and on-camera flash bounced onto the ceiling.  I’m not crazy about the color casts and the stopped-up blacks.

For the next shot, I moved my flash off-camera and was using a bracket.  Flash again bounced off ceiling.  I like this effect if the ceiling is low, and white, which usually it is not.

More recently, I’m playing with the balance between ambient light, a bounced on-camera flash and two remote flashes.  More range and better color.

*the flashes and other stuff I now own are:  a Canon 580EX II, two 430 EX IIs, two flash stands, two umbrellas and three Pocket Wizards.  By no means and inexpensive investment but one with an indisputable return.

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Quiet Still Life; Quiet Landscape

In the mood for these today.






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Put some clothes on!

I came downstairs in my bathing suit this July 4th weekend and wondered what to do.  I was struggling to determine how to spend a beautiful summer day…relax in the backyard with my family and a book or (attempt to) make art.  I am often in this state of agitation and, about a year ago, when I started seriously considering applying to graduate school, I realized that I needed to get comfortable living there…cultivate a comfort with discomfort.  For example, if it’s a beautiful fall night and our high school football team is taking to the field, my brain debates the merits of buying a ticket and enjoying the game with all the other assembled parents and fans OR grabbing my camera and skulking around the sidelines and the stands intruding on everyone else’s good time.  My conventional nature usually wins the day and I don’t often bring my camera —  to the grocery store, into my daughter’s band rehearsal room, to the parking lot where the high school students who smoke hang out, to the football stadium — as I would like.  The relief of functioning within “normal” social parameters walks hand in hand with the guilt I feel about missing photographic opportunities.  So, I am trying to court discomfort more often, forcing myself out and into that uncomfortable place where art just might be made.

I decided to work on a self-portrait project I’ve been pecking at and asked my daughter for styling and posing ideas.  She suggested bathing suit and front yard tree swing, nothing fancy.  So there I go, out into the front yard in my bathing suit (one piece, chaste).  Nothing, really, could be more uncomfortable than that.  And, as I’m setting up the tripod and adjusting the focus, I’m imagining if I will hide when my neighbor comes jogging up the sidewalk.  Is that snickering I hear from the lithe 16 year old’s house across the street?  Who cares.  Comfort with discomfort.  Then, my son throws open his bedroom window and yells out:  “Mom!!  Put some clothes on!!!”


More photos from the football stadium…until I get that bathing suit film developed.

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