Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Guanajuato, Mexico Summer 2010: Context of the Work.

This post isn't so much about "photography" as it is about the "photographer". I want to give more of a context to the upcoming series of light paintings I'll post. The work soon to be shown, stands apart, but the story of my visit is equally a part of that time and place. Though words and not photographs, the background  remains imprinted in the foreground.

Guanjuato, Mexico is a very old Spanish Colonial city once prized for its silver mines, now emptied of their glitter. Its situated at a light headed altitude north west of Mexico City in the Central Mexican highlands.

The city climbs up an undulating bowl shaped valley. Lofty mountains, massive sentinels, encircle Guanjuato neatly, like a crater rim. The ancient narrow streets are very steep. Sidewalks and roads alike frequently disappear under higher parts through 40 miles of damp, dripping tunnels. The Mummy Museum is here and the Museum of the Mexican Inquisition. I've been to neither. I think those mummies stay preserved in the soil because there's a high content of metal. Guanajuato was the epicenter of immense social and political forces, and a palpable, indefinable presence lies about, and infuses the colorful city. But this essential quality I speak of, is neither historical or political in nature. Even in the brightest sunshine this sense of mystery - inert, primal and raw -remains. "A street map is like a plate of spaghetti" a smiling local school teacher told me over dinner.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Jessica Jones


During the fall have been working on light paintings using my old art pieces. Am in the process of getting rid of some things, trying to make things easier as my sight worsens and worsens. I have to force myself to confront this, so by physically sorting, trashing, papers, sketchbooks, journals, doodles, letters, paperbacks, clippings, notes, video tapes,negatives, I can start to grasp the reality. My art books I just cant let go of-never. The shelves of "Art in America", I have to say goodbye to.
I'm fortunate in that I have time. Some blind people, like Victorine, lost her sight very rapidly and weren't prepared.
In this Revisit series, painted images, monotype prints and sculpture are united with real objects and settings, all blended by the flashlight into a new whole. These revisitings are a good way to make something more out of some neglected, half forgotten art work, I'll have a bon fire one day with most of this, but these light paintings, hopefully, will retain an echo. More soon.
Above,Objects 9 9 2010 #15 , Revisit #1

Friday, October 8, 2010

Russian Esquire

Russian Esquire has a series of Seeing With Photography's images online - Sept 20 2010. I've been going through the pages there, and its a very impressive collection. Really high quality art work. I especially like  John Delany's images of Asian nomads. I guess the print issue must be out now too, am just too excited. Our group has 12 images, am grateful to be included in their selection.

With Jacques Montel, 9 11 10

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Turning the camera off for the night.

As soon as darkness arrived last night I did some more work on a series called, Revisit. Old paintings, prints and sculpture are being lit by the flashlight into a new blend of real objects and two dimensional, painted vistas.These canvases are spilling out of closets and leaning around and am tripping all over.
These light paintings will be posted here at a later point, because I'd like to get more up to date with other recent images from the summer of '10. But, thing is, I'm very excited about whats coming up on the big 3 inch viewfinder.
I got my first follower today. Thanks Joeknows.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Work from this summer - continued.

The last part of the Diptych, the opposite of Birth. I used blues because this is colder and reflects this stage of existing. It is, in truth, more celestial than I planned. I've come to like it though. Have you seen pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope? Sometimes starry nebula- clouds of star formation- sprinkles of cold jeweled lights - can be seen above, and around some areas here. The reds - I wanted to show some mechanical, medical instrumentation, yet I now look at it and see red stars. Many stars, in fact, the majority of stars, are redder than our sun. I used Luis Angel Ortiz once more. Here he might be happy, as some suggested.

Another from the Portal-Mirror Lens series. This time some fabric was moved around the opaque projector, covering it a lot, but the glass lens peers out some still. Hashim is such a wonderful person to work with, very funny and enthusiastic about everything "light painting"

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More work from the Portal-Mirror-Lens Series. Benjamin Paige was posing for me and I explained this heavy old fashioned opaque projector to him. It sits around mainly getting dusty, but sometimes its dragged out as a prop, or to project some image on the wall. I happened to see him feeling the machine this way and asked him to hold that pose for my light painting. Ben is totally blind and is quite determined to shoot. Before he joins us, he has spent the morning at kidney dialysis, and he is usually tired and shaky, but that doesnt stop him.

First light with a new camera

The first evening I got my new Nikon. Was very impatient to work, but had to wait until darkness, or at least twilight, because I cant block out the light in my studio apartment. Darkness is needed to use this technique. One of my first attempts using auto focus. The twilight blue hues seeped in, filling in the image when the flashlight didn't quite light up. I clench my cheap reading glasses in my teeth, they wouldn't stay put. In the twilight I had to grope around, bumping the chair the camera was perched on, and having to reposition it very often.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Untitled 2, 5 2010

I set up a small columned niche out of shiny reflective plastic. This prop has been very popular with our group. Here I made a garland like swag at its top, though it remained indistinct. This swag shape I really like and its seen in ancient Greek and Roman bas- reliefs and frescoes. I think i draped strands of fake pearls there too, but am not sure. I asked Raisa Furman, one of SWPC's newer artists, to wear this hat.

Portal-Mirror-Lens 4 2010

Glass lenses are fascinating, they turn our surroundings upside down. Maybe you have taken a lens and focused the little image on a white wall, or paper. Our own eyes do it too, though our brains somehow reverse this, and turn it all right side up in our minds, thankfully. And glass lenses allow me to make images, freezing the photons into a clear re-assemblage.  SWPC photographer Hashim Kirkland is in front of a large projector with its glassy eye and metal cover partly lifted off. I had him raise his hands like singing or shouting. Red light streams away from his open mouth,  and envelopes him and the area around. Mark helped to do some lighting too.

Anja Visits 2010

  Anja  Ligtenberg is our European member, and visited us in New York this summer. Victorine did a wonderful, flowing picture of her, and I tried this too. The long exposure time can change a person's appearance like soft clay can be molded, and I'm sure Anja would want me to remind you she doesn't look too much like this image.

Diptych, part1, Birth 2010

First image, seems appropriate " Birth". Light painting is done with a flashlight in a very dark room. The camera shutter is kept  open as the artist "paints" the relevant parts. It can take a few minutes for one picture to be finished so the person posing needs to try to be still, or it will be too blurry with movement. I had the idea of birth in mind, the position well thought out, wrapped in a cocoon like shape, with tendrils of red, sort of womb - like, but I didn't want to be that literal. Seeing With Photography does have some theatrical "blood" that some of us use from time to time. It could have added some realism. Never used that myself, just a flashlight with a red filter here and there along with some moved fabric.
I'd really like to jump in and post some new photographs here, now, but for the first day and first post, its not a good idea. So an introduction is best, though Im impatient, with my mind buzzing from the excitement of making a recent series. I finished - just as the little tornados were swirling through New York City as I made them.
My name is Steven Erra. I am legally blind, or, sight impaired is a less technical term.
I am also an artist. Yes, I can see. A very small central area of sight remains when the light is bright. I have tunnel vision, or Retinitis Pigmentosa. I hate that word. It's far too elegant a word for such a devastating, random screw up of genetics. It is getting worse, slowly. No one with RP notices the change much over the short term' it is so very slow to dissolve ones delicate retina, a gradual shutting out of the lights. I use a white cane. Last week a man in the bank, after helping me locate the tellers window, whispered to her as I stumbled away, "God thats a tough life." It is.
Why then do I make visual art? Logical question.  I didn't know that I had a degenerative eye disease until I was nearly finished getting my Degree in Fine art at the Parsons School of Design. Painting is a consuming passion.
I joined a photography class for the blind and sight impaired around 1993, and it was this group of people who eventually started The Seeing With Photography Collective. Our photography teacher there, Mark Andres first intorduced us to the photographic technique of"light painting". As an art group, we've been making these works since 1997. This light painting resonates with me. You will see mainly light painting here. I have seen such strength, passion, and such astonishing images created by the artists I work with. Some are totally blind, and rely on visual descriptions of the richly nuanced images they have just created.
Soon I, along with Mark and Victorine Floyd Fludd, will be off to Moscow Russia to teach a workshop to photography students. I've wanted to go to Russia very much - its a wish come true.
For the first time we have commissioned work planned for us. Russian Esquire Magazine will  publish 12 of our images soon, and we'll make some portraits for them too.There will be work exhibited in Photo Leggendo, in Rome Italy by our members at nearly the same time.
Honestly, I don't know where to start regarding posting images, in what order? Should I just go ahead and show you recent work and skip the older images? OK, thats my choice. For you, images taken recently, this spring and summer. All the work here, unless oitherwise mentioned is by myself.