Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holding pattern...

It's been more than a month now since I broke my foot. The cuboid bone shattered and splinered and , the planar fascia tendon that is under one's arch, ruptured too. It's excruciatingly painful, and the medication helps, but keeps me groggy. I don't know. Gimping around with a "walking cast" makes the usual clumsiness of near tiotal blindness a bit more pronounced. Luckily my friends Mikhail and Darius have come to my aid, and will visit my parents for Christmas soon. But for my photography, all is on hold. Be patient please. I'll heal up well and be back, swinging my flashlight again. Have a great Holiday and  even better 2012

Friday, November 18, 2011

I hate it when that happens

Broke my foot. New challenges.
Stepped off the 5th av bus and wham, sprawled out on the gritty sidewalk in the shadow of the Flatiron building. A white cane is useful, but we nearly blind all know  good eyes are preferred. Personally- an ironic place for such nastiness too, since 23rd  and Fifth Av, where the graceful Flatiron building presides, is my all time favorite place in the city. Here's  Steichen's iconic photograph of that place - from the turn of the 20th century. Twilight, the merging of Broadway and Fifth Av, the subtle shadowed reality of urban business, can seem as magical as his rendering, preserved in a cool toned platnum print. Had a postcard of this tacked to my old studio once.  I wont be able to work on finishing the Occupy Wall Street image for awhile, but soon hope to post a few other portraits made just before my accident.
Above, Edward Steichen - The Flatiron, 1904

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Last night at Zucotti Park - Liberty Plaza

Some of us from the Seeing With Photography Collective went to the epicenter of the Occupy wall Street movement. Our time there wasn't long. View our results at the link below.
Above,Seda and Michael, by Seeing With Photography Collective

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Work in progress - Occupy Wall Street image

 The ideas and aspirations of the Occupy Wall Street movement are powerful. I posted a link to an unforgettable video here - Oct 3 - its moved me to create a work inspired by its symbolic message. My idea is to show some wealthy Wall street people enjoying champagne and looking down from their balcony at the demonstrators below. They hold up pet food, (my neighborhood supermarket cashier, whom I've known for years, gave me a puzzled look) Its a symbolic gesture. I protested with someone in mind, a close relative who joined the unemployed recently, and can't find work, and was evicted form his apartment, and is surviving just barely. Last week I held up cat food when I marched with many others, past the homes of the privileged.
I sketched out my idea, figures above and below, and yesterday I started. Donald helped me plan it out, many others helped, its a complicated image to make, as it needs three seperate exposures, but, some of it is done. I just need to add some more figures below, thinking all the time of how to translate social and political -to visual and universal.  I hope to finish it next week. PS- Some of us will go to Zucatti Park- Liberty Plaze on Friday, maybe we can make portraits of the activists.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Went to Occupy Wall Street protest, marched past some billionaire's homes, held up cat food as my protest. More soon about this.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A picture (or video) is worth a thousand words

Never doubt the power of the symbol. This video will be remembered for many, many years - just astonishing how a small clip can speak to a truth, more immediate and understood than volumes of political rhetoric.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


This ancient fresco dates from around 450 bc. Recovered from central Italy, typical in its rendering reality of that time and place, from the provincial artistic backwaters, far from the art centers of Athens and Corinth. It reflects, though weakly, Greek painting. This area of Italy was colonized and influenced by Greek culture. Stylized shapes, linear outlines filled with unshaded, pure color are noticed. You aren't checking out this blog for Art history I guess, so I'll keep it brief.

The sense that is evoked on looking, is a sense of pattern. It is a ritual dance of some sort, just a small section is shown here. The exact meaning uncertain, and, for me, not as important as its visual form -it resonates beyond mere "identification" and speaks universally.This fresco inspired the light painting here.
I had seen this work when I was an art student, it has its place among the galleries in my memory.
The artists at SWPC were excited about the photographic technique of stitching together numerous photographs to form one continuous loop. You spin the looped images round and round in one dizzying whirl, its interesting. You can view some here.
Recalling this fresco, it occurred to me that the dancers poses could be exciting to try as a frieze with this photographic stitching.
I sketched out a composition, a long frieze of figures. But my own idea was to show blind people whose linked arms reflected more of a sense of mobility. We experience walking differently when seeing isn't an option, and need to be guided, So this guiding, informed by the locked arms of the dancers in the fresco, is central in my concept. I remember someone commented as I posed my models, that the correct procedure when walking is for blind people to put their hands on a persons shoulder. Sure enough, but I wasn't trying to imitate actuality, but to bring out my own "vision" of a concept. I've always been perplexed about the term"conceptual art", as if concept was ever absent from meaningful art
A figure behind is holding a lit torch, symbolising "lighting the way forward", while at the end of this trail of the unseeing a white blind cane is offered to a straggler, who's less sure of her whereabouts. Mark helped a great deal with figuring out the joins- where each separate image melded into the adjacent one. This image needed many separate exposures aligned. It took a considerable time to finish. Mark helped me light up the spaces. Part of my original idea, drawn in the sketch, were small flying figures who, like the torch bearer, assist the blind people through the dark. Left those out  though, preoccupied by the details in getting it all together. Maybe I'll retry this one at some point.
Above, Tomb fresco from Ruvo Italy, Mobility Frieze 

Saturday, September 17, 2011


"Maria is the daughter of Mark’s friend, they thought it would be a nice idea for her to come in and see disabled people actively involved. The previous week Mark told me about her serious medical condition, confining her to a small, stroller like carriage, although about 9 or so. We knew to expect her, but I suppose I was sill shaken a little when we met.
She is so small, entirely frailer than my imagination hinted at. I talked with her about doing a simple head shot and asked of she wanted to pose. I tried to smile, but that must have seemed absurd in the presence of a suffering child. Maria is more than this though.
I had a quiet feeling while lighting it, that this might be a special image. It didn’t take long. Maria’s face and torso took up only a small area.
When I peeled the print away, I was floored at how the picture retained her soulful presence and courage, but tried to control my emotions. We did another one too, with more of the floor showing her sitting on a wooden chair, while behind her, on a pillar, an odd rubber mask. Vicky also spent time with Maria, and, with Mark, photographed her lying down. This one also has that sad, but, resigned quality of spirit, so frail and yet, present in it. Years later Mark put this picture up at the show we had at the Paul Labrec Spa, but was requested to remove it, too strong for someone being manicured to see. It was eventually enlarged to a great size and exhibited in its own little alcove at our Las Palmas exhibition in Rotterdam. With dim lighting, it was almost like a sacred shrine.
Coming in later that day Stephen met Maria too, they talked quietly, almost whispering, sitting closely together, lighting up a little aluminum - foil construction. Maria’s family eventually moved to Vermont, to make things easier for them."
Excerpt from "Lifting the Blindfold; Voices of the Seeing With Photography Collective"
Above, Maria c. 2002

Friday, July 22, 2011

Victorine Floyd Fludd and Sonia Soberats

Awhile back, I posted my thoughts about two former Seeing With Photography Collective artists, photographers whose unique images and dedication to creating moved me.
Today I'm bringing to you two other voices from our group, Victorine Floyd Fludd and Sonia Soberats. I interviewed both several years ago, both Vicki and Sonia bring to the visual world, their work, filtered and crystallized through their blindness...

Victorine Floyd Fludd
What are some of the more interesting pictures you've done? Some of the later ones, like “Radiant Abyss”, “Fire Woman” and “Moonlight” and “Children of the Damned.” I think those are very good and, some of the others that we haven't printed yet. Especially “Fire Woman”, because it's a fascinating thing, to see you sitting there and burning. When someone asked me if it was a dream or nightmare I had, I said, no it's real - this is when I was a kid. I love that picture and I can't see it, I just picture the way it is in my mind. I just visualize it. I think I love that more than any other. Is that because other people love it so much? Nooo. And the other one with me in the African skirt, like I'm dancing, I love that too. And the one I was doing like Lucille Ball...with me and my walking stick...It's the fun part of the movement and dancing and excitement. Sometimes, a person is acting with this walking stick and your going across and the way you swing yourself like you’re walking across a stage...When Christina was here, that day we made that “Moonlight”, we made that with me and Christina standing up on the table, looking up at the stars, Mark was making the Moon and stars and I remember “Fire-Woman” came after that. Both of those involve memory. I remember when I was a little girl, this other young lady, she was older than I was, she was working with my cousin in an estate, she was sitting in front of the door and all of a sudden, she started to light afire ... it was scary, weird to see that happen, but to see it in the picture it's not real in the picture. So it kind of fascinated me in the picture that I did, but with that, that was very serious. I started picturing...burning? - You know when fire burns you, how you feel? Oh my God, I wonder how she go through it and then after, every time we go, they say, she is on fire, we try to see what's going on ... next thing, they said she burn up - we went to the funeral...The idea is about spontaneous combustion, bursting into flames from nothing? From nothing! Nobody lit a match or nothing! All of a sudden, like that! And it was so scary, because everybody is standing up watching, nobody can help...They put the fire out for a time, but after, she burned to death. And the house did not burn...To know somebody is burning, even if you touch a fire, you light a piece of paper and that flame coming up on your hand, man, you let that paper go so fast, any way, and this, you can't do nothing. As a child I couldn't help but do nothing...How did you think of how to recreate it in your picture? I sat by the door there, and had Mark light the fire all around me. Mark used the material, the silver, the way it floats, like it floats up and down with a sparkle, like you are blazing, remember, we just used the foil to do sparks, and the material is silver so it makes the fire better because it's like wavy, up and down. And now, with my picture, it fascinates me so much, I wish I could just see it with the flames coming up around me...because I feel that’s one of the best pictures I made...from my feeling and my heart that's the best picture. 
Fire- woman by Victorine Floyd Fludd  with SWPC
I can talk about “Moonlight” too, because that’s when we were growing up as kids and before they had electric lights ( Victorine grew up in Antigua ) ...in the countryside there is no electric light, no current, its lamp and things like that. So in the night, it will be pitch dark, you can see somebody coming towards you, but you don't know who it is unless they say something...just a black form coming towards you. But in Moonlight, oh boy! when that Moon comes up, Steve - it's so pretty, you see shine down, when you drop a pin or a dime it shines so bright you can pick it up, you drop it and are looking for it and see it shining...when you see a piece of glass bottle, when you see it shine, you think its... something! You go to reach for it, every thing looks glowing bright and shiny! I have a picture of an arch; with my hands I am going through. I put my hand up and make an arch and then the other side and make another arch so there are two of me...I used to like to take pictures of my kids and parents...My daughter would put on my dress and a big hat on her head those are the things I liked when I saw that I'd run and get my camera. I don't know, somebody gone with my album. I tell you that hurt me, those are pictures I used to have, they take them, who knows?...Pictures of Carnival and Weddings...somebody gone with my album when I was moving, I was looking for it...it's gone and it hurts. They take it because I can't see, I had it in my room, but they take it out...I didn't expect to loose my vision, you’re not looking to loose your vision. I didn't have time to do nothing. Within the space of a month, I went blind.
Can you talk about “Radiant Abyss”? One day I was coming in on the train and all of a sudden it just came to me - I said “Mark, set me up! I want to do a picture of Ben, this is the way I want to do it.” I was so shocked when everybody said it came out so good, because it's just wrapping him from head to toe in paper- towel, I didn’t let him take off his glasses and had him fold his arms and wrapped down to his waist. After I finished, Mark framed him for me and I light him up...I didn't expect it to be such a hit! If someone had this question in their mind, I wonder if she really did this picture or someone else helped her a lot and they mostly did the picture, what would you say? I'd say come in and watch, and you'll see and take it from there. A lot of people feel because you can't see , you can't do nothing or certain things. But a blind person can do things just like a sighted person...you can't focus the camera, you can try - but it might come out the way a blind person would focus it...but, we do that when we go out and take pictures - nobody focuses for us, so we can. Say we have a place that's going to show our pictures, and I don't have any pictures there, it's fine for me, as long as I know others are represented in the group, our work is out there...You’re not going to expect somebody to love your picture all the time, so you have to prepare yourself for the downfall as well as the upstage.
Vicki Whirls by Victorine Floyd Fludd with SWPC
Is there a difference working with blind people and sighted people? The blind person, you have to hold their hand and guide them, tell them what to do, to get the result you want. They have to see by touching...because I cannot see I want them to be able to do just like I do, but, a sighted person can watch what you are doing. Teaching a blind person, it comes to me just like myself...they're feeling just like me, I relate to them more than the sighted. The kids in Holland were amazed at the things we could do, they were accepting, I met a young lady and she said like this: “My Mother said – ‘What are you doing with a camera, you can't see ‘ ", I said, “Let me tell you something, you show your Mother! Because you cannot see, you can still do it and maybe better than if you could see, you go for it and don't let anyone put you down.” We’re showing them something that no blind people ever have done.
What would you like to share with people about working here? Taking pictures, it's got to be in you, it's got to be something you want to do, you've got to have that love for it, because if you don't, you're not going to bring out nothing worthwhile. You have to be able to bring out that love you have within you for it. ♦

Sonia Soberats
Sonia has just returned from a S.W.P. Exhibition and workshop held in Caracas Venezuela, at the Central University. She is recalling sighted participants reactions learning light painting while blindfolded, a teaching technique we use. People who saw our pictures couldn't believe it. Three photographers who did the workshop said, at first, ahh blindfolded, that doesn't sound so interesting...They were amazed, and they said while they take the pictures how they can feel the texture of the hair, the fabric of the clothing, the skin, the eyebrows, they said regular pictures are taken in a second the exposure is so fast, this is the contact with the model, they said this brings more sensitivity and enlightens your creativity and imagination because taking the pictures, you are imagining the model and everything that is there - the clothing, necklace, the rings, if its a woman. They were experiencing things they never did before taking a photograph.
One of them, a Wedding photographer said for the first time in his life he sensed what a photograph really is. They never thought such details, little details, could be in a picture. The next day they came in with all their ideas, they dreamed about the pictures they were going to take the next day, all the props they wanted to bring in, they said it never happened before. They said, you’re not going to like this word, it was like therapy, it is because when you get involved in the pictures you forget about everything else and concentrate. And it brought up a lot of feelings.
We had a lot of fun; the touching especially brings a lot of laughs. We had a blind guy, very young, he had never taken a picture...we were taking a picture of one of the girls. I told him you have to feel her shoulder; she had a medallion over her bosom and wanted it to be bright. I said be careful! She wanted him to light it. But the medallion was a bit further down her bosom. So I said touch the medallion because, I didn't know, I thought it was next to her neck, he started touching the chain, going down, down, she said “Don't!, Stop!”... he jumped back ...”I'm sorry I'm sorry, she told me to touch!”
How do you work? I took the photography class with a pinhole camera ( which Mark was teaching ), and one day I came in and you were all taking floating heads. What was your first impression? I thought the idea about floating heads was fun and I didn't realize, when the pictures didn't come out too good, and we will have to do it again, I said "Oh my God, how can they expect blind people to make good pictures?" I didn't realize how the camera worked or anything like that, I started learning, you said come in the afternoon and take pictures with us, that's how I started. Was it confusing? At the beginning it was. I had never seen that camera. To tell you the truth I didn't think I could ever make it, because at the beginning...it’s hard to hold the flashlight and to light and have a good result. Is it hard because you can't see the result? No, no, its hard to try to get a good picture, to get the features of a person and everything involved to look right when they move, or you move, or you do something wrong with the flashlight and they come out wrong...I worry every time I take a picture and want it to come the best I can. Not because I want to be perfect, because it's work, like a piece of work, and if you like to do your work right, it takes a lot of tension, stress...I want things to come out the best I can.
If you could remember back to the period when you were loosing your eyesight, were you concentrating on how things look because you wouldn't be able to see them anymore? When I was sighted my son used to say, don't look at the person that way, but I used to like their faces, how they moved their hands, sometimes I was a little bit indiscreet - the same with buildings and landscapes. I looked everything well over so I have them still clear in my mind. From ‘96 to here it's very hard, computer animation especially.

Ben Being Xrayed, by Sonia Soberats
How is it working with assistance and descriptions? While they're doing that I'm trying to make the picture right in my mind...usually the person helping you knows what you want to capture in the picture. I wish I could do it by myself. But I know I need assistance, especially focusing, but remember before, I needed somebody to be with me? I always asked you for background? It’s a process little by little... more into it, the only thing is, we cannot focus. But, like you, I like to do my pictures by myself.
Where do you get your ideas from? From memory…"Mexican Bride" - I went to Chiapas. in Mexico and saw a wedding of two Indians, very young, and I noticed she was barefooted, and she wore this simple gown with a little flower and I thought it was so naive, so pretty, so pure, that always stayed in my mind. I asked Cara to be my model; I did her barefooted with pigeon toes, which means that people are shy ...that's what psychologists say...that took me a long time. I did one and Mark didn't like it and said do it at f /16, so it took so long. Setting it up was easy. I brought the dress and some plastic flowers and that horrible curtain we have around there. Which horrible curtain, we have a lot of them? The clear, but it looks pretty in the picture that has embroidery so it looks very pretty if you move it around. The one of Ben with the snakes, I saw a Voodoo Rite in Haiti, they didn't have snakes, that I invented, but the guy went into trance, he looked like how Ben came out with bulging eyes...I told Ben look up and his eyes went white, totally white, so that's when I took his eyes. Why these and not other kinds of pictures? Because people will look at them and say “Oh how pretty”...What happens is, even though I have gone through terrible times in my life, I try to erase of my mind all these terrible moments so I only bring the happy memories that I have. Is that why you like to have people smile in your pictures? Yes, but not all of them. To me, my mother used to tell me "When you smile, you open doors" And I think it's very important to smile, to smile is to show friendliness even if your in the Himalayas or Africa or China, if you go with a smile that's one step forward to someone responding to you...its a language which is universal.

Pregnet Cara by Sonia Soberats

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 13 2011

Mixing painting with photography. Two media- one smudgy oil painting, one recent light painting portrait. How to combine the two?
A slide projector casts a color slide of the oil paining on a white wall, as Zena poses in front. Then, after an appropriate time, the projector is turned off and light painting is used to sketch her in . The result blends landscape, viewer, observer.
Above; Zena, c.2007

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Workshops with SWPC, brought to the museum by Sol Aramendi, founder of Project Luz.

Sol Aramendi has been working with our art group for some time now. Some members made images while at the workshop organized by Sol at the Museo del Barrio here in New York. Yesterday some of us attended the reception for "Blind Date", which explores isolation. Light painting was used through out and the work includes some soft focus "Box Portraits" too.

Sol is an accomplished photographer, have a look at her own work here...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Like a Bat, Parallax Diptych 2011

A bat is blind I understand,  it uses echo location to skillfully navigate and sense its world. An X ray of a bat is used, along with a braille lesson card I had in my drawer.
Seeing With Photography Collective artist Ben Paige used to work as an X ray technician in an animal hospital, and he had brought in some animal X rays to use as props.
Attempting a meaningful light painting last week in the workshop didn't satisfy me, so I borrowed the X ray and spent the last 2 days with it lighting and illuminating. The 2 images represent the parallax of 2 eyes. originally my idea was a triptych-3 images- with portraits around the central X ray image, but this dual configuration evolved as I worked.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Two Artists

Self Portrait by Stephen Dominguez, c. 2000

The following is an excerpt from an essay I wrote several years ago, describing the growth and evolution of the group of artists called the Seeing With Photography Collective. Both these artists were part of our art group...
Stephen Dominguez and Frederick Minor have contributed so many unique ideas and images, but unfortunately both have been unavailable to interview. Leaving a blank here isn’t an option, so I’ve chosen to relate these artists as best as I can. A vague filter - but I hope that in considering them here, people might realize a deeper meaning of their extraordinary photographs.

Stephen Dominguez was a long time and wonderfully creative member, but unfortunately, like Frederick, Stephen has chosen to remain apart from us, and has not recently wished to be in contact, I miss his voice here. Stephen’s views are articulate and passionate. He advocates for disabled and marginalized people. He’s been working with Mark in various places since 1986, and is more independently than most of us, because he could manage to see and focus the ground glass.

Caring for troubled and ill people is an essential part of his character. One evening I spent with him shooting at his home, he took some pictures of his friend Pat, a somewhat helpless man with Cerebral Palsy. Stephen befriended this frail and troubled person, and was always trying to improve and get something positive going, to take some pictures and get involved, but Pat seemed oblivious. Many people in his family have gone blind; he understands the interconnections and power structures of needs which these large blind service agencies embody. He was a leader in the vocal protests blind people expressed when funds were cut for the blind members at the Lighthouse. Not being able to interview Stephen, these issues require his own very thoughtful words, so I limit myself to his images and his friendship.

Some of his photographs show binding, or a penned in person, and I feel this symbolizes, and makes visible, how Stephen feels we blind people are treated by society, and the large Institutions which disabled people need to trust. More than any of us, he wanted passionately for SWP to be disassociated from Visions. Eventually he chose not to participate in any Visions sponsored classes, but remained with us when we left Visions. He became involved in Housing issues then, and perseveres to regain his health and stabilize his Glaucoma by holistic means. He was the major force behind our split with Visions.

Stephen raised questions of language too. “visually impaired” was a term he objected to, telling us that “sight impaired” was more accurate, as vision meant more of a total concept - a vision of something - and that word implied we sight impaired lacked that imagination.
Light House by Stephen Dominguez, c.2000
In the summer of 2003, I was in our basement classroom /darkroom with Stephen, Fred, Ben and Donald, finishing up a days printing, when New York City was blacked out. We lent our flashlights to the staff. Many blind people were caught and stranded on 23rd street that afternoon, unable to get home, and forced to sleep in the auditorium. Stephen lived in the building which is also a residence for the blind, he kindly offered me sleeping accommodations that difficult night. Two other refugees wound up at his apartment also.
He laid down, in pain from the Glaucoma, refusing any pain killer, even aspirin- he opposes conventional medicine. 

We worried and talked and gazed out the window toward the lightless mass of the Empire State Building, towering in the soft twilight to the North, oddly shadowed and looming like any mountain. Later, we went onto the roof. Stephen and the rest remarked about the darkness of the night, in the absence of light pollution. And counted the little lights, and tried to discern the subtle warm and cool color of stellar spectra in the new found clarity. “How far away do you think that star is” he gently asked Linda’s sister. “Who cares Stephen” she answered. He needed to be that person who tries to inspire and evoke wonder. He succeeds often. 

A red laser- pointer penlight was transformed into a new tool for Stephen when he started using that to light up his sitters. It was tedious for anyone brave enough to sit still posing for his laser pictures, because this light, though sharp, was so difficult to register on the Polaroid that it seemed to take forever to get any visible result. So Stephen’s laser pictures took on a reputation for the enormous time they needed, often more than half an hour. We groaned and laughed and tried to be unnoticed if he asked for a volunteer to model for those laser pictures. The results were usually striking and powerfully scratchy – as if a scrutinizing scanner had investigated a human being, wrapping them in luminous electric tendons. This scrutiny feels to me, like Stephen’s mind - alert and curious and observant.
The flashlight could reveal more graphic and linear qualities in Stephen’s hand, than the other artists. I sense sometimes, struggle, confinement and isolation in his work; He found photographic ways to convey these to a viewer - by wrapping people up or by putting somebody in a tight, small place. One volunteer modeling for a Dominguez laser picture almost fainted from her effort to hold still during the endlessly long exposure. I wasn’t there then, but someone told me he put her in a cabinet.
Sometimes he’d build precarious environments like a cardboard dog house, with boxes, plastic bags, discarded Styrofoam pieces, or heaps of balloons. My own take on this is that these discarded things were related to how society views handicapped people. It’s a strange and fascinating thing, how people’s deeper essences are made visible through photographs.
His girlfriend Linda was the subject of some of his earlier images. One reason why Linda moved to the United States from Myanmar was because she is sight impaired and wasn’t permitted to attend school for this reason in her native country and was expected to live her life shut away at home, as Asian societies view blindness as somehow shameful. Luckily, Linda has managed to determine her own life here; however photography never captured her imagination at all. He also did a number of photographs of Linda’s young nephews and Stephen enjoyed building rocket ship environments of Styrofoam to use for his images.
For awhile, he was using tiny toys placed all around someone, usually Linda, scores and scores, big bagfuls of them he brought down stairs from his apartment above. He used Chinese Take out items in the same way too, scattered about on the floor, surrounding the figure like a weird, little army. These sorts of photos, well, they took awhile, as each little toy had to be lit individually.
Another time he planned a very ambitious photograph in Arnhem, using the Cultuurherberg’s huge main hall. On one wall were a group of our portraits and Stephen talked about using these to make another image, but incredibly, his idea was to light up this vast room using the tiny and dim red laser light. One night we were all exhausted, but Mark and I made pictures anyway, in an adjacent hallway while he spent hours lighting his own image by himself, long after Mark and I called it quits for the night. Hours alone tracing tendrils of thin light connecting framed portraits on the wall to entwine and embrace each other, erupting tendrils on the brick floor, Stephen’s dance of connection. Few people do these things. The focusing was off though, and the effort was just dimly a reflection of his engaging concept.

In October 2005, Stephen suffered a life threatening cardiac rupture, and was close to death. He is recovering. Stephen’s told me he wants to rejoin us at some future time. ♦ 

Untitled by Frederick Minor, c. 2003
I wanted very much to interview Fredrick Minor, or Lord Frederick XIII - XIII, as he wants to be called also. His phone has been disconnected and no one has been able to contact him. His gifts for picture making are unique and wonderful. Fred sometimes joined us dressed up in really amazing outfits, meticulously put together, tailored and superbly color coordinated and groomed with his braided hair, which, a few years ago anyway, almost touched the floor…A Presence! His silk top hat floored me.

His usual routine included singing as he walked down the hallway to our room, tapping his cane to his vocals too. I guess the theater was everywhere for him. Our discussion grew silent as his singing grew louder and, as he entranced the room, his song wouldn’t falter much, everything sort of stopped, it had to, our focus diverted. We were cast - as his audience. And he worked for a theater company in costuming, making his own clothing as well.

Usually Fred made a small set, like a little theater and precisely positioned dolls, along with toy cars or motorcycles, to enact some generic scene or Pop Culture moment. The doll’s gestures and placement were exacting. If Barbie and Ken weren’t aligned exactly right when you helped out, you’d hear about it. I still don’t know if he was parodying Pop Culture, or simply loved it, but it was a big theme. Occasionally, Fred would repeat some phrase or sentence someone had just had spoken, but, he gave it back with satirical mimicry, exposing underbellies as he echoed flaws like an unforgiving tape recorder. Again, I wonder if these doll images reflect a deliberate satire of society, but Fred’s present absence is our loss, as I’d enjoy delving into this question with him. He still holds on to a huge collection of dolls and toys he cherishes and still adds to. Knowing a rather tall, adult man was fussing with Barbie’s cascading locks unnerved me a little. Yet, this doll world, readily touched, was a tangible way for him to control and comprehend an environment which blindness denies.
After the Rats, by Mark Andres with Steven Erra, c.2002
Fred had been evicted and was struggling with all the enormous difficulties of finding an apartment when you cannot see. He was staying temporarily with a friend, a 500 lb blind woman. Sleepy one morning, he explained he’d been up all night because the exterminators had been killing rats in their apartment and they scurried around in their death throes. Besides all that, he needed to help his roommate too, trying to free her when she got stuck in the bathtub. Mark, Fred and I went into the unused sculpture studio we call “Studio 3”, to take pictures, but Fred fell asleep though, and Mark got the idea for the picture eventually called “After the Rats”. Mark framed it out and we lit fast, worried he’d waken and ruin the great position he had while sleeping, sitting slouched down in a wooden chair. He roused in the middle of the exposure, Mark told him to go back to sleep, and Fred obliged easily enough. We shot that one twice; the second time captured an elegant man exhausted by the mayhem of a sleepless night.
Helping him set up an Indian type picture, I saw him craft a detailed and flowing headdress of feathers from a roll of brown wrapping paper, feeling and tearing out the spaces, long fingers remembering, finding shapes. I was impressed at the skill. Costume and clothing aren’t too separate categories for him. An Egyptian ensemble was designed for one of his pictures, he made a wooden staff, entwined with coiled rope, the cut off head of a stuffed alligator serving as the staff’s tip, graced with a red plastic jewel - drop. Spray painted gold; it stood in, as real as any Hollywood artifact.

Despite being blind for many years, his visual memory from earlier times is extraordinarily rich. Fred could minutely compare the differences and similarities of the two Darren Stephens of “Bewitched”, and his visual brain, full of vivid color memory, absorbed even the hues of the interior of Jeannie’s bottle in “I Dream of Jeannie”. That Frederick retains hope, and knows he will see again - one day- is due to the indisputable fact that his blind mother eventually did see again, after loosing her eyesight to the same disease which robbed him of sight. He told me he wanted to try to conceal a little video camera in his hat and record the hostile reactions he encountered on a daily basis, so the camera would verify his perceptions of just how badly some behaved to him. 

Untitled by Frederick Minor, c. 2002
In one of his images, he instructed us to light our hands many times near the floor, as if a sea of hands were reaching upwards to him in the center, tall and wearing some ethnic outfit. He brought in beautiful, downy soft angel wings, theater props, and made some exquisite images using those. I imagine Frederick, making his way around the subway, carrying those big, fluffy wings to 23rd Street, those soft feathers brushing the coats of New Yorkers. I can only imagine the conversations. I hope he returns. ♦

Thursday, May 12, 2011


By poking a tiny hole in a small piece of aluminum foil, a lens is made. Its amazing that it works. Lens-less photography. Pinhole images are soft, but the depth of field is supposed to be infinite. Here are a few new ones.

5.11.11 #24

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Christina version 1 c. 2001

Christina version 2, c.2001
Haresh version 1, c.2005

Haresh version 2,c. 2005

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Braille Theory

Procedural thinking ends. Bland and plastic-like, braille's surface can receive an unintended use.
Using braille paper is nothing new in my art work. I can't decipher the bumps, and that's fine. I did learn half the alphabet and some short words but never resumed my braille lessons.  Standard concept ..."bumps" -useful, "flat surface" -useless. I beg to differ.

There was in the community room of the Associated Blind Service Organization, a table filled with unwanted items left for those to pick over. I picked up two braille books- a Playboy and Sports Illustrated -around 1993- just for use as art materials. Those pages, used occasionally, stay in a box with my art supplies.

Here, braille is used to symbolize feeling. Mourning and grief. The intangible loss.  I had just lost many very close friends and my sister to AIDS. Many early braille images were made with the pain and urgency of early death in mind, I reasoned braille had the dual role as a metaphor for sight loss, and non existence. One of these works shown on this blog uses linear figures inspired from Greek "white -ground "drawing made on small ceramic funeral jars which were buried with the deceased person. A departure or embarkation to the underworld is shown. One might see many patches. This is intended. Think of these as "paintings of paintings". This is an ancient archaic theme- worn and broken with time, pieces crack off, are worn away- nothing is all too clear. What makes life meaningful is its finite nature.

The narrower piece reflects another dramatic moment, presented as a flat, fragmented ancient fresco painting crowned by a Medusa head. The imagery is derived from a remarkably rare painted plaque on marble found in the excavations of Herculaneum, blistered and broken by the fury of its volcanic burial.

Yet another variation of the braille symbolism is  just to reproduce the dot alphabet (or its appearance anyway). Patches and clusters of dot text play around, drawn in, illustrating - labeling or translating.

I've shown several acrylic paintings on braille paper in an exhibition in a group show by the National Exhibitions by Blind Artists around 1994.

Another brailled sketch can be seen in the light painting "Dale Cannedy Boxing a Brailed Bird". This pastel on braille paper was projected behind Dale during the exposure.

The idea to use braille in the "Box portrait" images we make at Seeing With Photography Collective, came after seeing a box portrait image Donald  Martinez had made, where one could (or some could), see tiny pin pricks scattered around the image, left by the thumb tacks used to fasten the photo paper up to the box.
So that triggered a new direction, and I thought over the possibilities of merging the camera's image with some surprising materials. And so, one morning I brought in a selection of papers from my supplies at home- thin rice paper, marbled "banana paper" from Mexico, braille paper and watercolor paper too. Even a small piece of an unusual paper embedded with thin strands of vegetation, it can be seen if you look closely in Jacques Montel's box portrait. {Its in a previous post here 9.11.2010}. I used that  braille sheet for a short time, but lost it, so I had to use another sheet from another braille Playboy kept in the cabinets of props in the room where we work.

Other designed and patterned objects soon followed, placed at the back, at the focus point of the box camera's crude lens,. like the round tin top in Vicki's portrait. The round lid's filigree at the periphery is seen. In the center is taped another  crudely torn circle of that braille, capturing  Vicki's soft likeness.

Above, Braille 3,1993, Braille 2, 1993, Untitled, c. 1993, Blind at the Table c. 2006, Dale Cannedy Boxing a Brailled Bird, c. 2000, Braille Eye, 2004, Excavated Fresco, 2002, Brailled Columns, c.2006, Braille Self Portrait as Antique, 2008, Victorine's Image on a Braille Tondo, Soon After Singing "All You Need is Love', 2009.