Thursday, October 8, 2015

Robert Pinsky on Creativity

Robert Pinsky by Sigrid Estrada

I have fallen woefully short of my goal of publishing a photographic quote of the week, but I would like to share a quote related to creativity in general from former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky:
Whatever makes a child want to glue macaroni on a paper plate and paint the assemblage and see it on the refrigerator - that has always been strong in me. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Toying With Ideas

Toying With Ideas: The Lo-Fi Photography of David A. Cory
Robert Williams Gallery
Box Factory for the Arts
1101 Broad St.
St. Joseph, MI

September 11 - October 24, 2015

Opening Reception:
Friday September 11, 2015
5:30 - 7:30 PM
When I tell people I have an upcoming photography show, they usually ask questions like “What is the theme?” or “What kind of photography do you do?”
I find these questions difficult to answer.
The art I produce with a camera doesn't fit neatly into any genre. The only way I can attempt to characterize the prints that will be on display at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, MI starting September 11, 2015 is to say the photos are made with a Holga toy camera, some are single exposures, and some are multiple exposures. While I'm limiting the prints in the St. Joe to Holga images, at various times, I have used vintage film cameras, both medium format and 35mm, cheap promotional cameras like those once given away by Time Magazine and Holiday Inn, homemade and factory-made pinhole cameras, and even digital cameras.
I wouldn't say I do architectural photography in a conventional sense, though the subjects some of my photos are buildings, usually in various states of disrepair and distorted by the plastic lens of the Holga, as in “Flower Shop” and “Good Hart General Store.”
Flower Shop
Good Hart General Store
I don't do much portraiture or street photography, prompting one reviewer of my portfolio to comment that the photos I showed him looked like they were taken after a neutron bomb explosion. Buildings and other structures were intact, but there was not a human in sight. When I've tried it, I've felt a little weird and voyeuristic doing street photography, and I'm not that comfortable asking strangers if I can take their pictures. I have done it occasionally though.
Occupy Chicago
These photos, by the way, won't be in the show. Perhaps this is something I can work on in the future.

I often rearrange reality by making multiple exposure images. Reviewers looking at some of my multiple exposures of mechanical objects have referred to them as crazy machines or something out of a science fiction movie.
Industrial Revolution #4
I don't consider myself a nature photographer, but many of my photos include natural subjects, as in “Burdock #1” and “Vernal Vortex.”
Burdock #1
Vernal Vortex
I'm tempted to call the multiple exposures abstract or surrealistic, though I really don't feel they fit into either category.

Trying to explain my photographs reminds me of Robert Frost, who, when asked to explain one of his poems, responded with, “You want me to say it worse?”

So, I hope you will be able to come to the Box Factory show and form your own opinions.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Alfred Stieglitz

In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.

- Alfred Stieglitz
The Flatiron, by Alfred Stieglitz, 1903

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Jerry Uelsmann

Ultimately, my hope is to amaze myself. The anticipation of discovering new possibilities becomes my greatest joy. – Jerry Uelsmann

Untitled, Jerry Uelsmann, 1996

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Edward Steichen

A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it. - Edward Steichen

Charles Chaplin by Edward Steichen, 1925

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Paul Strand

Cartier-Bresson has said that photography seizes a "decisive moment." That's true except that it shouldn't be taken too narrowly...does my picture of a cobweb in the rain represent a decisive moment? The exposure time was probably three or four minutes. That's a pretty long moment. I would say the decisive moment in that case was the moment in which I saw this thing and decided I wanted to photograph it. - Paul Strand, Sixty Years of Photographs by Paul Strand, Calvin Tomkins , ISBN: 0900406828 , Page: 35-36
“Cobweb in Rain, Georgetown, Maine,” 1927 (negative); 1927 (print). Paul Strand, American, 1890 – 1976. Gelatin silver print, image: 9 11/16″ x 7 13/16″ (24.6 x 19.8 cm). Sheet: 9 15/16″ x 8 1/16″ (25.3 x 20.4 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, 125th Anniversary Acquisition. The Paul Strand Collection, the Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001. © Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Art Comes Alive

I have a photograph hanging in the Art Comes Alive show at ADC Gallery in Cincinnati through July 24. The photos I submitted are online at the ACA website. "Uprooted " is the print in the show.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Robert Frank

Fourth of July--Jay, New York, Robert Frank, 1954

Something I really like is a big flag. Here, people are so proud of it. In other countries you don’t feel they’re so proud of their flag.

- Robert Frank, quoted in "The Man Who Saw America," by Nicholas Dawidoff, New York Times Magazine, July 2, 2015.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Harry Callahan

To be a photographer, one must photograph. No amount of book learning, no checklist of seminars attended, can substitute for the simple act of making pictures. Experience is the best teacher of all. And for that, there are no guarantees that one will become an artist. Only the journey matters.

-Harry Callahan

Multiple Exposure Tree, Chicago, Harry Callahan, 1956

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Berenice Abbott

Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past.

-Berenice Abbott

Blossom Restaurant; 103 Bowery. Oct. 3, 1935; by Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) from her "Changing New York" Works Progress Administration/ Federal Art Project

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Edward Weston

Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual.

 - Edward Weston

Pepper #30, Edward Weston, 1930

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Photographic Quote of the Week: Garry Winogrand

I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.

 - Garry Winogrand

Albuquerque, Garry Winogrand, 1957

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Marbury Tree

I believe a turning point in my approach to photography occurred on a trip to England in 2008. My wife Mary, our friends Gay and Mike, and I visited a small town called Marbury. As we were walking through the cemetery of the town's church, the remnant of a gnarled old tree caught my eye. I had brought a Canon compact digital camera on the trip. I had done some 35mm SLR photography in the past, but when digital photography came along, I contented myself with a point-and-shoot.

An epiphany of sorts occurred when I walked around the tree and pointed the camera into the eroded interior of the trunk.

That photo showed me the potential of going beyond the representational vacation snapshot.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Local Show

Thanks to Kay Westhues​ for inviting me to participate in an exhibit celebrating the city's sesquicentennial at the South Bend Museum of Art. My photos are on the wall to the left of Larry Piser's furniture, toward the corner. The show opens Saturday, March 21 and the artists' reception will be Friday, May 1 from 5-9.

I'm honored to be part of this show, which is called South Bend Selfie and is meant to represent the current status of the local art scene. The selection process is described on the museum's web site:

The South Bend Museum of Art selected 5 individuals who are influential within the arts community. They each selected 2 artists who they feel are making important work, and/or deserve a chance to shine. Those artists selected an additional 2 artists each. In the end, artwork by 30 artists is featured in the exhibition. The branching nature of the selection process sheds light on influences, friendships, and other complexities that help create the rich and varied arts culture of South Bend.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Margaret Eakins with Harry, Thomas Eakins, 1880

Robert Adams wrote a brilliant book called Why People Photograph (Aperture, 1994). One of the essays within is titled "Dogs," which closes with the words, "A photographer down on his or her knees picturing a dog has found pleasure enough to make many things possible." I highly recommend the essay and the book.

Emerging from War

Emerging from War © 2014 David A. Cory

One of my Holga multiple exposures appears in Issue 3 of So It Goes, the Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. I made the following remarks at the release event for the journal at the library on November 8, 2014.

Some of you may have had the good fortune to hear Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. deliver a speech titled, “How to Get a Job Like Mine,” as I did in 1993 at an arts festival in Dowagiac, Michigan, of all places. I understand that Vonnegut rarely talked about how to be a writer when he gave speeches titled “How to Get a Job Like Mine.” That was the case when I heard him in 1993. He talked about a lot of things, but not about how to be a writer. In that spirit, I am calling my brief talk today, “How to Make a Photograph Like Mine.”

In the first chapter of Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut recounted a trip he took with his old WWII buddy, Bernhard V. O'Hare, to Dresden, where they had been prisoners of war in 1945. After returning to the USA, O'Hare received a postcard at Christmastime from the cab driver who drove them around Dresden. The card said , "I wish you and your family also as to your friend Merry Christmas and a happy New Year and I hope that we'll meet again in a world of peace and freedom in the taxi cab if the accident will." Vonnegut wrote, “I like that very much: 'If the accident will.'” And I say to you, “I like that very much: 'If the accident will.'”

My photography frequently involves accidents. When the results are good, I call them happy accidents. I like to use multiple exposures to dismantle reality and put it back together in different ways. To do this I use a $30 plastic camera mounted on a gadget I made out of plywood and a lazy Susan bearing. I never know exactly what the accident will put on the negative until I develop the film. That's as close as I'll come to telling you how to make a photograph like mine. I believe this picture invokes two strong influences on Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.—Indianapolis, where he grew up, and war. I made this photo at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the Circle in the center of Indianapolis, not far from here. I didn't know it at the time, but the title of this sculpture group is simply “War.” It was carved by an Austrian named Rudolph Schwarz. Sculptures of similar majesty, carved by equally talented Europeans, were destroyed during the firebombing of Dresden that occurred while Kurt Vonnegut was a prisoner of war there.

I recently learned the central figure in the Indianapolis sculpture group is Columbia, the female personification of America, leading the way into battle with torch held high. When I looked at the photo, I felt this particular rearrangement of reality showed a woman leading the way out of the chaos of battle, so I called it “Emerging from War.” When I framed this particular print and viewed it from a distance, I noticed an unintended accident. It resembles a swastika—a reminder of the Nazis and the horror of war. Interestingly, the word swastika is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “a lucky or auspicious object.” It is an ancient decorative symbol forever stigmatized by Hitler.

America has had many opportunities to emerge from war and to plunge back in again. Witness the fact that the Soldiers and Sailors Monument is dedicated to those who fought in the various American wars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Frontier Wars, and the Spanish-American War. The participants in WWI are honored separately at The Indiana World War Memorial, also just a few blocks from here. It is not called the World War I Memorial, because at the time construction of the building began in the 1920s, no one could imagine that humanity would descend into a second world war. So it goes. In Vonnegut's Timequake, Kilgore Trout referred to WWII as “Western Civilization's second unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide.” And so WWI was the first.

If you were to ascend one of the grand staircases of the Indiana World War Memorial, you would see, among others listed on the wall, the name of my great uncle Charles Neal. He was an Indiana farm boy who entered the army in August 1918 and died in basic training at Camp Custer, Michigan, about six weeks later, during the influenza epidemic. Charlie was 21 years old, about the age of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. when he entered the army during WWII. Unlike Mr. Vonnegut, Uncle Charlie barely learned to be a soldier and did not live long enough to try out his newly-acquired military skills. Fortunately for us, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. survived the ordeal of WWII and went on to create the literary legacy that brings us together today—a happy accident indeed!