A Story – Small Journey

It had taken the four of them the a long time to build the car. They had seen pictures in the papers of the “big people” and a group of them had been enthused by the possibility of creating their own. Over the months they had copied the plans appropriately. It was never a problem to get the materials as the”big people” were always so wasteful. They hadn’t even noticed the missing can and other objects.

160131-SmallJourney.jpg

They had worked together as a small team and were pleased with the results, even though it had taken them months of their spare time, after all their normal duties had been completed. Some elders of the group had initially told them they were wasting their time but, to be honest, most were secretly impressed when the car started up.

The youngsters had clearly learned a lot and they could see that this development would open up so many possibilities for the community at large…

~Richard

52 week challenge: week 5

Week 5: Landscape: Black and White – Look for a scene with great contrast that will make a great black and white.

The recent snow came to my rescue a second time in the challenge.  As I was driving home from an appointment yesterday evening I was pleased to still have what was left of the evening light available, so giving me an unexpected opportunity to make a start on this week’s challenge. I turned off the main route and took a few back roads on the Delaware/Pennsylvania border and was able to get a few shots. I was very short of time though and, due to having no place to park on these recently plowed roads, I had to resort the to taking some shots from the car. I was pleased with the composition of the shot below but, to be blatantly honest, it is not as sharp as it could be, since I was too rushed (lesson learned there!)

160130LandscapeMonoSmall

So this morning, on my way back home from an indoor hockey game I stopped off at another open area and put together this shot. I really wanted to capture the texture of the tree, fence and wispy clouds, but as I am still forcing myself to stick to my trusty 20mm f/1.7 lens I was forced to be a little creative. I took 3 overlapping portrait shots and then stitched them together using the free Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE).  

Therefore, I offer up not one, but two images for this week’s challenge, although technically the second image is actually 3 photos in itself!

160130Landscape2MonoSmall

~Richard

#dogwood52 #dogwoodweek5

Politically Inspired Graphic Art

I have found the last several months of rhetoric, bombast, bigotry, and other political shenanigans that have poured forth during the run up to selection of political candidates for this year’s White House run to have been more depressing than usual. However, rather than simply getting angry, or demoralized I have used the time to inspire me to create some graphic art.

I make no public claim or overt political stand with this – the viewer can read into it whatever messaging s/he sees fit. Perhaps they would make for a good discussion too?

This is going to be a long year and I just needed to get this off my chest early in the game…

160129_GOPLiesFearThem

160129_GOPTee

~Richard

After nearly 70 years – the end of the True Landy?

I just heard today that TATA, the parent company of that classic British car marque Land Rover, will stop manufacturing the Land Rover Defender tomorrow. Admittedly, this had been announced some time ago but I had not seen it.

The Defender is the last of the “true” Land Rovers, and it’s a shame to see it go after 67 years of evolution. How ironic that it lasted nearly “three-score years and ten.”  It will be replaced by a more street-worthy vehicle carrying the same name but it will be interesting to see how it can bear the history of a vehicle that is so iconic and was once advertised as the road vehicle you can plough a field with. And if you don’t believe me try looking here  and then watching this excellent promotional video from the 50s.

I drove several Land Rovers over a prolonged time in the mid to late 80’s when I was working in the agricultural sector and I admit I loved their basic ruggedness and the fact they could go just about anywhere over the fields.  I even towed a small plot combine all over the UK with a 110 V8, at one point having to park this behemoth, with its appalling turning circle, in the center of Edinburgh each night as that’s where I was staying over the summer. Now that was an experience.

LandRover V8 and Hege 125B Combine
LandRover V8 and Hege 125B Combine

With the demise of this quintessentially British icon, much like the original Mini, I feel we are losing a bit of our heritage, but I guess the real Landy has had its day. Maybe it says more about how society has moved on – perhaps we are simply less rugged, or rather more refined, than we used to be.  It would have been an anathema to install air conditioning and electronic gadgetry in a Land Rover of old, after all the vehicle was designed so that the interior could be cleaned with a hose, or so I am told, but the new Defender will undoubtedly come with all the whistle and bells that today’s discerning, Hunter-welly-clad, Barbour-jacket-wearing clientele desire, neatly fitted into its monocoque, chassis-less design.
So, as part of my farewell to this Best of British post-war Engineering I am running a Land Rover image contest for fun this week under the auspices of the Quintessentially British Group that I curate. Why not take a look to see what people have entered?

~Richard

Sold! And it’s no small potato

Solanum tuberosum, aka the potato, or “spud” is a very versatile plant which provides a significant number of people in the world with a great deal of nourishment through consumption of its tubers. It is something that we, at least in the Western World, take for granted as a cheap, staple food source.  

One nation whose history is inexorably linked to the cultivation of the potato is Ireland, where the potato famine (or Great Famine) caused a 20-25% drop in population due to death of a million people and immigration of another million individuals, largely to the US, when the crop failed for successive years during the mid 19th century. It can quite justifiably be said that this root crop literally changed the fate of a nation (or two).

It is therefore perhaps a tad ironic that, with Irish farm prices for the spud at about €5 per 10kg ($5 per 22lb) at the time of writing, Irish photographer, Kevin Abosch should sell a single photograph of  the humble potato for €1,000,000 ($1,090,000) recently. To put this into perspective, for the same money the buyer could have bought around 2,000 tonnes of the real tubers instead. Quite a discrepancy.

Now, there has been quite a bit hullabaloo about this, much like the previous Peter Lik sale of Phantom and the Andreas Gursky sale of Rhein II (to which I paid my own homage here). But to be honest, I say good luck to him, and his ilk!  I think it’s a good photograph. I don’t particularly see anything wonderful about it and it’s not something that I would have hanging on my wall but then that’s the whole point of art – it’s subjective.

We don’t know who the “unnamed businessman” who shelled out for this artwork is, but perhaps he is the descendant of an Irish immigrant who is paying homage to his heritage through buying the image of something very meaningful to him, from another successful Irishman. One million euros is a tremendous amount of money to the majority of us but perhaps not so to the businessman who could be as rich as Croesus, as far as we know. Perhaps to him, it’s no big deal.

Either way, the sale made the news, boosting the exposure of Kevin Abosch (of whom, I admit I was totally unaware) and stirring up the usual rants and hand-wringing from the intelligentsia and blog writers alike.  It also almost certainly increased the value of the photo – making it a shrewd investment perhaps, or am I being too cynical?

Either way, I propose that pictures of the potato are passé, and I offer up instead my own, much brighter image of peppers and beans, fit to grace any kitchen/dining area. Oh, and this image is considerably cheaper, too! 😉

160127_PeppersNBeans

~Richard

A Story – The Observer

In the field stood the viewer, ready for the tourists to use to survey the countryside. It was well used, mainly because it was sited in such a good position that allowed the paying guests to obtain a panoramic vista of the area. However, in the dead of night, when everyone had left for home, the viewer quietly turned on its own. A faint whir could be heard as a different set of lenses were brought into the optical plane. These allowed the machine to see much further and wider that any human being was able to. Not confined to the visible spectrum, the inconspicuous machine also collected infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths and transmitted the data to its owners sited on the edge of the solar system.

The Observer

The machine was slow and methodical. It was part of a vast network of similar devices that had been working this way now for over 50 years. After all, they were a patient race, which seemed to be more than could be said for the current dominant species of the third rock from the sun…  

© Richard Reeve

52 week challenge: week 4

Week 4: Portrait: Headshot You shot a selfie, now shoot a “selfie” of someone else!

As I mentioned in my earlier post on this subject ‘… (portrait) is largely unexplored territory for me to date, other than through reluctantly granted periodic “family portraits,”’ so I felt that this was going to be a tough assignment.

Help came though in a totally unexpected way – through Winter Storm Jonas! Bizarrely, as the storm was heading towards us, the majority of my family left to go on a pre-planned ski trip in Vermont, thereby missing the storm in its entirety. I, on the other hand, was left at home in PA to look after the place, but mainly because I no longer ski due to an accident in the Austrian Alps 10 or so years ago. Staying with me was one of my daughters, and as I was spending 8+ hours shoveling snow to dig a path to the road she, obviously, decided to build an igloo.

Aha! I thought, I will strike a bargain and, as part payment for providing some material for her to use as a roof, she agreed to let me take a few pictures of her. I particularly liked her choice of headgear and I had her pose inside her igloo too to provide an interesting backdrop.  I admit to taking several shots over a short period (1-2 minutes) and I stuck to using my  20mm f1.7 (40mm equivalent) lens simply because I wanted a large aperture as the light was fading.

160125_PortraitGColor600px

160125_PortraitGMono600px

After some minor touch up in GIMP I also tried a black and white version, so this week I offer up two images to the challenge!

I would be interested to see which one is preferred, as it’s a tough choice for me.

~Richard

#dogwood52 #dogwoodweek4

Happy Birthday Klaus Nomi

Sometime around 1981 or ‘82  I was watching The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC2 when I was totally taken aback by the outlandish appearance of one of the singers in a music video being shown. It was Klaus Nomi singing Total Eclipse and I watched in fascination only to be completely blown away by the astounding vocal range of this artist. I was hooked; here was a truly unique musical experience for a teenager who was expanding his musical tastes. I needed to find out more, but in those days, pre-internet, in a small coastal British town it was not easy to do. I relied, like most adolescents of the time, on radio and TV music shows, hoping to be able to tape or video anything I could get my hands on.

Simple Man by Richard Reeve

Over the decades that song stuck with me, and I have gone back to it periodically, along with Nomi Song and Simple Man. Klaus Nomi had a great career opening up for him in the early eighties, but it was not to blossom into the mainstream consciousness as he became an early victim of complications due to AIDS. He died in 1983, at the age of 39.

In the 80s, to me he seemed the epitome of outrageous, without actually being overt in the way that punk had been. In fact, it was the way he casually dropped in and out of the countertenor register seemed truly outrageous to me.

It would have been marvelous to see what he would have been able to create had he lived longer and what further influences he would have had on today’s artists.

Happy Birthday, Simple Man!  

 
~Richard

Men of a Certain Age and the Saddest Story in 4 words

I have just come back into the house after having spent time out in winter storm Jonas, shoveling the snow outside the back door for the dogs, and also to cutting a path to the chicken run to see if the hens are ok. They are, by the way, in fact so “ok” that one of them was in the nest box laying and was quite cross that I disturbed her!

So, I dry myself off, make a cup of tea and think about what I should write today. I post some pictures of the storm to facebook for friends and family to see and, as I procrastinate, I see that someone has posted a link to a challenge to write the saddest story you can in 4 words.

Quick as a flash the following phrase springs to mind:

“Man dies shoveling snow”

Whoa, there – not another bleedin’ subliminal message, thinks I. As a “man of a certain age,” what am I to make of that?

Well, a quick search of the wonderful wide web tells me that around 100 people in the US die from heart attacks in the winter while shoveling snow, although there are thoughts that the real figure may be more than double that. Although it’s mainly sedentary men who this affects, causing those of us who consider ourselves to be “fit” to think we’ll be alright, this is not always the case. Apparently plenty of younger, fitter guys (and their families) befall this unnecessary tragedy too, as the exertion of lifting snow, coupled with cold air which works to constrict arteries, creates “a perfect storm” for a heart attack.

160123_SnowMan

So, to keep this message short and sweet I offer another 4 words and a sobering, but humorous image, that everyone should heed as Storm Jonas makes its way up the East Coast:

 

“Be careful out there”

~Richard

 

Artistic inspiration

For my day job I work for a large corporation, doing corporate activities that generally involve me “flying a desk”, as I like to describe it. For those of you familiar with the corporate world you can perhaps empathize with the following story: We are in the process of a management-led activity to “improve morale” and increase the level of “teamwork” following a series of layoffs and restructuring, all amid a general atmosphere of continued uncertainty. This activity involves a full day of team building exercises which will include each of us being prepared to share with the group something that inspires us.

I have a naturally skeptical disposition when faced with this sort of activity, having been through initiatives of similar ilk many times over the last 25 years or thereabouts, so I have been facing this week with mixed feelings of boredom and dread, as I don’t want to derail the well-intentioned plan, despite my innate misgivings.  In fact, I have been struggling hard for a week to find a relevant example of inspiration without wishing it to be too trite.

Now, fast forward to a completely unrelated activity: the recent tragic early death of a local artist, friend and teacher of my wife. Although I did not know the lady directly I accompanied my wife to her memorial service at the local Quaker Meeting House and was very moved by the deeply heartfelt personal nature of the modest occasion. The memorial allowed for anyone present to speak on any memory or thought about the deceased for as long they wanted and one mourner stood and recited the following poem:

“I am an artist.”

I am an artist.

My definition of art is creating

something with my hands that is an

expression of who I am.

Art is a part of me.

I can’t escape the urge to create,

to get out my feelings in the way

of paper and glue. Or losing myself

behind the lens of my camera.

I am so thankful for my art.

It’s my own personal therapy.

And in the process I am leaving my mark

in the works I create.

I am an artist.

And there is nothing else in the world

I would rather be.

-Author Unknown-

I don’t consider myself to be a spiritual person, having been bathed in secular science all my life, yet as I listened the words struck a chord within me which I think will remain with me for a long time and I felt truly inspired. I truly believe that the unique act of creating art for art’s sake is a wonderful activity; personal yet shareable, challenging yet cathartic, and most importantly mind-expanding.

We should always have this in the back of our mind on this as we peer through our viewfinders and create our masterpiece.

160122_Artist

For Mary and Diane

I originally wrote this piece in October 2014, when it inspired me in that moment to go for a contemplative lunchtime walk and to sit under the autumnal trees overhanging a local brook and create the artwork above. I have since returned to this artwork several times and it even hangs at work in a friend’s workspace. It also seems ironic that, some 15 months later, our organization is repeating the same training, so making this post relevant again and, much more tragically, only last night a second artist friend of my wife’s lost her battle with cancer too, re-emphasizing the cyclical nature of the world perhaps.

~Richard

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