Photographic Niches

Trying to live with style

2020-10-14


Many art-marketers advise developing and promoting a recognizable style. People "should" (i.e. I actually think they "should not") be able to look at a work, and immediately say, "Oh, that's a typical Charles T. Low".


Pshaw, I say, and more to the point, fie.


(Perhaps I say "fie" for having recently met the sometime Shakespearean, Richard Willis Sheridan, while I was photographing [something else—see Prescott Pilings below] in Prescott.)


I cannot do it, cannot stick with one style, and I mean "cannot", not "will not". And I live with that entirely peacefully.



So, with that in mind, may I show you what I've been up to.


Thousand Island fragment, osprey aerie

The River. The St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands have provided me for many years with so much joy—more as a boater than a photographer, and I explain to people that the two activities haven't complemented each other as one might assume (longer story)—but long stretches of river-banks nearby have no good shore-access, and so finding novel vantages (without a drone) has proven challenging. The upside to this arises from having to find novel vantages from old haunts—phenomenal mental art-exercise.


So the work above shows just a fragment of an island, an island which I have photographed (very differently) many times before—and an osprey-aerie (I think it's an osprey)—in a juxtaposition which I describe (as often happens with me) as having been "right in front of me for many years, without me seeing it". I made it on a hazy day, which isolates the foreground while retaining some context, and whether you like it or not for its various technical and artistic attributes, I like it or I would not show it, and yet ... it gave me an idea, and I returned some days later, just before sunset, for a certain quality of light available then, and only then.


Thousand Islands fragment, osprey-aerie, navigational light-beacon

Clearly, between the two photographs, I moved quite a bit to the left, but mainly: what a different light!


Cemetery and Photography Club. I finally joined and have very much enjoyed the Brockville Area Photo Club a year to two back (BAPC, and you can join now with special pandemic pricing), and they organize outings, among many other intriguing activities. They chose a theme for this one of "cemetery scavenger hunt", which I would never have thought of, and it worked out really well, although I largely ignored the hunt and just did what I wanted. The organizer later said to me, "Great! And it got you out photographing somewhere you might otherwise not have gone!"; I compliment his far-sightedness on that.


Very old headstone, Brockville Cemetery, leaning but still standing

It has to work for me in compositional terms for me to show it here, but I also like that, despite its age, it will not lie down.


But while on the topic of symbolism, the following one just gets to me. Note my caption for a pair of headstones, on one of which I can read the year 1853.


She's still keen on him

Among other things, I waited for the Golden Hour to do my cemetery-work, and I met one other couple from the club there at that time, but I've just got to say it out loud: I got a fabulous light.


Ships. Brockvillians live on the St. Lawrence River/Great Lakes Seaway, and enjoy the impressive feature of passing ships. These behemoths provide ample photographic fodder, and of course as the years have steamed by, I look for something novel (let alone that my suggestion of it as a monthly BAPC challenge got accepted, and that was for August).


Algoma Harvester freighter ship approaching Brockville in fog at dawn

I find it amazing that the telephoto view above hides the 230 m length of that ship! Following shows the ship's bow-section a few minutes later.


Algoma Harvester bow in fog

Some days later, the following might at first seem like a straightforward photograph of a passing freighter, which is fine with me anyway, but I think it brings something different to it.


freighter ship John D. Leitch

Among other things, you won't find very many ships anymore with the pilothouse forward like that. Also, not that it matters, but as it passed by, I couldn't fit it all in one frame with the telephoto lens I had on the camera, and with the ship moving too fast for me to change the lens, I simply kept snapping away, and eventually made this photo by blending two originals. (Fun!) The length however is accurate.


The following shows a more clearly novel presentation. The slow shutter speed and faint early daylight provided (serendipitously) just the right conditions to show those curved light-reflections in the bow-wake.


Algoterra at dawn

Dawn. Fog. I like photographing at dawn because it's my light, if I have such a thing (my "style"?), and also because I usually have the place more to myself (especially handy during this pandemic). I rarely set an alarm but if awake early enough, things often work out.


On this occasion, I drove all all over Creation and almost turned for home several times, but eventually found a fog-enshrouded small lake, only minutes from my abode, with a guy about to set off fishing (and photographing). He says he can't convince his friends to accompany him at that time of day. (Imagine.) He said that the fog didn't worry him, as it would burn off long before he planned to return. He said that on the lake was the best place in the World to have his morning coffee. He said sure, go ahead and photograph him (thank you).


Small foggy lake near Brockville, dawn fisherman in a not-exactly-a-kayak

I have since succeeded at sending him several photos of himself in this context.


"Be there". This old photo-journalism aphorism applies to my art, as well. Some things I plan; many I do not. I could not have predicted this light, or that fog, in this recent image of the Thousand Islands Bridge. But I was there.


Thousand Islands Bridge, dawn, fog

Brockville. "I live in a city and I photograph in a city." Usually this centres around the downtown core, which I find most photogenic, and a recurring challenge revolves around finding something new in something familiar.


Tait's Bakery ("Fresh Start")

Now, I don't know about all of you people, but I don't look up enough. After living here for over thirty years, I could not quite have told you any detail about the building of which the century-long tradition of Tait's Bakery occupies the ground floor.


Walking around, I stopped and worked on the First Baptist Church. I'm just going to say out loud what you're all thinking, that the First Presbyterian, not far away, gets more attention, but this one, just a fraction out of one's usual sight-lines, I find also absolutely gorgeous.


First Baptist, Brockville

(I often wonder why we see fewer "seconds": "Second Baptist Church".)


Just around the corner I found another building in plain sight, a beautiful architectural triumph, which I had never truly appreciated.


Thomas Fuller Building, Brockville

Last in this series, I would like to show a more overall scene.


King Street West and Courthouse Avenue, Brockville Ontario

Note that this set of Brockville photographs, although made on two separate occasions (which doesn't matter), all happened a bit before sunrise (which does matter).


Prescott Pilings. These very old remnants of what I presume were ship wharfs from a bygone era, have enticed me before. To get something which appealed to me this time, I needed a new light, or a new inner vision.


Prescott Pilings

I sometimes say that the magic will happen on my third visit. This - my fourth or fifth - felt pretty good.


Prescott Pilings


Doing it without style


To my way of thinking, the above photographs cross many styles. I have one artist-friend who disagrees with my self-image as "having no style" (by which I do not mean "without any class"!).


What do you think? I think that answering "dawn" would be too easy (although I would see your point).


Thanks so much for reading this far and for looking at my art photographs.


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Charles T. Low

Photographer


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