This is the first installment of an ongoing, and probably intermittent, series about artists and photographers who have inspired me. I hope you find the series refreshing and informative.
The image below was taken on a very foggy morning. I briefly fancied the idea of a personal project about historic cemeteries in Maryland. My internet search about historic cemeteries led me to Bodine.
Bodine had worked as a photographer for the Baltimore Sunday Sun for 50 years. During those years he chronicled Maryland and his hometown, Baltimore. The majority of his Baltimore photos were taken within a four mile radius of his house.
A man after my own heart.
When perusing Bodine's full measure of work, it seems that he was the maker of every iconic image for the state of Maryland. His image, the now famous, "Clustered Spires of Frederick" has been the inspiration for hundreds, if not thousands, of paintings, post cards, and city logos.
Bodine was a true artist in every sense of the word. Several of his photographs from the Chesapeake Bay remind me of J.M.W.W. Turner's paintings. I might be making this up...yet, I seem to remember reading that Bodine placed himself for the perfect photograph - just as Turner had himself tied to the mast of a ship so he could experience/see the fullness of a storm.
Bodine kept a stock file of cloud negatives to add to his landscapes or water images. If the sky or clouds were not as dramatic as he desired in any given image, he would dub in clouds from his stock file. He was a self-taught master in the dark room, experimenting with chemical processes, painting in lightness or reflections that made improvements to his photographs.
And, this point leads to the correction of a fallacy about the "purity" of earlier photographs processed in a dark room. Every photographer, including Ansel Adams and his peers, perfected their visions in the dark room. This negative of James Dean from the famed Magnum group attests to how the dark room was, and is, only one more tool to improve an image.
(Read A Philosophy on editing a photograph by Adam Marelli. Adam likens editing an image to adding salt to a dish for flavor.)
Bodine studied "General Design"for two years, but never undertook a formal photography education. He learned through practice, experimentation and submitting images to competitions. He joined the Baltimore Camera Club in 1924. The club provided a forum for self-guided learning and theoretical discussions about processing and printing. He preferred early morning light. He would trek out at night, especially in rain and snow storms.
“Only an experienced photographer would know how to make a decent night picture, and get the lines straight, exposure correct, sufficient imagination to make it on a rainy night, and likewise protect his camera from the rain, and be skillful enough to watch the automobile traffic, especially from side streets." - A. Aubrey Bodine
His work, his excellence, his experiments are examples to all of us that a formalized program of photography education is not required to be an artful photographer. I feel kindred to Bodine's learning, style and practice.
I do believe, as Bodine did, that an in-depth study (and it doesn't have to be formal, either) of general design is required. The concepts of general design will allow one to stretch beyond the limitations and boredom of "the rule of thirds" - a "rule" that is widely propagated throughout internet photography sites.
You can learn more about A. Aubrey Bodine, his images and his books here.
1. Aubrey kept all the tools he might need for a photograph in the trunk of his car. (See photo of my car above). This obviously speaks to preparation. You might say, "the decision to make an image has already been made." I know I am more inclined to go out in the wee hours of the morning when everything is already in place. I don't have to make multiple trips from the house to the car, loading equipment. Essentially, the decision to make images has already been made; I just hop in the car and go.
What decisions do you need to pre-make for your images, art-making?
2. Bodine was not hampered by an excuse of "I don't have the proper photography education." He learned and improved his skills through repeated work, experimentation and a commitment to his artfulness. He directed his own learning.
A formal photography education is not required to be an artful photographer. However, a commitment to practice, learning and experimentation is required.
"It might be the hardest way - but it's the best way." - The Hubster
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Until the next time...
Expect the best. Anything else is an adventure.
Who inspires you and your art? Your comments and questions are welcome in the section below, or over on the Facebook page.
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