Reflections on aesthetics, poetics, psychology, ecology, and/or techne and the influence they have on practice at Krater Café
Preface: On Practice
The pragmaticism of Charles Sanders Peirce and the pragmatism of William James both stress the application, the usefulness of ideas, theories, and beliefs. Application, the practice, is what focuses my creative engagement.
Practice in this sense is not to imply preparation for a main event as used in sports and the performing arts. The usage here as in a medical or law practice. It is simply the way of doing things.
This edition of Commonplace Capers will explore the image making practice used on this site.
Journey with image making
Before getting to the brass tacks, a quick survey of my journey with image making. My first conscious attempt to use a camera as a tool of creativity was a 3rd grade field trip to Hartford, CT. The automatic disposable camera had no adjustments possible, so my first lessons were focused on framing the shot. It would be hard to describe the level of excitement and anticipation that accompanied my waiting for the photos to return from the lab.
In high school, I was introduced to a black and white darkroom. This showed me the potential of developing an image, or what could be defined as image making. A little burn here, a little dodge there, and it became clear that images could manifest post the clicking of the shutter.
I’ve been fortunate to teach digital photography to students of all ages in the decades that have followed. In my teaching, I stress a spirit of playfulness. Very few classes go by where my foundational teaching advice has not been repeated: delete is your friend.
I am a fan of limitations. In photography, pinhole cameras get at the core of this principle. I built a camera obscura, which cannot take images, only place them on a glass viewing plane, to better understand the dynamics of limitation in image making.
I think this cut into my journey with image making might serve to illuminate the decisions and processes I want to discuss.
Smartphone as a dual instrument for imagery (techne)
More than 95% of the images, still and video, accompanying the posts at Krater Café are both shot and processed with my smartphone, a Motorola Moto G Stylus. The images are processed with three apps. Game Brain makes an image app called Comica and a video app called Comica Video. Both are available on Google Play. These two apps provide the two primary filters used to process my images. For the still images, I also use the Pixlr app to place a frame on most images.
Current Practice: Limitation and Freedom
While the smartphone industry has made great strides in the built-in cameras they provide, I would rate the model I use as average at best. That said, it suits my practice nicely. Why is that? I cannot think of one photo I have taken with this phone that raw, I would want to print and frame “as is.” This limitation in quality has opened a door for me to push into the digital processing, employing the apps mentioned above, to achieve results that fulfill my goals.
I approach image taking on the smartphone, much like the experience on that third grade field trip referenced above, focused on framing the image. I seldom use a cropping tool later on in the processing. I will employ the brightness slider and more often than not, I drop the brightness one or two steps. Then, click.
Bringing the images into the filtering apps for me is akin to the darkrooms of yesteryear (in fact, I will often do it late at night in a dark room, as this seems to focus my proprioception for the task at hand).
Image filtering apps are a mixed bag for the creative process in my opinion because the options can be overwhelming. Again, the guiding principle of limitation has helped me build an aesthetic that suits my goals. The Game Brain apps provide over 30 filters to choose from. I have limited myself to two for over 95% of my work: lucid and flow.
The lucid filter, like the reference to lucid dreaming, tends to make the images pop. The flow filter paints the images as a watercolor. I employ flow for images when I am seeking an exploration of memory or history, or to convey nostalgia. The lucid filter, my primary choice, is all about the intensity of creative engagement, analogous to those who practice lucid dreaming.
The Game Brain filters are not complex, but do demand a clear intent. Each filter has four adjustment sliders (image quality, contrast, brightness, and color intensity). Each slider has ten level settings. If my math is correct (I’ve never been a wiz at math), each image can be rendered 210 different ways. As my aesthetic has emerged with practice, I’m guessing I employ less than 20 of the options I could use. My images fall into a certain zone that, again, meets my intent.
Running the images through pixlr and adding a frame is a step I take in order to make the claim the image is complete.
Regarding the video clips I have been sharing, I confess, this is a new practice, and I am pretty much simply employing the choices made for the still imagery. It has been an unexpected bonus to be able to process the video clips with the same filters and aesthetic choices.
What is freedom?
Damned if I know, but what has been emerging for me here in this space in both image and text certainly feels like it.
Portrait of My Shadow
A note of thanks to those partaking in the offerings I am serving at Krater Café. As a reminder, your likes of my work also provide a potential portal to your world. Often, when trying to get to your site through the like function, I discover that your Gravatar profile does not include your blog address. Something to consider?