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Past, Present & Future

Under a Crescent Moon, Autumn, White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, New Mexico 2014   Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian

Under a Crescent Moon, Autumn, White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, New Mexico 2014 Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian

I think there is something absolutely magical about watching the moon as it makes its incredible journey across the heavens. Though clouds may obscure its view and its appearance certainly changes as the moon waxes and wanes, I take heart in knowing that this celestial wanderer makes its daily pilgrimage across the firmament. Continue Reading →

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Cowgirl Akimbo

Cowgirl Akimbo, Summer, San Marcos, New Mexico 2014  Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian

Cowgirl Akimbo, Summer, San Marcos, New Mexico 2014 Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian

A K I M B O.

I like the sound of the word. Arms akimbo is a body position in which the hands are on the hips and the elbows are bowed outward, or bent or simply bowed. Legs apparently can be akimbo too with the knees bent and spread widely apart. I remember first encountering the word in a description of a beguiling Edward Weston portrait of Charis Wilson at Lake Ediza written by Charis herself. Continue Reading →

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Red or Green?

Red & Green Chile Peppers, Ranchos de las Golondrinas, New Mexico 2014. Photograph ©Craig Varjabedian

Red & Green Chile Peppers, Ranchos de las Golondrinas, New Mexico 2014. Photograph ©Craig Varjabedian

In New Mexico we are proud of our chile. Some like red. Others like green. And some people like “Christmas” where a little of both are served with your meal. And don’t get me started on which one tastes hotter! ;-)

Once you get a taste for our chile, nothing else will ever do. Some say that New Mexico peppers get their special flavor from how they’re grown: high altitude, long seasons of heat and sunlight, hot days and “chilly” nights (pun intended). Others have a preference for the precise locale where their chile is grown; farmers in Hatch or Chimayo New Mexico for example, each claim they have the best chile.

All I know is that New Mexico chile from anywhere in the state is simply the best there is. As the late great N’awlins chef Justin Wilson would drawl, “I ga-ron-tee!”

P.S. If you want to learn more about New Mexico chile, check out the article Chile Wars in the Santa Fe Reporter newspaper.

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On the Art of Practicing

My dog Dektol in the Subaru, October 10, 2014.  Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian

My dog Dektol in the Subaru, October 10, 2014. Photograph by ©Craig Varjabedian. Photograph made with an Apple iPhone 6

A musician friend of mine and I were having a conversation about the value of practicing  recently. Of course he does it. Pretty much everyday. He told me that if he didn’t practice his piano for a single day he could tell that the music he is making is not his best. He went on to say that if he didn’t practice for two days, his agent could definitely hear it in the sound. And if he didn’t practice for three days, he knew he would disappoint his audience. Practice is very important. Continue Reading →

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Daring Greatly by Theodore Roosevelt

 

President Theodore Roosevelt, Photograph by Pach Brothers Studio, New York, c. August 15, 1913

President Theodore Roosevelt, Photograph by Pach Brothers Studio, New York, c. August 15, 1913 (Library of Congress image link)

I have spent the few free moments I have had this week, totally engrossed in Ken Burns’ latest film The Roosevelts, An Intimate History currently being broadcast on public television. The film presents, in seven parts, the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. An amazing and moving film.

In the final minutes of episode two, we are presented with what is perhaps one of the most memorable things Theodore Roosevelt’s may have ever penned. He writes:
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Goodbye and Thank you Dr. Zakia

Richard Zakia with then student Andrew Davidhazy. Photograph courtesy Andrew Davidhazy

Richard Zakia (R) in the classroom with student Andrew Davidhazy. Professor Davidhazy went on to become a respected teacher at RIT. Photograph courtesy Andrew Davidhazy

This appreciation originally appeared on this blog in March 2012.

I have been thinking a lot about teachers and teaching lately with the passing of a favorite college professor of mine. Richard D. Zakia, who I had the privilege of studying with when I was a graduate student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, passed away on March 12, 2012 at the age of 87.

Dr. Z, as his students would call him, was amazing in many ways. While he began his work life as a photographic engineer at Eastman Kodak he, luckily for us, came to teaching in 1957, beginning his career at RIT where I later came to know him. He was a man who had his feet planted firmly in two worlds; one in the technical world of photography, being able to explain the nuisances of sensitometry—the study of the action of light and chemistry on photographic materials—and the other planted in the world of aesthetics trying to understand through gestalt psychology and semiotics not only what photographs mean but also why they are visually organized the way they are.

Continue Reading →

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Off to College

Rebekkah Varjabedian and newborn goat, Picacho, New Mexico 2010 by Craig Varjabedian

Rebekkah Varjabedian and newborn goat, Picacho, New Mexico 2010 by Craig Varjabedian

My daughter Rebekkah leaves for college this week. As I contemplate the impending goodbye that will take place in a few days, I am grateful that she turned out to be such a kind, thoughtful and incredibly capable young woman. While I know it will be sad for her mother and I (and her Aunt Cindy too) when she leaves for school, the excitement of what I know lies ahead for her allays my sadness. The photograph above, made a few years ago, foretells her life’s passion, that of becoming a healer of animals—a veterinarian. And in her caring for all creatures great and small, I know she will find her true bliss.

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An Elegy for a Printer Named Cottonwood

Cottonwood No. 5, Autumn, nr. La Cienega, New Mexico 1996 Photograph ©Craig Varjabedian

Cottonwood No. 5, Autumn, nr. La Cienega, New Mexico 1996 Photograph ©Craig Varjabedian

The printing presses ceased to roll at Cottonwood Printing Company this past Friday. The firm was forced to close its doors after thirty-five years due to the City of Albuquerque condemning the property where the plant is located. The city wants (needs?) to put a road over a water diversion channel and it seems that the Cottonwood plant is in the way of the growing needs of the city.

I began my adventure with Cottonwood in 1994 when the firm printed a brochure for a one-person exhibition of mine at the Albuquerque Museum. It was there that I first met Victor Scherzinger and a great friendship began. And over time, as the business grew and changed, Victor brought on two partners, first Blake Thies, a wizard of the accounts and later his wife Christina whom I have often called the heart of Cottonwood Printing. Over twenty years we created many beautiful things together—calendars and notecards and even a book—a duotone volume for an exhibition of mine that was assembled by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center titled By the Grace of Light: Images of Faith from Catholic New Mexico.

Continue Reading →

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Discovery Excites Me to Focus

San José de Gracia Church, Late afternoon light, Las Trampas, New Mexico 2014    Photograph ©Craig Varjabedian

San José de Gracia Church, Late afternoon light, Las Trampas, New Mexico 2014 Photograph ©Craig Varjabedian

I have been rereading the Daybooks of Edward Weston lately; the great photographer’s journals that I first read while I was a beginning photography student at the University of Michigan many years ago. Weston’s writing is thoughtful and perceptive and I have found myself, over the years, returning to the books many times for inspiration, clarity and solace. A quote by Weston came to mind the other day while I was making the photograph above. It was inspired I am sure by conversations I was having with two wonderful photographers named Dolph and Jeanne from Tyler, Texas who had joined me for a private workshop:

I start with no preconceived idea – discovery excites me to focus – then rediscovery through the lens – final form of presentation seen on ground glass, the finished print previsioned completely in every detail of texture, movement, proportion, before exposure – the shutter’s release automatically and finally fixes my conception, allowing no after manipulation – the ultimate end, the print, is but a duplication of all that I saw and felt through my camera.
Edward Weston

” . . . of all that I saw and felt through my camera.” It seems to me that we must imbue in our pictures a sense of how we feel about what we are photographing. Having the best gear and mastering the software may be fine but if our photographs share nothing of what we felt—what happened inside of us while we stood witnessing that miraculous moment in front of our cameras, then our images have no life, or as Kahlil Gibran once observed, are just “a form of waiting.” My friends from Texas would agree.

P.S. I wish I could have met Edward Weston and sat and talked with him about his pictures. I am grateful that photographer Willard Van Dyke made the film The Photographer in 1948 so that I might be able to virtually get to know the man who made so many incredible photographs. You can view the film and meet Edward too by clicking on the picture above.

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Ansel Adams on the Miracle of the Creative Process

Ansel Adams The Tetons and the Snake River (1942) Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the National Park Service. (79-AAG-1)

Ansel Adams The Tetons and the Snake River (1942) Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the National Park Service. (79-AAG-1)

What is the creative process involved? How can I–or any photographer–impart to the spectator not only information, but the experience? The Esthetician, the Historian, the Technician, the Psychologist (and lately, the Psychiatrist) will have convincing explanations. I think the miracle of the creative process evades all analysis. With complete deference to the various sources of critical wisdom, I feel that instinct, intuition, and experience combine in fearful and wonderful ways to create the instantaneous assertion of the spirit. Armed with creative ambitions, with or without a tangible objective, we face the world about us. We recognize the potential of a situation and thereupon we visualize the statement we will make through our lens. Thoroughly complex, and resolved within unconscious areas of our mind, the visualized statement, or image, calls upon our resource of craft for expression in tangible values. So rapid is this process that it assumes the quality of the inevitable; no computer can approach the dextrous inclusiveness of the human mind and imagination. Anyone who has watched Edward Weston walk casually among the complexities of Death Valley, carrying his 8×10 camera over his shoulder, will recall how he might pause a moment, then turn towards a particular spot and set up the tripod–rarely moving it an inch from its first position. The photograph to be made was clearly defined: visualized, in his mind. When a photographer must fuss with his point-of-view, he should realize his visualization is insecure.

Ansel Adams, “A photographer talks about his art.” Los Angeles: Occidental College, 1969.

Ansel_Adams_and_camera

Photographic portrait of nature photographer Ansel Adams — which first appeared in the 1950 Yosemite Field School yearbook. Photograph by J. Malcolm Greany