Feeling from Mountain and Water

Feeling from Mountain and Water is a beautiful Chinese animated short film produced in 1988 by Shanghai Animation Film Studio under master animator Te Wei.

In 1964, as Chairman Mao was preparing for the Cultural Revolution, Te Wei was placed in solitary confinement for a year. To keep his spirits up, he would sketch on the glass pane of a table, erasing his drawings whenever he heard a guard approaching. After returning to the studio in 1975, he produced some of his most acclaimed, experimental work.

Feeling from Mountain and Water uses Shan shui painting style, a brush and ink technique originating in 5th century China. Te Wei was influenced by the painter, Qi Baishi who used heavy ink, bright colours and vigorous strokes to express his love of nature and life.

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© Qi Baishi

This is just a taste of Te Wei’s work. For a more in-depth review, check out Wonders in the Dark.

 

Unconcerned Photographs

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Unconcerned Photograph © Man Ray

Man Ray’s Unconcerned Photographs are a series of images he created in 1959 for MoMA’s The Sense of Abstraction exhibition. Made in his Paris studio by swinging a Polaroid camera around on its strap, they epitomise his spontaneous, experimental approach.

“I deliberately dodged all the rules, I mixed the most insane products together, I used film way past its use – by date, I committed heinous crimes against chemistry and photography, and you can’t see any of it.”

– Man Ray

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Unconcerned Photograph © Man Ray

 

 

 

 

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Unconcerned Photographs © Man Ray

While messing about in his darkroom in 1922, Ray accidentally created a photogram by placing a small glass funnel, graduate and thermometer on wet photographic paper. He elaborates in his autobiography“I turned on the light; before my eyes an image began to form, not quite a simple silhouette of the objects as in a straight photograph, but distorted and refracted by the glass more or less in contact with the paper and standing out against a black background, the part directly exposed to the light.”

His camera-less photographs or “Rayographs” seemed to remove all traces of the artist’s hand, incorporating negative space and shadow, randomness and chance, while firmly establishing him as a Surrealist.

Seen in galleries and exhibitions around the world, Ray’s radical photographic experiments pushed the boundaries and turned traditional art-making on its head.

The only rule is work

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Here are the official rules for Corita Kent’s art department at LA’s Immaculate Heart Convent, appropriated from a class project she taught there in 1967-1968.

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I especially love the last paragraph and that final sentence in particular.

“Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later. There should be new rules next week.”

– Corita Kent

For more, check out her inspirational book, Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit.

Amanda Elledge

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© Amanda Elledge

I’ve been following Amanda Elledge on Flickr for a few years now. Her gorgeous, ethereal photographs constantly surprise and impress me; not least because I can’t figure out how she makes them! Just recently, I got around to asking her about her work and inspiration. 

Hi Amanda, please tell me a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in the USA but I have been living in northern France for 15 years now. Both countries define me and yet, neither feels like home, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same for most people in my situation.

I work in a laboratory for diabetes research, and more specifically, I am part of a cell therapy team that isolates pancreatic islets from donor pancreases in order to treat – and sometimes cure – fragile type I diabetics.

Like most people, I love photography, reading and music, but I also love red lipstick, the smell of musty basements, good champagne and listening to podcasts about microorganisms and mental health.

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© Amanda Elledge

How did you develop an interest in photography?

Of course, like a lot of semi-tortured young women, I went through a whole Diane Arbus phase (to accompany my Joy Division phase), but years after that, I had a French-New Zealander girlfriend introduce me to Flickr (online photography platform) and I was instantly hooked.

At first, I was one of those mommy-type bloggers, more into the community than into the imagery, posting mundane pictures from my daily life. Then, one day, I just kind of felt like a fake, only craving interaction and faves, losing myself in a world that functioned off of the “I like you/you like me” notion and – quite frankly – didn’t interest me at all. So, I decided to take back my own passions and life, and from that moment on, I only posted pictures that felt true to me and only faved photos that I genuinely liked. Of course, the transition surprised a lot of my followers at the time, but I didn’t care: I finally felt real and free.

Since then, I’ve always used photography as an intimate visual diary, a way to remember various moments from my life, as well as my own emotions. Whether the viewer gets it, or even likes it, is besides the point. Nonetheless, I do like sharing my photos online because I feel like it can act as a kind of filter and an SOS to other alike human beings out there; and from the messages I’ve received over the years, what I’ve noticed is that my photos generally impact the kind of person I was hoping they would impact. It’s always such a pleasure to discover and exchange with and/or inspire other people who seem to share the same inside joke as you.

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© Amanda Elledge
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© Amanda Elledge

What cameras do you prefer to use?

To be completely honest, I would love to use my Fuji Instax Wide all of the time (think: instant gratification), but since film is too expensive, I prefer to use my iPhone camera. It’s easy, it’s light, and most importantly – it’s always on me.

I’m not one of “those photographers”, that seems overly concerned by the technical aspects of photography and the size of the image. I’ve never had any formal training and I’m not that interested in having any – even though I have lost a few publishing opportunities because of my less-than-stunning image size and quality. I guess it would be more disconcerting to me if I was counting on photography to survive but luckily it’s just my passion.  Furthermore, it’s never really bothered me, the idea that a digital image might change according to its printing medium or format. I like the idea that slight variations of the same image co-exist, depending on the computer screen used to view the image as well as the discrepancies in our own eyes looking at that same image. It makes me think of how an analog photo might change depending on its raw materials or who developed it, or how it may change with time and through its environment. And, even if this was not the photographer’s original vision, I think that all of these “imperfections” give the image life.

All that said, I do use other cameras, including a Canon EOS 7d, a Lomo LC-A and a scanner.  My latest acquisition is Lomography’s La Sardina, but I have yet to use it. On that note, I have absolutely no qualms abouts mixing both analog and digital to create my final images.

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© Amanda Elledge
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© Amanda Elledge

Do you have a favourite photographer or artist whose work you admire?

I guess if you would have asked me this question a few years ago, I would have answered without hesitation: Daidō Moriyama, Takuma Nakahira, Jacob Aue Sobol and Anders Petersen (all while drowning in an amazing Godspeed You! Black Emperor album), but I think the real answer is merely an accumulation of everything I’ve seen and lived…graphic novels, music, art, fashion, cinema, language in all its forms, micro/macroscopic patterns in nature and in life, love, lust, loss, confusion, human relations and of course, the millions of photographs from both amateurs and professionals I’ve looked at in my lifetime.

At the height of my photography obsession, I was easily looking through 1000 images per day. One of my biggest joys is to quickly scroll through photography platform websites and find and fave images that move/touch/inspire/impress me. No contemplation necessary: it all happens within a split-second, either I find it aesthetically pleasing or I don’t.

A photograph is like a tiny magical portal into another world, and I don’t care about the techniques or the equipment used to create it.  I only care about whether or not I want to be part of that world, and for that, I just follow my heart.

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© Amanda Elledge

Thanks Amanda!

For anyone interested in seeing more of Amanda’s work, go check out her website or follow her on Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook.

The Sense Diary

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Reading about the pop artist nun, Sister Corita Kent, this morning, I came across her description of ‘the sense diary’ in her book, Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit.

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In it, she describes sense diaries as valuable tools which enable us to “become aware of and retain details often lost or imperfectly remembered,” and to “see the inter-relatedness of things and how specifics from one subject may apply to the next.”

In our sense diaries, she suggests that we include:

Favourite poems, prose and sayings. Words that mean something to you, that make you feel something.

Lists of musical compositions, composers, books to be read or books you have read, plays and films, seen or to be seen.

Factual descriptions of subjects of interest found in encyclopedias or other reference books (which often give new shades of meaning to the familiar and make surprising connections); new words; marketplace words and descriptions; single words that have a ring, that wake you, that make you want to do something, that are funny, mysterious, or strange to speak; words that when you look at them for a very long time seem to be foreign, misspelled or nonsense.

I love her concept of a diary being an “expandable vault” full of words, images and ideas.

Corita-Kent

 

 

Real artists have day jobs

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The biggest myth we are fed as artists is that we need to sustain ourselves solely on our art. This is ridiculous.

– Sara Benincasa

Real artists have day jobs. History is full of creatives who kept clocking in, even after they’d found success.

Poets, Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams found time to write in between working long hours. Bram Stoker’s horror stories were inspired by his work as a theatre manager. Mark Rothko was a teacher whose work with children encouraged him to explore very simple visual language. Nannying helped Vivian Maier afford her photographic equipment.

If you’re an artist, you’ll know it. How you make your living won’t stop you. You’ll work on your commute, during your lunch break or when you get home, even though you’re dog tired and your feet ache, because you’re compelled to, because it’s your passion.

Ryan Holiday says “art can’t be hurried. It must be allowed to take its course. It must be given its space – and can’t be rushed or checked off a to-do list on the way to something else.” If your art doesn’t sustain you financially right now, give it space. Maybe one day it will, and if it doesn’t, that’s fine. Think of your day job as your side gig. If your art is your true calling, no matter how you make a living, no one can take that away from you.