Jan Lievens etching by Lucas Emil Vorsterman (1530 to 1545). An almost 500 year old selfie.
I had long thought of painting as “what we had before photography” but have revised the idea that photography replaced painting as it replaced printmaking much more. I now realize that printmaking fulfilled the functions of modern photography much more closely. A painting catches our attention for being in color but it is only a single object. Printmaking does the two things photography excels at: it creates multiples through mechanical reproduction.
There is a nice exhibit right now at the Museum of the Art Institute of Dutch, Flemish and Netherlandish portrait etchings from the 15th and early 16th Centuries. Selfies are not new at all; they are just now easy for a huge number of people to make and distribute. One placard in the exhibit stated that the portraits not only confirmed fame, they could also create it. Sound familiar to you?
Seeing so many etching portraits made for circulation made me feel that people of this time period would have loved social media just as much as we do now if they had it. In a way, they did have social media, it was a lot slower. Getting picture out took a great deal of skill, time and paper.
One thing I like about my part of Chicago is that many of the old buildings have wonderful century-old terra cotta decorations. It’s easy to be nostalgic about antiques in Chicago because older architecture shows how much people in the past cared to make something beautiful. This glazed rose pattern frames the doorway to an apartment building.
Late last fall I had a few seconds window to take a picture of a nice, big dragonfly. I live two blocks from the north branch of the Chicago River and sometimes I will see a really cool dragonfly whiz by me. This guy took a break on a Jeep antenna giving me a chance to get this shot.
Here are a few shots from a lecture with live animals at Emily Oak Nature Center, Skokie Park District. I like doing these events because it gives me a chance to take and share reference shots for art. A rescue, conservation and education group, Big Run Wolf Ranch, brought two wolves, a coyote, a porcupine, groundhog and. The one who stole the show was the skunk. Skunks are adorable! They have soft, silky fur, the sweetest faces and are not stinky at all if they have been de-scented properly.
In September 2014, I went to a lecture given by Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education at Emily Oaks Nature Center, Skokie Park District. This a wonderful group that helps injured birds, cares for birds that cannot return the the wild and participates in breeding programs for at-risk species. Part of their mission is educating the public about the value of raptors to the environment. The lecture was a joy because I got tons of great photos of live owls up close.
I love having a good reference photo to draw or paint from. You can get high resolution owl photo downloads from this event from my morgueFile account here. There are nice close up shots of a Great Horned Owl (above), Saw Whet Owls, a Barn Owl and a lovely Barred Owl.Scroll through the various images to find them; for some reason items in “most recent images” are not coming up in chronological order.
I went hiking late September which was a good time to try out some aperture priority shots in the woods. These shots are from Marengo Ridge in McHenry County, Illinois. I ran into a patch of poison ivy going after one shot but thankfully did not get infected by it. It’s pretty inconsiderate of nature preserves to also preserve poison ivy. I won’t complain if that goes extinct and please do not tell me if it has a purpose in the larger biosphere.
Definitely, if you have limited time to be creative, I think photography is the fastest media to create with; especially for people who have high end cameras in their pocket with high end smartphones. I envy the high end smartphones since they can do so much a computer can and the image quality of the cameras just keep getting better. I saw a gentleman just the other day notice a reflected light off a car and pull out his phone to capture it.
I trucked around a DSLR for these two shots. The daytime sky is recent, I ran home for the camera after walking the dogs. I was after a mint green color cicada on a tree, but he dissed me and flew away. You can never rely on wild creatures to stay put.
This nighttime shot makes me laugh a little because the only photography professor I even had told my class he would fail anyone handing in pictures of the moon or their pets. The man had apparently had enough of both of those subjects. I saw this as a photograph the second I got off the train and walked past it. I would make an argument about the light off the rails of the tracks being the emphasis, the moon is incidental.
This shot was also little hard to get because the airline routes changed the past year and now planes go directly overhead on route to O’Hare International Airport, Chicago. Many good shots were less interesting to me because there could be as many as three and four planes in the shot. I had to wait for the planes to fly away. Also, I had to wait for a guy with a DSLR to get his shots and clear out, because he saw the same thing I did and he beat me to the tracks.