Kim Manley Ort https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog Contemplative living through Photography Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 https://i2.wp.com/www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-Header3.jpg?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Kim Manley Ort https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog 32 32 19438708 Minor White’s Abstract Photography https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/08/16/minor-white-abstract-photography/ https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/08/16/minor-white-abstract-photography/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:00:00 +0000 https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/?p=204489 You can find much written about photographer, editor, and teacher Minor White (1908 – 1976). He was one of the most influential photographers and teachers in the latter half of the 20th century. I even wrote a post about him for my contemplative photographer series back in 2014. Recently, I read the book, Rites and […]

Minor White’s Abstract Photography

]]>
mandala

“Abstractions of nature have not left the world of appearances; for to do so is to break the camera’s strongest point – it’s authenticity.” ~ Minor White

You can find much written about photographer, editor, and teacher Minor White (1908 – 1976). He was one of the most influential photographers and teachers in the latter half of the 20th century. I even wrote a post about him for my contemplative photographer series back in 2014.

Recently, I read the book, Rites and Passages, which gives considerable insight into White’s life and work. Over the next few posts, I’ll share some of the reasons why I find him a kindred spirit. The first one has to do with the way he used abstract photography as a form of expression.

The Zone System

 
Early in his photographic career, White worked with Ansel Adams at the California School of Fine Arts, where he learned the zone system. Zones are levels of light and dark tones and understanding these levels helped a photographer expose correctly.

“Unlike Adams, who mainly photographed landscapes, White turned his highly refined craft to the art of the abstract. The Zone System’s manipulations are applied forcefully to drastically translate image tones into the unreal. We see images of frost, moss, eroded rock, and driftwood employed as abstract elements of shape, line and color rather than subject matter. We wonder just what we are seeing, and how the image was created. White used these abstractions, filled with shapes, lines, and rhythms — “gestures” if you will — as a tool of expression. White was a deeply religious man, and his pictures often seem mystical, even spiritual.” ~ Bill Coderre, Dreams with a Memory, Minor White Remembered

Peeling by Kim Manley Ort

Like Adams, White discovered that the zone system could be used as a form of expression with many types of subject matter.

“The photographs in Rites and Passages have a visual harmony. Curves and shapes reappear in different pictures, suggesting equivalences: mud and muscle, driftwood and hair, ropes and garden hoses and cracked glass and chalk lines on street pavement. In individual photographs, we see the objects photographed not as the subjects of the pictures, but as elements of shape: frost on a windowpane as “Empty Head;” a splotch of light as “Windowsill Daydream.” It is often difficult to recognize the object depicted, aiding an appreciation of its abstract form: note “Metal Ornament,” “Burned Mirror,” and “Moencopi Strata.” The viewer becomes aware of a feeling, a sensation, a mood, not an object, which is what White was after.” ~ Bill Coderre, Dreams with a Memory, Minor White Remembered

Here’s a link to abstract images by Minor White.

Photographs as Equivalents

 

“One should not only photograph things for what they are but for what else they are.” – Minor White

White was a firm believer that the photograph mirrors the photographer in some way. His quote above succinctly describes how this works. A photograph is more than the subject being photographed, more than the label we put on it. So, photograph what else it is.
 

1. The photograph can mirror in some way the inner state of the photographer. It can suggest an emotion.

2. The photograph can show the ‘spirit’ of the subject, it’s invisible energy or the way it is connected to everything else, including the photographer.

3. The photograph can be a symbol or metaphor for a universal idea.


 
This year, I’ve been drawn to photograph embedded tree stumps. They could be roots that have become visible or the remains of a majestic tree. Either way, their womb-like shapes appeal to me. I call them ‘stumps with personality,’ as each one is complex and unique.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m photographing these stumps, but when this happens I follow my instincts. I write about the images as a way of getting curious. Maybe they are a symbol of birth, that something new is generating within me. Or, possibly they are a subject that is often overlooked and I see their beauty. I want others to see what I see. White’s quest was similar. He sought to merge the sacred and the profane. Whatever the reason, I’m open to learning more, following White’s dictum to “let the subject generate its own photograph.”

Please consider joining me and others for an exploration of abstract photography in September. You’ll learn how this genre can be a powerful form of expression.

 
Going Abstract begins September 6th. Registration is now open.

Minor White’s Abstract Photography

]]>
https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/08/16/minor-white-abstract-photography/feed/ 0 204489
You and your Onlyness https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/08/09/you-and-your-onlyness/ https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/08/09/you-and-your-onlyness/#comments Wed, 09 Aug 2017 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.365daysofinspiration.com/blog/?p=13402   What value do you bring to the world? I presume that some of you will find this question uncomfortable, perhaps narcissistic. You might think that it’s not up to you to say what value you bring to the world. Or even that you don’t bring any value. However, I believe that it’s an important […]

You and your Onlyness

]]>
This post is revised and updated from one I wrote in 2015, after hearing Nilofer Merchant’s fabulous TEDx talk. Last week, I listened to her interview with Jonathan Fields at Good Life Project on her new book, The Power of Onlyness.

 
onlynessWhat value do you bring to the world? I presume that some of you will find this question uncomfortable, perhaps narcissistic. You might think that it’s not up to you to say what value you bring to the world. Or even that you don’t bring any value.

However, I believe that it’s an important question to ask throughout your life. Because I also concur with writer and thinker, Nilofer Merchant, that each one of us has ‘onlyness’ – something to contribute that is unique to us.

“Onlyness is that thing that only that one individual can bring to a situation. It includes the journey and passions of each human. Onlyness is fundamentally about honoring each person: first as we view ourselves and second as we are valued. Each of us is standing in a spot that no one else occupies. That unique point of view is born of our accumulated experience, perspective, and vision. Some of those experiences are not as “perfect” as we might want, but even those experiences are a source for what you create.” ~ Nilofer Merchant

I find it interesting that onlyness rhymes with loneliness. Because your onlyness can make you feel lonely when it is not recognized or heard. Your onlyness may be considered weird or eccentric by some. Yet, paradoxically, your onlyness is the way you ultimately connect with the world and provide value.

 
In the interview with Jonathan Fields, Merchant says that we often shut down the ideas of those who do not have some form of societal status or power. Many are conditioned to believe that they have nothing special to offer. If your ideas are not being recognized, Merchant says it’s a matter of changing the context. And, she suggest ways of listening to others that could open the floodgates for many new ideas.

Your onlyness manifests (or not) through your relationships, as well as your jobs, hobbies, and passions. Merchant believes that everyone has something of value to add to the world, not through their titles or positions, but through owning “their perspective, their vision, their talent, their creativity, their oddness.” It can manifest in small, subtle ways or big, visible, world-changing ways. Each is important.

If someone asked me about my onlyness, I’m not sure that I could articulate what it is. I do know that I struggled for a long time to share my inner world. Photography and the Internet were the context I needed. I know that my workshops are unlike anyone else’s. There may be similar topics or practices or methods, but I have my own way. And, those who can benefit from these workshops are drawn to them for a reason; we share a connection.

My onlyness, as well as yours, continues to unfold.

Carole King’s Onlyness

 
Recently, I experienced the musical, Beautiful, about the life of Carole King. If you don’t know her story, she met and married Gerry Goffin while still a teenager. They had one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of all time. King wrote the music and Goffin wrote the lyrics; then other performers made them hits – think The Drifters, The Shirelles, Little Eva, etc.

Carole King manifested her onlyness through songwriting and she became aware of this drive to contribute in this way from an early age. However, she also felt that she was too plain and ordinary to perform the songs herself. There was a piece of her onlyness yet to be discovered. It wasn’t until her marriage broke up ten years later that it came to fruition. Faced with being a single parent and having to make a living on her own, she had to write songs without her partner.

The songs from the album, Tapestry, were born from this difficult time. These songs were so personal that she couldn’t think of anyone else who could perform them but her. And, the rest is history. Her recording, Tapestry, is one of the biggest selling albums of all time. It was awarded four Grammy’s in 1972, including Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance for a female. By sharing her onlyness, she touched millions.

Carole King is an example of someone who had massive success with her onlyness, yet even she only fully discovered it over time and through her own specific circumstances.

Thomas Merton and Onlyness

 
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, and one of my mentors in seeing, is known for having an epiphany on the corner of 4th and Walnut in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.  He suddenly felt a sense of oneness with everything and everyone around him. I believe that he saw the onlyness in every single person walking by.

“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” ~ Thomas Merton

I, like Merchant and Merton, believe that every person has his or her own brilliance to share with the world. You may or may not agree with this proposition because sadly, many never do realize their onlyness. However, the potential is always there. Your onlyness may look similar to someone else’s, but it’s still subtly, uniquely you.

How can you discover your onlyness?

 
1. Listen to your inner teacher. We all have one. Pay attention to what attracts you, repulses you, makes you angry or sad, lights you up. These all hold clues to your onlyness.

2. Ask the people closest to you. They know your onlyness and can tell you how they see it manifesting in the world or how it affects them. What do you bring to a room, a conversation, your relationships?

3. Be brave about sharing what matters to you. You can start small by telling a trusted friend about something that moved you and why. Gradually get a little louder by speaking up at work about something you care about. Share your art with friends or online. Write a letter to the editor.

“Until you unlock your onlyness, you are not fully alive.” ~ Nilofer Merchant

For me, writing online and sharing my photography opened up a whole new way for me to contribute and add value. My work has evolved as I’ve continued to follow my inner teacher.

What are your thoughts on onlyness?

 

You and your Onlyness

]]>
https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/08/09/you-and-your-onlyness/feed/ 4 13402
On Synaesthesia and Seeing Sound https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/08/02/on-synaesthesia-and-seeing-sound/ https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/08/02/on-synaesthesia-and-seeing-sound/#respond Wed, 02 Aug 2017 14:00:00 +0000 https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/?p=204413 What is synaesthesia?   In a nutshell, synaesthesia is cross-sensory perception. For example, a person hears or smells colours or shapes; sees or tastes sound. In other words, stimulation of one sense leads to experience in a second sense. People with synaesthesia have stronger connections between the language and colour areas of the brain. As […]

On Synaesthesia and Seeing Sound

]]>
sound

What is synaesthesia?

 
In a nutshell, synaesthesia is cross-sensory perception. For example, a person hears or smells colours or shapes; sees or tastes sound. In other words, stimulation of one sense leads to experience in a second sense. People with synaesthesia have stronger connections between the language and colour areas of the brain. As a result, they tend to have better memories.

According to the science, one out of 100 people have this ability. It is considered a trait, not a disorder.

Can you develop synaesthesia?

I don’t have this ability myself, however, I see it as an expanded form of perception and seeing that could be developed. At least expanding sensory awareness is possible. By doing so, we can enhance our present moment experience. We might feel a sense of interconnection more often. I’ve for sure expanded my sensory awareness through photographic practice.

In one of my favourite books, Sight and Sensibility: The Ecopsychology of Perception, author Laura Sewall argues that “because we humans have become so alienated from the natural world, our sensory awareness is dulled. We no longer experience our full, sensory appetites, our full humanness.” David Abram writes in the introduction to the book,

“The realm opened to us by our eyes is not merely the visual field, but the whole of the sensory cosmos. Vision cannot be understood in isolation from the senses. The way we see is profoundly influenced by what we hear or even taste of those things, by the way we imagine their textures would feel to our fingers or against our skin. Vision may well be the most synaesthetic of the senses.”

By expanding our sensory awareness, we see at a deeper level.

Seeing Sound through a Photograph

 
Are you intrigued by synaesthesia or do you recognize yourself as having this trait? If so, you may be interested in this open call for photographs from the Humble Arts Foundation on Seeing Sound.

Is it possible to make a photograph of what we hear?
What are some photographic representations of riffs, repetition and tone?
How might an image have a verse and refrain?

The deadline is August 15th. I may submit a piece, as I already have an album of photographs I describe as having rhythm.

Here are a few possibilities.

 

Riff – an ostinato; a repeated chord progression, pattern, or melody, often played by rhythmic instruments. The riff is the base of the musical composition. (Simple English Wikipedia)

rhythm
 

Tone – a steady, periodic sound. A musical tone is characterized by its duration, pitch, intensity (or loudness), and timbre (or quality). A pure tone has a sinusoidal waveform, e.g. a sine or cosine wave. Regardless of other characteristic properties such as amplitude or phase, the wave consists of a single frequency. (Wikipedia)


 

Verse – roughly corresponds to a poetic stanza because it consists of rhyming lyrics most often with an AABB or ABAB rhyme scheme. Musically, the verse is a unit that prolongs the tonic. The musical structure of the verse nearly always recurs at least once with a different set of lyrics. (Wikipedia)


 

Refrain – is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse. It ties a song together using a phrase, or a word, as opposed to a chorus which contains many more words. It serves the function of a chorus lyrically but is not considered long enough to be a chorus. For example, The Beatles’ “She Loves You” (“yeah, yeah, yeah”) (Wikipedia – here and here)

refrain

Can you see sound? Do you have a photograph that shows sound?

 
More on Synaesthesia

What’s it like to live with synaesthesia? An article from The Independent.

What color is Tuesday? A short video from TED-ED.

The musician, Lorde, on the experience of synaesthesia, via NME.
 

On Synaesthesia and Seeing Sound

]]>
https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/08/02/on-synaesthesia-and-seeing-sound/feed/ 0 204413