Without art, but learning

I know squat about art.

Anyone who ever looked at my pictures can tell you that.

I learned in a technical school, from technical teachers. There wasn’t a discussion of artistic norms or merits. No one told me about lighting, other than you have to work with what you have. No one told me about posing people in a scene because that was unethical. No one ever said a camera was anything other than a recording device. Art was that snooty thing people in the sculpture and painting studios did.

I learned that years ago, and it’s still a strong force in my life. I took a class recently during which I was encouraged to move my subjects around to get better lighting or change the way they were holding things or their expression even though I was shooting them on the street, and it initially seemed odd. Then it seemed impossible.

shoot-443When I go out in to the world, I take it a face value. It presents me with tableaus, and I do my best to capture them. Here’s the extent of my alteration of a scene when I shoot. When I went to Boston Mine Camp, there were people hiking around and milling about on the structures. I wanted to just capture the buildings, so I merely waited until they all wandered out of frame before taking the shot. I only once said something to one of them, but that was because he walked in front of me just as I shot the picture and that was rude. That’s as close to an artistic choice as I have ever made.

Even when I shot portraits of a friend for her modeling portfolio years ago this ingrained work ethic stuck with me. She wanted something other than what I gave her. When I asked her what was disappointing about the result, she answered with a smile “If I ever need a series of pictures to tell a story I’ll come to you. But I don’t think I’ll come to you for anything else.”

Well, ouch. Also a fair cop.

So now I’m reading a little, experimenting a little, trying some new things. Trying to look at the world as a canvas to work on instead of a stage show to watch. I’m in that stage where you thrash around and don’t make much progress now. Maybe I’ll get past it. Maybe I won’t. But trying something new and challenging myself is a good thing.

Boston Mine Camp

Too cold. Too far away. Too high up. And ultimately, not worth it to the miners. Boston Mine Camp.

shoot-408I love places like this. They call to me in a way few others do. Places where the desire to get rich led people to what was the outer reaches of livable land to set up shop. The Old Boston Mine was a vein of gold in a mountain that drew people to live at 12,000 feet. Mountains aren’t especially forgiving at that height. Not too long ago, people were killed at the treeline by lightning from the typical afternoon thunderstorm while they hiked. I can’t imagine living in a place like that.

shoot-405Ultimately, the gold was too full of impurities. It wasn’t possible to make any money mining it, and the people drifted. They left behind the mine, the tipple, a few cabins, and a boarding house.

During the 1980s, someone stabilized one of the cabins and did some mining of their own. It didn’t pan out for them either. After a while, they drifted too.

Sometimes I wonder what became of these people. These places weren’t significant enough to have a history, and no one seems to have written down who the miners were or what became of them. They were here, they worked for a while, they were gone.

shoot-406Old Boston is probably as populated now as it was then. Hikers camp above the ruins on the mountain or pass through on their way to the summit. The gulch is picturesque, drawing photographers to shoot it. The meadow adjacent to the camp is a riot of wildflowers, a carpet of beautiful color and buzzing bees. And aside from the sound of wind and water that shaped the mountains eons ago, it is quiet.

While we were there, children scampered among the ruins and sent selfies from atop wood beams. DSLRs snapped away. And yet, when the cold drizzle thinned everyone out, it was peaceful to be there. We’ll probably come back, and camp above the ruins with the hikers.

shoot-409Places like Old Boston are my favorite places. Too far up, too far away, and too hard to love. But beautiful and desirable in their own way