Art Walk in Bellingham

I’ve often told people who ask that the city where I live, Bellingham, WA., is like a small European community. One reason is because the city has a rich arts lifestyle especially for its size. Bellingham is ranked the second best arts community in the country, with the ranking being based on the number of active arts businesses per capita,” according to Downtown Bellingham, a non-profit organization of local businesses and civic-minded residents that works to promote the city’s lively and historic downtown.

During the 1980s, local galleries opened their doors four times a year for what was known as the Gallery Walk.  In 2009, it became a monthly event that takes place on the First Friday evenings , even in winter.  It has become a highly popular outing for locals as well as visitors who wander from shop to shop, gallery to gallery taking in a wide variety of art created by the many talented artists who live here.

Art Walk offers people a chance to view a variety of fine art by local artists.
Art Walk offers people a chance to view a variety of fine art by local artists.  (Photo courtesy of Leo Friedman)

Downtown businesses, in addition to the galleries, showcase the work of local artists with openings from 6 to 10 p.m. during Art Walk. I am often among those who enjoy the evening viewing the artwork. But at the May Art Walk to be this Friday, May 1, I’ll be showing some of my own portrait work in a group show at Dakota Art in its relatively new gallery space.

The show will focus on the art of portraiture and different styles of portraiture.  Three other artists, besides myself, will also be featured. Everett Aison will show five framed triptych portraits of “New York Subway Faces” and a series of “63 people looking at Art” water-color drawings and digital prints. The portrait art of the young artist Katie Johnson, originally from Hillsboro, Ore, whose works are very stylized large-scale oil paintings of the faces of various Bellingham brewers. Also included is Tessa Asato who creates large-scale drawings that are heavily detail oriented and have strong concepts.

My portraits will be among those featured in a group show at Dakota Art in Bellingham's May Art Walk.
My portraits will be among those featured in a group show at Dakota Art in Bellingham’s May Art Walk.

Five or six (space dependent) of my photographic portrait prints will be displayed. They represent a good variety of both my photographic media and my own portrait style. Some are portraits which I was hired to create for clients, others are ones that I initiated myself. Some clients own copies of the prints but most are from my personal collection and are the only existing print. Many have not been seen outside my studio doors. I am pleased to present them at Art Walk.

There’s a story behind each print, but I won’t be able to tell them that evening. I’ll share shortened versions here and with the images so that those of you who don’t live here can see them as well. As someone commented to me last week, you won’t get the full impact of the image without seeing it firsthand, just as with any piece of art. You can’t see here the finish used, the artwork done or the type of paper on which it was printed. I won’t get into a discussion about how I work other than to say that when photographing someone, whether for a personal portrait, a business or a high school senior, I do my best to reveal something about that subject, their personality or inner self. That comes with getting to know them quickly, making them comfortable enough to not be self-conscious in front of the camera and then capturing the moment on film or digital realisation.

This image was created during a high school senior portrait session at my Bellingham photography studio.
This image was created during a high school senior portrait session at my Bellingham photography studio.

“Fairy in the Forest,” was created during this young woman’s high school senior portrait session. Her mother asked me to photograph her daughter in her ballet clothes. After shooting some in the studio, I asked her to come outside with me to forest. She took off her ballet slippers and followed me out. I didn’t really have anything specific in mind at the time, I just like the idea of putting someone out of context. I placed her on the path amongst the towering trees and asked her to move into various ballet positions. Later, in looking at the raw proofs, this particular image reminded me of Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” one of my favorites. I had the print pressed into a fine weave canvas after scanning the original negative and doing some digital artwork.

With six gold medals hanging around his neck, Knight is an inspiration to us all.
With six gold medals hanging around his neck, Knight is an inspiration to us all.

I asked Richard Knight, the father of my Pilates instructor, if I could photograph him for my “The Noble Knight” after hearing about his remarkable accomplishment of winning six gold medals in swimming at the Senior Olympics. (You can read about that in my blog post: A Knight in Shining Armor.) Richard, then 79, wasn’t too certain about my idea, but once we met at the session, we became instant buddies, in part, because we’re both swimmers although I can only dream about winning six gold medals. I had hoped to persuade him to shed his jacket so that his medals would gleam against his bare chest but when he wasn’t willing to do that, I just went with it.  He was a good sport when I told him I wanted him to stand out on the rock surrounded by chilly water. But the look on his face and his stance caught at this instant, created for me a priceless image of a man at his the peak of accomplishment.

Photographed as part of a high school senior photo session, this print will be among those on view during Art Walk.
Photographed as part of a high school senior photo session, this print will be among those on view during Art Walk.

“Nikki, The Girl in White” was also done for a client’s high school senior. She was great fun to work with as I photographed her at a local boatyard. The rest of the images from this session are full of bright color from the boats, equipment and buildings. But towards the end, she slipped on a white t-shirt and I moved her away from the color to a spot nearer the water with only the sky behind her. The contrast between her shirt, the sky, her hair and skin tones was stunning. She was smiling in most of the images but then her expression changed and I had a moment that I thought said more about her than all the others.  I gave the print a high gloss finish to make it pop even more and give a high-fashion flavor.

The finished image was inspired by the work of Andrew Wyeth although when I created the portraitfor this senior portrait, I wasn't consciously thinking of the artist.
The finished image was inspired by the work of Andrew Wyeth although when I created the portrait for this senior portrait, I wasn’t consciously thinking of the artist.

“Rachel in the Field” is a much softer image. The young woman pictured here is the beautiful daughter of my cousin. Rachel is a horsewoman so we had gone to the stables to photograph her with her horse. When we were wrapping up, I placed her for some final images in the adjacent pasture with the treeline silhouetted in the background. She sat on the ground for the first few then I asked her stand and instead of looking at me, gaze off towards the horizon. When she did, I captured it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in editing her images later, I realized those last images bore direct references to artist Andrew Wyeth‘s indelible “Christina’s World.” I then applied digital artwork to create a feel I thought similar to that conveyed in Wyeth’s watercolor, although I didn’t want to duplicate his work,and that expressed the mood of my image.

“Madonna and Son”, the only print of which I don’t have a digital version to show here, also has considerable artwork, most of it done by hand on the print itself, in order to achieve the end result I had envisioned. This image feels very Italian to me, which is why I guess I gave it that title.It was done for a friend of mine in Los Angeles shortly after the birth of her second son. I arrived at her home for the session. Rarely, if ever, do I give my subjects props or clothing to wear but in this case, I loaned a silky white nylon robe to her. I can’t say that I had this image in mind when I shot it on film, but when I saw it in the camera’s viewfinder, I knew I had something special. She and her son were photographed in her hallway with the white light from the living room windows streaming in behind her. To this I added a feather screen on the print and then finished it with a lot of pencil work to give it the ‘etched’ look I was after. It is one of my own, as well as that of my many clients’ favorite portraits. I often have it hanging on the wall of my studio.

The portrait of this young man was made for a concert poster.
The portrait of this young man was made for a concert poster.

Lastly, but not least, is “The Pianist.” This portrait was created at the request of the Mount Baker Youth Symphony for a concert poster. This young man had won the orchestra’s concerto competition and was to be the soloist for the concert. When he arrived at my studio for the session, I took him into my home and had him sit at the piano. I asked him to play some of the music he would perform. When he did, it was as if he had left my room for his own personal world. Me too. When he stopped, I simply asked him to turn and look out the window but to leave one hand touching the piano’s keyboard. He clearly was still thinking about the music as he did so because you can see him so lost in reflective thought. The film image was made on watercolor paper as a delicate giclée print after I scanned the image and added my digital artwork to it.

I wish that all of you could come to the gallery next Friday and see these prints for yourselves. If you can’t, I hope that this offers some insight into my own portrait work and how I, as a photographic portrait artist, approach my work in creating my these images. You can always see more of my own portrait work on my studio website.

Read more about Bellingham’s Downtown Art Walk on Whatcom Talk.

 

 

 

 

 

All Aboard!

Today is National Train Day.   I have a long history, as well as a love, with passenger trains.  I grew up in a town where the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad had its regional headquarters. The company was one of the largest employers in town.  Two beautiful, brown brick three-story buildings owned by the railroad sat in the middle of town. One housed the company’s regional offices, the second was the station.  I still remember the marble floors, the tall, pane glass windows and wooden oak benches of its interior.

Sarah had just returned from spending a semester studying abroad in Europe and missed the trains that she took there to travel. When I suggested we stage her senior portrait in the old train station, she instantly loved the idea.
Sarah had just returned from spending a semester studying in Europe and missed the trains that she took there to travel. When I suggested we stage her senior portrait in the old train station, she instantly loved the idea.

Many passengers departed from this station; soldiers on their way to the World War II, sisters on their way to visit family in Kansas City or Chicago, or kids, like me, taking a short ride to the town only 20 miles away just so I could spend the day with a girlfriend.

Sarah was in search of a setting with a Bellingham landmark for her senior portrait.  The beautiful orange brick round towers of the abandoned Georgia-Pacific plant seemed ideal made even more perfect when  when the Amtrak made an appearance!
Sarah was in search of a setting with a Bellingham landmark for her senior portrait. The beautiful orange brick round towers of the abandoned Georgia-Pacific plant seemed ideal made even more perfect when when the Amtrak made an appearance!

On another occasion, my aunt bravely packed me at age 7 and my brother, age 4, onto the train for a cross-country trip to the coast of Oregon.  And what a trip it was.  I took lots of black and white snapshots with my Brownie Hawkeye as we passed through farmland, cr ossed mountains androde through ranches until we reached the spectacular shores of the Pacific Ocean.

The old train stations evoke a nostalgia of a romantic travel time gone by, at least in many parts of the country.  How wonderful if this country could have as many high-speed passenger trains as elsewhere in the world.  Perhaps as gas prices continually rise and fuel for cars becomes even more expensive, trains will once again come into widespread use and get people where they need to go.

Ferenc was safely perched on a pile of rusty old iron pieces when the Amtrak's train to Seattle went whizzing by.
Ferenc was safely perched on a pile of rusty old iron pieces when the Amtrak’s train to Seattle went whizzing by.

I love to stage photo sessions in the historic train station here in Bellingham whenever possible and always with permission. In recent years, there has been a trend among some photographers to use railroad tracks as a background.  This has been an especially popular location among the high school seniors.  I explain to my senior clients who come in with that idea in mind that it’s dangerous to shoot on the tracks and refuse to shoot on an active train track.  I have safe spots where I  shoot where the trains or the tracks are in the background.  But again, you must be extremely cautious even in these situations.

So here’s a big salute to National Train Day and all the choo-choos that pass your way!

Out of Nothing Comes A New Film

I was invited recently to an investor preview of a new documentary being produced right here in Bellingham. One of the executive producers of the film was a senior portrait client of mine, Logan Barnett. Maybe you recognize him from his senior portrait, below, featured on website.

Logan chose a favorite spot for his senior portrait.  Now, it's one of my favorite spots too!
Logan chose a favorite spot for his senior portrait. Now, it’s one of my favorite spots too!

Logan is a cool guy. As a senior, he already had a knack for the dramatic. The spot we chose for his senior picture was a  waterside location not far from his home where he often liked to go. I loved the place for its mood and range of color. The canvas print hangs in my studio too, as well as his parents home. Another cool thing about Logan, he brought his cat for some of the session. The Siamese wasn’t thrilled about sitting still for the portrait but we managed to pull off a few and ended up with a terrific image.

His cat wasn't excited about posing for the portrait, even though Logan held it securely in his arms.
His cat wasn’t excited about posing for the portrait, even though Logan held it securely in his arms.

While I couldn’t attend the preview, I received a very handsome brochure about the movie, detailing its background, budget and investment needs. ( Among those listed on the film’s team is comedian and producer Ryan Stiles.) From the description, it  sounds like a very intriguing documentary.

“Out of Nothing is a story of human perseverance, character and the pursuit of extraordinary achievement,” the brochure reads.

Out of Nothing tells the inspirational true story of four tenacious men who risk everything to conquer the world records of land speed racing. Meant for anyone who has ever had a dream, Out of Nothing is a close-up on personal character; character built not by a singular moment of success, but by the experiences that herald success.”

The feature-length documentary was filmed in high-definition video at the Bonneville Salt flats where the  brothers, Carl and Mark, set a new speed record for motorcycles.  What a backdrop for this inspirational story.

Even when a senior in high school, Logan had an artistic and confident air about him that came through in his senior portrait.
Even when a senior in high school, Logan had an artistic and confident air about him that came through in his senior portrait.

The production company has already logged in more than 90 hours of footage and are now moving into the post-production stage. They could use more investors to help them finish it up.

 

 

 

 

For more information about the film, contact Logan by e-mailing him at: OutofNothing@P51Pictures.com.  

 

Concert Pianist Touched Many with Music

Famed concert pianist Van Cliburn died earlier this week prompting an abundance of posthumous tributes and  a flood of memories from those who were fortunate to see him perform.  I was among those lucky thousands who heard him play in person.

Vam Cliburn came to my hometown in 1970 when he was 35 years old.  He had won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow just eight years earlier, at age 23 and instantly became an American hero.  He returned home to a ticker tape parade in New York, the first ever given for a musician, then began crisscrossing the country in a concert career that lasted until 1978 when he retired from the stage.

Courtney Fortune was photographed seated at the piano in her home as a high school senior.  She'snow  a jazz singer pursuing her career in Seattle in and Los Angeles.
Courtney Fortune was photographed seated at the piano in her home as a high school senior. She’s now a jazz singer pursuing her career in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Everywhere he appeared, the music-loving American public fell in love with him.  As Anthony Tommasini writes in the New York Times:  “Every American town with a community concert series wanted him to come play a recital.”  My hometown was no exception.  He played in the largest hall in the town–the nearly 1,600-seat Municipal Auditorium.  Although I can’t be certain, I’ll bet every seat in the house was filled.  I know I occupied one of them.

Looking back, I am somewhat amazed that a musician on his stature performed in my small town of nearly 14,000.  Having served on the board of Bellingham’s Mount Baker Theatre, I am very familiar with what it takes to book an artist of that caliber.  Perhaps it was different in those days but I suspect some local philanthropist very generously donated his artist fee

It was worth every penny for those of us who went.  In addition to the evening performance, he gave a special afternoon recital for the junior high school students.  Imagine how many kids he may have introduced to classical music for the first time. Or, like me, inspired to pursue their musical studies in college.  After his evening performance, I, along with some other young admirers, met him backstage.  He was so tall and lanky, and his hands were so large it was a wonder he could play some of the delicate passages he did without his long fingers getting in the way.  He graciously posed for photos (I have one), signed autographs and offered words of encouragement to young, aspiring pianists.

The young man pictured here was chosen to solo with the Mount Baker Youth Symphony in 2006.
The young man pictured here was chosen to solo with the Mount Baker Youth Symphony in 2006.

I was so taken with Van Cliburn’s amazing playing that when he won the Tchaikovsky competition, I was moved to write an editorial for my little ‘neighborhood’ newsletter entitled: Why I Want to be a Concert Pianist.  That was a dream that never quite materialized (I didn’t have nearly the talent it takes to reach that level).  But I did continue to study piano as a music major in college.

Over the years, I have become personal friends with other professional concert pianists.  In particular, my friend Barbara Nissman whom I once photographed when she was in residency at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts.  Barbara too was inspired by Van Cliburn and later when she had a career of her own as a concert pianist, met him upon occasion.  “Van truly inspired all of us,” she says. “I remember hearing him in high school. sitting at the top of the Academy of Music in Philadelphia and after he played, said to myself, ‘That’s what I want to do!!’

“He was the sweetest guy,” she recalls.  “I was always amazed that every time I saw him, he remembered my name.  And look what he did for music even though he didn’t continue to play. He didn’t have to.  Not many “icons” like him around! What a great loss.”  No doubt the impact he had influenced Nissman in her own work with young audiences.

It’s been my pleasure to photograph many young pianists here in Bellingham either for a senior portrait or the Mount Baker Youth Symphony.  Some of them have gone on to study music and become professional musicians as well.

Julia was a senior when I photographed her at the piano. Today, she's a busy accompanist and musical director in Seattle, WA.

Julia was a senior when I photographed her at the piano. Today, she’s a busy accompanist and musical director in Seattle, WA.

While someone like Van Cliburn only comes along once in great while, you never know who is going to be inspired by a concert like the one he gave that day in my hometown and who might emerge as the next talented concert pianist of a new generation.

 

For more about pianist Barbara Nissman, visit her website at:  http://www.barbaranissman.com/#!

Small Swims Big Time

I like learning what my senior portrait clients are doing at school and in their lives afterwards.  It’s what makes my work as a photographer even more fun. Take Andy Small for instance.

Andy had just come from a day’s work lifeguarding at Bayside Pool in Bellingham when he met me last summer for his senior portrait session.  We had talked earlier about what he might like to do during his session and, particularly, where he wanted to go.

Given that he was  on Sehome High School’s swim team and also working as a lifeguard, it seemed only natural that a waterside location might appeal to him. And it did.  He also liked the idea of finding a place that was quintessential ‘Bellingham.’  I suggested a spot down in Marine Park in Fairhaven and he liked it.

Andy showed up after a lifeguarding job with a bright yellow shirt and a big confident smile to match. We 'warmed up' on the shore before moving down to the water for his senior portrait session.
Andy showed up after a lifeguarding job with a bright yellow shirt and a big confident smile to match. We ‘warmed up’ on the shore before moving down to the water for his senior portrait session.

We did what I call a few ‘warm up’ shots on the shore to start with before moving closer to the water.  The evening couldn’t have been more ideal. He ended up with many great images which we put into a beautiful, customized ‘memory book’  for him.  One  was chosen for a wall-size canvas print for his family’s home which his mother, Elaine, says changes its look with the light in the home.

As we worked,Andy and I  became better acquainted.  I learned that he was looking forward to his last swim season in the winter with the Sehome team.  Being a swimmer myself, we had a lot  to talk about.

This last Saturday, Andy’s high school swimming career came to a close as the Sehome Mariner’s competed in Federal Way for the state Class 2A title. Sehome’s team has long dominated the sport in its class.  For the past four years, it brought home the first place trophy.  But this year  the title was taken from them, but just by a mere 30 points, to Seattle’s Archbishop Murphy’s squad.

I love this image of Andy and so does his mother who says: "This portrait is absolutely beautiful and depending on how far you turn the dial for the spotlight (that shines on it), it can range from something that looks like a sunset, to a scintillating sunrise to full daytime."
I love this image of Andy and so does his mother who says: “This portrait is absolutely beautiful and depending on how far you turn the dial for the spotlight (that shines on it), it can range from something that looks like a sunset, to a scintillating sunrise to full daytime.”

Andy, however, secured a first place spot of his own with his Sehome teammates Patrick Gregory, Isaiah Grambo and Isaac Day in the 200 medley relay.  He also clocked in faster on the final day of the meet in the 100 backstroke to take fourth place at 56.77 seconds.   There’s a great shot of his launch in the race \on the Bellingham Herald’s website.  (I’d share it with you here but, for copyright reasons, I can’t.)  And he, along with teammates Grambo, Larson, and Curran Wilbour came in fourth in the 400 meter freestyle relay.  Altogether the Sehome swimmers garnered 237 total points, just 30 short of Archbishop Murphy and well ahead of most of the other teams.

So while the team didn’t bring home the title this year, they didn’t fall far.  And for Andy, it was a good finish to a senior year.  At the team’s banquet this week, he received the coveted Coaches Award. Congratulations, Andy!

Here’s the link to the Herald’s article and photos:  http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/02/17/2883420/sehome-swims-to-second-place-at.html#storylink=cpy

HEADS UP:  If you a current or past senior portrait client of mine,  let me know what you’re doing.  Not only would I love to hear but I’d like to share it with everyone on my blog!

The Viking from Montenegro

When Stefan Raicevic arrived in Parsons, Ks., last fall, he had never played the game of football.  To him,  football meant soccer.  But the high school exchange student from Montenegro soon learned that in this small Midwestern town, football was quite a different sport.

It didn’t take long for the high school football coach to “encourage” Stefan to join the team.  At home in Bar, Montenegro, Stefan was a swimmer and played waterpolo in the summer.  But at 6-foot 4-inches tall this strong, 15-year-old sophomore was eager to give American football a try, much to the coach’s delight.

At 6 ft, 4 in, the young man from Montenegro made an imposing presence on the field.

The Vikings had had some pretty rough seasons over the last several years.   They had fallen into a losing streak and lost more games than they won.  The team hadn’t advanced to district play-offs in a very long time.  This didn’t matter much to Stefan.  He just welcomed the  opportunity to learn something new and to make new friends in his “temporary” American hometown.

Fortunately, he already had a basic grasp of the English language, and spoke a little Russian and Italian in addition to his own Serbian.    So learning the plays on the field and following the coach’s instructions weren’t quite  as difficult as they might have been otherwise.  Still, it was an entirely new game to him.  The coach decided to put him in on the varsity team as a defensive linesman.

Stefan took his place among the other players on the line.  His was an intimidating presence on the Viking defense.  Standing alongside the other players on the sidelines, Stefan towered above most of them.  And he was smart academically.

Number 76 for the Parsons team was from Montenegro last season.

Besides football, Stefan earned a place on the high school forensic team, and the math club and in robotics.  He wound up with the school’s other top students on the honor roll.  Not bad for a kid on his first time in the United States.

During a family visit to Kansas, I met Stefan who was living with my brother and his family.  He was like a big puppy dog in nature.  Fun-loving and good-natured yet gentle and well-mannered.  And, judging by his academic record, obviously very disciplined.  His good grades didn’t come easily but he worked and studied hard to understand the material.

Football season was just ending when I visited.  My brother asked if I would take Stefan’s portrait in his football gear as a gift to his parents back home in Montenegro.   Stefan had just turned his uniform in earlier in the week but retrieved it for one last time.  I picked him up at the high school and together we headed over to the football stadium across town.

It was late in the afternoon, a perfect time for the portrait.  The light was a golden autumn color that soaked the trees and field in a rich palette of fall’s tones.   We arrived at the stadium only to discover that the gates were locked and that we would be unable to get onto the field.  I knew the light would fade soon so I quickly looked around for an alternative spot and settled on a place just outside the fence but with the goalpost and scoreboard in the background.

With Stefan on the defensive line, the Vikings marched to district and won the championship.

His portrait turned out full of mood and fall color.  And Stefan stood big and proud in his Viking uniform.   Later, I learned that his mother loved the images.  And now that he’s back in Montenegro,  he and his family have them as  a visual memory of his days on the gridiron.

Oh, and yes, Vikings that season had one of the best seasons in recent memory winning seven games and losing only two.  They went on to play at the district level and became district champs in their division for the first time, as Stefan puts it, “in a long time.”

“I enjoyed it,” Stefan recalls now.  “It’s a great memory.  I miss it now and I wish I can be with my team this season and help them.”

I’ll bet they do too,  Stefan.

The Graduate Goes Home

It’s always hard to say good-bye.  Seems like I’ve had to do a lot of that lately.  Last week, I bid farewell to my photographer’s assistant for the past two years–Ika Hirawan.   She has been by my side on location during photo sessions with high school seniors and families as well as having handled whatever I needed done in the studio.  I’m going to miss  her.

Ika, my photography assistant for two years, on the Western Washington University where she studied for two years.

But she graduated from Western Washington University in June with a bachelor’s degree in business and has a job waiting for her in her native Indonesia.  Having spent five of the last six years in the United States, I know her family was anxious to have her back again.

Ika first came to the States as a junior in high school and lived with a family in Iowa.  It was quite a  change from her homeland.  After graduating from her high school in Indonesia, she applied to and was accepted in a student exchange program and wound up at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham.  Upon completing the two-year program at WCC,  she applied to WWU where she continued her college education.

She proved herself to be a diligent student, a delightful young woman and a very dependable photographer’s assistant!  I hope to see her again one day, whether here in the States, there in Indonesia or some other far corner of the world.  In the meantime, we’ll keep in touch via the wonders of electronic mail and Facebook.  It makes the distances between us seem closer and our worlds feel less far apart.

Many thanks, Ika, and best wishes for your future!