Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Kindness of Creative People...

For those who may follow my PhotoSketchPad blog, you'll know that I'm a nut for photography.

It should come as no surprise that when the Salon de la Photo trade show hit town that I'd be near the front of the crowd clamoring to get in.  I met Daniel Smith, photographer and Director of the Visual Arts program at WICE and Al Alistair, photographer and manager of the film courses that WICE offers.  We promised that if our credit cards were at risk for buying some new tasty piece of equipment that we'd be there to support each other.

We checked out Fuji's camera offerings, and wandered by to see the new Nikon.  We then each our own way, promising to catch up later, if possible.  I wandered over the Canon counter to take a look at the small SL1/100D and to try a 70-200mm f2.8 L on a full frame camera.  As a comparison, I visited the Sigma counter to take a close look at their 70-200 f2.8 EX OS HSM.

There were plenty of fun things to look at and fondle.  Yet, I found that I was wandering around in a distracted daze.  Something wasn't quite right and I wasn't terribly excited by the wonderful gear on offer.  Perhaps it had a lot to do with the fact that traditional artists don't talk so much about their brushes or tools of their trade as much as they do about what they create and why.  Photography, on the other hand, seemed to be about what you could afford and how much of it you could acquire.  It doesn't seem there is as much attention paid to the final image as to the camera and lenses a photographer carries.

Realizing this, I walked off in search of photographs on display.

While there were some potentially interesting images, I was left cold by the photo-reportage that seemed to be in abundance.  I was left unimpressed by the landscapes and scenery.  There wasn't anything that I fell in love with and would want to hang on our apartment wall.

There was one last aisle to walk.  So, walk it I did...

... and found Daniel talking with a student from a class I taught just the day before.  Dr. Elizabeth Rand had volunteered to help the de Groot Foundation.  I knew nothing of the foundation and so ensued a conversation about who they were, what they did and, gee, take a look at this photograph by a wonderful young artist from Peru...

A quick look around confirmed that these were indeed serious photography folks.  I learned there were six jurors, three in France and three in the USA, who reviewed over 5,000 entries.  Selected images across six categories were awarded a prize by the foundation.  The top winners in each category were flown to Paris to participate in the Salon de la Photo showing of their work.

We, Daniel and I, were introduced to Clydette de Groot.  She was working the display area and shared some of our seemingly boundless enthusiasm for the photographic arts.  It was then that I realized how much my previously dour mood had lifted.  Here was infectious joy expressed around the art of image creation.  Each photograph  was a very worthy winner, from what I could see.  Fabulous work was on display.

Clydette (if I may be so bold as to use just her first name here) said that I must be introduced to a young lady who's work had won one of the prizes.  But before she introduced us, she wanted to explain a little about Mafe Gracia's background.  Her's was the image I was first impressed by when I first wandered by.  In brief, all of the men in five generations of women in her family were dead.  Instantly I better understood what I was looking at and my appreciation for her work deepened dramatically.

I met Mafe and we had a long conversation on photography, life in Lima, Peru, what it was like for her to travel to Paris to participate in the Salon, and what her future plans might be.  I am enthusiastic about her work and shared this with her.  She beamed.  I know, as artists, how we like to be recognized and encouraged.

I found Daniel talking with Dr Elizabeth and tore him away to talk about other fine images in the collection.  There was an amazing image of a dead bird.  Clydette explained that a young lady made this, too, and that she was here in Paris with her mother for the celebrations.  If this kind of image-making was any indication, the future of photography is in good hands.

We moved over to take a look at a very nice portrait.  I explained to Daniel how a Petzval lens was likely used in the making of the photograph.  As I was wrapping up my thoughts on the topic, Mafe returned with something in her hand.

She said "Here.  I want you to have this."  It was a copy of her beautiful work "Lazos de Familia."

I was nearly speechless.  All I could say was "You know how to make an old man cry."

As we walked away, Daniel and I looked at each other and asked "what just happened?"  It had been an emotional, touching, beautiful moment shared.

This is what I came to experience in living here.  Sharing, talking, and some times gifting between humans.  All on a personal level.  Regardless of where we come from.  With a deeper, richer understanding of each other and sharing our life experiences.  The community of artists in my small sphere of personal acquaintances and friends is growing.  I could see that Daniel might have felt similar things.

Such a great day, this.

Walking into the cool, damp early afternoon, Daniel and I said our goodbyes to each other and I headed up to my favorite rugby bar, le comptoir, for a Karmeliet Triple and lunch.

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