Wild Horses

Posted in Art, Photography, poetry with tags , , , , on September 29, 2014 by briancarnold

I had an intense weekend, I can’t tell a lie.  It peaked last night, and I stayed awake all night, my mind full of many different thoughts and emotions.  This morning, strangely, I feel pretty alert, and feel more clarity than I did all weekend.


I was confused, and thinking about relationships.  During the night, I started to understand some key things again about relationships.  The first is trust.


I know it’s a cliche to say that all good relationships are built on trust, but that isn’t what I mean just now.  When I say trust, I mean that trusting if it will be, it will be.  Trusting that the world has a way.

candle and roethke

The second is control.  If you try and control somebody, the relationship is destined to fail.  You have to let your partner become what she needs to be.  If you really love somebody, you can only support and help her in self discovery.


And last night, I was thinking about my favorite poem by Theodore Roethke (undoubtably elsewhere on these pages), that great villanelle.  It’s a real gem:


I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what i cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling.  What is there know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.

Of those close beside, which are you?
God bless the Ground!  I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has nothing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady.  I should know.
What falls away is always.  And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.


Real love is helping her discover freedom.  We think by feeling.  What is there to know?  And there is that one line that describes my night so well, This shaking keeps me steady.  I should know.

Work in Progress (Love Hate Love)

Posted in Art, Indonesia, Java, Photography on September 25, 2014 by briancarnold

Depending on how closely you follow this blog – or even my other one – you might know that I’ve spent a bit of time in Java, Indonesia the past few years.  I am putting together a photo narrative, currently with the working title Love Hate Love.  The title comes from a graffiti tag all across the city of Yogyakarta in Central Java.

Torn sign from rear

Recently, I’ve starting proofing my color film.

Burned Photo

Don’t get the wrong idea, there is still a lot to work out, but I did want to post a few of these crude proofs here.  I’ve just barely looked at balancing the color in these pictures.

stained woman

There are some nice themes developing in the photographs, ideas I’ve been pursuing from the beginning.  Among them are all these photographs of other photographs.

On a boat between Bali and Lombok, I had an idea for an introduction to the narrative (ultimately, I like to work in books).  The beginning would like something like this:

Boat to Lombok

Will go this way that way
Over the roaring sea
There’s plenty to do
So join my crew
If that’s the life for ye

Children’s Traditional

last photo

My Darkroom Today

Posted in Art, Photography with tags , , , on September 19, 2014 by briancarnold

The George Eastman House in Rochester is mounting a new show of photographs by Robert Burley, a show that documents the changing times of photograph (from film to digital).  I was contacted by the museum to contribute to a blog they are running in conjunction with the exhibition, having photographers comment of their perspective on the medium today (and I was also encouraged to submit photographs of my darkroom).  Below, I am posting the response I submitted.

Brian_Arnold_Darkroom View

Even today, I’d say about 85% of my photographic production is still done in the darkroom.  I work primarily in black and white (in color, I still shoot film, but do digital prints).  It does break my heart that the industry is moving so much in one direction, that it has to be this way or that, rather than embracing a more multiplicitous approach to photography.  All said and done, I just love the darkroom, and black and white printmaking still seems magical to me.

I can think of a number of photographs, exhibitions, or photobooks that have had a huge impact on my view of photography over the years.  There are two specific experiences, however, that I find worth mentioning here.


The first job I had in photography was at the Colorado History Museum in Denver.  The museum holds a number of original photographs from the United States Geological Survey.  The collection also houses the complete archives of the Detroit Publishing Company, the studio William Henry Jackson open after settling out west.  My job at the museum was in the darkroom, printing photographs for exhibitions, sales, and the library archives.  On my first day, the chief curator of photography brought down two 20×24 glass plate negatives, Jackson photographs commissioned by the railroads expanding out west.  Together with my partner, we spent close to a whole day printing the negatives.  I was only 21, and had just been photographing for a few months at that point.  The medium was still extremely new to me, and in printing these Jackson photographs, I felt like I was taken back a 100 years, and was sharing his experience in making the photographs.  I’d been living in Colorado my whole life at that point, and in printing these photographs, I felt like I was seeing the landscape of Colorado for the first time.  The whole day left quite an impression on me, and gave me a great lesson on the power of photography.


Fast forward 5-6 years, and I went to graduate school in photography at the Massachusetts College of Art.  After working at the Colorado History Museum for a short time, I pursued my photography in solitude.  After years of working alone, I moved out east for the first time.  During my first year of grad school, we took a photo department trip to NYC for a weekend.  This was only my second trip to NYC in my life, and we went to MoMA.  On view, the Roy Decarava retrospective.  The exhibition moved me deeply – the tonal poetics of Decarava’s work were still new to me, and really awakened a new understanding in photography in that continues to shape my work.  I spent the whole day walking through the gallery, delighting in the sensitivity and insight in his photographs.


Not long after seeing this exhibition, I saw Carrie Mae Weems speak in a public lecture.  She spoke about the Decarava exhibition.  I loved what she said about his photographs; she said that Decarava’s photographs taught her how to care for people a little more deeply.

There have been so many other photographs and exhibitions over the years, but these early experiences have stuck with me the last 20 years as I’ve pursued my life in photography.

Understanding Influence and the Emergence of Style (Or Getting Back to Work)

Posted in Art, Photography with tags , , , , , , on September 5, 2014 by briancarnold


The kids are back to school, which makes easier for me to get fully back to work.  I spent most of the day at the Eastman House in Rochester, NY, looking for images to use for illustrations in my upcoming book with Oxford University Press.


My book promotes the use of chemical photographic processes in a digital age, using techniques from the beginning of photographic time in today’s photographic world.  The text primarily focuses on “alternative processes” in photography, mostly handmade photographic papers and surfaces.  Part of the text provides history of each of the processes, and I am using photographs from the Eastman House collection to illustrate some of the history discussed in each of the chapters.240264

Finding pictures was a bit like shopping with somebody else’s money.  I found 7 different photographs for my text – and put myself in a better position to finish selected photographs from the collection in the future – photographs by Betty Hahn, Stephen Livick, Frank Gohlke, Adam Fuss, and Abelardo Morell.8908_Gohlke_Landscape_LosAngeles_croppedDeSat

The best part, however, was looking through several boxes of photographs by Frank Gohlke.


There were two primary boxes of photographs of Frank’s work, and then some random pictures mixed into other boxes and collections.  One of these boxes held pictures dating back to the 1960’s, and stretched into the early to mid 1970’s.  Seeing these pictures was an incredible treat, and I learned a great deal about his work.  The pictures were far from his best, but that is beside the point.

Betty Hahn, "Morning Mum, 1979", brown print with pastels, 1979

Looking at this box of photographs, I was able to see Frank’s style and voice as a photographer emerge.  Back in the day, Frank worked as an assistant to American photographer Paul Caponigro, and then later, in the 1970’s moved towards the documentary style for which he most well known.


In some of these pictures, you could see Frank imitating Caponigro’s sentimental, mystical style.  And then when first began his studies of the midwestern American landscape, Gohlke continued to work with this rich, abstract style of printing.  Even in these early attempts, however, you could see the ideas forming that eventually became his first notable work, Measure of Emptiness:  Grain Elevators in the American Landscape.fg1

It was all visual learning, and that doesn’t always translate into words.  But trust me, it was a wonderful moment, and a clear opportunity to see an artist learning – really in just a handful of prints.


And then on my way out, I made a quick visit to the great Lewis Hine exhibition.


A New Understanding

Posted in Art, Java, Photography with tags , , , , on September 2, 2014 by briancarnold

I awoke with a start around 3am.  It was a hot and humid night, and two fans were running in the room.  When I awoke, I had a new understanding of prayer and what it might mean in our lives.  It was like an epiphany.


I understood that action of prayer was the real meaning, not in the words nor even intentions necessarily.


It’s not about asking for anything from the universe.

Borobudur break

It is about feeling something essential with inside of yourself, an attempt to feel that more deeply, and with a wish that this essential core of yourself can be apart of the universe around you.


It is to focus on a feeling within, and a hope that that feeling belongs to the universe, that it can be included in the meaning we discover in the world.  A reassurance that we are a part of the universe.


I am not sure what I think this morning, but it was such a powerful sensation in the night.  I kept notes in my head before falling back to sleep, and had to fight my desire to get up and write it all down then and there.


Too often, the things that seem most meaningful in the world also are the most elusive.

Iraq, Presidential Elections, and Image Appropriation

Posted in Art, books, Photography, Politics on September 1, 2014 by briancarnold

So, if you scroll back about a year, you might recall that I am working on a book with Oxford University Press.  I am writing a text book on photographic processes – really what we call alternative processes (cyanotype, wet plate, platinum, etc.).


When I teach of my Alternative Processes in Photography class, I like to define “alternative processes” as the photographic techniques that never really had much commercial application, but nonetheless remain strong because of the aesthetic possibilities.


I just finished writing a draft chapter on low budget image transfer techniques – using different solvents, gesso, tape, etc. – to make and reconfigure photographic images.   As part of the introduction, I also write about the history of photographic image appropriation.


And in putting this chapter together, I went back into the storage shelves of my studio, and pulled down a little one of a kind book I made during 2003-2004, during the height of the Iraq war and the run-up to the Bush-Kerry presidential election.tape_lifts003

Each day, I’d buy a newspaper, and select one image.  Using only scotch tape, I’d lift fragments on these images off the newspaper pages, and then mount them in my book.


I found myself remarkably disenchanted with the war and propaganda machine put in place to keep it running.  I felt that if I found a new way to read the news, with these pieces and fragments I was putting together and recontextualizing, I could actually get a clearer understanding of all the information and misinformation I was reading every day.  And I was remarkably disillusioned with American culture and the manipulative tactics of my government.


It was satisfying to find this little book again, and I still rather like some of the fragments and images recreated on the pages.  I hope some of them make it into my book.





Posted in Art, Java, Photography with tags , , , on August 7, 2014 by briancarnold

So I spent three months in Bali and Java this past spring.  Most of that trip is documented on another of my blogs.


My time in Indonesia, from a professional perspective, was wildly successful.  I am quite pleased with the photographs I made, as well as the different collaborative projects I developed.

#3Brian_Arnold_Flying Kites

When I returned, as an attempt to “commemorate” my trip, I got a tattoo of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and creativity.


The tattoo is based on Balinese depictions of Sarawati, and I see it as a sort of offering.  My time in Indonesia was remarkably successful and productive, and I see the tattoo as an offering, to keep the momentum and energy of my creative in intellectual life alive – both Indonesia and at home.


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