Many thanks to Cowboys and Indians Magazine for featuring my Rodeo portraits in their latest issue (Feb/March 2016). These portraits were made all over the great state of Georgia from Perry up to Ringgold and many points between. It’s so gratifying to finally see some of this work in print, and writer Ellise Pierce certainly made me sound more thoughtful than is actually the case. Now, I need to get busy printing and scanning and updating the gallery with more images!
Over at South by SouthEast Photo Magazine you can see a small selection of images from my Jubilee series. SXSE started just a few years ago and has become quite a terrific resource for photography around the South, offering great imagery from a wide variety of photographers, interviews with many photographers, designers and publishers, as well as workshops with some amazing artists such as Mark Steinmetz. Be sure to check them out.
My series of portraits of children on Swim Teams was recently featured over at SXSE Photo Magazine. Yo! Check it out!
Being a Gemini, identical twins are a subject of constant fascination for me. If you ever want to see the reality of “Nature vs. Nurture” simply find a set of identical twins, and notice how two humans that are genetically identical can have wildly different personalities and temperaments. Almost every set of twins I have photographed looks like a set of Comedy/Tragedy Masks. I found these sisters at an apple orchard in North Georgia. Compare their faces and the position of their hands as they hold the apples. This isn’t Photoshop, this is REALITY, which is far more fascinating than anything I or anyone else could concoct on a computer!
Looking at photos @jacksonfineart and in walks the great Emmet Gowin, his lovely wife Edith and their darling grandson Sage. #valentinesday — Parker Smith (@ParkerSmithFoto) February 14, 2013 So, seriously, I went to Jackson Fine Art to see the Bruce Davidson show, and I’m standing there, and in walks Emmet Gowin, who (if you don’t know) is one of the greatest photographers in the 190 years since the invention of the medium. He was there on business for an upcoming show, so I struck up a conversation with his wife Edith (the subject of so many of Emmet’s most famous and intense photographs) who was carrying her adorable grandson Sage. He had turned five this very day! Edith and I ended up talking for about 20 minutes on everything from Angry Birds to contemporary photography, the overwhelming multitude of images being produced today, Emmet’s new work, his old work and how an artist struggles to become more than just a greatest hits collection. Eventually she took me over to Emmet and I had a chance to reintroduce myself (we had spoken after an event at the High Museum two years ago) and talk with him about his work.
Over the past several weeks, I have been spending virtually every extra second of my days in the darkroom (see my Instagrams), printing my portfolio for the Atlanta Celebrates Photography Portfolio Review. Atlanta Celebrates Photography is an annual event that takes place every October, with exhibits, lectures, classes and more, all focused on the art of photography. This was my first foray in the world of photography portfolio reviews. Atlanta’s is a one day deal; some of the larger festivals across the country — New Orleans, Santa Fe, Houston — have reviews that last several days. The basic idea is that you present your work to a group of industry movers and shakers, and get their (hopefully positive) feedback. I was very fortunate to be able to meet and show my work to some very important people in the world of fine art photography, including Brett Abbott, Curator of Photography at the High Museum, photographers Chip Simone, Brian Ulrich, and Bill Schwab, as well as Kirsten Rian from Daylight, William Bolling from Fall Line Press, and David Bram of Fraction Magazine. These may not be household names to the average person, but they are all very highly regarded in the fine art photography community. I showed about 20 prints from my Jubilee series. The feedback was very positive; everyone loved my silver prints. It’s a rarity these days. (Tech note: a silver gelatin print is what you create in a traditional wet darkroom from black and white film. Out of the 50 photographers in attendance, I was one of only six who still shoot film, and one of only two who print on silver paper — the other four were film shooters who scan and output to either digital prints or alternative processes like platinum. Plus, there were a couple of tintypists in the house.) Click to enlargify The entire experience was a bit of a whirlwind, starting at 9 on Saturday and finishing around 9 that night, and after a follow up workshop on Sunday, I was completely wiped out. Of course, Monday morning arrived bright and early and I had to resume my previously scheduled life as Atlanta’s #1 photographer, father and husband. So, apologies if your emails went unanswered for a few days! That being said, we are headed off for four days on the lake in Highlands, NC. Got a cooler full of meat products, wine, and home made pimiento cheese!
I’m very pleased to let everyone know that I’ve been selected as one of 50 photographers nationwide to participate in the 2012 Atlanta Celebrates Photography Portfolio Review. I’ll be presenting my fine art photography project Jubilee. Lots of work to do, oh my!
How things were is not necessarily how they are. And how things are is not how they will be. So much of life is caught up in the now, what we want this instant, food, a drink, to read a book, to watch a show, a new movie, to see how the Supreme Court ruled, or will Europe finally implode, or, what did my friend’s cat cough up on Facebook? Photographers are all obsessed with the now. We spend our time looking for moments where the world all seems to align in a strange perfection of nowness, so we can be there to witness it, capture it, pin it like a butterfly and ask others “look… see!” It’s so difficult to remember that the photographs we create today, in all their multitudes, aren’t really for today, or even tomorrow or next week, or next year. They ferment over decades, and a transfiguration occurs. Even the most pedestrian snapshot carries within it not only the specific description of a time and a physical reality that no longer exists, but also the accumulated historical knowledge of all that has passed since that brief moment. You can look at an Instagram of your children made yesterday or last week or even a few months ago, and it has a certain, although mild, psychological impact on you. Now, imagine opening a box of snapshots of those same children that are five or ten years old. The impact is considerably more dramatic, and can often bring one to tears. So, does “art photography” exist in some space outside of the psychological impact of time? Yes and no. I think the finest of photography has a quality of timelessness — of being of indeterminate age and origin — that deepens its mystery. Photographers are also obsessed with meaning, and this is really my point. Most spend tremendous amounts of time — and some engage in elaborate psychological contortions — in an attempt to assign values and interpretations to their photographs and those of other photographers. But value and meaning is welded to time and human experience. At one time, people valued salt and gave it great commercial significance. Then people realized that it exists in practically unlimited quantities. There was a time when no one valued the works of Vincent Van Gogh, and he died in despair. Obviously, people now assign great value to his art! We as photographers think “is this art?” and most of us rightly consider if our work could possibly add anything at all to the incredibly rich history of the medium. But it’s not for us to decide, is it? It seems to me you have to do the work you are called to do, move forward slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, and let time work its magic. You may die and the estate sale people dump your entire life’s work into the 1-800-Got-Junk? bin. Or, your work could end up on the wall at The Met. The photographs aren’t for you, they are for others. We too often forget that.
In the digital age, it’s easy to get into the mindset that we see and experience all photographs on a screen. We have to remember, though, that this is photography, not cinematography. A screen is not necessary, and in fact actually undermines the entire concept: the photographic print has always existed as an independent artistic object, real and tangible. It is the final vision of the artist. This is a collection of my rodeo portraits (several of which have not yet made it to the website!) all beautifully printed and matted and ready for a portfolio review at Jackson Fine Art. These photographs are real. You can pick them up and touch them and see the surface of the paper, and even smell the varnish while it drys (days…). It’s so exciting to create, to photograph, yet it’s easy to forget that what matters is what becomes real, not just another pile of ones and zeros sitting on a hard drive somewhere, waiting to be lost to history. Obviously, I am a huge fan of how photographs can be shared globally over the internet. It allows us to see and experience so many images that we may not have the time or the resources to view. But somewhere that photograph needs to exist as a real, tangible object, or the chances are that one day, it will simply vanish.
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