Monday, December 29, 2008

Out of hibernation

Cold, short winter days always make me long for reading by the fire, piling on the sweaters and early bedtimes for everyone. Sometimes I forget what a joy it is to get out! We went for a hike today, late in the day, after errands were run, photos were posted (I am starting a 2nd shop on a site called 1000 Markets) and rooms were vacuumed. My temptation was to cancel it, as by the time we were ready to go, the sun was getting lower in the sky. What a mistake that would have been. The cool, watery orange light was beginning to wane, but we were at the park (Beaver Island) for sunset, a walk in the woods, discovering an abandoned lean-to, and running up and down the sledding hill. The dog went for an icy swim and everyone got good and muddy. I do cherish even these simple days with my family.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Don't touch! Don't worry.

I think that combining my roles of mom and photographer are going to be impossible sometimes. Today I needed to bring a framed photo to the shop where I am now selling work, Williamsville Artisans. But I needed to do so with my four-year-old in tow. The shop is filled with stained glass, hand painted wine glasses and other very fragile items. So, I decided that I would offer McDonald's after the errand if we made it through without touching anything. However, as soon as we got there, Debbie, the store owner, made my son feel right at home and gave him a toy castle to play with while we discussed business. He did not even seem slightly tempted by all of the lovely glass objects when there were battles to be fought and horses to be ridden. I felt such a wave of gratitude toward her. My only difficulty was then, getting my son out of the store and to McDonald's. Toy knights vs. happy meal toy that didn't work? No contest.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Custom blocks

I decided to offer custom blocks in my Etsy shop. I wanted to offer grandparents, parents and others who wanted to offer a special gift for a child's room a customizable photo featuring the child's name on vintage blocks. In each of the photos that I've done, little toy animals have also been added. I've been busy with making a number of these for the holidays and have put two examples in the shop that I am now showing work in: Williamsville Artisans.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The at-home science museum

My kids really wanted to go to the Museum of Science one day, but it was closed. How to make the best of it? "We could make our own science museum, at home," my son suggested. I hesitated. This was coming just after the suggestion about creating an indoor playground complete with see-saws. I decided to pass the buck. "Well, yeah, if you guys want to, you can make one. I've got some work I need to get done." I thought this would sort of cancel out the idea and they would go for a simpler plan, which turned out to be untrue. They decided on several exhibitions: Ancient Egyptians (see "mummy cat" photo), New York Fossils, animals and The Future.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Can we do crafts?

My preschool son asks me this question as we drive home from his school. Every day, after lunch, we figure out what to do with the rest of our day. Of course, there are many things I need to do: dishes, laundry, take pictures for Etsy, and on and on. But I've chosen to be with my kids for a reason and part of that is getting the chance to do arts and crafts together in the afternoon. One of his favorite things to do is to decorate for the holidays. Since it's Thanksgiving, he has chosen to make a turkey to hang in the window. He cut out pieces for the body, head, neck, legs and arms (I told him, they have wings). He added hands and feet. He wanted to add the red thing under the neck (I told him it's called a "wattle") and a beak. At school, they do a lot of crafts, but this matters so much to me because it is self-motivated. He loves having a part of decorating the house and loves learning about holidays. He wants to learn to sew and I've asked his grandmother (my mom) if she could show him a thing or two. He told me yesterday as we were driving, that when he was a grown-up, he would sew a Christmas stocking for me.
Can we do crafts? Absolutely.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Happy Accident

"The Happy Accident" used to be a much more frequent occurrence in photography. There were so many steps where a photographer could ruin a shot, or end up with a wonderful mistake. Film development, darkroom work, getting the film into and out of the camera, you name it, you could screw something up. Now that we have gone digital, so many images are clear, crisp and precise. Moving cleanly from shutter release to Photoshop and beyond. What I have noticed is that people are creating the happy accident again. TTV, Polaroids, Holgas, Dianas, Photoshopping in dirt and scratches, all to make it look like you messed up your film or that you have a cheap lens, or terrible light leaks. With the mistakes comes a human vulnerability as well as a nostalgia that we have for images that remind of us of old family pictures. The photo at the top of the page is a Polaroid that I took recently, that has either a chemical stain or a light leak down the top. I thought it kind of looked like a shaft of light and added to the mood that I was trying to create for the photo.

(c)2008 Jennifer Dennis Potter, all rights reserved for all photos.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Mysteries of the Museum

My children love the Buffalo Museum of Science. We have explored the great marble halls since my daughter was 3 and became obsessed with dinosaurs. She learned all of the names of dinosaurs and so we would go faithfully, every week, packing our lunch in a backpack, to check out the tracks and the bones of dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts. We learned about space, about plants, about trilobites and eurypterids. I took my two children yesterday. My son loves the Ancient Egyptian exhibit. What fascinates me about the place is the volume and mystery of all of the collections. There is a Victorian spirit to all of it, finding, cataloging, protecting and preserving. We benefit, explore and learn about things we may never have seen or learned about in any other way.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Brenton Hamilton

My last post was about my painting professor and adviser, Angelo Ippolito. Another teacher who I benefited a great deal from working with was Brenton Hamilton . Brenton (or BH, as we called him) is in charge of the Residency Program at the Maine Photographic Workshops (Now Maine Media Workshops). He devoted incredible amounts of time to "eat, sleep and breathe" photography with us. The Residency Program is an intensive six month photography program that I completed about ten years ago, and at the time, had us taking photos, developing film or in the darkroom most hours of the day unless we were eating or sleeping. Our group of residency students developed a strong sense of camaraderie, due partially to some turnover of the teaching staff during our short time there.

One of the things that Brenton helped me to understand was Ansel Adams' Zone System. I remember sitting outside the darkroom one day, for the life of me, not understanding or remembering all of it and he explained it by pointing to the rocks, shadows and grass at our feet letting me know which zone each thing fell into. I finally began to "speak" the peculiar new language and was able to apply it to the world around me and the photographs that I was making in the darkroom.

BH was also instrumental in teaching me that photography could be a language of visual storytelling. Especially in groups, one photograph could lead to another and say something that could not easily be put into words.

For these reasons and more, thanks BH.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Angelo Ippolito

I found a Facebook group today called "In memory of Angelo Ippolito" and I had to join. Angelo Ippolito was my adviser at Binghamton University in the early 90's when I was an art student. He was an abstract expressionist, made wonderful assemblage sculptures which he called "jaw-jooz" that were fun and witty. He helped me to laugh about art and to take it seriously. He was an elegant gentleman who was always impeccably dressed.

The most important thing that Angelo taught me was to always play. That art making was about play. The way a jazz musician needs to keep improvising and finding the next note, the way a child needs to make up a game as she goes along. If you stopped playing, you would just steal the life from the art work and just end up with a dull piece. That can't happen without taking risks. He told me that if you had a painting that came easily, that is because the 20 before it were difficult. You payed for it, you had already paved the way. Angelo was one of the first people who ever took me or what I had to offer the world seriously, and I loved him dearly for it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Great Apple Discovery

We hike on a trail near our house. Once it was part of the orchards that used to surround this area, and after that, it was railroad land. It still is technically owned by the railroad company, but hasn't been used for many years and has been used by people as a dog-walking or mountain biking area. Well, our family discovered a wonderful apple tree. Most of the apples on the lower branches had fallen to the ground and had bites in them from squirrels and birds, but the upper branches were just chock-full of great apples. So, having an apple tree ourselves (that has been picked by our neighbors, by us, by our squirrels), we happen to have an apple picking pole and we brought it along to pick apples. We got a bag and a bucket-full and are checking out pie recipes. It's so much fun to get free fruit and I feel like we are making good use of something that no one would have used.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fairy Houses

One day recently, everyone in our family put everything aside to go for a hike. We walked, ran, explored and played. Some of the leaves were beginning to turn yellow and red. It seems to do us all a great deal of good to leave the tasks that being in the house present to us. The picture is of a fairy house that my daughter made, putting her imagination to work. I'm grateful to have the time that I do with my young kids. Their imaginations spark my own and their enthusiasm about life is energizing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fairy Tales

I've been working through some ideas about fairy tales lately in my photography beginning with Little Red Riding Hood. I started with this image of Red and the shot of the wolf alone. Now I am planning to get more elaborate with designing the image. One of my great dreams is to create a children's book. I've decided to work out some book ideas and give myself a challenge by creating a sequence of shots, kind of "storyboarding" my way through the story. Some of the photos would be a shot of Red Riding Hood and her mother, one with the wolf, with her "grandmother" and so on. This is another fun project that both of my children have had good ideas for. Trees are tough because either they are very large, or they look pretty fake, like model railroad trees, so I'm not sure what to do for them (make your own?). Well, one of the things I've realized is that projects change as you work them out and often art can be a series of creative problems that you work out as you go along.
(c)2008, all images copyrighted by Jennifer Dennis Potter

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

my young photo assistant

I started my shop on Etsy, jenniferdennispotter in March and since then, my kids, especially my son (pictured) have wanted to get in on the fun. Etsy has given me a way to be with my kids, create my work, and have it seen. My latest body of work has been my toy series. I've been using small toy animals in studio or realistic settings to create little scenes. A typical afternoon for us may be: taking the dog and the little toy animals to the park for a hike and to take photos. My son will clear away little sticks, brush and other things that impede the look of the photo at my request, feels like a big helper and learns some things about photography as we work. We look for just the right moss, just the right light, just the right pose of the deer. After he is asleep at night, I edit the image in Photoshop and post it to Etsy, if it's worthy. If not, we've still had a great hike and the chance to work together.