Making Art: photography, my gallery, and a rambling discourse

Making Art: photography, my gallery, and a rambling discourse

Rich's Photo GalleryHi. My name is Rich and I’m a tortured artist.

The Confession

Well, really, I’m more tortured, than artistic. And it may be argued that the artistic is more artifice than artful. But I try, nonetheless.

Folks who don’t know me well (meaning just about everybody) don’t realize I have this creative half that doesn’t wield its powers in the company of friends and coworkers until long after we meet. In fact, not knowing myself as well as I ought, even I remained largely unaware of this need to create until the beast was unleashed during my final year of high school. My more “public” facing personna tends to be bookish, I suppose — and there’s a good reason for that: I’m rarely without a book. Even in good company.

Not quite a misanthrope…

As long as I’m in the confessional mood I might as well admit that I’m also a functioning introvert. Again, this surprises my friends and coworkers for I can be quite garrulous. But I need time alone in order to survive the teeming hordes of happy extroverts. (In MBTI terms: I’m an INTP, for whatever that’s worth.) True to type: my exposure to whirling masses of people often leaves me drained and even melancholy.

But, my wife notes with irony: while I need and enjoy “cave time,” certain public situations get me wired like a happy cat — such as when I’m teaching, presenting, or preaching. Of course, this leaves me even more drained than just being the large, bookish guy with oddball observations at the dinner party. But it’s worth it.

Add water and lavish praise, then stir gently

Now, how about a trip down memory lane to help glue these apparently unrelated sidebars together (closet creativity plus homebody introversion): When I was 12 years old and merely bookish but not yet fully “creative,” I took an art class at school where the teacher enthusiastically assured me I had an aptitude for drawing. I warmed to his praise and eventually became the teacher’s assistant for the class. I enjoyed everything about the course: the drawing, the perspective exercises, the natural art, the hand-thrown clay and firing the pots. I found it relaxing and invigorating at the same time. Though I probably wouldn’t have said that then. I would have used more sedate terms like “Cool,” and “Neat.” (It was the early 80’s.)

So, when it came time to enter high school, I naturally sought to continue my interest in the arts, and selected Art I for my optional “elective” course. I did not know that all elective courses required parental approval, so when I presented the slip for the necessary signature, I hit a roadblock.

“Art? Art? You can’t make a living drawing pictures. Take something else!” (Here, my memory inserts the sound of a Jewish mother nagging. Strangely, my mother is not Jewish.)

Having learned by then what battles could be fought (none) and won (again, none), I meekly submitted, and filled my course roster with the usual: Math, English, Science, Spanish, Physical Ed., Government, and so on. For three years.

Then came the surprise: as an 18-year-old entering the 12th grade, I was legally entitled to choose electives on my own counsel. Even better: having neglected my electives for the preceding three years, I only had one required course left!

This held great promise. I could fill up the entire remainder of the day with any elective curiosity I desired.

“Wow,” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt about this zephyr of parental emancipation. It’s not that I exulted from being out from under my parents’ collective thumbs (I did exult), but I anticipated with relish all the super-cool things I could do in my senior year. With. Out. Permission.

So, in addition to my final required math class, I added these electives:

  • Spanish – I’d completed the required two years, the third and fourth were elective
  • The Entertainers – a song-and-dance performance troupe (I know, really, really hard to believe if you know me.)
  • Piano I
  • Guitar I
  • Art I
  • Photography I
  • Photography II
  • Drama I

Yes. the number of courses exceeded the allotted hours in the school day. I was going in early for the Entertainers and leaving late after school hours and going straight to my after-school job. I made it work. And it helped that I was forced to drop the less-interesting all-singing-all-dancing performance club because I couldn’t afford the tux.

If there’d been a basket-weaving class, I think, I would have gladly enrolled.

For the whole of that year, I was drunk on the arts. And while I could recount the praise my instructors piled on me (and I actually did describe it, but you can just thank me for deleting it because, really, who cares? It was high school.), I’ll only say that this one year in school transformed my life and changed my self-perception for good more than any other experience before or since.

I went on to make photos for my college Public Relations department for scholarship money. Later, while working at the A/G headquarters, I shot news photos for the Office of Information department at the 1997 General Council. While I’ve never won any “art” contests, I’ve had my work published and I’ve been paid for it. When feeling my oats, and out of earshot of real pros, I therefore sometimes claim to be a “professional” photographer.

But what have you done for me lately?

Nowadays, my guitar lays neglected in a corner of my house, calling to me from time to time, and my Bride challenges me to take it up again. My son has a little electric piano now, which I dink on infrequently — but I never really had the discipline for the keyboard.

But photography has remained with me as a close companion through the years. I have boxes and boxes, bags, books and binders full of negatives, prints, reprints, and print-outs. Unfortunately, the cost has kept me from doing much with it. I won’t go into the woes of pricey equipment and expensive gear, but it’s enough to say that we who see life through the lens can fill ten rolls of film for every single roll destroyed by the causal snap-shooter.

It adds up.

So, in the end, even though I still have the photographer’s eye, the photog’s mindset and a tendency to see everything through a viewfinder, even my trusty Nikon FA has been languishing these past few years.

Enter the age of gadgets that pretend to be tools

A couple years ago I cunningly convinced my wife she needed a new camera, especially since we wanted to document our kids’ lives in full Technicolor detail. (I’m clever that way, with gadgets. Plus, my wife sees through my ploys, and allows me the illusion of influence because she loves me.) So, we bought her the best cheap camera we could afford: a little Nikon CoolPix 3200. It produces a 3-megapixel image, can do macro (close up) photography, and has a zoom lens built in. The selling point was that it has a more forgiving f-stop “film speed” than the other 3MP cameras I was looking at, and the macro lens worked very nicely.

Yes. It’s really and truly her camera. But she lets me borrow it whenever I want. As long as I buy new batteries.

Now, when I get a few moments, once in a while, I’ll feed my photo jones and go make some pictures. Still, there’s a part of me that holds back: while I love digital photography, the little camera I have still produces more digital noise than I like, the chip sensors are smaller and less sensitive than I need, the pixels are too few, and the lenses are seriously wanting. But, still, it’s photography, and I enjoy it.

The Reason for this Post

So, I told you all that to lead up to this: When I first started this blog back in 2005, I had a goal to create a “portfolio” site as a companion to, or as a part of this weblog. I searched around for WordPress gallery plugins, I tried out a few gallery scripts, and I’ve even posted a few items here on the blog. But I haven’t been satisfied with the solution. The photos in a blog require too much time to manage, they suck a lot of bandwidth, and then you have to struggle with bandwidth leechers who hotlink to your stuff. Plus, it’s hard to fit random abstract photos into my typical rants and raves. Ultimately, blogs emphasize textual communication. Visual stuff requires a different tool.

I’d set up a Flickr account, but just really wasn’t getting into it. I tried using the Yahoo! photos account, but uploading photos felt painful and tedious in either case.

Finally, a couple weeks ago, I realized that some of the hiring managers I hope to impress might be more convinced of my so-called creative abilities if I actually set up something to demonstrate it. So, I set up my “media” page elsewhere on this site, with links to video, MP3 files, and some photos. But I still wasn’t satisfied.

So, back to the drawing board, and back to Flickr. I found a couple desktop tools to make uploading much easier (such as jUploadr). I played with the sets and the tags a little, and I decided to start uploading some stuff. Then, almost immediately, I hit the monthly upload limit. Then I hit the limit for the number of “sets” (or galleries) I could create. I finally broke down last week and paid for a pro account, which means I have to do something about it now.

So just today I found a PHP script which I could upload here that would pull the images from my Flickr account so that I could host my gallery here while managing my images elsewhere. And, best of all, the bandwidth is Flickr’s, not mine. (See lumis Gallery.)


About my photography

everyday objectsI enjoy getting close to a subject. I like finding “art” in everyday objects that people walk right by or glance over without giving a second thought. I look for, crave, and savor the unexpected perspective, the new light cast on an old object.

Weathered NailI want texture, I want to see weathered things up close. I want to see decay and capture its inherent beauty, because, somehow, as things age and crack they reveal their true nature. And this is lovely.

It’s not that I applaud chaos: no, I look for the beauty that lies somewhere between pristine intention and sullied decay. I look for unintended beauty awaiting discovery — if one only looks closely enough.

Key and LockI regularly challenge myself to find something worth looking at closely near-at-hand. Thus: shots of key rings, fabric, and paper clips; the lunch-time picnic table, the kid’s playground, my back yard. Found objet-d’art.

Portrait of AJI also like capturing personality through portraiture, but I absolutely prefer portraits that are more candid. I don’t enjoy posed photos, and I try to avoid the subject looking into the camera and smiling. (Though this is difficult with my kids because we have a couple hams who love seeing themselves on the tiny digital screen.)

St. Francis Church in Muskegon, MichiganI like taking pictures of buildings, too, when I find something interesting. Landscapes are not as much my “thing,” but I envy the Ansel Adams of the world who can somehow take the big world and make it small without diminishing the subject’s grandeur or majesty. I come from the other direction though. I take small things and make them big — and possibly reveal a little grace in the process.

My stuff won’t interest most of you. I don’t expect it to, and I won’t be bothered if you go and take a look and say, “Bah! Boring!” (My wife regularly hears people say, “Your husband takes strange pictures.”) My photos don’t necessarily tell a story, and they don’t all feature people or faces. But for all that, there is a story there still. The weathered and torn and beaten stuff all got that way somehow and even though the story isn’t audible or plainly visible, it’s there, if you have the eyes and ears to see and listen. Or just plain make up.

Without further ado…

So, please visit my new photo gallery. Explore. If you want to leave a comment, you can click through to the Flickr page and leave notes to your heart’s content. If you like something, please do leave a comment.

It keeps my lens shiny.

Rich's Photo Gallery


[tags]ansel-adams, art, art-class, artwork, black-and-white, blogrodent, candid-photography, close-up, coolpix, coolpix-3200, creative, creativity, digital-photography, digital-photos, flickr, foto, fotografia, fotos, found-art, high-school, juploader, landscape, lumis Gallery, macro, macro-photography, muse, nikon, nikon-coolpix, nikon-fa, photo, photography, photos, portraiture, rich-tatum, wordpress, plugins, php, blogging, weblog, introvert, INTP, media[/tags]

12 thoughts on “Making Art: photography, my gallery, and a rambling discourse

  1. Mark

    Most excellent photos, Rich. I enjoyed them very much. You are indeed a cool and artsy, intelligentsia, outside the box kind of guy, as well as being a well-educated, fine thinker and writer.

    How did you manage to stay at HQ as long as you did? Never were totally plugged into the matrix there, were you coppertop? ;>)

    Just kidding a little.


  2. Rich Post author

    Hey, Mark, ha ha. Thanks for the string of run-on compliments. I’ll owe you that $20 the next (first) time I see you (if I have a job).

    I survived at HQ the same way I survived at CTI: I pretty much kept my professional and private life separate. I did the logical, straight-laced worker-bee thing in the office and did my creative, intuitive thing on my lunch-hour or at home. Eventually, my creative side starts leaking out, and it takes a while for management to figure out what to do with me. For the most part, though, because I’ve worked almost exclusively for executive-level managers, they have the freedom to deploy me in creative pursuits.

    That’s why I wound up being the first Webmaster for the A/G. Going online was so out-of-the box for HQ that they needed an out-of-the-box guy with some creativity and some theology and some technology to make it work. I think I was unique at HQ at the time, and they tapped me for the job.

    I think it’s safe to say, also, that the A/G website had more “personality” then than it does now. For whatever that’s worth.

    At CTI I wound up being asked to take on another out of the box project: Providing online training for church lay-leaders. Unfortunately, it was so out of the box that we couldn’t make it work financially. I think there’s an approach that would have made it work, but it would’ve taken more resolve (and finances) than CTI has currently. Fortunately, for me, it was also a position requiring creativity, and it was great fun to have a job that combined all my skills and interests into a singular work experience.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Don

    Rich: I have enjoyed observing your blog develop. The photos are a wonderful addition to your links and “occasional” reflections upon our wild world. Somebody smart should hire you…. Don

  4. Don

    Thanks again for your hard work on the blog. I do keep returning to see what is going on. Someone smart has got to hire you….

  5. Rich Post author

    Thanks, Don, I appreciate your vote of confidence! And thanks for checking our my photos as I know you enjoy good photography, yourself.


  6. Rich Post author

    Not that I’m a great big bug photographer (I rarely make pictures of bugs, really!), but I had a June Bug hitch a ride on my shoulder last night. So, I shot him.

    I am June Bug, hear me roar I am a June Bug taxi



  7. GG2/Larry


    I have recently started to blog and I have enjoyed reading yours along with those you link to. The pictures were great, I enjoyed the slide show.


  8. Tom Vander Well

    Nice shootin’. I appreciate your eye – and your creativity. I appreciate any believer who understands that creativity is an integral part of Christ-like-ness.


  9. Rich Post author

    By the way, if you want to be notified whenever I upload new stuff, you can subscribe to my Flickr Gallery by email. Just click here.

    Thanks, Tom, for the compliment! I appreciate it.


  10. Rose-Marie

    Wow, I’ve been away, and now am just perusing through your photos for the first time. Woo-hoo! Good job. I’m impressed.

    Good eye, there! I’m still working on editing all the great shots i got in England and Wales. I’ll be posting more soon! Stop by.


  11. Pingback: Flickr: blogrodent

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