I was hesitant to accept this role because I worried that I wouldn’t see much good work … my reason, I think that a self-portrait is an especially difficult exercise especially when one has to produce both an image and a haiku. But, after looking over the images/haiku, I’m relieved. I can offer some impressions and suggestions, but there’s so much good, creative work here, that we can all pat ourselves on the back. WHCMultimedia is producing some very strong work and we, as a group, are miles ahead of where we were when Susumu and Debi kicked this whole thing off, what, about 2 years ago?
Comparisons can’t be avoided. Undoubtedly some of you will pick up the feeling that yours isn’t one of my favorites. So, I’ve decided to make my top picks explicit, by labeling them “A Top Pick.” But, I confess that I think that comparison, although unavoidable, is bad for the spirit. I prefer responding to images one at a time and simply saying what I think.
Finally, I’ve become aware that I have some strong visual biases that don’t exactly match those of my colleagues on WHC MM. That has done me some good, because when someone whose work I respect says that they like an effect, I learn that there’s more than my viewpoint to be considered. But, unfortunately for you folks, you have only my viewpoint, my bias, so we’ll have to live with that. I’d be tempted to use IMHO a lot, but truthfully, I’d feel the phony if I did so. I have strong feelings about images. So, that’s what I have to offer. IMNSHO … in my not so humble opinion.
Having said all that, here are my impressions, thoughts, and evaluations. I’ve repeated the text of the haiku so that you can absolutely identify which image is yours and to force myself to focus equally on the haiku, which I tend not to do.
1. This self a gathering of dust
and dreams: A Top Pick: This image is one that I would pick as excellent
for three of its elements: creativity [eyes slightly showing through
starry sky], color/composition, the arrangement, color, font of the text.
I don’t trust my judgment of haiku, but I like the sentiment expressed in
2. If I write on a cloud the
mountain will read praise you lord: I like several things about this
image/haiku. First, the half face captures my interest. Why is she showing
us only half of herself? I think perhaps that the other half, her spirit,
is like the clouds. Whatever her reason, she’s gotten me to do more than
simply look at the image and pass on. A bold framing, a very loud pink and
a more muted purple. Hmm. This strikes me as a statement about herself …
there is vivid color in her life, strong emotion. Yet, I’d like to see
something else ... the inner purple frame smaller, the outer pink one
still loud, but perhaps more muted … some earth tones mixed in with the
pure pink. The haiku … such a strong statement of religious belief. It
matches the strength of this woman’s face. I think that I would choose a
different font, perhaps smaller, definitely clearer [this may be a
technical problem], and matching one of the colors either in the image or
on the frame. As is, we have pink, purple, white, and then the earth tones
of the face and background. Too much, I think.
3. After the Pilgrimage stretching my legs a fresh breadth of spring: This one also acted like a Zen koan. I see mother goose and her children. Someone has been on a pilgrimage and has lots of kids/grandkids. I like the image, the positioning of the text, that the colors have been reduced to the minimum, the inner frame and font color reflecting the color of the central image. I think that the inner frame is a bit too strong. I’d use only one pixel and maybe darken it just a bit. The haiku reads like three separate lines – I think it needs a bit of revising. So, I’m left with a mystery: who in our group is “mother goose”.
5. hot summer day wild waves affect geese and sanity. Top Pick. I love the complexity of this image. I think that we are looking at this person in two ways … sitting in front of his/her computer screen and out there in a lake trying to take a photograph of some geese. But that’s not all. The room/computer have been ‘fancified’ [is that a word? My spell check is flashing an ugly red warning signal]. This person is telling us that his/her computer room is a creative playground. Anything can happen here. There’s lots of room for whimsy in this world and I found it here. Top marks for creativity.
9. quiet sunset the stroke of a
brush on paper: Hmm. The sunset like a brush stroke … if that’s the case,
it must be sweet to be a watercolor artist! This image gives us three
elements, a realistic photo of a man, but with sunglasses, eyes hidden, a
fine watercolor landscape, and a raw brushstroke border … two types of
brushstroke … one multicolored, producing a highly organized landscape and
one monotone black, producing a frame around the inner images. This man is
letting us know, in image and haiku, that he strongly identifies with the
land, and that his painting is akin to being there, part of the landscape,
a sunset each time the paints come out. I wondered what it might have been
like to place the photo outside the inner landscape, sharing both types of
10. family album my father the age
my son is now: Top Pick. First, a sense of nostalgia. These old family
photos … ghosts, some still living. Dad as a child. Everything faded, just
as our memories have faded. The placement of the photo is of interest. Why
not straight on? But, I like it tilted. We see the corner of another photo
… there are other images, other ghosts completely lost to the viewer. All
told, I think that this is a creative display of what might otherwise be a
trivial image that most of us wouldn’t bother looking at. I think that the
haiku and image work well together – and in this case, although there is a
direct relationship, the haiku makes the image work and vice versa. The
haiku expresses a sense of awe about a man’s journey from baby to man to
father, and places the artist somewhere in the middle of the journey. The
image brings the journey home. There it is before our eyes. The yellowed
image tells us that the father is far towards the end of the journey.
11. waning moon dreaming of the
days when I had dreams: Top pick for a haiku. And, right off, I like some
things about this image. The colors, the placement of moon and mind. I
think that I might have wanted to try reducing the opacity of the human
head … to make it more dreamlike, intangible. The haiku is powerful … a
man past the mid-point, I sense that his hair is silver, may be telling us
that his dreams are no longer looking forward, but instead are dealing
with loss. When is it that we stop looking forward? When does the moon
12. beach walk balancing all my
decades between tides: The image grabs me. What are those rocks doing
balanced! Of course, I realize it’s a trick, and while I don’t think that
the artist really meant to imply this, it’s a trick to balance all those
decades too. Let’s see, I could 50- or 60-something. Someone did a lot of
work on this image … I can’t see where the rocks are unnatural. As with
11, the haiku is tops. Each decade a like the ebb and flow of a tide. Each
tide the same but different. Almost a whole life? How to balance all that
has gone on?
13. the weeds and the wind in the
sole of a lonely man one wounded bird: Top Pick. Here again we have a half
face, but doubled. It’s a very powerful presentation, nice marriage of
form and color. Of course, everything is projection, and perhaps I’m
influenced by the haiku, I’d like to have seen the image without the haiku
to suggest that there is a troubled feeling. I think I can see it in her
eyes. Is she a wounded bird, the haiku a pun? The wonder, a man with a
soul of weed and wind … nasty, smelly, sticky, slimy vs. wispy, light,
airy, transparent. As I read her, at this moment, there is nothing good
about this guy, but to wound deeply there once must have been. The font
treatment is nice, kind of transparent, like the wind. I think that I’d
like to have seen a more wispy font, all caps is quite strong and becomes
a bit too much of the image. Still, it also has to show up, tough with
this sort of multi-dark colored image.
14. notebook by a favorite chair dust gathers everywhere else: I very much like the colors, forms, and font treatment of this image. In that aspect it’s one of my favorites. But, my mind keeps trying to see a chair or a notebook, or something related to the haiku. I know in my heart I’m not looking at a red a blue green dust mote. I think it must be like one of those trick images where there is an image if only I will let my mind see it. Right now, I imagine the rest of you are saying, “geez Ray, get your glasses on, can’t you see the person sitting in the chair holding a book in one hand and a vacuum cleaner in the other?” Back to the haiku, so, there’s this notebook, and everywhere else is dust, but the notebook does not have a coating or the feel of dust? This means, I guess, that the notebook is alive, living, fresh, the place of newness for this person. The creativity implied in the notebook and the creative whimsy of the image fit in that way.
16. a granddaughter’s hug a smile ripples over my face: This image has certainly the feel of rippling … but the smile isn’t as strong as I would have expected from the haiku. A small thing, that upper left corner … I’d have filled it in by mirroring the right hand corner. I like the idea of the haiku … a hug causes a smile … there is cause effect here, someone said that’s a ‘no-no’, but why? I’d ditch the first ‘a’. Here the self-portrait is someone who is quite enjoying being a grandparent.
18. storms never last outside my window: Ah, a man who transcends storms, the storms of life. He’s telling us that he is a settled, relaxed or centered man, I think, that he has learned how to take it. This haiku, I think, is telling us too much, and describing too little. Still, I’m going to sign up for lessons. Right now there are several storms outside my window that aren’t going away.
20. early spring a baby snug in the nest: This looks like a chalk and charcoal filter effect. I like this effect on this image. However, I do also notice that it distorts some things, so after enacting the effect, I think it’s important to use the stamp tool to ‘cure’ some of the problems. For example, I think that her smile looks a bit strange. And the blotch on the baby’s head doesn’t look quite right. I’d also consider stamping some of the texture in the left middle into the left top of the image. That strong diagonal line is a distraction. I wondered about the haiku: I thought perhaps ‘a fledgling snug’ for L2. No need to refer directly to the baby in this one. It’s a very nice image, I think, the baby snuggled into its mom’s lap, the fledge into the nest.
22. eight and eighty past dreams
and future ones two Leos: These filter effects look kind of artsy, and
perhaps there is a filter that would enhance this photograph – which has a
very special feel to it. But, I think that this one is too strong for the
image. In Photoshop, it’s possible when applying the filter to change the
settings to make it less strong and even after applying the filter, you
can back it off [have you all discovered that yet? If not ask me]. I think
that the haiku is really three themes, not two and it strikes me as
telling us too much, and too much that is obvious in the photo. Okay, that
they’re “Leo” sign we don’t know by looking, but what has that to do
things? Here the image is almost a complete mirror of the haiku … 8/80 is
repeated twice, we see a birthday cake, we see the older and younger
person. I’d try for a whole new take on the haiku.
23. Orchard time no rush to grow
from bud to bloom: I like the colors of the image, but not the size and
color of the frame. I think that the face is far too blurred. Once the
blurring goes beyond a certain point it becomes difficult to see. The idea
is good though. I think that a face on a separate layer at about 50%
opacity would produce a much stronger effect. The plant isn’t immediately
recognizable as an orchard, but that doesn’t matter in that I like its
lines and I can see that it’s about buds, not yet flowers. The haiku I
think needs work. What does ‘orchard time” mean or tell us. I’m not sure.
How about “orchard buds”. Now this image and haiku does invite me to ask
myself what is the relationship between the main theme ‘no rush to grow”
and the older gray haired gray bearded man. Hasn’t he already bloomed?
Does the artist mean I wish time would slow down? Hmmm.
24. almost twilight a fine mist
cooling the fire: This is a Top Pick, both image and haiku and the way
they work together. I don’t know what to suggest to improve the image. I
like the opaqueness of the face, the filer effect [I want to know what
filter that is], the placement of the text in that space to the right of
the head. Someone said that portrait photography is mostly about capturing
eyes … this image does that very effectively. I think that we have someone
here looking back at youth … the haiku has that ring of melancholy.
25. self-portrait the old bird forgets who she is: I love the bird, but I don’t think that inner black border enhances it … at least I’d try just a 1 pixel white border around the image and then the gray border as is for the haiku and further framing. I think that those two white spots to the left and right bottom take the eye away from the central theme of the bird. And, what do they add? I also think that that white line above the birds head, but prior to the black border should have been stamped out. The two black lower corners are again candidates for texturizing. For all of these I’d use the textures to the right of the bird. Now as for the haiku, I like the ‘this old bird’ … old bird is a term rife with meaning in the English language and we all know that there is a twist of self-deprecating humor here. But, I don’t think that we should be told that this is a self-portrait, nor that she forgets who she is. The birds head turned backward, hiding under the wing, something should be made of that, I think.
28. light falling across my mouse encoded here is a picture of myself: Top image pick. Okay, I love the image … as a self-portrait, a pile of question marks, it makes a very powerful statement. And the pile doesn’t even stay within bounds; it spills out into the margins. A top composition. Very creative idea. I think that the placement of the haiku is wrong. First, I had to turn my head to read it ...second, the words ‘light falling across’ seem to come to a natural stoop, but when I turn my head, whoops, there are two more words, ‘my mouse’ but it’s too late ...the disconnect was there. This is making me work far too hard to simply get the words. The last part I think simply tells us when it doesn’t have to. We can easily grasp that the portrait of self is a pile of question marks. So, I’d suggest that this great image deserves a better haiku.