On Memorial Day weekend, I always stroll through a few local art fairs. It's a fun way to spend a beautiful holiday weekend and thankfully, it was beautiful. I've had enough grey rainy days to last me a while. If you've been to an art fair lately, you'll probably have noticed that the artists are predominantly jewelry-makers and photographers. The jewelry occasionally catches my eye. I'm even thinking about ordering a custom pair of earrings like this pendant from Hawk's Nest Traders. I met Valerie on Sunday at the Barrington Art Festival. I walked into her booth since it wasn't just pretty beads strung on a strings...it was beads and wire that evoked birds, feathers and nests. Her jewelry was made with unique vision. Of course I liked it!
Despite having a weakness for handmade jewelry, the real reason I go to art festivals is to look at the photography. I want to see what other artists - artists that I don't know - are making. I want to see what they're shooting, how they're shooting it, how they're processing it and printing it and matting it and framing it. Are the images enormous? Or tiny? How are they displayed?
I think I saw close to two dozen photography exhibitors at the two festivals and I hate to say this but...I was disappointed. First, I should say that the more professional booths looked pretty slick. They had high, hard walls and large images printed on canvas and metal. There was a continuity in the images they all displayed because of the sizes, materials and saturated colors. These artists were making technically very good images - excellent images, as a matter of fact. I was disappointed because booth after booth, amazing photographer after amazing photographer, all of the images were exactly the same. A panoramic view of Manarola in the Cinque Terre - one of my favorite places on earth, by the way - was a very popular image. The Chicago skyline at night, taken from Adler, was another images I saw ad nauseum. Cuba, the Amalfi Coast, and the duomo in Florence also had more than their fair share of wall space in exhibitor booths.
I saw two photographers whose work I really liked. One artist made rural, western and equine images - worn out boots, hats, spurs, grassy Wyoming landscapes with horses and cowboy silhouettes. The whole booth was a tight collection of images that smacked of the artist's vision. It wasn't a hodge podge of Cuba, Italy and Chicago. Another team of photographers whose work I really liked focused on Japan. The images were just gorgeous - cherry blossom branches and craggy mountaintops wreathed in fog. The images made me want to book a flight ASAP. They were evocative and I wanted to be part of the story they told.
You know, I'm always really proud of my travel images and I want to shove them under everyone's nose everytime I come home from a photography trip. But more than that, I want my images to be unique, and to tell a story. I made over 3500 images of Essaouira but I'm not going to make you look at all of them. I cull them down to 30 or so, then I imagine them printed and displayed in a small white room room. I hang and rehang my images in my head, reshaping the collection - and the story it tells - until it's perfect. Once it is, I start to craft the words that go along with it.
Sometimes I might really write a story and share funny travel anecodotes. Sometimes, I want the images to wash over you as you look at them. I want you to see these all together so that you feel like you're at the market in Essauoira with the olives and the goat heads
I want you to chuckle a little bit at the signs on the herbs and spices and ooh over the pottery, baskets and slippers. I want you to get caught up in the colors, textures, shadows and reflections in the ornamented Moroccan windows.
I group my travel images by color and theme and subject so that you feel like you've shopped the markets with me, toured the fishing port, eaten a lunch of grilled fish at one of the stalls just adjacent to the port and sipped a fresh-squeezed orange juice.
I was thinking about this a lot this weekend, when I looked at all the photography on display at the two art fairs. Most of the artwork - while beautiful and technically perfection - didn't tell much of a story. I kept wondering... Where exactly do you PUT a 72" long metal print of Manarola? Manarola is a friendly, old-world, pastel sort of place full of wine, flowers and lemons as big as your head. Why would you ever print an image of it so hard-edged and shiny? I love Manarola but the glossy metal medium drained away the story for me.
Most of the images I'm showing you here today, I probably wouldn't ever print. A few of them I would. The three windows, all in a series, perhaps on a textured art paper. And maybe the fish too, and even the blue boats, which make a nice series together. I love the first three images in this post too but probably would only print the 2nd and 3rd ones of the sea view through the window and the rough blue stairway railing, both of which I would hang in my "gallery" with the Moroccan windows, and the series of Moroccan doors I made last year too.
My post is rambling on a bit - I know - and you might be frustrated that I haven't told you much at all about Essaouira. I hope that you can see from the images that Essaouira is a very visual, colorful place. It's smaller than Marrakech and on the sea, instead of being in a desert.
It's calmer and more relaxing too so I would encourage you to visit and make your own story. Don't forget to show me your pictures when you get back.