Breathtaking

New Mixed Media Landscapes and Still Lifes That Merge Photography and Impressionism by Stev’nn Hall

Stev’nn Hall (previously) blends photography and painting together in an impressionistic style, often focusing his works on the rural landscapes of his Canadian home, or images of flowers he takes in his studio. The pieces are built from images shot with a 35mm camera, and feature gestures on the surface in the mediums of acrylic, ink, and pastel. These markings serve as both complements to the landscapes and abstract bits of scrawl, simultaneously pushing the underlying photograph to appear more like a painting, and Hall’s painted additions to seem like photographic errors. You can see more of his mixed media works on Tumblr and Instagram.

Surprise ahead

The Miraculous in the Mundane: Annie Dillard on Reclaiming Our Capacity for Joy and Wonder

“The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.”

Annie Dillard (b. April 30, 1945) has a way of coaxing the miraculous out of the mundane with such commanding gentleness that ordinary life has no choice but to unmask its extraordinary dimensions. She does this over and over in her 1974 masterwork Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (public library) — one of the most beautiful books to bless a lifetime with, which also gave us her magnificent meditation on the art of seeing and the two ways of looking.

I find myself returning to one particular passage that strikes with the grandeur Dillard is able to extract from the humblest of acts and the most middling of moments. She writes:

When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.

Illustration by Sydney Smith from Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, a wordless ode to living with presence

The joy of this, of course, comes not from reveling in the self-appointed godliness of orchestrating a mundane micro-miracle — it comes, rather, from the unexpected grace of allowing such an unremarkable event to fill the soul with such remarkable delight. But the very act of allowing is something we unlearn as we go through life and forget what it means to be truly awake. To relearn it, Dillard suggests, is to reclaim our capacity for joy and wonder:

The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But — and this is the point — who gets excited by a mere penny?

[…]

It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple.

After all, as Dillard herself has written elsewhere, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Complement Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which is as much a life-changing read as it is a life-changing reread every time, with Dillard on writing.

Originally posted here.

But listen

A World of Singers

We live in a world of singers
and the song is loud or soft, sweet
or shrill, sometimes silent. But listen.
With a storm approaching someone
shelters a robin’s nest.
Another whistles to a black dog on the beach.
One laughs to herself, reading alone in the kitchen.
In the woodlot someone grunts as he swings the ax.
There’s the sound trees make
after the wind stops and there are those
who look into the eyes of nurses
coming off the night shift,
those greeting the undertaker when he arrives
with his unique instruments.
A man has just argued with his wife.
Now he stands alone on the dark porch,
watching the rain. One hums at the workbench,
carving a delicate bird (last night she
groaned with relief after a phone call).
One sighs as he imagines Odysseus
tied to the mast, and one
looks up when a bell rings
and a customer enters his shop.
One is astonished hearing the fox
bark its own peculiar song and one
just stands on the rocks,
listening to the sea.

“A World of Singers” by Ralph Stevens from At Bunker Cove. © Moon Pie Press, 2017.

On Portraiture

The eye is the window of the soul.

Steve McCurry's Blog

Portraits reveal a desire for human connection;
a desire so strong that people who know they will never see me again
open themselves to the camera,  all in the hope that at the other end
someone will be watching,

someone who will laugh or suffer with them.

Kashmir Kashmir

Yemen Yemen

Afghanistan Afghanistan

What could be more simple and more complex,
more obvious and more profound than a portrait.

– Charles Baudelaire

Kashmir Kashmir

Yemen Yemen

Baluchistan, Pakistan Baluchistan, Pakistan

A good portrait is one that says something about the person.
We usually see parts of ourselves in others, so the

good portrait should also say something about the human condition.

Afghanistan Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan Kabul, Afghanistan

The most difficult thing for me is a portrait.
You have to try to put your camera between the
skin of a person and his shirt.

– Henri Cartier-Bresson

Philippines Philippines

Pokhara, Nepal Pokhara, Nepal

Lambari, Brazil Lambari, Brazil

Madhya Pradesh, India Madhya Pradesh, India

Dubrovnik, Croatia Dubrovnik, Croatia

Photography and the genre…

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