When Good Enough Has To Be Good Enough

At the intersection of being a photographer and a father who photographs lies a shot like this.

When shooting a portrait, a photographer faces multiple challenges in terms of the craft of making a photo. When you add the challenges of shooting family in general and an unwilling subject in particular, things get interesting. When you add some additional elements such as a malfunctioning camera (in this case, a fussy Russian Kiev 88 and a film back that scratched the film the entire length of the right side of all frames) and poor lighting (in this case, slow shutter speed and wide-open aperture), things can get really interesting.

What happens when all of the above challenges converge? Well, I got this photo. There is much wrong with this shot, but it’s still a memory and moment that I cherish, despite the imperfections (not the least of which is a slight focus issue). And one of only two salvageable shots from the roll.

It may not be professional. It may not be great. Hell, it’s probably not even good. But it’s still a keeper. Warts and all. And, truth be told, I love the bokeh.


The Clarity and Charity of Time

I am not a patient person in general and definitely not a patient photographer. This is often at odds with the analogue, film-based photography that I practice. You might think that digital would be my thing, given my impatience. But no. I have to shoot old school and then practically run to the nearest darkroom.

Like Popeye, I am what I am. Yet, I am now involved in the long process of inputting, organizing and otherwise getting my photographic shit together while enjoying my new, custom-built computer, dedicated to my photo workflow. This means I have been viewing some long-forgotten scans. It’s been, well…eye-opening. It’s like I’m seeing some of this work with new eyes. And perhaps I am.

As I revisit this old work, new images now attract my attention. I still like most of the ones that originally got my juices going, but I’m finding some gems (to me, anyway) that have just as much merit and potential. I feel like a musician who is reinterpreting an old song. I’m thinking of my favorite version of Springsteen’s Born To Run; a very slow live version, not the album version. This is also like the advice that I received (and I still pass on to my writing students) about putting your piece of writing away in a drawer and then coming back days or weeks or even months — and it’s like you’re looking at something someone else wrote. Perhaps they (you) did.

This image is a case in point. I was shooting a light-leaky Agfa Isolette camera. Most of the 15 frames are shit. But a few from this sequence spark my imagination. This was lit with 100% golden-hour sunlight right in my own backyard. I think it has a David Lynchian quality.

Maybe I was channeling Lynch’s eye.

Monochrome Pentimento by CB Adams, Qwerky Photography.

Monochrome Pentimento by CB Adams, Qwerky Photography.

This I Believe - On Artist's Statements

I’m not alone in fearing and loathing artist’s statements. I’ve written my share of la-dee-da and contrarian and tortured artiste and obtuse versions — usually at the behest of whatever exhibition or call for entry had requested or required one. I have come to realize, however, that they can and do serve a good purpose when written with the proper intent. They can be a way for others to understand, with limits, what a photographer is about, who he or she is.

My new approach to artist’s statements is to follow the guidance I received from a history professor at university. He was providing the standard by which he would be grading our term papers. “What do you mean,” he said. “And how do you know.”

I’m not going to present an artist’s statement here. I am, however, gong to say a quick something about this photo — why I like it and why I hope you appreciate it, too. I believe what “makes” this rather ubiquitous bench scene is, of course, the vines and other vegetation growing through it. For me, though, it’s the plucky branch extending from the left, like a feather boa (to this associative mind, anyway), that sets this apart from others like it. I also like the contrasting horizontal lines and patterns, and that sliver of the basement window.

So there. I said it. I made a statement. Talk amongst yourselves.

“Boa” From the Series Closer To Home by CB Adams

“Boa” From the Series Closer To Home by CB Adams

I Ain't No Chimp

OK. We know that there's a term called “chimping” that describes the habit of taking a picture and then immediately going, “Oh, oh, oh,” like a chimp, while reviewing it on the camera’s LCD screen. I shoot some digital myself, but I don't ooo or ahhh, but I do get that kind of chimp face when reviewing a shot I just took. Can't seem to stop that habit.

On the other hand, there's no opportunity to chimp with a film camera. That's one of the aspects I love about shooting film. Delayed gratification -- that's good for most things except sex. Anyway, I knew this shot would be a keeper as I took it. Call it intuition. Call it 40+ years of experience. Call it luck or karma. But it felt good and right and exciting.

Anyone seen my banana?

The Black (and White) Experience

Self-Portrait 1983

Self-Portrait 1983

And now, a few words from this Blogtographer. As I've been recently spinning my social networking web, I have been asked some very pointed questions about myself. Here, then, are the very pointed answers:

  1. Yes, I still shoot film; it's familiar and I love the smell.
  2. No, I'm not a digital-hater; I just don't like the smell of memory chips.
  3. Yes, I'll be featured when the vintage and toy camera episode of "Hoarders" is produced.
  4. No, I do not ever wonder what my photographs would look like if they weren't blurry.
  5. Perhaps I will "like" your Facebook page and "follow" you on Twitter and Linkedin.
  6. No, I am not related to Ansel Adams, but I used to lie about this to impress The Ladies.
  7. You Betcha, I consider myself an artist, but I prefer craftsman.
  8. Yes, I do more than take photographs. I am also a published, award-winning serious fiction writer. So, nanny-nanny boo-boo.
  9. No, sexting is very, very wrong (at my age).
  10. And finally: yes, I know qwerky is spelled incorrectly.

Thanks for visiting my site. Return often. Stay late. Take lots of pictures with whatever camera you have handy.

Bliss & the Poetry of the Found


“Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems … A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet,” according to Poetry.org.

That is what I do as a photographer. I find existing things and present them, by way of a camera, as my art. Walker Evans considered the artist as an image collector and that “He collects things with his eye.”

As a photographic artist, I collect visual subjects. I make the decisions of form, such as which camera to render the scene, how to frame the image (what to leave out, what to leave in), film versus digital, color versus black and white and so on. Unlike in poetry, such decisions of form are not “left” to me, they are demanded.

The writer Annie Dillard believed turning a text into a found poem doubles that poem’s context. “The original meaning remains intact, but now it swings between two poles,” she wrote. To expound on that idea in terms of y photography, the original subject remains intact (in a certain way) but its meaning is defined by me.

 That is Bliss.