Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hi good folks,

I must admit that the last couple of days have been a big processing time for me, but I I have gotten my "mojo" back and am flowing again with my figure photography.  I am trying new techniques with my editing and am beginning to see that I need to create ALL kinds of different images for ALL different kinds of folks.  Here's one of my latest, called "Constellations."  (what do you see in the stars? . . :o)


At first, I felt like I was kind of "selling out" to take my real life, beautiful, realistic female figure photo images and convert them into images that are more "artistic" and palatable to the public, but the more I work with my images and create different kinds of looks, the more I realize that this is not only what people may be more comfortable with, but is also something that I feel more creative and artistic with!  Whatever!

Isn't life a trip?!  Always evolving, always changing, always staying on the edge of creativity and finding yourself!

Love ya!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

It Should Have Been A Happy Time

Sunday Evening
March 28th, 2010

It should have been a happy time, and it was.  I was recently asked by the Outreach Manager of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County if I would be willing to donate "Jody in the Desert" to their upcoming Silent Auction Fundraiser.  I happily agreed.   Joyce and I attended the event, which was held this afternoon and evening.  Here's Ann, the woman who asked me about the donation:

And here's Jody on display:

It has been a strange week.  Several incidents this week have caused me to second-guess myself as a figure photographer.  I have shot landscapes and seascapes almost my entire life, since the age of eleven.  It has only been since February 2nd, 2005 that I have turned my attention to figure photography.  In those five plus years I have worked with over twenty-five models in a variety of settings, including studios, rivers, and the desert.  It has been a wonderful five years of learning to work with models, lighting, and equipment.  I have produced images that range all the way from the explicit and erotic to the artistic and fine art.

Now that I am retired from public education and am living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I have built a saw shop, frame shop, gallery, and studio on our property here in Ben Lomond.  I was accepted into Open Studios last October and will be applying again this year.  During the month of June I will have a twenty-one image one-person show in Santa Cruz.  Tonight "Jody in the Desert" sold and helped raise money for the arts in Santa Cruz County.

I should be pleased, and I am.  But I came home this evening with a deep sadness, and it has to do with people's responses to artistic images of the nude female figure.  I understand people's problems with the explicit and the erotic and I have moved my efforts away from those images and more towards that which can be considered art by a broader range of people.  There is no question that sexuality and women have been victimized by exploitation, to such an extent that many people are afraid to appreciate that which is natural, sensual, and beautiful.

My artistic figure photos have now been on display in three galleries (my own included) and tonight's fundraiser.  When I attend the artists' receptions for these events I observe the differing ways in which people view my work.  Most, and I do mean most, won't even look in its direction.  One gallery owner told me that people would sneak off into a hallway to flip through my artistic figure portfolio.

There was one woman tonight who viewed "Jody in the Desert" in a way that brought me a smile.  Here she is:

I know that artists have to have confidence in themselves as they continue to experiment and grow in the expression of their work.  One artist friend of mine says that when her pieces of art are on display, it feels like she herself is hanging there naked on the wall.  I am just learning all this, and I have to tell you, given the incidents of this past week, it is not easy to remain confident.  Especially in the area of figure photography, with all the hangups that so many people have about anything sensual, I have felt several times like just hanging it up and quitting.

I am currently experimenting with several pieces of software that take a photograph and produce from it images that are more like oil paintings or pencil drawings.  I am very pleased with the results and don't feel like I am compromising my art in doing so.  I see what sells at silent auctions and in galleries and at least in my experience, it is not sharp, clear, lifelike images of the naked female figure.  You can take the same image and remove it just a bit from "reality" and stand a much better chance of having your work sell.

All of which reminds me of the story I heard while working in a photography studio when I was a teenager:

"At first I did photography for myself.  Then I did it for my friends.  And now I'm a whore.  I do it for money."

Would I like to make some money selling my photography?  Yes.  Am I open to experimenting with different techniques that make it look more "art" like?  Yes.  But when the day comes that I am creating an image the way I am creating it, only because that is the way I can sell it, then I will pack up this adventure and quit.  That day has not come, and I hope it never will.

Frank Leonard

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Much to my surprise . . .

Much to my surprise, life has taken off on a roaring start again.

It began with an awareness that the submission deadline for Open Studios this year is the end of April.  So I've gotten a great start on coming up with ten of my best outdoor figure photos.

Then came an email from David, who had also worked in the photography studio of Trini Contreras, a good twenty-five years after I had.   Trini is now passed away and David had done a google search with Trini's name, and ended up finding me and my website.  He liked my work, we met yesterday, shared some great stories, and agreed for me to have a one-person show at his beauty salon/art gallery during the month of June.  Twenty-one framed images.  The very best from my lifetime.

And then, tomorrow night, most to my surprise, I am starting Level 2 Studies in Shamanic Practices.  I wasn't planning to do it, but I came to realize, despite any misgivings I might have, that I really liked myself a lot better during the seven weeks of Level 1 training.  There's been two weeks off now and I am ready.  I learned a lot during the first class, and I've learned a lot in the past two weeks.  I need to work on myself some more.  I had probably lost eight pounds.  I'm sure most of them are back on.  So it is time for health, rest, hard work, play, and growth.

Anyway, here's a few pictures that tell a short story of where things are right now:

The foyer, for the present time, is completed.  I didn't get the window seat built that we want.  In the meantime, two very special chairs to Joyce and me are serving quite well.

This is a picture of Trini Contreras on the left and George Lee on the right.  Both were incredibly wonderful men, and both mentors to me in learning photography as a teenager.  I was Trini's camera assistant and darkroom worker for a good two or three years.  Then I went to work at Webber's Camera Shop, where George was the manager.  His delight for photography and his infectious laughter are his hallmarks to me.  Now, forty-five years later, I have returned to the Santa Cruz area and am living in Ben Lomond, up in the mountains.  I have built my own saw shop,

frame making shop,

and photo gallery and studio.

Once again, it is time to go to work.  And it is good work.  It makes me happy to be able to use my brain with the computer and editing, my eyes with the taking of new images, and my hands with the sanding of wood and the construction of frames.  It is a great combination.  Picking the best images that I have taken in this lifetime and putting a show together.  How fun!  The next several months will be intense.  Just the way I like it! . . :o)

Thanks for getting here to the end.  I hope my journaling finds you well and happy.  If you have any thoughts in response, please feel free to email me.