In Memorium – Volodymyr Kovalchuk

Volodymyr Kovalchuk. Lutsk,Ukraine. 1998.
mbfitzmahan. Volodymyr Kovalchuk. Lutsk,Ukraine. 1998.

Volodymyr Kovalchuk of Lutsk, Ukraine, and my friend of 20 years, died on May 1, 2017.

He died of stomach cancer. “Volodymyr thought you were a very noble person,” my friend wrote me.  “I saw him about 6 months ago.  We stood outside my apartment and reminisced about those years when the Fitzmahan’s lived in our town.  We talked about how much we looked forward to working together to help with your next book.”

Many of my friends from Ukraine are suffering.  Jobs have dried up.  Pensions are not sufficient to pay for retirement.  Many have left and moved to other parts of Europe.

Those who can not leave, stay behind dreading the Russian invasion and fear for their survival.

Continue reading “In Memorium – Volodymyr Kovalchuk”

Temple incense

mbfitzmahan. Temple Incense – Boys and old man. Osu Kannon Temple, Nagoya – Japan. 2012.  Framed: 18 x 18 in.

Giving off aromas of deep green woods, a massive bronze incense burner is central to the Japanese temple.

A wayfarer embraces the smoke.  Clinging to the remains of the sandalwood, he applies the wood scent to his hands, hair, and clothes.

Photography is a solo sport

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mbfitzmahan. Takayama. 2013.

My photography is best when my photos introduce you to me.  In my photography you can find seven decades of this artist.  Not only what I did, but what I value.

There are many photographers that have mentored me.  I have been inspired by their photos, their skills, their aesthetics, their teachings.  Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ruth Bernhard, Édouard Boubat, Niki Boon, Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Mariana YampolskyEric Kim.

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mbfitzmahan. Noren hanging. 2016.

Art is a solo sport.

Make your photos be you. This is what will make your photography completely unique. No one else is even close to being YOU.  Incomparable. You are not in competition with anyone else.

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mbfitzmahan. Lovers in Rome. 2007.

Now comes the hard part.  Who are you?

Make a list. What do you like to study? What do you like to do? Who and what do you love?

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mbfitzmahan. Tempo. 2015.

For me,

  • I am deeply touched by Japanese aesthetics.
    • simplicity
    • empty space, irregularity
    • nature
    • aging, the imperfect
  • I love Japanese kanji and calligraphy.
  • I like to translate and study haiku.
  • I am drawn to the study of Zen Buddhism.
  • I am interested in philosophy.
  • I like learning about the universe, the stars, and the constellations.
  • I like mathematics.
  • I am fascinated by history.
  • I like to travel.
  • I like to have conversations with strangers.
  • I like stories, and sussing out the secrets that people like to share.
  • I like cultures different from my own.
  • I like the aesthetic of black and white photography.
  • I like the beauty of older people, and children.
  • I love and am fascinated by my daughters, my grandsons, and my husband.
  • I like to write.

The multipotentialite photographer

mbfitzmahan. Rome, Italy.  2007.

 

So, I was again having a WAIGTDWIGUM (what-am-I-going-to-do-when-I-grow-up) moment.  You know, when you feel guilty because you can’t figure out what it is that you were born to be?  See my last post.

Shouldn’t I have figured out what I am suppose to be in this life?

The question was also bleeding into my photography.  I asked myself what am I doing in photography? What kind of photos should I be making?

Continue reading “The multipotentialite photographer”

A case of WAIGTBWIGU

mbfitzmahan. Taboo.  2015.

When I was 26, I thought I was finally all grown up.

After many years of schooling, I had just passed the bar exam. I was a REAL attorney. With a real job.

Continue reading “A case of WAIGTBWIGU”

Exhuming stories

mbfitzmahan. Lovers and Coffee. 2013. Issaquah, WA

I was inspired by Viola Davis’ acceptance speech at the Oscars on Monday, February 26, 2017. Viola Davis won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, in the movie, Fences

“People ask me all the time — what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies! Exhume those stories — the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost.”

Photography is the art where I like to ‘exhume those stories.’ It is a responsibility that I take very seriously.

Continue reading “Exhuming stories”

Being valued as an Artist

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MBFitzmahan. The News. 2011. Florence, Italy

I love the sublime feeling of the FLOW that I get when I create through photography.  I love the visits from my Muse.  A day of taking photos, coming home and viewing and editing those photos.  That is an amazing day.  Add to that another day writing to you on my blog.  Writing, telling stories, sharing ideas.  And sharing with you some idea how to take photos and be a photographer. 

As much as I enjoy the process of creating, I must admit that I have a desire to be valued. I’d like for someone to see my work and say, “Your work is fabulous, earth-shattering.” 

Continue reading “Being valued as an Artist”

Finding time for the FLOW

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MBFitzmahan. Shadow Dance. 2011. Tallinn, Estonia.

Is there anything that you love doing so much that while you are doing it, time passes without you even noticing? 

I love being with my daughters. And my Donny. I also love reading a great mystery novel or seeing a good Star Wars movie. I love a piece of watermelon, still warm from the summer fields.

Continue reading “Finding time for the FLOW”

Quiet refinement

Jōkōji, Japan
mbfitzmahan. 2012 Jōkōji, Japan. A weed deserves to be noticed once in awhile.

I have two deep passions.  Black and white photography, and kanji, the system of Japanese writing.   The allure of these two systems comes from my attraction to Japanese aesthetics: simplicity, suggestion, irregularity, quiet refinement. 

Both photography and kanji can be minimalistic, complex, esoteric, mysterious, and enigmatic.    Continue reading “Quiet refinement”

What flavor do you like your photos?

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mbfitzmahan. 2013. Kyoto, Japan. Incense. Kiyomizu Temple

I  make my photos in black and white.

I’ll admit it, I do sometimes take photos in color.  But, I don’t think of those photos as real photography.  You know, art photography. 

Wait!  

Rewind.  Let me backtrack.  Color photos of family.   Babies, grandparents, the latest vacations.  Those are wonderful photos. They are snapshots of our lives.  Of our times together.  I love looking at them.  I liked sharing them on my iPhone.  I like to sit with my girls, laughing and talking about the adventures in those photos. Continue reading “What flavor do you like your photos?”

For Women – The Women’s March Oakland

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mbfitzmahan. 2017 Oakland, CA. The Women’s March.

Over 100,000 people came out to march.  Women, girls, men, boys.  Black, White, Asian, Latina, Native American, Irish, Russian.

This was a protest march for women.  About issues that concern women.  Women’s health, babies’ rights, children’s education, African American rights, Latinos rights, immigrant issues, voters’ rights, the environment, men’s rights, LGBTQ rights.  Prisons, police abuse, rape.  “So many issues, so little sign,” was my favorite sign of the March.

Continue reading “For Women – The Women’s March Oakland”

Photographing the Crowd

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mbfitzmahan. 2012 Nagoya, Japan. Leaving the baseball stadium, Nagoya Stadium

There are different kinds of crowds.  There is the Sunday-go-for-a-walk crowd.  There is the tourists-watching-the-street-performer crowd.  There is the parade-watching crowd.  There is the March for Women crowd.  There is the protest crowd.  There is the riot crowd.

For a street photographer, a crowd is a gift.  No one pays much attention to the photographer and there are plenty of opportunities to get interesting candid pictures of people.

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All Human Life in a Frame

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mbfitzmahan. 2016. New York. All Human Life in a Frame.

A solitary man.

The cuffs of his pants were frayed. His coat torn.  His shoes were worn.

I was walking through Central Park in New York, when I took this photograph.  I sat across from this spot for about ten minutes.  Waiting for the right light, the right composition.  I wanted to take this picture without obviously being noticed.

Continue reading “All Human Life in a Frame”

The empty bus rattled down the road. In the wrong direction.

Black and white photograph of figure walking down a dark hallway to the foreground where there is a lit door
Dark hall of Lesya Ukrainka University. Lutsk, Ukraine. 1997

“Just take the Number 8 bus,” the secretary said. “You’ll have no trouble getting home.”
“But all the buses look alike,” I pleaded, with what I thought was perfectly good logic.
“Don’t worry. You won’t get lost,” she said with a smile and then returned to her magazine. Continue reading “The empty bus rattled down the road. In the wrong direction.”

“We Ukrainians are depressed. So we smoke and we drink coffee. Unless we drink vodka. But, I don’t have any vodka today.”

Two girls peeking around the corner of a dilapidated stone wall.
Friends. Lutsk, Ukraine. 1998

Nora puts herself in her art. Pointing to her sketch of a pregnant woman sitting on a turtle, she said,  “See here. It’s my nose. I can’t paint without putting it in.” I bought this sketch, The Spanish Lady, from Nora in 1998.  For a $100.  I smuggled the piece out of Ukraine, rolled up in my guitar case.   

Continue reading ““We Ukrainians are depressed. So we smoke and we drink coffee. Unless we drink vodka. But, I don’t have any vodka today.””

“Hide your papers,” he advised, “under the potatoes.”

Black and white photograph of four youths climbing stairs in post-Soviet Lutsk, Ukraine in 1997.
In the Neighborhood. Lutsk, Ukraine. 1997

“A man came to the KGB office.  He looked frightened.  ‘My talking parrot has disappeared.’ The agent was confused.  ‘That’s not the kind of case we handle here. Why don’t you go to the police?’ The man frowned, ‘I know that, but I am here to tell you officially that I disagree with the parrot.’”  Viktor, dean of the law school, was a man who liked a joke.  I once read that every nation likes political jokes, but to the people of the Soviet Union, jokes were a national sport. 

On my first day at the university, Viktor took my hand and smiled,  “I am happy you are here to help us get a new perspective.  A class in comparative law is just what we need. I must warn you, though, we have no textbooks, no printer, and no computers.  Sometimes we don’t even have lights,” he laughed.   Continue reading ““Hide your papers,” he advised, “under the potatoes.””

My first darkroom image

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Shauna. 1st Darkroom image. Vashon Island, WA. 1995. Nikon

I first saw an image rise up from a pan of Kodak D-76 in 1995. I cried. It was a miracle, and I had created it.  Well, Nikon, Kodak, and a bunch of chemicals had created it. The blank 8 x 10 piece of paper morphed into a black and white image of a freckled girl becoming a woman. I didn’t realize the experience would be so personal, so intimate. I needed my own darkroom. I picked up a newspaper and searched for a used enlarger. I found a 30 year old, 3 foot tall, Omega D6 on sale by an 85 year old man. He sold me his entire darkroom: light box, loupes, timer, safelight, tongs, easel, and enlarger.    Continue reading “My first darkroom image”

“Is OK. I speak English. Not very well, but we will be fine. We will talk photography.”

Volodya - Volyn Studio. Lutsk, Ukraine. 1997
Volodya – Volyn Studio. Lutsk, Ukraine. 1997

“Hey, Volodya, take care of this American lady,” Borys hollered down the hall.  A gangly young man peered around the corner.  Grunting to Borys in a “Ja, ja,” but smiling at me like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins, a young man took my hand and guided me down and around into a long narrow room soaked with the smell of chemicals.  “Is OK.  I speak English.  Not very well, but we will be fine. We will be friends.  We will talk photography.” Pointing to the enlargers, he said, “These are old Russian machines.  Not bad.  Nothing like you have in America, I bet.”

Continue reading ““Is OK. I speak English. Not very well, but we will be fine. We will talk photography.””