Transformation

Earlier this year, when I was getting ready for my show at Rehoboth Art League, I was looking through the archives for a few images that would fit in a gallery with The Mermaid Project images. I settled on a theme of Mythic Portraiture. I had a fair amount of work that fit within that scope, and it blended well with the merfolk. I was town about my Sleeping Beauty image. It was originally a commercial piece for a theater production and seemed a little glib for a gallery show. Before giving up, I wondered if I could revisit it, rework it, and give it a more mythic and fine art feeling. I rolled up my sleeves and spread out my virtual tools and came up with a Victorian treatment for it. I was still not sure. But, my policy became, “Print everything, edit later”. I ordered it on the most luxurious fine art paper that my lab uses and waited for its return.

Sleeping beauty, with long blond hair and green and gold dress, lies sleeping in an ornate, wood panelled and carved stone atrium with a stained glass thistle above her.  Sleeping Beauty lies in her place of honor, safe, but unmoving. She awaits the kiss that will reawaken her.

When it arrived in the mail, I knew what it was. I was hesitant. I did not want to dislike it. When it fell out of the shipping envelope, still in its protective sleeve, I gasped. Even clouded behind plastic, I could see that it was shockingly beautiful. “Well, I guess that is going in the show, then,” was the first thing that sailed through my mind. “Actually, I think that might sell.”And, so it came to pass: it was the first red dot that went up the night of my opening. Even better: it wasn’t the last.

Prints on that same lush, fine art paper are for sale. As a small, unlimited edition print, it is among my most affordable prints available right now.

Come and See the Show: The Mermaid Project in the Gallery

It’s official: I lived to tell the tale of My First Solo Show! It went really well, including the sales we made. That’s the short version.

Artist Annaliese Tassano stands in front of some of the pieces at her solo artshow, The Mermaid Project Chapter One: Confinement.

The long version goes like this:

I prepared 27 images for the show: printing and framing, packing and shipping. Prices ranged from $65 for small, unlimited edition works to $1000 for the 20”x40” mermaid printed on metal, and many in between. The gallery notified me that they had arrived safe and sound about the same that I was preparing to fly to the east coast, myself.

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I had a quick visit my one of my great mentors, photographer Blaine Pennington. We talked shop and caught up over Ethiopian food, as we always do. I was thrilled to hear that he was going to make it down to Rehoboth Beach to attend the opening. My parents and I made the drive with the traditional stop for delicious early strawberries from the farms as we approached the shore. We were too late for me to check out the gallery that day, so it would have to wait for the morning.

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The next morning, wearing my mermaid leggings, I walked into the rustic but lovely and light filled main gallery at The Rehoboth Art League, and it was filled with my work. Mermaids in several sizes and media swam on three walls, while other mythic characters made throughout my career adorned the other wall. I had a lovely moment to myself, soaking it up, approving not only the hanging job but the work of a lifetime. The gallery director told me it was and easy show to hang and complimented my very serious packing.

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A word to the wise: when you ship art, just over-pack it. Optimism is not warranted, no matter who you choose for shipping services. Framed art with glass needs special attention. I put all my frames in bubble mailers, then into one moving box, and then into another, with more layers of foam and packing material around every layer. Also, FedEx ground was far and away the cheapest.

I was overjoyed by how many friends came out to support me. I had a chance to visit with friends from New York and to celebrate the full moon with them on the beach. Other friends came from DC, and still more from Maryland. I was so honored. Even a crew of my mother’s friends made their regular beach visit to coincide with my show. The event itself was flawless. The Rehoboth Art League put out a lovely spread, and their sponsor Dogfish Head Brewery kept me in hefeweizen.

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I had been saving these special hand printed stockings for years for just this sort of occasion.

I even went live on Facebook.

OK, another note, this one about The Rehoboth Art League. This place is cool, my friends. I dream of living near a community resource this cool. I believe the campus was donated in the 1930s to be the Art League’s on-going home. It has the feeling of one of WPA built parks, with charming wooden buildings of basic craftsman design sprinkled through the woods. The have multiple galleries, tons of classes, and great programming. They have some unbelievable potters, and I always want to buy many pieces when I am there. Alas, pottery and suitcases are not the best match. So, what I am saying is that you should go to Rehoboth Art League if you are ever anywhere nearby. *This organization is supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.* I hear Ocean City has an Art League, too. You can make it a two for one.

The final jewel in the crown of my weekend was giving my very first gallery talk. The weather was terrible that day, but 15 or 20 intrepid souls made it out. Folks, it went really well! Granted, The Mermaid Project is really easy for me to talk about. It is definitely core generated work, filled with so many of the things I love: theater, myth, story telling, dangerous beauty, costume, and friendship. I knew if folks did not want to hear about how the Odyssey was the true inspiration for the first image of the series with drowned man, they would probably laugh that the tales of how something new went disastrously wrong in every single shoot. Mercifully, they enjoyed all the tales I had to tell. They had great insights and questions, too. The gallery director complimented me afterward and again in a note. I guess I am pretty chatty for and artist.

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So, now I am waiting for the works to be returned to me. When the books are closed on the event itself, I’ll be in touch with a summer sale. There is also going to be a drawing for a free piece to all who signed my guest list at the show. If you are interested in any works, please let me know.

What were the most intriguing sales? Three copies of the full bleed image used as the cover for Madeleine Robbins The Sleeping Partner and the Sleeping Beauty image that I made into a Victorian Style small print. The gallery director bought that one.

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Also, when you have you show at the seaside, there’s seafood dinner afterwards.

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There the story ends. And, she lived happily ever after.

Fin

The Great David Hurn

This Lensculture interview with the great David Hurn made me tear up. He says so much of what photography means to me. I shall be pondering it for a long time.

The photo also speaks to me about an essential problem of photography: that you are making an image of another human being. I have always been sensitive to not intrude too much into my subjects’ space. The first thing I do when I look at contact sheets is to cross out pictures which I think are in any way degrading. I am really trying to photograph people as a symbol—in this case, an older man who shows the joys of ageing—but I also remember that they are real people.”

Retired gentleman at the MG Car owners Ball. Edinburgh, Scotland, 1967. © David Hurn/Magnum Photos

Image Almost There!

7mermaidslayeredMy show at The Rehoboth Art League, The Mermaid Project, Chapter One: Confinement, is right on schedule. The gallery posted a page for the show recently. The opening is Friday, May 12, 2017. Please RSVP at my Facebook event, so that I may look forward to seeing you there. They have scheduled a gallery talk on Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 2p.m. There’s a Facebook event for that, too.

All the printing is done, a combination of canvas, aluminum, and fine art paper. There will be mermaids, plus some other mythically themed portraiture.  Next up is some framing for the fine art paper prints, and then I pack and ship it all.

I am glad that I set my schedule to get everything done with lots of time. Working in the 11th hour only makes me stressed and unhappy. I maintain some work life balance this way, too. I am looking forward to my parents visiting for my Dad’s birthday. We are taking that old naval officer to the National Museum of the Pacific War, featuring the Admiral Nimitz Museum. Nimitz was from Fredricksburg, Texas. The museum is based around his home. It is widely respected as a terrific accomplishment in museum design and experience, and it is so well attended that more points of interest are springing up there all the time.

My Dad grew up with special interest in the Pacific Theater: his father was the Officer on Duty during Pearl Harbor, and his vessel was the first sunk in the attack. My Dad and his brother and mother listened as the bombs rained down. After that, the family moved back to the mainland, and my grandfather shipped out to the pacific for the duration of the war. I’ll share some family photos and tokens from that with you in another post. After all, historical photography is one of the main reasons that I became a photographer. Sometimes, the personal and familial meets the wider narrative of history.

When we get back to Austin, we have another great plan. As my dad came of age in the SoCal car culture of the 50s, he’s going to love hot rod weekend, too.

 

Showtime Approaches

A red haired mermaid in a tank with a dead man behind her.

My show, The Mermaid Project: Chapter 1, Confinement—Works by Annaliese Tassano, opens Friday, May 12, 2017 at The Rehoboth Art League, Rehoboth, DE. I will be giving an artist’s talk and walking through the gallery the following day, Saturday May 13, 2017. The show will be displayed through June 11, 2017. There will be a large number of mermaids, as well as some of the other mythic characters I have created over the years. Please, come visit if you are in the region. It is a lovely time to be at the Delaware beaches, warm, but before the crowds arrive for the high season. Memorial day is the official opening bell on summer, and my show will be up long enough for that popular weekend, too.

Home in between travels, I have been working away on the show. There is a lot to do for every image that is not yet printed and ready to go. Many files need a little final touch up with current skills, and there are considerations on what size and ratio to print, which media to use for printing, matting, framing, shipping, cost analysis, pricing, editions, etc. This is where art meets business.

I’ve been building up to it, but this is my first solo show at an established gallery, and a remote one, to boot. Like any big step forward, it has been challenging. On the days where I am resistant or underwhelmed, I just tell myself that this is my job, “Now, get up and go to work!” I am planning to have it all done 4 weeks before I actually need to take it to be shipped. That will allow me plenty of time for the errors, quality assurance, hold ups, reruns, etc. that tend to crop up on any big project. I thank my military kid background for giving me the grit to avoid all that eleventh hour stuff. I think that would kill me.

Now that I have a fair bit of the decision making, both image and business wise, behind me, I am growing more and more pleased with the works stacking up around me. As the nail biting recedes, pride in my work and anticipation are building. Old images take on new life, and I hope to add something to the show from my trip next week to Venice for Carnivale. That should be pretty mythic.

 

 

The Instagrams are growing

My Instagram accounts are growing and are all filled with images not seen on any of my websites. I’d love to hear what your reactions are, and if you have any suggestions on where to connect them or how to improve them for my viewers. Even though I am an image maker, I gravitate to the places that are more conducive to some conversation alongside the image sharing, like this blog and Facebook. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to make Instagram work for you and for me.

Annaliese Tassano Photo Arts Instagram

I do not usually cross post from my other brands, but some of you are image lovers of every stripe:

Equigraphic Instagram

Stage Right Photo Instagram

Thanks for the feedback.

New Gear!

I am getting ready for some serious time on the road. Yeehaw! With travel in mind, I bit the bullet and got a new travel tripod. My major concern was balancing weight, packability for flights,  and stability. I was not 100% gung-ho for one thing over the other. As is my way, I researched for hours. Days! Weeks! The first piece I got clear on: I definitely wanted a double folding travel style. With that out of the way, I quickly came to see that paying a couple hundred dollars more for  carbon fiber over good old aluminum would only save me a few ounces. Since I am not plotting a pack trip, I decided the savings of hundreds was worth it to carry a few more ounces a little way on my adventures. In the end I went with MeFoto Globetrotter in Aluminum. I wanted one of their pretty colors, but I just could not see paying an extra $30 or $40 that they wanted, so black it is.

It arrived quickly from ye olde B&H. A quick examination proved that it is well made and easy to use. I tried it out the night of the super-moon a couple weeks ago.

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The conditions were not great, but I found the MeFoto intuitive and easy to use on site. That was a relief, especially as my studio tripod is a pan head. My monopod is a pistol grip, and this new piece is a ball head. For long exposure, I’ll have to pay  attention and let the vibration settle. Note to self – pack all the options for remotes. Lightweight does mean more vibration, but I do think I hit the sweet spot. It’s not too bad. I’ll let you know how it goes in AUSTRALIA!!! I’m really looking forward to the trip and giving this new piece of gear a work out. I am trying to brush the cobwebs off and change my habits up/push myself.

I also grabbed myself a ten stop neutral density filter. Maybe with my groovy new tripod I can bring home some long exposure beauty shots from my adventures down under.

And, after that comes my gig for CARNIVALE IN VENICE!!!! I think the new travel tripod is going to have a great first year.

 

 

Tools for Composition

It’s been a busy year of business, social media, web design, Photoshop explorations, etc. What I have not done a lot of is use my cameras. It’s time to get back to that.

As I think on photo making in a broader sense, my mind comes back, again and again, to one of the finest photo exercise books: Designing a Photograph by Bill Smith. It is published by Amphoto Books, a great publisher of photographic and educational books. I also love the books by Bryan Peterson, and his Learning to See Creatively is another great book on using the building blocks of art and design to make stronger photographs.

I was referred to Designing a Photograph by one of my great photo mentors, Blaine Pennington. The moment he mentioned it to me, I put it on the “buy it” list, and did so in short order. It is one of the resources I have gone back to over the years when I feel stuck or bored or uninspired. A pro shows up, no matter what!

Designing a Photograph

Designing a Photograph was written in the 80s and updated in 2001, but since it deals with photo and composition basics, that age does not matter at all. There are lots of books that cover this kind of material, but I love how Bill breaks it down. Does anyone remember those awful John Hedgecoe books that seemed to be everywhere in the 80s? Oh, how I hated them and him! Would I’d have had this as my basic instruction!

The first section is a discussion of the elements of good composition. The rest of the book breaks it down further and includes exercises to get brain and eye working together and thinking in new ways. Mr. Smith kind of sums up with the thought, “Look before seeing.” I’d add, “Think before looking”. At least, sometimes.

Have a natural and intuitive eye is great, but being able to use all the elements of composition to create more impact from strong subjects and any impact from initially boring seeming subjects separates the serious from the dabbler, no matter the strengths with which we begin our photographic journeys. Having a good eye made me lazy, lazy,lazy for years. Turning pro was a rude wakeup and took some major effort over a period of years to move my work forward.

Do yourself a favor, and at least start studying and playing with the elements of composition.

One last exercise that I thought was in this book but that I must have gotten somewhere else. It is kind of a “bringing it all together” exercise. Make a series of images (I did most of my formal education back in my film days, so we’d have said a roll of film, but… 36 images or so should do it) of an incredibly simple object. By simple, I mean an egg or a number two pencil or an eraser. Edit this session down to five to ten images. What do you see?

You would not believe some of the photo essays that I have seen come out of this exercise. The egg and the pencil in particular stand out and are why I always think of them when sharing this exercise. Did I learn this from a book or from one of my teachers? I can’t recall. But, if you really try to include some of the powerful tools that come out of the study of composition (as included in Designing a Photograph, et. al.), you can make magic, or at least images of which you might be surprisingly proud.