Newsletter #170: July, 2019
© Chris Harris. All rights reserved.
This is my 170th consecutive monthly photographic newsletter. Enjoy!
1. Self-imposed Limitations
2. The Beach at Orlebar Point
3. The Malaspina Gallery: Layers of observation
4. Seeing in Black and White
5. Evening Light in the Gallery
6. The Ebb and Flow of Life
A Self-directed Artist Residency, Part I
“A desire to see more”
In 2018, I began to seek out new avenues of visual inquiry; new modes of expression. What and where was I going to photograph, I wondered. It was then I became aware of websites which offered artist residencies around the world. The idea appealed to me; to find a place that truly resonated, to go there for an extended period of time, and to challenge myself visually. I wanted to break through as many visual barriers as possible. I wanted to see deeply and perceive the richness in all forms of life; richness that we so easily pass by in our rush-a day life.
On an overcast day in April, while walking along a beach on Gabriola Island with friend Dennis Ducklow, I felt an emotional tug. That evening I proclaimed to Dennis, that I was going to return to this very spot and do a self-directed ‘artist residency’. I was so excited, and soon booked an AirB&B.
My cozy AirB&B home. Perfect!
For the two months prior to arriving, I racked my brain for a visual plan. No ideas came to mind, and eventually I said, “great”; that’s the plan. No plan! I just came to see where seeing would take me.
I purposely took different routes to my shooting destination
Going slowly and observing was my only requisite.
Much like an archaeologist, I wanted to explore deeper layers of observation. To do this, I limited myself to two small areas to photograph for the entire 17 days. One was a 300-meter strip of beach near Orlebar Point, and the other was a 500-meter strip of beach around Malaspina Point. This location included a sandstone cavern which has been carved by surf and salt.
The Beach at Orlebar Point
I came here most days but always at different times of the day. Unlike being in the mountains where I have mostly photographed for the past 35 years, the foreground landscape by the ocean changed constantly with the tide. It was so dynamic; the light, the weather, the turbulence of waves, and the ever-changing tide-line, stimulated a new and different enthusiasm for landscape photography. I felt I wanted to come here every night for the rest of my life!
In retrospect, what I found interesting in my approach to photographing this beach, was that my expression was purely representational; never once did I lean toward Expressionism or Abstraction.
The Malaspina Beach
Responding to the elements of this beach resulted in a completely different approach. Rarely did I look out to sea; instead, I looked inward, both physically and emotionally.
The elements of this beach seemed more complex. My response was visual minimalism. Within the convolution of seaweeds and boulders, I searched for simplicity in line, shape, colour, texture, and areas of contrast.
The Malaspina Gallery: Layers of observation
The eroded cavern on the south side of the point is known as the Malaspina Gallery. Here the network of small cavities known as ‘honeycomb’ are most likely formed by a salt-weathering process. It became a fascinating place to observe my layers of observation.
The ever-changing colour of the sea made for a beautiful backdrop to the ‘honeycomb’ sandstone
Whenever I entered the Gallery, I was overtaken by the strongest desire to communicate through the language of pattern and visual design; what is usually referred to by photographers as composition.
I had to contain my excitement as I used my tripod to slow myself down; paying utmost attention to the juxtaposition of every element.
After 3 or 4 days of coming to the same place to photograph, I always wondered, would I see anything new? When would I hit a visual dead end?
I refused to give in to that thought. I continuously returned, and I was always rewarded by seeing what I had never noticed before.
It was during this experience that I became aware of the many layers of observation. Just as there are always more words to express ourselves verbally, there are always more visual elements by which to express ourselves as visual communicators. There is always more to see.
Also, of interest, you will note that every image in the above series of six, is composed of layers. Maybe majoring in archaeology was finally being put to good use; carefully digging through layers of observation!
In retrospect, this experience in the Malaspina Gallery made me realize how quickly we move from subject to subject as photographers, and how little we actually see of each.
Seeing in Black and White
I enjoy visualizing the world as black and white because it takes me away from reality, providing greater opportunities of expressive interpretation.
I find textures often appear more exciting in black and white, so in the above image I tilted my camera upwards to capture a highly textured sky.
Here I tilted my camera downwards because in simple compositions, tonal contrast becomes much stronger.
To fully take advantage of both simplicity and contrast, I used a 400mm lens and made a double exposure of the spit of land on the upper right side of the above image. The abstract below is the new expression.
Evening Light in the Gallery
I sometimes visited the Gallery near sunset to catch the evening light. One evening the cavern and surrounding water lit up with the warmth of a cozy cabin. Here are three images I made that evening.
The Ebb and Flow of Life
Over the past 35 years while photographing in the Chilcotin mountains, I never saw more than 5 people other than those in my own party of explorers. On Gabriola Island, I was surrounded by a vast ebb and flow of life, all enjoying the natural world in their own way.
While I remained focused on my work, I enjoyed observing all that was happening around me. I interacted with many which provided perspective and context to my self-imposed assignment. The following images provide an insight into that ebb and flow.
At high tide, teenagers jump from above the cavern roof
Paddle boarding at sunset with a well-behaved companion
A BC ferry passes by the Entrance Island lighthouse
Unlike my book assignments, I came to Gabriola with no visual plan. I came in search of something; I might say I came in search of nothing, but found everything. I just let my inner-self be the guide.
After several days, ‘nothing’ began to take shape; a visual narrative began to unfold. After 10 days, I looked back at my images and saw insights into subject matter, light, perspectives, and styles of image making. Not only had I gained a new Sense of Place in British Columbia, I had gained a new sense of who I was becoming as a photographer.
I also realized how photography helps me live a more observant, meaningful, and rewarding life. I was acquiring a Sense of Place, a Sense of Self, and a Sense of Artistic Expression. Through photography I was becoming an artist.
I’m excited, and I sense more ‘artist residencies’ coming soon!
A Self-directed Artist Residency, Part II
63 Replies to “Newsletter #170, July, 2019”
Beautiful and so inspiring. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Rita; inspiring it was.
enchanting as always Chris…thanks!
Thanks Sage. Hope you are enjoying your green summer!
Hi Sigridh. Wonderful to hear from you! Long time….appreciated!
Such a gorgeous and diverse portfolio of two small locations on this beautiful island. You can no longer say, “I’m not a coastal guy.”! What an amazing gallery showing these would be. Congratulations on your first artist retreat.
Thanks for taking me there Dennis, it’s all your fault!! It was fun and I am grateful for the opportunity to have had the experience. More to come!! Chris
You did Gabriola proud, Chris. Love your interpretations, your depth. We want to look at your photos again and again; as with you on the beaches we see something more in them each time.
Thanks you Rosemary. Thank you both for your Gabriola hospitality. I thought your Precipice hospitality was unbeatable; now this!!! I enjoyed sharing the images with you. Until next time. Chris
Loved the whole newsletter as is the norm but seascape 2 jumped out at me as well as the 4th abstract beneath your honeycomb comment. Just personal favorites of mine. Keep up the exciting work.! I can tell you’re energized! Tim Matlock
I WAS energized! It was fabulous. Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts. Chris
Wow, Chris! Your story is one that so many of us are looking for. Superb images and information. Thanks
Hi Lynda. Thanks for your expression…appreciated.
Thanks for sharing the photographs and the journey behind those Chris. A very successful artist retreat. I really enjoyed the photographs and reading the process, thanks.
Thank you Chris. Your Tallheo inspiration still resonates! Cheers. Chris
Chris: Once Again, you’ve surpassed the elements of artistry in sharing your latest photographs & visual creativity. You amaze me with your deep capacity to exeplify simplicirty so profoundly. Thank you for your mastery of transporting natures bounty into a state of brilliance. Magically, your sense of place comes alive within all of us …”believing is seeing”! Lorrie Fleming – Cariboo Confines
Thank you Lorrie for your very kind words. You are a poet. So appreciated. Chris
Chris, This is one of the best collections of varied works you have done in a ‘single” session”. Kudos to you for embracing the “normal” and the “”artistic” Wish I had gotten to know you a long time ago!
Always an honour to hear from you Ron. Thank you for your kind words. Chris
Inspirational and deeply moving.
With the ocean there the landscape in indeed moving! I just tried to capture it!
With the ocean there the landscape in indeed moving! I just tried to capture it! Thanks
Wonderful images Chris! Looks like you are hooked my friend … be warned, the Gulf Islands doesn’t practice “catch and release” with our emotions. I do hope you and Dennis will be offering the Gabriola workshop next year, it was such an enlightening experience, thank you both for a super time!
Thanks Larry. It was a fun time we shared…you were all such an inspiration! We’ll be back!
What a nice surprise. Wish I had known you were here. Best to you(s), Bob Bossin
Hi Bob, I think I was in hiding! Next time! Thanks.
Wow!Such beautiful images here…it’s always exciting to see our home through fresh eyes.
We live in a beautiful place on the planet. It’s a privilege to see some of it. Thanks.
I no longer enjoy most photography magazines as their artistry is nothing like yours. Your monthly postings are my “magazine” of what it means to share art.
Thank you for your new interpretation and expression of my Newsletters. Your thoughts are thoughtful, just like your images which have inspired many. Thanks Joan.
Glad you explained the images were taken in BC I thought they may have been from another planet.
True enough . Another world is always within an hour in this province! Thanks!
Hi Chrisie. Very refreshing to see your fresh, creative response to a new landscape. There were so many that truly took my attention- but to single out afew – I loved your black & White series.
Love, Janie x
Once again…thanks Jane.
So lovely Chris. Zen.
Thanks for your appreciation Sue.
In speaking to yourself with images, your inner beauty emerges. Thank you for sharing of yourself and having the discipline to look, perhaps to see. Wonderful work.
Thanks for your expression Valerie.
Gorgeous photos! Just goes to show one does not have to travel far to create such stunning photos! I am still trying to come even a little bit close to mastering these techniques!
Keep at it; half the fun is getting there!! Thanks Michelle.
Your adventure on Gabriola Isl. brought back memory of my similar photographic & sightsee to same area –
one Sunday, June 1951, when Gordon was away on a business project, I was on my own with big black Labrador, “Bugaboo” (named for East Kootenay mountain). My camera equipment, first post WWII Kodak Bantam – film was unique ‘828’ (bit larger than 35mm) with 10 frames. I bought it because film process was included with film.. Your pic of tree-covered road very like road I walked – first & only life seen, an old guy driving Model T Ford coupe converted to pickup truck. Found out from ferry operator, ”only vehicle on island.’
Recognized Malaspina Gallery – took 1 or 2 ‘frames’.
Think I told you, wrote story, published Vancouver Province
Yes, you told me all about your wonderful experiences on Gabriola. They take us back a long way…thanks again for sharing Iola.
Thanks for the beautiful experience that this newsletter provided.
Thank you Janet; it was fun!
Wonderful photography Chris – indeed you are an artist.
Thank you Janet.
Thank you Janet.
Hi Chris. Lovely photos from your trip. Keep up the good work. Hope you’re keeping well. Best regards. Joanne
Thanks Joanne. Always great to hear from friends in Ireland!
Beautiful pictures Chris; motivating by your story and supported by awesome pictures! Thanks for your guidance on focusing on the simpler points of photography that motivate us to look deeper.
Hi Terry. It was a fun and very worthwhile experience!
Thanks Chris..awesome as usual..even for such a beautiful place! Amazing artistry.
Thanks Buzz. Hope you are enjoying your summer!
Hi Chrisie. Wonderful new creative work from your retreat.
In particular I love the black & white series, but top of the list are the minimalist ones.
My favourite too Jane. Thanks!
What wonderful photos of Gabe, glad to be finally here full time after having our property for 10 yrs, if you want to take some shots off the Ridge/ Seymour for/on your next visit, let me know.
Thank you Cheryl; a wonderful place to be and to photograph!
Your latest imagery makes me feel that you are sharing the very soul of who you are. That is the greatest gift that we can give anyone, for it allows a sharing of souls.
Sharing one’s creations, which involves one’s imagination, is indeed a sharing of one’s soul. It’s always a great pleasure to share with you David.
I’m off to Barkerville tomorrow; I’ll be thinking of you based on your work last year! Best wishes to you and Lois.
I love reading your newsletters, Chris! I’m cooking up a couple of photographic projects for myself in Vancouver and just got a big jolt of inspiration from both your images and your words! Still reverberating from the wonderful workshop with you in Bella Coola.
Thanks for your kind words Avril. Your photographic projects in Vancouver sound exciting and interesting. I hope I get to see the results! Good luck with that…you will enjoy the creative process. Cheers, Chris
Chris-I so much enjoy receiving your newsletter-I am always just amazed at what you can do with your camera! I especially loved this set of pics-Thanx Helen