Talking about Texture

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I probably date myself in this post – so read it and share it quickly, before I come to my senses and delete it.

 

My interest in texture began  during the early years publishing an indie-music ‘fanzine’ “(the) Urban Rag.

Clarification needed, I believe. The texture I’m referring to here as two-dimensional would I feel be more accurately be called a ‘pattern,’ whether repeating or random. However I believe over the past 30 years convention has redefined texture in relation to photos and more specifically Photoshop.

Here’s an excellent explanation from a site called SFGATE.

 

“Texture and pattern are terms that describe various decorative elements, such as upholstery fabrics, curtains, walls and even types of tile. While it may be difficult to tell which is which from afar, hands-on access clues you in right away. A pattern is a visual element that repeats, such as plaid or stripes, whereas texture can be felt, such as the surface of a brick or a piece of burlap. … Texture can be seen as well as felt; it has some level of dimension to it.

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The Zine “Urban Rag,” was named through a mashup (before mashups existed) of “Urban Blight,” a band active at the time and who’s set list was hanging from a speaker in my home – and Rag, common derogatory slang for a newspaper. I didn’t know at the time I’d later work for a string of sub-urban newspapers – but I’ll save that for another time

With humble apologies, I admit the website is about as lame and primitive as you’ll ever see – but it is a time-capsule.

The Urban Rag was initially assembled in my pre-Desktop Publishing days meaning there was variably wax, or glue and glue sticks and bits of paper and cut out headlines and printed images – basically the layout was a collage. (Credit due to a contemporary zine called “Crashing Waves.” Who’s ‘digest’ size and general approach I emulated.)

We also used these sheets of transferrable letters that had various fonts and sizes that you rubbed on to the sheet you were creating – sort of high-tech ransom note approach. These rub on letters and symbols are still available, or available again, but I moved away from them as the process grew more computerized.

By the end of the process, the master – from which we made copies for circulation/distribution truly had texture. Parts it were thick with layers, had uneven edges and were made up of different materials. But the end result was flat, two-dimensional and for many years reduced to black and white or shades of grey on colored stock

My partner in this venture, Gary, had access to a copy machine (like so many zine publishers) and the early issues were photocopied in a (church) office after hours. We looked for creative backgrounds on which to layout each page. I’m sure it was he who came up with this first.

We’d take two and three-dimensional items and objects, photocopy them, then layout the reviews on the photocopies.

We used remnants of wrapping paper, seconds of screen from a window, the dimpled lens from a drop ceiling light figure – you name it.

In 2013 ago I posted a series of photos from a bridge construction project. These stand on their own as part of that digital exhibit, but the purpose for many of the photos was to collect textures for use in Photoshop.

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These shots and others are part of my texture bank. They’re on the shelf if and in case I need them for some future photo (or publishing) project or exercise.

Much in the way things change as you look at them more closely – new details emerge, this texture bank offers a wide range of possibilities. In the photo copying days this was achieved through enlarging or reducing what we were copying. Computers have made this a bit easier to be sure – though less ‘organic.’

tex4If you take photos for fun, pleasure (or even profit) and think creative/artistic editing is in your future (with scissors or Photoshop) If you’re not already doing it – I encourage you to begin capturing and collecting these sorts of images for your texture bank – or savings account.

 

~ Jonathan

 

 

 

 

I operate the Ment Media Group. You can subscribe to the photography blog and follow on Twitter

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Selfi(sh) Sticks

I don’t like selfie sticks.

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I maintain selfie sticks are a scourge. They’re dangerous and distracting in crowds, as well as being downright ridiculous to watch in use. Coast to coast, many amusement parks most museums and arenas like the LA Coliseum and Madison Square Garden have already moved to ban them.

 

My wife and I have been taking selfportraits, or more accurately self-two-shots, for about as long as we’ve been together. Often that’s meant propping a camera (or in recent years sometimes a phone) on a rock, or hat, or railing, and setting the timer. (These timers have existed on cameras for at least half a century that I’m aware of).

 

I’m not sure if I’ve ever asked a passerby to take our photo, and I’m certain no one has ever offered. Perhaps it’s that sense of confidence and known smiles we exude when capturing a moment. Perhaps not.

 

However, for some reason, I’ve long found pleasure in helping folks take that photo in front of a scenic vista or landmark.

 

Perhaps it’s my trustworthy face, or perhaps I just give off that photographer vibe, but, for many years I felt I was being singled out to take the photo. It got to the point I occasionally volunteered when I saw one member of a group was obliged to take the picture of the rest.  My actions were sincerely appreciated. I felt I’d touched others with a random act of kindness (and a well-composed photo).

 

But I’m aware that’s it’s happened less over the past year. Perhaps I need to get out more, or perhaps the opportunities are diminishing as more and more folks can be seen dueling with invisible foes, their phones extended on one of these goofy monopods.

 

In 2013, Apple declared “Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera.” Though the video has been erased from Youtube, the stats back up their claim.

 

I recall the company’s billboard alongside the promenade on my approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. Couldn’t find an image to share on line, but on a whim – discovered Apple sells a $50 selfie stick that includes a tripod feature. Ugh.

 

I’ve noticed the collapsible sticks have found their way into reality TV with the same dopes vying for fame and prizes required to document their insecurities and isolation by serving as their own camera operator.

 

Further blurring the lines between photographer and subject as I gather some news organizations are skipping the assignment of a videographer and assigning a selfie stick instead.

 

There’s a joke in there somewhere, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

 

And sure I’ve seen selfie sticks at weddings, but fortunately – not yet in the hands of a clergyman. This writer for the Knot.com at least urges folks to be respectful of the photographer, but I figure it’s only a matter of time before booze and selfie sticks combine to make the professional’s job more difficult. Hope I don’t run into them anytime soon in my capacity as a Hunter wedding photographer.

 

Though… with a number of officiants already presiding over ceremonies at their own for-profit facilities with an interest in the catering and homegrown floral arrangements, will it be too long? If it’s this year, you probably heard it here first.

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Will a future generation of Shopping Mall Santas wear a coin changer on their big black belt and carry a selfie stick accosting children in the common areas or outside on the street – as the traditional model of a shopping mall (and shopping mall Santas) struggle for relevance?

 

I remember visiting Niagara Falls in 2015 and shaking my head at all the selfie sticks on display. They made it that much harder for me to take my own shots of the falls – each selfie-sticker effectively taking up that much more space than without.

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The author and wife, some years ago at Niagara Falls. Sorta.

This shot could have been taken with a selfie-stick, but alas I DON’T OWN ONE. Of course, it wasn’t even taken with the Falls for a background. Instead, it was taken on an assembly line in front of a green screen – prior to (if memory serves) Jennifer and I boarding a ferry that took us into the mist.

I’m sure these things aren’t going away, in fact I’m certain they’ll become more pervasive. But I don’t have to like it.

Tacky.

I simply don’t like selfie sticks, though I admit these folks may take their feelings a bit too far with pruning shears (if it’s not a gag). The comments, on that link are worth a skim as well.

While researching this story, I did find these ridiculous sticks could be good for a laugh, when I happened on upon this site featuring movie stills (such as the one at the top of this post) in which the guns have been replaced with selfie sticks – and with some overlap this one.

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I also found this sign prohibiting their use at the Brisbane Museum on Wikipedia which made me want to get a sign of my own.

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Photo by Kerry Raymond.

 

 

Jonathan Ment is a writer, photographer, philosopher and consultant. Follow him on Twitter and share your thoughts on this story here.