A timeworn tradition

Beginning in the mid 1800’s, American doctors-in-training traveled to Paris to study at the feet of famous Parisian medical practitioners. The foreign students would see and practice a greater variety of medicine in their time at Hotel Dieu, the urban Paris hospital, than they were likely to see in their entire careers at home.

The path, cut first by American medical students was soon followed by a steady stream of American artists, as Paris became the center for art and literature in the western world. Study with a known master in a Parisian atelier was considered the best training for refining the creative spirit.
(see The Greater Journey by David McCullough)

John Singleton Copley, Samuel Morse, and William Morris Hunt, are just a few of the artists who initially made the difficult journey to the continent. Mary Cassatt went at the time of the revolution in painting we now know as the Impressionists movement and she became one of the leading voices in that movement.

Photographer Bernice Abbot traveled to study with Man Ray; Robert Capa, a photographer originally from Budapest, but based in Paris, teamed with Henri Cartier-Bresson, a Parisian, and eventually formed the famous Magnum Photos. Capa singlehandedly invented photojournalism and had incredible influence photographically worldwide. He still does (he took an American name to help with the sale of his work).

Writers James Fenimore Cooper and Hemingway lived in Paris and wrote major works that became great American literature.

With all of this history, many Americans continue to fantasize of study in Paris, myself among them.
Given my lifelong fascination with photography and our love of museums, the time seemed right to challenge myself to study light…… in the City of Lights.

After all, photography is informed by its very definition, “drawing with light.”

The Café, absinthe (Pastis), and croissants quickly became a wonderful side benefit.

I planned to spend as much time as possible at the Louvre studying the Masters use of color, composition and light and then shoot, shoot, shoot, and was successful with both goals. 5500 images later……

The results have been surprising, even to me. My work, as you can see from these examples, is going in a different direction. Color seemed distracting, using black and white images initially allowed me to see the contrast between light and dark; but then the sepia tones of early work seemed to properly highlight the things I was seeing. Often I found myself shooting with the black and white image in mind, focusing solely on the light source and its effect on the object of interest.

I invite you to view these samples and encourage you to comment as it helps me “see,” and, I hope, it helps you in your own photography. Do not let the lack of terms intimidate you. Your eye is more practiced than you know. Tell me your emotional reaction to the work ….it helps me.

Finally, it will take a bit to edit the body of work to create a few new galleries. As I complete a gallery, I will announce the completion on Facebook and Twitter. Join me there so you can be one of my earliest critics.




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