Response to the Intimate Messaging Cards

Intimate Messaging Cards

Intimate Messaging Cards

   In a previous newsletter I introduced my Intimate Messaging Cards; I did not write a blog about them. I first wanted to get them out into the world, see how they are received, and then blog.

   Well, one on one, or by face to face encounters, it has been very positive, and even with them being three cards per package, most want more than just one pack. All in all, people are taken by them. The clean black and white images strakes a nice cord with the viewers. At first glance there is a nice appeal, and I am pleased with their reaction. The notice on the back of each package is my suggestion as to how to use them, and the general refrain after seeing the images and reading the notice is: “These are different. I have not seen anything like them before. I want to give one to my . . .”

   My success with the cards is slow but they are selling __ Praise Allah. I have them now in two shops, and in one the gift shop of a gallery here in Philadelphia, with other leads to pursue here and in other cities. With my work schedule, finding time to visit the many shops, send out notices, contact the owners, schedule appointments and meet with them does take time, of which I have so little. Still, this is what I have to do, and I am pleased and fortunate to be able to do it.

Intimate Messaging Cards

Intimate Messaging Cards

   I can not write the blog without admitting that I have had many rejections too. Some shop owners choose not to respond at all, and other send a nice rejection note thanking me for my interest to include my cards in their gift shops. Here I want to share just one, and my response to it:

   Hi Mujahid,

Thank you for finding the shop and getting in touch.  The line is so clean and minimal, I can imagine it in a high end gallery.  The artwork is intriguing, but I’m not sure if I understand the significance of the text on the cards.  The real estate in my shop is limited, so I’m needing to find lines that are speaking directly to occasions (birthday, wedding, new baby), since the nature of my shop is gift shop.  I’d love to see your work in a gallery setting, or a design concept shop.

   Hello to you.

   Thank you so much for responding. 

   The text on each card is the name of the image, as Bliss is not the name of the card but the title of the image. A fine art gallery normally do not sell cards __ it is hard enough to get one's large framed art work in them as it is, much less cards. 

   I do understand your position. As an owner of a gift shop you know what the customer is looking for, the price points and what they will buy. I am an artist, and my role is to create in the hearts and minds of the viewer the need to want to own my art. I have created this concept that is a bit different from the greeting card industry: Intimate Messaging Cards. To own the card is to own a piece of art. Now once owned, give it to a love one with an intimate message inside for him or her. 

   On the back in each pack is a separate slip of paper that reads: 

Intimate Messaging Cards

   Open a card and write a special note, and then slip it into the pocket of a dear friend. Write another, and place it next to the dinner plate. Write another and lay it on the pillow of your spouse. Use your creativity, and surprise them; the returns will be great. However, do not use the mail; these cards are too personal for that.

   Does not one have to create in a product that which brings out what is in their hearts of the customer, a message that is not found in the traditional greeting cards? This is what my cards do. I need a shop owner who can believe in this idea, and believe that this is what the consumer is looking for, but has not found it. You can offer it to them, and by doing so open up their hearts and the hearts of their love ones.   

   Well, what do you think? Is there a need, in this plastic throw-a-way society, for a keep sake card with your personal message on it as a reminder of your intimate thoughts?

 

Recognizable Subjects

   Working with a recognizable subject is more appealing to me then working with an unknown. What I mean by this is that I may not be sure if a composition has the impact I am looking for. Also, an unrecognizable subject may not carry the message I want to convey, as when it is recognizable. An observer of an image containing a strange shape or construct may not hold that person's attention as a recognizable one may.  

   I admit that there are some abstract images which are appealing, and there is a real body of work in photography that focuses on abstraction. However, to fashion such a construct as a photographic subject is not something I prefer, even though there are strong photographs in abstract photography.

    When a subject is recognizable and also appealing, it draws the viewer into the image. An unrecognizable one presents a challenge to the artist. Some artist love that challenge and look forward to it, and it is true that an abstract image, even though unrecognizable, can create an appeal where the feeling is recognizable, even when the subject is not.

   My work is not in the abstract. Granted the subjects are symbolic, their arrangements may not be usual, and often a message is hidden, but they are recognizable.

   What I mean by a recognizable subject is that there is no doubt in the viewer's mind of the objects displayed, but the composition may cause him or her to adjust their perspective. In this an abstraction has not been created; only a need for a change in his point of view or reference.

Sheilded Spear.JPG

   The subjects in this photograph are of two spoons, and the interplay between them or the composition, is creating a dynamic that is normally not associated with spoons; offense and defense. There is no abstraction. What is here is an association that is uncommon. With this in mind, the subjects are recognizable, and the symbolic association can be recognizable, even when uncommon.

   This image has not been titled. The reason is that the theme has not been formulated. Being open as to what a subject may reveal of itself, and to build on it is my usual approach for developing a series. Indeed this image is the genesis for a theme but the building on it is still on going; perhaps it is a bit premature to post before hand, but if Allah wills, the theme will be developed, the series named, and the image titled.

 The spoons __ when recognized as such __ on one level, are the instruments associated with getting nourishment. Of course it is not the nourishment in and of itself; the spoons only bring it to mind, like that of a logo for a restaurant.

 For the second level, the recognition is the clear symbolism of the male and the female; no longer spoons. The nourishment of love and warmth from the female, and from the male, the strength, and a well defined direction in life. I am not saying that love and warmth can not come from the male, and that some strength and some direction can not come from the female. I am only addressing the association in the posted photograph. Both are needed for the well-being of the human being.

   The third level __ the recognition intended by the image __ is that of a spear and shield. They are symbolic for the armaments to fight for oneself and one's rights, and to defend them from being taken away. The metaphor is not for what one's rights are, or even how to get and keep them. I believe that every mature human being knows what is right and what is unjust. The metaphor is in getting them, and holding on to them once obtained.

   Yes, I know, as a Muslim in today's world, these words may seem treating; however this is not the intent. Ask yourself, what rights are you willing to give up, or would you rather fight to keep them?

Why Black & White

   This question is often asked of photographers who work in black and white. The question is a bit strange, but is understandable; color dominates the visual landscape. From the questioner’s point of view, it seems as if working in monotone is backward or non progressive, since those were the images of the past. Now for a photograph to perceive the natural world, as the eye sees it, there should be a marvel display of color. To insist on Black & White, may seem a rebellion on progress; a stay in the past.

   What is missed in the question is understanding that the artist is not trying to recreate reality in 2D __ at least not for the fine art photographer. (A subject of another post.) If we follow this way of reasoning with the invention of the TV, the question put forward could be: why radio? With seeing the image and hearing voice, why restrict the input to just sound?

   That said, the question is a valid one. Perhaps if phrased, “Why would one choose B&W in their imagery over color?” This would be a question with a neutral tone, and a real query to understand.

 Yes, color is natural to what the eye sees; we do not see in monotone. However, there is a deep impression that black & white can leave on the mind. There is an emotional connection which is deeply stirring, and quite different from color. With B&W one becomes very aware of form, tone and texture, where as a photograph of color often takes away from these elements. Yes, of course, we all have different sensitivities, and what stirs one may not stir another. However, I am talking about the artistic notice of these elements, without them being dismissed by saturating and diverting the mind’s attention with color.

 Another point is that as a minimalist, I would find it a bit difficult to build up a certain emotion in the viewer, and maintain it, when the eye moves from a color, that has its own sensation, to another color __ that has one too __, then to work with subtle tones in a monotone image. For me, the emotional containment in the B&W image can be better maintained then when working in color.

Grounded Ashore

Grounded Ashore

   This is one piece in the show called "Grounded"; being symbolic for the forest ground. The image is entitled, “Grounded Ashore". While walking in a forest we often look around and up, and seldom explore what is aground. A view from a very low position reveals a perspective we rarely see, but can reveal so much.

   As I often restrict the units in a composition to three, my thoughts are that color, would, by its own nature make it difficult to stay within that restriction of numbered units. Often color gets in the way of my message, and because color has a message of its own, it creates too many conflicts for me as a minimalist.

   I also accept that working with only three units in an image is not real; the world is not made up of only three. However, working in monotone assists in creating that world, and allows the viewer to embrace that realm; a world enhanced by the absent of color. Creating that realm feels so right for me, and when it is done well, color has no place.

   To illustrate this, once a woman entered my booth at an art show, perhaps in New Jersey, and she looked at my work for a while. After some time she said that my photographs of leaves seem so real, as if one could take them out of the frame. I said to her that her statement was interesting, being that the photograph is black and white and the plants are green. She paused, "Wow, you're right!" She had entered the black & white realm completely, and had been absorbed into its reality, and had not realized it. That realm was so real to her that she had no need for color to connect with the message.

    I am disappointed with the result of my posted images __ as I have said time and time again.  Because I am working with film, this process affects the appearance of the posted photograph in one way or another. After having to scan, rework it on the computer, upload, and then past in order to post, the image which is so strikingly elegant, by this process becomes just an average photograph, or perhaps even worse. I am told that people really do understand this, but I am not sure, so many people of today do not know the value of the analog image versus the digital one, much less the process of posting it.  

   Tell us, what is revealed to you when you look at a black & white image that really touched you. Did you see in that very image a need for it to be in color?

An Appreciation of The Simple

   The other day, I asked a person for their email address. I wanted to give them updates and notices on my work. I asked them because they were interested in me and the images I produce. They tore off a piece of paper and began to write. I noticed how clear and disciplined their hand and commitment on it, and also commented on how straight was the line __ on this unlined scrap of paper__, and then it was handed to me. I thanked them and told them that I did not want to fold the paper; it was a simple work of art, and I was charmed. 

   I often read, in the world of today, that a hand written note or letter has far more value than a text message or an email. This became apparent here. It could be something treasured and kept for a long time in one’s collections of items that bring back wonderful thoughts of someone special in one’s life. 

   Thinking about what had impressed me so much about the hand written email address on this piece of paper, I came up with a few things that held my attention, and after deeper thought I realized it reminded me of my own work. What I mean is that the elements of my approach to a still life image I saw in their one line of script. 

1) The black ink on the white paper; as I use high contrast, and some middle gray tones on a white background. 

2) The straight line in their text resembles the straight line I often setup in my subjects. 

3) The text written in the center of the scrap of paper, as I often place my subjects in that very location. 

4) The continuous unbroken line, which is what I try to achieve to allow a smooth eye movement. 

5) An elongated letter T & L, and in addition to a stylish @ sign, which __ at least in my mind __ all attributes to an elegant hand. That too is an accent I add in the arrangement of my subjects and their connection with each other; it is that flare in the composition.  

   All this reflection and insight from a simple quickly written email address on a small scrap of paper. I said thank you and good-by, and went on my way; taking with me a little of that person. 

Split Aground

Split Aground

   This is an image, and those like it, that comes to mind when I think of how the simple hand written email resembles my work or my approach the still life. There is of course the dark upon the white, the straight line orientation, centered, the continuous unbroken line and the accent of the split open seed pod.

   Still, I do realize that much of the art works of the past, as well as that of the present, are works of very elaborate designs, compositions and forethought in placement and the interactions of subjects, but one has to also recognize that simplicity and the bare hint of elegance has a timelessness that can continue to bring joy and appreciation. Regardless of the subject, place, style or approach to the image, simplicity settles the mind and brings rest to the heart. I also realize that not all who view such images come to rest, and may even become bored, and ask, "Where is the value in that?"  

   I will close with this __ if Allah wills. We live in such a plastic world, in a throwaway society, at a fast pace, that in such an environment it is really difficult to find the real, to realize its value, and to appreciate its creators. 

   What have you found __ in a flea market, basement or attic of your departed parents, or a friend’s memento from a trip overseas __ that arrested your thoughts, calmed your soul and give you joy, even for just a brief moment? I am sure your expressed thoughts will remind others of their own moments of joy brought on by something so very simple. Tell us about it.

Reflecting on Your Walls

   As you change your jewelry based on the garments you wear, the look you want to express, and the mood you are in, likewise you can change the look, the feel and the mood of the spaces you spend time in. This is done by changing the artwork on the walls. If you were to cover yourself with all the jewelry that you like as you cover your walls with all the art work that you like, it would be difficult to find in this arrangement one single mood of self-expression. When you accent your dress with an adornment that enhances the garment, it is far more appealing and expressive than to over adorn. Likewise the walls in your home can be over decorated and give the feel of clutter. Your interior project who you are, and set the atmosphere for those who enter and those dwellers of that space.

    Have you noticed the beautiful rooms in magazines of interior design, home decor and the like? The art work on the walls accent the rooms and bring out the charm of these spaces. Whether they are rooms in homes, offices or lounges, the artwork expresses the mood and comfort of those who spend time in them. My photographs are intended with this in mind; creating that mood in the mind toward meditative thoughts.

   Begin with empty walls or clear them, then discover the feeling and mood you want to convey. Look at your inventory of images and then start hanging those that express that mood. Then stop. Do not add on __ and with my work __ keep it elegant, peaceful and simple. When you are in a new mood or you want to create a different atmosphere, or there is a change in the season, clear the walls again, then hang the photos to match the new mood, the new feeling, the new season. Do not make your walls of art like wall paper. Keep the atmosphere anew and fresh, and not stale and stagnant.

   This concept can also apply to new homeowners, movers into new apartments and those who are relocating. Also this approach can apply to restaurants, bed and breakfast and even upscale barbershops and salons.

Tree Reflection  

Tree Reflection 

   By changing the photographs on your walls you change the atmosphere of the spaces of which you spend time. This is an image capturing the winter season, and the reflection that comes with that season. The bare tree in silhouette adds to the mood, and creates an even deeper feeling for reflection. The change going on outside our home, and the reflection they create, can also be brought inside to keep us in tune.

   Tell us about the atmosphere that you create in your home, and what do you do __ if anything __ to change it to keep it afresh. 

 

   

Where to Hang Them

   When I look at my work and envision where in the home would be the best placement for it, what comes to mind is the dining room, a small sitting area, an enclosed peaceful place, and that quite space just at the end of the hall. I am not saying that my work should be restricted to these places, but these spaces within the home are well suited. Once a gallery director committed regarding the showing of “Placements” and “Cradled”, that, “Sadly, many may only see your work for the kitchen; they just see knives, forks and spoons”.

   Because of the scale of my photographs, for them to be hung in the living room or the bedroom is a hard sell. People think of hanging art above the sofa or the bed, and these images are not of an appropriate size to fix that need; unless in multiples. They are more suitable on the wall next to a comfortable chair, or a vanity table in the bedroom. Even for the framed images of 16” x 20” from the theme, “An Outer Expression of Inner Growth” __ which is the title of my first publication __ is still considered small compared to most contemporary art found in homes today.   

Vine of Fans

Vine of Fans

   This is one of the photographs in the collection under that theme and book title. All of them in this collection were taken in my studio in the States, not in Sweden. However, the book was published in Sweden. They are all floral, plants, leaves, seed pods, etc.; somewhat of a departure of my latest work.

   I do look at my images as having a home appeal rather than that for the corporate world, large conference rooms, or the grand lobby of a hotel, but still, I am open for it. Because of the intimate nature of my work it is less public, more personal. I do, however, see a place for them in a cozy upscale restaurant, or a small hushed bed & breakfast. One woman at a gallery showing said to me, “I would love to find your photographs on the walls of my favorite restaurant where I often eat. I see them as quiet and restful.” 

   Once, in Sweden, I was negotiating a sale with the owner and his son of a restaurant called Fork & Spoon. It is a franchise, of which this owner purchased one. The negotiation seemed promising. The father, who was the owner, and his son, who was his manager, was planning to renovate the space. They were having a designer come in, and were thinking about art. They picked out images from the theme “Placements” that they thought to be right for the restaurant, and even a few for their homes. I was very pleased, and made many suggestions on which walls I thought were best to hang which pieces. I talked, explored layouts and possibilities, as we walked around the space together; they listened, smiled and nodded.

   Upon my return home, I wrote them a thank you note, and asked them to have their designer contact me so we can all work together. Well, I did not hear from them. After about a month or so I sent them a reminder as a follow up . . . nothing. So then I began to question myself as to what I must have done to discourage them from working with me. So I asked some of my Swedish brothers and friends what were their thoughts. I was told that I was just too aggressive in my approach. Swedish people like Americans, but they think Americans are too straight forward, too direct and too pushy. The Swedish people are very slow, deliberate and cautious. The owner and his son probably thought best to work with a Swedish person, or someone who is sensitive to their culture. I know I should have contacted them again to know for sure, but by them not answering any of my messages, that said a lot to me. I saw too much of that in Sweden. However, the Swedes are very nice people; they just keep to themselves.

  My work is in black & white, and that also is a hard sell. Most people like color in their choice of art. Many have walls and furniture of bright colors, so black & white images may seem to them out of place. As an artist, to see people buy art for how is fits with their furniture is a bit shallow, but people want what they want. Interior designers know this to be true, and choose art that add to the overall atmosphere of the home. They know how to create a decor of their own tastes, and still give the owners what they want. The home filled with the furnishings, the walls, the rugs, and even the dishes of whites, the many shades of gray, is one modern and conservative look that I am trying to remind my collectors are always in fashion. However, please do not think I am doing this in order to sell my work. Oh no! (smile) No, there is just a wonderful feel that comes with these pigmentations, and this is why I work in black & white.

   Still, of course, the genre of still life is also a hard sell. It is much lower on the sellable scale then say, landscapes, seascapes, portraits and nudes. So many art business coaches believe it is best to create works of subjects that are in demand, and not those that really just appeal to the artists themselves. This advice has merit, and perhaps is the sentiment of successful interior decorators.

   Still, I believe there are those who are pleased with my images, are willing to support me as the artist, and find wonderful places in their homes for it. To change my approach to photography, and alter my subject matter in order for collectors to find walls in their homes to hang it, is not reasonable to me. It does not take thousands of collectors for an artist to make a reasonable living. The issue of course is finding them, and creating that appeal. Yes, to make a living as an artist has its challenges, as in all professions, but when you, as a collector, can see my vision, create the atmosphere in your home that embraces it, you would have found the places to hang my work.

   Let us hear from you, and tell us where in your home you hang your art, and what is the atmosphere you are creating by hanging it there. That may expand our own ideas about décor in the home, and what that says about you.

A Unit

   As a minimalist I am concerned with limiting lines, patterns, tones and eye movements in order to create stillness in the mind of the viewer, and therefore boundaries have to be setup to do this effectively. These boundaries give me the tools to discipline myself and therefore expand creativity, give me a recognizable style and build my brand.

   Setting boundaries is like the poet restricting himself to a meter system which binds him in composing a poem. An example of this could be the refrain in each line ending with ter or ler, that the subject of the poem is “Rite of Passage” and the number of lines must be exactly thirteen.  These requirements are challenges, if accomplished, creates in the poet the characteristics of being well disciplined, if they are not achieved he needs to continue to work on it or change the requirements. Of course there must be rationales for these restrictions. They must not be setup haphazardly. There must be a rhyme and a reason.   

   So, likewise, I use measures which impose restrictions in my image compositions. Please keep in mind that my reasoning is to create stillness in the mind of the viewer. In the visual language, my theory is that the less the eye moves, or there is a smooth flow in eye movement, the more stillness is created. So, I created for myself what I call a unit. A unit __ as I define it __ is the eye following a continual direction or pattern, with little or no breakage, along with an uninterrupted thought pattern.

   In the past my thought was that a subject in a composition would constitute a unit, and the more the subjects the more the units. For example, the number of units in the subject of a glass of water I thought of as two; the glass and the water in it. However, with a broader understanding of the definition of unit, the water in the drinking glass is one unit not two. This is because since both the glass and the water are transparent, with very little visual distinction between them, and with the use of photographic techniques, they would become one. This would also be true in the case of milk in a white cup. The eye movements would be smooth and united, where the mind accepts the connections and sees them as a whole, which creates the stillness I want.

   If the subject was the same white cup, but now filled with dark tea, then that would be two units. Because there is a much larger visual dissimilarity between the white cup and the dark tea, the mind would have two impressions rather than one when looking at this 2D image. Yes, there are two subjects but when the transition is so slight it creates a smooth shift and therefore one unit.

   With this view, there can be a difference between a subject in a composition, and a unit. A subject may have a number of units, and multiple subjects may form only one. If for example an object having multiple colors, shapes and patterns would be a subject of multiple units. This item would not be one that I would choose to work with, and this is one of the reasons I select my objects with a lot of care. I look for the ones that have fewer distractions in how they are formed and shaped. If commissioned to photograph an object or objects of multiple units I would do my best to reduce those units by the use of lighting, shadows, focus, distance, positioning, etc. in order to remain true to my voice.

   As a minimalist, this concept of limiting my units is very important. I do not believe I am just fooling myself, but rather growing as an artist. I may contradict myself at some point, as I work it out in my own head. I do understand that there are many things that can constitute a unit; not just the subject. Still my goal is to reduce them to focus on the message derived from the composition.

   We as artists should not just be visually putting things together just because we feel like it; there should be reasons behind the arrangements. In this our collectors and viewers have an insight into what they are looking at, and are in a better position to see if we have lived up to the boundaries we places upon ourselves and work within them or not.  

Broken Dark

Broken Dark

   This photograph entitled “Broken Dark” is an example of creating an image whose units are reduced to three. The lines have a pattern that has an even flow, for which the eye follows and the mind and the heart becomes still. Yes, there is a difference between the broken fence and the upright poles as subjects, but the pattern is so united that it forms one unit. This is a case where multiple subjects become one unit; the gray sky and dark earth are the other two.   

   Limiting the units is being put into use in this image. The result is the rest created in the mind and in the heart. I believe this is done by creating a composition to prevent jerky eye movements, where those movements are smooth and even.

   Of course I am not saying that this theory is the only thing needed to produce stillness, but it plays a big part in it. Three differently colored balloons, one beginning to inflate, the other at full capacity, and the third bursting. This could be seen as three units. However, for such an image other factors have to be employed to create stillness in the mind, even when the units are three.  

   Notice that in “Broken Dark”, the overall tones are dark; the fence, the ground and the sky. These tones are employed to make a smooth transition from one unit to another; limiting the units to three alone is not enough to still the mind.

   “Broken Dark” was shot at noon. It was a very bright day. The sky was blue, with no clouds. If I had printed it as is, with no added filtering to darken it, no grain to smooth out the continuity between subjects and I had not darkening the foreground, there would be too many units on display to get the desired effect. However, a question could be asked: Without all this work, could this be a nicely printed photo? The answer is yes, of course, but it would not be a representative of my work, my voice, my brand.

   Please post a commit. Let us know if you think that limiting units __ as I define them __ do indeed slow down the mind and bring calmness to the heart. I am sure we can gain benefit by reading noticeable happenings in your mind and heart when viewing 2D images.

A Created Reality

   As artist we step away from reality to create another reality. The day to day events and happenings to the non-artist is a world of real possibilities for us. For me this is where the beginnings and foundations of the new reality come from. For the non-artist it is just the ordinary, the mundane. The created reality is a twist which causes the viewer to see anew what was around him all along.

   If we take for example an author, who traditionally writes in non-fiction writes a book of fiction. He uses this as a means to bring forward a theme that may not give the result that he wants in non-fiction. Let us say that he writes a story about a man who lives for one thousand years. The character roams from place to place as a drifter because all the people in his life die off, and his secret would be exposed if he were to linger in one place for too many years.

   Okay, this is the character and the events in the character’s life. This sets up the new reality in the mind of the reader. With all of this in place, now the author can put forward his message. That message is based on the inner thoughts of the man, for he sees societies breaking down and losing its moral compass. He believes the cause of this breakdown is the love of materialism and taken advantage of others in its pursuit. He sees societies fall one after another because of its inability to connect with the real things of valuable in life that nourishes the soul and gives real joy.  

   The character is not in our reality obviously, and could not be told employing non-fiction, but lessons can be learned from the man’s insights into society and humanity in the created reality. Could the breakdown of the society be told in non-fiction? Yes, of course, a historian could chart the rise and fall of nations, but charts, reason, facts and figures seldom changes people’s motivations. Creating a character that the reader can identify with makes a big difference in the effect the message has on the reader.

   For me as a photographer of still life, to create another reality I have to employ tools to cause the departure. I find that there are perceptions that we have from our vision that has to be altered to make that shift. Here I name what I use:

   Reality is in 3D __ and of course there are more demotions than just 3D, but it is enough for this paper __ and photography is a 2D medium. So this becomes our first departure.

   Reality is in color. My images are monotone; black & white or shades of gray. This would be another departure.

   There is no grain in what a person sees in reality; meaning there are no tiny dotes that come together to create what the eye sees. Grain therefore is an artificial tool I use to create the other reality, a reality made up of grain, and therefore by it there is another stepping away.

   There is no high contrast in the objects we see in reality. Things in our sight have smooth transitions from item to item. We see texture, the subtle differences between objects and complete forms; the eye blends the tones in the things it sees so there are only minor tonal differences. I, however, employ high contrast as part of my voice, where the mid tones give way to a gray scale near the extremes, and so this too is another departure from reality.

   In reality the eye naturally focuses on the subjects placed before it. In a photograph the eye would not naturally place its intention on subjects that are out of focus; it would search for subjects in focus. With this I can use it to my advantage. I can cause an artificial movement of the eye by having some subjects in focus and others out of focus. The eye would move away from the subjects out of focus to the subjects in focus, and so this becomes another departure from the real.   

   Each thing in reality has a context, a natural habitat in which it is normally found and the mind accepts. I take that item out of its natural environment and place it alone with no context; I have removed it from the reality of which it naturally dwells. Now the subject has no context, of which it is difficult for the mind to accept, but the mind can shift to a new reality of which it will accept the subject with no context.   

   So, working in 2D, black & white, employing grain and high contrast, sometimes a limited focus and removing the subject from its natural context, I have created a new reality, a reality where I now can put forth my message.

   In reality a spoon is a spoon, a pencil is a pencil and a box is just a box, but when they become symbolic for something else, by their arrangements, their inter actions and our angle of view, the viewer is now open to transcend to another ream. Moving to that other ream opens him up to receive the message, and this is because the points of reference have now been shifted. Animation does this so well, where trees talk, rabbets ware shoes and the hands of a clock have gloves. The viewer accepts the new reality and is ready for the message.

Clasp

Clasp

   On the surface, in our reality, this image is of two forks; no more, no less. I remember a visitor at one of my group shows in Sweden said, after seeing the prices of my photos, “For the price of a picture of a spoon I could buy one in gold!” However, their arrangement and interaction suggests a symbolic meaning when observed more closely. I am using the two utensils where one clasping, and the other being clasped. This is a clear gesture by the upper fork in capturing the lower one; it even has fingernails. The captured fork is unable to escape; it is immobile by the grip.  

   To me this is symbolic for the grasp that materialism has on a person. In this reality the tenacious hold is undeniable, and one’s ability to get out of that hold is difficult.

   We acquire something, and we think that we own it, but in truth it owns us. It needs to be maintain, cleaned, store, protected and prevented from thief, and all this does not come without a cost.

   Often by the constant persuasion of consumerism we purchase things that in the end leave us empty. By not checking our hearts and reminding ourselves what really makes us happy and content leads us to excess. We are trying to fill the void within ourselves, and as a result we are in slaved.

   When we are in touch with ourselves and do purchase items of real value that really give us joy, their storage, maintenance, and upkeep is worth it. It does not drain us, and we would never let them go.

These things are items of worth that do not lose their appeal, like a favorite book you read as a child, an expensive watch you had been wanting for a long time to purchase, an original piece of art that you know the right place for it in your home; when to hang it, and when to take it down.  

   I hope the reader can see that my words are not in any way an attempt to create a mindset of scarcity versus a mindset of abundance, to think that I intend that you do not purchase well made products and that you should stop the growth of a healthy economy. My intent is rather an encouragement to appreciate those things that give you pleasure and great memories, and that your heart and inner self directs your purchases; not the commercial media. And if I may add, that the value and goodness of your fellow human being is not measured by the things he possesses, but rather by what rests in his heart, and how he treatments you, and that his possesses are cherished, and he is not enslaved by them. 

   Leave a commit about the things that you cherish, that you hold on to, that gives you comfort and contentment. We would like to benefit by what you have discovered by posessing them.  

Comfort Zone

   An artist’s voice differs from artist to artist, and it somewhat defines him or her, regardless of the subject matter; or so it seems. To approach one subject with one's voice, and then approach an entirely different subject with that same voice is a challenge to any artist. To stay with the same subject, which maybe less of a challenge, creates a Comfort Zone.

   A factor that fortifies that Comfort Zone is the collector; what he or she expects in the art work of the artist he or she collects. In truth, for most artists it takes many years to find a following; those who really love one's work and are ready to buy it. So, after finding a following and his creations finally starts selling, to then contemplate changing the subject matter can be a difficult decision to make. This could jeopardize sales, and therefore venturing out becomes scary. Yes, it is said that an artist should be true to his vision, and I agree, but to make a living as an artist, pleasing collectors has to be a part of that vision.

   The photograph of this post is one that is considered a landscape, and because I really work in still life, it is a departure from my usual subjects. However, I believe it has the same voice and style of my still images. Yes, there are some differences, but they are minor. I certainly can not take out the horizon line, every rock and stone, and make the sand part of the sky, as I do in with the background of my Still Life work, but then it would not be a landscape.

   There are three subjects in the photograph: the fence, the sand, and the sky, and of the three, they are simple and minimalist; keeping with my voice, my style. What may seem to be a real departure is the dark sky, where as with my still life __ the sky being the backdrop __ would be white. I used a red filter, to darken it in order to bring out the fence and the sand.

   I do like landscapes, seascapes, and architecture, but as a Muslim, carrying around a camera in some places, and taking photographs of buildings, bridges, etc. has given me many problems. I have been stopped by police five or six times in different cities over a period of years. Each of the officers said that they had received calls from people who where concerned as to what I was doing, by the way I dress and taken photos around the city. I told them I understood, and after showing them my ID, and telling them I am a fine art photographer, they let me go. Could you believe that taking this photo at a beach, that I would be questioned by police? So, taken still life images inside one's studio is another take on the issue of the Comfort Zone.

   This photograph was taken in Atlantic City, NJ. USA. The city is one of the Jersey shore resorts, where mid-city casinos line the boardwalk. I lived a period of my youth there, and attended the high school. I return as often as I can.

 At the every end of the main street, Atlantic Av. where the boardwalk bends around __ called the Inlet __ men fish from the jetties, the joggers make their way around the boardwalk, as well as the bickers early in the morning. This area has not been touched by the ever expanding casinos __ at least at the time of this writing. A few buildings remain, most torn down, and some abandoned for years with vast sandy lots between them. It tells of a past history where the population of Black people called this part of the city home. Now, the beach is so very quiet, except for the winds off the open sea, sea gulls and the fishermen chatting with each other.

   Recently there has been some beach erosion, and there was the feeble attempt to stop it by planting some grasses and setting up wire fences. After the passage of the first year and the approach of the second winter, only a few patches of grass remains, and most of the fences are down; the erosion of the beach creeps on under an open sky.

   I was blessed __ Praise Allah __ to capture this scene, and I enhanced it with gray tones and a grainy texture, which is a testament to the wonders of black and white photography. This is a simple composition of the remaining part of the fence, the beach erosion, and the open sky. I wanted to recreate the peace and the quiet that I have always felt in that place. I love this area, and in my youth, it created in me a comfort zone, which as an adult carries over into my still life work.

   I guess some would say that this post was a bit long, well maybe, but I hope that anyone who really wants to understand my work and finds peace by it would not mind the length so much. If there are advantages __ even in our rushed world __ then one needs to put in the time to get the benefits.

   Tell us what place as a youth you return to as often as you can. What does that place hold for you, and if it has changed. I am sure we will benefit by your reflections. 

Negative Space

   In one view of artistic expression, the placing of a subject in the mist of "negative space" creates the feelings of loneliness, loss, emptiness and abandonment. The argument is that negative space __ space that is around a subject __ is one of the elements that contributes to coldness and desertion; even more so when that space is completely white or completely black.

   Granted, this view could be valid and have merit with some images where the subjects in the composition are positioned. Placing them below the horizon line for example would reinforce these feelings. However, a counter argument __ which is the argument I make __ is that negative space can also create feelings of openness, freedom and non entanglement. These are some positives created by the negative space in which I place my subjects.

   To compose a subject in the openness of space is to free and liberate it. Any negativity seen would be in the mind of the viewer not in what I am expressing. If there is in my work a negative in the negative space, perhaps it is the feeling of vulnerability . . .; for those who view vulnerability as a negative, of which I do not.

   There is also another objective in the use of this space, and that is creating timelessness. Often an absence of place __ and that is also negative space __ is an absence of time. Place and time bring limits in an image of which I want to avoid. The question of: What happened before, and what will happen after seldom occurs in the mind when viewing my work; I try to suspend time and place in my Still life images.

Siblings of the Pine

   This image, entitled “Siblings of the Pine”, is an example of a composition employing negative space. I do like this image very much. It is a still life that has an elegance of its own, where the intended message of peace, quiet and contentment is achieved. The timelessness, again contributed by the negative space, is an attribute found in the piece. One could not tell if it was an image of the fifties, nineties or early two thousands.

   In the early history of Still life the subject would be placed on a table with fabric and a visible horizon line. The modern contribution of seamless paper, as used in table top photography, eliminates that line, and as a result the notion of place is reduced even more.  

   One may have in their mind that this image gives the feeling of coldness, which was alluded to in the opening paragraph of this post. I would not say that this feeling in some viewers is because of the white space. Pine trees and their combs are often depicted being surrounded by snow. The pines are icons for the winter, like fallen leaves are icons for the autumn. So, perhaps the icon of winter is what really contributes to the feeling of coldness; not the negative space in and of itself. We are all influenced by popular culture, where as my work is not restrained by it.

   Another point that adds to the elegance of this image, is that three __ often considered the number of balance __ is the number of combs I isolated in the composition. The way in which they grew together creates this natural balance. The limb __ as part of the composition __ joins the combs together creating a united subject. I believe that without the negative space in place that balance would be lost and the message deluded.

   What do you think? Tell me what are your thoughts about the concept of negative space in art in general, and its use here in this image. I am sure we can all benefit from your thoughts.

An Open Letter To a Gallery

   This letter is dated at a time I was trying to receive gallery representation in Malmo, Sweden. I thought that posting it here would balance out my last blog post, and even being dated my stance is the same, and to me, the words remain true.

Hello,

    I want to thank you for allowing me to meet with you to show my work. I am pleased that you thought of it as elegant, clean, and in a well disciplined style, and that my voice is clear and compelling. 

    I want to say that the conversation that the three of us had about art was very important. The main idea I was expressing, is that there is a great responsibility for artists, and to some degree for galleries, to be directional in not short changing the goals of art, and not to dupe and misguide the public into thinking that what has little or no merit should be looked upon as having value.

    I said that I did agree that it is good for an artist to experiment from time to time, and there is real benefit in doing so. However, if the artist finds that the end result is cheap and lowers the ideals of art, then he needs to learn from the experiment and make the necessary changes to improve upon his craft. In this he matures as an artist and his collectors grow and mature as well. To hold on to an experiment when it is in bad taste, or because it is something new, different and edgy, is a show of immaturity, is childlike. Some of his collectors may not be fooled, but this is misleading to the general public, and the outcome for society is disillusionment.

   Now, if we can turn away from the creative process for a minute, let me say that every person __ artist or not __ has deep in him the knowledge of what is in good taste and what is not. When a person acts upon this inner guidance, he gives life to his heart, and he finds the way to truth. If he ignores it by accepting a decay of high standards, morals and nobility, he deadens his heart and loses his way. If this person happens to be an artist, he takes his viewers along with him, and deadens their hearts as well.

   For photographs in a gallery to display badly crafted pictures of what the society is becoming is hardly a real reason to praise and glorify the photographer and display his work.  I do not see any reason to display that kind work, even if the intent is to warn the society of where it is going by ignoring what is good and wholesome for itself. Artists should lift the viewers to high standards with their craft, and show that there is hope, even in a world of decay.

   If your response is that this is photo journalism, and the role of photo journalism is to show the events taken place and not to be a commentary on them.  I would say that the challenge of good photo journalism is to supply __ as best as one can __ the images of the people who stand with dignity and strength, and of those who face the issues of their society with hope and good will. He needs to find those images to balance out his photo journalistic project before displaying them to the public in the form of gallery representation. 

   You may not agree, and I do not see how I am mistaken. Morality and nobility are truths that do not change, even when some believe that there is no such thing. The society is in great need of them, and the people of integrity and goodwill appreciate that on the walls of an art gallery.

   Thank you.

Mujahid ‘Abdul-Ba’eth

   I did not get a response . . . Maybe they lost my email address.

   The art world is creating in the minds of the masses an acceptance of degrading imagery of which they call art, and many galleries are part of it __ I am not saying all galleries. Art schools are requiring their students to leave their personal values, morals and loyal commitments at the door of these schools for the sake of higher learning. This dumping down of the arts I believe is by design, and the society at large is repelled by it. The masses are more drawn to football, video games and the TV then to fine art, while artists of high standards are trying to educate and bring the public back to fine art, and they need their support.

   I ask that you express your thoughts on wheather you are drawn to, what is called "Modern Art", or are you repelled by much of it?  

Vulnerability

   Some of us believe our wealth defines who we are. We believe we are fortified, secured and sheltered behind it, and the more we accumulate of it the more secure we believe we are. We believe that our wealth makes us who we are, and when we do not have it, well, so what does that tell us about ourselves?

   For others it is their position in the world; they are ranked above the masses. This position makes pretenses that they are secure. The power that comes with it does not just put them at the top of the line, for them there is no line.

   Still, there are others, who have physical strength and beauty. They are the center of attraction, and being given preference over others often is taken for granted.

   So to openly step from behind what we possess, of which we have worked hard for, or our position in life, of which we fought for, or the physical beauty, of which we work hard to keep, is for many a real challenge; to sometimes get our hands dirty, to get in line, to go out without the makeup.

   We often resist these challenges. Perhaps the cause of our resistance is that we do not know if we will still be accepted, how we will be perceived, or if we can trust those who see our true selves; in other words, the fear of vulnerability.

   To always stay behind these advantages and their pretenses, can weaken our character; the illusion that we are, by them, protected, defined and preferred. To come out and make oneself vulnerable, even when it is uncomfortable and humbling strengthens character. 

Placed

Placed

  This image "Placed" is symbolic for that vulnerability. Granted it is only a spoon left on a table after all of the other utensils have been collected. Yet, it defines itself; not needing anything else to do that; no spoons, forks, knives to blend in with, or their shadows to hide behind. It is alone, exposed, vulnerable; and in this it's a strong image. 

   Placing oneself out there with no pretenses, as this isolated spoon, and then deal with the consequences, and deal with those consequences alone, and to face the fear is to be brave, and what is bravery except in overcoming one’s fear. 

   True, our wealth is an extension of who we are, and this is in no way denying and rejecting the benefits of it, and as every woman true to her nature wants a man of position, and every man true to his nature wants a woman of beauty, there are for sure advantages gained by them. However, these things are not who we are. Who we are may be better defined by our reaction to finding out that we have cancer, or because of an auto accident, become paralyzed. Our reaction to this is what really defines us, and having faith is what protects us. 

    We, as artist, are the most vulnerable. We put ourselves out there with each and every image, sculpture, dance, song, poem, novel, etc. We have to withstand the criticisms, mean commits and unkind words, and yet, we do it again and again and again. Yes, there are also words of encouragement which support what we do, and that is wonderful and reassuring, but regardless of the nature of the commits, we put ourselves out there.

   Even as I write this, I have to be authentic and real; talk is cheap. I have to stand my ground regardless of what I may lose by doing so. I have to champion this position by placing myself in the position of vulnerability, and therefore lead by example; to be like this spoon, and be strong.

   My own love of intimacy, tenderness and stillness is being revealed with each image I post, and I hope that by posting them, exposing my feelings through them, and writing my blogs, that my vulnerability causes a connection with you __ the viewers, my readers. Without that connection the role of the artist has failed, and that connection can not be achieved without him or her being vulnerable.

   Please tell me if I have connected. If I did, how was that done?

Fall from Bliss

   Bliss, is that wonderful state of being which brings to the body the feelings of rapture, and to the mind the total freedom from the mundane, the everyday; the state of complete joy and fulfillment, that state of detachment beyond time and place.

   However, for this post I am not referring to bliss as that state in which one reaches by certain disciplines like the practice of yoga, or jogging long distances to enter the zone of the runner’s high, or the climax reached by sexual pleasure. I am not referring to the drug induced state that wanes over time, where one gives up one’s ability to reason for its sake, nor do I mean that which takes no discipline, no practice, no inner will at all, but is stumbled upon like the “contact high”. 

   Perhaps one might ask, “How is it that you use the word bliss, but you do not intend by it that for which the word is coined? Are you not being a bit intellectually dishonest?” I am not rejecting the above usage, I am just not restricting it. 

   The meaning I am referring to is that natural state in which we were born, the one that young children are blessed with; as it is their birthright. You see it in their faces. You hear it in their giggles, their laughs, as they give you that reassuring glance that they are enjoying the experience of life. They live in that wonderful world of innocence. That is the bliss to which I refer. It is like love. I mean, do you achieve love, or do you just leave yourself open for it?

   We cannot go back to naïveté after experiencing the world. The world seems not to conform to our wants, but rather demands so much from us. Yet there are some that can maintain the state of bliss even in old age; they ride that wave of happiness. Their state seems to be in letting go of what binds them to the material world. They have found how to transcend and maintain the joy and still be responsible people.

Bliss

Bliss

   The image of this post is entitled “Bliss”. It is a visual for that state; the ecstasy that is given, not obtained. Its outstretched limbs are reaching out to embrace grace; an image of detachment, fulfillment and joy. 

   The composition I find gratifying and compelling. It reaches inside of me and causes me to reflect and to wonder about the beauty of that state of being.

   In photographing this subject, my intent was to take it out of any attachment to the material world, to time, to place, to render it timeless and not of  place, where its existence is above, not entangled with the world.

   Since “Bliss” is in editions of twenty five (25), of which I have one, I have yet to hang it. I move it from place to place; from alongside my bed where I can see it when I raise in the morning, or leaning against a wall on the floor where I often sip tea __ since I enjoy to sit on a carpeted floor __, to placing it in the bookshelf among my books. This is one of my favorite photos that live with me, and could also live with you.

   With all this in mind and my own observations, it seems that throughout our lives as human beings we are always trying to regain the state of which this image “Bliss” represents; that lost state, of which we are willing to do just about anything to regain. We grasp at a fleeting tangible thing trying to capture the intangible. Perhaps, our grasping for the tangible is what causes our fall, and perhaps one could argue that the fall from bliss is really the fall from Grace.

   What are your thoughts on this theme? Can you maintain bliss in your life? If you can, how do you? If you can not, why not? We can all benefit from what you have to offer. 

Protecting and Being Protected

     Each of us have deep within ourselves the need to protect, as well as the need to be protected. It is as natural to us as the need to love and be loved. The husband protects his wife. The Mother protects her new born children. The oldest child protects his or her younger siblings. We do not acquire this through experimentation or trial and error; it is innate. It is part of a universal design. 

Placed Over

Placed Over

   It is very subtle and yet very real that men are protected by their women, as in protecting their honor, submitting to their leadership and being grateful for their sacrifices. By this the returns to the women are great: loyalty, appreciation and yes, protection. It is the thing that makes the unions strong. 

   Knowing you are protected, you can count on him/her, they got your back, and you got theirs brings comfort and builds security. Take it away and one feels inadequate and incomplete as a man, woman, the "big brother". Any woman who has abandoned her child, any man who's child has been taken from him, and any big brother who has let his sables down, will never forgive him or herself for not performing the role of protector; regardless of the reasons.

   The image of this post, entitled “Placed Over”, explores this concept of protection. The upper utensil is symbolic for protecting the lower one, by which the lower is covered, sheltered and comforted. A woman said to me, after viewing this image at one of my solo shows, that it reminded her of a mother sheltering her child. My thought was that she transcended to the symbolic message; which is the aim of my work. I said to her, “It is interesting that the utensil you identify as mother is a fork, and the child a spoon”.

   When we meet a person who seems happy, balanced and well adjusted, know that that person is protected, and if they are not too young, are proud that they have someone under their protection.

   Do you think these traits are inter-connected, that is, when you find one you find the other? Or do you think that if one is protected and does not take on the role to protect, that he or she has filled their role of being human? Does the expression “You are your brother’s keeper” apply here, and does it apply both way’s? Leave a commit, and let me know your thoughts. 

Time Cycle

   Self discovery has cycles, and there are many of them throughout one’s life. Time will pass before reaching self awareness, as one cycle moves from and develops into another. The you of your past is not the you of today, and the you of today will not be the you of tomorrow. It will move on until it realizes its true nature.

   Likewise, art that connects with the self also has a cycle of its own. One’s taste in art changes and grows as the self changes and matures. A piece of art that connected and was appealing at one time may not connect and be appealing now.     

   The symbolism in my art may not be understood, and that maybe because of the cycle the viewer is in. Upon a deeper examination of the connections between objects one can begin to grow into a better appreciation. 

         

Seed Pod Time Cycle

Seed Pod Time Cycle

   The symbolism of the seed completing its cycles in the pod is that of the self completing its cycle in the body. The pod was its home, a temporary place to dwell, as the body a temporary home for the self. Over time the pod has given the seed what was needed, as the body has given what was needed for the self.

   The seed has now been released from its housing, as the self one day will be released from its body. Laying there bare, exposed, and helpless, come the realization of the true nature of one’s self.  

   Where are you in the cycle of self discovery, and has your connection with the arts brought you to a better understand of yourself? Leave a commit; perhaps we can benefit from your time cycle self-observations. 

 

A Positive, Could It be ?

   I could not just leave the image of the last post; there is more to explore. How open are we to read the messages from the inanimate?

Kept In Placed

Kept In Placed

   This image could be seen as an illustration of aggression, with the two prongs resembling fangs, grasping the lower part of the main subject. In this it could perhaps more appropriately resemble an attack; where the victim is being held down, not able to flee.

   With a passive interpretation, one could focus on a loss of freedom, where after a long fight, has resulted in defeat. Like that of the fly held in the spider’s web, after a long struggle being entangled, exhausted, submits to be taken.

   It seems that what happens with insects in their world, animals in their kingdom, and in the lives of humans, can be seen in the inanimate as well.

   With this or with the first interpretation, was there a point in your life that this image depicts?  If so, were you the aggressor or the submitter? Where you the active agent or the passive . . . and is it still being played out? If it is still being played out, how could that be a positive?

   However, there is another interpretation, and it is a positive. When one gives up what one’s wants for the sake of a cause; the cause is what holds and binds. Even with the difficulty and hardship, surrounding that cause, one submits, and one’s submission is with dignity and honor __ depicted with a bowed head in the main subject. With this, the message is: for the greater good, “I stand firm, I hear, and I obey”.

   Is there a cause that you take up, that holds and binds you? If so, and the cause is wholesome, constructive and right, then your conviction is a positive, honorable, and your position of being held down is too.

   If you see other interpretations that can be of benefit, please leave a commit below. 

An Ad Challenge

   In posting an ad on my Facebook business page, I realize I had a real challenge. I know that it is not just choosing the right image, and having it appeal to the right audience, but also in composing the text. Yes, I knew what I wanted to write, and the audience to whom it would appeal, but the challenge was creating the text as an ad. 

Here is the image: 

Kept In Place

Kept In Place

Here is the original text: 
   The giving up of one's hopes and dreams for the love of another creates devaluation of self. . . Which one in the image is giving up, and is that one male or female?

   Okay, that is not really an ad. It may strike a cord, and open up a discussion, but would it sell the image? 

Here is the text I went with: 
   Fine art for the fine and refined heart.

   Do you think this text would get the results I am looking for, or would it just start a discussion about a fine and refined heart?

   Please leave a commit below; hopefully, we can all benefit from it: