Hal Royaltey (hal) Sun 16 Jul 06 00:10
Ted Orland lives in Santa Cruz, California, where he pursues parallel careers in teaching, writing & photography. Having learned classical photography in the era of 4x5s, he now teaches digital photography in the age of megapixels. Teds own photographic style is quirky, eclectic and somewhat difficult to categorize -- but if youd like to try, examples are readily found at www.tedorland.com. Teds writings are (mercifully) more accessible. He is the co-author (with David Bayles) of the best-selling book "Art & Fear", and author of its newly-released companion volume, "The View From The Studio Door" -- both self-published under the Image Continuum Press imprint. Leading our discussion with Ted is Christina Florkowski (<chrys> here on the Well). Chris has been making photographic images for more than 25 years. Like Ted, she began working in what we now fondly call traditional methods using silver-based film and papers. She spent a long time honing the skill of painting on photographs, a skill that has become nearly obsolete in the absence of suitable photographic papers. Needing to choose between abandoning image-making or taking up digital tools, she with great angst chose digital. Her handpainted and digital work can be seen at her website: www.chrisflorkowski.com. Co-host of the Wells Photography Conference, she is also a founding member of the Salonistas, the regular artist gathering Ted mentions in his book The View From The Studio Door. Welcome to the Inkwell Ted and Chris!
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Sun 16 Jul 06 08:46
Thanks Hal, and thank you for this opportunity to host Ted's interview. Knowing Ted as I have for a long time, I continue to be surprised to learn new things about him. Usually, this happens when I am present at a lecture, workshop or gallery opening where Ted is asked to introduce himself. So, I am looking forward to learning something new as I ask Ted to tell us a little about his background specifically about those things in his past that he feels contributed to landing him where he is now as a photographer, educator and author.
Ted Orland (tedorland) Sun 16 Jul 06 11:52
I once read a book on famous naval battles that opened with the clear disclaimer that the role of the historian was to lay a veneer of seeming purpose and direction over what was, in truth, simply a case of coping with all hell breaking loose all around you. For the longest time I was sure that any description of my own life would necessarily display that same caveat. But now that the threads of my life -- the writing, the artmaking, the teaching -- have each had about a half-century to play out, I realize that I actually can trace each strand back to a few pivotal moments and, more importantly, to meetings with a few remarkable people. I spent my senior year in college apprenticing with master printer Saul Marks of the Plantin Press, and following graduation worked for several years for designer Charles Eames. Then in 1966 I enrolled (somewhat on a whim) in a photography workshop that offered two weeks in Yosemite with someone named Ansel Adams. Seemed innocent enough. Changed my life. It took a few years, but slowly I disengaged the L.A. design world and in 1971 moved north to Carmel to work as Ansels assistant (and eventually to teach at his annual workshop for, as best I recall, fifteen summers). The neat thing about great people is that they have great friends. (Birds of a feather, etc.) Ansel brought me into contact with other legendary figures in the field like Beaumont Newhall and Imogen Cunningham, while his workshops introduced me to fellow travelers from my own generation like Sally Mann and David Bayles. It was in fact my correspondence with these kindred spirits that led to my first effort at self-publishing: a round-robin Journal for sharing our ideas (all at a time long before the internet had been conceived). So, looking back, I realize now that my life took a set early. All that followed has been, in simplest terms, a matter of keeping my eye on the far horizon, trying to hold to a steady compass bearing, and hopefully having the chance to make a few mid-course corrections along the way. My only other qualification -- no doubt the result of being a Taurus -- is a certain stubborn perseverence. That helps too.
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Sun 16 Jul 06 15:23
<It was in fact my correspondence with these kindred spirits that led to my first effort at self-publishing: a round-robin Journal for sharing our ideas (all at a time long before the internet had been conceived).> (Be careful Ted, someone may accuse you of claiming to have invented the Internet.) I guess you are speaking about Image Continuum there, yes? Who was involved with that and how where you able to pull that self-publishing venture off before the days of computers and scanners?
Ted Orland (tedorland) Mon 17 Jul 06 14:53
Thirty-odd years ago the photographic community was so tiny that it was entirely possible to know just about everyone who was seriously involved in the medium. But with only one photography gallery (Witkin in NYC) and only one serious magazine (Aperture) devoted to the art, the problem was finding a way to make actual contact with your fellow travelers. In that regard, Ansel Adams annual Yosemite Workshops proved a perfect place for aspiring photographers to meet. Each year his workshop drew in about 60 students for two weeks of intensive fieldwork, critiques and heavy-duty discussions. Each year (beginning in 1967) I attended that workshop, and each year Id come away with another new circle of friends. But in the Era of Snail Mail there was one big problem to that arrangement: at the end of each workshop wed all return to our far-flung homes, and there existed no mechanism for continuing a round-robin conversation. It was against that backdrop, at one of those workshops in the early 1970s, that a small group of us myself, Sally Mann, Chris Johnson, Robert Langham, Boone Morrison and David Bayles -- conjured up the idea to form an artists group. We christened it The Image Continuum, and laid plans for self-publishing a small Journal for sharing our in-progress work and ideas and correspondence. At the time we were all fledgling artists-to-be, lacking a single exhibit or published work among the whole bunch of us but all eager to make the future happen. So in the weeks that followed the workshop, Id borrow Ansels big IBM Selectric typewriter, bring it home with me for the evening, and re-type pages and pages of letters and writings Id received from others in the Group (and anyone else who expressed an interest). Id then take the typewritten pages down to Kinkos to xerox. Since we couldnt afford halftone illustrations, we agreed that wed each contribute an edition of original silver prints to serve as the Journals illustrations. In the end we settled on an edition of one hundred copies of each issue the size of the edition set by our stamina at producing the original prints we tipped-in to each copy. There was a lot of hand-work involved I remember David Bayles & I spending a full eight hours one day dry-mounting everyones silver prints onto the letter-size sheets, and then a couple more hours collating all the pages. The Journal brought us together as friends & artists, allowing us to share our ideas and images years before we ever could have discovered each other from appearances in galleries or magazines. No copies were ever sold. It was for us alone. We simply divided all the copies among those who had contributed words and images to the issue, and they in turn gave away their copies to their artist friends. It was an artists community, and even if our efforts did not change the world, they did change *us*.
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Tue 18 Jul 06 16:45
There are a lot of interesting rabbit holes we could go down in that response, Ted. Ill probably track back at some point, but for now, lets move forward Was it the contribution to, and publication of, The Image Continuum that sparked the project that resulted in your first book, Man and Yosemite and the whole notion of writing for publication?
Ted Orland (tedorland) Tue 18 Jul 06 21:16
Curiously, Man & Yosemite both precedes *and* follows the Image Continuum Journal. I developed a fascination with the history of Yosemite from the moment I first visited the Valley in 1967. My curiosity was graciously indulged by Ansels wife Virginia, who had a marvelous collection of Western Americana in her library, including some excessively rare memorabilia from Yosemite itself. And the Yosemite Museum at the time a tiny backwater in a sea of bureaucracy -- was flattered that anyone was interested in their holdings. The curator there would happily lock me into the museum's Vault in the morning, and Id equally happily peruse cartons and file drawers of old photographs all day long. For days on end! I was especially intrigued by that fact that (amazingly enough) Yosemite was never visited by the white man until *after* the invention of photography. As such, we have an almost continuous photographic record of our relationship with this gentle wilderness. I didnt really DO anything with all the knowledge I was collecting, however, until about 1970, when I decided I needed a graduate degree in order to apply for teaching jobs. So I enrolled at San Francisco State University, which was just starting a new program called Interdisciplinary Creative Arts -- and they pretty much left me to define that title any way I liked. Given that freedom, I chose to write about the early history of Yosemite as it could be interpreted through photographs of the period. And truly, it is fascinating to study successive images, each recording the same space from a different point in time its almost like watching a time-lapse movie. You watch as forests progressively overrun meadows; roads widen or move or disappear; and people come, bearing rifles or frisbees, wagons or motorcycles. (After all, God may have created Yosemite, but *man* created Yosemite National Park.) Well, I could go on for pages but hey, thats why I wrote a book! Suffice it to say that I had completed my research and a fairly complete draft of Man & Yosemite by 1972, but it was 1985 before I was actually did the layout and design, and self-published it. And yes, the IC Journals -- coming inbetween those two dates -- no doubt went a long way toward bolstering my confidence (and actually preparing me) to undertake a real book.
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Wed 26 Jul 06 08:44
Ill bet there is a continuing connection between the IC Journals and your next and - until Art and Fear came along - my favorite, of your books: Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity. In fact in many ways it seems like a continuation of sorts. For those who may not be familiar with Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity it is a record of Teds letters to Sally Mann liberally sprinkled with images of the time represented by the correspondence. It is funny, and sharp and provides insights into Teds development as an artist, instructor and author. It is one of those unusual books that defy categorization as it isnt simply a coffee table book of great images, nor is it simply a collection of correspondence it is very nearly a history of its time. The vignettes with Imogen Cunningham and Ansel Adams walking across the page are rich and are by themselves worth the price of admission. (One of my favorite stories is of Paul Caponigro stealthily seeking an alternative darkroom to Ansels ) And it is great to have a collection of Orland classic images (ie. Gate and Guard Dog The Death of West Coast Photography: An Allegorical Portrait etc.) For me, Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity is just a step away from Art and Fear (written with David Bayles) and your new book The View from the Studio Door. One can read the Scenes of Wonder the stories of the frustrations and delights of teaching art, the struggles of doing your own work, relating different approaches to art-making and the thrill of those moments when the planets align and the image is made. Perhaps you can say something about the path traveled from Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity to the recent books. (Everybody, pull up the lawn chairs, this could take a while and it will be fun!)
Ted Orland (tedorland) Wed 26 Jul 06 13:49
Ah, Chris, youve found me out: I really am a one-trick pony! Everything Ive written has been pretty much drawn from life, as it were. And of course thats doubly true for my photography. The wonderful thing about photography (at least in its pre-digital form) is that its intensely experiential. Simply put, to make a photograph, you actually have to BE THERE. Getting there, of course, is the tricky part. My theory admittedly putting the cart before the horse -- is that if you lead an interesting life, youll make interesting art. (How could it be otherwise?) And so I try (albeit with mixed success) to pick interesting paths to follow, and then let my art follow along in its wake. Over the years, however, Ive slowly gravitated toward the written word. Perhaps Im just slowing down and find it easier to sit at a word processor than climb a mountain on any given day, but there are artistic reasons as well. For one thing, my photographic career sure doesnt seem to be building to a grand Wagnerian climax with a one-person show at MOMA, and so theres good reason for me to find other ways to share my ideas. After all, maybe two thousand of my prints have found good homes over the past few decades, but two hundred thousand copies of Art & Fear have found readers in just the past few years. That opportunity, all by itself, is a major incentive to throw more energy into the writing.
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Wed 26 Jul 06 14:10
It seems though - that you are going a step further with "View from the Studio Door' in that you wish to engage in a *dialogue* with the readers, yes? Why is that? Did you and David get much reader feedback from 'Art & Fear'?
therese (therese) Wed 26 Jul 06 14:32
I brought a hammock and a cooler! Thanks, Chris, for hosting this interview, and welcome, Ted. I really like the questions you posed in 'The View from the Studio Door.' There's a richness to be had in attempting to answer them. I also really appreciate the generosity of your spirit in sharing your experiences and perspective with us, providing a rough map for artists, with your book.
Ted Orland (tedorland) Wed 26 Jul 06 15:33
In answer to Chris' comment about establishing a dialog with readers -- Yes,The View was designed from the word Go with reader feedback in mind. I just love the idea that books dont have to be monologues that they could instead be slowly-evolving conversations (sort of like playing chess by mail). In the back of the book, in fact, I even listed the email address for reaching me with their observations. Besides, The View clearly provides more questions than answers -- in fact thru many early drafts its working title was Questions Worth Asking. Thats one reason for the large side margins on the pages of that book -- to provide space for readers to jot down their own stories, ideas, counter-arguments to the ideas theyre reading about. Im really attracted to the idea of incorporating such insights from readers into future printings. (Ha! -- such optimism to think there even WILL be future printings!) Those margins are also in some sense a delayed response to feedback from readers of Art & Fear, many of whom have commented on the need for more page space for adding their own annotations to that text. I think that the lack of a space to "save" your ideas as you read may be one reason why most of the comments we've received from readers of Art & Fear have been fairly broad-based. With The View, Ive already received as much *specific* feedback about *specific* text passages in the past three months as weve received about Art & Fear over the past decade.
Hal Royaltey (hal) Wed 26 Jul 06 16:23
NOTE: Offsite readers with questions or comments can email them to: <email@example.com> to have them added to this conversation.
Diane Brown (debunix) Wed 26 Jul 06 18:01
I've been looking at your website, Ted, and reading what you said about "Man and Yosemite", I see how consistent the images on the site are in capturing the relationship between people and their environment. In a beautiful natural setting where I might be cursing the man-made object that is interfering with my now-spoiled vista, you find a way to celebrate both, with grace and good humor. That seems like a smart strategy to remove some stress from the photographic life.
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Wed 26 Jul 06 22:00
Welcome Therese and Diane! It is good to see familar friends from the Photography Conference. Therese, if you don't mind me aiming a question at you, have you found a particular question (or line of questioning) particularly useful? If so, which question might that be?
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Wed 26 Jul 06 22:07
Diane, have you ever seen Ted's poster "Photographic Truths"? Your comment reminds me - in a round about way - of one of the 'truths' featured on it: "The best scenic views are clearly designated by highway signs reading "No Stopping Anytime"."
therese (therese) Thu 27 Jul 06 06:34
The question that resonates deeply with me is, 'What makes art worth doing?' I'm fifty years old; when I was forty-five I sold a small business I had and I started writing. I wrote a screenplay, then a novel from the screenplay, and then I began a second novel, one that I am in the middle of writing right now. During that time I picked up a camera for the first time in my life and when I'd take long walks, I started taking photos. I fell in love with photography. Now I spend my days writing and taking photos. Ted's book brings up some of the questions I have faced as I've made the decision to spend my days doing this. There is a bit of terror involved in gambling on yourself this way, and in the beginning you have nothing to show for it but an idea of what you think you might be able to do. So the question, 'What makes art worth doing?' is one I ask myself every day.
putting your geek boots on (marvy) Thu 27 Jul 06 07:36
Hi, Ted. Another damn photographer named Chris here. I just received my copy of "The View..." so I'll endeavor to participate in this conversation a bit. Oh, also should mention that I took a class with you at Penland School of Craft. Probably in the late seventies (sheesh, we're old, sorry to remind everyone). Oh, and I have a print of yours on the wall of my cabin. So, hello again, look forward to the book and what you have to say about it.
Ted Orland (tedorland) Thu 27 Jul 06 08:33
Hi Therese! It appears our lives follow parallel tracks. I worked straight 9-to-5 jobs until finally stepping off that particular treadmill at about age 40. Later I taught at Stanford & Univ of Oregon for a few years before concluding that fulltime teaching was so psychically draining that I had no energy left for my own artmaking. Now I teach part-time at a community college, photograph whatever crosses my path, and write about things that interest me. Theres no shortage of downsides to leading a life of economic levitation, but *nothing* outweighs the satisfaction that comes with following a path of your own choosing. All thats just to lay the groundwork for saying that its my sense that the question you raise -- What makes art worth doing? -- must surely be closely intertwined with another question: What makes life worth living? If you can resolve one, it will carry the other along for the ride. Some people (like me) find their calling in art, and it changes their lives; others lead a rich life, and it either informs their art or probably more often that life *is* their art.
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Thu 27 Jul 06 08:50
Welcome <marvy>! Ted, for *years* I have been saying that 'Art and Fear' needn't be limited to artists - that most people face the same issues in their lives regardless of how they make their livelihood. In fact, I'd seen it as a very nearly perfect book. And yet, Ted, you obviously felt there was more that needed addressing. What was it that made you jump back in to produce "The View From The Studio Door"?
Ted Orland (tedorland) Thu 27 Jul 06 10:05
Hi Chris-from-Penland. First, a brief overview for the uninitiated amongst you: Penland School of Crafts is a truly wonderful arts center nestled up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It offers a broad array of two-week live-in summer workshops in disciplines ranging from glassblowing to ceramics to weaving to photography (and more). Im a big fan of workshops, and include an extended passage about them in The View. The particular workshop you mention brings back fond memories of volleyball games and llamas and wild electrical storms and communal meals and lotsa comraderie. And oh, right, artmaking was all rolled into that ball as well. I also recall one particular facet of Penland that revealed -- well, that a bit of the Old South was still alive and well. It turned out that back in 1980 (and maybe still) North Carolina allowed alcohol sales to be regulated on a county by county basis and as luck would have it, Penland was in a dry county. So once a week wed send a runner off to to buy gin & related beverages from the nearest wet county that had a state-run liquor store, which for us turned out to be in Asheville, about 60 miles away. Well, the second or third time our courier went into the Asheville ABC store, the clerk took our wish-list, returned with the requested items, placed them on the counter, looked both ways, and then added in a low voice, Heres your order, but if youd like to get some of the really good stuff... --- at which point he proceeded to reach under the counter and pull out a jug of 200-proof bootleg WHITE LIGHTNING moonshine! At the State Liquor Store! Well, suffice it to say that the spiked lemonade at our parties that summer became a permanent addition of the legend & lore of Penland. It may also be the reason my memories of the workshop are so pleasantly fuzzy .
Ted Orland (tedorland) Thu 27 Jul 06 14:45
(This is in response to Chris comment about the path from Art & Fear to The View.) Yes, Art & Fear *is* a nearly perfect book (the co-author modestly allows). Actually I feel comfortable saying that because more than half the credit for its success assuredly belongs with David Bayles at the core of things, Art & Fear was Davids brainchild, and he worked for a year or more developing much of its structure before approaching me with the idea of collaborating to push it ahead. Even at that, it took another eight years or so to bring it to closure. And yes, the two books do explore different territory. Art & Fear focused directly on the day-to-day obstacles that artists face when they sit down at their easel or keyboard and try to get at the work they need to do. David & I shared the conviction that the essential first step to building a life in the arts is simply getting past the obstacles that keep that initial brushstroke from ever reaching the canvas in the first place. Art & Fear attempted to provide advice & strategies for reaching precisely that end. In The View From The Studio Door, conversely, I tried to take aim on larger issues that stand to either side of that artistic moment of truth. I wanted to explore questions up to and including the dreaded, What is Art? -- in other words, the kind of questions that would probably leave you completely paralyzed if you asked them while standing there paintbrush in hand. But on the flip side, if you *never* engage the large questions, you might lose (or never develop) the desire to pick up the paintbrush in the first place. I think one significant common denominator between A&F and View (and one reason theyve found an audience in the art community) is that both books look at artmaking from the artists perspective -- not via external probings from academic researchers or pop psychologists or art historians. And from a strictly literary standpoint, both books fill a vacuum in the way art is approached and discussed. It may not be evident now, but at the time Art & Fear was published, there was *nothing* on the bookstore shelves dealing with -- as the books subtitle reads -- the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. For analogously the same reason, theres no obvious shelf space today in bookstores for The View, which examines the nature of artmaking its relationship to history and society and the marketplace and the art establishment and education -- from that same artists perspective. It remains to be seen whether "The View From The Studio Door" will avoid the Remainder Table long enough to establish its own niche, but I was determined to at least *try* to lay the groundwork for a practical philosophy of artmaking for all of us who attempt to make art on a continuing basis.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 27 Jul 06 17:58
One wonderful this is that it is small. I thought of Elements of Style and other small books that concentrate wisdom, though this is not technical. I think that picking this up in a bookstore one can tell it is of value and there's no question that the reader can either choose to savor or devour it. I hope that makes it irresistable.
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Thu 27 Jul 06 23:58
Ted, way back in an earlier post, you wrote <With The View, Ive already received as much *specific* feedback about *specific* text passages in the past three months as weve received about Art & Fear over the past decade.> Are there any themes to the feedback you are receiving? Do readers resonate with particular questions? Has anyone offered useful answers? And a reminder to those not on the Well who may be reading this: Your questions, comments or observations are welcome and can be contributed by emailing <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
(bratwood) Fri 28 Jul 06 07:47
Hi Ted, Thanks for being here. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts. I went back to school in 2001 to study printmaking and took one drawing course in the process. Our instructor didn't seem to think any of us needed specific drawing instruction. So he read to us, every class, from "Art & Fear." A wonderful way to spend the afternoon drawing, if the book isn't already on tape, it's a perfect candidate. I'm currently doing research on creative innovation process as part of a master's program. Specifically, I'm looking at the cross pollination between artists' books movement and graphic design. Of course the overlap between the fine and applied arts has been debated forever. Academics are all over the board there. I am especially interested to hear your ideas on art education and fostering creativity. It seems some instructors focus on technique, some on concept, and none on methodology. I wonder what is on the horizon. I think "Practice Led Research" in the fine arts is going to be a tremendous influence in coming decades. I recently participated in an online discussion of this trend. Led by Professor Ken Friedman (seminal figure in Fluxus), it was a substantial insight into the growth of new knowledge in the arts -- knowledge coming from practicing artists as opposed to researchers and historians without arts experience. It ought to be fascinating to watch this trend develop.
Ted Orland (tedorland) Fri 28 Jul 06 11:09
Well, I can see Im in grave danger of falling behind the curve here in keeping up with the new postings. As Chris -- our moderator here, and a long-time friend -- could tell you, my usual writing style performs at a one-sentence-per-hour pace. At any rate, Gails entry (#38) struck a very responsive chord with me. When David & I were working on Art & Fear, Strunk & Whites The Elements of Style was quite literally our role model for good writing not their advice per se, but the writing itself. The text in Elements is clear, interesting, pithy and mercifully brief. And its completely free from fluff -- you learn something from every sentence in that book. We figured that if we could capture those qualities in our book well, that in itself would be a worthwhile accomplishment. BTW, in perusing books at the bookstore I often run a simple control test for those very qualities. My approach, upon picking up any book, is to randomly open it (in the manner of cutting a deck of cards) and read one paragraph from whatever page Ive landed on. Perhaps surprisingly, its amazingly easy to tell from just that snippet whether the rest of the book will prove interesting (or readable).
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