“Photography As ART” script shows how James creates his art using only light, camera, and optics, in addition to considerable logistical planning, technical experimentation, patience and dedication.
Image 21 shows the SHENANDOAH illusion, overall and in various shots, pans and tilts.
Two illusion samples that are wonderful representations of logistical planning in creating a piece of fine art photography are the SHENANDOAH and STANDBY LINE.
The Shenandoah photograph was taken in Vineyard Haven Harbor along the Vineyard Sound, which has a long seafaring history that has been well recorded since the area’s discovery by Italian explorer Verrazano. It was by British invasion fleets during the Revolutionary War, merchant and whaling ships, and is the graveyard to thousands of ships lost in storms.
Image 22, 23, 24 of beautiful figurehead examples are shown in pans, tilts, and overall.
Through the ages it was common for ships to have a figurehead at their bow. Traditionally, sailor superstitions thought women or their effigies would seduce and lure them to shipwreck on reefs or rocky coasts. Oddly enough, another long-standing myth was that a nude or semi-nude woman could calm turbulent seas.
By the 19th century, when women became more common in public life and on voyages, sailors often adopted a bare breasted mermaid to charm and calm the seas.
Beautiful examples exist that once graced tall ships. The white figurehead was at the bow of the Cutty Sark, built in 1869, and among the fastest and last British clipper ships.
Image 25 shows a wide-angle view of the SHENANDOAH in pans, tilts, overall, and ends back on Image 21, which was the select photograph.
In order to represent this historical era of shipping in the Vineyard area, James had that growing creative urge to recreate this 19th century vision of a figurehead on the bow of a tall ship anchored in harbor, only this time with a real, live figure. The only potential set back was being able to commandeer the only tall ship available, the SHENANDOAH.
This 108-foot square topsail schooner was owned by Bob Douglas, from the Quaker Oats family. I needed his permission to use his vessel, and one day I came on board to find him at the helm and asked. I had been terribly nervous about being rejected, there being no other option, but I was elated when he gave me the go ahead. I can only guess that that my established reputation as a photographer in the area influenced his decision.
Another nagging concern was how the real female figurehead was going to maintain a position at the bow without being tied up, which would have spoiled the purity of the photograph (Photoshop wasn’t an option yet, and is never an option in his photographic art). Again, there was elation in finding the bow sprit was long enough to hold her.
The making of Figurehead required assistance of two small craft. One was to keep the schooner in position against the shifting current so the harbor landscape, I wanted, remained properly in the background. The other was to serve as the shooting platform. Also, an assistant to the muse, Ann, would hide in the bow in case something was needed.
I planned to take the shot early morning, before everyone’s busy day schedules began. All I needed was the right weather: calm and clear. With that creative urge eating away at me, it was about three weeks of looking out at the dawn sky, when the right conditions appeared. On pins and needles the calls went out, and I could only hope all the volunteers would participate as planned.
They did! As the 7am ferry steamed by, successful results were being taken with my medium format film camera. Where the schooner normally carries at its bow a contemporary magnificent eagle, it took a temporary step back in time by showing a maiden figure that was common in the days of old.
Image 26 and 27 shows two of the works by Norman Rockwell in pans, tilts, overall, and is followed by Image 28, The STANBY LINE illusion.
Another of James’ photographic art pieces were logistics and staging take center stage is called the STANBY LINE illusion. It draws on similar backdrop as Norman Rockwell’s COMMUTERS WAITING AT CRESTWOOD TRAIN STATION and UNION TRAIN STATION, CHICAGO, only in this case people are standing by on line for when it’s time to board the ferry. While they wait, they go off to buy donuts and coffee, or play ball, throw a Frisbee for their dog, sit at the water’s edge look out over the harbor, or simply pass the time reading. (With a sense of humor) Oh my, I guess some also get in some nude sunbathing before leaving the dock…
The photograph is meant to be playful and humorous. To make it happen, the locals in charge of running this Steamship Authority dock had to lend a hand. Lucky for me, they were well aware of passion for photography and agreed to help.
To tell the story visually, this photograph had to be taken during the height of the summer busy season, and on the busiest days of Saturday or Sunday. As always, having the right weather conditions would start the creative process. When that day came, I asked the steamship guys to leave a couple of spaces open at the back end, so a truck carrying our nude bathing beauty could be parked in the foreground of the photograph.
My neighbor loaned me his black truck. I made black panels for the sides so while it was parked people at ground level could not see in, which would certainly have become a distraction… or should I say an attraction. The renown Harbor View Hotel contributed a beach lounge chair for the muse to lie on, and small table. A florist friend would make a bouquet to add a colorful decoration to the table.
I asked another friend, who worked for the phone company and had a bucket truck, if he would be on call for when the right time on a weekend came, to execute the plan. Lucky me again, to have him enthusiastically say “yes.”
I can tell you, with all this staging, now waiting for the right time to execute, was nerve racking! Finally, one busy August Saturday fit the bill and the plan was set in motion. All went well with having the empty space. Another friend, you can see his elbow, drove my muse and parked the truck in the spot. Then telephone truck came, and parked at the right position. I, with camera in hand, was about to go up in the bucket to get the shot when a huge semi-trailer truck pulled and parked in the scene to be photographed. Nooooo, ugly I can’t have that, it had to go! I thought I’d be asking too much, but amazingly, in all that congestion, the steamship guys had the semi driver move the truck. I then went up 50 feet in the bucket from where STANBY LINE was taken. Funny, from that perspective, the black panels are barely noticeable, and no one on the line ever noticed anything bare or unusual that day.
THE END of Scene Four