Welcome friends - I'm posting published articles and sundry items as time allows. Most subjects pertain to conservation, photo trekking and tourism in borderlands Arizona, USA. More of my articles can be seen on my publisher's website

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Article: The Other Missions

Published May 2012 in "Tubac Villager"

Tsunamis are not too common in Tubac, and neither, thank goodness, are earthquakes. The latter are truly at fault for having a nasty habit of bringing the future of brick and mortar structures to a grinding halt.
Neglect and abandonment have done their gradual damage to the Spanish missionary structures of Eusebio Kino’s Sonoran Desert, but the California missions of Junipero Serra came to a more sudden conclusion. And more than once, at that.

Mission San Juan Capistrano. Between Long Beach 
and San Diego, the still-standing chapel of this 
mission is the only extant building in which 
Serra said Mass. From time to time today, 
swallows call this place home.
Throughout the centuries of their existence, many of the missions of California Alta have tumbled to dust and were repeatedly repaired, strengthened, or replaced. The continual resources devoted to salvaging these structures attest to their value as part of our heritage. Today, the Catholic Church owns nineteen California missions, and the state of California owns two. Responsibility for upkeep is more complicated.
Since heritage photography is that thing I do, the California missions draw my attention, along with those in southern Arizona. A heritage photographer worth his salt doesn’t stop at the skin-deep beauty of the structures, but will delve into the past to understand their provenance. Coincidentally, now, the April 2012 issue of “Noticias de Anza”, the bulletin of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, features the “parallel lives” of the two men behind the missions. 
Reaching from today’s Mexico into the entire southern part of today’s United States, the Viceroyalty of New Spain wanted assimilation: command and control of its new territories, and along with the military, missionaries such as Kino and Serra entered this grand stage as a fundamental part of that effort.  Their goal was of course to convert zealously the locals to Christianity.
The two chains of self-sustaining mission villages created first by Kino, then Serra, are the focus of my attention. A few comparative facts of these missionaries are offered as follows:
Father Eusebio Francisco Kino ~ Father Junipero Serra 
Pimeria Alta (Sonora/Arizona) ~ Alta California
lived 1645-1711 ~  lived 1713-1784
Jesuit order ~ Franciscan order
died age 66 ~ died age 71
buried at Magdalena, Sonora ~ buried at Carmel, California
indomitable energy ~ indomitable energy
Even though they lived at different times, as the “Noticias de Anza” informs, the lives of these two great men intersected, in a way, at Tucson’s Mission San Xavier del Bac. It was Kino, a Jesuit, who initiated the first missionary activities there, but it was Franciscans later who oversaw the final construction of the main structure we enjoy today.

Mission La Purisima Concepción, in a blissful rural setting near Lompoc, was entirely rebuilt
 by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression of the 1930s. 
Since then, enough time has passed to add the charm of age.
By policy, California’s missions were built close to the mighty Pacific ocean. Just imagine that magnificent country in the pristine splendor of those times!
But this was also earthquake country. The inevitable damage or destruction of the California missions by earthquakes spared the two examples extant here in southern Arizona. This benefits current pilgrims in the sense that our structures, not having been rebuilt, may be somewhat more original. Even so, the current, local Tumacácori structure is a second rendition of that mission, having been moved from the east side of the Santa Cruz River and itself having fallen into severe disrepair from neglect.
In southern Arizona there are, as far as I can tell, three other mission structures with bits and pieces still above ground, but their remains can’t approach the photogenic charm of Tumacácori or the magnificence of San Xavier. It’s hard to go wrong photographing these precious relics of our heritage. Photographer Ansel Adams, my “mentor,” famously captured San Xavier’s exterior on film from the 1940s through the 1960s. For exterior pictures of the White Dove of the Desert, (not to mention most landscapes in the great American West), you can probably start and stop with Ansel. 

Mission Santa Barbara. This structure, the first built after the death of Father Serra, 
is graced by the Mediterranean climate of California’s central coast. As are we all.
But, if you insist on making your own pictures, the Spanish missions of either Arizona or California offer a perfect destination for travel and heritage photography. A trip for a week or two visiting most of the California missions is a dandy notion. Only a few no longer exist. When photographing them, a few hints: use a tripod indoors without flash, since flash is no good due to “hot spots.” Any tourists in the way will probably blur out due to the time exposure. For outdoors, move backward and take maximum advantage of the (sometimes rural) settings of these precious structures. Plan your day for just the right angle of sunlight.
As part of their reward, Father Kino is now approaching beatification in the Roman Catholic Church, and Friar Serra is headed toward sainthood. You, the borderlands photographer, may or may not be saintly, but immersing yourself thoroughly in the sepia-toned history of Old California and Old Arizona is itself a very fine reward.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Article: My Buyers' Guide to Fine Art Photography

Murray Bolesta’s Buyers’ Guide to Fine Art Photography and Philosophy of Life (Short Version!)

Value -

My art is not cheap and is worth every penny and more; I produce compelling images with the highest artistic and technical merit. Meticulous attention is given to every detail of an image, from visualization and composition to editing, printing and final inspection (and matting & dry-mounting if you order them). Often I print several copies of an individual order before I choose the perfect print for shipment. The others are destroyed. No two prints will be precisely the same: this is not a factory.

Dimension and orientation -

The relative dimensions (height and width) and orientation (vertical or horizontal) will depend upon the artistic composition. No standard size or orientation will be used (such as 8x10 horizontal) unless it optimizes the composition. If there must be a standard dimension, I prefer the 8x12 to 8x10, as it is much more elegant  and visually pleasing. Accommodating discounted standard framing can be left to others.

Aesthetic appeal and decorative appeal -

Buyers of fine art photography are often less concerned about coordination with home furnishings than buyers of decorative art. Buyers often are driven by subject but are also by composition and quality of technical rendering. Other more personal elements are taste, style, emotional appeal, and of course, affordability. Many fine art buyers rely on instinct, on an immediate attraction.

Composition, or balance, is the basic structure of any image: its spine. Fine art photography will exploit a natural balance within a scene’s subjects and distribution of light. Expert composition will de-emphasize or eliminate extraneous subjects. Each major region of an image will possess its own contributing merit. Fine art photography will rarely be a snapshot.

Color harmony and context of colors in an image will produce a fine art photograph. Often the point of an art image is not the color at all; instead it’s the composition, subject, contrast, and texture. Thus a mediocre color image can be transformed into art as monochrome. Also, color often is managed to produce increased harmony or enhanced impact.

Photographs which have been significantly altered, or rendered, digitally, to produce an unnatural effect of fantasy are not fine art photographs; they are digital art.

Fine Art Nature Photography -

All subjects must be photographed in wild nature, with no zoos, museums, arboretums, or other controlled circumstances acceptable.

Technical merit -

A fine art photograph has meticulous attention doted upon every centimeter. Technically, most significant is what does not exist: There will no unintended overexposed or underexposed regions which obscure detail. There will be no digital “noise” or dots and streaks in the image. There will be no unintended blur or out-of-focus regions, or excessively sharpened regions. There will be no unintended disharmony of color. Digitally, there must be sufficient resolution to produce enlargements without loss of quality.

Activism -

Fine art photography strives for commentary on the human condition or issues of activism such as conservation. This can be expressed in the image and in the motivations and adjunct work of the artist.

Printing and displaying -

A fine art photograph will be printed by the artist, since fully half of the value of the image comes from a faithful paper reproduction of a photographic negative or digital frame. The paper should be premium heavy material, perhaps cotton, specifically designed for fine artwork.

Fine art photography, like all art, is meant to last indefinitely. “Archival” is often used here. This will require premium photo paper, and glass or acrylic protection which contains ultra-violet light filtering. Matting the photograph will remove and protect the paper from glass. The hung art print should have very minimal or no exposure to direct sunlight.

A fine art photograph should be signed by the artist, and may include a title. The location of the signature will be visibly on the front and could either be on a corner of the image itself or just outside the image on the white margin. My matting and mounting solution (for sale in my Etsy shop and elsewhere) allows for a visible signature in the white margin.

Finally, the point of a fine art photograph is the image, not the frame. The frame should enhance and protect the image but not overwhelm it.

Opinion: Wal-Mart et al

Homogenization of the planet, economic imperialism, corporate greed, corruption. Decades ago, Coca-Cola was one of the first, offering colored sugar water to destroy the health of human beings across the globe.

Boycott this stuff. Buy local, buy healthy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Opinion: War on Women or Civil War?

Let's call it for what it is. For the past, roughly, 7 or 8 years, I feel this country has entered a civil war. Civil War - without the cannon and Enfield rifles, perhaps, but it is a civil war. Instead of north and south, it's left and right. Red and Blue. Fox vs. MSNBC. A huge divide has opened, in large part based upon the wealth divide, and in large part due to the desperate, frightened attempts of the right to resist social changes that are inexorable, to hold onto an oil-dependent economy and an America which, perhaps, once was, and in part due to the frustrated anger of the left with which they see chances for a better America squandered by regression and disregard for civil rights, science, and waste of national resources in pursuit of misguided foreign adventures. Is this ideological war worse than it has been in recent generations? What will it take to reach a semblance of an armistice?