My Love of the Seven Styles Photoshop Actions – but especially Watercolour!

I have lately discovered the Watercolour Photoshop Action (not for PSE) from Seven Styles (market.envato.com and/or graphicriver.net). It is magical, on my Venetian Cosplayer photographs, and lately on my Cape Cod and Nantucket town-scapes. It has also beautifully enhanced the Moorish Palace (Aljaferia) in Zaragoza, northern Spain.

This important citadel was almost at the northern extent of the Moors in Europe as its imposing towers show; containing a magical garden of such peace and tranquility – the spiritual and the military combined in one spectacular place.

Just a small sample of my recent work… be back later to add some description!

I do like this guy though – from Venice Carnival 2016.

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Knave of Hearts – Venice Carnival 2016

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Venice Carnival Art 2017

Sprezzatura from fb

I must say that I really enjoy Venice, Italy. Even at its most squashed (crowds!) it still remains an oasis of calm and serenity – it is why it still retains the most sublime of monnikers – “La Serenissima”.

In the weeks leading up to Lent – and since its re-inception in 1978 – the Carnival of Venice is the fun place to be! Bon vivants, dilettants, exhibitionists and extroverts, would-be fops – every fantasy-in-costume catered for – Vampire; Steampunk; Sci-fi; Barnum & Bailey; Plague Doctors; Harlequins and Harlots – you name it, someone’s dressing the part!

Most are happy to be stopped in their tracks by a complete (but totally charming) stranger, and will pose gracefully whilst you make the best shots you can. At night, along the gaily-lit arcades of San Marco, the cassette-like rooms thru the windows of Café Florian present a remarkable opportunity to capture – en-tableau – parties of outrageously bedecked ‘cosplayers’ drinking hot chocolate, so typical of Carnival time in Venice.

Crowding the exit door at Florian, myriad photographers assemble. Many who leave Florian are excited by the prospect of being photographed; some might have imbibed alcoholic libation, and I was wary that they might not be best pleased that I was ‘waving a lens in their face!!!’ The cassette photographs were wonderfully redolent of Alice in Wonderland…

 

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Veneziana d’Oro II blu © Jack Torcello

This captivating scene was just north west of Florian, pass along the arcade as if heading for Accademia, and the first calle to the left ends in this attractive small dock, where I found this red-headed beauty posing for another photographer. As he changed his settings on his camera, I ‘borrowed’ a few shots! She is stunning, I think you will agree?

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Mr Harlequin © Jack Torcello

Almost the second I stopped and looked to my camera, Harlequin immersed himself in his role. It is the readiness of so many ‘cosplayers’ without complication or complaint, which makes photographing the Carnival as fun as it is to be photographed!

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Maelle III © Jack Torcello

At the Ponte di Sorrisi (Bridge of Sighs) this outstanding ‘copslayer’ very generously posed and modelled to please almost every whim. We photographers perhaps forget just how tiring all this freely-given energy and time exhausts the model beneath the mask (whom we never really get to know!), but I am grateful that so many gave of themselves so freely. Merci! Bedankt! Danke! Grazie!

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Veneziana d’Oro I © Jack Torcello

One of the Carnival of 2017’s best-dressed models, I call her Golden Venice – a stunning shock of red hair afloat a sea of green skirts and bustles. A true goddess in the best sense of Carnival!

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The Blue Magus © Jack Torcello

To be fair, most cosplayers arrive as couples. But where single cosplayers are to be found, it is almost always a woman – the ratio of single cosplayers being about 5 women to every 1 man. I guess ever since the 17th Century – when men dressing-up was de rigeur – that women have had that field to play all for themselves!

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Madonna della Florian © Jack Torcello

This serene beauty was a success story at the exit door of Florian. On seeing me raise my camera, she presented her best Carnival face – an example of grace and beauty to please any heart!

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A Dream in Red © Jack Torcello

She captured my heart! Along the beautifully lit Arcades at San Marco, this demure beauty posed for me in all her finery.

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Bella Rossa © Jack Torcello

Red and black was a strong theme at this year’s Carnival, 2017. This lady reminds me of the traditional costumes to be found in Wales, and a very attractive figure she makes.

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Maelle II © Jack Torcello

One more from The Bridge of Sighs. A very high standard of costume – not every costume is made with such care – as the copious amounts of rayon and polyester efforts are testimony to!

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Regina di Giale© Jack Torcello

Most of the costumes at the Carnival were extraordinarily flamboyant, balanced in their flamboyance by a demure colour-scheme. This lady however is shouting it from the rooftops in her daffodil yellow regalia – why I named her the Yellow Queen! Brave.

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Che bellezza!© Jack Torcello

Another person so ready to slip into character as soon as you raise your camera. And how stunningly beautiful she looks! In fact, so impressed was I that I did several different versions of her beauty – the Black and White Sketch effect, and the Gray and Black Effect… see below

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Che bellezza! BW Sketch© Jack Torcello

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Che Bellezza! Gray Effect© Jack Torcello

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Zanni © Jack Torcello

…after so much beauty, a little bit of the beast!

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Maelle I © Jack Torcello

This one is so good, it hangs on the wall in my home. Maelle, Che bellezza! and Veneziana d’Oro are probably my three main muses for 2017. Let me add another version of d’Oro before I go…

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Veneziana d’Oro I © Jack Torcello

 

 

And some from my earlier vist in 2016…

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Signor e Signora Cervo © Jack Torcello

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The Peach Madonna © Jack Torcello

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Black & Gold © Jack Torcello

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Burgundy in Venice © Jack Torcello

 

 

 

 

 

 

(If Barnbaum was the bible of Black and White…

…then Gospodarou (and Tjintjelaar) is the gospel!)

 

 

As Gospodarou and gospel share the same root,

I am quite certain that for all black and

white photographers at least, that this epic new

publication will rest comfortably alongside the

Bruce Barnbaum bible (‘Art of Photography’).

Barnbaum managed to straddle the old wet and

analogue process of photography, and the new, digital

age. He gave us an insight into the art of the process,

whether A or D, and his ideas are still relevant today.

Gospodarou and Tjintjelaar have finally given B&W

photography a massive – not to say transcending – push

into the digital age! And yes, Greek people do philosophy

like no other, and Julia Anna gives us her comprehensive

insight into her artistic philosophy in the pages of their book.

And it is a captivating insight, page 35 perhaps at its nadir

where you need to be at your sharpest to absorb and identify.

But she does include all aptitudes in her insight.

 

Gospodarou synthesises together the ages old activity of

vision and process. She implies that the photograph rises

above the status of artefact (of being a thing, or an object)

by the process of marrying artistic vision with creative process.

She argues that fine art photography – being on a higher,

plane of photography, is a function of a process she (rigidly)

names (en)Visioning; and that in today’s digital age, any

photographer making fine-art b&w photographs is involved

in a wholly new genre of photography she calls (en)Visionography.

This is because the digital age allows the photographer so much

more freedom to create, and is not limited by the dynamics of

the dark-room. This word succinctly blends together the acts of

sight (the physical eye), of artistic vision (the mind’s eye/

imagination/soul) and the process (and for many this includes

software, and not just the camera), leading to the finished result:

the Fine-Art B&W Photograph.

 

She puts into her own words the reflections on creativity that

many great writers before her have done; and she does it well.

Here we see the great discourse on mimesis and even hermeneutics

guiding her thoughts; Gadamer’s words on the processing of ‘idea’

or ‘impulse’ signify greatly in the background, Aristolean mimesis

too. And Minor White’s “Equivalences”. All good to know. Where she

did give this writer pause for thought may well prove to be a ‘nicety’

of language: she states that art is selfish – it is for no-one else

than its progenitor i.e. you yourself.

I hope I am not too picky, but the sense of selfish that comes across

here is self-interested. The sense conveyed here is of a self

hermetically sealed from the world of experience, & thus has no

consequences, no repercussions to her actions, creative as they are.

 

I feel that this notion of selfishness needs expansion to save it from

its pejorative sense: selfish here, I am sure, relates to the process of

selving. Creativity creates the creator anew in his or her work, is

involved in the extension and growth of the self, rather than

proscribing his or her world by selfishly cutting it off from view.

By definition, art is ‘for an other’. Art can not be art unless there is

a second a ‘significant other’: art is for show. If art is ultimately for

the selfish self, then it has no value, and can only remain

meaningless.

 

Gadamer put it quite succinctly: pre-conformation (spark, energy,

impulse, idea); conformation (making the spark intelligible to the

self); re-conformation – putting your new & created

understanding & vision into terms that others can relate to.

I feel that the ‘selfish’ self that

Julia Anna refers to is this conforming self, where she gets

‘on terms’ with her original idea, grows it and develops it,

makes fullest creative use. This is the truly personal element

in creation and creativity, where there is no outside person

or self involved. Here, the artistic vision is truly proscribed

by the self, as indeed this self is growing, growing towards

her new vision. It can be said that she is selving (in her

selfishness), creating herself anew. You cannot be selfish once

your art (the photograph) is published. As a great man once said,

and I paraphrase “The meaning is above the photograph!” The artistic

artefact – in our case, the photograph – is an occasion that gives rise

to a unique event: the interpretation. And for every viewer of our

work, that interpretation each time is unique. It precludes ownership

the paper, glass, and frame of the photograph. And I am no proponent

of any “ideal reader” theory where the original intent of the artistic

vision was to have cloned an idea or message ‘exactly’ into every

appreciator. This ‘inelucatable modality’ (an idea taken from James

Joyce) if you like, is the idea that you can reconstitute experience

exactly (whether contemporary or historical) as if by ‘simply adding

water!’ This Joycean ideal is too direct an analogy between art and

experience So as a slight criticism of Gospodarou’s ‘selfish’ artist,

my critical expansion is appropriate.

 

Mimesis is an ancient Greek term. It can mean ‘the act of making’ –

the putting of self into an artistic artefact in such a way as to convey

emotion, thought, or both. Writers often talk of their work as an

energy loaded into the page like a spring; the act of reading uleashes

this spring, and the jolt of energy contained therein passes somehow

into the reader’. S/he is somehow changed by this energy, this

response, experiences catharsis. And is not the response to a

photograph also like the energy its maker (the photographer)

has loaded into the page? Fine art deals with the higher senses,

as Gospodarou succinctly writes it ‘the soul’. Catharsis – some

kind of sloughing off of a layer of self, like a serpent’ skin releasing

us to grow, to create ourselves anew. This hopefully positive

catharsis occasioned by our encounter with a photographer’s

work, somehow extends us: with the best art (as fine art) such

extension of human experience is for the good. Fine art is

improving, improves us, and Gospodarou’s repeated reference

to the soul reminds us that she has a heightened and almost

spiritual sense guiding her work. Art is not quite the audacity of “being

God” (Prometheus, quieten down!!!), yet Gospodarou gently

nudges us along in a direction that suggests we share with

god/the gods, that transcendent capacity to create. So creation

is something heightened, not to say sacred. It sets us apart from

all other creatures, it is the height of endeavour. Along with

Joel Tjintjelaar, she has given us an amazing – not to say epic – book,

which not only is a great read – especially with all its practical advice –

but is a ‘good book’ as well: it will be read, and cherished,

for many years to come.

 

(As a balanced review of the whole, this review centres on the philosophy of creativity which to a greater or lesser extent is Gospodarou’s contribution. Tjintjelaar also quotes his vision, but it is less extensive. That is not to say the least important by any means!)