Tuesday, July 24, 2018

La Palabra July 2018. Latinarte Houston.

Writers Reading their Stuff Aloud; a Photographer's Notebook
La Palabra In Low Light

Sunday brought the leading edge of a punishing SoCal heat wave. Inside Avenue 50 Studio, July's La Palabra Reading Series Curator Angelina Sáenz closed the door to the outside oven. The rear gallery remained tolerable for a crowd, with a pair of fans to move the air about. Sáenz didn't burn the hot spotlights, burning only a string of feeble bulbs. Ni modo. The poets sparkled against the anything-but-gloomy dark.

The photographer suffered because his camera was blind in the ambiente. Ironically, iPhone cameras captured great frames, that you can see at La Palabra Reading Series' Facebook page.

 Cynthia Alessandra Briano, Jessica Wilson Cardenas, Angelina Sáenz, Jubi Arriola-Headley

The group portrait has the benefit of an open door. There's a cooling breeze and wonderful light. Portraits of poets reading their own stuff in extremely low light challenged the heck out of the Canon T2i camera. Challenged the heck out of me, too, but it's the poor worker who blames the tools, and with the right tools you can do anything.

My goal as a photographer is to capture the perfect portrait of a writer reading her own stuff, reading his own stuff. The dynamism of a comfortable performer who regularly produces those satisfying moments, or the inspired moment of a passionate debut reader, will jump off the page into your thoughts.

Portraits of speakers have eye contact, looking toward the lens or into the audience. That's a challenge for page-bound writers. Comfortable readers play to the camera now and again. Directness influences ethos, the perceived character of the reader.

The full body conveys attitude, which a reason to avoid hiding behind a lectern. The reader uses the technology of the body  fully to commit to the message. In the foto, the mouth should be open, forming meaning. Hands, arms, feet, head, posture, using the presentation space, these elements define every speaker. Sometimes all the elements come together in a sublime blend of word, speech, body. The photographer who captures that moment, not before not after, has a rarity, a foto approaching perfection. May it be one of many, but dang, fiat lux.

Featured Poets:  Cynthia Alessandra Briano, Jessica Wilson Cardenas, Jubi Arriola-Headley

Curator Sáenz remarked on meeting Wilson Cardenas at the Open Mic the featured reader today hosts at Tia Chucha's. The emcee noted the busy Open Mic Briano directs in Santa Monica, the Rapp Reading Saloon. It's illuminating, seeing Open Mics networking, spreading the word about their neighborhood poetry community. From the westside to the northeast San Fernando Valley, to Northeast LA, you're never more than a week between open mics, to listen or get 3 minutes.

One's eye and brain have no difficulty seeing in the dark. Mechanical devices like cameras don't have synapses but settings. I set the device to maximum sensitivity, ISO6400. I manually set the shutter to 1/80 second to get an f/5.6 aperture.

The speed is enough to capture gestures and expressions. The aperture allows depth of focus. At a distance, a foto can have both a leading gesture and the speaker's eyes in focus. There can be focus all the way to the back wall. In a close-up, the mic the nose the eyes are in focus, the art behind a blur.

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Here was an insurmountable problem. The Canon brain couldn't handle the light. The camera refused to focus. I set the lens to manual focus.

My eyes are going bad and I didn't have my glasses, so I had to guess at the focus. Autofocus is great. The focus moves with the speaker. Autofocus depends on bright and dark surfaces, contrast, to delineate focal points. In the flat light of the dark room, the lens sees a grey mass.

Manual focus is equally great, and it's how I used to do live football. But absent light to illuminate the rangefinder, what the photographer sees in the camera isn't bright enough to drop readily into focus with a moving subject. The answer is find a zone and focus. I wait for the speaker to lean into focus, and in the moment, be dynamic.

The generosity of digital photography allows multiple exposures with no issues about reaching the end of the roll. On any day a majority of fotos will be unacceptable, the low light increased the proportion. 

Jessica Wilson Cardenas
Peering into the dark rangefinder and racking the lens, I seek the microphone's sharp lines. I don't want the art prints on the wall to appear sharp so I twist the lens to sharpen the lectern. To be sure, I focus on the lectern then slowly focus on the mic. When the speaker remains in the space where the lens focuses, the image will be satisfactory.

Images taken at wider angle have excellent depth of focus. At closer perspective the mic the nose the eyes are focused while the background remains a pleasant blur.

Jubi Arriola-Headley
The brother was going to pose a sensitivity issue. Dark skinned people disappear into the background, so I needed more light. I slowed down the shutter to 1/50 and kept f/5.6. Turns out this 1/50 provided sufficient stopping action and woulda been great for the  two earlier feature poets. The Open Mic speakers planted themselves in one spot, making focusing a bit easier. Their limited use of eye contact adds the challenge of capturing one good moment.

Open Mic: 3 Minutes

La Bloga fotos appear in reduced size inside the column. To view a foto at a larger size, click the image. Use the left and right arrows to scroll the gallery. You may see a strange texture on the images. ISO6400 on this camera creates electronic noise when it struggles to see in the dark, equivalent to grain on silver gelatin emulsions. Newer cameras have more sensitive ISOs; I wonder how the photographer challenges the grain?

Artivism Aviso: Notorious Book Smugglers Looking for Houston Arts Cash

Back in 2012, La Bloga's Michael Sedano and Latinopia's Jesus Treviño road-tripped from LA and met up with the Librotraficante caravan in El Paso. Contrabando in the belly of the bus traveled up to Alburquerque to meet with Don Rudy Anaya before hitting Tucson in broad daylight with banned books to give away. https://labloga.blogspot.com/2012/03/on-road-for-banned-books-this-is-why.html

The court smacked down Arizona hate laws and literature and cultura are again more-or-less welcome in public school classes and libraries. The war is not won, but gente see goals within reach, or what's a court order for? So now the portavoz of the book smugglers, Tony Diaz, turns his focus to chicanarte, per a recent email.

Houston City Council elected Robert Gallego puts his office behind an effort from Librotraficante Tony Diaz, and a cohort of artivists and collectors, to seek equity in municipal arts spending and comminity demographics. Diaz notes, in an email,

The Houston population is over 40% Latino and almost 50%. Yet the Latino community does not receive that much funding for our art or artists. That's about to change. It's time to put Houston Latino Art on the map.

The first meeting for this initiative is Wednesday, August 29, 2018, 6pm - 7:30 pm at Houston's City Hall Legacy Room, 901 Bagby, Houston, Texas.

1 comment:

Antonio SolisGomez said...

i learned much in your article about photography, very fine writing