Sunday, June 21, 2009

Review of Michael Garlington Exhibit at Kimball-Jenkins Estate

This collection of images from the book “Portraits from the Belly of the Whale” is what happens when Joel-Peter Witkin meets Diane Arbus. These photographs are more subtle and lack the deliberately graphic shock value of Witkin, and incorporate some of the humanity of the Arbus freak show portraits. As the photographer, Michael Garlington describes them; they are “disturbing portraits that sardonically reveal the darker edges of the human personality.”

You form a strange emotional connection to the subjects in each image as you study them, being horrified and caring for them at the same time.

The first image you encounter upon entering the exhibit is “Mr. Milton Frisbie”. He is standing sentry for the show, only subtly hinting at what you about to see. “Mr. Milton Frisbie” is a clown. Not a funny clown, but a tobacco stained, sad, pathetic, and more than just a little frightening clown. This is the clown that people have nightmares about. This is the clown that sneaks out of your closet while you are sleeping and snatches you up, the smell of urine and cigarette smoke embedded in his costume. This is the clown that encourages some people to be afraid of clowns.

This is just the beginning of the emotional avalanche you are about to attempt to outrun. Twenty images hung in four rooms and a hallway of the Jill Coldren-Wilson Gallery of the Kimball-Jenkins Estate in Concord, New Hampshire. All of the images having room to breathe their own fetid breath and engage you with their own empty eyes.

“The Final Sleep of Grandma Ev” is sad and touching in the most soulful places. Humanity and love are personified in the delicate and careful caress of her forehead, with true love peering out from behind the coke bottle glasses of the husband. Nothing specifically tells you that this couple is a husband and wife, but the feeling of overwhelming sadness that you get from this image is that of two people who have shared 40 years together. This appears to be the most personal of the images in this exhibit, appearing to be the only image that may not be meticulously staged.

“The Bleed” is a woman’s nude torso, bleeding from the face, and is disturbing to the core. How does a bloody nose look so severe? Is it her pointy animalistic teeth? Is it the oil black blood running into her mouth and dripping off her chin onto her chest where it is carefully cradled by her hand, not wanting to spill a drop onto the grimy floor that you imagine beneath her?

In “Blind Girl” irony drips from the photograph as the aforementioned blind girl sports a “Blue Ridge Parkway” tee shirt promoting a scenic vista that she will never witness. Shadowed by a mysterious out of focus figure, monitoring her from off her shoulder, is this a protector ensuring that no harm comes to the girl, or is it a malevolent spirit hovering in the background waiting for an opportunity to possess the sightless child?

In “Jabberwocky”, a howl of emotional agony overtakes the subjects face as he is jammed into the left hand side of the frame, contorted and cramped, with his too big Puritan hat amputated by the top of the frame, mirroring his actually amputated foot in the bottom of the frame, and the creases in his hand on his crutch reflecting the creases in his partially buttoned filthy jeans. He mocks the empty path of the right side of the frame that the one legged man will never run through.

Nothing is happenstance in these informationally loaded photographs. All of the images are meticulously staged; everything in the frame is there for a reason. The abuse, scratches, and stains are purposefully placed, creating the illusion of peering through a filth covered window into a nightmare filled world. The subjects stare back at you, aware of your voyeurism and daring you to engage them. At first glance, you recoil, but after the initial shock wears off, you start to look more closely, like you would stare at a traffic accident. After being held hostage by the gaze of these graphic images, you begin to feel a strange attachment to them, kind of like a photographic “Stockholm Syndrome”. These relentless portraits leave a stain on your soul that will be hard to remove. Some stains are good, like the grape Kool-Aid that dripped down your chin on the hot August afternoon when you were nine, and some stains are bad, like the blood embedded in the rough concrete floor after an industrial accident. If this exhibit leaves a good stain or a bad stain, is up to you to decide.

This exhibit runs from June 1st through July 31st in the Jill Coldren-Wilson gallery at the Kimball-Jenkins Estate at 266 North Main Street in Concord, New Hampshire. The gallery is open from Monday through Friday, 9:00 – 4:30. For more information, call (603) 225-3932 or visit

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A New Gallery Carrying my Work

I'd like to give a quick mention to a new gallery carrying my work. The Lotus and Orchid Gallery is located in the heart of the Monadnock Region in Keene, New Hampshire, just off the main square. Lotus and Orchid can be found at 21 West Street and is open 11:00 - 5:00, Tuesday through Saturday.

Lotus and Orchid Gallery an dBoutique

Other artists represented include Michael J. Toomey, D. Stone, Beyond the Stars Stained Glass, Randall Bessette, Rick Freed, Greg Pregent, Elizabeth Fougere, Carol Wontkowski, Malea Rhodes, and Kerri Kolby.

Monday, March 23, 2009

2009 Concord Arts Telefest

The Arts Telefest is a celebration of over 100 local artists and arts organizations in the Concord area. The are 3 ways for you to watch the Telefest;

  • Tune In - Watch it live on Channels 22 & 6 in Concord
  • Drop In - Watch it live in-person at the Christa McAuliffe Auditorium at Concord High School
  • Click On - Watch it live right here on Your Concord TV

It will be an exciting day featuring interviews and performances by more than 75 local artists, representing more than 20 arts organizations. This year will also include live performances by 11 local dance, theatre and musical groups in the Christa McAuliffe Auditorium at Concord High School. Outside of the auditorium there will be door prizes, refreshments and televisions set up so that attendees can view the rest of the Arts Telefest live on Channels 22 and 6. It’s free to attend this event, so mark your calendar for March 29th and come to Concord High School’s auditorium.

A full list of all the invited artists can be found HERE.

I'll be on live from 11:13 to 11:20, and then from 11:20 to 11:24 they will be showing a clip of an interview that was done in the darkroom at the Kimball-Jenkins School of Art.

If you're in Concord, come on down and watch the show. If you aren't in Concord, find out what you can do to support the arts in your community. In these tough economic times, art programs are nearly always the first thing to face the budget ax. Art is a vital ingredient in an enriched life. Everyone's mission should be to facilitate and secure the sustainable benefits of visual arts education and appreciation for all members of their community. Don't just stand by and watch the arts perish in your schools and community.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Photographers Motto: "Be Prepared"

"Oh man, if I only had my camera!" (slaps own forehead).

How many times have you said this? How many times have you heard someone else say this? Are you serious about your photography? Then you need to be prepared. You need to be ready to take the shot. You need to have a camera with you always.

I always carry my camera with me. I play poker. I have a regular Friday night game that I have been going to for years. Most of the time, on the thirty minute drive home, it's pitch black and I can't see anything that isn't illuminated by the headlights of my truck. Occasionally, the horizon will be just beginning to glow as I wind my way through the tree lined roads on my way home. For five years, that's 250 drives home after this card game, I've had my camera in the bag on the seat next to me in my truck. I never once stopped to use it, until two weeks ago.

Was it luck that enabled me to get this shot? No. It was being prepared.

Louis Pasteur wasn't known for his photography, instead, in 1862 he developed a process for treating liquids to reduce the numbers of harmful bacteria in them, making them safe to drink, Pasteurization as it is known. How is this relevant to photography? It's not, but a little extra knowledge never hurt anybody. What makes Louis Pasteur relevant to this conversation is his semi-famous quote "Chance favors the prepared mind." This is right up there with the unattributable sports quote, "Good teams make their own luck."

I don't believe in luck. I don't believe in fate. Both of these concepts require you to surrender control of your own destiny to some diaphanous idea. You are in control of what happens to you. Know your trade. Know as much as you can about what you are doing. Read, practice, read more, practice more. Learn not only how, but learn why. If you want to work in a particular specialty, learn how that business works. Find out who the important people and companies in the trade are. Learn about the hierarchy and how things are done.

Don't sit around waiting for your big break. Go find it. Put your knowledge to use. Practice. Get feedback, apply new knowledge, and be prepared to take any opportunity that comes your way. Don't assume that another chance is coming, because maybe there isn't.

Make the odds work for you instead of against you. Do you want to get a photograph published in a magazine? You are probably going to have to submit more than once. All other things being equal, the photographers that get the most images published, are the ones that submit the most images. The photographers that win the most awards are the ones that enter the most contests. The photographers whose work is seen by the most people are the photographers that send out the most work to be seen!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Image Critique #8

Welcome to 2009. and farewell to 2008. The end of the year is always a hectic time for me, and my blog posting has reflected that. "Sporadic" would be a kind characterization. "Absent" would be much more accurate though.

To get back into the swing of things, I am going to try to catch up on the back log of images that I have sitting here waiting for critique.

Today's image is kindly submitted by Alison Dubois. Her comments are as follows:

"I took the photo while hiking on the east side of the main road through Sedona, Arizona in a secluded area that was void of other people. The scene seemed to coalesce somehow for me into a simple beauty and I find the photo to be serene despite its chaos of shapes and colors.

Details: Taken approximate 2:30pm, Canon Digital Rebel XT, Manual, 1/2 second, F16, 44mm, ISO-800"

Scott Bulger Photography Blog

This is a nice shot, and I certainly see what Alison saw when she took this shot. A few observations though:

- The image is overexposed. Based on the "Sunny 16" rule of exposure, if it was sunny out, at ISO 800, the shutter speed should have been 1/1000 of a second. 1/2 of a second is about 10 steps too much light here, but I'm going to guess and say that it was fairly heavily overcast, which would buy you about 4-5 stops, still leaving this image well overexposed. The other explanation is that some of this exposure information is incorrect, but the image is overexposed regardless. The rock cliff face in the upper right hand corner is particularly overexposed.

Scott Bulger Photography Blog
A Quick Adjustment to the Levels and Some Dodging and Burning


-I'm not a big fan of shooting with a 35mm and then cropping after the fact to an 8x10 format. Unless you are composing your image in the field so that the 2 inches you cut off of the top or bottom of this image are superfluous, then you are removing compositional information that you thought was valuable at the time you shot it. I prefer to use the entire frame and present the work as it was shot. If someone is going to pay $80-$100 for a photographic print, they should be quite capable of dropping another $10 to have a matte cut to a 8" x 12" or a 6" x 9" window. Typically, people that spend $80 - $100 on a photograph aren't running into Wal-Mart for a $3.99 matte and frame.

- To me, the reflection line is too centered. If you look at he peak where the water meets the land on the right hand side, it is almost exactly dead center. As opposed to a feeling of serenity here, I get a feeling of conflict and confusion as the top and bottom halves of the image fight for attention. Off setting that line either higher or lower would create one half of the image that was dominant and the other half of the image would work as a compliment for. I would like to see the rest of the images from this session.

- There is no detectable image blur at this size, so it would appear that there was a tripod used for exposure. This is good, because at 1/2 second exposure time, hand holding the camera is out of the question.

- If the f16 was used for Depth of Field, shooting with a 44mm at this distance, you would have gotten plenty of Depth of Field opening up the aperture a couple more steps.

Thank you for submitting Alison.

Submissions are always accepted by emailing an image that is a minimum of 500 pixels wide. Please include any information that you feel is pertinent to the shot. <>Contact Scott