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Archive for June, 2008

For the better part of the past eight years, I’ve devoted a good chunk of my time photographing artists. My first series was photographing other photographers.

Out of the shadows – Portraits of Photographers

The concept of my photographer project was to make formal portraits of the people who create memorable images. Photographers operate in the shadows, behind the lights and lens. They illuminate and document our world but, unless you are really into photography, they remain faceless, much like a voice from the radio. We build a mental likeness in our minds eye. Often, that image is radically different than reality.

Much like the radio commentators, photographers have a point of view. Whether listening to a commentator or looking at the image a photographer takes, we see the world with a bit of their slant. It is their voice filtering our world. Because we are a visual society, seeing what the person behind the camera looks like adds to our picture of who they are. Of course, you only get to see who they are from my filtered point of view.

The studio tour photographs take the concepts from my “Out of the Shadows” series and adds a larger element to our understanding of the artist. We get to see the complete working studio in a 360 panoramic. From a photography standpoint, it removes much of my slant from the photographs letting you decided what is important.

Normally, I use my view to guide you towards what I feel is important in a scene. The panoramic photographs give me only one way to direct your attention, where I place the camera. Sometimes, even that decision is based solely on where there is enough space to allow me to work. Without complete composition control, I felt I needed to try and photograph the atmosphere of the studio. Is it dusty, bright and airy? Perhaps there is an air of thought and importance. In each photograph, I have set my goal to capture the “feeling” of the studio.

I’d love to hear from you. If you don’t feel comfortable commenting here please drop me an e-mail. info@cichonfineart.com

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This is typical Taos architecture, viga covered patio, adobe walls and allot of character. Gary Williams was a Texas native, whose “Timeless Taos” series combines his whimsical style watercolor of local landmarks with his love of the old trucks and cars from the prior century, strictly fun, colorful and light-hearted, in nature. He was seen painting en plein-aire , in and around Taos, or on the patio of his studio, with his canine companion and friend, Pepper, who followed him everywhere. He was the first person to welcome us with open arms when we went to Taos and became a good friend to both of us. Sadly, Gary died unexpectedly, during the 1st few days of 2007, it was a few days after we left to attend an art show in Arizona. It was an end to an era and we miss him everyday.

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The house can be visited by special arrangement May through October. It is located one block east of Taos Plaza on the south side of Kit Carson Road. The property is still the private home of the Couse family and we grew very fond of Beth’s sister, Ginny and her husband Ernie, who are the caretakers of the house and all of it’s memories. They provided us the in-site and commentary to make each visit a special experience. The family welcomes individuals and small groups by pre-arrangement in the summertime, May through October. At present, there is no fee for the visit but voluntary contributions to The Couse Foundation are accepted. www.cousefoundation.org

The Eanger Irving Couse’s studio still remains as magical as it was in 1936. It contains the Native American pottery, costumes, beadwork, and other artifacts, that he used in his paintings. In the corner, an unfinished painting and his artist’s brushes and palette seem to await his return. He was one of the founders and charter member of the Taos Society of Artists in 1915 and its first president. A painter of Native Americans in Taos for the rest of his life, he died in 1936 after a long and distinguished career.

After his mother’s death in late 1929, their son Kibbey returned to Taos to care for his widowed father. He converted the family garage into a machine shop and added another building to the south, where he planned to manufacture his invention, the Couse Mobile Machine Shop. With his father’s death in 1936, his plans changed and he built his factory in New Jersey.

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This project accidentally presented itself, during a tour of the E.I. Couse house and studio in Taos, New Mexico. I was invited to photograph a regularly scheduled Tuesday morning figure drawing get together in Beth Couse’s studio. Historic in its own right, the space was first used at the turn of the 20th century as the studio of J.H. Sharp, the organizer, and one could say founding father of the Taos Society of Artists, along with Eanger Irving Couse, Ernest L. Blumenschein, Bert G. Phillips, Herbert S. Dunton and Oscar Edmund Berninghaus. The complex remains much as it was when E.I. Couse died in 1936, with one exception, a small family chapel attached to the house. This chapel has been, for years, consistently used as an artist studio, first by Joseph H. Sharp (1907-1915) and currently by Elizabeth Couse (E.I. Couse’s granddaughter).

Entering the pint-sized chapel, I was overwhelmed with paintings, easels, frames, folding chairs, and even a fake 4-foot goat. The old adobe comes alive, every Tuesday morning, for a small group of dedicated artists who gather together to sketch and paint a figure model. I had a spur of the moment, fleeting thought of photographing this scene, this amazing space, and these creative people, in this fantastic natural light, In Panoramic format.

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This is the image that started it all. J.H. Sharp’s first studio circa 1908-1915, Luna chapel was originally built as a family chapel by Juan de Luna around 1835. It later passed to the Diocese in Santa Fe, from whom Sharp bought it. He called it “The Studio of the Copper Bell” and used it for six years, before building a larger sutdio on adjacent land. It is currently used as a studio by E. I. Couse’s granddaughter, Elizabeth – We titled it “Tuesday Morning with Beth”.

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We are Lucas and Kathie Cichon, professional photographers who had the pleasure to live and work among artists, in Taos, New Mexico. We learned that the provenance is part of the art experience. Summoning our minds to invoke “a place” where our favorite artwork was created, we typically have romantic visions of artists working in controlled chaos, wild-haired, indigo stained fingers- captivating studios smelling of turpentine, or amongst sweet-smelling pristine landscapes, perhaps the nightclubs of Paris. We get pleasure from the belief of the uniqueness of artists at work, in their workspaces. So, was our feeling before starting this project. Every artist has a story to tell and many can talk about their work for hours, so given the slightest opportunity to visit and photograph an artist at work added an new dimension to this series. Using a wide-angle lens and shooting in a panoramic format, Lucas may take up to three-dozen side-by-side photographs and paying special attention to the views out windows and into other rooms he digitally matches them on his computer to make a seamless black and white print. Applying color in a most subtle and elegant manner, Kathie traditionally hand-colors each to create an original, one-of-a-kind work of art. The fusion of the two processes create a mysterious timeless portrait of the artist at work.

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