photo of the month
from randy kato

Etymology is fascinating, and it can give us valuable insight into - and appreciation of - subjects. Take for example the term for what you're reading right now, 'email.' This is a word that came into existence during our lifetimes, yet is full of history.

The e for electronic is the modern part, but mail traces back to many languages, and they all mean bag or pouch. Just imagine those messages traveling in bags on a ship sailing the globe or in the pouch of a pony express courier galloping across the plains of the West. It took lots of time and effort. Ironically, I mention this in a message that's delivered instantly to scores of people all over the planet...the evolution of communication.

The etymology of the word 'photography' is pretty simple. From ancient Greek, photo is light, and graph is drawing, writing or painting. When the term was coined, the process was also time and labor-intensive, a far cry from the instantaneous 'e' version of today...evolution(?) of art.

I particularly like the association with painting. Painting with light evokes many ideas: long exposures and moving colored lights; tightly controlled studio setups; optical filter trickery. However, what excites me is being able to capture a naturally lit scene that resembles a painting.

So here is an Edward Hopper-esque photo taken in the spectacular late afternoon light of d.u.m.b.o. (down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass) in Brooklyn. I saw the painting-like scene and was somehow able to capture it - it doesn't usually work that way.

Somebody once said that Edward Hopper could be the most influential American photographer of the twentieth century - even though he didn't take any photographs. He most definitely painted with light. His use of bright sunlight and sharp shadows, themes of solitude, and characters that appear to be positioned just before or after the climax of a scene all could be characteristics of a great photograph.

Hopper was methodical and meticulous in his preparations, taking lots of time to compose his scenes. So to be able to capture an analogous image in an impromptu photo is a real thrill.


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