Art and Fear

By my bed I have a book that I read and reread all the time. It is Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It is a book that is purposely by my bed because I like to pick it up and randomly open it and see what type of philosophical mind candy I will be digesting throughout the day. I picked it up this morning and read this nugget of a paragraph.

“Artists, naturally, would be the last to admit that, if only because heroic accounts of grueling hours spent building the mold or casting the hot metal remain de riguer of artistic conversation. But while mastering technique is difficult and time-consuming, it’s still inherently easier to reach an already defined goal - a right answer - than to give form to a new idea. It’s easier to paint in the angel’s feet to another’s master-work than to discover where the angels live within yourself. Art that deals with ideas is more interesting than art that deals with technique."

There are times I find myself striving for perfection in the darkroom, being hard on myself for having composed an image a certain way and frustrated an image didn’t come out the way I wanted. In my most recent photography landscape class that I taught at the Image Flow in Mill Valley, I talked about letting go of this idea/concept of perfection. Perfection often times holds ones artwork and vision down. Like the above quote says, let go and relax into new forms and ideas. Let go of comparisons. Find the angel that lives within oneself. A goal of perfection will only hold oneself back.

German Bunker.jpg

Trusting the Silence of the Universe

In my life the word trust has a far-reaching definition. When I talk about it and my photography, the meaning of trust can be summed up as, surrendering control of my photography to the universe. Trusting that my art will be guided. By letting go, trusting my intuition and being in the moment I am embarking down a new path that is unpredictable and uncertain. Often times when trusting all these uncertainties all sorts of creative ideas come forth. Trusting life's uncertainties is like trusting the silence of the universe. It is hard. One must submit control and believe that the universe will guide you. No matter how slow or silent, one must trust.

Sheep Hearder

For the past month I have worked non-stop. Many things have become neglected because of my work load. One of the major items that got neglected was me researching where I could show my San Francisco Airport Meditative Landscapes show. Being that the show is behind security checkpoint, many people who want to see the show have not been able too. Therefor having a show of my SFO images somewhere in the Bay Area would allow everyone to see the images. I had done little to no research as to possible venues. This is a perfect example of how I could have fought trust and held tightly to my control. Instead I faced silence and submitted my control to the universe. The day after my 23 straight days of work I called Anne Veh, a friend and curator who had left me a few messages during my string of work. Within ten minutes of speaking to her I had a venue lined up for my Meditative Landscapes show. It was a convincing example for me in the power of trust.

The Darkside of a Horse

One of my favorite poems talks about trust as well. Trusting in my journey. Mary Oliver speaks to my new self. A self that is not affected by the past. It is the awakening of my true self. As Oliver writes, "to save the only life you could save," I do not know where my journey will take me and no one but me can walk my specific path. I alone must trust, face the silence and walk down the new path.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save. 


~ Mary Oliver ~


Help From Bubbles

I was recently nominated as a candidate for the 2012 SECA Arts Award organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It is quite the honor and I am extremely grateful. 

Here is a summary of what they are asking for in regards to the proposal.

"For the first time in SECA Art Award history, we are inviting nominees to submit a proposal for an offsite commission in the Bay Area as part of their application materials. A short description of your proposed offsite commission should address the overall concept and the essential issues and formal qualities that would be explored through this work. Please include a discussion of how this project relates to your individual or collaborative artistic practice and how it might expand upon it."

They also ask for an artist statement, an artist statement in 30 words or less and up to six images of your work.

Writing has often been hard for me. I find it much easier to communicate via my photographs versus written words. One thing that helps me when I am having a difficult time with my writing is to make word association bubbles.

Mind Maps

This word association helps me pull out words and link ideas. It was especially helpful for the artist statement portion of my SECA application.

My artist statement is as follows.

Artist Statement

My journey began some years ago in an ancient monastery tucked between the mountain ridges of northern India. On a particularly dark evening, I noticed a long staircase leading to a rooftop. Its dim glow caught me, and I felt compelled to ascend despite its narrow, steep path. Moving closer, I saw each step as a new period in my life. For so long I had resisted changing, climbing, yet the urge to surmount some unknown summit drove me forward. As I crept up each step, the voices of the past echoed, “you are not good enough,” “the journey is too hard,” “you are not doing anything new.” But I reached the roof, and the voices faded, and I understood. I had found a path.

My photography is deeply rooted in the conventional film format; silver gelatin developed by hand and printed in the darkroom. The meticulous hand crafting of each print is an integral part of my work. Sometimes I hear voices of disapproval from my fascination with a historical process rather than evolving into digital, but then I see an image appearing in a tray of developer under an amber light, and I know I’m exactly where I should be.

Walking up the steps in the monastery I discovered the one true voice that I had been waiting to hear: my own.

In 30 words or less

Tapping into the silence beyond the noise, I create photographs in the traditional silver gelatin format. Each image is an examination of stillness, a quiet moment.

New Descent
Last Light
Prayer Flags

Fingers crossed on my application. Let us hope those bubbles did their job.

Assembled Words

There is a quote by Max Ehrmann that speaks to me like few other phrases or quotes do. It is as if the assembled words make up who I am and how I see the world.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

Ladakhi Monks

I Had to Share

My dear friend Nicole, whom I know from our Providence College days, has a wonderful blog that I just love reading. Nicole describes her blog as "a place to share those tiny WOWs that make life such an adventure." Reading one of her most recent posts created one of those WOW moments in my life. The post is titled, Write Till You Drop, by Annie Dillard. Like Nicole said, all creative types should read this. Dillard wrote it from the perspective of a writer. I read it with the photographer in mind.

 Photograph, Hendrik, photograph, Hendrik, photograph and do not waste time.

 Here is the link:

Ignore the title. All creative types should sit down with a good cup of coffee and read this when you find a minute today...

I Hate to Alarm You

Lightning as my Flash

It was peak lightning season in Poland and there was a huge lightning storm going on outside of my train. As I watched lightning bolt after lightning bolt strike the ground, I was wishing I was outside photographing. It was not until after an hour of watching the power of the storm that the idea to photograph the storm from the moving train came to mind. I shot up, got my camera out, opened the window, stuck my hand out the window and held down the shutter of my Mamiya 7. Since it was so dark outside and because I was stopped down to f11 I was counting on nothing registering on the film until the lightning struck. In other words, because I was not on solid ground photographing with a tripod and cable release, I planned on using the lightning burst as my flash. I had no idea if this would work, but I thought it would be fun to try. I held my hand on the shutter button exposing the negative until lightning struck. I did this five times. My exposures varied from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. I then decided to brace my hand and the camera against the edge of the window, using it as a brace. Just as I braced myself and held down the shutter a train driving in the opposite direction drives by and two bolts of lightning go off. I close the shutter and think to myself, well that one is not going to be anything. I thought that the train driving by for sure ruined the shot. The exposure of that shot was 3 seconds max. I made 4 more shots and before I knew it I was getting off the train in a torrential downpour to visit one of my dear friends. Four months later I processed the film from this train-ride. Here is the shot that I thought was going to be nothing.

Train Ride to Krakow

Hello World

Hi Everyone! This is my first entry on my new blog page, Hendrik Paul Photography. I have been thinking about starting a blog for quite some time now. There was something about today that seemed in-sync and right for me to make the plunge and start. Welcome!

For me the purpose of this blog is to talk about art, share art, and create art. Photography pulses through my veins. I am excited to begin sharing with you all my findings, personal work and projects and works of friends and colleagues.

I thought for quite some time about which image I might share for my first entry. The photograph that I decided to share was one that I took this past summer in Poland. When I look at this image I find myself looking down both of the tunnels and questioning which one I would go down. Often times life presents situations that ask the same questions. "Which path should I take?" "Should I do this or that?" "Is this the right job or should I move on?" Which would...  Should I...  Is it better to...  I see it with the viewpoint of, take the path that you most believe in. Even if you know it to be the harder path, take it. Do not let outside circumstances thwart your beliefs and decisions. In Charles Dickens novel, Great Expectations, Dickens said, "...think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day." Standing in-front of both tunnels, listen to your intuition and take the path that you know to be true. Believe in your intuition. Listen to your heart.

Beneath The Earth