When Catherine “Cat” Barnstone Szafran discovered Frederick 26 years ago, she instantly knew it was “home.” A photographer who’s been featured in gallery exhibitions, Cat had grown up around the world. She was born in Boston, and her artist dad, Myron Barnstone, soon relocated the young family to Spain, Paris, and then the rolling hills of the county of Devon, England.
“I grew up with an art gallery on the walls of every house,” Cat said. “My dad always created a studio and photography darkroom in each home we lived in, and I loved to watch him work.” Myron utilized the precise geometric design essential to classical art -- the Golden Section -- to create paintings, drawings, and photos rich with dimension and movement. It was after he had received wide acclaim in Europe for several one-man exhibits that Myron made a radical decision. Concerned that so many modern art classes had abandoned teaching a disciplined foundation for drawing, and just suggested students “copy” what they saw, Myron put away his pens and brushes and started teaching. First, though, he burned or rolled up and locked away hundreds of his own works. He didn’t want to unduly influence his students’ artistic vision.
The family ended up in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, about half an hour out of Philadelphia. Myron taught briefly at Lehigh University and Moravian College before launching his studio in Allentown. When his classes outgrew the location, he moved Barnstone Studios to a 3rd-floor walkup in nearby Coplay. With its open design, huge windows letting in natural light and aged wooden floors, the expansive space was similar to the studios of Europe. For the next 35 years, thousands of students from across the country and around the world would find Myron and study with him for months, years or even decades.
Cat supported her father’s work but embarked on her own path. Besides becoming an accomplished photographer, she was a tireless advocate for people seeking help with addiction and mental illness. When she met and quickly fell in love with math teacher Doug Szafran, she had only one request -- she wanted to remain within a four-hour drive of her father’s Pennsylvania studio. Doug agreed, and after a search for a suitable home base, the married couple soon succumbed to the charms of Frederick. The rolling hills reminded Cat of Devon; the city was near a teaching position for Doug, and they both loved the creative art scene and warm people of the area. Besides, Frederick was just three hours from Coplay.
For the next two decades, Cat could maintain a close relationship with her father while enjoying her own life in Frederick. It wasn’t until 2013 things began to change radically. A shaky economy meant fewer students enrolling in Myron’s classes, and at the age of 80, he reluctantly made the decision to close the Coplay location and retire. He moved to Frederick to be close to Cat and Doug and began a rapid decline in health. He died in October of 2016, passing the mantle of Director of Barnstone Studios to Cat.
In addition to having to deal with the overwhelming grief of her father’s death, Cat had to quickly step up to continue the rich Barnstone Legacy. Her father had recorded his complete drawing course, a series on palette control and color theory, and an entire class on the Golden Section, the precise geometric design at the heart of classical drawing. He shared with his students the secrets the most famous artists knew and used in their iconic, timeless masterpieces. It was now Cat’s responsibility to maintain the BarnstoneStudios.com website where students could order Myron’s lessons.
She also made the decision to finally open his archives, sealed for nearly half a century, to begin to share Myron’s original works with the rest of the world. It was shortly after that in 2017 that she connected with Jennifer Findley, owner of ArtistAngle Gallery in Frederick, and the two made a historic decision.
Jennifer offered to dedicate her gallery to a revolving exhibit of Myron’s works from March through July 2018. It would be the first showing of Barnstone’s art in the nation, and the first public viewing since Myron’s European gallery exhibits in the 60s. Most of the work in the expansive Barnstone archives had never before been seen. Frederick was going to be the stage for turning an internationally respected master art teacher into an equally respected master artist. Realizing that Barnstone Studios alumni defined Myron’s life purpose, Cat immediately invites those who wanted to exhibit alongside their mentor to submit images of their own work for consideration.
Cat decided to break the “months of Myron” into four separate exhibits: “Evolution: Growing into Mastery” to launch, “Environment: Listening to the Land” in April to tie in with Earth Day and show how artists’ surroundings influence their work; “Emotion: How Art Awakens the Soul” in June and finally a one-man show in July.
Alumni jumped at the chance to show how Myron’s teachings guided their successful careers, and since the “Evolution” launch March 11, ArtistAngle has offered Frederick residents and visitors both a historic opportunity to view previously hidden masterworks by Barnstone, and the chance to see how many of his students have gone on to distinguished art careers of their own.
Art patrons are eagerly purchasing both original Barnstone works, and limited edition prints of selected pieces.
ArtistAngle is also hosting Barnstone Method art classes, where accomplished alumni from around the country travel to Frederick to teach the secrets of classical design.
Cat is thrilled with the positive reaction the exhibits are receiving from the Frederick community and feels it’s only fitting the city is the launch point for this next generation of the Barnstone Legacy.
Through the cracks of an underpass, beams of light refract onto the ground in the distinct shape of a capital “A.”
French photographer Rémy Soubanère pays homage to Alphaville (a classic dystopian film from the 1960s) in more ways than one. He molds narrative and atmosphere out of an abstract vision, echoing director Jean-Luc Godard’s ability to create a futuristic setting out of creative angles and surrealist imagery alone. Terror laces the image, as if the authorities are high above in their helicopters, scouring the streets for dissidents. Soubanère suggests that technology and society have become so oppressive that civilians hide in the crevices of the city, seeking refuge from the constant state of surveillance.
In Godard’s film, the protagonist (Lemmy Caution) navigates his way through Alphaville, ceremoniously documenting the absurdities with his camera for those living in “The Outlands.” He says he’s too tired to argue over what’s wrong and right, so his camera will do the talking—it is his “only weapon against fatality.”
Meanwhile, Soubanère finds himself situated in the Parisian suburbs and saturated with today’s political climate. His own unstaged shots reinforce the knowledge that our bizarre, contemporary reality borders on fiction. “This is where I live, in the hours I live,” he says. “I find things oversized and unreal. This environment opens up my imagination” and brings Alphaville to mind, as well as other “moody movies” from the past. His somber photographs are desolate and weighty. Forlorn playgrounds are veiled in darkness; iron infrastructures dominate the landscape; and the lack of human presence in these vast, man-made terrains leaves the viewer feeling hollow at the grim prospect of automation.
As with any great work, Soubanère’s series finds topical relevance with what’s happening today, even though his work on it began in early 2015, well before the terrorists attacks in Paris or Trump’s election. As with Godard’s Alphaville or George Orwell’s 1984, there is a predictive prescience in these photographs along with descriptive clarity. Orwell’s work, for example, is having a particularly timely moment right now. These days, it seems that wherever you go—whether catching a train or sitting in a cafe—people are cradling a copy of George Orwell’s 1984. Shortly after Trump was elected, the classic book became a bestseller. Although we haven’t started hiding the covers of our novels in paper bags to protect our personal explorations from the spying eyes of surveillance, the novel’s revival in popularity speaks volumes. Soubanère isn’t alone in questioning whether this radical fiction from the 1940s was, in fact, an accurate prediction.
Indeed, there’s an anguished irony to the series: humanity must coexist alongside the hostility of its own, man-made objects. Alongside inspiration from Alphaville, Soubanère is also keen to explore the concept of dispositifs, a phrase translated as “machinery,” “apparatus” and “construction.” Philosopher Michel Foucault coined the term to reference the social systems that govern certain aspects of our lives—from the architectural shape of our cities to the way we live our intimacies. In this series, the absence of people is haunting. Intimidating metallic structures soar across each frame, and the only light is synthetic—even weeds struggle to survive amongst the dominance of iron train tracks and vast stretches of stone. With more signs of life underground than above, it seems that these dispositifs have intimidated civilians to living a life that’s out of sight.
Soubanère’s work touches on something much harder to digest and omnipresent in our everyday lives: our infatuation with technology. “I’m quite fascinated by Bernd and Hilla Becher,” he says. “They sought objectivity in their neutral, industrial photographs. But for me, their work comments on a serious human affliction: obsession.” We may fear technological advancement, but Soubanère suggests that technology doesn’t pose the real threat. “After all, these tools were invented by mankind.”
Orwell’s torturous “2+2=5” chapter comes to mind as Soubanère goes on, saying, “Humans don’t need to know the truth: they just need to believe something. Trump & Co. really understand this, and that’s how we’re here today.” The dystopian aesthetic is not a warning for the future—Soubanère seeks to arouse consciousness and critical thinking within a gloomy present. “The Truth is out of reach, in my eyes. But we can build opinions that are as sharp and accurate as possible. It involves criticizing, not believing. First, though, we must admit that we don’t have Truth.”
Today, you may find “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” or political slogans of a similar nature graffitied on the walls of an underpass. But in a totalitarian dystopia where freedom of speech (even freedom of thought) is met with severe punishment, a subtler, more sophisticated form of rebellion must be exercised. Much like Orwell’s “Brotherhood,” a revolt must be so ambiguous and so intelligent that it only resonates with those looking to revolt. With his camera—a method of expression that maintains the author’s anonymity—Soubanère catches the exact moment the light bends into the shape of an “A” on underground walls. It is only to be seen by those hiding in the crevices. Then again, perhaps Soubanère’s capital “A” doesn’t stand for “Alphaville” at all—perhaps it stands for Anarchy.
Click here to see more work by Rémy Soubanère.
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Photograph above taken in Lake George, NY with a Leica MP240 digital camera
I rarely use camera grids to compose my photographs, and I never use them when I'm shooting professional work. For landscape photos, I occasionally use the basic armature of the rectangle. However, because Dynamic Symmetry allows the artist to create an infinite number of compositions, I'm careful not to restrict creativity by locking my images into one design scheme. Artists and photographers that continually use the Rule of Thirds grid are faced with this problem.
While some online marketers claim camera grids are necessary for applying Dynamic Symmetry to a photograph these educators lack real-world experience, misinterpret the application of Dynamic Symmetry in photography, are trying to increase camera grid sales, and overlook the important fact that tools should benefit the artist, not restrict their artistic freedom. Camera grids are not only unnecessary but if overused a photographer's visual literacy skills become stunted, and their images predictable and overly mechanical.
In my combined 36 years experience as a photographer, educator of design, and graphic artist I have yet to come across any highly skilled, historically relevant photographer that used camera grids to compose their images and for any professional to engage in such a practice would mean a loss of credibility. For the photographer that is taking their first steps towards learning more about the art of composition, it should be fully understood that camera grids are only used as an aid for the beginner student - not a tool for the skilled professional.
To learn more, see the article Dynamic Symmetry for Photographers.
In 1968, David Rockefeller was part of an unusual syndicate formed by a small band of deep-pocketed collectors with close connections to the Museum of Modern Art that engineered a $6.8 million all-in arrangement with the heirs of Gertrude Stein to buy a group of artworks she had owned.
The banker, philanthropist, and statesman was the perfect candidate for the syndicate, especially since his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, was one of the founders of the museum. In addition to David, his brother Nelson R. Rockefeller was also in the elite group, along with CBS head William S. Paley, publisher John Hay Whitney, and Andre Meyer. David picked up a second chit since William A. Burden, one of the original syndicate members, dropped out.
The members met on a Sunday in December 1968 in an old Whitney wing of the museum and drew straws from a crumpled felt hat for their choices, according to a published account by David Rockefeller. David was lucky, drawing the longest straw, and chose Picasso’s stunning Rose Period flower seller from 1905 for what was then something less than 1 million dollars.
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When I first started practicing street photography, I fell in love. It seemed plain, simple even, but I was deeply attracted by its natural intensity.
Back then, I wasn’t sure exactly what to look for. Perhaps that’s still true. But I now know that I am interested in the play of light and shadow, pattern and motion. It feels that I am showing others how to look at or see the world in the ways that I do.
More than anything, I am driven by curiosity. I look forward to seeing what comes out of my vision and my camera. Ever since I was a child, I have been continually imagining myself in the positions of the people around me, again, from curiosity. Photography allows me to carry on with this practice, to satisfy these questions.
I try to see my surroundings photographically both when I am traveling but also while living my everyday life. Wherever I find myself, I try to find something different, even if it is small. Fundamentally, I believe that the smallest differences can make for a great picture.
—Jeong Vin Yoon
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I spent a few days taking pictures with my new Leica MP240 digital camera and a Leica M 50mm lens. The menus are so easy to navigate through, and the compactness of the M body is perfect for long-term use. I wandered around Lake George, Bolton Landing, and Saratoga Springs, NY. Photograph below taken at Lake George, NY.
Since the discovery and exposure of Vivian Maier’s work in 2009, this reclusive, mysterious figure—street photographer, nanny, visual genius—has been the subject of widespread acclaim and attention. From monographs to worldwide gallery exhibitions and the widespread release of a feature film (the second documentary produced about her life and her work), the attention that Maier’s story has generated is dwarfed only by the astounding quality of the photographs she left behind.
In July 2014, Jim Casper, editor-in-chief of LensCulture, spoke with Anne Morin, the curator of the great exhibition, “Vivian Maier: A Photographic Revelation” that was shown throughout Europe. Morin was also very generous to share with us, and the readers of LensCulture, 120 photographs from the exhibition.
Click here for the full interview.
For those that have studied Myron Barnstones' lectures, it's no secret that he couldn't apply Dynamic Symmetry principles intuitively to a drawing or painting without golden section calipers - even after 35 years of teaching. In fact, he states this at the end of his video "The Golden Section: Unlocking the Secrets of Design."
However, some online marketers are implying, based on this statement, that photographers cannot apply Dynamic Symmetry principles to their images unless they use camera design grids taped to their camera. In other words, if Myron can't do it, why would you think you can?
Years ago, I spent three days with Myron Barnstone in his studio in Coplay, Pennsylvania talking about art, photography, and design. During our many conversations, he never once suggested photographers could apply Dynamic Symmetry in the same manner as the artist (direct application using calipers or tools) nor did he claim photographers need camera design grids to create a masterful photograph.
The fact is, photographers have been applying classical design techniques for over 90 years without camera design grids and suggesting otherwise discredits a long line of historically relevant and influential photographers. More importantly, taking Myron Barnstones' words out of context to increase camera grid sales is in poor taste and lacks respect for his lifetime achievements as an artist and educator of Dynamic Symmetry.
To learn more, see the article Dynamic Symmetry for Photographers.
I received my new Leica MP240 digital camera a few days ago. I have to say this is more beautiful than the standard M240. Simple design, easy to use menus and superior glass. After 36 years of taking pictures, I can honestly say, nothing compares to shooting with a Leica M rangefinder camera. I started using them in 1996 with the M6 and never looked back.
Street photographers around the world often have to confront privacy laws and their implications for candid shooting.
This series, built up day after day, questions this restriction. In each photo, the people are unrecognizable, faceless—but their presence is absolutely necessary for the outcome of each picture.
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To see more images by Diego Bardone, click here.