Join us on Saturday: Book launch, and P A R T Y

I JUST DUSTED OFF some old binders of medium-format transparencies, did a little digging, made a few calculations, and realized I’ve been photographing the work of stonemason Lew French for nearly 25 years. Wow, talk about time flying. In the course of those 25 years Lew and I have spent countless hours together, traveled many thousands of miles to photograph his work, completed two book projects, and he even built a wonderful beach stone fireplace in our old Farm Pond house.

I’m proud to announce the launch of our second book together, Sticks and Stones, at our gallery this Saturday, August 65:00-7:00pm. Lew and I will be there to meet you and sign books.

Our first book together, Stone by Design, was published in 2007. Every single photo was shot on Martha’s Vineyard, where Lew had created all of his master stonework and gardens. Nearly 35,000 copies sold, and the book really put him on the map as not just a craftsman, but as an artist. CBS Sunday Morning did a fabulous segment about Lew, he’s been piling up awards and honors for his work, and he now has fans all over the world.

As a result, Lew’s not just a Martha’s Vineyard stonemason anymore. His well-deserved reputation has far exceeded the shores of the Island. So the stonework that graces the pages of Sticks and Stones took us to places like Brazil, the Adirondacks, Maine, Washington DC, Cape Cod and Boston.

My most memorable trip for this book was, without a doubt, my trip to Brazil in January 2015. I left the Island in near-zero temperatures, and photographed “sea smoke” on the ferry trip across Vineyard Sound  (caused by frigid air meeting slightly warmer water). You might need to “like” my Facebook page to see the video below:

Sue captured Alison’s adventure shooting “sea smoke” in frigid weather, on her way to Brazil in January 2015. There’s even an appearance by Chris Morse, owner of the Granary Gallery, who took some photos of his own.

When I got to Brazil 24 hours later… well… let’s just say that Brazil in January is hotter than anything we can even imagine here on the island. After picking up provisions from a market in a remote small village, we headed many miles up into the mountains on a deeply-rutted, tortuously-bumpy red dirt road. We finally arrived at Lew’s home, nestled in a valley, at the base of thousands of acres of Brazilian rainforest. Lew built the home he shares with wife Claudia, and has created stunning stonework and lush gardens on their property.
 

Alison shot this video with her iPhone in January 2015, in Brazil, where she took photos of Lew and Claudia’s house for Sticks & Stones

The next four days were spent rising early and pretty much devoting the entire day to photography. I worked hard to capture the wild and dramatic setting of the house, the massive interior stone wall and fireplace, the many unique features of the home (including his own version of the traditional stucco and stone wood-fired cookstove), and even furnishings which Lew crafted of wood and stone.

In whatever down-time we had, it was much too oppressively hot to hike up the mountains and into the rainforest, but it was just the right temperature for an occasional shower beneath the waterfall on Lew’s property. We ate fruit I’ve never even heard of before, from some of the thousands of fruit trees Lew planted on the land. Geckos and other critters skittered through the house in search of a cool place to hang out. Wild horses ran in the distance, and monkeys chattered at dusk, far up in the mountains. At night I was grateful for the mosquito netting that surrounded my bed. “No, Alison, you’re not on Martha’s Vineyard anymore….”

Five days later (far too soon) I did the whole trip in reverse. It was a heck of a lot easier getting down the mountain that it had been going up. That is, it was easier until I got back to the winter temperatures I’d left less than a week before. That transition was a little rough, I must admit.

Please join us this Saturday for our book signing, and to celebrate our 10th anniversary season of Alison Shaw Gallery. Sue and I are very blessed to own this gallery together, and we want to share our celebration with you.

Join us this Monday, July 4th, from 10 to 2

by Sue Dawson

4th morning crop

PLEASE JOIN Alison Shaw Gallery and gallery josephine for 4th morning, our impromptu way of celebrating the revitalization of the Arts District in Oak Bluffs, and our newly-installed sidewalk! The highway trucks finished up today, just in time to toast the completion of our safe walkway between the Arts District and the Oak Bluffs harbor.

We’ll be open from 10am to 2pm on Monday, July 4th, serving delicious breakfast beverages, and tasty snacks. It’s a perfect way to start your morning – drinking a latte, sitting in our beautiful garden, and looking at stunning art.

We also just hung Alison’s new photo of her favorite Oak Bluffs jetty (the one on Inkwell Beach) on the main wall. We used our premium framing, with museum glass – I really love this one.

We look forward to seeing you on Monday!

Alison Shaw Gallery’s 10th anniversary season

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by Sue Dawson

WE’RE OPENING for the 2016 season tomorrow: Saturday, May 28th, between 10am and 5pm. This year promises to be different. We like to shake things up occasionally (keeps it fun for us). To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we’re hosting two parties – one on July 9th, and one on August 6th. Instead of hanging a full “show” each month, we’re going to just hang new (and retrospective) pieces when we feel like it. So the walls will be changing often. If you want to buy something right off the wall, you can take it with you. We’ll just hang a new piece in its place. We love the fluidity of being able to move things around, and hope you will too!

This summer, I’m planning to write a series of blogs about our building, which began as a one-engine firehouse. And by my count, Alison’s been a professional photographer on Martha’s Vineyard for 40 years (another milestone!), so I’ll do some posts about her too. We’re really looking forward to sharing this season with you.

Four workshops to choose from this year

by Sue Dawson

EVER WANTED to do a workshop with Alison? This year, there are four locations to choose from. Alison loves teaching, and has been doing it for decades. The workshops are a great way to immerse yourself in photography for 3 to 7 days, and really get inspired creatively. You’ll learn tips and techniques, make new friends, and take some awesome photos. Click each location for more info.

DALLAS, TEXAS
May 19-21, 2016
Sun to Moon Gallery
Alison’s really excited to do her third workshop for Sun to Moon, which she co-teaches with photographer and gallery co-owner Scot Miller. There’s still time to sign up!

White Rock Lake, Dallas TX

White Rock Lake, Dallas TX

Alison teaching in Sun to Moon Gallery, Dallas

Alison teaching in Sun to Moon Gallery, Dallas


ROCKPORT
, MAINE

July 17-23, 2016
Maine Media Workshops
This is Alison’s 16th consecutive year doing this workshop. Shooting on the Maine coast is near and dear to Alison’s heart. Her family has lived in Brunswick for many years, and she really knows and loves the area.

Rockport Harbor, watching the lobster catch come in

Rockport Harbor, watching the lobster catch come in

Pemaquid Point, Maine

Pemaquid Point, Maine


MARTHA’S VINEYARD

September 18-24, 2016 – FULL
Alison Shaw Photography Workshops
This is Alison’s home, and her favorite place to teach. She started teaching on the Island in 1993, and has taught every year since. Just a few spaces left in this one, so sign up soon.

Students with workshop assistant Wayne Smith, Lucy Vincent Beach

Students with workshop assistant Wayne Smith, Lucy Vincent Beach

Lucy Vincent Beach

Lucy Vincent Beach


TUCSON
, ARIZONA

November 6-11, 2016
Madeline Island School of the Arts – West
This will be Alison’s second time teaching in Tucson, and her third workshop for MISA. Tanque Verde is a top-notch dude ranch with great food, ambiance, and weather.

On Tanque Verde Ranch, shooting a wrangler

At Tanque Verde Ranch, shooting a wrangler

Spanish mission on the outskirts of Tucson

Spanish mission on the outskirts of Tucson

 

Realizing your dreams

by Sue Dawson

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR. The holidays. But this year it’s also the time we’re filling the 12 available spots in our 6-month Mentorship. The past two years we’ve started the Mentorship at the beginning of November. But things got all mucked up with the holidays, to be honest. Between turkey and shopping and wrapping and cooking and cleaning and baking and doing it over and over again several times in one month, we were exhausted. So this year, we’ve decided to start the Mentorship on January 4th, and jump into the new year well-fed and ready to focus.

I’ve been reading through the Mentorship Facebook group page, past emails, and worksheets our students have submitted, and I came across this great quote, that I placed over one of the author’s gorgeous photos:

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Goals without a plan. I know this well. I’m good at reaching many goals, but the creative ones always seem to get kicked to the bottom of my to-do list. This is the stuff that means the most to me (after family, of course), but I don’t make time to pursue it. Maybe it’s because it can be a little lonely to work on my art, and I’m a people person. Maybe I’m scared of failing. Or maybe I’m scared of succeeding … didn’t expect that one, did you?

We’ve designed the Mentorship exactly as Deb hoped. It’s a roadmap – customized for you – to identify your dreams, and create a plan to achieve them. There are trainings on things like creativity, and putting together a portfolio of your work. You become part of a group of 12 peers, who support each other via our private Facebook group, and at the two weekend retreats. The highlight of the retreats are the Mastermind sessions, when each student has a block of time to present your work, get support, feedback, suggestions, and the group’s full attention. It’s a powerful experience to have 13 people (11 other students, Alison, and me) focused exclusively on you and your work – some of the best insights have come from Masterminds. Throughout the Mentorship, you’ll have one-on-one sessions with Alison, focused entirely on your photographs, your workflow, and your goals. And sessions with me, where we look at your website, writing about your work, and getting your photography seen and appreciated by others.

It’s hard work. It is. No sugar-coating that. Your results will be directly proportional to your investment of time and effort. But this is about your dreams, after all. It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road, and thinking you’ll be able to focus on your dreams some other time.

23 people have done this before you, each of them full of reservations and excuses, each of them nervous that they picked now to jump in. There’s a section on our website where you can see a list of some Mentorship student accomplishments, look at portfolios of students’ work, and read their thoughts on the Mentorship experience. I encourage you to look at all they’ve done, and picture yourself on this list next year.

For more info, go here, and click the blue link under the photo to download a pdf. Or email Sue: sue@alisonshaw.com. I’m looking forward to talking with you!

Behind the shot: “Rock Harbor II 2014”

by Sue Dawson

RockHarborII2014

I ASKED ALISON about the new photo on our main wall, called Rock Harbor II 2014. We’ve printed it as a large canvas, and we just hung it for tomorrow’s opening reception, for our third show this season of Alison’s newest work. It’s such a stunning, painterly image, I’ll have to convince people that this is a photograph. This is one I’d like to hang in our own house. Here’s what she said:

“I took this shot last fall, right before teaching a workshop for the South Shore Camera Club on the Cape. I had just done tests comparing the new Nikon D810 and my old D700. Being the picky, in-search-of-high-quality person that I am, I test all of the new equipment that comes along. I’m really frugal, but whenever I find something worth the leap, I’ll be first in line with my credit card at B&H. As soon as I ascertained that the 810 produced images with much higher quality, I ordered it. My new toy arrived the day before I left for the Cape – I was like a kid in a candy shop.

In doing last-minute scouting for the workshop, I hit all of my favorite places along the Brewster flats. These days, I’m drawn to shoot images that are either all neutral, or predominantly neutral with flashes of color. So I was looking for low tide, and flat, uninteresting light – that’s the neutral backdrop. Fall is my favorite time, because the plants in the marsh have interesting, often warm-toned flashes of color. In the summer it’s all green, but in the fall, there are gorgeous color variations.

For me, this shot really tactilely feels like I loaded a paintbrush with some cadmium yellow and a little burnt sienna, and applied those brushstrokes. That’s what it looks like on the finished print, but it’s also what it felt like when I was shooting. My technique really feels like painting. I’m carefully composing the shot, and then going on instinct as I create the “camera stroke.” As with my other painterly images, the effect is entirely done in-camera. There’s no post-processing that creates the painterly feel. The D810 enables me to print larger, with amazing resolution, and captures the nuances of color that drew me to the shot.”

Our opening reception is tomorrow (Saturday, August 8th), from 5 to 7:30pm. 

Behind the shot: “Oak Bluffs 2015”

by Sue Dawson

OakBluffs2015blog2

I ASKED ALISON about the new photo on our main wall, called Oak Bluffs 2015. We’ve printed it as a large canvas, and we just hung it for tomorrow’s opening reception, for our second show this season of Alison’s newest work. It’s mesmerizing – it looks like it’s just floating on the wall. Here’s what she said:

“That’s the direction I’m going in now – a more muted palette, fewer primary colors. It doesn’t have to be dawn or dusk for me anymore. I used to look for a stronger color palette, which you’ll find early or late in the day. But now I’m watching for the really subtle things that are happening. Quiet things, like the two different flat calms going on in the water in this shot. I love the height of the tide – almost covering the rocks, with just a few of them poking through. If you could see all of the rocks, it’d be really seaweedy, really messy-looking. This just gives you a hint of the rocks.

It’s a location that’s so subtle, you’d never stop and take a touristy picture there. It’d never be subject matter that you’d hear, “Oh, honey, let’s stop and take a picture.” I feel like what I’m looking for now is something that’s evocative, but understated – something I think is beautiful, but not in an obvious way. A scene where a little change of light, wind direction, wind velocity, the tide, will make me screech to the side of the road, get out my camera, and ignore my appointments for a half hour.

I drive by this spot every day, and pay attention to what the tide’s doing, what the water’s doing, what the light’s doing. I stop there once a month and take pictures. But this particular day was unique. The sky was almost white, and the water took on two distinct tones. In the distance was flat calm, and up close, the water was moving over the rocks. So you really have this gradation from the whitish sky up top, to a sliver of the most distant water that’s moving, to flat calm water reflecting the sky, and into the moving water in the foreground. Beyond the end of the jetty, that flat calm is like a mirror, reflecting the sky. And nearest to me, the water was choppy, so I used a long exposure to make the moving water look soft and smoothed out over the rocks.

The centered one-point perspective draws you into the photo. And I kind of love the fact that the thing in the middle of the jetty is completely practical – not picturesque – and yet becomes the center of interest in the shot. It’s totally mundane – not like the fishing pier, which is beautiful unto itself.

I love the concept of the contrast between extreme sharpness and extreme softness in the same picture. And I already mentioned the two types of water – the flat calm, and the choppy waves I smoothed out in the foreground. There’s a duality throughout, really – a complexity that you see, the longer you look into the picture. At first it’s simple, calming, deep. But as you’re drawn in, there’s so much more to see, so much more to feel.”

Please come by tomorrow – Saturday, July 11th – and see it in person. Our reception is from 4 to 7pm, and this show will be here through August 7th. 

A surprise for Sue

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A guest blog: by Sue Dawson

A FEW WEEKS ago, a really nice woman came into the gallery. Well, I didn’t know how nice she was back then. All I knew was that she was from Baltimore (her answer to my query), and since I grew up there, we started talking about our shared home. She asked me if she could bring anything the next time she visits. I got shy (this doesn’t usually happen), and said “Oh no, that’s ok, so nice of you to ask.” She responded, “No, really – if you could have anything from Baltimore, what would it be?” Without hesitation, I answered “Berger cookies. I haven’t had one for years, and you can’t get them anywhere else.”

“Done,” she said, and her friend said “She means it, you know. She really means it.” So nice. And yet, in the flow of spring and early summer, I forgot all about it…

…until today. I was upstairs on a call with one of our Mentorship students, when Toby dropped off the package. For the poor folks who have never heard of Berger cookies, here they are:

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Two boxes of deliciousness. They look like hockey pucks (or worse), but they taste fantastic. Apparently each one is iced by hand, chocolate fudge on top of a cakey cookie. It’s not about the cookie on the bottom – you eat these for the fudge on top. Just like you buy Lucky Charms for the little marshmallows.

In case this isn’t clear, I am now six years old, and in Baltimore heaven. Toby, you just made my day!

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Oh, and while I have your attention, Alison’s annual opening at the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury is this Sunday, from 5 to 7pm. Hope we see you there!

Introducing our two new workshop assistants

ws_wasque_point

Wayne Smith’s photograph of a fisherman at Wasque, where blues are running like they were in the ’70s.

A guest blog: by Sue Dawson

ALISON’S BEEN TEACHING week-long workshops on Martha’s Vineyard since the mid-1980s. They were first hosted by Atlanta’s Southeastern Center for the Arts (owner Neil Chaput then moved to Montana, where he founded Rocky Mountain School of Photography). Classes were held in a different place every year – even in Alison’s living room. Those were the days of shooting with film cameras, so Alison had an assistant who dropped off at least 50 rolls of film at the airport each morning, so they could be flown to Logan Airport, driven by courier to a lab in Boston, and rush-processed. He or she would pick up yesterday’s processed film – now slides – and bring them back to the group each day. No one knew for sure how their images would look, until they saw the slides. Students “bracketed” their shots, meaning that they shot multiple images of the same thing at different exposures, to increase the chances of getting a good one. When the slides came in, they’d be spread out on a light table, the best shots chosen, and loaded into a slide projector for group critiques.

Things are so different now. Classtime is held at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, in a gorgeous theater with cushy seats and a huge screen. We host a group dinner Friday night, in a local restaurant, and a final slideshow Saturday morning that’s open to the public. All students shoot with digital cameras, so daily critiques include images you shot just hours earlier. You can see your images in-camera right away, but the technological “bar” is a lot higher these days. There’s still a learning curve for shooting, but now there’s also the digital darkroom, which is a daunting thing for many photographers. You need to have an efficient workflow, and know how to process your images digitally.

We’re excited to announce that we’ll have two assistants for our workshops this year, so that we can meet the varied needs of our students. Wayne Smith, a local photographer and surfcaster (see today’s Vineyard Gazette story about his fishing success here), will offer his many years of expertise with shooting, and managing a photo studio in Boston. Jeff Bernier, a local photographer and retired tech teacher at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, will teach what you need to know in Adobe Lightroom on our first morning together, and be available for tech questions the rest of the week. Long-time workshop alum and friend Jen Sayre will help with setup, errands, and all of your caffeinated beverage needs, as she’s done for several years. All of this added teaching and assistance will free Alison to do what she does best. Our team will support each student where they are, thus manifesting each student’s own best experience.

If you’ve been thinking of taking a workshop with Alison, this is a great year to do it. Grab your spot now – there’s a pdf you can download here, with details and registration info (look for the blue type).

Alison’s work appears in Sally Taylor’s TEDx talk

A guest blog: by Sue Dawson

I’M ON James Taylor’s mailing list (huge fan, since I heard his album JT in high school – we now own every single one), and he just sent out a link to his daughter Sally’s TEDx talk, “The Beautiful Dilemma of our Separateness,” in Nashville. It’s definitely worth your time. Sally explains how she came up with the concept for her Consenses project, which uses some of Alison’s photos. If you’re interested, you can read my blog post from last summer, to get the whole story. Anyway, please watch Sally’s talk. I was so inspired by her insight.