Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Show & Tell, Version 2.01

"Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater." (Gail Godwin)

All of you good, intelligent people with cameras out there, I hope that you appreciate my ongoing educational efforts on your behalf. At arts and crafts shows, I try my best to explain to the public what it is that we do with our cameras. Most of these people are pretty sharp, and some of them are pretty funny, but some need a considerable amount of educating.

This is where I come in.

For some reason, dazed people are drawn to my imagery -- sorta' like lemmings to a cliff. I take their hits so you won't have to. This spring I've been shovelling the shi, stuff pretty deep during our shows. Hopefully, you will find an educated and appreciative audience when you show your photographs.

Call it public service. You're welcome. I think.


'Ducks in a Row' (c) John Ashley"Are these real?" she asks in total seriousness. I immediately reply, "No, they're fake." Then in a low, quiet voice I tell her, "It's all in your imagination." (This is why Tracy doesn't like for me to do shows alone.)

"How'd you get that one duck to turn around?" he asks. I say without hesitation,
"I didn't. I made all the rest of them turn around." (I never know what will come out of my mouth until it's too late.)

"Are all these photos hand-taken?" she inquires. Okay photographers, 'fess up. Which one of you out there is photographing with your feet? Well stop it! You're making the rest of us look old fashioned.

I point out that her favorites are all photos of baby ducks. "I think it's a maternal thing," I tell her with my professor voice. "I think you're right," she says in surprise. "You're better than Freud."

'Big Gulp' (c) John Ashley"That's a wierd picture of the duck," she admonishes me. (Actually it's a grebe, not a duck, and most people think it's funny, not wierd.) I just bite my tongue and smile sweetly -- Tracy would be so proud.

"It's alright now. You know ya' can't please everyone so ya' got to please yourself."  
The background music is playing Ricky Nelson's "Garden Party." Suddenly I realize that Ricky is reaching out to me from 1972!

"I could sneak off into the woods with my camera and never get any shots like these."
Me too. That's why they invented planning and practice and research.

'Dragonfly Dew' (c) John Ashley"Oh, I love that dragonfly," she motions for her friend to look. But her friend turns away, "Don't show me. I already mortgaged the house."

Tracy says, "My husband is the photographer." The customer responds, "And are you the artist?" So the next time Tracy says, "My husband's the artist." The customer asks, "Are you the photographer?" Some people are sneaky that way, always probing for a crack.

Tracy turns over a matted print to show my bio and mug shot to a lady customer. "He's cute," the customer says. "You should keep him hidden." (My favorite comment! Hey, wait a minute. Is that why we moved to the end of the road?)

"Your photos rock!" But I just want them to roll out of here.

"I just love talking to you," a repeat customer tells me. "It's so..." "Educational?" I offer. "Astronomical!" she declares.

"I have this hanging in my livingroom, and I never tire of it." she kindly tells me. "I saw it from 40 feet away and knew I just had to have it. Thank you for your art, it's just beautiful." You're welcome, and thank you for your good taste.

'Many Moons Ago' (c) John AshleyI explain how my image, "Many Moons Ago," shows the moonset on five consecutive nights, requiring almost a week's work to create one photograph. Not difficult enough, apparently. He challenges me, "Are you going to be more ambitious next time and go for ten nights?"

"C'mere honey, look at that one. If we had space to hang something..." he suggests to her. She interjects, "You could put it in the dog kennel!" Hey, whatever you want lady. I've got dogs to feed, too.

"I used to be a hunter but now I hunt with a camera, basically," the big guy tells me. "I'm moving to Montana and I can't wait. Gonna' get me some pictures." For some reason, now I feel nervous about wearing my cammo.

"Did you really take these?" he asks. Hmmm, which path do I lead this one down -- the boring truth or an interesting if not totally improvised story? "Yes," I confess regretfully, unable to come up with a new story on such short notice. He caught me off guard.

'Chief Mtn. Moonrise' (c) John Ashley"I love that [Chief Mtn. Moonrise]. I could stare at it all day." Maybe, but she went home with a different image instead.

"That's gotta' be airbrushed, right?" he asks, trying to impress his friends with his intelligence. (Some magazines, not photographers, used to airbrush photos of models. But that became obsolete when Photoshop arrived 20 years ago.) "No," I tell him through slightly clenched teeth, "they're just photographs." He tries to save face, "Well, this is oil here, right?" "Yep, you caught me on that one." (No, not really. That's also a photograph.)

"Did you photograph that, or did you just imagine it?" He's pointing at "Eagle Talons." I look at the canvas print. It's five feet long. Almost two feet tall. Weighs a couple of pounds. I slowly look him over and think to myself, please, please tell me that you didn't operate a motor vehicle to get here.

Even the artist in the next booth over, behind a curtain, chortled when she overheard that one...

'Eagle Talons' (c) John Ashley
"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without loosing your temper or your self-confidence." (Robert Frost)

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