November 17, 2019

Creative Process - Preparing, Planning and Photographing Football

I previously worked for many years as a photojournalist, but rarely shot sports.  Planning to photograph a football game at American International College, where I teach, I looked online for effective strategies.  I also looked at amazing football photos for inspiration.

Search History

Before leaving my car to shoot, I sketched different ideas of the types of images that I wanted to capture.

Celebrating, Laying Out to Catch a Pass, Making a Tackle
It proved valuable to have this vision of what I wanted to document.

Kyle Boyer-Tucker Laying Out to Catch a Pass
Kyle took my Digital Photography 1 class a few years ago.  So great to see him on the field.

Jaysen Thompsen Celebrating
As I walked behind the AIC bench with my gear, I ran into linebacker Gates Kelliher, currently a student in my History of Photojournalism class.  We fist bumped.

Here is Gates (43) Making a Tackle

Later, once again traversing the AIC bench as the action shifted to the other end of the field, I heard Gates yell to me, "Hey Professor.  The leaves!"  A reference to the sun drenched fall beauties adjacent to the field.  I was trying to capture game highlights, but Gates' enthusiasm about photography in this moment became a highlight of my teaching career.

The Handoff, with Leaves

Experimentation - Searching for Art in Structured Complexity

One of the preparatory articles I read suggested to stretch your legs before game time, to be ready to run down the sidelines when field position changed quickly.

The Prof in Action - Photo by AIC Graduate Samira Abdul-Karim

My legs were fine.  However, kneeling for hours while steadying the camera, along with dipping my head to review the images, left me with a sore neck.  It's sometimes hard to prepare for everything.  That's part of the process.

I later asked two Visual and Digital Arts majors that I photographed to write about the connections between playing football and creating images.  Click here to read their reports and see their images.

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at  Instagram: @john.nordell

October 23, 2019

Crossing Paths Enriches Our Lives and New Technology Can Inspire Using Old Technology in a New Way

So excited that my one of my in-camera digital multiple exposures was chosen for F-Stop Magazine's Abstraction Issue. My image, Intersecting Lives and Lines, captures manifold views of a glass fire door at MASS MoCA.

Intersecting Lives and Lines
I see the gray lines as the journeys of individual humans. When our paths cross, our life experiences become deeper and richer.

Discovering that my Nikon DSLR allowed me to create in-camera multiple exposures like this sent me on a digitally enabled journey into abstraction.

In my prior days working as a photojournalist in the film era, I did everything I could to avoid double or multiple exposures.  In the past few years, I have begun shooting film again.

Empire State Building
This image I shot with a plastic Holga 120mm film camera. I was passing the Empire State Building in a cab and shot out the window, rotating the angle of my camera between each of four exposures on a single frame of film.

There are a few day left to bid on a print of this image, which I donated to raise money for the In-Sight Photography Project, a non-profit in Brattleboro, VT, that offers photography classes for all youth, regardless of their ability to pay.

I love the way a new technology inspired me to go in a new direction, which then led me to use an old technology in a new way.

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at  Instagram: @john.nordell

October 7, 2019

From Seed To Fruition - My Aerial Images of Large Scale Drawings Chosen for Western Massachusetts Visual Arts Biennial

Opening reception: In conjunction with Arts Night Out, Friday, October 11th, 5:00 - 8:00PM, at Forbes Library’s Hosmer Gallery, 20 West St., Northampton MA

Exhibition jurors: Donna Gates, Gallery Director and Curator, Salmon Falls Gallery; Jameson Johnson, Founder and Editor in chief, The Boston Art Review; Robert Wiesenburger, the Associate Curator of Contemporary Projects for The Clark Art Institute.

Friend and artist Keris Salmon recently introduced me via email to an artist friend of hers, Anna Hepler. When Hepler and I met (we both live in Greenfield), I learned that she often originates a certain idea/form and then manifests the same idea/form in a variety of media, such as clay, wood and block printing. Her multiple renderings of a single idea in a various ways planted a seed in my creative vision. 

Drawing with Dew

I sometimes do Zentangle drawing, an art form that blends drawing and meditation. By drawing repeated, structured patterns, abstract beauty emerges. Normally, with Zentangle, I use a pen and pencil, drawing on 3.5 inch squares of paper. Inspired by Hepler’s multifaceted approach, I wondered what it would be like to make a computer generated 3D print of a Zentangle pattern and then block print it, or draw on a scale so large that the image would only be fully visible from the sky.

Rick's Paradox - Straight Lines Create Curves - Zentangle Drawing (Not in the exhibition)
My personal artistic vision is one of open-minded exploration. While I love to go back in time, such as drawing with ink made from crushed berries, I also warmly embrace the use of contemporary digital tools. The fruition of my project combined elemental mark making using my feet with using a drone for aerial imaging of the large-scale artworks.

Drawing with Sand

One time I drew by shuffling my feet through dewy grass on the field behind Four Corners School in Greenfield, Mass. Another time, at the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area, I made lines in the sand with a single foot. At Walden Pond in Concord Mass., my drawing straddled the shoreline, with some lines continuing from the sandy beach under the pond’s surface. In each location, upon completing the drawing, I sent my drone aloft to photograph the work from on high.

Drawing with Sand and Water (Not in the exhibition)

My project bore so many fruits: ephemeral artwork that lasted mere hours before evaporating or being walked on; cardiovascular benefits as I worked up a sweat by walking/drawing; a mindfulness practice of literally taking it one step at a time, and a necessity to focus on the process, as I could not even see the product without flying a drone into the sky!

Thank you Anna Hepler for planting the seed.

It takes a village...  Big thanks also to former students Jason Kan and Zach Bednarczyk who have taught me everything I know about piloting drones for aerial imaging.  Thanks also to Jason for emboldening me to push the limits when editing images in Lightroom.  I would be remiss to not mention Cheryl Cianci, who I met at a gallery in Hartford. Her enthusiasm about the Zentangle drawing method led me to become a Certified Zentangle Teacher.

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at  Instagram: @john.nordell

August 22, 2019

Low-fi Tools Create Hi-fi Art - My Images Selected for The Somerville Toy Camera Fest

"The Somerville Toy Camera Fest: a “toy camera” is identified as any low-end, low-tech, limited-control camera, including Holga, Diana and other Lomo products, as well as Brownies and Anscos and any pinhole cameras.

An international festival in Somerville, MA celebrating the quirky and creative results that happen when the photographer is forced to loosen his/her controls.  ....we're happy to note that we had entries from 8 countries and 24 US states this year."

Three galleries will be presenting festival images.  My work will be at Washington St Art, 321 Washington Street, Somerville, MA  Opening Reception: Saturday, Sept 7, 6-8pm 
Regular Hours: Saturdays, 12-4 pm  Exhibition Dates: Sept 8 – 28, 2019   

Snow Sun Goddess

I began shooting film (again) in 2018 as a way to limit living a digital life and to get back to my photographic roots. Starting as a boy, and then later at a professional, I developed and printed hundreds of rolls film by hand. For my recent film experimentations I have been using three cameras. 1: My first Nikon, from the 1970s, a Nikomat. 2: A medium format Holga, bought used for $10. I had no idea if it worked. 3: A new Diana Mini.

East and West

With my first round of revisiting film photography, I shot six rolls of film before sending them off for processing. Bye-bye instant digital gratification. The anticipation built as I waited to see the scanned film. I cannot fully describe the thrill of seeing the scans of my film images. On one hand, I see them as rough, imperfect and bursting with soul. They disrupt clinical digital perfection. I vacillate though, wondering if I am making romantic excuses for sometimes messy, unsharp and grainy images.

Artist Statement - Bio

I liked the light falling on my printed Artist Statement.  More and more I realize that I just simply love shadows!

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program
 at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at  Instagram: @john.nordell

August 16, 2019

Interacting with Art: Inspired by the Museum Milieu

Self-portrait with Younes Rahmoun’s video animation “Seed” at the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, MA.



Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at  Instagram: @john.nordell

July 16, 2019

Manifold Histories - From Horse-Drawn Trams to Digital Cameras

"Gallery A3 is excited to announce its 6th Annual Juried Show, to be held August 1-31, 2019, with an opening reception on Thursday, August 1, from 5-8 pm."

I am excited that my image Manifold Histories was selected for the exhibition.  Hope to see you at the opening reception!  28 Amity Street, Amherst,  MA.

Manifold Histories

The digital image, an in-camera multiple exposure from my Reality-Based Abstraction series, melds multiple viewpoints simultaneously of the Summit House porches:

Porches and Pathways
This view from Mt. Holyoke has seen many changes, from industrial ascent and decline to the digital revolution.  According to MassMoments, "With the closest source of water halfway down the mountain, John French built a wooden railway to haul barrels of water up the track.  Power was provided by a horse hitched to a circling crank at the top.  French soon realized that, properly equipped, the tram could also transport people.  He installed the body of a sleigh, and passengers were soon being carried over 600 feet up the mountain.  Moving at a 38-degree angle, riders had the sensation of being pulled almost straight up."

The Covered Tramway, circa 1860.  Photo courtesy of MassMoments
In 2017, a Mt. Holyoke College graduate looked to creating her history:

Bring it On!

In the far distance, beyond the Connecticut River, is the Oxbow, a shape evocative of the apparatus placed over an ox's neck that connects the animal to a wagon.  You can see the Oxbow clearly in Thomas Cole's painting:

View From Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, After a Thunderstorm - The Oxbow,
by Thomas Cole, 1836, The Met

In the same way Cole (bottom center of the painting) looks at the viewer, perhaps asking, "What do you think?",  I encourage my students to look closely at this painting.  They pick out the trees cut down for farming, the storm clouds, the broken tree.  "Might the cut trees and storm foretell the industrial revolution that severely polluted these waterways?" I ask.

One day riding my bike I happened upon the Oxbow Water Ski Show Team demonstrating their athletic waterborne artistry on the Oxbow.  My water ski lesson starts at the 56 second mark in the video.

I wonder what Thomas Cole would make of this activity.  You would need hundreds of horses attached to a circling crank to power one of the boats.

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at  Instagram: @john.nordell