February 20, 2021

Redefining Boundaries: Shedding the Parenthesis of Normal Existence

Usually held at Community Yoga in Greenfield, MA, Alexander Technique teacher Lisa Harvey guided us via the Zoom portal to slow down and notice how we use our bodies.

Explaining how it is possible to become one with a tool by extending our nervous system beyond typical and limited boundaries, Lisa set us free to explore the concept.  I immediately went for my camera.  On this website's About page, the first line of text states, "I love the feel of a camera in my hand."

Eco-Friendly Packing Material

I prowled around my house for a few minutes seeking light and to merge mind, body and spirit with camera.  

Multiple Exposure of the Packing Material

Amazingly and wonderfully, for her exploration, pianist classmate Julia played a Beethoven sonata, providing a lyrical and emotive soundtrack.

Spice it Up

Minutes later we reconvened in our Zoom squares.  Amanda shared the revelatory nature of the experience as she was able to break through her trepidation of singing into a microphone.  

Intentionally and Specifically Out of Focus

Lisa encouraged us to redefine boundaries, to shed the parenthesis of our normal existence.  Look forward to our next out of this world class!

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 CreateLookEnjoy.com  Instagram: @john.nordell

February 17, 2021

The Glory of "Mistakes"

 This image was a mistake  It should not look this good.

Bark Snow Branch

I reveled in the pre-sunset light on a ridge above Greenfield, MA.  I thought my camera was set for automatic exposure when I captured the multiple exposure above, layering three shots on top of each other in the camera.  However, since the camera was actually set to determine the exposure manually, technically some of the layers were underexposed, which happily allowed for a smooth blending of textures.

I am Light

I later captured the same three subjects with the proper exposure. However, unlike my "accident", the result looked like mush. Running the file through a serious Photoshop filter fortunately made for this pleasing result:

Black Sheep
The image below records my footsteps as I captured the images.

Photographicus Americanus Tracks
I teach the Zentangle method of drawing. We use special pencils that have no eraser,  a physical reminder that there are no mistakes. Life does not come with an eraser.

Perhaps this spiritual artistic training allowed me to continue reveling and creating, rather than berating myself for making an "error".

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 CreateLookEnjoy.com   Instagram: @john.nordell

January 30, 2021

A Beach in Winter - Probing for Essence

Sand whipped off the beach at Sandy Point Reservation at the tip of Plum Island in Ipswich, MA.  The brilliant blustery January day enlivened my mind, body and creative spirit.

Surf's Up

Listening to my gut brain in post production, these two photos beckoned to be joined in a diptych.

Taking Off

With my Reality-Based Abstractions, I often take a "sketch" photo before combining multiple exposures to capture a multilayered view of reality, a process akin to a painter drawing before getting out the oils.  With the sketch, I check exposure and lighting conditions.

Sketch - Better Than the Final

With the image above, I wanted to show a lost lobster trap in situ, before treating it with multiple exposures.  However, in this case, I like the sketch better than the final product.

Vision Not Realized

Waiting for liftoff: I stalked this bird as it poked around barnacled rocks exposed by the tide.

Homage to Koudelka

Driving to the beach I had listened to Jaymi Heimbuch's podcast on 6 Surprising Resolutions for Conservation Photographers. She extolled the importance of capturing a moment that evokes an emotional response in a viewer over perfectionist technical striving.  Her idea emboldened me to try my hand at bird photography.

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 CreateLookEnjoy.com  Instagram: @john.nordell

November 25, 2020

"... and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."  - Henry David Thoreau, from his book, Walden; or, Life in the Woods

Daytime Fireworks



My 1.5 hours spent yesterday at Walden Pond pales in comparison with the two years Thoreau spent living there writing the journals he later distilled into a book.  However, in my own way I strive to emulate Thoreau and go the woods to "...front only the essential facts of life."

Pining for Life

Sometimes I have a camera with me when exploring the natural world.  Taking pictures brings me into the moment of living and helps me to "...see if I could not learn what it (the woods) had to teach..."

Impression of Woods
With these first three images, I used a Nikon D200 DSLR camera which allowed me to control the look of the explorations, whether layering frames via in-camera multiple-exposures, adjusting the aperture to control depth of field, or choosing a slow shutter speed and then swiping my camera through the air during the exposure.  The following images were captured with an iPhone.

Thoreau with a Replica of his Cabin - The Original Tiny House

Using a fully featured digital camera (DSLR) contrasts sharply with snapping iPhone shots.  There are pros and cons.  On the plus side, the DSLR allows for the control and variation demonstrated above.  However, the camera is bulky.  It does not fit in your pocket.

The iPhone rests in my pocket, ready in seconds to capture fleeting moments.  Nothing to adjust.  It is easy to hold in one hand while taking pictures.  I love to touch history and an iPhone easily allows for this process.

That Way

To live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy. This catch phrase from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Stephen Covey often finds its place in my morning goals.

Following Thoreau's breadcrumbs to Walden Pond on a digitally mediated visit helped me define to live. "... and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."  I want to live.

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 CreateLookEnjoy.com  Instagram: @john.nordell

October 17, 2020

Taking Action, Clicking the Shutter, Making Things Happen

For many years working as a photojournalist, photo editors would call with a specific subject for me to photograph.

Professorial activities take most of my working energy these days.  On the rare occasion when I head out with my camera, sans editorial mandate, subject matter can initially be elusive.

Driving among farms near the Connecticut river in Massachusetts, the light streaming through corn leaves beckoned me from my car.

Photosynthetic Tendrils


Moving beyond photojournalism's straight shooting, these days I often create in-camera multiple exposures. Prowling around the corn field's edge, I layered images of found grass, clouds, trees and sky:

Seed Sky River













Nearby a freshly mown hayfield:

Not an Aerial
A farm photo essay without a red barn would be incomplete: 

Motif #12













Looking down from a bridge towards a river :

Leaves Over Untroubled Water

It all starts just by taking action, clicking the shutter the first time, making things happen.

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 CreateLookEnjoy.com  Instagram: @john.nordell


September 5, 2020

My Images in Sotheby's Auction Celebrating The History & Cultural Impact of Hip Hop

 

Boston Globe article about the auction and my photographs: Boston, ’80s hip-hop, and the previously unseen photos that documented the scene

 Press Release: Sotheby’s is honored to announce an auction celebrating the history and cultural impact of Hip Hop on 15 September in New York. The first-ever dedicated Hip Hop auction to be presented at a major international auction house, the sale reflects on the impact Hip Hop has had on art and culture from the late 1970s through the “Golden Age” of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, and up to the present. 

Full auction details. I have two lots in the auction. You are invited to view here and here.

Media inquiries: john@createlookenjoy.com

This body of work is a labor of love. These photographs represent the hundreds I shot from 1985 to 1989, documenting hip-hop culture in Boston. I believe that the power of the images lies in their focused look at a single community: an exuberant microcosm of a growing worldwide cultural revolution. Many of my subjects never gained much prominence, but they remain prominent and important as early, localized representatives of a seismic shift. Just look at the way rappers today in South Korea gesticulate, move on stage and enunciate rhymes.

A few shoots were on assignment for Boston Rock Magazine (15 dollars for photos and an article), but it was my interest in the energy and beats of the scene that kept me snapping. As only a handful of the images have been published or exhibited, the work is a fresh and unique trove of recently discovered treasure.





In 1986, I documented one of the Hollywood Talent Nights produced by Maurice Starr, creator of New Edition and New Kids on the Block. Youngsters got dressed up and sang, rapped and danced. Employing a medium format camera along with portable studio lighting allowed me to catch the outfits and attitudes in crisp detail. Along with many unknowns at the talent show, I snapped portraits of pre-fame NKOTB. 



I also captured a performance by Rusty the Toe Jammer in 1985, who scratches with his foot, in the community room at a housing project in Boston.



During this period, as hip-hop began to transcend national boundaries, my photographic career went global as well. Nonetheless, returning from South Korea in 1987 after documenting riots wearing a gas mask and helmet on assignment for Time Magazine and US New and World Report, I continued the project.



I obtained photo passes, sometime from Boston Rock, sometimes from the Boston Phoenix, to document performances by major touring acts such as Whodini, The Beastie Boys, Grandmaster Flash, LL Cool Jay, Run-D.M.C., The Fat Boys and so on.

However, the young mostly unknowns in these images, brimming with pride and fight, are my champions.









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 CreateLookEnjoy.com   Instagram: @john.nordell


May 12, 2020

Stop and Think: What Does Your Front Door Look Like? - A Mindfulness Exercise


Without looking, write a list of all the details you can think of that describe your front door, or the entryway to your abode.  Here's mine:

1.  Light on left.
2.  Gold handle - outer door.
3.  Metal railing.
4.  Three concrete steps.
5.  Wood sticks out.
6.  Front door color is bluish grey.

Then go and take pictures of items on your list.

3. Metal railing.  4. Three concrete steps.  5. Wood sticks out.
My imagined list was spot on, except for the color. Bluish grey was the door color of a house I moved out of 14 years ago!

1. Light on left.
In my defense, I always use the side door.

2. Gold handle - outer door.

Taking pictures for me is a form of mindfulness.  I try to use all my senses to become attuned the present moment conditions.  This approach helps me see clearly and creatively.

The initial concept of this exercise was to test my recall of everyday encounters.  However, photographing details of a common sight led me to see it in an uncommon way:

Culled Vision
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 CreateLookEnjoy.com  Instagram: @john.nordell