“Reflections On Baudelaire’s “Le Désir de peindre” “

“The Desire To Paint”, “Le Désir de peindre”, by Charles Pierre Baudelaire, so clearly reminds me of the intensity I feel about the work from “Dark Poetry”, “Obscure Poésie“. You may read the English translation of the poem (here). As I have stated in other blog posts, I was a painter for many years, and I was always dreaming of many more paintings, and always aware that I could only accomplish a few, yet it did not stop me from imagining them in detail. I feel the same way about the project, “Dark Poetry”. There is not a single day in over two years that I have not reviewed and considered images from that work, it kind of washes over me like a black tide, cold yet exhilarating, like swimming in the ocean at night, seeing a bright moon overhead and yet not knowing what lies beneath you. Each morning when I walk the path through the woods and along the stream I imagine her in a white Edwardian gown, sitting near the narrow stream in contemplation or her face deep within the boughs of an Evergreen tree staring silently ahead and waiting for me to capture her visage…she never invites a touch but she offers and gives what she can, her clear and direct gaze, her eyes into mine. I have seen her with Honeysuckle blossoms falling from her hair, I have seen her with her arms gently encircling the trunk of a tree as she presses one cheek against it, I have seen her lift the hem of her gown and dip her toes into the stream as it twinkles like diamonds with sunlight that filters through the trees and glances across the water. She who is the object of Baudelaire’s “Le Désir de peindre” is also the object of my “Obscure Poésie“, my “Dark Poetry”. RG

“À mes abonnés français”

*A note to my French subscribers!
“À mes abonnés français, je veux dire un “merci” spécial. Ma photographie a été influencée non seulement par les nombreux photographes français célèbres, mais aussi par les philosophes, les intellectuels et les poètes français… Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Rimbaud, Gide, Baudelaire et tant d’autres. Je crois que l’acte photographique est non seulement guidé par l’œil, mais aussi par le cœur, par ce qui nous nourrit et nous façonne, par le regard que nous portons sur l’autre et sur le monde. Et au-delà de ce que nous voyons, l’acte photographique est guidé par ce que nous ressentons juste avant de prendre la photo et qui dépasse l’intuitif, l’instinctif.
Donc, je vous adresse un salut particulier, vous qui savez voir et appréciez mon travail, vous, qui êtes vraiment ma “raison d’être.” RG

“…she tastes like every dark thought I’ve ever had.” ” …elle avait le goût de mes pensées les plus sombres. “

“…she tastes like every dark thought I’ve ever had.” from the novel, ‘White Cat’, by Holly Black

This quote was left in a comment on one of my portraits recently and of course, it resonated.  And so, I am discussing portraits again.
Portraits are an adventure to me. I have traveled the world and yet true adventure for me is what I find in post after I have done a two-hour portrait shoot!  I can find seduction, intimidation, grace, strength and weakness, I can find everything we are or can be, or desire to be, in portraiture. When I began work with a model for a new portrait series I have no idea where it will take me…that’s “adventure” to me. More to come… RG

“Honeysuckle in the morning…” “Le chèvrefeuille le matin…”

I glanced over at the Honeysuckle today while walking and it reminded me of when I was a boy…I would spend an hour, in “childs time” about ten minutes, plucking Honeysuckle blossoms, one by one, then carefully pulling the stamen through the end for that one small droplet of sweet nectar. It, of course, reminded me of photography, of those fine images that you might capture, those moments that disappear in a fraction of a second. I shoot fast, I shoot a lot of images and I shoot fast. When I worked in the field there were a variety of reasons why I worked quickly. There were many instances in the field or the street where I was not welcome with a camera, or as a foreign journalist, many images I captured I had to work quickly and move on. I found that doing photojournalism or documentary work I would close myself off, I was stoic, I framed quickly and was always looking for those images with pathos and yet I didn’t let the significance of the scene or image affect me emotionally, if you did you couldn’t do the job, at that moment it was a “picture” to me, a good picture, but still just that. The images touched me later, in post, and that is when I reflected on what each one meant or had shown, an issue I have dealt with in past blog posts.
In contrast to working in the field, when I have worked in the studio with my model, I have opened myself up. I viewed her as a lover would, I saw only beauty and grace, I saw no flaws. And I think that is significant, although it is not something I expected, it is something I realized quickly and embraced. I would shoot just under a thousand images an hour in a two hour shoot, I was consumed with capturing everything about her, each nuance, each glance, it is an exhilarating kind of intimacy, and I realized that my style of portrait photography is just that, it is intimate, it is a kind of abandon, desire, and surrender, of sensuous joy, that is why the work with her fits so many narratives I have placed it in, from “L’amour L’après-midi”, “Love In The Afternoon”, to “Le Bain de Minuit”, “The Midnight Swim”, to “Bronte dans le miroir”, “Bronte In The Mirror”, and I am still finding inspiration in the work I have done with her. RG

“Website Change” – “Changement de site Web”

Greetings to all of my subscribers, I wanted to note the changes to the website. My desire was to make it less complicated, and much easier to view, so my work has been collated into three distinct galleries, or projects, beginning with “DARK POETRY”, or “Obscure Poésie“, then “TEXAS GOTHIC: Where The Wild Things Are”, or “Texas Gothique”, and “EPHEMERA: Fleeting Moments From Across The World”. You may read more about each gallery on my “About” page. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you for being interested enough in my work, and in me, to read what at times i’m afraid is more of a “rant” then a studied blog entry. The reason for that being when I begin this blog I decided that it would be spontaneous and truly how I feel at the time it is written, I would not return to edit for content or delete entries, what I post stays up. My ideas or opinions on a particular issue can perhaps change, become more subtle or nuanced, and if it does i’ll try and address that if I think it’s important, otherwise, my blog is how I feel about my work and associated experiences. RG

“About my work…”

I create my images the same way I painted, by what feels “right”, what feels “beautiful”, to me. From the original idea, to composition and processing and finally, presentation, my work is instinctive and visceral. I don’t follow rules of photography because I don’t care about them, and don’t know them anyway. There is bliss in not knowing the parameters someone else, or history, has established. I am excited to find and capture fascinating angles and lines in a composition, and as I’ve said before, I love “negative space”, which to me can give an existential quality to a particular image.
A lady in Spain recently left a comment on a portrait of mine referring to me as “The man who sees souls”. It startled me, less because it was flattering and more because it was so damn beautiful! I’ve expressed several times throughout this blog how much I love creating portraits, and also perhaps the reason being is that I don’t connect with people often. If anyone really wants to know who I am, they have only to view my work, I really believe that it reflects, and at times betrays, more about me than my words ever could.
I have been taking a short walk in a park the last few months, about thirty minutes, doing what the Japanese call “forest bathing”, no aerobics, no power-walking, no worrying, just moving down a path through trees and bushes and a rippling stream and the wildness of it all. I can’t help but see “portraits” in every bit of beauty, a face in the midst of a huge Fir tree, a figure in white posed among the pebbles in the shallow stream, or emerging from the huge roots of a tree along the bank.
I drive each day by a railroad track that has a large stack of railroad ties, and the side where they are end-to-end would make the most amazing close backdrop for a portrait series, these dark, aged square ends.
I live my work, my photography, each day… RG

“A Revolution Story…”

roygunnels-cairoegypt-tahrirsquare-egyptianrevolution-roygunnelsphotography-10I was talking today to a friend, an artist and visual art instructor, about the challenges and risks shooting in the field…as I’ve mentioned earlier in blog posts, I was arrested a myriad number of times during the Egyptian revolution, and had my share of ugly incidents across the Middle East and East Africa, as well as my own country. That said, it’s simply part of shooting “in the field”, to me…
And yet one incident during the revolution was perhaps the most significant. I had been at Tahrir Square for hours shooting the happy throng, it was the day after Mubarak had stepped down and the revolution was theoretically over, with it’s goals achieved.
As I was leaving I saw a child cleaning the tracks of an Egyptian Army tank, and stopped to photograph the scene, this young girl in a “Dr Seuss” hat in the colors of the Egyptian flag, brushing the dirt from the wheels of the tank. I shot a short series and then a soldier appeared, grabbed my arm and asked “Are you an Israeli?”. I produced my passport but that did not settle the matter, he called other soldiers over and I was escorted through the crowd to a group of officers, who proceeded to repeatedly ask if I was Israeli or had been to Israel, and searched my camera bag, then began going through the images on my camera.
Even though I had been followed by State Security operatives while I was working protests, and detained numerous times during the revolution by both the military and the police, I was always questioned, searched, and allowed to go, but this felt different, it felt much more serious.  I had my cell phone and called my friend and frequent shooting partner, herself an Egyptian, and told  her what was happening and I would keep the line open for her to hear it all. The officer in charge at that point noticed I had someone online who was listening, and kept assuring me there was no need to contact the US Embassy when I suggested I was going to.
So, the repeated searches continued, and the questions, and the idea somehow that I was an Israeli spy.  At that point I was surrounded by a throng of soldiers, several officers and a group of enlisted men, all armed of course, as the lead officer kept calling higher ranking officers on his cell, to discuss what to do with me. My Arabic was not good enough to keep up with the discussions, but really, it was the only time during the revolution I felt very uneasy about what might occur. It’s interesting to note here that post-revolution can be a very dangerous time, with channels of command and control very hazy.  Under those circumstances mistakes by authorities can be made, and I did not want to be one of those “mistakes”.
So, after about 45 minutes I was released, with the commanding officer returning my passport and equipment and wishing me “Welcome to Egypt”, even though I had been living there for several years…It is significant to note here that my Egyptian friend, herself a journalist, was very concerned about what she heard in Arabic, “frightened” is the word she used, and that she had begun calling other activists in Tahrir to assemble, find my location and confront the soldiers.
And so, a “war story”, or at least a “revolution story”, from me today…RG

“What I was before photography…”

I was a laborer much of my life, a “common laborer” as they say…mostly because I had a problem getting along with people, well, getting along with a “boss”, really.  But it was as if my “calling” was to be a laborer, I was a working foreman or a working supervisor of labor crews, which just means the boss tells me what to do and I tell the crew and we do it! Nothing sophisticated here, it was “work” in the purest sense, hard, physical labor you did by hand, using a chainsaw or spade or sledgehammer, or something else, but mainly with your hands and arms and back. It was the kind of work you did all day, finished, went home, then did the same thing or something like it the next day. There was no reflection or self-discovery involved, but there was a very real camaraderie you had with the other men, we were all doing the same work, I think we respected each other for that…everyone knew if someone was slacking and they were soon weeded out, one way or another. We worked outside in heat, sun, rain, mud, snow and bitter cold days…in a way it was “pure”, I think, and looking back I don’t regret it, I accept that this kind of work is what I could do well, visceral, physical, but at the end of each day, satisfying, and it was a place I could relate to those I worked with on a very basic level, and I had satisfaction that I could lead this kind of man. It had nothing to do with being clever or cunning or ambitious, but it had a great deal to do with doing your share of hard, sometimes brutal work, and being fair.
It may seem obvious that our experiences affect what we desire to shoot and how we shoot it, I think. I suppose I should qualify that by saying it affects how we shoot in certain genres, such as documentary, photojournalism, and perhaps fine art photography in many ways. I assumed that would be self-evident and yet I want to be clear. I had a desire when I returned from abroad to work on a subject that I was comfortable with, familiar with, and I chose the motorcycle club and bikers. And yet during the first few months of what turned out to be a two-year project with the bikers, I had the opportunity to shoot Lisa, my model that I have used for several thematic projects here, including “Obscure Poésie“, “Bronte dans le miroir”, and “L’amour l’après-midi” . The opportunity to photograph beauty…and grace…was exhilarating for me, it was the most formidable challenge I have encountered as a photographer. I like to think I just bully my way through photojournalism or documentary work, and working in the field just comes naturally to me, and yet the work with her required certain sensitivities and subtleties that challenged me more than anything else has. I have always prided myself in being able to remain aloof professionally, if not emotionally, from the work I was doing, the emotional impact of doing photojournalism and documentary work I have addressed in earlier blog posts, but I gradually realized this required a “partnership” with my model if I was to achieve what I visualized in creative portraiture…more to come on this subject. RG