These Windows Are Tinted To Help You Sleep – Proof Approved, Michael Ast

These Windows Are Tinted To Help You Sleep, zine, self publish, self-publish, Michael Ast, Vinales, Cuba, Havana, low-fi

New zine / proof. Some small changes made and the go ahead to print an edition of 50 on 100# smooth Mohawk paper has been approved. The images in These Windows Are Tinted To Help You Sleep were made during a bus trip to Viñales, Cuba, out a dark window, in an R.E.M. state of consciousness, after 4 long, hot Havana days and nights. An 85mm lens pressed against the window at f1.2. I like exploring and illustrating the psyche amid landscapes unknown.

More info and portfolio to come in coming days.

Cuban Spirit – A Week of Surprises in Havana (Aug. 2017)

Habana Vieja, old Havana, Havana, Egrem Studion, Cuba, cabaret, dancer, fan, yellow, Afro Cuban, Cuban, Estudios Areito, Michael Ast, journal

Dancer / Habana Vieja © Michael Ast, 2017

I miss the surprise and energy of what I experienced last month in Havana so much. I won’t go into a tirade on my boredom with the U.S. and its overarching dismal character pervading the airspace. We all know, this ship is anchored in mire. Instead, I’ll tell a story.

We had just gotten downstairs after witnessing a Cuban jazz recording at Egrem Studios, notorious for the multitude of international acts from Josephine Baker to the consummate sessions led by Ry Cooder, producing his all-star Buena Vista Social Club cast of ambassador musicians. It was to be a surprise like so many that spontaneously occur in the beat of a second in Havana. Tony Leal Rodriguez, current trombonist of the Buena Vista Club, had invited us the night before at dinner to come watch how things are done. Feelings of being in such a sanctuary are inexplicable. In any case, the gentleman at the bar next door, who unlocked the door to let us in earlier, and up the 3 flights of stairs, was now gone. No trace of anyone to let us out of the building. Vira wandered off in search of assistance down a circuitous hallway. A couple minutes later, “I found someone! I found someone!”, she exults from down the hall. She rounds the corner. “Wow!!! You really found someone!”, I blurted. Urszula, Britt and I erupting into praise of beauty. Another surprise. The radiating dancer of course is happy to strike a quick pose for some pictures. She was in the middle of a cabaret performance. She hailed the club manager. He comes. He motions to follow him. We pass nondescript doors, seemingly apartment efficiencies. He unlocks a door. There’s a crowd in a dimly lit room around small tables mesmerized by the choreography of dancers. The four of us stay with the lady in yellow and the manager, cutting through the performance, and led to another door behind the stage. Bright light. Rum, beer, drizzle, afternoon locals on the bar terrace, where we first began our dip into Egrem. Salida. Entrada. A microcosmic moment of the Cuban way. How one doesn’t long for more of such to escape the daily muck? I plot already my return.

Habana Vieja / Viñales (Aug. 2017)

Havana, Habana, Habana Vieja, Havana Vieja, Cuba, Old Havana, tool sharpening, grinder, fedora, Michael Ast

Habana Vieja © Michael Ast, 2017

Habana, Havana, Havana vieja, Habana Vieja, retro car, Chevrolet, Chevy, broke down, Cuba, 50's, spare tire, Michael Ast

Habana Vieja © Michael Ast, 2017

Vinales, Cuba,Viñales, cigar, tobacco, smoke, Cuban cigar, Michael Ast

Tobacco Farmer, Viñales, Cuba © Michael Ast, 2017

Return from Havana

Omara Portuondo, Havana, Hotel Nacional, Cuba, Cuban jazz, Bossa Nova, jazz, Michael Ast, respect

photo credit Urszula Albolik

I went to Cuba for some grounding perspective on life. I lived with the locals through the cherished guidance of my friend Urszula and all her artistic Cuban friends that she’s made through the years. What I witnessed during the intimate stay in Havana is something I’m incapable of describing in words. The thriving character of Cuba is best embodied in their music, for certain. It’s an essential ingredient to the tenacious spirit and endurance in a country of very challenging hardships. A week in their great capital felt like a month for me. At times, I felt my own spirit nearly break, but Cuba allows no such surrender. The oppressive heat at this time of year, for one, is a significant challenge for foreigners visiting from their privileged worlds. In Cuba, you take nothing for granted, and celebrate the little you have through a meekness, which roars like happy thunder through dance and song everywhere, all the time.

To stumble upon the announcement of a rare performance by Cuba’s exemplary singer and national treasure Omara Portuondo was the greatest surprise of the week, among many surprises. Overwhelming gratitude and happiness to stand on stage with such a saint, a most beautiful, expressive human being, singer, performer and persevering personality, while leaning into her ear, “Gracias, eres bella.”

Interview with La Imprenta, August, 2017

Michael Ast, La Imprenta CG, Michael Ast interview

I interviewed with Spanish publisher and printer La Imprenta CG on behalf of their interview series with photographers published in their “Hello Photography” 2017 calendar. It’s Now featured on their blog.

The English translation can be read here: ENGLISH TRANSLATION

The image chosen for the month of August is from my photobook “a musing from the rocking dock”, which La Imprenta printed in September of 2016 on behalf of publisher The Unknown Books.

Original interview (Spanish): INTERVIEW at La Imprenta

Solo Exhibition of Photo Etchings at Rue Principale through August

I hung a show of my photo etchings this afternoon . . . . Happy to be a part of 187 Rue Principale’s environment, a farm-to-table, French-inspired restaurant in Emmaus, PA. The exhibition is on view through the month of August.

Print Info:
Hand-pulled photo etchings made from original photographs, utilizing the intaglio printing process of photopolymer gravure. Some prints incorporate a second “aquatint” etched plate.

All prints are made on Hahnemühle Cooperplate 300gsm paper.

Michael Ast, photo etchings, photopolymer grauvure, intaglio, printmaking, Bucks County, Emmaus, Lehigh County, photography exhibition, one man show, prints, printmakier

Photo Etchings, Solo Exhibition at 187 Rue Pricipale, August, 2017 © Michael Ast

Cowell’s Cove / Santa Cruz (July, 2017)

Santa Cruz, Michael Ast, Cowell's Cove, full moon, moonlight, silver lining, Pacific, bay, ocean, ripples, sailboats, sailing, night photography, aerial, central California, Pacific Coast, Summer, sailing, anchored, CA, black & white

Cowell’s Cove / Santa Cruz © Michael Ast, 2017

Post Vacation

Returning from a rampage of experience, cameras in tote, it is the photographs made, where the soul shoves the norms of psychology aside, that satisfy me most. Traveling to new destinations of astounding beauty often proves brutal in getting beneath enchanting surface. I’m embattled 24/7 with such desire. Gorgeous photographs with technical precision do absolutely nothing for me that the lived moment already presented. Looking through the many images brought home, I see precisely in the mix when I achieved that deeper gaze, unknowingly, without pretension or apparent striving. Essentially, I’m lost at sea in those moments.

Michael Ast, Sonoma County, Sonoma, twilight, Pacific Route 1, Route 1, Pacific ocean, Pacific, coastline, coast, ocean, bluff, outcrop, editing, artist statement, brainstorming, insight

Sonoma County Coast © Michael Ast, 2017

“Kinsey” Portfolio Featured on Phosmag

“KINSEY” portfolio in the works featured on Phosmag:

KINSEY at Phosmag

Kinsey is an ongoing series of hand-pulled photo etchings and photographs made at an abandoned, pre-Prohibition whiskey distillery and industrial warehouse park. The sight lies within a 10-mile emergency planning zone of the Limerick Nuclear Generation Facility in Limerick, Pennsylvania. I’m drawn to the dichotomy of the century-old, bygone facilities, and those relentlessly churning in the immediate distance.

The industrial park, with all its ephemeral detail of desertion, has intimations of destruction, chaos and ominous occurrences. From decayed, imploding rooftops, Limerick’s cooling towers are seen billowing out steam over old neighborhoods and new suburban developments. Imagination turns frail upon such viewing from the grounds of ruin.

Historically, I choose to understand little about the environment’s transitions and decline. Instead, I’m acting on a consciousness taunted by harrowing evidence of neglect, to form images from foreboding thoughts. In that sense, Kinsey has little to do with documenting a place, and more with illustrating human anxiety in the wake of intangible record, hypothetical detritus, and utilities as far reaching as apocalyptic possibility.”

Michael Ast, Kinsey, hand-pulled photo etchings, printmaker, color bw photography, Phosmag, alternative printing, alternative photography, photographic arts

Witnessing Ron Jude’s Nausea for the First Time

I just witnessed Ron Jude’s “Nausea” for the first time, beneath a wooden pavilion being hammered on by a cold Summer rain. I come across this image spread out like the ominous sky surrounding me. It strikes like thunder. A flooring image. An awe accumulates page by page. Pensive photographs brandished by a frenzied, but trusted authentic gaze. I notice odd-colored spiders crawling around my feet. Beige ones, nearly albino. Some black. Wonderfully befitting the book. Not a soul in the expansive park. I take a leak in the grass from the dry concrete. I return to the book. It takes nearly another 20 minutes to reach the last image. More awe, more “gawd damns”! Good art serves you like a meal you struggle not to devour in a few big bites, no breath in between, or a meal you savor and swoosh against the palate, putting the fork down, your head back. That’s the taste I had with my first dish of Nausea here. Dynamic photos and compositions, magnetic in their draw, courageous and brilliantly executed.

photobook, Nausea, Ron Jude, Mack Books, Michael Ast, book review, Sartre

Nausea (spread) © Ron Jude / Mack Books, 2017

photobook, Nausea, Ron Jude, Mack Books, Michael Ast, book review, Sartre

Nausea © Ron Jude / Mack Books, 2017