Category Archives: Journal

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

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

Morning Coffee – Dirk Braeckman, Sisyphe

Morning Coffee . . . Dirk Braeckman’s “Sisyphe” (published by Xavier Barral, 2014, in conjunction with exhibition at Le Bal, Paris).

Braeckman is a fine means to which escape an exhausted headspace. Always.

Dirk Braeckman, Sisyphe, Xavier Barral, Le Bal, photobook

Bedminster (Handmade Book, 2006)

Returning to Bucks County work from a decade and more past. Conscious of my home region’s changing landscape resulting from encroaching suburban sprawl, I applied an edit to my first attempt at a leporello book.

Michael Ast, leporello, Bedminster, Pennsylvania, Bucks County, handmade book, artist book, changing landscape, altered landscape, PA, artist photography book

Bedminster (Handmade Book, 1/1) © Michael Ast, 2006

Michael Ast, leporello, Bedminster, Pennsylvania, Bucks County, handmade book, artist book, changing landscape, altered landscape, PA, artist photography book, historical ruin

Bedminster (Handmade Book, 1/1) © Michael Ast, 2006

A Return – Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Nearly 2 decades have gone by, as was somewhat intentional, without paying much attention to this contained photographic work. The overarching theme, which I used these cameras to achieve (and a couple others), was a depiction of my home region of Bucks County, Pennsylvania and its changing landscape . . . . a vanishing rural area, finding itself long ago at the center crossroads of the Revolution, caught in the metropolitan outreach of Philadelphia and New York City. Another 2,000 slides and negatives sit in a closet, in safe darkness. It’s time for a return and output to come.

Michael Ast, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

The Month Before Trump, Harvey Benge

Exciting package from New Zealand, from the consistent, inquisitive photo eye of Harvey Benge. “The Month Before Trump”, self-published, 2017, edition of 50 (with 4×6 print). I really dig Harvey’s self-published works created in his own independent making. Always, he offerers up an existential, probing vision that navigates through the ominous nature of modern society, in city centers, delivering photographic juxtapositions and compositions that are enlightening and sometimes cinematically threatening. Here, Harvey is exploring the urban realms of San Francisco & New York City in the lead up to Trump’s election. Rightfully so, there’s a touch of the apocalyptic. Ultimately though, it’s entertaining and exciting color photography handled with austere attitude. Good stuff!

Harvey Benge, Trump, self-published, zine, The Month Before Trump, color photography, photobook

The Month Before Trump, Harvey Benge, © 2017

Squall, Spinnerstown

View from kitchen Window this morning . . . daylight savings time succeeded by 12 inches of hard snow.

squall, blizzard conditions, snowstorm, spruce, storm, windstorm, Spinnerstown, Michael Ast, flakes, flash

Squall / Spinnerstown © Michael Ast, 2017

27 Contexts by Mark Alice Durant (Saint Lucy Books)

I cannot put Mark Alice Durant’s book down. Evocative meditations and insight on photography that arrive poignantly in their telling through Durant’s intimate observation and acumen. The essays I’ve devoured so far, in one night, deliver their impact like a perfectly crafted short story. I looked up from the page at one point thinking “this is PG-13 Robert McCloskey!” Unlike the impersonal critical thinking too many books on art deliver, here we’re engaged with a trust and knowledge that entwines Durant’s immense smarts with a palpable curiosity that thrives on the personalities of great writing – courage, candor, humor, wonder, reasoning, with great sensitivity towards history and art. I’m trying not to devour it all in one sitting, but it’s proving difficult.

Mark Alice Durant, 27 Contexts, Saint Lucy Books, photography essays

The book can be ordered at Saint Lucy Books: “27 Contexts: an anecdotal history in photography”

Work Prints, Kinsey Series

Michael Ast, printing

Work Prints, Kinsey Series © Michael Ast, 2017