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3QR ANONYMITY TO MYTHOS: Photo Notes by Brian W. Simpson


One morning in the spring of 2009, I took a meandering jog in San Francisco. I pounded down the Financial District sidewalks and along the Embarcadero, huffed up Telegraph Hill (okay, I walked up), found my way through North Beach and Chinatown, completing the loop at my hotel.

Early in the run, I reached the ferry building, ventured out to the water and took an utterly forgettable pic of the Oakland Bay Bridge.

It was late morning. The sun whitewashed the scene, the bay was the color of damp cement. Nothing in the foreground. Nothing in the mid. And the bridge’s main cables were a distant ribbon edge. In my photography, I usually prefer strange things up close: a bed frame outdoors, the upside-down world in a glass ball … I like to jam the lens as tight as I can, selecting a piece of a larger subject. By stepping back, I was rewarded with a lackluster snapshot, and I kept moving.

A year or so later, I was working with Photoshop and experimented on this image. I played with levels of color, saturation, hue, brightness, and contrast just to see what would happen. I saved different versions. I suffused one in blood red and drowned another in indigo and painted a third purple. They were all unreal and strangely affecting. The blue one (my favorite) conveys a luminescent depth that threatens to swallow you. The white froth tideline snakes into rippled waters. Scattered diamonds reflect a fractured sun. And, in the distance, a bank of violet smog grays a freighter—as if it’s caught in the act of being forgotten. With its great towers receding to Goat Island, the bridge itself rises from anonymity to mythos: You sense it stretching to tie two lands together.

In photography, I frame, zoom, snap, and experiment—adding color, shifting everything sepia … Little method, a little madness. So I won’t take this essay into philosophy: thin ice I’m ill-prepared to traverse. (I can, however, do the gentlemanly thing and push culture critic Susan Sontag out there in my place. As Sontag once wrote, “… to photograph is to frame, and to frame is to exclude.”)

The photos here—these slices of reality tilted, twisted, or tinted—should resonate well with the 3QR mission: mostly true and sometimes… maybe a little better than true.

Brian W. Simpson
3QR Photo Editor

March 2012


3QR 2015 issue photos by Brian W. Simpson. Except photo for Two Poems from “Awkwords,” by Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson, and where otherwise credited.

3QR 2014 issue photos by Brian W. Simpson, except where credited.

3QR 2013 issue photos by Brian W. Simpson. Except photos by J. Cavanaugh Simpson for “Crusoe’s Footprint,” “Home Sweet Jerome,” “Princess Diary,” and “Empathy Lesson.”

3QR 2012 issue photos by Brian W. Simpson, except credited work by photographers Paula K. Diatsintos and Annabelle Dando. (See notes below).

The photo for “Under Windmills, Guantanamo” (3QR 2013) is an archival photo of “NAS Guantanamo Bay” from the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

Photo notes:

Adds Cavanaugh Simpson: “I’ve always learned that a photo is all about composition. The same subject can be shot straight on, high, low, close, or from far way; at a quirky angle; or blown-out, sepia-toned, or cropped or photoshopped in ways that make that image unique, interpreted in ways unlike what any other photographer would have shot. For example, the low-angle on the photo for “Empathy Lesson”—of traffic cones surrounding what appears to be a grave, an image that fades into a brilliant-white after-life tableau—evokes a bit of humor and a sense of the absurdity of death and suffering. Truth of a particular kind.”

3QR 2102 issue photos by Paula K. Diatsintos for “Dissonance” and “Three Poems by Marilyn L. Taylor;” and the photo for “Free to Pass,” by Annabelle Dando.

Notes Diatsintos: “I started capturing moments, mainly historic family events, using my first camera—a Polaroid Swinger—when I was just 12 years old. Then I started seeing the art in photos beyond what was evident, more like the experience of going to art museums when we were growing up. Now I’m looking at what the technology will allow me to create, via creative software, as well as by looking deep into what the camera captures. A great photograph is one that makes you feel something that no one else has discovered.  It’s sometimes one in a thousand for me, but I keep trying.”

Comments Dando: “If a photograph has the ability to transcend its superficies and be elevated to art, it follows that an image can also be a vehicle for storytelling. Though my educational background led me to Johns Hopkins M.A. in Writing program, my career took me in the direction of photography. To me it is not enough to simply produce images; I want to tell stories. Life behind the shutter has given me a unique opportunity to view and capture those details of life that may go overlooked. It is with this approach that I captured “The Ironic Door” while traveling in Florence, Italy. Who is free to pass when the way is locked? Perhaps only those with enough imagination to move beyond the lock and chain and tell the story that lies behind it.”

Copyright Notice: All photographs appearing on this site are the property of the photographers: Brian W. Simpson, Paula K. Diatsintos, Annabelle Dando, and J. Cavanaugh Simpson. They are protected by U.S. Copyright Laws, and are not to be downloaded or reproduced in any way without the written permission of the photographers.  Copyright 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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