Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Living With Rejection: Living The Creative Life

The solitary visionaries are despised or regarded as abnormal and eccentric.
Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art
The unfriendliness of society to his activity is difficult for the artist to accept. Yet this very hostility can act as a lever for true liberation. Freed from a false sense of security and community, the artist can abandon his [her] plastic bank-book, just as he [she] has abandoned other forms of security. Both the sense of community and of security depend on the familiar. Free of them, transcendental experiences become possible.
Mark Rothko, The Romantics Were Prompted
In 1891 when Herman Melville died, his book Moby-Dick, that had been published 40 years earlier, was out of print, a commercial failure, and virtually forgotten. It would take another 30 years after his death for the first new mentions by favorable reviewers to appear. Today It is considered perhaps the greatest American novel. 

Moby-Dick was far ahead of its time, combining a number of elements and writing styles such as an "exploration of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God. In addition to narrative prose, Melville uses styles and literary devices ranging from songs, poetry, and catalogs to Shakespearean stage directions, soliloquies, and asides." "One of the most distinctive features of the book is the variety of genres... sermons, dreams, travel account, autobiography, Elizabethan plays, and epic poetry."

As an accomplished published writer, Melville must have known that he was testing the limits of what his audience of the day could accept -- yet he must have hoped that at least some of the more than 60 reviews at the time would 'get it.' As the famous contemporary author Hawthorne wrote "What a book Melville has written! It gives me an idea of much greater power than his preceding ones. It hardly seemed to me that the review of it, in the Literary World, did justice to its best points."

But oddly it was an English reviewer D.H. Lawrence who in 1923 wrote that it was a masterpiece which helped bring about its rediscovery. In fact, time and time again it has been critics from other countries who recognize the worth of an artist who cannot find recognition in their own country.

The saga of important creative original artists and thinkers whose work is initially rejected and often ridiculed, repeats itself again and again. The list is very long and includes some of the most famous names in science, archaeology, music, literature, and art and some of the most important technology of the modern world. 

We think of a person who is original and creative as a good thing: a person brings gifts to the world and reveals things not seen or understood before. This gifted person adds to sum of human knowledge. As a result, civilization reaps great benefits. 

That is the myth -- which in a sense is true but only long after the person has died in all too many cases.

Culture grows and changes often due to the contributions of men and women with original ideas. While we think of their work as beneficial, they themselves often had to work independently and alone -- frequently shunned by their own society.

Original creativity, almost by definition, is breaking new ground, coming up with new ideas, taking us out of our comfort zones. And what this means for many original and creative people is that their work may be misunderstood, rejected and often scorned -- in large part because it is unfamiliar.

Here Is A Brief List Of Important People 
Whose Work/Ideas Were Initially Rejected:
  • J.S. Bach: After his death he was considered merely a musical technician. For about 100 years his works were not played and as a result many were lost -- including two major masses. He is now considered by some the greatest composer of all time.
  • Franz Schubert: While respected for his song writing, his other work went unrecognized during his lifetime. He is now considered one of the five most important classical composers by many.
  • George Bizet: His opera Carmen met with terrible reviews and he died thinking it was a failure. Carmen is now one of the most performed and popular operas.
  • Herman Melville: Moby-Dick was virtually forgotten when he died. It is now considered one of the greatest novels by an American.
  • Henry David Thoreau: Not well understood or published during his lifetime, his work has led to the civil disobedience movement in India and the Civil Rights movement in the US, along with a host of other ideas about nature and simple living that have become important in the last 100 years.
  • John Keats: Criticized for not being highly educated and part of the lower class 'Cockney School', his work was not taken seriously even years after his young death. He is now considered one of the greatest poets in the English language.
  • Edgar Allan Poe: Not considered an important writer during his lifetime, he is now regarded as a major American author who invented the detective story and made considerable early contributions to the short story and early science fiction.
  • Franz Kafka: Now considered a major 20th century author, very little of his work was published during his lifetime.
  • William Blake: Blake's poems and paintings were virtually unknown during his lifetime. He is now considered one of the major Romantic poets and painters.
  • The Impressionists: One critic likened the Impressionists to mad men who wanted to pass off unfinished and poor paintings as legitimate art. Today their work is one of the most popular styles of painting. 
  • Vincent Van Gogh: He only sold one painting in his lifetime -- paintings which now sell for millions of dollars.
  • Paul Gauguin: His work was ridiculed at the Post-Impressionist exhibit in 1910 -- and it was not until the 1940s that his symbolist imagery began to be appreciated. His paintings now sell for millions of dollars.
  • Johannes Vermeer: He was virtually forgotten after his death for almost 200 years -- not unlike JS Bach. He is now considered one of the greatest Baroque painters and his work is virtually priceless.
  • Alfred Wegener: The principal scientist who championed the idea of tectonic plates was ridiculed during his lifetime. This idea is now considered essential for understanding earthquakes, continental drift and Earth science. 
  • Albert Einstein: Considered a poor student he was not given any recommendations after getting his degree and was confined to a patent office in Switzerland. His work in physics is now considered the most important of the last 100 years
  • Arthur C Clarke: Wrote a detailed plan for placing geostationary/geosynchronous satellites in orbit -- satellites that would appear stationary in relation to the Earth because they would orbit at the same speed the Earth turns -- that could be used for communication. Although his math was correct, he was derided for promoting this idea. These satellites are now the cornerstone of modern communications for cell phones, the Internet, TV etc. The orbit which Clarke predicted, 22,236 miles (35,786 km) above the Earth, is now known as the Clarke orbit and the array of satellites placed in this orbit is now known as the Clarke Belt.
  • Robert Goddard: Now considered the most important early rocket scientist, he was subjected to humiliating criticism. In a condescending review, using incorrect math, the prestigious New York Times derided Goddard's idea that a rocket could go to the moon. This review caused Goddard's money to dry up and severely limited his ability to continue -- all of this happening as the Nazi's were using his ideas to develop V-1 and V-2 rockets that were effectively used to bomb England. 
  • The Cave of Altamira: When the paintings by stone-age people were discovered in this cave, experts -- who never went to the cave -- denounced the findings, some even accusing the man who found them of fraud. Now these paintings are considered one of the most important discoveries about Paleolithic people.


Consider this: Without the contributions of Goddard, Clarke, and Einstein (above) the modern world we have today would not exist. Goddard's rockets are required to put satellites into orbit. Clarke's geosynchronous satellites are now used by cell phones, TVs, the Internet etc. for communications, and Einstein's formula's about space-time make corrections that properly sync Earth and satellite times -- and without which cell phones, GPS and other technologies could not operate.

(Left) Indian Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III. (Middle) The first working geosynchronous satellite, Syncom II. (Right) Time dilation formulas based on Einstein's General Theory of Relativity -- used to correct the time difference in a moving satellite to the time on the Earth. Formulas from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_dilation

Now to be fair -- there are many unusual ideas that will not past muster. Each needs to be looked at carefully. As Carl Sagan said about scientific ideas, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". Or as Pierre-Simon Laplace said in the 1700s, "The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness." Yet each work needs to be judged on its merits but not because it is different or because something like it has never been seen before. 


But there is a flip side to this. I believe that those of us who must be creative -- no matter how hard the path -- are the lucky ones. 

Henry Thoreau, himself unappreciated during his lifetime, wrote "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Many if not most people show up for work and pay their bills but wonder "what is the point" or ask themselves "isn't there more to life than this." Often they dream about doing something artistic or creative if they could ever find the time away from the daily grind. 

For the creative person, those questions have been answered:
Creativity is not secondary, it is primary. 

Such a person might say: Being creative gives me nourishment, without it I would starve. So I create because I must create and my creativity gives me a reason for living and immense satisfaction. 

Nevertheless everything comes with a price. To commit to a life of independent creativity means you'll probably live modestly at best and you'll never be rich or famous. Many of the people you know may think of you as unsuccessful. Your work will often be rejected by established people in your field -- and you may have to put up with damning reviews.

I am writing this article in part because a young friend of mine, Daniel Diver who is just starting out, was turned down by a school for computer animation. We have become friends because he wanted to use some of my experimental art as a background for his animation. I was delighted that he liked my work -- so of course I said yes. I did not realize that he would: draw the figures, write the music, write the lyrics, sing the words and create the animation. And I feel that it all worked very well together (see the animation below).

This abstract picture by Rick Doble is a photograph of TV static that was then enhanced with software. Doble was interviewed by NPR (National Pubic Radio) about his work with television static.

When I saw that he had been rejected by a school (he posted their letter to him on his website), I felt the need to give him some positive feedback about his work. Then I asked him to write a short piece for this blog about his views of being creative and the struggles he has had to endure. 

Here Is What A Young Artist, Daniel Diver, 
Had To Say About His Experience 
See his website at: http://www.leinadsivad.com/
See his video(s) on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/yTefDp8EOpU

I have no idea what I'm doing. I feel like I'm alone in a pitch black room and creativity has taken my hand and seems to be slowly leading me through it.

I've always been into a lot of different things - mostly writing, drawing, and music - but never all three at the same time. For some reason, depending on the day, one of them is always more dominant. This seems to be a perpetual problem, because I've never been able to just focus and master one medium. I can't actually play an instrument, so I pluck-bang and sample. When I write, my grammar sucks and my spelling is alien. I think drawing is a strength but even my drawings are cartoon-y and unfinished. This might be why people and/or institutions have never taken me seriously. However, I actually think that it’s the ability to bang around between these mediums that has kept me working and it has helped me develop a style – albeit one that’s kinda ratty.

Over the past few years, I started seeing a sort of spider web forming in my writing, drawings, and recording. In 2015, I started messing around with animation and I was able to roughly animate my drawings to some music I was making. It totally freaked me out and gave me a new wave of inspiration, followed by some confidence, which led me to apply to school again. Ultimately, this would be met with a second letter of rejection that I received three months later. It hurt BAD and I felt super-lost. But after the initial let-down, I feel like my work is actually starting to make sense - not just to me, but maybe even to one or two other people.

This is a video by Daniel Diver who used my TV static background in the video. He did everything to create this artwork: wrote the music, the words, did the drawings, the graphics and the animation.

Daniel's story as a young artist is very similar to my own story, looking back. I was first a writer who also became a photographer. But in addition I became involved with personal computers in the early 1980s long before most people were working with computers. At the time I had no idea how these different skills were going to fit together, I just knew that it felt right. But now with the Internet all of these skills do fit very nicely.

So The Moral Of The Story Is This: 

If you feel the need to be an artist or do creative original work of any kind -- then explore that feeling. If being creative gives you a deep satisfaction, then consider pointing your life in that direction.

Also if you see new and unusual work that you like, let the artist, scientist, writer etc. know -- and tell them what you found interesting and be specific. Those of us who put our work out there need to know that some people 'get' what we are doing.

To see a Haiku-like poem I wrote about this, go to this blog:
A True Writer Must Write

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Stone Age Astronomical Instruments: Newgrange & Portuguese Burial Tombs

Stone Age Scientific & Astronomical Instruments: 
Newgrange & Portuguese Burial Tombs

Scanning the latest science news, as I do everyday, I came across this intriguing headline:
Are 6,000-year-old Stone Burial Tombs The World’s First Astronomy Telescopes?

The Dolmen of Cerqueira in Portugal showing the long passageway.
"dolmen is a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of two or more vertical megaliths supporting a large flat horizontal capstone ("table"), although there are also more complex variants. Most date from the early Neolithic (4000–3000 BC)." (Wikimedia.org)

The idea is that passageways in Portuguese burial tombs were designed to enhance the view of a portion of the sky. This made it much easier to see the first appearance of a particular star just before dawn or just after sunset. 
Archaeologists studying 6,000-year-old burial tombs in Portugal believe that the stone edifices could very well be the oldest astronomy telescopes in existence. Researchers from the United Kingdom, noting the alignment of the tombs, think that the passages into the burial chambers may have formed a tunnel-like effect, thus effecting possibly the world’s first ever astronomy telescopes. http://www.inquisitr.com/3261971/are-6000-year-old-stone-burial-tombs-the-worlds-first-astronomy-telescopes/
After reading a number of articles about these 'prehistoric telescopes', I realized that this idea is very similar to what I proposed over a year ago in this blog about the ability of Neolithic people 5,000 years ago at the Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland. They were able to determine the exact day of the winter solstice with a carefully built passageway that 'trapped' the winter solstice sunlight. 

In both cases the passageways can be thought of as instruments that were designed to enhance a view of the sky so that accurate observations of heavenly bodies could be made. In the case of the Portuguese burial tombs the observation was of stars, in the case of Newgrange, the observation was of the sunrise at the time of the winter solstice.

The following is quoted from the article:
Are 6,000-year-old Stone Burial Tombs
The World’s First Astronomy Telescopes?
The Guardian reported on June 29 that astronomer Fabio Silva from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the research team found that the 6,000-year-old burial tombs look to be positioned to spy out certain bright stars, such as Aldebaran, thus providing their ancient builders an astronomical telescope ...The telescope was made by the passageway providing a tube that blocked out other extraneous phenomena, allowing the viewer to see the targeted object.
Silva had the following to tell The Guardian“The key thing is that a passage grave with its long corridor acts like a telescope that does not have a lens – it is a long tube from which you are looking at the sky.” As Kieran Simcox, a student at Nottingham Trent University (and leader of the project), pointed out in the National Astronomy Meeting 2016 press release: “It is quite a surprise that no one has thoroughly investigated how, for example, the color of the night sky impacts on what can be seen with the naked eye.”  https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jun/30/the-prehistoric-tombs-that-may-have-been-used-as-telescopes
Another Article Stated:The findings were presented June 29 at the Royal Astronomical Society's (RAS) National Astronomy Meeting 2016 in Nottingham, in the United Kingdom. They were presented in a special session addressing how cultures and societies have been shaped by studying the sky, and vice versa.  http://www.livescience.com/55248-prehistoric-tombs-were-first-telescopes.html
And in another article:While a modern telescope works by magnifying images with mirrors or lenses, this ancient structure is a long, narrow corridor designed to filter out unwanted light. The corridor helps when viewing stars during the hours of dawn and twilight, when the light from the sun makes it hard to view stars near the horizon.The researchers believe that the Seven-Stone Antas corridor was used to view the star Aldebaran, the red giant in the constellation Taurus. Aldebaran first becomes visible in the Northern Hemisphere in the early morning of late April, just before sunrise, and viewing it through the passage could make it visible days earlier. Aldebaran likely was a seasonal marker, and its appearance would signal migration patterns or weather changes.  http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a21612/6000-year-old-telescope/ 
And still another article: Researchers are focusing on the alignment of the stars with megalithic tombs—stone structures known as dolmens that feature long narrow entrances that act as apertures, essentially zooming in on stars and planets that wouldn’t always be visible from the outside.  http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/06/oldest-telescope/489362/


This is of particular interest to me because on March 17, 2015 I wrote the following article for this blog DeconstructingTime:

Computing the Winter Solstice at Newgrange: 
Was Neolithic Science Equal To or Better
Than Ancient Greek or Roman Science?

This blog of mine has now been reprinted 
on the official Newgrange website in Ireland:

A shaft of light shining into the passageway at Newgrange in Ireland. 
Used with permission: photo by Anthony Murphy, http://www.mythicalireland.com

In this article I argued that the passageway at Newgrange was an instrument which was capable of accurately determining the day of the winter solstice in real time, something which the Greeks and Romans could not do 3,000 years later. See the following Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solstice

There is a good deal of similarity between this idea and the theory that a 6,000 year old telescope was used to see a key star at it's earliest appearance around dawn or dusk. 

With both Neolithic structures the passageway was an astronomical instrument designed to enhance the view of the heavens to make a precise observation possible. For example, in the case of one Portuguese burial-tomb it is suggested that the passageway helped to determine the earliest heliacal rising of the star Aldebaran and in the case of Newgrange the passageway helped to determine the day of the winter solstice at sunrise.

With the prehistoric Portuguese telescope the idea was to block out some of the predawn sunlight with the walls of the tunnel/passageway to make the star Aldebaran visible in the brightening sky.

"The entrance creates an aperture as large as 10 degrees through which your naked-eye view is restricted," Daniel Brown, another research team member, explained. "This would allow enhanced observing, especially in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn."

With the passage tomb at Newgrange I argued that the long passageway greatly magnified the movement of the sun's rays at dawn so that the actual day of the winter solstice could be determined with precision.  

"Sketch of a cross section of the Newgrange passage grave made by William Frederick Wakeman."
Quote from commons.wikimedia.org
Wakeman's Handbook of Irish Antiquities (1903). p. 85.

If we can view the Newgrange structure and winter solstice alignment as an instrument, then we can say the following:
Light at sunrise near the time of the solstice was at first restricted to a narrow beam that went down a narrow hallway where it spread out, but in a controlled manner. This 'device' was very much like a magnifier that could enlarge and exaggerate the movement of the sun at a time when detecting movement was particularly difficult. Everyday the angle of the light changed along the walls and floor, and the light advanced further or retreated.
It is, therefore, possible that Neolithic astronomers could have made a determination about the day of the solstice with the following data their instrument had gathered: the entry point of the light, the length of time the light shown, the angle and amount of the light on the walls and floor, the width of the light, the rate at which the beam of light widened and contracted and possibly the quality of the light and shadows on the deeply grooved triple spiral stone and other stone carvings.


In any case both ideas can be tested. 

In the case of archaeologists studying the 6,000-year-old burial tombs in Portugal:
Astronomer Fabio Silva, from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, told The Guardian, “We are going to simulate this star rising at twilight conditions and allow people to tell us when they can see it. Then [we will] compare that with a control group of people that are in a room which would replicate the conditions of being outside the passage grave.”http://www.inquisitr.com/3261971/are-6000-year-old-stone-burial-tombs-the-worlds-first-astronomy-telescopes/
In the case of Newgrange I believe that with the help of archaeological laser scanning devices and CAD software the orientation and passageway at Newgrange could be accurately simulated along with the sunlight from the rising sun around the day of the winter solstice -- but taking into account the conditions when Newgrange was built 5,000 years ago. This should provide definite proof of the accuracy of the Newgrange passageway instrument. 
NOTE:To add an aside: While the passageways in the Portuguese burial tombs have been compared to telescopes to see a star more clearly, the passageway at Newgrange could be compared to a pinhole camera -- as it is designed to capture light from the sun.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Birthday Blog 2016

My 4th Annual Blog On My Birthday
By Rick Doble

You don't choose your art,
your art chooses you.
~ Unknown Graffiti Artist ~

Today I turn 72. As an artist and author, I have accomplished much more than I ever dreamed I would. Often I did not know where I was headed, but I just kept going. In hindsight my creative work has brought me immense satisfaction and consistently steered me in the right direction. It has been the cornerstone of my life.

How my art came to be and came together is the subject of this blog. I write this in the hope that it might help other younger artists who are struggling -- and wondering if they have taken the right direction. My advice: hang in there, trust your instincts, keep on keeping on.


Living My Life As an Artist, an Autobiography: 
True Stories of Art, Love, Family 
& the Creative Process Told in Poetic Form
When I was recovering from a hip operation in 2010, a flood of poetry filled my head. One of my rules is that when "you hear dictation, pay attention." So I listened and as a result wrote what may be the first full-length autobiography in poetic form -- starting at age 4 and ending at age 66, my age at the time I wrote it. I have included four poems from this autobiography in this blog.
This autobiographical eBook is free and online. It is now published under the Creative Commons copyright, meaning you can quote from this eBook without special permission as long as you credit me, Rick Doble, as the author.

You can view and/or download the full eBook in PDF:

You can also download this as an eBook in the standard eBook (epub) format.

Over 2000 people around the world have looked at this eBook since I wrote it.

So here is my story:

I always knew I wanted to be an artist -- whatever that meant. I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was seven when I wrote a little book, illustrated it and bound it in a cardboard cover. 

In 1952 when I was 7 years old I wrote this book. 
I bound it in a hard cover, illustrated it and included an inside title page. 
On the left above is the cover, on the right side one of the pages in the book.
I did not remember writing this until 30 years later after my mother died 
and I found it among the things she had saved.

To me being creative was something I had to do, something I was meant to do -- it was really the only path I could take. But of course there was a price to pay. Early on it became clear to me that wanting to be an artist put me at odds with most people my age. They were trying to fit it and were headed for careers and jobs with companies. I was striking out on my own.

Since Feeling Is First
Age 14-17, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire, 1958-1962

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
~ e.e. cummings ~

Manliness is not all swagger and mountain climbing. Its also tenderness.
Robert Anderson, Tea and Sympathy [about Phillips Exeter Academy]

Hazers are themselves victims, wounded souls 
who are acting out their own unfinished business.
Jayson Gaddis, Men and Hazing

Standing up to pain
became a badge
boys don't cry
take it like a man
be tough
is that all you got?
give me more

as a male it was your fate
to suck it up
never let it get to you
as said in Tea and Sympathy
to be a "regular guy"

and not just physical pain
but also emotional
such as humiliation by a teacher

only there was more to it 
we thought we were just hiding our feelings
instead we were learning not to feel

like all boys I paid lip service
to this show of manliness
later I realized it was like playing
5 notes in a 12 note octave
we were denied the full range,
confined to the sounds those few notes could play
as the depth of emotional chords and complexity
were not available

we were allowed to yell at sports
or to be angry - perhaps the easiest emotions -
but sorrow or joy, hurt and affection
were off limits

and then I saw the results:
teachers whose dead-end lives
meant they took their anger out 
on boys they were mentoring,
their cruelty masked as a rite of passage

a Latin teacher was noted
for taking a chalkboard eraser
and slamming it against the back of a student
when he did not give a correct answer
or took too long;
often the instructor picked on the same boys
who emerged from class
with their coats covered in white 
- like a mark of shame -
and the boys had to pretend not to be bothered

by my senior year I had found the truth:
what they wanted
was a kind of spiritual death,
it meant that my life would be one of shadows
where emotions became so disguised
I could never reach them

so I let some of my classmates think less of me
because as an aspiring artist I knew that
what I felt was at the heart of who I was

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,"
Robert Frost told us
when I had heard him speak at Exeter
revered like a saint,
that was all the permission I needed

In 1966 at the age of 21 I had achieved one of my goals. I graduated with Honors in Creative Writing with a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. So my ambitions to become a writer were starting to take shape.

But there was more. I also knew I wanted to do something else besides write. So I made a deliberate effort to find another art form to compliment my writing. I wanted to do something quite different -- something that was more intuitive and required less thought, something that I could do with my hands. For several years I made a number of small mobiles out of balsa wood and tissue paper along with abstract drawings and paintings and a variety of other experiments.

Large painting (about 9' X 3') in the style of early Jackson Pollock (1967)

Drawing Calligraphy in the Sand
Age 22, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, 1967
calligraphy based on the late works of Paul Klee

A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.
~ Paul Klee ~

I had learned not care 
about what others thought
not even what I thought myself
when the pen in my hand meandered 
across pieces of paper
drawing line after line

after months a kind of alphabet
or hieroglyphics
had evolved -- 
yet it was more drawing than writing
and interlocking, 
each 'letter' part of the next

by that time
the characters had become automatic
like speaking in tongues
like a language that my heart knew
but my brain could not decipher

buying reams of blank paper
I often stopped after only a stroke or two
while other sheets were more complex
"What do these mean?"
a friend asked
"I don't know," I said

then on a weekend
at the beach
the shore empty late at night,
I drew in the canvas of the sand

like a calligraphy brush 
that can draw thick or thin
I straightened my fingers 
to plow wide grooves
and then turned my palm sideways 
to carve sharp and narrow -
after minutes I used my feet as well

the work went 
for ten yards
etched around seashells
outlining driftwood
and across the side of a dune

when the tide came in
it erased most of my script
but left an edge
above the high-water mark

later on Sunday
a breeze blew
and my writing merged with
the wind ripples in the sand
Very small abstract pen drawing, slightly larger than shown above, 
in the style of Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze known as Wols (1968)

Discovering Photography
Age 24, Durham County & Apex, North Carolina, 1968

Film photography portrait of my good friend in graduate school, Frank Renfroe (1970)
I developed the negative and made this print in my darkroom,

You don't choose your art, your art chooses you.
~ Unknown Graffiti Artist ~

He has found his style, when he cannot do otherwise.
~ Paul Klee ~

The sensation was hard to explain:

lets say it was like memories
that I threw into a closet
until it was stuffed, overflowing 
and when I believed what I had been told
- that I was not visual - 
I pushed the door shut,
squeezing scenes I had seen
all my life:
from the car's rear window at age 5
the snow on the mountain
the civil rights marches
the smiles of my friends
the nakedness of girlfriends -
I had to push the closet door hard 
to get it to close

years later when I picked up a camera
I was only going to take a few abstract photos
just for fun
instead the closet door popped open
and a thousand memories feel at my feet

then a few months later
in a darkroom I saw my memories
or whatever they were -
maybe dreams I had made real
maybe quiet moments I wanted to freeze -
become black and white in the developer,
while the pictures -
like pieces of paper 
in the pond where I grew up -
floated gently in the tray

that first night after printing
I floated in my bed - 
the scenes emerging
like ghosts from a forest

and then there were 
those architectural pictures
a few years later,
my first foray into color:
the abandoned Holly Springs high school 
with peeling paint
doors ajar
sun splintering through a rounded window
echoes of students running in the hall

in the ground glass of an old
Rollei twin lens reflex
I saw my past
about lost time, lost love
lost desires
at boarding school

later a painter told me
she had come to my photo exhibit
but had to leave - 
the sadness of those
empty hallways
moving her to tears

The abandoned Holly Springs school 
before it was demolished in Holly Springs, NC (1973)

The visual, physical, hands-on, outgoing aspect of photography was the perfect compliment to the internal, mental, cerebral requirements of writing.

But having to master two crafts meant that it would take me much longer to put my artistic statement together. No artist knows how long they have to live and whether they will live long enough to say what they have to say. I had essentially added ten years to the normal length of time it should have taken to master my craft. And to add another wrinkle, at the time photography was not considered an art by most people and was not well respected. 

Again, I felt I had no choice -- the two art forms felt right. But my friends wondered why I had not settled on one or the other. 

Yet photography, it turned out, allowed me to freelance and make a living -- an unexpected benefit. I taught photography classes independent of any institution -- and was able to attract more students than the Arts Council or the community college. I did this in part because I wrote a column for a local monthly magazine in which I featured the photographs of area people. This was the first time I was able to combine my writing and my photography.

"When you come to a fork in the road take it."
Yogi Berra

Then I hit another fork in the road. In the early 1980s, when I was almost 40, cheap personal computers became available. I felt sure they were a key element to what I was trying to do and that they were the technology of the future, so I added this third discipline to my skill set. I had no idea how they were going to work with my art -- but I was certain they would. I became fluent in the BASIC computer language and again added another ten years to the learning of my craft so I could master the digital world as well.

Age 39, Durham, North Carolina, 1983

Meta- (from the Greek...), is a prefix... 
meaning transcending, or going above and beyond.
~ PC Magazine ~

For words are to thought what tools are to work; 
the product depends largely on the growth of the tools.
~ Will Durant, History of Civilization: Part 1 ~

BTW: This may be the only poem with lines from an actual computer program.

You might find it odd
to read a poem about computers:
bits, bytes, and Boolean
but I will do just that

all at once in '83 
cheap computers were everywhere
and everywhere I went 
some kid had tweaked the thing
so it repeated his name
"Chris Jordan was here Chris Jordan was here Chris Jordan was here..."
graffiti and 
the urge to declare existence
now entering the electronic age

and I thought
"Well, if a kid can do that..."
so I set about figuring it out 
watching youngsters in the stores 
punch in text commands in BASIC
as the early computers required

after a couple of weeks I typed in:

10 print "Rick did it "
20 goto 10

and like fireworks
"Rick did it Rick did it Rick did it Rick did it" 
filled the screen
side to side and top to bottom
scrolling endlessly
until the store pulled the plug

that night I could not sleep
my dream world pixelated
broken into computer bits - 
the digital world was calling

in spite of what my friends said - 
that computers were just a passing fad - 
I took a sharp right turn
and went from cameras and f/stops 
to RAM and ROM

I cannot tell you 
what I understood at the time
but it was something about
a digital common denominator
of the future
about power tools for the mind

Before digital photography, I invented a form I called 'computer photography' 
in which I digitized black and white photographs from the landmark work 
by Eadweard Muybridge of the human figure in motion. 
Then using computer programs I wrote, 
I colorized his black and white photographs. (1987)


In 2003 this was the graphic I used to announce my ideas of a new kind of photography in which long exposures could reveal a different kind of photographic imagery. At the same time it was a style that was purely photographic and did not use computer manipulation. This kind of imagery was virtually impossible before digital photography. Yet the basic idea had been around for about 100 years, when Anton Bragaglia, a photographer associated with the Italian Futurists, did some similar work in black and white -- but the technology of the time was not yet up to the task.

Now that I am 72 all these things that seemed so different, that seemed to be flying off in different directions, have come together on the Internet and in digital form. 

My writing compliments my photography, my photography compliments my writing. My computer skills allowed me to make the switch to digital cameras ten years before most of my colleagues. And because I was then on the leading edge of digital photography, I was asked to write three print books on the subject, one by the second largest publisher of photography books, and also to write an expert column online for my publisher.

My third book about digital photography was published in 2010 by Lark Books, one of the largest publishers of photography books. My idea of Time-Flow photography has proved to be controversial in the US as quite a few people love it and a number of others hate it 
-- but it has found wide acceptance in Europe and Asia. 
In any case there have been a number of misconceptions about this style of photography so I wrote a Time-Flow Manifesto in which I answer the critics of this style. My ideas about the connection between Time-Flow photography and the 100 year-old Italian Futurist art movement were validated by one of the leading experts in the field, an Italian Professor Dr. Mauro Francaviglia, who wanted to bridge the gap between science and art.

My Facebook page for my book and Time-Flow photography has 1,172 likes:

In 2009 on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Italian Futurist movement, I co-authored and presented a paper entitled The Future of Futurism to the Generative Art Conference in Milan, Italy -- the birthplace of the Italian Futurists. 

Dr. Mauro Francaviglia invited me to be part of the SCIENAR (Science/Art) exhibit in 2010 in Bucharest Romania at the University there. My photograph of the violinist is at the top of this poster. In addition to my photography, the show also included my explanations of my work and my approach. 

Top: Film photograph in 1980 of a close-up of condensation
 on a window in my home in Durham NC
Bottom: Digital photograph in 2003 of a close-up of rain on the windshield 
of my moving van in an 8 second exposure 
-- a picture that required digital photography


The conflict between writing and working visually did not exist for me. 

My ability to do research and verbalize has led to a number of ideas in my photographic work, such as the connection between the Italian Futurists of 100 years ago and the new capabilities of digital photography -- which led to my style of photography that I call Time-Flow photography. 

My photography, in turn, has helped me illustrate and explain my ideas and my thoughts.

Finally computers have helped me put this altogether to reach a global audience. More than half of the tens of thousands of pageviews and document downloads I have received have come from 100 countries outside the United States. 20 years ago it would have been unthinkable to reach such a wide audience.

Everything I do now is digital: my writing, my photography, my publications, my publicity, my art. I have had an art Internet website since 1997 -- one that I designed myself.

While it seemed for at least a decade in the 1980s that I was slipping behind, it turned out I was actually 10 years ahead of my colleagues in photography when the digital world took over because of my knowledge of computers. So instead of being behind, it turned out I was on the leading edge of the photographic arts.

While most artists do their best work in their 30s or 40s and almost none do it in their 50s, I have done my best work in my 60s. 

Seems like I am always breaking the rules just a bit.

Self-portrait (no assistance), 8 second exposure, using only one handheld flashlight. 
This self-portrait could only have been done with digital photography technology. (2003)


I have worked independently for most of my life which has given me the freedom to work on original ideas without having to worry about what others might think. When the Internet came along I was then able to continue my independence with my own website, blogs and documents. At the academia.edu website, I am listed an an independent researcher: https://independent.academia.edu/RickDoble 

During the last four years I have recorded over 50,000 pageviews of this blog and other material such as documents posted online at academic websites. More than have of these have come from outside the United States from over 100 countries -- or half of the countries in the world, from Albania to Zimbabwe. On occasion one country seems to take a special interest in my work such at the sudden 1600 views from Norway of my PDF eBook The Art of Selfies & Self-Portraits.

I have over 50 documents at Academia.edu
which are free to view and/or download
with no ads and no strings attached

General address of my work at Academia.edu:

My Website -- Online since 1997 
2500+ pages, 1 million+ pageviews