How Art Glass Photography Is Bringing Me a Sense of Calm During This Time

To cope with the COVID-19 lockdown, I'm turning to the passion that brings me joy in stressful moments.

Photo by Robert C. Ciampi
Photo by Robert C. Ciampi

Even before the Coronavirus hit four months ago, photography has always brought me a sense of calm and satisfaction. My genre is not cats, flowers, landscapes or people – the area I am most content in “shooting” is close up photos of art glass. Before I describe my love of glass, I’d like to give a little background on my history of photography.

When I first began taking photos, I, like everyone else, had a fairly simple camera that required a roll of film as well as a flash cube that would produce the adequate lighting for taking photographs, especially indoors. The film was put in by hand which could be a tricky maneuver getting the “tongue” in a little slot and then winding the roll to the point where it would stay in place. The flash cube consisted of four sides with a flash bulb in each side so you could take four photos before putting on a new cube. 

Taking photos with film became an anxious experience because if the photos were not taken just right, they were considered “rejects” that were paid for along with the other photos on the roll. Often in a roll of 12, perhaps half, if not more, were thrown away. The remainder that came out acceptable was considered a success and those would end up in a photo album.

As I grew into my hobby, I discovered what is called a single lens reflex (SLR) camera. These cameras allowed different lenses that could be attached for different shots. There were standard lenses that were used for everyday picture taking. Zoom lenses could capture photos from a distance for example at a sporting event or in wildlife photography. The lens that I fell in love with is called a macro lens that allowed very close up photography. I would take photos of   petals of a flower, bugs, branches of trees, money, and other everyday objects that looked cool being photographed up close. After I purchased my first Nikon digital camera (no film required) is when I started taking close up photos of art glass.

Art glass is hand blown glass as opposed to cheap, mass produced glass often made with a mold. Hand blown glass allows the glass blower to produce different shapes and blend in different colors of glass that can appear to be three-dimensional. The beauty of most hand blown glass is in the skill of the glass blower who, oftentimes, learned the craft from his father who learned from his father. I have photos of glass that resemble cellophane candy,  bubbling spheres, pinpoints of light, colors like Christmas ribbon, and close ups that resemble a still life of swimming creatures in the sea. The idea, for me, is to take a close up of an object so only part of it is photographed, masking what the object really is. There is a whole magical world out there of micro sections to be photographed with glass being the brightest entangled mess of beautiful color that melds together in different shapes, sizes, and intensity. Often, I am pleasantly surprised by a photo that I thought would be marginally interesting, but comes out spectacular. And even the same object at different times of the day can produce different results.

Years ago, I also developed a love for old stained glass windows. I bought my first piece in an antique store and from there I was hooked. Many of the stained glass windows were originally built into homes that were over 100 years old and only by a stroke of luck were they saved by the wrecking ball. Photographing old stained glass is similar to taking photos of hand-blown glass. Only a small close up portion of the window is photographed keeping a secret as to what the object is in its entirety. The process begins in the hunt for that one spot on a piece of glass that may prove to have the color value I’m looking for and the end result intriguing in that I produced another work of art from a work of art. 

I encourage others to experiment with close up photography, not only for its artistic aspects, but for the calm and peaceful beauty it bestows.       

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