For the last two semesters in Harry Littell’s photography class at Tompkins County Community College I have been playing with pictures of “ghost hands.” I use the app ProHDR on my iPhone to create images of my hands. Here is one I made while we were at the Jericho House in Afton. I can’t decide if the images are strong art statements or creepy pictures, but I have fun making them.
I have been looking forward to our rest day at the Thompson House. It’s quiet, they have washing machines, and good food. Plus I knew I could resume reading Rockwell on Rockwell. The book would be waiting for me in one of the many living rooms. I wasn’t disappointed. I remembered where I had left off when we left last year. Norman Rockwell on the importance of hands.
I thought I could get away with a photograph of the section that interested me most, but it’s difficult to read. Here is a typed copy of the page I read about hands:
“Hands are next to heads in importance in pictures containing figures. This is because they can express so much and because they can be such a great help in telling a story. There is a saying that you can tell how good a draftsmen an artist is by the hands he draws and there is some truth in this. Frequently you will see a picture that is well executed—except for the hands. Hands are difficult to draw and to paint but you will be well repaid for all the time and effort you put into doing them well.
In my picture, “Freedom of Worship,” I depended on the hands alone to convey about half of the message I wished to put over. You can express any human emotion with hands. You can excite pity with them or you can make people laugh. Use them in every picture you can and you will get a fuller expression of the ideas you are portraying with their wonderful help.
While hands are difficult to draw, you must master them if you are to succeed as a commercial artist and illustrator because if your hands are not right, you entire picture is weakened. . . .
Try drawing hands which, by themselves, will express such an emotion as avarice or joy or love or hunger. Never lovingly finish a head, and then carelesslly bang out the hands. Try to get just as much character into your hands as in the head. Consider the chubby, ineffectual hands of a baby and the gnarled and wrinkled hands of an aged person. Each pair of hands tells the story of that person’s life almost as well as the faces do. . . .”
I have been thinking long and often about how to show interesting positions of hands while making my ghost image trick work with ProHDR. Today’s visit, along with a book I purchased last year (after Harry showed it to me in class) — Elliott Erwitt’s Handbook
— have given me more to puzzle over as I continue my study of hands.
I tried a few more ghost hands, but didn’t like any of them, so I tossed them out. I got a different opportunity when Tim and I started a ride down the street for lunch. Once again, the chain broke (as it had near Speedsville on one of our training rides.) This time, the chain was very (well relatively) clean and Tim had a new improved tool to fix it. I moved from art photography to documentary photography and shot Tim’s hands in action. He fixed the chain quickly and we finished our very short (and relaxing) journey towards lunch.
As I finish today’s entry (dinner is calling soon) Tim has taken himself and the tandem down the road to the Windham Mountain Outfitters (right next to our lunch spot). Tim has given them the wheel from our trailer to repack the bearings. Our hope is to start tomorrow’s 48-mile trip to Hillsdale, NY with as little extra friction as possible. We’ll see how that works out.