Sunday, December 27, 2009

Location, Location, Location

Sometimes I'm drawn to the same location time after time to see what I can find. One of my favorite places to stop by is the parking lot of a local community center. It's a large open area and the architecture of the buildings amuses and interests me.
     I didn't set out to create three separate images within several feet of each other, it just happened that way. It took several visits to see the opportunity and explore it with imagination but I like the way I keep finding something new to shoot.
    Starting with the most recent and working back, it's easy to see the progression of abstraction in the elements.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Overhead Projections — Part Two

Larry Torno

Famous-Barr was a department store in St. Louis, MO that opened in 1948 as a beautiful example of architectural modernism . . . its facade and interior following the curved shape of the street it occupies. In the mid-90s, Washington University took over ownership of the building and now refers to it as part of their West Campus.
     I've always been fascinated by the building's simplified, graceful lines and recently spent some time looking for photo opportunities. My favorite image was this one, shot looking upward with the oversized eave and single, square window looking like a menacing UFO hovering over the city.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Overhead Projections — Part One

Macys Tower

Larry Torno

I like creating images of real elements that, when taken out of context, have a completely different interpretation.
     This image of the dome of a Macy's store reminded me of the Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. I carefully cropped it to have the same visual effect as the rising tower, which was popularized in the movie Close Encounters. The positioning of the tower in the lower left-hand corner against the expanse of the massive cloud bank, lends a feeling of the wide open spaces found in the Great American West. Shot from the parking lot of a Midwest shopping mall, Macys Tower bears little resemblance to its urban setting.
     A little known historical fact about the Wyoming monument is that when the proclamation establishing Devils Tower was published, the apostrophe was unintentionally dropped from "Devil's" — and this clerical error was never officially corrected. It seemed fitting that I should also delete the mark from the title of my image, Macys Tower.

Macys Tower is available in a limited edition through the Bruno David Gallery.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Trees - Part Two

(Click image for larger view)

Handball Tree
© Larry Torno

I found this tree not far from the first photo I posted last week but on a different day.

I'm a graphic designer by trade and often create photos, as a result of my career, that appear layered. The flatness of the black, tree skeleton sits atop the horizontal chain link fence and balances between the two white handball courts. It seemed natural to me that you could peel apart this landscape and move things around if you wanted.

The crisp angles of the shadows on the white walls follow the angle of the branches on one side of the tree and lay in the reverse direction of the branches on the other side of the tree. This was a very balanced image to shoot.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Trees - Part One

(Click image for larger view)

Opera Tree

© Larry Torno

I love this photograph but not many people share my enthusiasm for it. It's one of my favorite images for a multitude of reasons.

The base of the tree is dead center in the image; something I don't usually do or care for. However in this case, by placing it there, it becomes an integral part in the composition; the anchor, if you will. It's massive, dark, solid shape keeps drawing your eye back to it's location.

By cropping the tree so that no upper branches are showing, it becomes transformed to appear as an architectural element, like the vertical brick columns that flank it and form the wall in the background.

The decorative, wrought iron railing starts on the left side of the photo and extends to the right, but suddenly disappears behind the tree.

The sheet of plastic lining along the back wall, is somewhat translucent and creates several ethereal panels of distorted shapes; like a gallery of large abstract canvases.

The foreground texture of the leaves contrasts with the smooth, symmetrical lines on the ceiling, which in turn, lead you back into the depths of the photograph.

It's a lot to consider, but the initial feeling I had when I created this image was "there's more here than meets the eye."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Return of Barbie - Part Two

The late afternoon sun was filtering into my office and inspired me to shoot something . . . anything, before the light went away. 
     The closest object I could find was a Barbie doll given to me by our friends, the collectors, as an available model, whenever the spirit moved me. Within minutes, she was in place, the camera was on the tripod and I started shooting. 
     What evolved was another look at the same subject from a different perspective. This particular Barbie was the model for the nudes in the show, When Is A Doll Not A Doll? and for last week's extreme close-up of her lips. In this shot, it's a whole new look and a creative way to catch the light that came in my window.  

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Return of Barbie - Part One

Earlier this year I created an exhibition called When Is A Doll Not A Doll? We originally wanted to title it When is a Barbie not a Barbie? but we knew we would have problems with Mattel. 
     The show was a study of vintage Barbie dolls photographed in a kind of portraiture that sought to infuse the plastic dolls with personality. The curator of the show at Bruno David Gallery described them as "liberating Barbie from her box and placing her again in the realm of the imagination". Several of the photographs from the show went on to an additional exhibit, Beneath the Valley of the Dolls, at the Todd Browning Gallery in Los Angeles.
     I continue to look for more opportunities to exhibit this collection and occasionally, I take another look at a Barbie doll to see what else I can find in the American icon. This week and next, I'll show you two new portraits that answer the question, When Is A Doll Not A Doll?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Decommissioned - Part Two

Ride 'Em
© Larry Torno

Finding a tank to photograph in the middle of the city was a stroke of luck. Discovering that the tank was actually in a playground, was hard to believe. Watching kids climb on it like it wasn't a war machine was too much to comprehend.

Battle of the Curly Slide
© Larry Torno

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Decommissioned - Part One

Playground Equipment
© Larry Torno

When I see a Vietnam era, decommissioned McDonnell-Douglas fighter jet sitting in a park, I take notice.

© Larry Torno

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sign of the Cross - Part Six

Wyoming Holy Bible
© Larry Torno

This cross is not located in the state of Wyoming, but rather on a city street in St. Louis that bears the same name.

Painted red bricks, painted white stones, a manicured green lawn, windows and doors sealed shut, a cross stabbing the Bible; the imagery was rich enough for a compelling photo. 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sign of the Cross - Part Five

Three Over Land
© Larry Torno

Simplify. What's the minimum amount of elements I need to include in a photograph, to create the drama and image that I want?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

SERIES - Overhead Projections, Part One

Click image for larger view

Working on a series of photos is an ongoing process. Maintaining your vision and remaining true to the original concept is definitely a discipline. The eight premier photos of the new series Overhead Projections were created over the course of a nine month period. Seventeen other locations were shot but did not make the final cut, not because they weren't good photos, but because these were simply the best. Constantly editing your work is a vital process for an artist. What occurred as an intense emotional experience one day, may not stand the test of time or fall into the guidelines of a body of work.

Overhead Projections is available through Bruno David Gallery .

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Portrait of a Moment - Part Eight

© Larry Torno, 2009

They say a picture is worth a thousand words; so I'd like to hear what you have to say. Let's see how many you can come up with.  

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Portrait(s) of a Moment - Part Seven

© Larry Torno, 2009

You may remember Paul from the June 7, 2009 post, Portrait of a Moment - Part Three; he was the one being kissed on the cheek by his wife, Nancy.

We also took individual photos that day and these are two of my favorites. Paul is very approachable, and didn't seem to mind having a camera in his face. In fact, I think he liked it. Nancy laughed a LOT (and let me tell you, she has a pretty good laugh) and generally had a good time but at one point gave me a look that said "If I could reach you, you'd be history." It's a great shot.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Portrait of a Moment - Part Six

© Larry Torno, 2009

The first time I met Liana, I couldn't get over the great contrast of her dark hair against her ivory skin . . . she already looked like a black and white photograph. Needless to say, she immediately made it to the list of people I wanted to sit for a portrait.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Portrait of a Moment - Part Five

© Larry Torno, 2009

I was asked to bring the Portraits back, so this is the first of four more in the series.

While taking Beth's portrait, I discovered that I really liked her expression when she said the word "okay." However, the timing of saying "Okay" and clicking the shutter simultaneously, became a bit confusing when the conversation went something like this:

ME: I like the way it looks when you say "Okay." So to get the timing right, why don't you say "Okay" right after I say "Okay."

BETH: "Okay."

ME: No, not yet. Wait until I say "Okay."

BETH: "Okay."

ME: "Okay?" Are you ready?

BETH: "Okay."

Anyway, we got the shot and I really like it. Okay?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

NEWS - On Exhibition

The Todd / Browning Gallery, in Los Angeles, CA, has selected five Barbie portraits as part of their exhibition, Beneath the Valley of the Dolls.

The show dates are August 13 - October 4, 2009. If you're in the area, stop by and visit the gallery.

Macys Tower
© Larry Torno, 2009

The Bruno David Gallery, in St. Louis, MO, has posted eight black and white images from a new series titled, Overhead Projections. To preview this study of the relationship of static and kinetic elements, go to: Bruno David Gallery, click on Artists, Larry Torno, then scroll down past the Barbie Portraits. Enjoy the preview.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Midwest Cliché - Part Four

(Click image for larger view)

Midwest Cliché #4/Ride with Traffic
© Larry Torno, 2009

All along these two-lane, rural roads, you find makeshift memorials to people who have accidentally lost their lives. Sometimes it's a handmade cross with a name painted on it and a pile of stuffed animals or artificial flowers at its base. Occasionally there's a special item like a favorite hat, beer can or other memento relating to the deceased.

In this image, do we see the state's way of warning people to be careful? Or is it a Sign-of-the-Cross memorial with a cryptic message just waiting to be personalized?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Midwest Cliché - Part Three

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Midwest Cliché #3/Roadside Attraction
© Larry Torno, 2009

There's a Midwest saying that goes something like this, "You can climb to the second story and see farther than you ever saw before - and still see nothing."

I don't agree. I see something in just about everything in this landscape; the breeze blowing through the tall grasses, the gentle curve of the empty road, a singular road sign, the evening clouds, and the fact that I'm the only one anywhere near this location.

It's the Midwest at its best.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Midwest Cliché - Part Two

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Midwest Cliché #2/Billbored
© Larry Torno, 2009

Yes, I know I spelled Billboard wrong, but I did that on purpose.

This abandoned advertising board is about as beautiful a piece of nostalgia as I could find. The piecemeal construction of telephone poles and sheets of plywood, gives it as much character as a 90-year old man's wrinkled face. One can only imagine the countless messages that it carried, the eras of cars that passed by it or the kids who played in the parking lot and threw rocks at it.

Today, it's a staple of the Midwest landscape.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Midwest Cliché - Part One

(Click image for larger view)

Midwest Cliché #1/The Barn Identity
© Larry Torno, 2009

When you think of the Midwest, and you're not from around here, you think of the family farm, that old familiar barn and Grandpa's rusty old truck that you learned to drive at age 13. Right?

Not me. I grew up in the city and consider it a day trip to drive the 20 minutes it takes to get to the "country". But for some reason, the Midwest has a reputation for nostalgic times and movie-scene family life, so that's what this photo series is all about.

Use your imagination as you view these memories found on the rural roads, just a stone's throw from our metropolis. As the saying goes, "We're not in Kansas anymore."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Grand Canyon - Part Four

(Click image for larger view)

Pink Clouds
© Larry Torno, 2005

The light in the Canyon is constantly changing. The sun rolls across the landscape and frequent, rumbling storms come and go; leaving mist and rainbows.

On this particular evening, the setting sun caught the tips of two peaks, casting a pink glow on them and the clouds above. Within minutes, it was gone and another part of the Canyon was shifting colors.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Grand Canyon - Part Three

(Click image for larger view)

Tree at Desert View Drive
© Larry Torno, 2005

When you're in a place like the Grand Canyon, the best way to experience it is with your eyes wide open to see everything. You don't have to look down into the cavern to find something beautiful . . . it can be as simple as a roadside composition of tree limbs and an eroding stack of rocks.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Grand Canyon - Part Two

(Click image for larger view)

Cloud Over Lipan Point
© Larry Torno, 2005

Lipan Point is a stop on the 26-mile Desert View Drive that loops the South Rim of the Canyon. After hiking and muling for 4 days, we chose to ride in an air-conditioned vehicle for a change.

While at first glance this appears to be just a cloud-over-the-Canyon image, if you look towards the bottom right-hand corner of the photograph, you can see the Colorado River winding through the landscape. This reference point will give you an idea as to the massive scale of the cloud overhead and the completely unobstructed, panoramic view of the Canyon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Grand Canyon - Part One

(Click image for larger view)

45 Minutes from the Rim
© Larry Torno, 2005

In the fall of 2005, my wife and I treated ourselves to a quiet, off-season, week in the Grand Canyon. It was in early October and the summer crowds were long gone. Our time was divided into 2 days of getting to know the area, a 2-day mule ride to the bottom of the Canyon (with an overnight stay at the Phantom Ranch), and 2 days of recovery and decadence in our luxury suite at the El Tovar Hotel.

I took the usual sunset photos and vacation memory images but walked away with a collection of personal observations that I will share in the next 4 weeks.

45 Minutes from the Rim was taken on Day Two of the mule ride, when we arrived at our last rest stop of the 5-hour journey up from the Canyon floor. The absolute stillness and isolation of the area and the last chance at scenery not visible from above, prompted this image.

You don’t think of the Grand Canyon as a place of trees, but there were many that I stopped to photograph. This one, with the bare branches reaching back into the Canyon, reminded me of a sculpture with twisted, outstretched arms straining to their maximum length.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Paved Paradise - Part Four

Light Field
© Larry Torno, 2007

Sometimes the shot is not OF the parking lot but what's IN the parking lot.

This scene appeared on one of my Sunday Art Adventures. I was so taken by the location that I cut across several lanes of oncoming traffic and shot the image without getting out of my car. I couldn't wait to capture what I was seeing.

A fine art photographer friend of mine commented on the photo with the following accolades:

You are right!! It is just wonderfully seen. Edward Weston, my hero, once wrote, that the difference between the good and the great photograph is what he called "seeing plus." Only a handful of photographers can even define "seeing plus" and that is why 99.9% of all pictures are what Ansel Adams called "a nice record of something that exists.!!!!!!! "Seeing plus" is the hidden treasure that you must find to elevate above the masses - You have arrived!!

Care to take a guess as to what the hidden treasure was that Bob saw in this image?

Here's the missing sentence from his comment . . . The wire coming back in at the bottom is just the kicker!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Paved Paradise - Part Three

Parking Lot Study
© Larry Torno, 2007

I found this church parking lot in St. Charles, Missouri. I'm not sure when the accidental stain happened but it attracted me immediately. It made me think about artists like Morris Louis and Jackson Pollock who purposely spilled paint on their canvases.

Someone once commented that the white lines in this photo looked like a Christmas tree. I'm always fascinated by the visions people find in art.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Paved Paradise - Part Two

In, Out, K
© Larry Torno, 2007

A newly paved and painted parking lot was the inspiration for this photograph. The afternoon sun provided the intense contrast and the simple line structure formed a great composition.

I worked for several years at The Saint Louis Art Museum and I'm always recalling the master painters as inspiration in my work. In this case, the bold, gestural strokes of Franz Kline were in the back of my mind when I created this image.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Paved Paradise - Part One

© Larry Torno, 2007

I like big, empty parking lots. They remind me of huge, blank canvases just waiting for an artist to come along. I can't imagine creating art on this scale, but think it would probably be an incredible experience.

This lot is actually a small piece of a larger shipping/receiving area. I think the seven open parking spaces look like part of an abstract expressionist painting. The floating, white "comb" and the striped Mark Rothko-like background are simply a beautiful composition that I couldn't improve upon. All I had to do was recognize the potential, seize the opportunity, and claim it for my own.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Portrait of a Moment - Part Four

© Larry Torno, 2009

This is the final image in the Portrait of a Moment series and it's my favorite.

A portrait doesn't always have to be a person sitting in a studio in front of a painted background. For me, it's more important to get to the root of the individual personality.

Each of the images from the Portrait of a Moment series was shot on location; some with existing light and some with the aid of photographic lamps.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Portrait of a Moment - Part Three

© Larry Torno, 2009

As Time Goes By, a song originally written by Herman Hupfeld in 1931 and re-introduced in the 1942 film Casablanca, has the lyrical caption for this tender moment;

The world will always welcome lovers . . . as time goes by.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Portrait of a Moment - Part Two

© Larry Torno, 2009

Getting comfortable in front of a camera is never an easy thing to do. Yet, every once in a while, someone let's their guard down for a moment and we get to understand who they really are.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Portrait of a Moment - Part One

© Larry Torno, 2009

Rather than call this next series simply, Portraits, I decided to refer to them instead, as Portraits of a Moment.

To capture the essence of a person in one sitting with a single image is quite a tall order. But, to spend some time with someone and come away with a sense of who they were for a while, seemed more realisitic.

What will follow in the next few weeks are some photographs of my favorite, captured Portraits of a Moment.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sign of the Cross - Part Four

© Larry Torno, 2009

Cloudwire is an ominous image that I shot from my front lawn. I often find great images when I'm not looking for them. Something has to spark my interest and the growing exhaust clouds from two passing jets was the inspiration to get this image started. It wasn't until I created a negative conversion that I discovered the power in this photograph.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sign of the Cross - Part Three

Cross in the Night Sky
© Larry Torno, 2009

This image of a lone telephone pole caught my eye when I passed by it on a sunny afternoon. While I liked the location and composition, I wondered how the scene would appear in the near darkness. A long exposure, on a cloudy night, gave me the movement and surreal effect that I was hoping for. Look closely in the upper right-hand corner and you'll see power lines extending upward and out of the frame; reaching.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sign of the Cross - Part Two

Pall on the Cross
© Larry Torno, 2009

This week's image is from a series of photos that a curator once described as "incidental observations". I wrote an artist's statement for the exhibition that read;

I am not a photographer.

I'm a designer.
I'm an observer.
I'm a composer.

I see the world around me as a series
of shapes, forms and colors.

I absorb my surroundings;
select what is essential
and eliminate what is not.

I create compositions
that tell me a story.

I'm an interpreter.

True to the statement, here is my observation of an electrical post and miscellaneous wires; recomposed as a death shroud, draped over a cross.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sign of the Cross - Part One

Figure on a Cross
© Larry Torno, 2009

As soon as I started photographing crosses, I was confronted with cynicism. Some people were afraid to consider my images as art because they thought I had a hidden agenda. Several galleries rejected them for consideration because they said they were too controversial. Other people assumed I was born again because I chose this subject.

The plain truth is, I like the simple shape of the cross and the way it communicates a multitude of messages. It's as simple as that. You can read whatever you want into my photos, but I'm merely trying to make art. As a photographer friend of mine said, "It's not what you shoot, it's how you see it."

This is how I see it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Titles at an Exhibition

The Flame
Image courtesy of Larry Torno and Bruno David Gallery

Creating titles for the Barbie exhibition was an exercise in creative thinking. Bruno David, the gallery owner and curator of the show, asked me to think about what was going through my mind as I shot each doll and consider that for the titles.

With that in mind, here are the titles and what I was thinking as I looked through the viewfinder.

An American in Rome
– This Barbie looked like a combination of Audrey Hepburn, in the black and white film Roman Holiday, and an American visitor acclimating to European fashion.

Anne's Favorite
– My neighbor, Anne, likes the early Barbies, but considers the full eyelash models to be her favorite.

When is a Barbie not a Barbie
– The first doll to be photographed and the impetus for the concept behind the exhibition.

Big Bangs Theory
– A play on words and a tribute to the outrageous bangs on this Barbie.

Black, White and Blonde – Refers to the black dress, white lipstick and blonde hair.

Bric-A-Brac and Pearls on a Summer's Evening
– That's how I saw this doll; wearing an inexpensive summer outfit but trying to dress it up with a string of pearls.

Burnt Umber – It's a paint color I used in college and the most descriptive term I could find to describe the tone of the doll and lighting.

The Cat's Meow – A combination of the cat eye glasses and a popular expression.

Celebrity Look-A-Like
– This doll looks like someone who might be famous whose name you can't think of.

Close Encounter – I kept zooming in on this doll to see how close I could come and still get the shot I wanted.

The First Time You See Her – You know when you see someone all the time and take them for granted . . . but then one day, you see them like you've never seen them before.

The Flame – A shortening of the term "flaming redhead" and a suggestion of her demeanor when it comes to relationships.

Frankie, Annette and Moondoggie – I know I'm mixing my beach film characters, but to me, she was all of them rolled up into one.

Jerry's Point of View
– My friend, Jerry, is much taller than me, and I guessed that this must be his perspective with most people.

Paparazzi – Who else could she be hiding from?

Profile – Obvious.

Remember the '80s – I think I saw this woman in the mid-1980s in California.

Up, Close and Personal – Another case of trying to get up close without invading personal space.

When I Met Peg
– Peg is my wife and doesn't look anything like this, however, here's the story. I met her on a blind date when she was playing in the back-up orchestra for Tony Bennett. I brought binoculars to the concert to "check her out" but she was hidden behind the music stand and all I could see was her eyes. Just like this Barbie, that was all I needed to see.

The Nudes – They're named for the numbered exposure that I chose as the final image. They were not shot at the same time nor are they the same doll.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

On Camera Interview

Frankie, Annette and Moondoggie
Photo courtesy of Larry Torno and Bruno David Gallery

When Naomi Silver, President and Founder of Culture Surfer LLC, walked into the Barbie show, When is a Doll not a Doll?, she doubled over in laughter and asked "Is this everyone's reaction?" And from then on, I knew the interview was going to be a good one. I don't think I've ever seen anyone so enthusiastic about my work. It was great fun meeting Naomi and getting the chance to be interviewed about the show. You can see the video at

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

FINAL WEEK - The Barbie Show

Photo courtesy of Larry Torno and Bruno David Gallery

It's the final week of the exhibition, When is a Doll not a Doll? at the Bruno David Gallery. The exhibition continues Wednesday, April 1 through Saturday, April 4, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

For everyone who attended Opening Night, here's a chance to see the show again; this time, unobstructed. If you haven't seen the exhibition yet, I urge you to take some time out of your day and check out the 24 portraits of vintage Barbie dolls. They're nothing like anything you've seen before. As the press release says "Through these vivid images of the timeless figure, Torno liberates Barbie from her box and places her again into the realm of the imagination."

It's definitely a must-see for anyone who thinks they know what a Barbie doll looks like.