***Series of 6 Challenge images due Sunday, Dec 11th. I’ll put the info on the Challenge Tab this week and send an email about it.
I think this has been the toughest challenge to wrap my brain around. There are so many ways to take it but I also think there are some boundaries as well.
On one hand, I think it’s a pitfall to make the images match too much, such as six different views of similar things. Why share six when one will do the trick? In a large project sure, but each image is valuable real estate with only six.
There’s also the pitfall of making the idea too simple, such as six images based on the color yellow, or something like that. As we’ve said before, I’d rather you fail with something difficult than succeed with something too easy.
On the flip side though, it’s really easy to overthink things, to think you need to have a formed idea that you can explain, a story, something very concrete.
Some of the best projects don’t have any answers or ways to explain the photographs, but they do a wonderful job of bringing out questions and mystery in your head, allowing your mind to wander.
They create the boundaries of a world and lead you down a path, yet it’s a path of your choosing.
On this note, I recently scanned a good portion of favorite photos from my book collection. I didn’t have the energy to do the city books yet, so these are all the more suburban side of things.
My goal was to put together images from this archive into different sets of six, but to try to have the connections between the images not be so concrete.
I don’t know how effective these are, it was a quick experiment and these are possibly on the border of being too loose, but the goal here was mainly to get your mind to wander and fill in the blanks between the images.
What do you think of these?
Trivia, AI, Celebrity Stylists, and Backs of Heads
Last Tuesday night, I shot an event from 5-10pm called The Dozen at some concert hall on the Westside. It was a trivia/reality show through Barstool Sports with 6 trivia teams and a crowd of mostly 25-year-old sports fans in hoodies. The show had a bit of a MTV’s Jackass quality to it.
Anyway, they paid me extra to get the photos to them by the next day. But after I agreed I got another job, which I couldn’t refuse, starting the next morning, from 9am-6pm.
Enter Imagen AI – a company that my photographer buddy Scott Wyden Kivowitz went to work at last year. I gave it a try a week before and it was incredible. I wouldn’t recommend it for personal work, but for jobs it is the craziest thing.
I uploaded 4,000 of my edited raw files from past events, and it took a day to process them and build an AI profile for my events.
So at 11:30 at night, I uploaded the 600+ photos to the server, and 10 minutes later the edits were available to download. For 7 cents an image, it will edit, straighten and crop your images for you, an amazing deal.
And the exciting thing is how well it works. Of course, with most of the edits you have to tweak a little, but it often gets damn close, especially in the crop. I was able to tweak the top 180 photos in less than half the normal time (and then you upload the tweaks to the server so your AI profile learns and improves over time). The photos were ready by 2:30am, although I didn’t send them until 7 so the client would think I worked longer through the night on them.
And I was able to do the job the next day, fairly functionally. Otherwise, I would have been up all night. 3+ extra hours of sleep because of AI.
While that first event was a 10/10 on the masculine scale, the next day I had to photograph an influencer event at a fancy salon in Chelsea held by the haircare product and hairdryer company, Sally Beauty.
Editors, bloggers, and writers would come in and have champagne, a 30-minute shampoo and head massage, and then a styling by a celebrity stylist, 2 of whom had been on one of those hair styling reality shows.
It was fun and relaxed thankfully, cool people, but tough in that I had to capture photos for the influencers to want to use, photographs of all the products being used, there were mirrors everywhere so I had to make sure I wasn’t in the photos nor any other clutter, and that the hair looked amazing.
And I had to be present consistently while not being annoying, pleasant enough to be around, and not awkward, but somewhat of a fly on the wall. It’s a complicated dance.
Anyway, I got the idea to shoot the back of their heads in this way from Mimi Plumb’s books. Nobody shoots the back of a head the way she does, and it was a fun inspiration.
Nothing too fancy, I might not have captured these without that inspiration.
Anyway the point to this random story, besides the Imagen-AI shoutout, and the random humor of the events, is just that the more you immerse yourself in other people’s work, the more it’s going to influence you in ways that will surprise you.
Let yourself be influenced. Let yourself copy. Copy the ideas you like best all together into your own creation.
Now finally, here’s my work in progress, series of 6, for Manual. It’s a mix of some old photos with the new ones to create the feel I’m going for, but will try to shoot more over the next month to get some more new photos to replace.
I’m going to keep this post fairly short, but I want to share what I’ve been planning for my next project for next year.
And this post is related to last week’s post about finding inspiration in other photographers, so make sure to check that out if you haven’t read it.
In the past, I’ve always grown ideas organically and followed what the photos told me, but now I want to try the other way of doing things and really think up and plan an idea before I go out to work on it.
The title is inspired by Alec Soth’s Broken Manual, which was produced to feel like an ad-hoc manual for how to disappear.
I like the idea of a manual, so in this case, it would be a loose manual to cities with both photographs, studies, and quotes. It would explore the biology of cities, the structure, the communities, transportation, etc. A wide study.
When building this idea, I went through a portion of photobooks to scan and I picked out photos that inspired me for the project. Most of them weren’t taken in cities actually, but each gives me some idea for content, structure, or feel that I would want to translate.
So anyway, the six photos I’ve been building for this series challenge is photographs from other photographers to build up the spirit for the idea before I start making plans to actually shoot it. I’m currently envisioning a loose structure with both B&W and color and a variety of formats.
And I’m also including a few general quotes as well.
“When we started living in cities, we did something that had never happened before in the history of life,” West says. “We broke away from the equations of biology, all of which are sublinear. Every other creature gets slower as it gets bigger. That’s why the elephant plods along. But in cities, the opposite happens. As cities get bigger, everything starts accelerating. There is no equivalent for this in nature. It would be like finding an elephant that’s proportionally faster than a mouse.”
“Kempes and West have discovered two such laws. The first pertains to how cities consume energy: in cities, energy per capita, (measured in terms of infrastructure — gas stations, roads, electrical lines), decreases in proportion with city population size, on average, with an exponent of about 0.15. A similar law appears in the biological world: “the energy required to support a unit mass of tissue decreases systematically as the quarter-power of body mass.” Both cities and organisms in this sense produce economies of scale: as they increase in size, they use resources more efficiently.
Yet cities exhibit another scaling law that looks very different from the biological world. The increased connectivity of cities, Kempes and West explain, gives rise to a “super-linear scaling of socio-economic activities.” As cities increase in size, so too do per capita wages, patent production, and GDP, along with crime, inequality, and disease — all at a universal rate, raised, on average, to an exponent of 1.15.”
“Unlike companies, which are managed in a top-down fashion by a team of highly paid executives, cities are unruly places, largely immune to the desires of politicians and planners. “Think about how powerless a mayor is,” West says. “They can’t tell people where to live or what to do or who to talk to. Cities can’t be managed, and that’s what keeps them so vibrant. They’re just these insane masses of people, bumping into each other and maybe sharing an idea or two. It’s the freedom of the city that keeps it alive.”
“when people come together, they become much more productive.
Because you can take the same person, and if you just move them to a city that’s twice as big, then all of a sudden they’ll do 15 percent more of everything that we can measure.
Nobody moves to New York to save money on their gas bill.” Why, then, do we put up with the indignities of the city? Why do we accept the failing schools and overpriced apartments, the bedbugs and the traffic?
In essence, they arrive at the sensible conclusion that cities are valuable because they facilitate human interactions, as people crammed into a few square miles exchange ideas and start collaborations. “If you ask people why they move to the city, they always give the same reasons,” West says. “They’ve come to get a job or follow their friends or to be at the center of a scene. That’s why we pay the high rent. Cities are all about the people, not the infrastructure.”
“[Jane Jacobs] saw the city not as a mass of buildings but rather as a vessel of empty spaces, in which people interacted with other people. The city wasn’t a skyline — it was a dance.
All successful cities are a little uncomfortable.”
If you ask my wife, Sara, if I’m qualified to write a post about listening, she will give you a definitive no.
But let’s give it a shot anyway.
If you’re typically logging into the site for the primary purpose of posting your photos and getting feedback, I think you’re looking at this place from the wrong angle.
And my goal over time is to help us all shift together to see things from a different angle.
Posting photos is the easy part. You throw some stuff up to see what sticks in the minds of others.
But the hard part is the listening. The hard part is learning to talk about photographs. The hard part is learning to understand what photos can do, how different photographers utilize them, how to relate to different photographs yourself, and how to understand the intentions and motivations of photographers.
The way to improve is to look at photographs. Really look at them. The more you don’t understand them, the more you should enquire (60% of the time you still won’t understand them anyway, but that’s not the point). It’s the attempt that counts.
The more you do this, the more you will pick up the traits and skills of the photographers you love.
If you don’t spend the effort and time to try to assess and understand photography, at some point you’re probably going to plateau in your own work. And to do this you need to push yourself.
The best writers read. The best photographers look at pictures.
If you’re having a hard time understanding someone’s work, ask questions. Do your best to learn why someone is shooting what they shoot. What’s their purpose?
Don’t be afraid. You don’t have to talk about triangles or lighting or the way the eyes move through a photograph, although you can.
But you should do your best to try to understand what everyone is photographing and help them understand what you find interesting about it, or what you would like to see that might make the work more interesting. The content is the most interesting thing to talk about anyway.
You will find that you’ll end up understanding your own work better as well by doing this.
And for the Salon, this is the ultimate what-goes-around-comes-around place. The more you’re able to give to others, the more they’re going to be able to reciprocate in understanding you and your work.
And a big aspect of this also comes from comfort. We’re working to get the regular hangouts going now so we can all get more comfortable with each other, because that’s a key to be able to comfortably speak out minds. It’s a tough place to get to online, but it’s an important and hopefully achievable goal.
And don’t be afraid to write about your decisions and your thoughts behind your photos so we can understand your thought process as well.
When I was talking with Taisuke over the last few years, there were certain plateaus in both his shooting and in my ability to help him and give him advice. But it was questions that broke through that. And it took time to find the right questions.
And I wonder if it took him time to be able to fully embrace those questions.
His fascinating quotes were responses to questions over many emails. It was such a fun and rewarding conversation to have.
To have a small part in helping motivate him to find the right way to unleash such an interesting story was an extremely fulfilling and educational experience, and it has helped us get to know each other better.
Now if I gave you one year and you could either spend every day shooting or every other day shooting and every other day looking at photobooks or helping other photographers think about their work, which situation do you think would be best for becoming a better photographer and creating better work?
I believe your work would be much stronger with the latter, despite half the time shooting.
A big percentage of the time, you’re going to try to think of a good question or insight to say, and there will be nothing. We all want to help each other of course. That happens to me all the time.
That’s fine, don’t overthink it. There are a lot of great and bad photographs on here for which I wish I had something insightful to say about them, but I can’t think of anything. So I move on. Do what you can and work to improve.
In a similar way to thinking about the series challenge, try not to overthink things. Not every photo or series has to tell a story. You could find a wonderful thread of images in your portfolio where there is no rhyme or reason or way to talk about them concretely, and it still could be a gorgeous set that is evocative and powerful.
So just let loose and have some fun, in all aspects of the site.
Update from Taisuke
I returned from Osaka.
It was a good opportunity to hear the feedback of many people at this phase of the project.
Two of the viewers shed tears.
A young woman who had taken a leave of absence due to an adjustment disorder at work, a woman whose parents were opposed to what she wanted to do as she looked for a job, and a man who had dedicated the same period of his life to his work, told me their stories.
With this display of exhibition, viewers did not look at one photo carefully and moved on to the next, so the impression they received from the story was stronger than the emotion that welled up from the image of the photo.
Still, if this becomes a book, I think the emotions will be more greatly affected.
Many people are impressed with the photo of me bathing in the sink.
So you brought that photo to the end! I admire you.
I noticed that I have been working for about 30 years, almost all of the Heisei Era in the Japanese calendar.
Do you know the Japanese calendar?
Heisei is the era of the previous Emperor Akihito.
The change in the social structure of Japan during this period was from quantity to quality, from standard to variety.
I will intend to do a detailed study of the changes during this time, and also refer to Ken’s comment about eudaimonia.
It has a scientific consideration of psychological well-being, development and aging, family life, and work/life relationships.
Finally, my son came to see. I was apprehensive about showing my family, but he said it was very nice. I was very happy about that.
For me, this has to be the most interesting and fun post that I’ve written as part of the Salon. An inflection point towards what we’re working towards here.
Today we’re going to talk about a body of work that Taisuke Sato has been working on for the last few years.
Keep in mind this is all still a work in progress and I pieced this post together based on conversations.
I want this to help you realize how projects can come together, how different layers can reveal themselves over time, and I want to help us all understand more about what Taisuke has been photographing so we can give him our perspectives in the future as he shares more of his progress.
And I also want to talk about my process as a viewer of Taisuke’s progress.
It can be difficult to talk about individual photographs in the stream, and even more so if you feel like more of a beginner photographer.
But everyone can talk about a project like this. We’re people with different viewpoints, backgrounds, interests, and a common love of visual storytelling. What better place than here to talk conceptually about a project, what we like, or what we would like to see or be improved?
And I hope we’re able to extend this to others as we build relationships and understanding here.
Taisuke has been building a fascinating and gorgeous project with the working title Eudaimonics, which means a theory of happiness.
“The theme of the work is happiness theory, but I am not sure if this is the right word. I feel that there may be a more appropriate word throughout, but I am not sure what it is.
This is the story of my depression-escape, in which I arrived at my view of impermanence by taking a step back and quietly reexamining the causes of my difficulty in living in Japanese society.”
There is a clear vision here from the photographs. I don’t see someone who’s happy, yet, but I see someone who is searching for happiness. Someone who’s in the process of developing his own theory of happiness. The photos have solemn and lonely undertones to them, but also with a zeal for life.
I’ve been enamored with Taisuke’s work from the start and I know many of you have too. I’ve heard feedback about that from others.
Looking at his project over time, it felt like maybe it was on the way to being finished. He had a gorgeous gallery show from it. It was cohesive. But at the same time, something also felt missing from it. Something big.
It still felt like it was scratching the surface.
Taisuke told me more about his past. The photos made me want to delve deeper, and keep in mind this has been over the course of a couple years. Time is important, because it’s hard to help someone until you’re able to take the time to get to know them and their work well.
At the same time, he went to a review show to share his work with reviewers in France. And one comment from him stood out to me:
“The work refers to Japan’s distinctive national character and society. The reviewers did not seem to be very familiar with it. Therefore, it was very difficult for them to understand the intent of the photos.”
This comment made it clearer that he needed to focus on this. This whole time he was trying to search for happiness within Japanese society, but he was also shielding himself (and us) from his past.
And it’s important to deal with that past both from a therapy perspective, and also to lay the groundwork for viewers to better understand him and his viewpoints.
So we brainstormed and made a list. Larry Felton, who until retiring recently, ran a semiconductor company in Japan, had a lot of insight into Japanese culture and working culture, and from an American perspective, and this has provided invaluable insight.
Taisuke created a map of inspirations and ideas (click to see in new window). And the goal is to capture those ideas and then he can try to figure out how to put it all together.
Whether this ends up as one or two projects, who knows!? On one hand, you want to finish a project, maybe work to get it published. But on the other hand, it’s really exciting when it takes on new life and allows you to create more. To keep photographing.
We also talked about combining old photos into the project and old letters. For the rest of this post, I’m going to share more of his work and his quotes.
After you read all of this, look back at the earlier photos and see if they hold new meaning for you.
And I think an interesting goal is for him to try and replace some of these insightful and powerful quotes with photographs.
Please comment any thoughts that you might have, and I also hope this post will give him more encouragement to share his work that he continues to create for the project, and that it gives us more understanding to advise him.
“I never wanted to remember the look on my mother’s face when I disappointed her, because I was absolutely determined to satisfy her with tests and grade rankings. My mother’s anger lasted for a long time.
However, as a young man, I lived up to her expectations. I graduated from a famous university, got a job at a big company, and got married at the age of 25. All this seemed to satisfy my mother. I was sadly embarrassed because my mother was so pleased with her accomplishments and was giving lectures on parenting theory.
I think I was behaving in a way that exceeded the expectations of those around me, as a mother’s ideal, as a company employee, as a husband, as a father, and I was wearing a different personality than my true self.
And now that I have freed myself of that, I think I feel a small happiness every day.”
“We got married in 1995. I was 25 and she was 24. At that time, I think it was still the case that many married women became housewives.
Girls were studying domestic science in order to become housewives. It was common for women to leave the workforce after marriage.”
“Salespeople who made a lot of sales had a high income, and wearing brand-name products was a sign of status. When I was a company employee, I was in the value system of owning a big house, two luxury cars, and brand-name suits, bags, and watches. To wear such status in terms of these things was to maintain an admired presence among my subordinates and clients, and this satisfied my narcissism as a salesman.”
“Working in housing sales was my pleasure because I could directly see the satisfaction of the customers and they were very grateful. However, since I had a very large workload, I was always working long hours and returning from holidays.
As for the work environment, when selling homes, teams of about 5 people would be formed, and since I was 30, I was the manager, so I enjoyed working as a playing manager, which was fulfilling in many ways. I liked working in housing. In making proposals, I listened to my clients very carefully and thought deeply about what kind of housing they wanted. The only custom-built house that came out of this process exceeded the client’s imagination and I was able to get more contracts than the average salesperson. I was also very happy with my subordinates’ advice on their work when it worked out.
However, my bosses, the branch managers, changed every three years, and it was very difficult to make a discovery for them. Whether it was fun or hard depended on them.
Some bosses used my abilities to their advantage, while others intimidated and pressured me into doing things the old way. In those cases, I was stressed out by a lot of unreasonableness. However, during this period, I was quite familiar with my work, so I was relieved when I got contracts, and on the other hand, it was hard when I did not.”
“As for my family, I had a hard-working environment before I got married, and my wife understood that that was the way it was. This was generally the case, not just at my company.”
“As my children grew older, my presence in the home became less and less, and I began to feel lonely at home.”
Thank you for working hard, getting lots of money, and making our family happy.
Although dad and I don’t spend as much time together as my mom, brother, and friends do, I love you for always working so hard.
Please take care of us from now on.
Thank you for always working hard until late at night to get the money and sharing it with us all.
The thing that made me happiest was when you gave me foreign money.
When I saw it for the first time, I thought it was amazing.
Keep up the good work.
Thank you for always working hard at your job, etc.
Thank you for always working hard to provide for our family.
I beat Mr. Deluxe twice.
“I had been working for the same company since I was 22 years old. At that time, the “Japanese management system” of hiring new graduates, lifetime employment, and seniority was the norm, and life planning was based on this system. Changing jobs meant a career downgrade in Japan.
Therefore, employees who participated in the competition within the company never showed any weakness, but always continued to hone their leadership qualities and strive to improve their own and their team’s performance. When they fail to do so, their pride will not allow them to be removed as leaders, and they must be prepared to remain as miserable employees, such as being subordinates to junior staff. (This is one of the characteristics of Japan, but there is a strong sense of seniority, and having the ages of supervisors and subordinates reversed creates suffering for both sides.)
For this reason, I was very afraid of dropping out due to illness.
Work changed my personality. I think we are all human beings.
I played the ideal office worker, always smiling, quick to deal with any situation, able to read the customer’s mind, very kind, full of ideas, tenacious and patient, etc. By the time I was 40, I realized the disconnect with my true personality and character, and I could no longer remember my true self.
At the age of 45, I began to have heart palpitations when I went home, and after living in a hotel, I separated from my family.
The reason for the divorce was that I felt lonely at home and the main reason was my illness.
My wife was a housewife, so I was left to take care of the housework and the children. I had never been to any of the children’s sports events.
Japanese couples do not say things like “I love you” to each other. I felt that I was unloved and that I was someone who existed for money for my family, as described in the letters from my children. I believe this is another assumption due to my illness.
Then at the age of 47, during a meeting with a client, I could not stop crying and had to take a leave of absence from the company. It lasted a year and a half.”
I was constantly haunted by hatred and self-pity, doubts and fears about things that seemed trivial, taking things and people’s words and actions in a bad light, or in technical terms, cognitive distortions.
I willingly reported to the company that I was depressed. The company decided to take me on a leave of absence immediately to manage the crisis. And after that, contrary to my thoughts, I got worse and worse after the leave of absence.
If I hadn’t gotten sick, I probably wouldn’t have gotten divorced and I wouldn’t have quit my job.”
Yearly hospital records for 2018
Name of disease
Bipolar Affective Disorder
Due to the above illness, the patient will continue to require outpatient treatment.
He is in a condition that makes it difficult for him to work.
I hereby diagnose as above.
February 13, 2020
Mr. Taisuke Sato
Information on Procedures, etc. upon Retirement
On the occasion of your retirement, we would like to express our sincere appreciation for your long years of service to our company.
Please read the following information carefully, and please confirm and follow the attached procedures.
If you have any questions, please contact the department in charge.
General Manager, General Affairs Dept.
“I ran away from everything. I dyed my hair blonde. I went abroad. Studied photography and art. I entered a photo exhibition. I entered competitions.
I moved to an old wooden row house, 60 years old, with no bathroom, but I felt I had to dare to start in such a place.
One day I realized that the migraine headache that had haunted the left back of my head for years had died. My head was clear.
I was cured. My whole body was filled with joy. I called my sons and felt relieved that I could put an end to the guilt I felt for destroying my family and that this was probably for the best.
Japanese society has been engulfed in a vortex of deflation during the ‘lost 20 years.’ It has become increasingly lonely and isolated, especially in urban areas.
The fact that Japan is becoming a society that embraces diversity, but only on the surface.
But it was also an escape from the society to which I had belonged.
The fact that one can decide one’s own life. That it is possible even from the age of 50.“
A Couple Questions For You:
No need to answer these specifically in a comment, but if you have thoughts on these, let us know!
1. How do you think the old photos might best fit in? Combined together, as more of an introduction, as two different projects, not used at all? What did they do for your perception of the body of work?
2. From reading all of this, are there any types of photos you would like to see? Is there something specific he wrote about that you’d like to see him photograph? More of something? Less of something?
*Please try to get these details correct as it makes my life much easier, and just message me with any questions.
File Naming: Firstname-Lastname-1.jpg (2, 3, etc.). The order will be the order of your series!
One or two sentences: Only if you want to include text with the series, upload a text or word document (titled Firstname-Lastname). If this doesn’t work for any reason just email the text to me at [email protected], but please try the text document first as it will make my life easier.
Sizing: Same as for uploading to website. 1000 pixels long, jpeg, 72DPI, 65% quality.
Deadline: Sunday, December 11th
Challenge: A Series of 6
A single photo can pass by you in an instant, while a series of images can stick with you in much more profound and varied ways.
This is a generalization of course, but I think frequently true.
We live in a world of single photos, a constant stream of distraction. Everyone’s addicted to the dopamine of the next hit, but internally yearning for a break from it.
Creating a series of images allows you to grab hold of someone and bring them deep into your world. It’s a conversation of sorts.
Sequencing work and building an experience opens up an entirely new side of the art form.
A series of images can have a story like a novel or it can be loose, abstract, or based on a feeling like a poem.
There are no rules to the challenge, except you must place photographs next to each other to create an effect. 6 is the maximum and 3 is the minimum.
It can be a dense project with history, social commentary, and background information, introductions, afterwords, or it can be a short series with no writing or defining information. A viewer could leave the experience with more questions than they arrived with.
Your challenge, for those who choose to accept it, is to create a series of up to 6 images. We’ll share them all.
Make sure to name and number the files in the order that you want to show them in, from 1-6. The order is the art.
If you want to add background information (although many will be better without this), you can add up to three sentences, but try to do it in 1 or 2. Get to the point.
Now some questions to think about.
Do you look through old work to create the basis for the project or just try new work? Do you shoot broadly hoping to narrow down an idea as you shoot or do you think of an idea ahead of time? Do you pivot from an initial idea?
Do you mix color and B&W? Constant or different aspect ratios? Do you mix portraits and candids or just go in one direction? Do you show six images that a representative of a much larger project, do you share your most effective sequence of six, or do you try out the introductory six for the idea?
Maybe the series ultimately only ends up as six images, or less.
Do you base it on a place, an idea, a feeling?
You can use an older project that you’d like to improve or you can start a brand new one.
And I think this will help for getting comments on your work as well and for giving them. When you learn more about a person’s work it makes it so much easier to talk about it in conceptual ways, in addition to the technical thoughts. And I find the conceptual parts to be the most fun.
I’m also going to be trying to figure out a new idea as well that I have no photos for and no idea how to attack it.
The deadline will be sometime in December. I’ll clarify as we go along as we’ll be figuring out the best ways to approach this challenge together.
We’re going to try to have a more consistent element going in the Salon for those who are working on projects. And the work that stems from this challenge will probably turn into a zine, although that might be later down the road.
This post is only the general challenge information. I’ll be writing in more detail about it, we’ll do hangouts, photobook talks. But if you have any initial questions it’s a great time for them, so please add them below.
Deadline: December sometime.
Uploading: Will add here closer to date. I don’t want people uploading too early.
I’m getting back in the groove of things right now. We’ll schedule a site hangout very soon!
So I was back from vacation last week, Avery was acclimated to Pre-K, I was walking back from giving a workshop with perfect, glorious weather, finally feeling 100% physically after 10 absurd months.
Thinking, ‘Man, I gotta soak up this feeling because it ain’t gonna last long.’
Four hours later, we had a mouse chew through our bathtub pipe and water leaked into our kitchen during a bath. Then Avery came down with a cold and slept only a few hours. He made it four days masked in his school before his first cold. Thankfully, it was minor and the leak was fixed after our contractors blew up the kitchen for a day, and an exterminator is coming Monday. We’ve never had a mouse before!
life can be darkly humorous sometimes.
Anyway, sorry for the personal stuff, but I promise it’ll tie in.
And I just wanted to say hi. I haven’t written one of these in awhile and missed you all, even though I’ve been loving your photos. I’m excited to get the hangouts and everything going again soon.
If you can, please help keep up with the site this Fall. An issue here is that I know we’re all busy and it can seem a lot to keep up with things. But just try to pop in for 10 minutes here or there and check out what’s going on. Nobody needs to keep up with everything!
With the year it’s been, I’ve been thinking a lot about balance. It’s the thing I’m the worst at, but trying to work on. It’s a common topic with my therapist. A little bit here and a little bit there. I’m an all-at-once person, if you hadn’t noticed.
But how do we create art when we’re balanced?
I watched some random video with some random artist a few weeks ago. All I remember is him saying that he caused himself pain because we can’t create good art without pain.
At first, it seemed like an interesting statement, and I might-have-sort-have agreed in the moment.
But then I realized how ridiculous that was. Yes, pain creates such profound art. Probably a majority of great art is based on pain, but I wonder if that’s because often the story is right there in front of you. You have to get it out, it’s a form of therapy. It’s a healing process.
But art can come from other feelings too – out of joy, balance, even out of boredom. It’s just a little less obvious how to find that story. And it may not pour out of you that quickly.
This semester, and I want to start thinking of this place in a semester system, I want you to think about how to find a story. Some of you might be telling the story already or have it in your head. But for a lot of you, just think about searching for it. It can be anything.
I was fascinated with how the challenge sparked some (not all) of you out of lulls. Because if you looked at that list, every damn photograph you could possibly think of could be classified as something on the list!
Feels like summer… it was summer! Unless you’re in Australia.
I’m sort of joking, but it was so cool to see, because this list, encapsulating everything, sparked you to search and to find the parts of that list that interested you the most. And you explored.
We’re all extremely capable of telling interesting stories. If you’ve had the faith to stick it out with me in this place, you’ve got something to say. I know it’s easy to feel insecure about that, but give it a go. Now you just have to figure out how to search for it.
And some of you have already been searching for it, and capturing it, but you now need to learn how to organize it together.
We’re going to talk a lot more about that coming soon. For now, enjoy the last week of summer!
No uploading – post to the site as you get them (I will share some favorites in Salon posts).
*New Photos Only.
Deadline: Sunday, Sept 4th
For this challenge we’re going to do a summer scavenger photo hunt!
We want to keep things simple and light through the summer, but still give you some inspiration to get out and search for things with your camera. And we’ll get into a deeper challenge over the fall and think more about projects and such then.
Here’s the list, and thanks to the moderators for helping to come up with it.
Something strange in my neighborhood
Signs (physical or metaphorical)
How summer feels around “here” (home, neighborhood, region)
Joy and sadness (bonus if you get the same in both photos)
Signs of hard times (without people in the picture)
Congratulations to all. This wasn’t an easy challenge and I know many of you pushed yourselves to do this.
Keep it going, keep pushing yourselves to get to know people better and to work to have that shine through in your photos. You can see a lot of nuance here – that is what we’re looking for, nuance.
90-something photos were chosen out of the set. There are some amazing photos that didn’t make it into this set, but I had to make some quick choices to narrow it down, and it was a lot of fun sequencing it in a random way that seemed to flow.
The sequencing all of your photos is maybe the most fun aspect of this place for me.
Here is a link to the entire set of photos, and I’ll put the link at the bottom of the page as well.
Next challenge, next week!
And I want to separate Mark Susla’s contribution since it is so different and an extremely interesting interpretation.
This is the first post in awhile! I’ll probably be at some irregular posting for a bit, especially now that my kid has to quarantine again (and postpone his vaccine by 10 days) because of an exposure yesterday. Blah! It just doesn’t stop.
But the test copy of the Home zine has been ordered (I’m really excited for everyone to see it), we’ll have the Identity challenge post done in a week or two, and we will have a new summer challenge up soon. So lots to look forward to.
As mentioned previously, when I’m exhausted and unmotivated and life is crazy, I find it best to ramble, or wander. Fuck editing, fuck being perfect. Let’s just write some things down and post them. Let’s just walk and take crappy pictures.
I took the photo above last week. This has been my least productive photography period of the last 20 years besides the first year of the pandemic. Although it has been a very productive year editing-wise. So I guess if you don’t do one, do the other.
I was exhausted heading back from an intensive job. And despite not realizing I had covid or testing positive last month, I’ve also had some post-covid symptoms that pop up when I over-exert myself.
I saw Mango sitting outside of the Speedway and almost turned the corner and rushed home because I was so tired and slightly dizzy, but I made myself. He was happily drawing away and had 3 new drawings for the book, so I paid him for them. But of course he still had a last detail to draw so I sat down and talked for about 15 minutes, trying not to get dizzy. Thankfully I felt mostly better sitting down and talking.
We were talking about the two others who come and feed the pigeons, when one of them walked by and started briefly feeding them. And I had the time to take out the big camera from the job and shoot for a minute. At the very end the Fresh Direct truck came, scared the pigeons, and I got a lucky shot.
This story just seemed kind of representative of how photography and life works. It’s so often those times where you want to be anywhere else, where the magic happens. It’s always when you least expect it.
I know how busy so many of you are, but wherever you are, just keep going somewhere. Even a quiet, local place that you’ve seen a million times. Maybe this time a bird flies in, the light hits a spider web. A quick raincloud rolls in. That’s the only trick to photography that matters. Go somewhere, anywhere. Then go again.
I’ve been saying we’re going to do a talk on ethics for awhile. We’ll get to that. But yesterday I did my first non-workshop extended photowalk since the surgery and it felt great, although not sure if I got any good photographs.
I walked through Bed Stuy, home to the Notorious BIG and a neighborhood that is undergoing a lot of gentrification (hyper-gentrification), and the gentrification is unbelievably obvious. You have completely run down brownstones next to newly renovated homes. Construction everywhere.
And it just made me think that I could portray this neighborhood anyway I want. I could show the rundown buildings, which I chose not to photograph. I could show the fashionable white people walking around, the African Americans sitting on stoops. I could make the area look desirable to live in or like a place many would want to avoid.
So instead I looked for photos of flowers.
That’s the power we have with our cameras and one we need to wield responsibly. How are we portraying something? Do we have any biases that are peeking through in how we photograph? Are we only showing one side? Are there complexities we’re missing?
I loved all these four links. They’re the four most interesting and (somewhat) photography related pieces I came across in the last month or so.