Monday, May 27, 2013

Photography Week in Review - May 20-26

It's hard to believe that it's time for another photography week in review.  I don't have as much to report on this week, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a busy week.  In fact, there was a story that generated a great deal of debate within the photography community this week.  So, here's the photography week in review for May 20-26.

Yahoo Makes Two Big Announcements
Monday started off with a bang when Yahoo announced that it had agreed to purchase the young startup blogging service Tumblr for $1.1 billion.  Tumblr is a popular blog platform with over 100 million users and little revenue.  The demographic sways towards the younger generation and the platform focuses more on visual content; it's almost as if the users are curating content that they put on display to the world.  It will be interesting to see how this deal shakes out; how Yahoo will use the service to generate revenue and if the platform can continue to gain traction without losing it's current user base.  There is art and photographic content that factors into Tumblr; however, that's not the announcement that stirred up photographers around the globe.  In a press conference late Monday, Yahoo unveiled a complete redesign of Flickr.  

Yahoo acquired Flickr in 2005 but devoted very little resources towards further development.  It was if time stopped moving for Flickr; while other platforms continually updated and made changes to stay competitive, Flickr made very little changes.  The user interface was plain; white background and heavy on text.  The new update, which greeted a multitude of unexpected users Monday evening, was not the "coming out" party that Yahoo was hoping for.  Users flocked to the help forum to tell Yahoo how unhappy they were.  Over on Twitter and Facebook, where I follow a number of photographers, concerns and feedback were rampant the majority of the week.  Change is usually hard to accept, but it's easier when it's the right thing to do.  Yahoo didn't make all of the right moves with the Flickr roll out.  Flickr is a social network; but it's a social network for a large group of photographers.  The white background allowed the user to focus on the art; the new look floods the screen with photographs and it can be quite overwhelming and chaotic.  Additionally, information about the photograph (tags, exposure details, descriptions, etc.) are lost in the new design.  Individual photo streams are not as personalized as before and changes to the Pro account were also cause for concern.  It didn't make matters any better when Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's CEO, made a statement regarding the Flickr Pro account that upset a number of photographers:

"There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro today because [with so many people taking photographs] there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.”

Needless to say, Mayer backtracked later in the week and said the statement was taken out of context.  In terms of numbers, the professional photography crowd as well as the serious amateurs, make up a small population; however, they are highly active on Flickr and it's not a wise decision to alienate them in the manner that Mayer did.  There are other services out there that could benefit from the "new" Flickr.  The additional space for users is nice, but I'm not a fan of the user interface changes.  The active groups and communities are what make Flickr so great, so I'm not sure I'll be leaving any time soon.  Time will tell if this move was for the better or for the worse.  Read about the changes here and feel free to comment on how you feel about Flickr's new look.
Freestyle Updates Website
Another photographic company updated it's website this week, but to much less fan fare and complaints.  Freestyle is a photographic supply company that has been servicing the photographic community with tools of the trade since 1946.  They are based in Los Angeles and are dedicated to stocking traditional photographic materials in addition to newer digital and hybrid items.  They updated their website this week with a new interface that's much more attractive in addition to being more customer friendly.  It's a great new look for a great company.  Stop by, say hi and purchase some film (or loads of other things) here
Pdexposures Releases Podcast Episode #10
Photographic accessories are one of the many things you can purchase at the new Freestyle website and it just so happens that Nate, Tony and Simon released their tenth podcast in which they focus on photographic accessories.  They banter in their usual manner and of course fit a mention of Leica in at every chance they get.  It's a fun episode and I think the guys are really starting to hit a groove.  Give it a listen here.
120 Film Cases!
Bellamy Hunt, also known as Japan Camera Hunter, lives in Tokyo and sources cameras and other photographic gear to customers around the world.  In addition to this amazing service, he also runs a blog filled with great articles and fantastic artist profiles.  He has a long running feature entitled "In Your Bag," in which photographers send in pictures and descriptions of their photo bags.  He created these great 35mm film carrying cases and he just released the final prototype for a 120 film case due to come out in June.  Check it out on the Facebook page and visit his great site here.
Instant Film Society Print and Negative Holders
While we're on the subject of photographic organization, I came across another wonderful item this week.  The Instant Film Society, a group based in Texas dedicated to the use and promotion of instant film, have a wonderful invention for sale.  Anyone that's shot pack film/peel-apart film in the field knows how difficult it can be to keep your prints and negatives dry, free of dust and flat.  Instant shooters fear no more.  The Instant Film Society created a handy drying box for prints and negatives that they're offering them for sale for a small fee.  If you shoot a Polaroid Land camera or you use pack film in a medium or large format back, I highly suggest picking up one of these nifty, little, drying boxes.  Pick one up here.
Snap It! See It! Giveaway
Continuing on with instant film goodness, the site dedicated to the love of instant film just launched a very special giveaway.  Thanks to the kind individuals at The Impossible Project, Snap It! See It! is giving away a silver Polaroid SX-70 Sonar kit (with a PX Shade and some film).  It's very easy to enter the giveaway, so head over to the site and find all the details here.

Wayne F. Miller (1918-2013)
Wayne F. Miller passed away on May 22, 2013.  Miller served in the Navy during World War II and was chosen by Edward Steichen to be part of a special unit designed to document the war.  He was one of the first individuals to capture images of post atomic bomb Hiroshima.  After returning to Chicago, he created his most well known series "The Way of the Northern Negro," which is now held in multiple museums.  He joined Magnum Photos in 1958 and served as President from 1962-66.  During this period, he strived to "photograph mankind and explain man to man."  Learn more about Wayne F. Miller here.

Petapixel Article on the Decisive Moment
Earlier this week the site Petapixel posted an article on how the decisive moment in photography was dead and the constant moment is and will continue to be the future of photography.  The article begins by talking about the master of the decisive moment, Henri Cartier-Bresson.  The author goes on to discuss the creation of art as the curation of time and delves into a discussion of technology and the future of photography.  You can read the full article here, but the author is concluding that in the not too distant future there will no longer be the need for the decisive moment or for the photographer to actually be present for the moment he or she is capturing.  Needless to say, I do not agree with the author's insights.  What the author is clearly missing is the human element of photography. So much of what we photography is not necessarily the decisive moment as it is a personal or emotional moment that connects the photographer to the subject.  If Alfred Stieglitz had the technology that is referenced in the article, the images of Georgia O'Keefe would almost certainly not be as emotional, complex and as amazing as they are today.  They had a connection and a way of working together that could never be replaced by technology.  What about the uncovered street photography of Vivian Maier?  Would she have been able to pick out the exact images that she captured using drone technology?  So much of photography is about being in the moment and capturing what you feel and witness. To remove yourself from the equation creates a disconnect; watching a historic event unfold on television is not the same as watching it unfold in person.  Technology can be wonderful and has done so much for the photographic industry, but let's not forget what has been behind every technological breakthrough in the industry - a human eye behind the viewfinder capturing the beauty that is before them.

For Ohioans
The Dayton Art Institute is holding an alternative photographic processes workshop June 3-5.  The workshop is being taught by Richard Jurus, Director of Photographic and Digital Studies at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio.  The workshop will focus on three different printing processes:  Cyanotype, Vandyke Brown and Platinum/Palladium.  The workshop is composed of three, daily, five hour sessions.  Cost of the workshop is $200 for non-members and $175 for members.  Hurry, because registration ends today, May 27.  Learn more here.   

That's it for this week.  Happy Memorial Day!  Get out there and shoot and feel free to comment on any of the items discussed this week.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Process - Part Two

Last week, I began to pull back the shades in regards to my creative process.  I discussed the importance of overcoming the mental hurdle of not viewing photography as art.  I can’t stress that step enough.  If I didn’t view my photography as art, there is no way that I would’ve created some of the images that I have.  It’s the most vital element when trying to evaluate your photographic creative process. 

This week, I want to focus on activities that will help facilitate this process.  I don’t partake in them for every project, but they have helped to change my approach.  I’m talking about activities that cultivate your photographic eye and your individual voice in photography.  We all see things differently, so why should we try to imitate images that we’ve seen before?  Sure, looking at the way others have approached a subject is a great way to get inspiration, but it can lead to boring photography.  Boring photography doesn’t mean that it’s not technically proficient photography; it just means that you didn’t bring anything unique to the image.  You simply saw it as another photographer did.  So, how do you stop seeing what others did and start seeing what others didn’t?
When I jumped into photography with both feet, I joined a small photography club in my area.  The advisor of the club was the photography professor at the local community college and she played a major part in pushing the creative limits of my photography.  One of the assignments she would give her students was one that pushed individual creativity without sacrificing technical proficiency.  She would assign the students to select a subject; something simple and not too complex.  After the subject had been selected, she would require the students to assemble a series of 10 different, final images of the same subject.  This is a great activity to generate creative thinking.  It requires the photographer to start viewing the mundane in a new light by forcing a change of perspective and by thinking about a subject in ways that are atypical.  Lying on the ground, getting on a ladder, changing the location and context of the item; these are all ways to start seeing things in a different light.  One of the greatest examples that perspective has on an image is one of William Eggleston’s.  It is variously known as Untitled, Tricycle and Memphis, 1970.  You can view the image here.
Remember, art is subjective, and you may find this image boring.  A lot of critics felt Eggleston’s show of 1976, which featured this image, was boring and banal.  This image has held up over time and is one of Eggleston’s most well-known images.  As adults, we would be looking down at the tricycle.  Can you imagine if Eggleston had taken this image from that perspective?  It would be boring and banal; by changing his perspective, he brought a sense of childhood wonderment to the image coupled with the looming adult world that would dispense of our innocence and naivety entirely too soon.  By changing his perspective, Eggleston was able to see what others didn’t or couldn’t.
Another easy activity that will help you locate your photographic voice is simply to shoot more.  And then shoot some more.  And then shoot some more.   It takes about 10,000 hours to become truly good at something, so this means that you need to shoot every chance you get.  By continually practicing your craft, you develop a style and become more adept at pushing individual boundaries.  One way to do this is to take on a project that focuses on shooting every single day - something like a 365 project or a 52 week project.  The point of this type of project is to take your camera everywhere; it should become an extension of your body.  You begin to view every single thing around you as a potential image.  I completed my own 365 project in 2011 and it was one of the most challenging, yet satisfying projects I’ve ever undertaken.  I created work that I never would’ve if I wasn’t out there shooting every day.  Were there days that I didn’t feel like shooting or days that I wasn’t feeling especially creative?  Of course there were; in fact, you could probably pick out those images in my project photo stream.  However, the project challenged me to find ways to interestingly photography mundane objects.  The project doesn’t have to be a yearlong commitment; it could be something as simple as taking a picture every day for a month; or shoot weekly or bi-weekly themes.  As long as the assignment puts a camera up to your eye more often than not, then you’ll begin to look at the world differently.  
A great example of photographers and artists working on a project to push creative boundaries is the Coalesce 52 project.  Two photographers are shooting at least a roll of film a week and an illustrator/designer/writer is producing an original visual or written piece a week.  Check it out here.  If you’re looking for places to get ideas for themes or assignments, look no further than Snap It! See It!  They are an instant photography based blog that encourages readers to submit photos to their bi-weekly themes.
The two biggest obstacles in the creative process are the two that I’ve now discussed.  The following entries in my series will begin to focus on my personal creative process and how I set out to create art. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Playing Around With Video

I've been tossing around the idea of doing some work with video.  I recently obtained a Super 8 video camera as well as a Lomography Lomokino.  I have a number of still photography projects in the works that I would like to add a video element to.  Additionally, Twitter released a new iPhone video app, Vine, back in January.  The app allows a user to create a six second looping video.  One of the photographers I follow, Adam Goldberg, has become the master of Vine by creating these amazingly intricate mini movies.  His work is so inspiring to me, I decided to take what I've already done with the app to the next level.  Here's my first attempt at an Adam Goldberg style Vine.  It's nothing near the quality of his output, but it has got me excited about further exploring video capability in my work. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Photography Week in Review - May 13-19

Over a year ago I decided to add a few feature posts to the blog.  I didn’t really follow through with that plan, but I have decided to do something different.  This new series of posts will serve multiple roles:  (1) contain photography related news and information; (2) keep new content on the blog every week and (3) allow me to get to a point where I can share new work again.  This series of posts will be a sort of photography week in review, where I’ll post news and other interesting pieces of photographic information that I come across over the course of the week.  The majority of the news will be film related, but I will mix in mobile and digital news, when I find it interesting.  So, without further ado, here is the Photography Week in Review for May 13, 2013!

Ilford Set to Release Obscura Pinhole Camera
A few months ago, Ilford announced that it was releasing another pinhole camera.  However, unlike the Harmon Titan 4x5 and 8x10 models, this model is a simple box with a magnetic lock pinhole design, perfect for use with 4x5 film or paper.  The camera is due to launch the first week of June in the UK, the second week of June throughout Europe and the second week of July in North America.  Individuals attending the Photographica Fair in London this weekend will have a chance to get the camera before anyone else.  The wonderful crew over at Filmwasters just posted a review of the camera here.  For more information, visit Ilford.

ONDU Pinhole Camera Kickstarter
While on the subject of pinhole cameras, another great camera project was launched on Kickstarter this week.  Elvis Halilović is a photographer that has been making and shooting custom pinhole cameras for the past seven years.  He’s also an industrial designer and wood worker; he’s put those skills to use and created these beautiful pinhole cameras.  Elvis’s project hasn’t been on Kickstarter for a full week and he’s already tripled his funding goal.  He was kind enough to answer questions on the Pdexposures group page on Flickr and provided an interview to Simon of the Pdexposures podcast.  Fund these fabulous pinhole cameras here.

Podcast Love
Speaking of podcasts, the Pdexposures gang put out a great podcast about shooting film on a budget.  While it was released last week, the topic is very relevant and Nate, Tony and Simon cover a lot of ground and make valid points and observations in a manner in which only they can.  Check it out here.
The Film Photography Project released their new episode this week.  Mike, Leslie and Mat recap the FPP Walking Workshop that took place in Findlay, Ohio in April.  Hunter White, FPP’s “Man on the Street,” had a great interview piece with the International Center for Photography regarding their recently completed Chim retrospective exhibit.  Leslie talks about her Olympus Ecru camera and the gang talks about Kodak BW 400CN 35mm film.  Listen to the podcast and get the show notes here.
Richard Avedon
Since a great photographer was mentioned in the brief on the FPP podcast (Chim), I thought it only fitting to follow it up with talk of another great photographer.  This past week, on May 15 to be exact, Richard Avedon was born 90 years ago.  While Avedon passed away in 2004, his work is magnificent and is still inspiring photographers all over the world.  Avedon was an American fashion and portrait photographer with a brilliant minimalist style that incorporated shooting his subjects with an 8x10 view camera and a white background.  The black and white negatives, framed by the markings of the film holder, captured the intense emotions and feelings of individuals as diverse as the Chicago Seven and Allen Ginsberg.  I highly recommend his book Murals and Portraits.  Check out more of his work here.
“And if a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it’s as though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up.  I know that the accident of my being a photographer has made my life possible.”
-  Richard Avedon, 1970
Ross Brothers “The River” photo book
Another great photography book to recommend is one that I came across while watching a documentary by the uber talented Ross Brothers.  The filmmakers, Bill and Turner Ross, along with brother Alex and best friend Kyle Rouse, traveled by boat from Cincinnati to New Orleans.  They filmed every minute of the journey and cut it into eight 20 minute episodes that they released online last year.  The entire 160 minutes were recently shown in their entirety at Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival a week ago.  Kyle Rouse, the co-captain of the journey, took a Canon AL-1 camera along and shot some stunning black and white images.  The images, along with excerpts from Turner’s journal are bound in a gorgeous, minimalist photo book.  Watch the episodes here and purchase the book here.
The Importance of learning your craft and equipment
Scott Meivogel of Aperture in Cleveland put out a wonderful blog post regarding the importance of learning your craft and your equipment.  He’s frustrated with the number of individuals that purchase a fancy DSLR and then think they are automatically a photographer.  All it means is that you take pictures.  He provides some very valid points and examples and I highly recommend giving it a read here.
Regardless of how you view the mobile photography phenomenon, it’s been steadily gaining traction and is something to take seriously.  Magazines have been dedicated to the subject, conferences have been taking place surrounding mobile photography, photojournalists are starting to use it in their work and galleries are starting to curate exhibits of mobile photography.  Hipstamatic is a lomo style mobile app that allows you to switch lenses, films and flashes on a “camera.”  They just released an app called Oggl.  It’s a photography/social media app that is currently by invitation only.  Hipstamatic is trying to cultivate a community of photographers and creatives.  The app is free but will require a subscription and features all Hipstamatic lens/film choices as well as viewing different filters and effects after a shot has been taken, a la Instagram.  Read more about it here and here.
Spring Contest
Photographer’s Forum just extended the deadline for their 33rd Annual Spring Photography Contest.  Winning photos will be featured in the November 2013 issue of Photographer’s Forum Magazine and exhibited at Brooks Institute Gallery 27.  Learn more or enter here.
For Ohioans
The Ohio Art League (OAL) Spring Juried Exhibit just ended it’s first full week on display at the State Library of Ohio.  If you haven’t had time to check it out, it will be on display until June 12.  Learn more
.  (P.S.  If you check out the exhibit, you’ll see one of my pieces on display.)

Well, that’s it for this week.  Check back next week for more happenings in the world of photography.  Cheers and keep shooting.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Process - Part One

Wow, it's been a while.  To all of my loyal followers, let me apologize for the lack of posts this year.  I suffered an injury at the end of 2012 and I've been recovering from foot surgery for the majority of 2013.  I've been focusing on my recovery and I just haven't been able to physically go out and shoot. The good news is that I've almost made a full recovery and I'm going to be shooting regularly in no time.  Even though I haven't been shooting, I have been participating in a number of exhibits, both regionally and nationally.  I've been interacting with a number of photographers and I’ve been asked by a number of them about my creative process when it comes to producing my images.  In fact, I’ve been asked so much that I decided to dedicate a series of blog posts on the subject.

Before I get into the details of how I proceed with creating my images, let me say that everyone’s process will be different and there is no right or wrong way.  We’re all unique and outside of the proper technical aspects, each of us is going to arrive at a finished print having taken a different journey.  Just like in life, the journey can be the most fulfilling part of any process.  In photography, seeing the final image, exactly as you envisioned it, is exhilarating.  However, knowing what you went through to get to that final image makes it even better.  Lord Baelish from the HBO show “Game of Thrones” was talking about chaos on a recent episode.  The quote, paraphrased a bit, is as follows:  “Chaos isn’t a pit.  Chaos is a ladder.  Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again.  The fall breaks them.  And some, are given a chance to climb.  They refuse because they cling to illusions.  Only the ladder is real.  The climb is all there is.”  The creative process is the climb and that is all there is.

There have been many arguments throughout time about the artistic integrity of photography.  There are proponents and detractors and there always will be.  The first thing to remember when creating an image is to think of your photography as art and not just a snapshot or a captured moment in time.  Until you start thinking in this manner, you will never be able to push the boundaries of your personal photography.  Sure, there are styles of photography that need realism, like street photography or photojournalism, but those styles can and have been elevated to high art (see Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Vivian Maier).  Once you get into the habit of viewing photography as art, you open yourself up to a whole world of possibilities.  

As time goes by, if you’re anything like me, you interact with a number of photographers and artists and you tend to immerse yourself in information about your craft.  Whether it’s conversations with peers and mentors, magazine articles, forums or gear/software reviews, it’s important to remember not to get tunnel vision.  Just because someone on a forum or in a magazine says that a technically perfect image is beautiful and that’s what you should strive for doesn’t mean that it’s the only way or the only acceptable way. Don’t be limited by perceived perfection.  Sometimes accidents or flaws help make an image beautiful; the same can be said with breaking the rules of composition.  With the technology today, anyone can take a “pretty picture,” but not everyone can create art.  

Once this mental obstacle is overcome, you can begin crafting an image or a series of images that push your photography to creatively high levels and that is where the fun begins.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series!