Archive for November, 2007

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose

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I tend to like the people I work with, I tend to really like the people who I work for/interact with, I tend to wholly and thoroughly disagree with my managers.

In an old example, when I taught, I liked my fellow instructors, they were always helpful and kind. I thought my students were great, even the problematic ones. They were generally nice, often inquisitive, creative, energetic, everything you could ask for. No they weren’t all perfect, none of them were, but they learned, and that was enjoyable to watch and they treated me and each other kindly and respectfully. The administration, well, they were wonderful at being bureaucrats, and I barely dealt with them, but any time it came to getting anything accomplished or done, I just stayed away because it was too annoying for me to deal with for pittance of a salary, and with my job title and experience I wouldn’t have been any help anyway.

In my current example, my co-workers, well occasionally problematic (reporters have issues with getting anything done in a timely manner or realizing that anyone else in the world needs time to plan) they are generally nice people. My management, ugh, they are nice people as people, but certain bits of reality don’t seem to compute to them. They recently bought the latest version of Photoshop for the entire office. This amounts to a hefty chunk of change. They forgot, yep forgot, to get copies for the photographers. Really, why do the photographers need Photoshop? And now the art director, who may or may not have done the forgetting in the first place, is trying to get our copies budgeted for, but it’s not going rapidly, or much at all. Again, photographers, Photoshop, why? Okay, whatever, except that they’ve actually never provided the photographers with Photoshop. We just happened to have it when we started to so why upgrade us along with the rest of the staff? This isn’t a first time for this. It’s a bit….insulting.

On the other hand, I have subjects that request me, me specifically to photograph them and their home because they like my work so much. Nice warm fuzzy feeling there. And I took photos today of two lovely and nice women who were generally happy to have their photos taken. Great. Plus, when we were done taking photos of them with their brownies from an 1890s recipe, they had a wrapped tin of them ready for me. While technically, technically, I shouldn’t have accepted them, that whole receiving payment from subjects thing and journalistic detachment, in this case I didn’t think it would do any harm and I didn’t want to insult them, so I accepted their brownies. It’s nice to be so appreciated. (FYI – the photo isn’t of the brownies I received, as it’s been almost two hours so mine are almost gone. If you ever need your dessert guarded, I’m here for you. My stomach is the Fort Knox of the dessert community.)


Seeing Everything

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I love the range and depth of human experiences I get to either experience or observe. It really gives me faith in humanity, increase my wonder and amazement of humanity.

Other days, it’s just gross. Gross, I mean, gross. I like to see all kinds of things and events, sometimes I get to see too much though.

Let me give you a little context here. I have a weak stomach, a very weak stomach.

In high school, when we had to dissect the frog, I didn’t touch the frog. Not a once. Something like two or three weeks, and not a single cut by me. I had lab partners who really wanted to do the dissecting. I let them do the cutting, and the poking, and the prodding, happily.

To this day I still can’t handle raw meat. I can work fine with hamburger, hamburger ain’t meat anymore, hamburger is clay, tasty clay. Frozen chicken? Fine, it’s a block of ice. A chicken breast that ain’t frozen, nope. A side of steak? No way. Don’t get me wrong, if you ask me what I want to eat, it often includes a dead animal. Dead animals are tasty, but I don’t want to touch them or be around them between the point where they are living and the point where they are cooked.

So Tuesday was the second time I’ve had to photograph people working with cadavers. I didn’t lose my lunch the first time, I just came close, repeatedly. I didn’t lose my lunch this time, just to kill the suspense, but I certainly didn’t enjoy it much.

I was photographing a group of high school students who were taking a field trip to a local college that has cadavers for some of it’s human anatomy classes. The students ranged in their reactions, some were like me, no touching, learning what they need to learn, but not real into it.

Other students, well, they just loved it. They were having a good ole’ time. They weren’t grossed out, at all, they were totally fascinated. At one point the doctor/instructor told them that the male’s heart was detached and they could remove it. One girl didn’t hesitate, at all, she just reached right in, moved some other organs out of the way, and pulled the guy’s heart out. She found it a bit gross, but she seemed more amazed, fascinated, and awe-struck than anything else. Good for her, on my end, eeeeeewwwww.

I’m glad there are people like those students who were fascinated by the innards of the human body. I want those people as my doctor. But its not for me.

Now, being a guy who can come close to passing out when he sees his own blood (yeah, and if that ain’t just ridiculous) now I’m expected to watch a dissected body? One of the keys I’ve found over the years to being a photojournalist is that your own personal feelings, inhibitions, fears and emotions, just don’t really matter.

I hate heights. I get scared when I’m the roof of a one story building, I can’t walk within feet of ledge. I also can’t count the number of times I’ve been 30 to 300 feet up on the edge of a ledge taking photos. Doesn’t matter that I’m scared, I’ve got photos to make.

Same thing here. I can’t deal with blood. I’m guessing I can’t handle dead bodies. Doesn’t matter.

The camera, can be, in the hands of a photographer, also used as a shield. My introversion, gone when I’m shooting. My fear of heights, doesn’t matter. My personal hang-ups, of most all types and flavors, just don’t matter or exist when I’m shooting. The camera protects me from the danger.

I don’t understand quite how this works, or why it works, it just does. Maybe it provides the excuse to forget my own inhibitions. Maybe it just pushes me harder. Maybe it distracts me, provides me a focus, a focus that isn’t my hang-up. Whatever it is, it works, I’d like it to work all the time sometimes.

A cadaver becomes subject and shape, nothing else. If it was a chess match it would be the same thing in many ways.

Snack time anyone?


Sad Realizations

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On the A Photo A Day blog, they linked to a Time magazine chart that lists percentage of people “very happy” in their jobs. Photographers, 20.8%; Correctional institution officers, 26%; Mail carriers (postal service), 34.5%.

More people working in prisons are happier in their jobs than photographers. That’s depressing.

Though to be fair, I’d be in the “happy” category and not the “very happy” category.

I’d also take the study with a grain of salt. As was said in one of my college classes, “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”


Nothing Big

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Just a nice few days.


The top image is a friend’s thirtieth birthday party. She got her dad to wear her birthday tiara. Also, in case you hadn’t guessed, your birthday is not the most fun day to get surgery. Just an FYI.

Also, her sister and mom made a bunch of balloons with pictures hanging from them. The pics detailed the birthday girl’s life to date, her crossing of Delaware, her time as pope, her Academy Award, climbing Mt. Everest, the usual. It was pretty cool, and a lot of work. The reason you never, ever, ever do something like this though, is that you be forever required to top it for other birthdays, forever. This is where men have it figured out, set the standards low so that doing something modest, like say remembering a birthday, is taken as a great compliment. Just saying.

The bottom image is the first time my grandma had ever used a computer, she is being helped by my cousin. I think the family is trying to get her on email. I think the family also knows this may take some time/years.


Observations from an Evening

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Just a couple of quick shots from an evening out. I’m all for public displays of affection, just be warned, they’re public, and people like me have cameras. They didn’t seem to care any which way.

Otherwise, these are just because….


As a side note, from earlier in the evening. I photographed the instructor of a course on unlearning Indian stereotypes (his terminology, not mine) and developing a respect for Indian culture (which he liked to point out, didn’t exist, just as European culture doesn’t exist). I don’t think he was such a big fan of my Mohawk (faux-hawk). He dodged the question when I asked him if it was insensitive and culturally offensive, though Wikipedia seems to feel it’s fine.


Working Through It

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We all have those dull, dull, dull, repetitive tasks that must be done. Welcome to basketball season.

I was never much of a fan of the sport. I’m more of a soccer or hockey kind of guy, though I do love football (The Packers are going all the way!) But I have to photograph a lot of high school basketball and basketball related stories, so I do.

My current working theory is that 95% of everything in life is dull, repetitive, and generally annoying stuff that must be done because, because whatever, it just must be done. I would love to never have to shower again, just always be clean. I would love to never eat again, just always be full. Don’t get me wrong , sleep is awesome, but I would love to be able to choose to sleep, once a month for a few hours would be great, but I must sleep nightly, even if I have better things to do. I would absolutely love to never drive anywhere again, but I must. And this is all fine, this 95% boredom, because that other 5%, that 5% is….it’s amazing, it’s that blank that is asked to be filled in on the questionnaire to finish the sentence, it’s not just the grand taste of the watermelon, but it’s also the spitting of the seeds. (I don’t believe in seedless watermelons, just wrong, on a moral, spiritual level. It goes against the universe to not be able to spit watermelon seeds.)

But that 5%, that time spent just spitting watermelon seeds, it makes all the grits, oatmeal, and fruitcakes worthwhile. Right now, I just don’t have any seeds to spit, and this always frustrates me. I know I got some coming in the future. I’ve got some plans on where “Summer Love” is headed, and I’m excited, stoked, just filled with anticipation, I long to see where she can go, I think I know, but she has such beauty, and so much potential.

Anyhow….I’ve also got a new camera on the way, which will be a chance to explore some real whacky surrealistically stylized work. (I was thinking about buying an infrared camera, or possibly an IR and UV, then one came up for sale used that was a much higher quality at the price of the ones I had been looking into. The fates wanted me to have another camera. Though to be honest, I’ve long since lost count, I do know it will be my eighth working digital camera that I have right now. IR is sexy. What I’m going to use it for is still something of a mystery though.)

I’ve got pots on top of the stove, but nothing boiling right now. At least I got pots on the stove, heating up. And until they boil, I wait. I hate waiting.

In the meantime I think I’m going to see if I can shoot basketball in a way that makes it look like high fashion. It will take me a while to figure out the lighting, but hell, what else do I have to do?


Buy Me!

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If you don’t want to read any further but instead just want to Buy Me immediately, go here.

Otherwise, here’s the deal. As I’ve said many a time, I think Chicago Tap Theatre is wonderful. They have totally blown away my preconceptions of tap dance and what tap dance can be, and I love it when I’m proved wrong so beautifully.

So for the last two years I’ve done what I can to help them out with photos (though I should say, easier photo ops are not to be found. As long as I can focus the camera, they’ll fill the frame with beauty.) They have taken some of those images and turned them into a calender for 2008. Possibly even the first ever tap dance only calender. I never would have thought of a tap only calender, but apparently I helped make one. Neat.

So, you need a calender? It’s $15, downright cheap at twice the price if you ask me. On top of that, you help out one of my favorite dance companies, you help keep the arts alive and well in our fair city and nation, and I get a small cut to boot. (Though I should point out, my small cut, where did I put that contract that says what my cut is?, anyway, my small cut is going to be used to either drive up prices at their next silent auction or buy the dancers drinks so they don’t think I’m a complete nut job when I try to figure how they dance so much and keep real jobs. Seriously, two weeks touring in France and Spain, that’s most of my time off for a year.)

So don’t be shy, if you need a calender, go for it. If your mom needs a calender, your aunt, your uncle (the ladies are hot, and I say this is as professional observer of hotness, maybe don’t get it for your nephew though, his standards for feminine beauty will be set to high for the rest of his poor life after seeing them), your arty friend, who ever, they need calenders, feel free to get them all one.

As you know, I don’t sell or push products much, even my own, but I am this time, take that to mean something.

To bastardize a grand old Chicago saying, “Buy early, buy often.”

Top Tap Calender 2008 for sale here, and if you can’t wait to see CTT get tickets to the holiday oriented, Tidings of Tap show (okay, you still have to wait till December, but you can get tickets before they sell out).