Archive for January, 2008

On the edge

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Just as a pre-cursor here, and because I’m thinking about it right now. Diet Sunkist with Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, kinda tasty. I’m going to have to work on it, I don’t have the ratios quite right yet. I can get it to start with a good Dr. Pepper flavor with a hint of orange then have it finish with a nice strong Sunkist kick. But I’m not quite there, yet. The ratio is something like 10:1 Dr. Pepper to Sunkist too, it may go even higher by the time I’ve figured it out. I’ve never had a mixing ratio that high before. Anyhow…. (and yeah, I need something productive to do with my life.)

One of the skills, thought patterns, I’ve been working on improving is spending less time working the event, and more time working the edges of the event. The center of an event often has a lot going on, but it’s predictable, it’s easy. The edges, where the people are there, but aren’t necessarily, are so often more. They speak more to what people are, and less to what they want to project to be. They tend may be more into the event than those that are there to appear to be in the event.

Cases in point. The man dancing. I can always groove with a guy who will dance to the music, unself-consciously. The man sitting by the wall, maybe homeless, maybe not, I don’t know, was way into the music. He would occasionally shoot dirty looks at the talking couple, not in a mean way, but just in a way that you knew he was appreciating the music. He had a great little wry happy smile, that I wish I could’ve got just right, but never did (well I may shoot for publication, sometimes it’s better to remember than to capture.) He was also very kind, anyone who wanted the seat in front of him he generously extended his hand to say “you are welcome to sit here” even when it was going to block his view. The band was good, don’t get me wrong, but so much less interesting to watch than the people watching. (It’s like the zoo, animals, cute, fun. People? Now that’s just fascinating, and a reason to go. Whacky species them homo-sapiens.)

And yeah, I’ve been going and shooting the Cultural Center during their lunch time jazz performances, because really, if you could go listen to a 45-minute jazz concert and call it work, legitimately, wouldn’t you? My job may not pay much, so hell, I might as well be happy. And I am.


Now, the one thing I would change, of my three primary work cameras, all three have something busted on them. Buttons not working is the top problem. I was really enjoying when I could only trust the auto-focus on one of the cameras, and that camera can only auto-focus in the middle of the frame. I don’t own a single camera with a totally working auto-focus mechanism. Alas, one of the questionable focusing cameras went and had the whole shutter mechanism break, so that’s off to Nikon tomorrow. The Canon with the sticky focus button I can do on the fly fixes for, but it’s annoying as all get out. It’s tough to manually focus well when you can’t even see what’s in the viewfinder. (I like dark places. It probably goes along with, I like challenges.) The auto-focus doesn’t do well in those situations either, but if I can get it to catch I know I’m in the ballpark. Alas I can’t go a week without that camera, it earns me too much money, and I’d really rather not drop the cash to buy a replacement, for a week. Few more months, the new version will be out, and I’ll buy one of those. Life is funny.


Self-portraits: Part One

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Quick note, when I do this “Part One” routine, do I ever do a “Part Two” or do I just get distracted too quick? Ah well…

Lately I’ve been taking a lot of self-portraits, every few weeks I do a session. I find I’m enjoying it, and more importantly, it’s helping me out. It’s my therapy session. I get in front of the camera, and I have to explore where I’m at. No one else matters at that point in time, it’s just me and the camera. Sometimes it’s a bit surprising to see what comes out.

My latest session, a few days ago, I was expecting to be a bit more…down, not depressing, but emotionally exhausted. I had spent Thursday watching, documenting a difficult situation, watching a good person get made to feel bad, really bad, but to get healthy. By the time I left her for the day, I was done, cooked, empty. Don’t get me wrong, if she needed more from me, if the story needed more from me, I would have done it, in a heart beat, but outside of that, I was done.

So on Friday night I decided to take some self-portraits. I needed it. It’s my version of sitting in the psychiatrist’s coach. I wanted to play with the smoke machines I bought back around Halloween, but they never quite worked out, which was okay in the end. The self-portrait is, for me, a very organic process. I go in with an idea, but I never quite come out with what I was expecting, and that’s good. I like letting the situation evolve, I feel that it lets my feelings rise to the top, or it at least gives them the best chance to rise.

In the end the photos were serious, but not morose, like I was expecting. Part of that was the lighting scheme I chose for the evening. Strong highlights don’t lend to depressing imagery, but I’m pretty sure if I wanted to, I could’ve got it there, but I didn’t take it there. And this is why I love the self-portrait, because it helped me realize something, I had been refilled, a little, been picked up. (though I’m a little up in the air as what they are emotionally, maybe just confused, unsure, all over the place, god knows, that would be believable considering life of late.)

After I had left Thursday night, and I was done, I decided to go out. I had actually already planned on going out, but I got out later than planned and I had to ditch on a friend (sorry). Another friend of mine was singing at a local bar and I figured I had to go support her, it was all of a ten minute walk from my home, not to mention, I knew I’d need the pick-me up. So I listened to some good singing, another buddy of mine, Jimbo, The Great and Wonderful Jimmy, (a better friend can’t be asked for in this world. He’s a unique character, in oh so many ways, but he’ll always step up for a friend.) So I hung out, talked to him, which was all kinds of good. Followed that up with an excellent conversation with the singer after the show.

And this is the part that the self-portraits helped me realize, that conversation, it was exactly what I needed at that point in time, and I never knew it. Even afterwards, I didn’t realize for a few days. She thinks we talked and I helped her out and was kind to her, and I hope I was and I hope I could help her, but what was less obvious, was how much it helped me. Maybe I would have come to this realiztion on my own otherwise, but the self-portraits helped me see I wasn’t where I expected myself to be emotionally, and to see the reason.

Personally, I’m a fan of self-portrait sessions for everyone on a regular basis, but I’m biased also. You got a cellphone, why not? If nothing else, who sees it besides you?

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Next time on “Pigs In Spaaaaccceee…..”, oops, I mean next time in the reasoning of self-portraits. The growth of the self-portrait in the new millennium and how it will be seen as a defining art form at the start of the millennium. Also, the internet, how the entire world is now open to us, and yet we can now be so much more self-obsessed at the same time. (yeah, I include myself sadly enough.)


Garth Algar: "We fear change."

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Proof I’m getting old, experience has taught me to fear change.

So today my bosses bought three more newspapers, taking the company from 6 weeklies to 9. I’m not sure what this means for me. I worry that the photo end of things wasn’t well thought out, or thought out at all and it will mean being overworked, overloaded, and stressed out for a while.

I’m already way behind because I’ve got so much on my plate between work, my freelance work, and my pro-bono work. This could also mean more photo staff, less sports, please god less sports, and covering more interesting stories. I’m just not sure yet.

We will see what this does to me, for me in the coming weeks and months.


In the Moment

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If there is one thing in this world I can understand, it’s being into whatever you are creating, being into whatever you do, being in that moment. I don’t how much of her performance was show, and how much was real, but it felt like most of it real. Her eyes open then closed, stomping her foot, just looking absorbed into the music.

It was a joy to watch, not to mention the band, Ethel, sounded great, from classical to more modern forms.

And if you ask me, in case I haven’t made it clear over and over again, a skilled artist can perform whenever they need to, but it’s in feeling the emotion that it becomes so much more.


Nothing Much to Add…Yet

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There is something cathartic about setting up a camera, and just letting it take pictures. No purpose, no point, no reason, just letting it go, and seeing what appears. (I really didn’t plan on shooting till 3am. Damn.)


Imperfection is Better. Period. Part 1

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Rant time. And sorry about the lack of photos, but I really need to get this written and also sleep tonight. I’ll be better in the future.

This comes from one of those confluence of forces that forms a wonderfully large storm.

The mental process started actually a while back as I’ve been reading more and more about the changes in audio recording and thinking about those. We all know by now that if Britney hits the wrong note, no biggie, they’ll just take care of it in editing and the note will be dead on. Slightly off rhythm, solved also. Whatever the problem, solved in editing. Then add in some reading on mid-tone compression, maxing out the levels, and the loss of subtlety in music. Hmm…now that’s interesting. We’re losing something in music, sure we’re gaining in other areas, but it’s worth the thought.

The photo world has become very much the same. Blemish? Pimple? Wrinkle? Bags? Crows feet? (Really, why in the world do I even know what “crow’s feet” are? I’m an early 30s male. Geez.) This is just silly, but that’s the fashion world for you. And that’s how I have dealt with it, it’s not my world. That smooth perfection doesn’t effect me, I’m a journalist, I can’t do that stuff, so ignore it and move on. (Go here for an example of just too far. Geez.)

Okay.

Then a few weeks back I had to buy some software to put film grain into photos. Here I spent years fighting to get rid of film grain. Fighting to get smooth, perfect images that can blow up huge. Fighting to get rid of high iso noise. (Even though some of my favorite images use that very effectively to their advantage.) I’ve got prints on my wall right now, that were shoot in okayish lighting, 800iso or higher, and are 24x39inches (I got a new printer by the way, it’s sexy in way that I can’t accurately describe without inflection. Suffice it to say, if you’ve ever seen a 73′ Corvette, it’s sexy like that, and the 73′ Corvette is the basis of all sexy. I digress…) So these huge prints look great, and I love that I can do that, that I have that option available to me. I couldn’t get prints this size with 35mm film under ideal circumstances without the image falling apart. Now I can do it under iffy at best circumstances. I love the versatility. But I’ve lost something.

Adding the film grain back into images has been showing me, smooth, perfect, clean, is just that, clean, sterilized. I’m not a sterilized kind of guy (insert joke here). I like it messy. I like the feeling, the dirt, the grime, the roughness. The best things in life aren’t clean cut, they don’t exist in an operating room. For the first time in the history of humanity, anything is possible visually, anything. It can be as perfect as we want, every time, if we are willing to put out the work. Reality is no limit. And for this, we have lost something, we have the lost the nature of the subject. (Wow, what an art bs sentence that means nothing.)

I like the grittiness of the film grain. I like the emotion of b&w. I’ve worked the last 7 years to achieve color nirvana, and now that I’m here, I want to go back home to Tri-X and Tmax3200, though without the cost of shooting film. The grass is always greener on the other side.

In sterilizing our subjects to perfection, we sterilize them of their nature, their emotion, their very value if you ask me. I like that Joni Mitchell doesn’t hit every note, her voice, her songs is no less beautiful, in fact, it’s more beautiful.

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On a related, but not really note, I’m going to add in my perception of women as a professional observer of women and their beauty.

First and foremost, I feel bad for how screwed-up the world is, and it makes me happy to not be a woman, or have daughters. I love the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. I’m still trying to find some Dove products to buy just because of that campaign. If you haven’t seen it already, you need to watch this video. (sorry, Dove won’t let me embed it in this page. Bummer.) And regardless of whether or not you think you are an attractive woman, you probably are, many if not most women are. I’m not saying their aren’t women with amazing genetics, their are. Many of them, are uninteresting. An insight into the male mind (I know, it’s not about us, but I’m going to pretend for this bit), men compliment the little unique things, to other men. The mole on the neck of their girlfriend, the quirk in the smile, the gray hair (yep, gray can be hot.) I’m not saying that the usual stuff doesn’t work, it does. Make-up is amazing. A good hairstylist is a wonder. (On a self-obsessed side-side-note. I can put the wave into my hair, let it dry, then wear a bike helmet for two hours, and my hair comes out just like it went in. My hair is taking lessons from John Wayne’s cowboy hat. Untouchable baby. My hair cannot be beat.) The usual stuff, hair, make-up, etc., is wonderful, but it’s small.

I can remember seeing a beautiful woman, I see plenty of them. What sticks in my head though, that woman who shines. It’s not physical, or just physical. It’s that smile. I can remember those smiles that light up rooms. Those eyes that are just happy. I can remember them from last week, I can remember them from the early 90s. Yep, I can pull up a smile from over a decade ago. I can’t remember the rest of the face necessarily, just that smile, and that feeling. Same with eyes, same with any number of similar items. Whereas the chic in the hot dress with the hot bod, from last week, tough to remember, honestly, not worth remembering, but those great smiles though, even if just a flash, are worth a lifetime. (A bud of mine, Nick, first planted this thought in my head when I was a teen, and I have been grateful ever since. It wasn’t that it wasn’t true before he told me, it was that I needed it verbalized.)

Anyhow the point of this is, as such, ladies, you are beautiful, when you let yourself out. I say this as professional observer of this, as a creator of imagery of you ladies, and to be quite honest, as a man (it’s hot, not lecherously hot, just gorgeous. The moments I miss a woman in my life is not when I see that “beautiful” one, it’s when I see that look in the eyes, and a tweak in the smile.)


Generosity

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I’m amazed at the generosity of others to share themselves, to open up, in some cases incredibly, about all kinds of stuff, to let me in, often a stranger, or close there to, during good times, and sometimes challenging times. And offer me the trust to document their life, without reservation.

A friend of a friend, and now my friend, has asked me to document a challenging period of her life. The story is good, in content, in personalities, and in meaning potentially to others. It’s going to be challenging for her, for her friends and family, and I’m sure for me as well, but it’s worth it. (In photojournalism, you don’t pick your stories, your stories pick you, and when they ask for you, you go, it ain’t a choice, you just go.)

This story is going to suck up a goodly portion of my life for a few months. So if I post less often, know I’m well, I’m doing this for a reason, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Also, for those amongst you reading this that are among my support structure, emotionally, thank you for all the help you have offered to me (oh, fyi folks, I might need a hand, a fun night, a talk, a whatever every once and a while. Help a bud out? Cool.)

And for various reasons, I’m going to be, I need to be, cagey about the subject matter and people for now out of respect. It’s not natural for me, but it’s not my story to tell, it’s hers.