Finished the shooting for the Ironman project at the weekend, with a few post race celebratory tattoo images. Lots of pictures taken. Many great race stories. So many new Ironmen after the race up in Coeur d'Alene last week. A tough day and nearly everyone came through it strong. The others I'm sure will be back to try again some other day. Now I'm left to try and make some sense out of all the pictures. I had an idea for a book of these images. Maybe now it is just a show of some large prints. Hard to tell at the moment.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
If you want a treat, check out Alexandre Buisse's SoFoBoMo book, Bottom Up. Some luscious, otherworldly landscapes. Jaw dropping mountain scenery, blue footed boobies, bright red frigate birds and a 6354m mountain climb. Great images. Makes me want to go and climb a mountain.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Was lucky enough to get to watch a huge group of people from T3 in Austin take part in and do amazingly well at Ironman CDA, at the weekend. I took a few pictures too. Congratulations to all of them.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
A friend was kind enough to remind me again about picking the path less travelled. We were talking about lens choices for a possible trip to Yellowstone. Considering renting high quality, long telephoto lenses. I mentioned about bringing a 500mm mirror lens. Crappy optics. Not worth using. Manual focus. She pointed out that I'd get different shots to most people. Same with shooting portraits up close with a wide angle lens. (and congratulations to Kate for finishing her first triathlon this weekend)
Some times it is worth picking your favourite piece of received wisdom and doing just exactly the opposite. You'll get something different. You might find something new for you. Maybe it won't work, maybe it will. But you could well be surprised. I like this shot of American football, by Winograd as another fine example of this idea. A friend of mine was lucky enough to study with Winograd and is also constantly trying to go in the other direction to everyone else. His blog is well worth reading as a result.
So your mission, if you chose to accept it, is to go and do something you think 'shouldn't be done' this week. Try doing the opposite of what you think is the right way to take a picture. Let me know how it goes.
Friday, June 05, 2009
Attended the Alec Soth lecture at the Austin Center of Photography last night. They are doing a fantastic job for such a young organization, getting in great photographers who are giving interesting talks. Alec Soth talked about his ennui with photography as a medium. Starting out quite frustrated and negative about image making. Partly this was in the context of what he called the democratic jungle, riffing on William Eggleston's idea of the democratic forest. That everything is equally important as a subject and everything is up for having pictures taken. No need for much in the way of subject selection or thought - everything is a viable subject. In the same context, he showed the 2-billionth picture that's been photographed and uploaded to flickr - it looked a lot like an Eggleston image. This morning I had a look. They've passed 3 billion images now (some time in 2008 - shown above on the right) Facebook has over 10 billion pictures. Ten billion pictures.
As he tried to lighten the dark mood, he proposed that he thinks the narrative machete is the way out of this democratic jungle. That using photography to tell stories and create sequences of images is the only way forward, to do anything interesting. There was a section of 'understanding comics' shown to support this and then off to the portraiture. I'd looked through a lot of his portraits again, before going along to the talk. I'd been struck by how just slightly out of the normal each of the subjects were, often in their placement or relationship with the camera. He described much of his portrait process as really trying not to connect with the subject. Working with a large format camera, hiding under the fabric, not talking much. Waiting until the subject disconnects and withdraws into their own thoughts, before taking the pictures. He described trying to not take a picture of the person, but of the space between the person and the camera. That does a good job of describing what I'd felt was slightly odd about all the portraits. The disconnect with the subject, viewer and photographer, that repeats in his portraits.
He also delved into various parts of his published work, describing the process he follows to find images (something of a freeform word association with a slightly odd twist) and how those themes repeat throughout his work. It was interesting to hear how he uses overarching, obvious themes to help explain the work, even when often his own personal motivation is something quite different. This seems to come from early shows that he had a hard time explaining. So something like 'sleeping by the Mississippi' is superficially about that river, but mostly he's trying to explore other concepts - that are quite visible in the images. Similarly with Niagara. All in all, a fascinating and insightful chat about photography. Inspired me to try harder and depressed me about the whole state of photography in equal measure.
I think the ACP is doing a great job. Mary Ellen Mark talked about how great things were in the past and complained about how things are, how frustrated she is now - towards the end of a career. Alec Soth was much more interesting. He's at the middle and currently at the height of his career, 1 year after being accepted at Magnum as a full member. He just talked about how things are, exposing all the troubling flaws in this easy access visual art and describing his way forward. Next up, in September, Elliott Erwitt.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Deb Hall has put together an inspired portrait of her mother, for SoFoBoMo. Some lovely images, great individual portraits that made me laugh out loud, and wise words combine to give an insight into the person that her mama-san is. One of the best parts of SoFoBoMo is getting to see what other people are capable of putting together within the constraints of the challenge. This is a fine example and worth taking the time to look. Great.
April Siegfried's SoFoBoMo book, On the Edge , starts out with some dramatic design and bold typography. The strong edge placement sets the tone for some very well thought-out layout. The images don't disappoint either, making me smile, feel sad or amused in new ways on each page. She has brought a good eye for colour and light and applied it to a very simple concept - edges. The turns that this simple concept takes are delightful, finding new twists on the idea through the book, enough to keep things interesting. This serves as a great example that projects don't have to have lofty goals or broad remits. The project idea is just the thing that motivates you to go and take the pictures. It doesn't have to be addressing world peace or famine. I think sometimes we get caught up in needing to find something worthy, when the theme really isn't that important at all, as long as it gets you moving.
Amy Sakurai's love affair with Portland continues in her 2009 SoFoBoMo book, 17 to Portland. Last year she sent a love letter, this time around we go for a ride with the city, along the number 17 bus route. I thought this was a great idea to tie the images together on a theme. I also enjoyed how she used a graphic of the bus stops to tie the sections together as a repeating design element. The writing is good, too, giving some insights into the shooting and hectic schedule. I was particularly tickled by the driver's bemusement about why she was shooting just the #17 route. Because it is special. That captures one of the things I love about photography. We can use it to explore anything in such detail that what might appear to be mundane can be made special, just by the attention and care. Amy does that in this slice of life in Portland.
Ron Dowd is a lucky man. You can tell this by looking at the stunning scenery he got to explore while making his 2009 SoFoBoMo book, clear light, high country. This ten day trip around New Zealand takes in a lot of ground. Mountains, lakes, farmland, all unroll in front of Ron's burnt orange Camry and camera. I'm struck how much New Zealand reminds me of Scotland, not just because they seem to have pinched many of the same place names. Dramatic light, high mountains, threatening clouds and snow all conspire to provide a great road trip and some lovely images.
Somehow I struggled through and finished SoFoBoMo, just in time. About 37 other people have reached the finished point and uploaded their books to the site now. I've started looking through the books put together by the other participants and there are some impressive results.
So far, I really enjoyed the photography and layout in Julie Matkin's book, Lightness. The images are beautiful, with a lovely sense of timelessness and gorgeous light. I feel transported to a beach, long ago. I also liked the non-standard layout on one long, wide PDF page. Once you get the zoom level set right in the PDF viewer, the images just unroll in front of your eyes. Worth a look. It creates a great sense of place.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Finished off my SoFoBoMo book this evening, right on the last day to get it done. I put more effort into the pictures this time around but quite a bit less into the book design. I borrowed heavily on the work I did last year for the layout and inDesign templates, although I've sized it for a blurb 11x13 book. Not sure I'll get around to it any time soon, but the book is done! You can download the version from SoFoBoMo.org, or flick through the Issuu presentation. I prefer the pdf version, if I had to choose. All images, editing and layout done in the last 31 days.