Twinning

Here’s another attempt at seeing what’s happening around me instead of looking for the image I’m expecting to make.  I walked into the LACMA book store right after the guy in the picture.  Anna Maria and the kids were already wondering around inside looking at books and posters and little ceramic mugs with Pantone swatches printed on them.   There are so many compact references to art surrounding you in those museum bookshops–it’s like a cliff-notes version of the real experience, completely bite-size and ready for immediate and mass consumption.  And like the cliff-notes you might have the broad strokes of it all but all the minutia has been sanded away with 30-grit paper in the shape of Blue Nude II.  


It’s neither here nor there I guess, and it’s “the way it’s always been” but it stings a bit to think of all the money that’s been made from the pure and unadulterated creations of some deceased artist’s penniless, shit-ball existence.  There’s always someone there to make a catalog, or a coffee mug or a limited-edition-collector’s-print-specially-numbered-by-the-art-preservation-society-of-wherever-for-only-100-dollars.  But that’s how it works.  Things don’t happen in the art world unless they make financial sense ultimately as it appears that capitalism has indeed become the world’s most prevalent religion.  Incidentally, I saw a documentary the other night about a woman who’s father brought one of Warhol’s Brillo Boxes for $1000 bucks.  The doco goes on to tell the story of how that same Brillo Box changed hands a few more times and eventually sold at auction forty years later for 3 million US.    But I digress.  


So I’m wandering in and out of isles scanning for anything photography related because I guess I’m just as much a consumer as everyone else (and perhaps even more so when it comes to photography books), but it’s always the same books: 


100 Ideas that changed Photography

Friedkin’s Gay Essay 

…and like 50 books by Maplethorpe and I can only look at so much cock. 


So I drift back to the original task at hand.  I’m emptying my mind and trying to see.  I wander here and I wander there, only seeing things 1.5 meters or closer.  While weaving in and out of the isles I almost weave straight into the patron I walked in with.   I take a step back, hoping he didn’t notice me nearly mowing him over.  The whole situation was a bit confusing for a second and then I understood that I was seeing his reflection in the mirror.  I frame up and make the image above as he turns to ask me what I am doing.  


“Twinning” I reply with a little smirk.  He smiles back, a book of Frida Carlo’s work still open in his hands.     


Shot on my Leica M7 with an amber filter on the trusty 35mm Cron, using Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 at the Icon.  


Moregon

For the eclipse my father rented a cabin in a little town called Medford.  Medford’s a couple hours from Crater Lake and a couple more to Albany where we would be in the path of totality.   Not to sounds like every other person who saw the eclipse, but for me and my family, the experience was nothing short of magical.    I’ve never seen the sky do what it did.  I’ve never seen light behave the way it behaved.  I got goose-bumps when the temperature dropped the way that it did.  It truly was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m ever so grateful that I had the opportunity to be there.  


On the days leading up to the even we traveled around Medford to various volcanic formations and natural formations.  I took couple different cameras with me, but the Mamiya ended-up being the goto.  Film-wise I took old faithful, Tri-X, all of which you’re seeing above.  I also took a couple rolls of Velvia 50, which I’m a little meh about.  I’ve tried a few different methodologies of scanning color in general, not just slides,  and I haven’t really been satisfied.  That lack of a color workflow keeps me from shooting color, but I may have it figured out now.  I hate using plugins as a rule but I’ve started scanning C-41 and slides to raw and then converting them using Color Perfect in Photoshop and I’m finally getting decent results now.  Maybe I’ll rescan those rolls using that method.  Maybe not.  We’ll see.


There were raging forest fires at the time so our trips to Crater Lake and elsewhere were set against the backdrop of an ashen white sky, from dawn to dusk.  On the southside of Crater Lake, you couldn’t see the Lake.  Your vision just dissipated into a fuzzy grey blur.  I made images anyway and they’re interesting if not what I had hoped they would be.  I had no idea how incredibly beautiful Oregon was going to be.  It was stunning.  The waterfalls.  The scenic vistas.  The hiking trails on volcanic formations.  I even loved the drives from place to place.  I want to go back.  I want to go back tomorrow.    


The barber shop image was made in a small town called Jacksonville–a sleepy little pac-northwest mining town that time literally forgot.  We wandered around Main St. there for an hour or so, looked through the local photo gallery and toy shop, then headed back to Medford for dinner and sunset.


All images shot on the Mamiya6MF on Kodak Tri-X film pushed to 800 at the Icon.   


Thunderdome

After I wrote my post last night I was feeling a bit antsy and we didn’t have any wine at home so I started reading other people’s blogs.  The simple practice of reading other peoples musings can often wind me down and depending on the writer even put me to sleep.  I stubbled across a piece on Jeff’s blog regarding a street photographer who had decided he was leaving street photography which had the decidedly opposite effect.  I read through it all and then scribbled a horribly long diatribe detailing what is wrong not only with this photographer’s reasoning but with street photography in general.  I wrapped it all up with how people should structure their own goals in photography.  It was straight-up Thunderdome–a to-the-death cage-match between me and street. I thought the I might post it here tonight.. 


Someone made the point that street is a-la-mode. I think that’s part of the truth. I think the broader issue is more complex and multi-faceted. First of, street requires no skill other than taking a picture of someone on the street with or without their knowing or permission. Most of what I see being called street is crap. No thoughts to composition, or subject, or statement, or quality what-so-ever. I know this because I shoot pictures of the backs of people heads all the time and most of them are crap and it has nothing to do with whether or not they are street photos or not.

The lack of creativity in so much of what is called street is only surpassed by the rampant amount of blatant plagiarism in street. Yes, there is nothing that is new and that includes photography–it has all been done before. Yes, I am guilty of bending/borrowing another photographer’s style. I look at the previous two statements as important aspects of establishing one’s own shooting style and I embrace it, but that’s not the photographic journey most street photographers are embarking on. They are specifically limiting themselves to a particular genre because they believe there is a dogma attached to street that *doesn’t require* them to develop any style or photographic capability other than haphazardly shooting a picture of a person on a street or their silhouette against a colorful background. It’s like the Danish Dogma « films » of the late 90s. Quite easy to be a street photographer if you go in thinking all you have to do is be brave and approach people with or without their permission and completely diminish the act of creating an image to just pushing a button. 

Lastly, certain tech has infiltrated street photography with a stronghold and attracted a crowd of people that are into the image of that particular tech. The most notable is Leica and the second most notable is film–both of which I shoot. Most self-proclaimed street shooters buy a Leica because they’ll automatically be in the high-end of the street club, able to look down their noses at everyone else. They’ve read somewhere about HCB or Winorand or Gilden or Meyerwitz or whoever at Magnum and think that the secret sauce to shooting street is one of these über cameras. And the film crowd is arguably just as bad at times. The number of conversations I’ve had which start with: 

« Well I shoot (insert Leica or film here) so I mostly shoot street. » 

…are to many to count and they always end with the person I’m talking to saying how people who don’t shooting with (insert Leica or film here) don’t really understand the true essence of the street. Fucking kill me right now. 

Ultimately I shoot a style of photography that I identify as street because the photographers who I build my personal style upon all identified with this genre that we today call street. If the makes me a documentarian I’m fine with that. The label doesn’t define the work, it just makes it easier for people to put in a little box because that’s hat human beings do. We like to classify shit. 

Am I a committed photographer? As much as I can be and probably more than I should be at times. I’m not as lucky as other’s to have stumbled in to stills early enough to attempt a career. Does that make me or anyone else in a similar situation less capable or committed to developing as an artist (Yes John I said it)? I don’t think so. I spend countless hours mulling over books of other peoples work. I spend more money than I should processing and shooting film because it’s organically developed (no pun intended) into an important part of my process as well as the aesthetic I have come to prefer. I shoot as often as I can, I practice my focusing at work. I print books, write my silly blog. I even post on Instagram where I follow the works of photographers far more talented than I’ll ever be… gasp.

Now I’ve soapboxed to long but the last thing I want to say is that I do believe the critical mistake that people make when it comes to all forms of photography is to think there is a point here you as an artist have reached a point where you no longer need to continue developing. By developing I mean stylistically, or the process, or the tools, or the genre or any aspect of the craft. Continuing to learn and try and fail is what makes any pursuit infinitely personal, non-curruptable and ultimately enjoyable. Surrendering yourself to being malleable means no one else defines what you do but you. No one can tell you when you have failed. Setting abstract goals like being « the best » or having 100K followers will mean nothing but a feeling failure whereas deciding you want to try to shoot a different lens or a different technique mean success every time. 

God I sound like a self help video…

Thunderdome was shot on my LeicaM7 using a 35mm Summicron on Kodak Trix400 pushed +1 at the Icon

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