Current Mood 171025

I appreciate that it takes time to get film processed.  I need that time, I’ve realized.  In fact I think I actually need more time than just a week or two to feel comfortable.  Don’t get me wrong, it would be nice to be able to see the images I make right after I make them but I’ve come to understand that I need that time to become detached from the images I make.  I need that time to become objective about the edits that I make because after some time, there are images that I thought were amazing that are actually crap and honestly vice-versa.    

Sometimes there are images which I just can’t place–where the elements all seem aligned, but something’s still not right.  Those images don’t get rejected, they just sit there and wait for me to call upon them later when I’m in a similar head space to when I made the image in the first place.

That shit can take some time.  I’m constantly inspired by the images made by the artists I follow and by the visual stimulus we are all taking in at a million-bytes-per-second.  Either of these sources of inspiration have enough gravitational pull to shift my visual compass but both acting simultaneously is like Chuck Norris fighting Mr. T.  

Which brings me to this image.  Last night AM and I went to the movies.  It turns out we’ve been together for 19 years, love you baby.  After fifteen minutes my mind had melted–the film was so beautiful and horrible and amazing and depressing all at the same time.  My ears were ringing from the sheer volume of the sound design and there were the moments where the low frequency was so low it felt like the air was being sucked out of the room.  But what really got me was the superbly considered and rendered duality to the visuals.  Duality was one of the main themes so it was fully represented in every aspect of the film, but that dance of opposing visual dichotomies spun my compass right round baby right round and I walked out of the theatre damn near in heat.  

This morning an artist whom I haven’t spoken to in a while told me he missed something in my work.  There was an edge in some of my earlier images that he thought I had rounded-off a little to much.  It’s not like my work has ever been super edgy, but I think I know what he meant.  It’s like I’ve gone from “PG-13” to “G”… a strong “G” or maybe a “PG-.”  It caught me a little off-gaurd but at the same time not.  But that comment together with the experience from last night’s film swayed me.  As I looked though my images tonight, everything felt a bit Mickey Mouse and I found myself being drawn to grittier contrasts and harder geometric compositions.  

When I saw this image again it was a lighting bolt.  It feels perfect right now–my version of some stupid meme of an old, mangy dog that’s done a face-plant while crawling off a brown, faux-leather couch in the corner of someone’s mobile-home with the words “current mood” scribbled underneath it.    

Shot on my Leica M7, 35mm Cron on JCH Street Pan 400 pushed to 800 at the Icon.  

Head shrinking

I’ve been trying to see things differently.  I’m trying to really look at what’s happening around me and to not see what I’m expecting to see.  I feel like I’m missing things, important things that are worthy of finding and exploring are happening and it’s not for want of curiosity, my eyes just aren’t open the way that they need to be.  They used to be though.   

My daughters can see things like I used to.  In fact they see them everywhere–tiny details, incredible juxtaposition and visual irony that’s just plain ridiculous.  They’re always taking pictures with their phones or pointing things out to me.  Little scenes that they create narratives for, complete with characters and voices and subplots sometimes and all I can think is that it’s all so damn clever.  

My brother David still has that gift as well.  I posted this picture above a while back on Instagram and his comment was,

“Robot lady legs,” 

…which is now the title of the picture because it’s brilliant.  Completely fucking brilliant.  The arch becomes a pair of legs, but who’s legs are they?  Well, the light looks like pubic hair in a landing strip, so the legs belong to a lady.  But this is a very boxy pair of legs so she must be a robot.  Et voila.  His mind just sees things that the rest of us somehow forgot how to see and the fact that he still can gives me hope that if I try really hard to open my eyes again, I might be able to see again like they do. 

It’s not easy.  The first step for me is clearing my head.  Not thinking about what I need to find.  Not thinking about what time it is or what I need to do later, but being completely in the here and now.  The next step for me is limiting my vision.  I usually do this by front focusing my lens.  Now I have narrowed my view to happenings closer than two-and-a-half meters from me–everything further away simply must fade into nothing–beyond my focus range can’t exist.  The last step is to ignore the patterns I know and to see beyond the immediate state of recognition.  Our mind store memories based on hierarchical systems of patterns.  Part of a black line, becomes part of a letter, becomes the letter “A” becomes part of a word, part of a word that has three letters, that looks like the word “ass” because I’m looking at the word “ass.”  I try to subconsciously hijack that process and see what I could be looking at.    This is the hardest part, just letting my mind flow. 

I’ve had some success.  I’ve had a lot of failure, but like all things it’s a work in progress.  I was using this technique when I shot the picture at the top of this post.  It’s not a picture I would normally see or shoot.  It lacks the strict compositional bullshit dogma I’ve built around myself and is the polar opposite to the “Bag man” picture I wrote about yesterday.  It was straight from the subconscious, made possible with a little bit of head shrinking.   

Shot on a Leica M7, with an amber filtered 35mm Cron on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 at the Icon.  



Grumpy old men

I followed the gentleman in the photograph for a while.  I liked his suit and bald head and didn’t quite understand the bag, but then again I didn’t really need to.  I found him interesting and I thought he will make an interesting subject in what I hoped would become interesting image.  I named him “bag man” and bag man forever shall he be.    

The issue was that now that I had found bag man, right at the entry in the asian pacific area (and right after I had made the image of Mr. Hokey Pokey who will forever be known as Mr. Hokey Pokey), there was sadly nothing in the immediate vicinity worthy of framing him.  There were tons of hand woven things, rugs, statues with long heads and other beautifully crafted items but nothing that I could find that was equal in character to my bag man.  Because that’s the dogma for these images, humans experiencing art.  If I only have a human, I only have half an image.

So I initiate stalker protocol.  I follow bag man at a distance keeping one eye on him and one eye on the art.  Tangentially, I don’t care for stalker protocol.  You don’t get to enjoy the spontaneity of happening upon and photographing a scene while at the same time you don’t get to fully enjoy the environment you’re currently stalking in.  It’s lose/lose for me.  Some street photographers “enjoy a good chase” but I’m not them and I want to find someplace nice to endless pursuit of bagginess. 

But bag man has other ideas.  Bag man goes here, the bag man goes there.  Bag man’s in a box, bag man’s with a fox.  Bag man goes up the stairs, stops mid way, picks a wedgie and gazes back over his shoulder to see who saw the wedgie removal.  Bag man enjoys a Matisse (which would have been the image if two women hadn’t walked up obstructing my view), then a Miró (which I shot another grumpy old man at), next a Lichtenstein (which, I’m sorry, I’ve shot so many times) and then meanders his way over the piece in the picture (which I don’t think I had ever noticed before).  

For a second I stop tailing bag man and look at the painting.  It’s massive and contrasty and completely unknown to me.  I’ve walked this gallery a hundred times and never noticed it.  But I need to stay focused, and bag man is my focus.  I turn my attention back to bag man just in time to see him get his face so close to the art that I can’t possibly imagine what his next move will be.  His chin is jetting out and his face is creeping closer and closer, millimeter by millimeter.  I can’t see his lips but I imagine him licking them, as if… wait, what the fuck is he going to do?  Is bag man going to lick the painting?   That’s when I take up my camera and make this image.  

I’m not the only one noticing how close bag man is getting.  A guard swoops in from behind me and screeches at him to “step away from the art” adding a calmer “please” in a more reassuring voice.  Bag man takes a step back, turns to the guard and says, 

“You should leave grumpy old men alone.”

Shot on a Mamiya 6MF with a 50mm lens on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 by the Icon.   The painting is Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic 100

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