It seemed appropriate, given where my head has been in the last few weeks, to look at the collaborative group Ninety degrees Five this week. One of the questions that I’ve been asking is ‘as a beginning photographer how can you accelerate your improvement’ and realized that being part of a working group can greatly help. While I was thinking about that I was also wondering once you ‘make it’ whatever that means to you then what. Does the group that you’re a part of still work for you, do you move onto a new group that are more aligned with where you’re currently at? Where do the modern day masters go for feedback?
One of the things that came out of the Impressionists was a group sensibility within which the individuals still had a indue voice. I think that could also be said for this group too. The work hangs together as a whole and yet they clearly have distinct voices. Check out the videos below for more about the Pilabara project and South West Light.
I’ve been working through how to give meaningful feedback to other photographers about their work and in the course of that I realize that our reaction to work tells us more about ourselves and less about the photographer. That was certainly the case with my initial intersection with Wynn Bullock. Bullock is generally regarded as one of the most significant photographers of the mid-twentieth century. He was a close friend of West Coast photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston and a peer of Minor White, Aaron Siskind and Frederick Sommer. I remember seeing his famous photograph Child in the Forest from the 1955 Family of Man exhibition curated by Edward Steichen and dismissed him as not doing something that I was interested in.
I was recently given a copy of ‘Wynn Bullock: Revelations‘, a comprehensive look at his entire body of work that was produced to support the exhibition now showing at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. Of course there are a good number of nudes included in the book which was where he was as a photographer early in his career but then there are a large number of images such as the one above that reflect his interest in how to represent time in a still image. There are a large number of abstract color images that I also find very interesting.
In listening to the interviews with Bullock below much of what he has to say about his photographic explorations resonated with me. Well worth a look.
One of the things that I continue to struggle with is ‘why do I photograph’?
There are of course many reasons to photograph, having your photography being in service of something larger is awesome, being able to tell stories with your images and to capture a moment in history is clearly important. Doug Eng is someone who does this incredibly well.
Doug is a Florida native with a background in structural engineering and software programming who works in both the natural and urban landscape. In fact some of his projects have involved bringing the natural landscape into the urban environment.
For an example of this work check out the ‘Beyond the Facade’ project where Doug installed huge prints on the east facade of the old Barnett Bank building. The behind the scenes section (click here) gives a fascinating look at how art on this scale is created and handled.
I was fortunate to recently hear Doug present his project ‘On Fertile Ground’ which captured images of the last property of his family’s truck farm providing a record of his family’s successes for future generations. I was profoundly impacted by these photographs, they made me really feel that the farm stopped while the world moved on.
I came out of Doug’s presentation thinking that everyone with a camera, which means almost all of us now, should spend some time documenting their family history.
I’ve been thinking a lot about aging recently – are my best years behind me? They very well could be! In the physical sciences such as mathematics or physics people seem to have made their important contribution in their early 20’s. Perhaps because they’re less contaminated by dogma at this stage in their career. In the biological sciences scientists are generally older, when they have had an opportunity to amass a broad and deep understanding of their field, when they make their most important contributions. What about in the arts?
It was interesting then, with this as a back drop, to see an exhibition of Jasper Johns recent work ‘Regrets’ at the MoMA. Unusually this wasn’t a career retrospective, or a themed retrospective as one might expect fitting for 83 year old Johns who is referred to as America’s greatest living artist but rather a new body of work completed in the last year. The work caused such excitement among the MoMA curators that they rushed the whole body of work into the museum for an exhibition in a matter of months. They tell the story here.
For an able description of the work check out this article on ArtSpace.
It is interesting to see how the work evolved and spiraled out from a single photograph. An approach that might not work for all of us but is worth having in mind when it comes to exploring options to extend and deepen a body of work.
“Inspiration Is for Amateurs—The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work”
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how small changes in habits can have a profound impact in what we are able to achieve across all aspects of our lives.
Mason Currey‘s book ‘Daily Rituals‘ is an interesting collection of observations of the daily routines of many of the great creators and provides an interesting insight into the lives of people who need to develop a body of work. What is apparent across almost all of these examples is commitment to showing up and getting to work. Not too much lolling around waiting for the muse to visit, just simply a matter of putting in the time whether they feel like it or not.
This attitude of ‘show up and do the work’ makes me realize that doing something every day, regardless of how small it is will could eventually yield substantial results. The simple act of writing 500 words everyday will mean that you will have written over 25,000 words for the year. Not too shabby.
A photo a day projects were very popular a year or two ago and seem to be unsustainable to me but doable for a month or one photo shoot a week for a year would both result in a body of work that you could do something useful with.
Changes in other parts of your life would also mean potentially useful changes. 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up had a big impact on my weight loss. Meditating before your day gets going or journaling at the end of the day could lead to more positive changes in your outlook and getting more done.
What small change could you incorporate on a daily basis that would move you in the direction of your goals?
Jump to minute 19:00 of the video below to hear Mason Currey talking about his book ‘Daily Rituals’
When I first saw Hobie Porter‘s work I wasn’t sure what I was looking at – a ‘straight’ photograph, a digital mash-up or what. He is of course a landscape painter, and his work is a juxtaposition of the grand landscape with artifacts that he’s found. Perhaps not surprisingly what caught my attention are his seascapes in which he incorporates old ropes, propellers and a variety of other things that he’s found at the beach. One of the advantages that painters have over photographers is that they are able to paint what ever they imagine and so I had assumed that these beach artifacts were figments of Porter’s imagination. Not so. While there may be an element of interpretation he actually collected these objects for use as reference and then for the exhibition shown in the video below displays them as part of the exhibition. Check out the videos of Porter at work and of him discussing his art below.
As I was thinking about British artists that I remembered seeing when I was younger Richard Long came to mind. The stone circles that I remember him making resonated with me at the time, and I still find that I’m drawn to simple geometric shapes, his sculptures, lines made by walking, was more of a mystery to me. I find some of his recent ‘mudworks’ to be quite interesting. Long considers these to be two dimensional sculptures having originally started this work on the ground before progressing to working on walls at quite a massive scale. The mud that is used in the work comes from the river Avon, a choice that reflects his upbringing on the banks of this river. As can be seen in the image above he’s brought some of his stone work indoors, making both mudworks and stone circles that interact with each other for some of his exhibitions.
I was excited to see my copy of Norman Ackroyd‘s book The Stratton Street Series and my day planner arrive from the UK on the same day last week. Always good to get new books of images and tools to help me figure out where I’m going to find time to look at them.
Squeezing everything in is an on-going battle and forgoing sleep is becoming a less and less attractive option given what I’m finding out about sleep deprivation.
Being intentional then about how I spend my time seems like the next best alternative. While I bridle at the thought of having every moment of my day scheduled it’s one way, and really the only way I can think of at the moment, to ensure that I have the time to work on everything that I want to move forward.
I found the Day Ticket planner from Half Three when I was poking around on the Kickstarter website – Lauren and Andy Clark explain why they put this together in the video below.
I love paper so I’m all in for notebooks and paper planners. While you obviously don’t need to buy this planner the general thrust behind it is perfect. It provides a framework to help you chunk out your day to schedule all the things you want to get done. This may lead you to the realization that you need to cut out some things like watching TV in the evening or getting up a little earlier being conscious and intentional about these decisions will allow you to get more done in your day.
Andy Goldsworthy is a ‘land artist‘, a sculptor who uses the elements of nature as the materials for his sculptures. There seems to be a balance between the permanent works done with stone and the more ephemeral sculptures made with fallen branches, leaves, and ice. Thinking about his more transitory work made me think harder about why I photograph, I’m not sure that I would be happy to see my constructions disappear as the weather changed or the tide changed. Perhaps the change that ensues is part of the process and that seeing how the work develops with time is as satisfying as it was to make in the first place.
It was interesting to see Goldsworthy working in the field and to realize how close to the edge he operates. Many times it seems as though he could be 2/3rds of the way into making a work and it collapses, not once but over and over again. I hardly think that I would have maintained my composure in the face of such frustrations as Goldsworthy manages. Persistence clearly wins the day. Check out the videos below to see what I mean.
I’ve long been a confirmed member of the 6 hours or less sleep club which I hadn’t thought was a big deal until my recent dive into healthy lifestyles. I was looking into ways to get rid of the last of the fat around my middle when I started to bump into the role of cortisol in fat deposition around your waist. Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stress. Unfortunately your body sees amounts of caffeine in excess of about 300 mg as a stress, as it also does for inadequate amounts of sleep.
I found the video below entertaining and also a little alarming, particularly this
‘subjects who slept just six hours a night for 14 days had the cognitive wherewithal of someone with a .1% blood alcohol level. That’s legally drunk.’
Starting by measuring what my normal night was using an UP24 band I then experimented to find ways to get me closer to 7 hours of sleep a night. Here are some of the things that seem to have an impact for me.
Get some exercise – who hasn’t had the experience of seeing parents running their kids around in the hope that they will get tired out and sleep that night? It works for adults too? Implementing a regular exercise routine can really help stablise sleeping patterns. Just make sure that you’re not exercising just before bed. The elevation in body temperature can potentially be counter productive.
Chill out – I’ve found that I need the temperature to be below 72F and ideally around 70F for me to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Cut back on the stimulants – Avoid doing things before bed that wind you up, no coffee, exercise or things such as high intensity video games.
Eliminate screen time – the ever present screen – iPhone, iPad, laptop etc. inhibits melatonin production which makes it harder to fall asleep. Turn off the screens 30 – 60 minutes before bed
Review your plan for the following day – an hour or so is a good time to do a brain dump of all the ideas that a swirling around and to clarify next actions for them. This is also a good time to review your schedule for the next day to make sure that you have everything that you need for the day and to determine what is a must do for the day.