An Outlet I’ve so Needed

You know me by now. I simmer.

As I write this my leg twitches and my mind races about the things I’ve been exposed to. Just in the past half day here at the Blurb office. I’m an interloper. “Why are you here,” people ask. “Ah, it’s hard to explain.” My journal sits near my left hand, slowly filling with what I need to get out, but filling FAR slower than ever before. At one point in my life what flowed on these pages was very much about volume. Violent quivers of things I just needed to rid myself of. But now things are different. Short, choppy blocks of notes more than prose. But they FEEL like they might be okay. Or good even. I really don’t know.
Recently a friend asked “Hey, do you know about Hi?” Minutes later I was signed up and “sketching.” This is free form, raw, literary expression and something I’ve never had before. Different from this blog. A community, described as “real-time” and I feel it.
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You see writing for me, real writing, the thing I do alone in the dark, has always been intensely private, veiled under the suspicion it only made sense to me. Maybe not. A few years ago I wrote something in the middle of the night, a piece about a drive by shooting. I made it up. The shooting actually happened, but I fabricated what I felt was really going down. I sent it to a friend who sent it to an editor and BOOM it was printed. Everywhere. “Have you written anything like this before?” the editor asked. “I have bins in my garage filled with hundreds of books of this material.” Not saying it’s all good, but I’m saying it’s there.

I’m not sure how I use Hi is how it was originally intended. I think for many it’s about making a mobile image and then sharing a thought. But as all of you know, I’m a film photographer, so I don’t use shoot digital unless I have no other choice, and I don’t make images with my phone. I dream of visiting Tokyo with processing tanks and a scanner and spending my late nights in the dark, the room periodically flooded by the slow burn of a scanner moving across silver grain. So, for me this site is about reflections. I have twenty-five-years of images, themed, stand alone and random. With each comes memory and experience and this is what I’m attempting to share.

Also, Hi is very much about community. So is Smogranch, but historically Smogranch has been photo-centric. Hi is also about imagery, but it’s the wordy part that I find most intriguing. Both for personal and professional reasons I’m spending far less time with photographers and far more with authors, so finding these folks scattered around the world, or in my hometown, has been illuminating.

So now I’m thinking. A lot. What does this really mean? Nothing? Everything? This word thing is in my blood. Gramps was full-time, full-on for thirty years. I have a sinking and painful suspicion my life is going to change. Stay tuned for the fallout. And those of you so inclined you should check out this site.

One Side to the Other

Images made within moments of one another. Wandering amid the masses of beach dwellers. Just shaking the dust off. A snap here, a snap there. Looking more than shooting. The distance is what is troubling at first, after so long in front of the screen, protected. Not here. Everything is open to the elements, including my eyes which dry and then water like a newborn. My depth is not quite right, but I know it and take visual precaution. My fingers tremble over the dials, a routine that comes back quickly no matter how long I’ve been away, and now, when I look down, the numbers are fuzzy. Yes, I’m that guy now. The one who lifts the spectacles to see what is so clearly right in front of him. Age destroys ego in most, and I can see myself leveling off in regard. “Know your limits,” someone wiser once said. Mine are clearly, or not so clearly, defined. I need no map to see the edges of the flat Earth. One boot hangs on the edge, but the other is dug in, braced and defiant.
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The camera allows me to become invisible. I know, I know, that’s impossible, but I beg to differ. A physical meditation if you pursue it long enough. I swear. You are there, and then you blend into the swatch kit of color that life provides. I turn one way and slow the shutter, pan through the railing. People running. A rangefinder so I need to compensate for not seeing clearly the frame I need to see. Who knows? And then a slow path to the other side where a woman in white strikes a pose for me, only not for me, but for someone I can’t see. Thank you.
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Spacing. It’s all about the spacing. I know this isn’t something that will live on paper, or even in my mind for any length of time, but this image deserves respect only for the spacing. The elements are there, in harmony with the environment. Open, sandy, spacious, limitless, broad, minimal. Ya, that’s it, broad but minimal. We all have a wheelhouse and this is mine. I like to dissect. Need to actually and when I do I’m so happy it feels guilty. A secret I tell to only myself. You want to know this feeling? Just go. Just go and press the button. Again and again.
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Poem from Mom: Rattlesnake

years of taking pictures
when our kids were growing up
probably thousands or more
different cameras lenses
big and little
the decision was
couldn’t give up the big lenses
one day I decided to put my camera away
wondered what I had been missing
too much time clicking searching
a lense for perceived perfection
I know now it must be in you
or maybe doesn’t exist at all
an expectation of just one more frame
did I see more with my camera
squeezed against my cheek
like a shotgun I don’t know
maybe I see it differently now
relying on only my lenses
the only thing I know is
I love those old pictures
rewinding the good old days
reminding me of so much forgotten
there is a new camera back on my cheek
still trying to get the rattlesnake
coiled at my feet

Save your “Likes” buy a print? (if you can)

I wrote this post a few days ago and then when I reread it I felt like perhaps I was coming across as a world class a$%hole. I thought, “What right do I have to condemn anything, especially when it comes to supporting someone or something?” so I decided to delete the post. Then I promptly forgot about it. Then I read it again. I’m still not sure, but that is what you are here for. To make your own decision. I’m obviously not against support, read the post, just stunned by how much stock we put in something like a single keystroke, often times lost in the hundreds of billions of keystrokes. On the other hand that makes me think of another post. Last year I ran into someone who as spending every waking second plotting the development of his social media following. He was up in the near one million followers category and someone said “Geez, you must me making some serious coin from that.” “I haven’t make a penny yet,” he responded. Someone said “What’s the point of it all?” There was no answer. So, this is my take on this scenario.

What is a “Like” really worth?

You click, you move on. How many of these do we do in a given day? “Wow, thanks for the like.”

Now return to the real world where you find yourself standing at the counter at the local dealer holding a bottle of developer in one hand and a bottle of fix in the other. You need both, but you can afford only one. Where is the like? Can you use it for barter? Can you tell the salesperson, “Hey, you should see how many likes I got.” “Any chance I can trade those likes for this fixer?” “Seriously, a lot of people I don’t even know are telling me I’m awesome and liking pretty much everything I do.” That has to be worth something right?

I’ve thought a lot about this online reality. It’s my fault for doing so. I’ve formed a few opinions, spent much time watching, and am still so puzzled by it all, so puzzled by the addiction to check in and see who is providing the much needed electronic nurturing. And I wonder how much more the artist could have accomplished had they not spent so much time online and fractured their skull and attention by trying to consume so, so much.
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So when I encountered Jeff Frost a few months back, and he told me what he was working on, I thought to myself “Well, that sounds admirable….how can I get involved?” Jeff was up to his normal shenanigans, spending weeks and months in strange, twisted places consumed by broiling temperatures, dust, periodically hostile locals; left alone with only the thoughts in his talented little head. And believe me, most of us are unprepared for what is floating in Jeff’s head. He’s an artist after all.

Jeff explained to me a new print idea he’d hatched, editions of one, 24×36, printed by Mac Holbert. “I’m in,” I said. “I want two.”

Let me back up.

I like Jeff. I like Jeff’s work. I admire his tenacity. I know A LOT of photographers who have yet to discover their inner fire, but he found his a long time ago. He is relentless, and again, he is working in places that are not easy to be, doing difficult time consuming work but yet he’s there, time and time again because he is possessed. I have great admiration for this. A lot of people stand around and wait for handouts. They wait for donations, or the perfect setup or situation. Jeff just makes work. He finds a way. His odometer was somewhere near 250,000 the last time I looked. These were HARD miles. Dusty. Four-wheel-drive access only. No air conditioning. A little puff of smoke with the turn of the key.

There is a madness to these things. So when it came time to get involved I bought prints. They were expensive, at least for me, and so was the framing. The prints are BEAUTIFUL. Loading them in the car and the person helping said “God these are cool.” True, they are. They are Jeff. Every minute of his childhood walking the hills of Utah with his grandfather, learning about cave paintings. Every second of his staring at the stars and learning what was where and why. Every second of his art training. Every MILE on that odometer is in these prints. I know because I went out there and watched. I got a little dust on my boots. Just once, but enough to know.

These prints aren’t going anywhere, including on the wall anytime soon. You see, I don’t have the space to hang them but I got them anyway. I don’t care if they lean against the wall until I move in the distant future. It was important to me because I know how important it is to Jeff. The career of an artist is a battle. What Jeff does, or any artist for that matter, is their business. I’m not condemning promotion. I’m just saying there is a big, big difference between tossing out a “Like” and really getting involved. So what is your time worth? What is your word worth? And before I go any further, in addition to respecting what Jeff does…I LOVE THESE IMAGES. I don’t buy to collect, although it’s kinda cool to know I’m the only one to have these two images at this size, I buy because I love the actual work. Same for my books. I buy things because I want to look at them, again and again, for YEARS at a time. I’m fortunate to be able to afford these, something I do not take for granted. I work hard. I spend hard. I felt my support would lead to tangible, real-world results, like gasoline, paint, cameras, food, etc. I don’t know for sure, but that was my intention. I’m only saying these things because I think most people have a good heart. They mean well, and they want to help, but these online support things of today are often times just noise that doesn’t swing the bar outside of the site itself and the corporations buying your personal information. When you buy direct, when you get involved in a concrete way, its spawns potential for real innovation, experimentation, failure and the breakthrough.

The real, tangible world is out in front of us, starting just beyond the screen. This is the world I choose to live in. It’s fantastic in ways beyond your dreams. Like it or not.

PS: My wife came home at midnight so tired she walked right past these babies without even a notice. She is going to scratch her head and say “What have you done now?”

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Jeff holding a print of an image I made of him on our first shoot. California desert, 2014.

The Leica File: Fourteen

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A few years ago I completed a four-city tour documenting dogs and graffiti. This project started out harmless enough but then snowballed into a full on project. Featured here is an image from the New York portion of the project. All four of these books are available online, however, I’m actually in the process of editing all four books into ONE magazine piece which I will release in the coming weeks. This entire project was made with the Leica and Tmax 3200. Since the four city project I’ve also added pieces from Panama and Peru, which I will probably feature at a later date. Enjoy.