Behind the Scenes: Blurb Life

Working for Blurb is an interesting way to spend the day. There is no “typical,” and most days are a high-speed obstacle course of images, words, publications and nonstop communication. It’s fantastic actually. I typically find myself in the San Francisco office a few times a month. Lunch breaks are fast, short and caloric, but sometimes the urge to make something overwhelms us and we venture out for short but intense creative conflict. On this day it was Kent and I. Kent is an artist, designer, writer and photographer. He’s also a stylish little creature. I went with Leica and he went with SX-70. I shot him, he shot me.

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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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All Things Old are New

Roughly two years ago I was falling out of love with Leica. There were a variety of reasons, some valid, some perhaps not. Regardless I culled my rangefinder heard down to one remaining body, two lenses and moved on in the world. I discovered the Nikon F6. In fact, I discovered two of them, and two lenses to go with. The F6 is the most advanced 35mm, film camera I’ve ever had. It has the best meter, the best autofocus, the best viewfinder, feels great in my hand and is built to last longer than I am. Everything about it is right. It’s nice to hold a roll of 35mm to the light and see nothing but PERFECT exposures staring back at you, and anyone who darkroom prints knows what this means. And the F6 is FAST. It’s also routine to hold a roll to the light and have 36 tack-sharp images staring back at you.

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But there is ONE problem. The images. I simply do not make the same images with the F6 that I do with the Leica. I thought I did, and thought I would, but I don’t. Now, this is ME talking here, and I did, after all, use the Leica for roughly twenty years so it’s not like this is an accident. The Leica became a part of my photography, more than I ever imagined. I figured all this out about two months ago while shooting at The Palm Springs Photo Festival, something I do on a yearly basis. For the first time I carried two F6 cameras and not the Leica. Okay I lied, there are TWO things about the F6. They are SO heavy in comparison to the Leica. As you know, I’m not in great health at the moment, and this difference between the two, after ONE full day of carrying was substantial enough to include back pain, even with carrying everything else on my hips.
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Then during the nightly presentations I watched a VERY good presentation from a New York based photographer who shot black and white, 35mm. I looked at the work and thought, “That is what my work USED to look like.” It was not only the weight, but also because Leica allows for a certain TYPE of image. Let’s be honest, if you are going to shoot runway fashion or a football game the Leica is going to suck, but if you are after a certain type of image there is no better camera in the world. I happen to want that exact type of image.
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I’ve also come to realize something else…for the LAST time. Most of the great work I see, and what I’ve seen from the past, is all ONE style of work completed over a long period of time. Almost all of it. My way of working, color 6×6 and 35mm black and white, isn’t really working. It never has, but it’s EASY with the 6×6 and for a lazy photographer or someone with little time, I’ve been both, it’s the crutch I felt I needed. I need to stop this and just shoot ONE thing. This WILL not apply to my Blurb shoots however. Those will remain a mixed bag, understandably. Would I love nothing more than to descend on a Blurb shoot with two Leicas, one with color and one with black and white? YES. YES. YES. And it would make my life logistically superior but it ain’t gonna happen.
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There are also a few new/old constants that have cemented themselves further into my life. I wasn’t sure that was even possible but it is. The journal is a DAILY must. This damn thing is maybe the most important thing I do. After all these years I’m still a bit afraid of how powerful this book is. Not the content, but what it sparks in me, how it opens doors, works as a companion and allows for truly flushing things out. The written word has always been a serious thing for me, something I give tremendous respect to, and this book is the anchor of it all. I also have to throw in audio here. I’ve dabbled in the past, but I now realize just how much I love the power of sound. On the contrary, after doing more video, I have LESS interest in video than ever before. But audio, oh my lovely audio, we are headed toward a serious courtship.
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Finally, I’ve realized a few other things. I want to continue to explore art. Sketching, painting,etc. Just for fun. And fully understanding, learning Spanish is a must. There is NO WAY around it any longer. Where I live, and where I want to work, Spanish is the only way. I’m tired of not being able to really speak with people, in depth, with meaning, and until I can do this I can’t really make great work in these places.

To recap my current systems check….

Leica(s)
Dan Bag(s)
Film
Audio
Art
Spanish
Focus
Peace
Patience