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.

Discount Code from Smogranch

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Photo: Napper

I’ve included this action pose for your viewing pleasure. I’m doing PRECISELY what I tell people never to do…….CHIMP.

You didn’t ask for this but I’m giving it out anyway. For those of you about to order something juicy you an use this code to save 25%.

the code: SMOGRANCH25

the details:

to save 25% on print book orders $75+**
Offer good through August 31, 2014
**Offer valid through August 31, 2014 (11:59 p.m. local time). Valid for first-time customers purchasing printed books only. A 25% discount is applied to your product total with a minimum purchase of USD $75, CAD $75, AUD $75, EUR €60, or GBP £50. Maximum discount is USD $100, CAD $100, AUD $100, EUR €75, or GBP £65 off product total. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders

Advice: The Portfolio Review

Okay, this past weekend I reviewed portfolios for a few hours at an event in Los Angeles. I hadn’t done this in over a year. Overall, the experience was better than expected, although I didn’t think about the event until I was walking in the door. I was on vacation the week prior, so my mind was elsewhere.

Several things happened, and I overheard several more. Wanted to share these things with you just in case you were planning on showing work at some point in the future.

Advice begins here:

1. Edit your work. You HAVE to understand how important this is. This is, in some ways, as important as the work itself.
2. Limit what you show. Do NOT show 100 images. Show 10-15 and they better be good.
3. KNOW why you are there. Be prepared for being asked why you are showing work, why you want to be a photographer.
4. Bring a notepad. Good reviewers are going to give you homework.
5. Think twice about showing work on laptops and iPads. This work is simply NOT considered in the same way as prints.
6. Don’t dread printing, embrace it. Printing is your final chance to put your mark on your work.
7. DO NOT SHOW YOUR WORK ON AN iPHONE. Yes, people were doing this. I heard other reviewers say “Are you kidding me?” when a phone was brought out.
8. If you copied someone, admit it. Don’t act like you created something original then act like you don’t know who you copied it from.
9. Ask questions. Do NOT talk the entire time. The reviewer will be wondering “Why are you here if you have all the answers?”
10. You can be serious but have a sense of humor at the same time. This is much appreciated.
11. You better have some references. If I ask who inspires you and you can’t name a SINGLE person it tells me you are self absorbed.
12. Bring “regulation” size portfolios. Bigger is not better.
13. Thank the reviewer.
14. Send a follow up email.
15. Leave a card or promo piece.
16. Justify what you are showing. Be able to defend your work while not being defensive.
17. Not everyone is going to like you or your work. This is TOTALLY OKAY.
18. Enjoy the moment. This is what it’s all about.
19. “I don’t know,” is not an answer that will win you a lot of respect or confidence.
20. Have a second body of work in reserve.
21. SHOW THE WORK THAT IS UNIQUE TO YOU NOT THE WORK YOU THINK THE REVIEWER WANTS TO SEE.
22. If you show work to ten different people you are going to get ten different stories. If you have good instincts, trust those and move on.

Okay, start there. Have fun with this process. Make great work. Be positive and progressive and things will be just fine. And finally, you don’t need to be a photographer to be a photographer. This industry isn’t as fun as it used to be. The key is making YOUR work. It will be the only thing you are left with so make it count.