Why the silence here on Smogranch? I’m working on new site. Stay tuned.
“Maybe real photography is becoming more like poetry,” he said.
“Most people write poems because they need to write something, not for commercial gain.”
“THAT, my friend, is a very interesting thought” the other said. “But where we are going to get killed is the “real” photography description,” I added. “There are so many people running around with digital cameras and websites who are now attempting to work as professionals.” “I don’t see that as “real” photography,” he added. “It’s content, but not to say it isn’t happening or going away anytime soon.” “In fact,” he said. “I think it is only going to increase in volume.”
“I don’t consider this situation as a bad thing,” one said. “Maybe we will get back to personal, thoughtful, solid work.”
“It’s not bad unless you are trying to make a living,” the other said. “True,” I answered.
Over the past few weeks I’ve, once again, come to the conclusion I don’t really have time to be a photographer.(Cue the broken record and violin.) Yes, I’m working as a photographer once again, at least in part, but it’s not documentary work in the classic sense. What I do now is documentary photography in the modern sense, which is limited time, maximum need. I shoot, record, write, print, design and publish, all in a very short amount of time. When I walk from a shoot today I am always left yearning for “what could have been” given more time.
It’s easy to dismiss this with “Well, what are you gonna do, that’s just the way it is.” Man do I detest this mentality. It’s like when photographers say to me, “I hate digital but that’s what my clients are asking for,” or whenever someone who dedicated their entire adult life to photography caves in to the idiotic demands of someone with little to no stake in the game. You HAVE to fight for what you need as an artist/photographer or whatever you call yourself. You HAVE to establish ground rules, and if they are not there then WALK AWAY.
So I’ve made a change. My current project, which I’ve written about here is entirely stalled. Why? Because I just don’t have the time. This work is fact based, unstructured by me, so I need to be in the field on a regular basis, going back to the same people and places, over and over again. And I have to be there when things are happening and when the light is right. Just don’t have the time. However, this past week I showed this magazine to a variety of people here in Santa Fe and got a variety of positive feedback. I took a good look at the contents and realized there was something there. Just coals, no fire. Smoldering. Waiting for photographic oxygen to give life.
So what I’m going to do is go back in time. When I first started this photography thing it was far more like poetry than a novel. I was content to venture forth in the world looking for ANYTHING resembling a great photograph. Not everything was project based. My work was really just life based. Whether I found myself in country, city or in between I was looking, hunting for singles. As I got better, and as I learned and refined, I began to understand my brain works in sequence, but life and my brain don’t always coincide.
This new/old way of working isn’t easier than long-form work, in fact in might be even more difficult because the truth is those rare, stand alone images are SO very difficult to find. Almost impossible. It can also be frustrating when you look down and the frame counter is on seven and that same roll of film has been in the camera for four weeks.
A friend here in town, wonderful person and good photographer and teacher told me she took three weeks off, traveling to a foreign land by herself and just worked, every single day for three weeks. Alone, focused. Perhaps a day or two off during the trip. Recoup. Rethink. Take notes. “I realized I need this a few times a year to really reengage with what I’m doing,” she said. “I can’t do multiple things simultaneously all the time.”
Now I’m fortunate because I’m a twenty-year journaling addict. I have a home for WHATEVER I shoot. This is a crutch of epic proportion because when you print something and paste it in a book, whatever it is it FEELS really good. Like my color square work. It FEELS like it’s good even when it’s not. These books are like my own private support system.
The plan is this. Just shoot. Black and white, 35mm. Process myself, scan myself and print myself. (Except for journal prints.) Now, I can’t do this for my Blurb shoots. That film goes to the lab for processing, proofing and scanning, and I’m totally okay with that. But for the rest of my photo-life I’m going to return to the absolute basics. Oh, and no more color square.
I’m looking forward to a little poetry, and even thinking about this has forced me to recollect a variety of images I’ve made that are stand along images not belonging to any body of work, things I never did anything with for this exact reason. Now I have something to do. Write poetry, or attempt to take poetry. I’ve also got a head start on this because of my leap into sketching and painting. In the six months or so since I’ve thrown my hat in this ring I’ve made exactly ONE painting I like. ONE. Cue the action movie scene, “Failure is not an option,” only with me it IS AN OPTION AND ONE I’VE FULLY EXPLORED.
So in a way….I’m single again. Get it? Single? I’m here all week. Now, I just thought of something. This does NOT mean I am suddenly a “street” photographer. I’m not. Not even close. I actually don’t really like the vast majority of street photography I see because it looks detached. Now this is the point for some of it, I get it, but it’s just not my thing. I’m still going to put myself in places I feel images are living, breathing, waiting, but not random street stuff. Besides, I suck at those images anyway.
A few short months ago I was involved in the creation of a truly inspiring project. The idea, redefine the book and redefine who can author can be. A partnership with Uk creative studio Jotta, an open call for submissions, A LOT of work done by a team of people, both in the United States and the UK, and the plan began to take form. The process continues as I write this.
The final showdown will come in the form of an exhibition at White Chapel in London. I will not be there, but others from Blurb will, and the Jotta team will be in attendance as well. What is the point of all this? Simple. Improvise, adapt, overcome, inspire and share. Yes, I’m stealing the first part of that from the Marine Corps, but it rings true here as well.
James Cuddy and Roma Levin, UK designers and artists.
When this entire program started we held events in London, New York and San Francisco, and basically invited a range of brilliant artists/speakers to show us what they do and why they do it. Audiences were stunned that Blurb would do something like this. To pay for a series of events that were to inspire people to stop thinking like the clock reads 1975 and begin to see the idea of a book in new ways.
This is one of the reasons why I love working for this company. We do stuff like this. “Don’t think…FEEEEEEL,” is what Bruce Lee said. I totally agree. One of the biggest mistakes I see photographers making is creating books they think they are supposed to make and not those they might WANT to make. Something different. Something strange. Something that causes a viewer to pause and consider. This is a GOOD thing especially in an age when “bite size” is the description is the term used to describe our attention span.
As you will see, the folks who are contributing here are artists. This was not a photography book program, this was about redefining something that has an integral and storied place in the history of our species. The contributors work with language, imagery, motion, sound and light. In short, they have come up with some incredible pieces.
I’ve included links to several of the stories written about this project, in a variety of languages, so pick your poison. I’ve also included several portraits I made of the speakers who presented at the launch events. Stay tuned for this material to be released on the Unbinding the Book site.