Want to know what it looks like to be INSIDE one of my workshops? Well, now you know. Was able to spend four hours with design students at University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. I love teaching students, working with students, etc, They have all the good stuff in front of them and it’s cool to be able to shine whatever light I can on being a photographer, being a professional(Whatever that means) and on life in general. On tap for this day was planning shoots and how to make a great portrait. As you can see from the middle image….we studied LIGHT. The college is located near the coast and the so beautiful ocean which I did glimpse from the car at one point. Thanks to the human hurricane that is Matt Haynes for putting it together.
I thought it would be interesting to show a tiny glimpse into this little Blurb Safari we are experiencing at the moment. I’ve been getting a lot of emails, messages, etc. in regard to this trip, mostly from folks who think I’m on vacation because for us Americans Australia is such an exotic place there is skepticism that this could possibly be a work trip.
I get a lot of “Are you going shark diving?” “When are you driving the Great Ocean Road?” “Make sure when you are in Sydney you see these eleven things and in this order….” The only problem with these wonderful suggestions is that we actually ARE on a work trip. which looks a lot like the second and fourth images here. I also get a lot of emails from people who think I’m here working on a photography project, which is also far from the reality no matter how much I wish it was true. At some point, near the end of this little voyage, I’m hoping to get a few days to spread my photography wings, but until that time I’m making myself less photographically miserable by snapping these odd little moments, frames one an three, that are simply about color. It’s all I’ve got people and I’m clinging to it like a life preserver in rough seas.
We spend much of our time doing what we are doing in the second image which is logistics, planning, sign making (Garry is a MASTER) email and then getting to and from the events, which entail about five different programs in each city over a three or four day period. Today I’m off up north to do a masterclass at a local art school, and tomorrow we do a designer event in the morning and book workshop in the afternoon. The following day begins a two-day staffing and lecture at a local photo festival. Our entertainment comes from comparing hotels, the speed of elevators, what odd times we woke up due to jetlag and how Jason and I nearly die when Garry tricks us into eating food so spicy we sweat through our shoes.(He does this in every city.)
Life on the road is an interesting one filled with many new faces, new places and the unknown just around the bend.
I’m not a good tourist. I feel like I need a reason, a purpose, a focal point or point of contention. Internal unrest, mental not physical, at least for now. Forcing myself forward, step by step, ignoring certain things, certain people and fixating on others until they feel my need and it all goes away. Why would you walk with a lens cap on? After all these years I’m not sure. Like an infantryman carrying his rifle with a pool cue in the barrel. Makes it somewhat difficult to achieve the desired result and yet there these mysterious creatures are.
Something unfamiliar in my hand, but I’m working on that. Like new shoes I feel the visual blister forming. It demands it’s own dialogue. I can’t speak to it in the same language I normally use. Clarity from the clutter is more difficult with the little beast, so I need to change the way I see, the way I layer and the way I look for light.
I break things into mental quarters to give myself a helping hand. “In the end..the machines always win.” Yes, true but as humans we all want to fight the good fight. A guy blows $400(Australian) on a slot machine next to me. Like a kiss from a stranger. That love was never really his, wasn’t in his wallet long enough. A few flicks of a finger, a few spinning dials and it’s gone forever. Remember what they say about the machines.
I like being here because it is a challenge and I actually do feel like I’m doing good. “Please remain calm, we are here to help,” coupled with “Beatings will continue until moral improves.” I make photographs and I make books, a lot of each. I like to share why, how and then revisit the why. Sometimes I don’t want do either but yet there they are, the camera in hand the nonstop mental editing and then the smell of ink on paper. I tell people I jokingly call it a “curse” but I’m not really joking. I watch others moving through life with a different filter and I wonder “why me?”
Why do I need to report, record and resolve? I wander into a gambling hall and face backwards staring into the souls of the men watching the ponies with a focus that only comes with money on the line. I don’t gamble but I’m fascinated by those who do. Crumpled bits of paper, hands sweeping across sunken eyes and stubble. There is always another race, another day, another bet. The energy in the room is a palpable strain of uncertainty and guilt. “In the end…the machines will always win.”
Say what you will about digital photography, but I would never have made any of these images if I wasn’t using a digital camera. As you can see, these are not great images, but they are snapshots that reflect a certain place at a certain time and provide my journalistic mind with tidbits of visual memory that I so desire. I’ve only had this little camera for a few days now, haven’t made anything great with it, not sure I ever will, but I already know what this little camera is and what it isn’t. I also realize it was never intended to be more than it is regardless of our expectations, desires or ideals. These images were made on an hour-long walk from my hotel up toward the old parliament building here in Melbourne. I had no plan other than to get out. I was locked in with the hot, midday sun and subsequent harshness that accompanies this time and place.
This camera isn’t a Leica, nor does it replace a film camera. No digital camera replaces a film camera. This camera doesn’t provide a negative. I can see the images as I make them and I can shoot endless photographs by just adding more and more storage media. A film camera doesn’t provide an instant preview and limits me, in a good way, with limited exposures based on how much film I can carry. My film cameras fire at any time with ZERO hesitation. This little camera does not. My film cameras are built like tanks, have hyper fast autofocus(some) and require no computer time unless I want to use them in tandem with technology. This little camera requires the computer, and in most cases, a significant amount, as do all other digital cameras. My 35mm film camera is indestructible, has the best meter, autofocus and ease of use of any camera I’ve ever had. This little camera doesn’t come close but it is 1/3 the size, weight and girth of my film camera and can be carried for days on end without a thought. This little camera is also inconspicuous, and again provides an entirely different set of parameters because it’s DIGITAL.
These tools are polar opposites.
This camera will never be an M6, 35mm and TRI-X no matter how much you want it to be. You can’t set this camera on square format and get a Hasselblad no matter how much you want to be able to do this, and no matter how much post processing you provide. These are simply different machines. Having said all this, my new little camera is great, I’m glad I have it, and it will find it’s way into the rotation like a knuckleball pitcher. Did I mention the size, weight and style?
Will I make bold proclamations about “this is finally the camera that kills film?” Why would I even want to do that? Who wants to kill film? What benefit would that serve the photography world?
If you want a film look but a film camera. If you want to shoot digital this camera is a really good option at a good price and is easy to use. It doesn’t entirely get out of your way when you are working with it, but it’s pretty darn good. I’m already happy I have it and look forward to actually using it when I have time to focus on “real” work, images, places. I’ll take it to New Mexico in June and see what is what. Until then I’ll continue to get used to it and I’ll continue to use it for my little, color sketchbook.
I think these images are further proof that wandering around attempting to make great images is really damn hard, at least for ME. They remind me why I don’t shoot street much. I need interaction with those I’m photographing. I want to spend TIME with people getting in and out, closer and closer, talking, shooting, talking, shooting attempting to break though mental and physical barriers. It’s time consuming, laborious, challenging but I NEED it. I don’t get that street shooting. It’s a bit random for me, detached and I fall pray to things like window reflections and SHOOTING PICTURES OF MY FEET.
Melbourne has been great, attendance at our events has been high and our little voyage has only just begun. After my work requirements today I will be back out on the street, learning my little beast and searching for those little things that drive us.
Don’t worry, I haven’t returned to the wedding world regardless of the final image here. Yesterday was the Blurb Photo Safari here in Melbourne and we saw a good size crowd emerge from the shadows of downtown and into the long sun of Treasury Gardens. There was plenty to photograph with the luminace of late afternoon, backlit landscapes and even a wedding shoot in full flow. I gave a portraiture assignment, something that normally strikes fear in the heart of the photo enthusiast, but this crowd went at it full on. We were even lucky enough to encounter a group of monks from Thailand who probably had little idea what they were in for when descended upon by a rabid horde of snappers. Regardless of your level in photography the idea of wandering with a camera never gets old. It’s the best part of being a photographer after all.
This morning we gave our designer talk to a packed house here in downtown Melbourne.