Okay, are you happy now? I know that cat photos are the glue holding together the entire expanse of the online world and I want to do my part. This was the image that got the ball rolling in my recent Laguna outburst. I shot these images in about a twenty minute span, in between talking to strangers, wondering what would happen if a tsunami hit and trying to remember where my spare batteries were. I got a lot of stuff on my mind people. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. My time for photography is limited these days, so these little moments are what gets me through. I need them like I need oxygen. In other words, these are the moments when I get to “play” photographer. These are not great images, and in some ways it pains me to even post them, but I’ll get over it.
I’m not sure how well this post is going to go over but I thought I would give it a go. I think this topic is important, but I’m wrong about 77% of the time. Approximately. Now lets forget the fact I’m shooting on the beach in Laguna, which isn’t my favorite place in terms of subject matter. I arrived in Laguna right at sunset and was so excited about the light that I ran around like a crazy person. I was almost going to shoot some self-portrait reflection when I looked down from parking lot level and noticed a woman by the water’s edge. This particular woman had a cat on her back. The cat, obviously, wasn’t real happy about being there and was consequently trying to climb off this woman’s back. It looked interesting, so I ran through the crowd of out-of-towners wearing board shots and tank tops in the 50 degree weather. (I know you WANT it to be warm but it’s not, and the water is ice cold damnit. Googling this stuff can save you some pain.)
These images you see below were shot within seconds of one another.I think one of these images is more modern than the other, and I also think one of these images is better than the other. Here’s why.
This image is what I would consider a “modern” or 2013 style image. I’m using a 1.4 lens at 1.4 even when there is plenty of light to use a smaller aperture. We live in the age of the 1.2 or even the .9 lens, and it appears as if a lot of folks using these lenses are using them at these apertures ALL THE TIME. One look at modern photojournalism is enough to tell me that. In that case it’s the 35mm 1.4 and the 50mm 1.2 Canon that seem to dominate the landscape. No doubt, these are impressive optics, but there is more to life than a soft or “blown out” background. Now in this particular case I’m focusing on the couple in the foreground, with the rest of the humans adding to the layering of the background. Even at 1.4 you can still see location, landscape, etc, and perhaps if the moment in the foreground, the couple, was more specific I would like this photograph more, but it’s not.
This photograph to me is less “modern” but more interesting. This image was shot about f5.6 and has a lot more information to deal with, which means, at least in my normally wrong opinion, it requires the viewer to spend more time with it, which in the age of ZERO attention span is a good thing. Now it works for me for several reason. First, the light is good. Second, the layering is good. Also, the guys third from the left and second from the right are both looking back in my direction, which gives me the human connection I’m looking for. This photograph also gives me more detail about the location and landscape and also informs me that every single person in the image is male, which I can’t explain entirely and don’t know if that tells me something or if it is just a coincidence.
Now, before you go complaining about NOT seeing the cat photograph, don’t get yourself in a tizzy. I’m going to post ONE of these images again, in context with the rest of what I shot in those precious few moments, so don’t get estranged on me. Look, I like a fast lens as much as the next gal, but I’ve never understood the concept of wide open all the time. Remember, as a documentary photographer your goal is to document, education, inform and influence, and sometimes that requires a lot more than 1.4.
I had time to shoot two rolls in Chicago.
I’m not a street photographer, but my coworker Kent and I ventured out with several of Chicago’s finest photo-friends and we made do with what we had. The weather, thank God, held out JUST long enough for us to wander the streets in search of the elusive snap or two. I am a total wuss, and temps below 85 degrees send me into near panic, but what had to be done had to be done.
Just being able to wander with camera in hand is really enough to get me going. I don’t need to always make contact. I find myself, at times, so lost in thought while I’m supposed to be making pictures that I sometimes feel these moments for me are more like therapy than photography. Chicago has history, and you have to pay your respects, in some way, before the city begins to reveal itself to you. There is no “add water, get photograph,” even when it rains. These have all been done, and will be done again. My fingerprints are on them, but the CSI would have a hard time finding mine amongst the thousands of others.
I try to be methodical about these type picture making moments. I come home and the film gets dropped right away. The images are scanned, uploaded, downloaded by me and then edited and tweaked. I rename them, renumber them and then start to figure out what they are about or if they actually mean something I can’t initially see. Are they worth anything? Of course but what? I want to thank all of you who came out and walked the streets with us. We learn a lot from you and appreciate your time and energy. Not to rub it in but it’s 80 degrees here today in California. Oh, not a cloud in the sky. Again, thank you and keep snapping.
I find it so difficult to work in Southern California. When I say “work” I mean photograph. My other work, meaning Blurb, is totally fine here in SoCal, but I don’t respond to this place visually. I’ve tried to like SoCal so many times I don’t know what else to do other than realize it just isn’t going to happen. Southern California for me is just too normal, too sterile and organized. You KNOW if I’m shooting reflections of MYSELF I’ve hit rock bottom.
These pics are a few random moments from the past few weeks. I’m one of those people who carry a camera everyday, all day, regardless of where I’m going or what I’m doing. Could be a simple run to the store to buy ten pounds of carne asada. When I’m traveling with people they will ask, “Hey, we are just going around the corner, are you really going to take your manbag and your camera?” My response is always the same, “First of all, it’s a purse, and second, YES, I’m taking both items AND my audio recorder.” To NOT take these items makes me feel naked and not in a good way.
Yesterday, in a fit of Southern California inspired creative failure I came up with yet another book project, one that I hope takes everything I dislike about this area and funnels it into one, somewhat cohesive, somewhat interesting essay. And people when I say I don’t like this place, it’s nothing more than saying visually it doesn’t float my boat. I like old, I like culture, I like random and unpredictable, everything that SoCal is not. In general it is an easy place to be, which is perhaps another reason it doesn’t work for me. I like places that are more of a battle. A masochist you say? Perhaps. For the most part here everywhere looks like everywhere else. The places I find more interesting are simply too time consuming to get to based on our horrendous traffic problem. So, I continue to look, hunt, plead, beg and search for those little moments that sustain me, but I have to say, it’s getting more and more difficult to play the game. I have the major itchies and when I get these typically drastic measures are at hand.
I need a vacation.
I’ve done it again. I’ve spawned another publication. This particular item from a brief encounter with White Sands National Monument, which is one tiny piece of my New Mexico opus. I can’t really call this a magazine, but I can call it a magazine format, which it is.
There was some confusion about this, but what I do is open InDesign and under the file menu you will see “Book Creator.” This allows you to punch in relevant information about specifics and then the plugin generates your files automatically, complete with bleed and trim lines. In short, if it works for me then it HAS to work for you. My design skills are puny, something I acknowledge up front to set the appropriate expectation levels.
Am I selling this little beast? No. Am I professing it’s beauty? Only it’s size, shape and material. Am I claiming it makes a profound statement? No. Am I claiming it forced me to edit my day’s take? Yes. Did creating this force me to think critically and make decisions? Yes. Am I going to make more? What do you think?
Over the past two weeks I’ve created at least three magazines, several books, a few letters and an assortment of handmade objects, both from the road and from here at home. It’s been a strangely productive time, but the pull of the unknown is creeping into my subconscious once again, which can only mean one thing. I must make more images. The monkey on my back is undeniable, insatiable and can’t be reasoned with.