Because I Can : Wargames

Hey Folks,

This is the latest post in the “Because I Can” series about making Blurb books in an edition of ONE. Yes, you heard and read correctly. I’m making books with the intention of capping the print run at ONE book. Why? BECAUSE I CAN. We have really only had this option since about 2006, yet photographers ALREADY seem to take this for granted. I know, there is so much change on a daily basis that we are perpetually thirsty for the new, always wanting the latest and greatest. I get it. However, I for one cannot overlook the power in having the ability to make a single book. I wrote about this in a previous post, so if you want the background then go back and have a look. I pulled a selection from that prior post to set the table for this one. This is a series people. I’ve made at least thirteen books already and have eighteen more in the pipeline.

This little gem is one of my favorites so far. The work comes from a project I did several years ago, paintball and the combat that ensues upon the word “Go.” After receiving the book I drove it out to the paintball range and let the boys unload on it. The book was then allowed to dry then coated with a clear sealer. The entire mess lives in a black bag. Blurb wrote about this in their recent newsletter which went out earlier today.
As for the guts. Entire book was shot with Kodak TMZ.(RIP) If I remember correctly I used Contax G2’s because I knew I was probably going to get shot and it just might ruin a camera. I had three G2’s, so they were somewhat expendable. The book was super simple, 11×13, landscape, Proline Uncoated and all full bleed, double trucks. The case was made by Process Supplies. I loved the look and feel of the basic book itself, but it feels far more complete after the shooting.
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Douglas Kirkland: A Life in PIctures

If anyone in the history of photography deserves a large book it’s Douglas Kirkland. Yet his new book “A Life in Pictures” is relatively small in the grand scheme of modern publishing. However, I’m referring to only the physical imprint. When it comes to what is inside this book, well, photographic life doesn’t get any bigger. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. If you don’t know Douglas Kirkland you are clearly one of those unfortunate souls abandoned on a South Pacific island, still hiding from passing ships, convinced the war is still going on. There is no other credible explanation. Kirkland is simply one of the most important, and prolific image makers in the history of modern photography. Other than that, he’s a nobody. All of you have seen his images, whether you knew it or not, and if you actually ARE one of those souls trapped on an island, Kirkland probably shot the images in your survival guide. If you are asking yourself, “Is he the guy that shot ______.” I’m just going to say “Yes, that’s him,” because when you open this book you will see what no longer really exists in our little world of light-tight boxes, which truly is a life in pictures.

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I know some of you are hung up on the awards and prizes, so I’m going to just say this. He was won more awards than I can count. His work lives in more archives than I can count. He’s had more shows than I can count. He’s had over 2000 assignments, and he’s photographed over 600 different celebrities/figures over his career. And when I say “photographed” let me explain something to anyone who is thirty-five years old or younger. Douglas began his career when a “portrait” might involve following a dignitary around the world for an entire month to make your “portrait.” I’m going to say this was a time of class, of professionalism, that far transcends the “You have two minutes with so-and-so” world of modern celebrity photography. This was a time of mutual respect, and over the years, with his expanding archive and experience range that respect awarded him unprecedented photographic opportunities. What? Who you ask? I truly don’t know where to being but will just toss out “Marilyn.” Yes, he’s the guy that made those images. Told ya!

I’ve been in photography since 1988 when I made images during a “flood down in Texas,” to pull from a Stevie Ray Vaughan tune. I was given a scholarship to be a photographer and the rest, as they say, is history. I can honestly say, I’ve never met a more kind, gracious, professional, caring and positively gung-ho photographer than Douglas Kirkland. My wife told me Douglas has a birthday coming up, as do we all, and he’s getting up there (sorry Douglas), and STILL to this day, during those random chances I get to see him, he is as excited about showing me his recent work and sharing tales of life on the road as I’m sure he was back when the camera still felt new and foreign in his hands. It is remarkable.

But wait, there’s more, and this is where we separate the photographic men from the photographic boys. During those random times when I get to see Kirkland, he’s open and shares what his life on the road is like, but he is also interested in what my photographic life is like, and I don’t just mean the random, “So what have you been up to?” Kirkland makes eye contact. I’ve never seen him with a phone in his hand, so when he talks to you there is clarity and meaning in his questions, which translates to one thing…he actually cares. He really wants to know.

Know how I know? Because I once got a glimpse.

Upstate New York, a small town on a wintery day. A small diner. Just he and I. How we got there, or why, doesn’t matter. I got a one-on-one with the guy that paved the way for so many photographers. I equate it to a young trumpet player having Miles Davis walk up on stage with him or her. There was no pretense, just honest talk. As the flakes gently fell outside the foggy glass of the diner I was given a glimpse into the world I had not yet been able to enter. Douglas cracked the door open and gave me a look inside as well as an encouraging push. This was one of the definitive moments in my photographic life, something I filed away in the deepest recesses of my brain, something I use from time to time as an anchor when I feel my photographic life beginning to drift.

So when my wife brought this book home my life stopped for a moment. I couldn’t open it right away. It’s too important to browse, and when you see the range of imagery you will know what I mean. Photography is not what he does it’s who he is. I’ve viewed the book three times now, and it sits to the left of my computer as I write this. This book is a testament to a photographer, and his equally remarkable wife, Francoise, who was and is with him every step of his journey, but also a testament to what is possible in modern photography. This book demands respect and undivided attention.

I’ve never been a fan of cloning, but with Kirkland I will make an exception. Kirkland, and his book, are proof that things are right in the world when you work hard and don’t settle or compromise. I wish I could take him with me as I travel to schools around the world, unveiling him as the students begin to doubt my words about what is possible in the photographic world. But I have the next best thing. I have the book.

Douglas Kirkland on Photography: A Life in Pictures from lynda.com on Vimeo.

Bookmakers I Like: Paul Gero

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This is a new series I’m very excited about. Nobody was asking for this series, but I’m doing it for two reasons. First, to compile a series of black and white, 6×6 portraits of Blurb bookmakers. Second, I wanted to learn a bit more about filmmaking. These are sixty-second films. That’s it. They are purposely short, provided simply as a taste of who this person is and what this person does. Not to mention sixty-seconds is the new four minutes. I don’t last much longer than two minutes when I find a YouTube flick. I tested myself over the last three videos and 1:50 was the most amount of time I spent before fast forwarding then realizing I was fast forwarding and then felt remorseful for not really paying attention. So, I’m guessing you might have some of the same issues.These films will get better once I have a better understanding of software, sound, editing, etc.
This first flick features long time friend Paul Gero. And his fantastic book.

Books and Booze What’s Not to Like?

Meet the one and only Kent from Blurb.

I’ve known Kent and have been working with him, on and off, since about 2006. He is the real deal creative type. He works for Blurb but he is also entrenched in art, photography, and as you will see from this flick…style. I once worked a trade show with him and women were asking if he was a wardrobe consultant on the side. “Can you ask him if he will consult with me?” they asked. “Of course, provided you fulfill my small finders fee.”

Kent shoots all the time, makes art all the time and has a really good knowledge of all things percolating from the “creative world.” Most of the time when he asks me about art I just agree and shake my head because I have no idea what he is talking about. Last week I heard someone at Blurb say “Kent routinely makes things that are so interesting we don’t know what to do with them.” I think he is a good representation of the “Blurb type.”

And, he’s talking about mixing drinks.

Australia Bound

It appears as if my dream of going to Australia might come to fruition. At least one version of one version of the dream might come to fruition. Years ago I came close to venturing down under but the trip was thwarted at the last minute. This time we are all systems go.
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This isn’t a vacation. Far from it. In fact, by my estimation we, meaning myself and the other Blurb crew members, will do something like twenty or twenty-one events in about a fifteen-day time period. If this sounds crazy it actually is, so the description “crazy” is accurate. I know this because a few short months ago we embarked on a similar venture which took us to four cities in less than two weeks with five events in each city. At one point in the ordeal I did ten hours of presentations in one day. That IS a bit much, but like anyone who has been training for a while, you get used to it. And, I think being in front of people, showing them examples of what you can do with the tools of the Blurb platform, is the best thing I do for the company.
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Many people know the Blurb name, many have used the system, but few have fully explored the potential of the platform and the range of possibilities. This is where I come in. There is nothing better for me than to hear a seasoned photographer say “Man, I would have never thought of that,” after I offer advice, direction or suggestions. We are all products of learned behavior, whether that means learned in the direction of our friends, family, beliefs, or in the direction of being photographers. I know I was, and I suffered under the system before I realized the system didn’t feel right and I needed to invent my own.
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Over the past few weeks I’ve been creating a new presentation called “The Tools of Modern Storytelling,” which is a look at one project and the multiple lives that project lives via the multitude of modern formats at my fingertips. Book, magazine, short-film, PDF, Rich-Media, as well as the channels in which these formats take flight. The traditional channels of information exchange are changing, and in many cases, limping along(Which I think is just normal change). If you are professional, have training, create unique work and have the trust of those following your work, then why do you need those traditional gatekeepers of information? There are reasons why you need them, or would want to work with them, but you need to determine your plan first and we are no longer limited by the system.
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At the end of this trip I’m hoping to drop everything, except my camera, and head out into the bush for as long as I can get away with. I can’t go to Australia and NOT photograph something, someone, anything, anywhere. The images here are a few from my new presentation, just random things that all fit together in my twisted little mind. I know the image of my bag and contents will cause heart palpitations amongst some people, but just know within arms reach of my laptop are several different cameras, all of which I use for specific reasons, but this post is about Australia, storytelling and the potential of the unknown not what is in my bag.
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What is so interesting for me on a trip like this is the fact I get to branch outside of photography and work with designers, bloggers, students and also get to connect with the festival world. I think there are no less than THREE major festivals going on in Australia at this time, Head On, Reportage and Analogue/Digital. I’ve already begun getting emails from photographers from all over the world saying, “Hey, I’m going to be there too.”
I have much, much, much to do before embarking on this little voyage. Several of the presentations I need to do are more about my photography than my job, which is new for me. I don’t normally lecture, talk, speak about my photography, so I need to invent new and interesting presentations that are outside of what people are expecting. I’m always amazed at how much work these are and how much time they actually take to produce.
I have a sinking suspicion I will be in Australia JUST long enough to wet my appetite for more, more, more. Hey, I’ll take what I can get. My goal, at some point in the distance future, is to ride my bike across Australia. This is, of course, after I have ridden it across the United States and from Alaska to Patagonia. The odds of this actually happening are SLIM but a guy can dream.

If you know people in Australia who would be interested in these events please alert them via the links below. The great thing about our plan is that regardless of your skill level there is something, potentially multiple things, that are suited to your needs.

Melbourne
Photo Safari – http://melsafari.eventbrite.com
Blurb-Meet-up – http://melblurb.eventbrite.com
Tools of Modern Storytelling – http://meldesign.eventbrite.com
Pro Photo Books workshop – http://melpro.eventbrite.com

Brisbane
Photo Safari – http://brisafari.eventbrite.com
Blurb-Meet-up – http://briblurb.eventbrite.com
Tools of Modern Storytelling – http://bridesign.eventbrite.com
Pro Photo Books workshop – http://bripro.eventbrite.com

Sydney
Photo Safari – http://sydsafari.eventbrite.com
Blurb-Meet-up – http://sydblurb.eventbrite.com
Tools of Modern Storytelling – http://syddesign.eventbrite.com
Pro Photo Books workshop – http://sydpro.eventbrite.com

And in case you need a little description….here you go.

Photo Safari: Urban and mobile photography enthusiasts and bloggers will be led by professional photographers on a free, three-hour photographic exploration of each city’s visual beauty.

Tools of Modern Storytelling: Professional designers and creatives are invited to breakfast to learn new ways in which creative minds and businesses are leveraging tools and technology to tell stories in both print and digital formats.

Pro Photo Books Workshop: Suitable for aspiring and professional photographers, Blurb’s most popular three-hour workshop provides a complete picture of the book-making process within the context of a quickly changing photography and publishing industry.

Blurb Meet-up: All interested book-makers and photography book-lovers are invited to check out an array of beautiful Blurb books and share a drink with the Blurb team and other like-minded DIY creatives.

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