What I’m Thinking


I’m thinking I need to lighten my load.

What you don’t see in this series of photographs is the rest of my daily gear. Leica, Blad, Polaroid. Why do I do this? Because I can’t stop shooting film cameras. I still prefer the negative to anything digital. I like the cameras themselves, the process of shooting analog, the limitations of analog, which I feel are what make it so great, and the archive of analog. Yes, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my 40TB of digital data looming over my head. So on the chopping block is the 5D Mark III and three lenses, and in is the Canon s100. Without a doubt the 5D III is the better, more versatile camera that shoots much higher quality imagery and motion. But what is also indisputable is s100 is a lot smaller and lighter. When I started my current campaign with Blurb it was thought I would be shooting a lot of digital, at least at times, but I’m not. What I am doing is creating a stream of images for lesser needs, and continuing to capture most of the good stuff on film.
Speaking of film…On the way to San Francisco last week my film set off the TSA alarm for….explosives I think. Something. Anyway, I got the full court press, which was no big deal, but that was the first time it ever happened. They had me for about 15-20 minutes maybe. I got felt up, which is always great, and they got to see all my personal items. Sadly I had nothing exotic or even anything slightly amiss.

Oddly enough, traveling with film, at least for me, is easier than ever before. It’s such a rarity now that typically I get the “Cool, haven’t seen this in a while.” Followed by “Man, I really miss film.” Now, this does NOT apply when speaking of France or Switzerland where I’ve been grilled, threatened, insulted and yelled at for both carrying film and for being an American. Such is life. I kill them with kindness. Or I don’t say anything. Or I keep asking for a hand inspection until they threaten me with not getting on the plane. (This has happened numerous times.) This actually doesn’t bother me. What bothers me are the new rules about carry on bags. And weight. Returning from Australia a few months ago it was deemed, on a whim, that all three of my bags were overweight. The same bags I’d flown to Australia with no problem. Suddenly all my bags were an issue and they tried like Hell to get me to check my gear bags. I opened them up and asked “Would you want to check this?” “Ahhh, no,” was the reply and they let me on, but those days are fading.

So, it’s lighten the load time. I’m even contemplating an iPhone 6 Plus for my interview and podcast needs, which would allow me to leave recorder at home. If I could somehow get my junk down to ONE bag it would be ideal. I know I’m dreaming here because when my Blurb duties are over and I aim at the open spaces of Australia or Abilene, I’m going to want my film junk. What I will try to do is consolidate my backpack and roller bag into one backpack. Audio and visual gear in one bag. Time to call Tenba once again.

Or maybe, if I buy an iPhone 6 Plus I don’t even need this little camera? See, more confused than before.

Why I Deleted my Social Media Accounts (Internet Habit) Phase Two

(Analog Self-Portrait, 2015)

In January 2014 I deleted seven of my social media accounts.

I wrote about this little experience, and the post went on to receive more traffic than any post I’ve ever done. I also received a remarkable amount of email and messages from people all over the world who wrote in support and solidarity. It appears there are many of us who feel like the social media rabbit hole is deeper and darker than we first thought. But I also started that post by saying “Hey, if you love social then more power to you.” “Enjoy.” And I still feel this way today.

Now, while out and about in the world I slowly became known as the “guy who deleted social,” which has created some interesting moments over the past year. I’m always amazed by how seriously people take their social, and also how serious they take my departure. I’ve routinely been scoffed at while being asked “Oh ya sure, you deleted your social…how long did that last?” And when I reply, “Still deleted and not going back,” I’m met with genuine looks of horror, bewilderment and in some cases hostility. I also have a fair number of people who say something along the lines of “I’m so jealous.” There are many folks tied to social due to job requirements, and a significant percentage of these people feel like they are being ground up by the superficial treadmill of the social life. And yes, there are many people who don’t give a s$#@ what I do.

So being me I took things one step further.

In December of 2014 I decided to ONLY go online when I HAD to go online, or at least attempt to do this. No more news. No more sports. No more mindless climbing videos on YouTube. No more endless days lost to the magical powers of Will Farrell. No more shopping. Just needs. Need to reserve a book at the library. Done. Need a hotel. Done. Need a flight. Done. Need to see what’s trending on Yahoo….NOT f$#$#@$ done. BLISS. BLISS PEOPLE. BLISS. The plan was two fold. Stop going online for no reason, and the moment I felt like going online I would pick up a book instead.

So. These are the books I’ve read this year. (Yes, if I wasn’t such a d$#@ I would have linked all these.)

1. I am Pilgram, Clark
The Circle, Eggars
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Eggars
No Place to Hide, Greenwald
All the Light we Cannot See, Doerr
Dark Alliance, Webb
Kill the Messenger, Webb
The Interior Circuit, Goldman
Say Her Name, Goldman
10. The Art of Political Trouble, Goldman
In Trouble Again, O’Hanlan
Desert Memories, Dorfman
At Night we Walk in Circles, Alarcon
The Sound of Things Falling, Vasquez
Deep Down Dark, Tobar
The Tattooed Soldier, Tobar
Kings of Cool, Winslow
Savages, Winslow
Don’t Stop the Carnival, Wouk
20. Good Hunting, Devine
Hotel Florida, Vaill
Salvador, Didion (reread every few years)
The Secret Race, Coyle and Hamilton
Lasso the Wind, Egan
Death Grip, Samet
The Emerald Mile, Fedarko
Desert Solitaire, Abbey
Blink, Gladwell
The Long Way, Moitessesier
30. The Monkey Wrench Gang, Abbey
The Man Who Walked Through Time, Fletcher
The Cult of the Amateur, Keen
Digital Vertigo, Keen
Dubliners, Joyce
Collapse, Diamond (Reading at the time of this post.)
The Goldfinch, Tartt (Reading at the time of this post.)

Now, you might be asking yourself why I count my books. Normally I don’t. But what began to dawn on me was “Hmmm, this FEELS like a lot of books.” “I wonder how many books I’ve actually read?” People also ask me if I’ve read anything good lately, and I can never remember titles, authors, etc. so I figured I’d jot them down. My old routine was get up at 5AM or 5:30AM, get my non-morning person wife out the door in one piece and then go straight to my computer with the most potent cup of coffee the world has ever seen. Twelve hours later I would move away from the desk. Now, I get up at the same time, get the same non-morning person wife out the door, make the same heart-stopped cup of widowmaker coffee, but now instead of hitting the space bar I read. I read for however long it takes me to finish my coffee. At some point the coffee will probably kill me, but that’s okay because then I won’t have to worry about anything else, like Kodak stopping TRI-X production, but until then I know I’ve got a new routine that works. I also apply this technique at night. No more stupid s$#$ for no reason. Just read.(And I LOVE stupid s$#%)

The impact of my online diet has been profound. My mind feels like one solid block and not a hundred fragments connected to one of those vibrating hotel beds. I also feel smarter. That might sound strange, and perhaps this isn’t valid, but it sure feels that way. I’ve returned to novel length material and have distanced myself from the informational morsel. No banner ads. No facial recognition advertising. No “SEVEN ANNOYING THINGS THAT HAPPEN AT WORK” lifestyle that permeates the lunacy that is The Internet. Got a second? Hey, surf the web. Bored? Surf the web. Commercial on TV, grab your phone and surf the web. Having an important or personal conversation with a loved one? Hey, perfect time to surf the web! Etc., etc. In some odd way I feel like I’ve been whispered a secret. I walk through the world as if it’s one enormous human zoo and I’m in a bubble looking at these strange species up close and personal. The difficult part is actually spending time with those lost to the system. It’s more difficult now. Watching as they ignore life, the conversations, questions aimed their way as they look up with glazed eyes and go “What?” So, now I am trolling for the disconnected.

I don’t expect anyone to follow my quiet, little voyage. Nor do I think it’s noble, better or pioneering. What I want to share is the idea that less is, at times, certainly more, and if this experience has been so rewarding to me it could perhaps be the same for you. I didn’t even mention art, bookmaking and the guitar, three little things I’ve been deeply investing in with all my newfound mental freedom. As for art and guitar, man do I suck, but I’m okay with that. Made four new books this week as part of a new twenty-book series that will live in a box set edition. I’m greedy people. I think about what I’ve been able to accomplish and I wonder what others I admire would be able to create if they took they time they waste on social and the web and applied to to their work, or a new passion. I wonder. And I wait.

I’d be curious if anyone out there does a short test or experiments with this idea. If you do hit me up and let me know how it goes. Okay, gotta go. There are pages in need of turning.

Trading Up

I love the Blurb Trade Books. I’ve always loved them. Made my first one in 2007, and that book has gone on to be the most successful book I’ve done, and I made almost no effort to sell it. Strange. Many of the photographers who come to me for advice come with the learned behavior of the photo-industry on their shoulders. Do a monograph. “What is the biggest book I can get?” “What is the page limit?” I give them what they want, “11×13 with 440 pages,” but I also try to get them to understand the realities of making books, and more specifically selling books. Occasionally I see a gargantuan book that works. Lord knows I have plenty of them in my collection, not that I flip through them much, but most of the time if a photography book comes in at that size it misses its mark. Too many photographs, not enough editing, and a lack of knowledge as to what people actually want and how much they are willing to consume. Not to say you don’t make books like this. If done correctly, edited right, designed right and built for the right audience they can, and do, work, but you gotta get your plan wired tight.
The trade books, for me, are like sketches. I detest stodgy, and much of what I see coming from traditional channels, whether that be books or photography, is stodgy. The club of being chosen by a select few who are supposed to know all the secrets. Well, in short, I don’t buy it. Not at all. I like freedom. I want to make what I feel like making, and I certainly don’t need someone else’s permission.

I just dream things up. I look at what materials and processes exist and I build to compliment those things. Very simple. I don’t rule out. I don’t complain. I don’t find reasons NOT to do something. I just go. I just do. I wasn’t always this way, but I realized I was walking a thin line of being one of those people who was impossible to satisfy. Spoiled. Arrogant perhaps. Stupid without a doubt. Not anymore. I found perspective.

Two thirds of the world doesn’t own a computer and is searching for food, water and shelter. They don’t care about what I’m doing, and rightly so. Photography and photo books have found their place in my life, and it’s not the same place it once was. Still important to me, for sure, but still just one of the puzzle pieces of life. Maybe a piece with an edge. A corner piece probably.
Not that you were asking, but my advice is to play. Experiment. Test. Make books, give them to someone you think would be interested and watch. Pay attention, take notes. Then build again, fine tune, sand down your strategy to fine sheen. And then do it again. It’s so much fun. All the images you see here are from a new series of trade books, 5×8, 24-page, softcover, $2.49 books that will end up in a box set edition of either one or five depending on how much money I have. By the way, if you make a trade book, and you like it, for S$#@’s sake, send me a photo of it.