Finite Foto Feature

New Mexico has a long lineage of art and photography. This continues today in the form of book publishers, galleries, collectors, workshops, etc. We also have New Mexico based online photographic outlets like Finite Foto, formerly known as Flash Flood. I’ve written about these folks before, and even had a piece featured a while back.
A few weeks ago I ran into Melanie McWhorter, one of the masterminds of this organization, and she asked me if I was interested in writing something about photojournalism.
Now I don’t consider myself a photojournalist, but at past points in my life I had done work in this genre, so I thought I’d give it a go. At the same time I had received several requests from blog readers to write something regarding my projects, why I do them, how I do them, etc.
I had just penned this little story when I ran into Melanie. So, here we are.

Now I don’t think this is going to answer all the questions, and this is also rife with my opinion about several things related to the modern documentary world, but I think it will be relevant to many of you, and might surprise or confuse a few others.
Also, I’m just one feature of several in this particular issue, and if you are interested in the doc/pj world, then have a look and bookmark this site.
Any thoughts, notes, feedback, drop me a note and I’ll give you my two cents.

Story Behind the Photos: Kman Does Texas BMX


The infamous Kman, not happy at having to stand still for this picture.

I did what I thought I was supposed to do. Yes, after all these years, I still do this.

My nephew, the infamous Kman, races BMX. In fact, he is a total badass with a room full of trophies to show off his 65-pound prowess.

So I go to visit the family and find out I’ve landed on race night.

I have options.

I think to myself, “This is racing action, I’ve got to get that peak moment, I need a motor drive, long lens, etc,” so I grab the digital body and long lens and toss it in the truck.

And then, more out of reflex than anything else, I toss in the Blad.

The track is easy. A small place, and being Texas people are relaxed.

“Hey, my nephew is racing, can I stand in the middle of the track?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

And with a smoking gun the races begin.

I’m hammering away, motor drive humming, mirror clanging up and down. But I’m distracted. Not by something around me, but by something inside me.

“What am I going to do with these images?”
I begin to ask.

“Do I really want to sit down and edit through all these motor sequences.”

“Ugh.”

“Why am I doing this?”

“Do I really want to archive these, label these, tag these, etc,etc?”

“Ugh.”

Don’t laugh, this is how my troubled mind works.

I began scrolling through the images on the camera, something I HATE doing. I know hate is a strong word, but it fits here. I DETEST looking at images right after. I think it completely KILLS the idea of being a photographer, BUT I CAN’T STOP MYSELF.

I’m like a total crack monkey with the preview window. I can’t stop. If I turn it off, I just turn it right back on. Hopeless.

I suddenly realized, with slight sadness, I had no interest in even looking at the images I was making. The images didnt’ feel like they were mine.

There were a dozen parents in the same area, all with similar gear, banging away. They probably had the exact same stuff, only of their mini-warriors. And I think there was even the dude that shoots every kid and uploads every single image online so that the one parent without their camera can buy a print.

“Well, I know my brother will like these, or my mom,” I said to myself, making excuses for the images, while I took a quick peak at the refreshment stand wondering what delicious treats they had hidden behind the counter.

I packed up the gear and headed for the car.

Right before burning dust in the parking lot I saw the Blad.

I loaded the relic and grabbed my dreaded tripod. Yes, my tripod, and headed out into the world I had just retreated from.

At least 10% of my mind was still thinking of the refreshment stand. I have to be honest.

Suddenly there were whispers around me.

“Honey, look at that guy with the old camera.” “What is he doing?” “Is he allowed in there?”

“Hey, dude, what the f%$# is that thing.” “Holy S%@#, haven’t seen one of those in a while.”

And suddenly I was in my own world. I could see again. I grunted and shuffled around the pit area like a deranged ape.

Things were clear. I dissected with my eyes, and then framed the pieces. A story began to build.

The kids in the pits were like ants invading an empire, merging in lines and shadow, with harsh artificial light painting their movements with razor sharp shadow. The sky was glowing.

Insects pierced the night. Colors were bright. The wind picked up. Darkness and light. Passion.

I don’t remember much of what was around me. I was “involved” let’s say. I was involved in a 6×6 space that started in my medulla oblongata and ended at the tip of an 80mm.

Clunk.

Minutes later.

Clunk.

This was MY work. My mind. My vision. My moment. This was the work I need to be doing ALL THE TIME. All supplied by following the Kman.

I thought about history. I thought about family. I thought about the light. I thought about what these pictures would mean. I thought about who would have them in 100 years. I thought about Kman and what must be going through his mind.

I was away in that place that photographers go when they are working.

And then. Clunk. It was over.

Collaboracion

So I shot a roll, backed it out, left the leader out.
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Gave the roll to Michael Napper. He loaded it, shot it, processed it.
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I shot on the North Shore of Oahu. He shot in urban Los Angeles.

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A strange brew of landscape, oceanscapes and the rigidity of the urban world. I might have posted a few of these a long while back, but was just uploading them to Flickr and thought I would share them here.

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This is one of the great things about going through my archive and finding things to upload to Flickr. I don’t put most of my “major” work on Flickr, for many different reasons, but a lot of work I have, that I have never shown, is fun to get out there. It’s time consuming to go through it, and I don’t consider Flickr and archive by any means, but it is nice to begin the sorting process for the day when I finally come up with an idea of how I AM going to do my archive.

"That's Him Officer!

Over the years I’ve heard from many different photographers, from many other parts of the country, that say, “I could not shoot your style where I live,” meaning my style was too arty for their client base.

I always wondered about this, thinking that perhaps there is some validity to the idea, but in the end I don’t know for sure.

Case in point, magazine photography. Let’s say magazine photojournalism, something I truly love and wish I saw a lot more of.

The PJ pictures of the past few years have taken on a slightly new direction, filling our pages with hyper-complex, tilted, dark images that, most of the time, I like, even when they don’t work. These images are not easy to make, make well I should say, and I think about one out of ten actually does work. But, we see a lot of them. And these same images are landing on gallery walls, which I also like, again, even if they don’t work. I like the idea that we are contemplating them.

Now, who do these images relate to?

The editors and the photographers, but I don’t believe they relate at all to the vast majority of readers. In fact, I think most viewers when looking at a tilted image will immediately ask, “Why is this crooked?” I know because I’ve heard them ask it.
And when looking at an image lacking critical focus, or containing a motion blur will ask, “Why is this blurry?”

I think we tend to place to much in the “benefit of the doubt” category when it comes to those viewing our pictures.

I’m not sure how many people are going to give a hyper-complex, tilted, out of focus image the time it requires. I think these images are done for a variety of reasons, none of which relate to the viewer.

But here is the kicker. I don’t think this should change. I don’t think the photographer should stop making these pictures, or change their style. Why? Because then everyone starts making the same pictures, something we have seen FAR too much of in recent years. Don’t believe me, take a look at the wedding field, or portrait field. In fact, I think in some ways, success today is based on conforming to the standards created by the industry itself. Safety in numbers?

Take fine art. What’s been hot for the past few years, disconnected urban moments, in color, printed 8×10 FEET. Huge prints, based mostly on the reality we now have the technology to make these prints, and the idea that if it is larger it is worth more. Oh, and hyper-small editions. These are trends, and there are plenty of folks who have decided to chase this trend, which again I think is odd, but not something that should be changed. Why? Because within about a year, this style of work will be so flooded on the market that it won’t be selling like it did, and it will force the market in a “new” direction. Open additions of micro-prints? Who knows. It might take longer than a year, but it will change.

I think what is so great about all this is it turns the mirror, once again, back to the photographer and asks, “Okay, here we are again, so tell me, what is it you really want to do?” The most difficult question to answer.

If you are living in small town, rural America thinking that “arty” work won’t sell, perhaps now is the time to give it another shot. Or if you are living in hip-town, ultra-cool, double earring, flame shirt, suede pants land and want to shoot weddings in 3D while wearing your blue ruffle tux from high school prom, then I say go for it. You just never know, and if this is what is TRUE to your heart then it can never be wrong.

Let’s quit standing around lining up to conform and show our true colors. Or true black and white for you purists out there.

We’re all derivative, but let’s not get carried away. In a police lineup, you don’t want to be the person picked out.(not basing this on experience.) But in a photo-lineup you do!

One of the greatest aspects of photography is that there really is no right or wrong, only what we desire to do as the creative.