The New Smogranch Leather Journal

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a journal keeper. I started taking notes, writing stories, back when I was in elementary school, but I really began in earnest when I got my first internship at the Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix. I had no money to buy books but I lived close to the public library, and during one fateful day I stumbled into a book titled “The Adventures and Misadventures of Peter Beard in Africa.” In short, it changed my life. I had been keeping a journal prior to this day but Beard showed me just how far a journal, or diary, could go. What I was doing, and what I’m doing now really doesn’t resemble Beard in any way. He makes art. I make notes, in both photo and word form. Beard’s books are incredible and beautiful, mine are informational, some might say boring.

Over the years I’ve used just about every type of book imaginable. I’ve used the super-cheap black and white journal books from the grocery store. I’ve used notepads, fancy, leather-bound books and one year I even used a single, HUGE, yearly planner which ended up becoming so large and so heavy I couldn’t actually carry it anywhere. But over the past few yeas I’ve settled on the Moleskine Cahier as my go-to book. It’s small, simple and fits in my shoulder bag.

The Cahier itself is a pretty basic book. Moleskine has a long legacy of famous users and they are readily available in a variety of local haunts. But the book itself was a little “normal” for me, which put me on the lookout for something to spice it up.

A few months ago I got a call from Arthur at Renaissance Art in New Mexico. We decided to meet in a local coffee shop, and when Arthur walked in he had the coolest shoulder bag I’ve ever seen. “You know what will happen if photographers see that?” I asked. “We all have a bag fetish that can’t be denied.” He calmly picked it up and turned it over with an expression that said, “What? “This little thing?” Inside his bag were more leather goodies, each cooler than the next. I salivated a huge pool of drool out on the table in front of me.

Toward the end of our meeting Arthur pulled out HIS Cahier notebook only his was covered in a beautiful leather cover. My eyes went shut and I began breathing in short, gasping heaves. For a brief moment I thought about mugging him in the parking lot.

So over the past few months I’ve been able to spend a bit more time at Renaissance Art and during this last visit I was able to have my own leather notebook covered, cut, trimmed, sewn and imprinted. The leather comes from Italy and is processed without the use of acids. This particular leather is thin, super soft and continues to change and weather the longer you use it.

After the cover was made and placed over the notebook I scurried around Arthur’s workshop looking for the right light to photograph it. “You should do a documentary on this book, make a picture of it every three months,” Arthur said. “Great idea but the first image will start with you.” I answered.

Over the past few days I’ve pulled this thing out at a variety of places and each time my fellow photographers begin their own drooling process. This is only the tip of the iceberg for me. I see many more leather objects in my future. Shoes, bags, covers, etc.

Experiencing the birth of my Smogranch cover turned out to be more than just time spent in the workshop. Not only an expert on all things leather, it turns out that Arthur is also an expert on tea. A short tea experience followed the leather experience and I was exposed to some of the best tea I’ve ever had. People, there are many parts of this experience I wish to share with you, beyond the fact I now have a nice leather cover for my journal. This beauty was made by hand, which for me is so important. In an age of instant everything, an age of mass-produced, sterile, cheap foreign goods, the idea of getting something made by hand is all-powerful. Whether it be a print made in the darkroom, a pair of shoes cobbled by hand or leather bag made to house your beloved M9, for me it makes a HUGE difference. This process is also about slowing down and enjoying the experience of the process. We could have had tea in the parking lot, banged down some cheap leaves, but we didn’t. We took our time, used no less than four different tea cups and Arthur even added in some flute while he was explaining the tea and the reasons behind why it is prepared the way it is. I guess it boils down to intent, to purpose and to meaning.

Okay, and for those of you looking for the bag…….next to my boots.

The Notebook Continues…..

Someone asked me about how I use these books. I know I recently did a post in regard to using one of these books when I’m doing a long-term project, but I also use them on a daily basis for the mess that is the rest of my life. In fact, I would be completely and uttering lost without these books. In short, I put everything in them. Everything. These current books are Blurb, Daniel, life, work, play, thoughts,etc. As you can see by these images, my books are not about art. I have friends who make journals that are truly objects to behold. My books are not like that. My books are basic nuts and bolts of life, rife with things like to-do lists, photographs from current projects and articles and stories that get forwarded my way. The PRIMARY importance of my book is the actual writing. You will see that I have typed sections, which I have begun to do because I am on the computer SO MUCH these days. Couple this with the fact my handwriting is truly some of the worst I have ever encountered and you will know why I am using the computer. Another question I get is whether or not I reference these books at a later date, and my response is “absolutely.” I use them on a regular basis. I can’t go into the details but these books have been CRITICAL with certain projects in the past. But there is a secret to success with these books, at least in my opinion. The secret is to write in these books as if no one will ever see it. You can’t hold back. If you hold back and are afraid to really write what you think, there is no point in even keeping a notebook, journal, diary or whatever you want to call it. Writing without holding back is a therapy for me. I’ve never been to therapy but I would imagine it’s a lot like what I do when I sit down, pen in hand, trying to clear my head or make sense of what is happening in my life. The pace of life today is as fast as I’ve ever experienced, which makes writing in these books that much more difficult and consequently that much more important. My suggestion, give it a try. Don’t think about anyone else, just get a cheap book, a pencil and start with whatever thought first enters you mind. From there, it’s all downhill.

Organizing a Project: The Notebook

I thought this might be helpful to some folks, including those who are attending my upcoming workshops. As many of you know, I’m a serial bookmaker, but I’m also a serial journal maker, have been for many, many years. I believe how you organize and record your projects is essential to the overall piece and can make or break an entire project by allowing you to pull back small bits of information that might have been lost had you not cemented them, literally, in your book of choice. As you will see, I keep a variety of these books and use them on a daily basis. The kicker….these are a total blast to create, and for those of you who don’t print your work, well, welcome to the promised land.

And just in case you wanted one more way of seeing this book:

Morning Meeting

The important thing is to create new work.

Whether that work be born from frustration as a purpose, as a motivating factor, it matters not. Just do it to coin an overused phrase that is by no means mine.

Push the button. It all seems so simple yet to do it “right” it takes more than you can imagine. Maybe that is the problem. That imagine part?

Blood red and cold blue for a little over a grand. I’ll take it. Drive it home and wax it up. Maybe a lift kit, a turbo and some gun mounts in the rear window.

There is something to be said for a $1000 dollar car. Do we really need anything more? How about a $1000 bike?

Someone watching me like taking this photo is against the law. Easy does it buddy, I mean no harm.

Photo Notes: The Photographer's Companion

The Photographers Companion

I was in Perpignan France for Visa Pour L’Image, years ago, and an older, very famous photographer was giving me a few minutes of his time. “Look, photography is great,” he said, “But make sure you write everything down.”
Luckily for me, I was ahead on this particular idea. I’ve been keeping a notebook, not a journal per say, but just a book, for years and years. I carry this book with me, all day, everyday, and can’t imagine going anywhere without it.
I write down my lists, ideas, thoughts, etc, but I also will detail conversations, events, happenings, observations, etc, and you have no idea how handy this can be.
First of all, you remember far more of what you write down than what you try to memorize. You think you are going to remember the conversations, the details, but things can fade quickly and having these notes can be critical.
I think keeping a book also forces you to confront what you have seen and to slow down enough to figure out what happened. It makes you recollect and reflect.
So, I’ve included a sample of one of my books, this one a craft brown, moleskin notebook. I have used many, many different kinds of books, but this one tends to be a very nice size and easy to carry. The photo you see is a 5×5 print to give you an example of the book size.
What I do is take my current work, edit it, then print the selects and keep them in the books to have somewhat of a visual look at what I’m doing at the moment. These books for me are not art, not even close, and believe me I have friends who also keep books which are magnificent pieces of stand-alone artwork. I’m not in that category. The most important aspect for me is the writing, which at times is like torture, but at this point, writing like this is crucial to my being able to function. Not sure why but I know it to be so.