“Normally, you need a specific receipt, but I’m going to let you do this,” he said to the cute backpacker girl.

I fill out my form and wait. Three packages for domestic stops and one aimed at the Netherlands. The clerk puts on his sunglasses and hunkers down behind his terminal, “Loco” tattooed across the knuckles of his left hand. “Is this a gift or merchandise?” It all makes sense in here. Just another day behind the Orange Curtain. Sun, blinding white sun by 9AM, cemented and in total control until roughly 6PM when the color begins to creep back in. I need things. Things I don’t have. Bills come in, they are paid. Lists are made, hotels are booked, flights too. While I’m on the site I check flights to Cabo. I’ve never been, but it’s two hours away for less than $200. That’s a weekend. I hear horror stories, but I hear them about Detroit too and I love Detroit. Cabo is warmer. And they have better guac. “Customer service, this is Gwen.” “Our water bill is twice as much as it’s ever been, what’s going on?” This is where things tend to go sideways. Audio and video problems all day. It’s a Monday. To compensate with something positive I shoot the Impossible Roid. My art space. Cluttered and tight. Neglected even. Make something everyday. Yesterday it was a water color so bad it went straight in the trash after I ripped it into a dozen pieces. I should burned it and then lashed myself with barbed chains. I edit my film from Chaco. Four partial rolls in three days. I edit 90 photographs. Some are repeats, but with slight variations and they are of couples who might like them both. Friends. I FTP them to the printer. I don’t email shit like this, I print it. Of course mailing means I go back to see “Loco” again. He seems cool.

Peru Journal

As you know, I’m off to Peru for several weeks of teaching. As you also know, I’m a journal keeper. I was putting together a few images for the Peru journal I will carry with me and had them out on the cutting board in the kitchen. These are just a few of the black and white, 35mm images from last year. I put these in a book like this to help trick myself back into the mindset of “photographer in Peru.” As I’ve said many times in the past, one of the biggest misconceptions of photographers today is that great photography happens often and easily. It doesn’t. It’s VERY difficult to get on a plane, land in a foreign place, turn off your normal life and turn on your life as a photographer. It normally takes me a few days to even get my head straight. I use these images to relive what I was like to be in these places and also what it required to MAKE these images. Luck, light, timing, composition, speed, elements and YEARS of mental and physical baggage accumulated in the trenches of the photography world.
What is strange is that I just took a moment to REALLY look at one of these images, the one that is in focus in the photograph above. I’m not REALLY sure if I had ever REALLY looked at this image. I can tell you all the details of when and where I took this, but I can’t tell you all the details of what is IN this image. This reality, of perhaps not really even taking a close look, is a great example of what being too busy does to ones photography. What caught my eye was not the line of priests in the image, or the church in the background, it was the LIGHT on the umbrella tops that made me stop and stare. Didn’t some joker say “It’s the simple things in life,” or some other joker said, “The devil is in the details.” Those jokers might have been on to something.
I can tell you right now….I’m thinking I know a remedy for this…the darkroom. So next year, by this time, I’ll perhaps have another set of images, and this time I’m hoping to know them a little better.

Dinner Notes

Hmm, strange meat in an Orange County restaurant. Strange beer too.

As you can see, I’m a health buff. Lean and mean. Except when I’m here. This reminds me of Cologne, of the darkened room filled with older Germans eyeing us like we stumbled in the wrong strange meat place.

Maybe we did. But to our defense, they all looked strange. And probably still do. Maybe it was our lack of knee high socks and ornate jackets?

Sports on the television? Techno on the house stereo? Was that real? No, not this time.

I’ll be back.

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.