“Cups”: Frank Jackson

I met Frank Jackson a few years ago and knew I had found someone with whom I share some DNA. No we don’t look alike. He’s a lot taller than me. But we share a love of paper, pens, Leicas, quiet time, folding bikes, photography, poetry, music and COFFEE. As you will note in one of these images, Frank has the coffee maker of all coffee makers. I don’t know what it is, but I had to get clearance just to be in the same room with it. He showed up at the Palm Springs Photo Festival with a ceramic grinder, high-grade Colombian brown flake and 100% pure Himalayan spring water culled from the mountains by chosen people.

Frank was the perfect guy for me to get addicted to Blurb. Plus, he’s a friend so if anything goes wrong I can pull the “Hey, not my fault” thing and be totally fine. Like most other things, Frank took to the Blurb like a moth to the flame. Now he is hooked. Not only did he make a book, seen below, but he has two or three more on order. Frank travels a lot and tends to go back to one place over and over again, places like Europe. I like this. Years ago he plucked a coffee cup out of its place in the world and began photographing the same cup in a variety of locales. In addition he just shoots coffee and coffee cups. But this isn’t a book about coffee. I would describe Frank as a photographic drifter, but he is a photographer drifter with a plan. If you check the link at the bottom of the post “Balance” you will see what I mean. Images shot all over the world but with a consistent theme. This happens because a photographer is always looking and feeling and understanding the connection between things and places and people and light. I dig it.

Frank chose the Blurb 6×9, which you all know is one of my favorite formats. Smallish, lightish and priced for sales if you are so inclined. He did some interesting things with the design which I also love. And just when I thought I’d seen it all he pulled out a book of illustrations that I LOVED, so I know there are more Blurb gems on the way. It’s good to see these books taking off like they are, the 6×9’s I mean. I show these around a lot and get a lot of mental wheels spinning. Also, on a sidenote, I saw one of my own 6×9’s printed imagewrap and was amazed at how much I liked it. I normally just make softcover but that might have to change. For those of you who were commenting on length of projects, Frank has been working on this baby for a long while and can’t imagine him slowing down anytime soon.

Oh, by the time I could write and post this post he emailed with ANOTHER book……told you he was hooked.


BALANCE LINK

Periphery

I’ve shot a fair number of weddings over the years. By industry standards, not many at all, but in normal human terms I’ve seen my share.

The wedding photography industry, at least to me, is a strange beast. It’s hugely successful, which is nice to see in a rapidly shrinking professional photography world. I just never fit in. But, this isn’t really a surprise to anyone. I remember my parents telling me that THEY never fit in in life, so I’m not sure why I would have expected anything different. I did weddings for a variety of reasons. I always had the client in mind, but I also had my own feelings front and center while I was navigating my way through these shoots.

I would end up in little places, during little moments and I would know I was where I needed to be. I tried to make photographs that summed up these little “encounters” but the client was not always what I was thinking about. I would let my mind flow to whatever region it needed to flow. Sometimes the influence was music, other times literature. I would see daylight visions of different times, eras and regions. Imagine daydreaming, or creatively daydreaming, in the middle of the shoot. Maybe that is the best way to describe it.

In some cases these images became critical later on. In other cases they were never seen or used, but regardless, they were very important to me.

This little grouping is one such case. I think the elements caused my little adventure. The wind, the cold, the water. It was grand, and allowed just a little “pop” in my brain. I was freed, for just a few moments. Click, or “clunk” I should say, as I was using the Hasselblad. A respite. A moment, just for me, but perhaps for someone else. Nothing more, nothing less.

Something Personal This Way Comes

You ever get the feeling that we are living in a parallel universe? I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I think it might be happening. We all blaze forward simultaneously racing on a path of security, meaning and direction and yet behind the scenes there lurks this feeling that someone, or something, is looking over our shoulder. Things connect.

So a few weeks ago I wrote a post about receiving a letter in the mail, a real, honest-to-goodness, paper letter. This letter came from Los Angeles based painter/photographer Michael Napper. The post “Art in the Mail” was about framing the letter because it was so beautiful and because it was personal and only for little old me.

Sunday night I returned from the Palm Springs Photo Festival and checked my mail. Inside, buried amid the junk mail, bills, spiderwebs and dust was a letter. This was no “regular” letter. This letter was fat, somewhat square and immediately made me toss aside the rest of the stack. This letter had handwriting on it. Real, personal handwriting. And this letter had stamps, really cool stamps with “Canada” on them.

Needless to say I was intrigued. What I found inside completely and utterly made my day. Inside was the “book” and prints you see in the first photograph. It turns out that during my workshop in Victoria BC someone named Paul Romaniuk was in the audience. Paul wrote a review of my lecture, a damn good review, and we subsequently kept in touch. Paul saw my post about “Art in the Mail” and something clicked. The result is what you see here. These images don’t do his book justice, but I think this is also on point with the message of this post.


As photographers we are products of learned behavior and our photo-environment. Heck, I know I surely am. I went to photojournalism school. I studied the masters, or some of them anyway. And much of what I did I did because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. Well, over the past ten years, I’ve been trying to unlearn as much as I possibly can. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what I learned, but I know now that range, or angle or direction may or may not be the right one for me. So, now I must find my own path. One of the things I was taught was about the book. Yes, the all-powerful book.


The book must be a monograph.
The book must be published by a traditional publisher.(Only thing that will give you cred.)
The book must be large.
The book must be entirely serious.
The book must be traditional.

Again, nothing wrong with these ideas, but they are simple not accurate, at least not all the time. A book can be SO many things. A book can be almost anything. Receiving Paul’s book was EVERY BIT as interesting and powerful as going into a bookstore and buying the latest, greatest, enormous coffee-table book. It really was. And there were prints too! Opening the letter made me feel like I’d been told a secret that nobody else knew. I felt like Paul sat at home with me personally on his mind and built this thing. That is VERY powerful.

Last week at the festival I had a long conversation with a photographer I really admire. We looked at his Blurb book, a large one, 12×12, Proline paper, etc. His book is beautiful and has been very well received. Shortly after I showed him my “best” book, a 5×8 inch, softcover book with eleven images and twenty pages total. He said to me, “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought to make a book like that.”

This was music to my ears. This is it people. We can do anything we can dream up. We don’t need permission. We don’t need a note from mom and dad. We just need time for critical thought, an idea and the will to see it to fruition. We might also have to unlearn a few things. Paul’s book you see here was yet another reminder of that. This book, and prints, will go into my collection and will grow old with me…if I make it that long.

Getting something like this is like a shot of creative adrenaline. Time for us to ride the wave.

Thanks Paul.

Art in the mail…..

I’m a lucky guy. I have very talented and creative friends, some of whom are wedded to the physical or analog world. Nothing against the electronic world…I live there too, but there really is something special about acquiring, being given or even stealing something tactile and physical.
So a week or so ago I picked up my mail and discovered that my old buddy Michael Napper, LA artist/photographer/writer/camera collector/ and generally decent human being had sent me something. I opened this thing and just sat there staring at it. Part letter, part correspondence, part artwork, part caffeine stained masterpiece. I realized immediately I could not cement this in one of my books. It was simply too good. This one I needed to share. So, I took it over to the framer and had this baby floated and framed. My wife and I have already had one argument as to where this thing will live, which I feel is the sign of something being truly significant.
People, the computer is great. The digital world is great. But making something physical is just different and still holds a certain relevance that I feel goes far beyond the pixel. Again, not pointing fingers here, drawing a line in the sand, choosing sides or stirring the pot. Just look at this thing. When I see or receive something like this is makes me actually FEEL something. I physically FEEL it happening to me. To be fair, I saw something online this morning that had a similar impact, so it can happen in any form of delivery. Good work, at least in my opinion, is about this physical feeling. I have the feeling when I make the work and I hope my audience has their feeling when they view the work.

New Direction

Yesterday I drove 850 miles.

On and off, the entire way, I was thinking about this image. I’ve posted this before, but it has taken some time to sink in. You know how things sink in over time? Like gnats buzzing around your head on a camping trip, at first a small annoyance and then at some point they become the entire focus of your existence.

As many of you know, on December 1st I stopped shooting commercially. No mas. No portraits, weddings, magazine work, commercial shoots, etc. I needed a new direction, and so far the grand experiment has been enlightening, making me think I should have done this ten years ago.

However, it’s not enough, just stopping the work for others focusing only on the work for me. Within this shift lies another, smaller, but I’m realizing perhaps more important, micro shift. The direction of the work. And when I say direction I mean the content, the style in which it is created and the method of presentation. Again, this image has been what haunts me.

So over the drive, a drive that started near the ocean and ended in the mountain peaks, I thought only of this photograph. What it means, how it was made, why I made it and how I wanted to share it with those that want to keep it for themselves.

In essence, I had time to isolate myself and think critically about what I was doing with my creative life. You might think this happens all the time, but it doesn’t. In fact, it feels rare. Like many of you, my life is cluttered, cluttered with mostly good things, but cluttered none the less. So when I get a break, like this drive, my mind, like the landscape, opens up. And then it narrows down.

This morning, as I checked my Twitter feed, someone wrote to me and said that my magazine, Manifesto, had changed their photographic life and direction. Now for me, there are few things that could be happier to my ears and eyes. If I can make something that has this effect on someone then I feel I’m doing something right.(Issue #2 on the way)

Over the past few days I’ve been scouring sites about design, something I know little about, but something I feel is opening up another opportunity for me, the opportunity of a new direction. I can’t tell you how good this feels.

Now the challenges still remain. In fact, the challenges of my new life and my new direction are what are so exciting. Every minute of every day my mind races with the possibilities. I feel that this change of professional focus, and micro-direction with the work, are only two of the many changes to come.

As I sit here in the cold, crisp air, my notepad is filled with sketches, dimension and direction. A map lies open with notes around the edges and the future fills my stomach with butterflies.