It’s All Jeff’s Fault

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It’s all Jeff’s fault.

Why am I sitting here pondering my fate, future and fortune? Why are my friends doing the same? “That was all I needed, just Duane last night and Eileen this morning,” a friend said. “I’m changing things, I’m getting my life out of a box.” Why? Because Jeff put all these people together. It’s his fault.

The Palm Springs Photo Festival 2014 is over. It is. Over, done, final, complete and we have all moved on. Or have we? You see this isn’t a “photography event.” Don’t think trade show or geek fest. Think image. Think ACTUAL photography and the meaning behind why people do it and what it means to us as record, history or simply entertainment. These “little” gatherings are rare indeed, especially in an era of technology and over-interaction where nobody can seem to put their phone down long enough to actually find real purpose and real meaning, but during the festival they do, and they did.

Everyone was there. There was Duane, Frank, Greg and even a Gregory. There was Ian and Brian and Elena. There was a Tim and a Todd. There was Fletcher and Stanley was there too, and these were just the ones who came to share what they knew. You wonder why they did this? Because of Jeff. It’s his fault. He’s a strange bird this Dunas character. I sat in the audience, night after night, as the words and pictures flooded out, personal things, and private things and astounding things, things that branded even the longest running of those of us who have looked at life through little squares and rectangles, and I wondered “Do people really know what this is?” “Do they know how special this is?”
I wanted to blurt out my feelings and castigate anyone who even thought of leaving early. Like looking out over open prairie while the songbirds sing, knowing that the land has been sold to developers. You better pay attention now because you just never know if you will ever see or experience this again.

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I was there to work, to give information, to listen and to respond. Things I normally do, regardless of where I am, but more focused perhaps. Intense. Creatives are needy. They need time, critical thought and sounding boards. That’s just the way it is. The energy comes and goes, gets sucked out of you and then replaced by the words or images searing through your retinas or gently floating through your ears. “Your life is THE event,” we are told. Clearly, but thank you for reminding me.

“Who did you talk to?” she asked. How dare you even ask? Everyone. How can I even begin to remember. But here goes. Kelly, Michael, Tony, Brendan, Justin, Kari, Dan, Laura, Anthony, Douglass, Alexa, Randy, Michelle, Chris, Leah, Matt, another Chris, Greg, Valentino, Ray, Jesse, Sean, Dan, Tara, Susan, Matt, Cain, another Jeff, Mac, Peter, Andrew, Casey, Mike, Michael, Teru, Daniel, Ken, Sherri, Sue, Anna, Christa, David, Sonja, Holly, Jennifer, Miriam, Norman, Dina, Carolyn, Allegra, and Mary, and I’m not even social. I went to sleep early. Jeff’s fault.

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There was also the soul thing. Ya, that. That thing you think is just babble until you are staring at it and no matter which way you look you can’t see around. Ya, that. I learned, after twenty-five years that cameras have souls too. Mine does, or doesn’t in some cases. A switch. A spotlight shined at me. “Hey, dipshit, what are you doing?” “Stop doing it and get back to doing what you do.” Ya, I had that moment too, because of Jeff. And it wasn’t just me. What’s even better than having these moments is watching others have them. They do things like climb over four rows of seats in a really nice theatre just to tell you about something they figured out. They leave untold numbers of messages on your phone, or they lurk in the shadows near your hotel room and when you walk by they hiss and whisper, “Hey, wanna know what happened to me?” Creative breakthroughs needs to be shared, to be taken off the chest and released. It happens. It really does.

You want to know the truth? What came from all this? The consistent thread? Do your work. NOTHING else. You simply don’t have time to screw around. Want to be the one on that stage? Quit pretending, a photographic life isn’t a masquerade ball, it’s a police lineup but the only police lineup where you want to be the one picked out, and to do that you gotta find your particular visual crime. “Have you seen good work?” I asked. “Yes, but I often times have to wade through the work they think I want to see before we get to who they really are,” he answered. There, I just saved you months of work and therapy sessions. Just go figure it out and put it on paper. Then bring it back and show it to us. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Ya, I still blame Dunas. This post, the thoughts in my head and the direction I will take with my first step on this Sunday morning. The residue is there, like SPF 80 sunscreen. You KNOW it won’t come off easy.

New Site: Oh Ya, I’m a Photographer Again.

It has been three years since I actually had a photography website. During this period, when people would ask about where they could see my images online, I would say “I don’t have any images online.” The looks I received were PRICELESS. “How can you be a photographer and not have images online?” they would ask. “I don’t work as a photographer, so I really don’t need a website,” I would reply. Then came the process of my friends and family saying “Wait, no he IS a photographer,” then defending my cult status as “photographer,” “not a photographer,” etc. Personally, I think this is entertaining and because it speaks to the IDEA of being a photographer, not the realities. For me it was simple. If I made my living with photography, I’m a photographer. If I don’t, I’m not.

When people ask me what I do I respond,“I work for Blurb.” Normally, the response is “Oh we love Blurb, I made a book about….” This is what is so great about this company. We provide an outlet for stories, and that is one damn cool thing. However, that is not what this post is about. This post is about my new site, and the new reality that, once again, I AM a photographer.
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It was official. A phone call. “Does this sound appealing to you?” Ten seconds ticked by…..“YES, this sounds incredible actually, like a dream scenario.” So here we are people. I’m in the game once again. Please alert the media. I know for some of you this idea of being or not being a photographer is puzzling or maddening, but for me it’s very real, and it has a significant impact on things like behavior, ethics, quality standards not to mention the idea of building an archive, which for me has always been a critical driving force behind me picking up a camera in the first place.

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I am now photographing for one client, Blurb. The idea is simple. I photograph people living creative, artistic lives. We’ve noticed some threads, some consistencies with these folks, and we are fascinated by their workspaces, their lives, their habits and their process. My goal is to shoot classic reportage essays with the idea being the work could be used in a variety of forms, from print to web and anything in between. This is a celebratory mission. The creative life is under siege, whether you be in music, art or photography, but there is something urgent about those who choose this path. It’s like your blood type. You can’t change it. You were born with this need and your life is about expanding upon it.

I can’t share any of the new work yet. It’s under wraps in private galleries, and will be until it runs in it’s native form. There will be new outlets designed and created to showcase this work, and other work that features similar missives. The site you see here is simply a public face.

I realized very quickly that I needed a new site, but not just a site to showcase images. I’m not really going to be showcasing them myself anyway. I needed a TOOL more than just a website. Photoshelter baby. I had used their services before, and literally within minutes I was up and running once again. I quickly found myself having to make a decision I hadn’t thought about in years. Because the new work will be private my homepage was entirely blank. I thought “I should put up some public work so at least it looks like a real site.” My mind raced back to the old me, “Well, I’ll put up a bunch of stories.” And then the idea of culling and editing began to sink in and knew I didn’t have it in me.

But more importantly I realized something else. A LOT has changed in three years. I studied my own online habits and thought back to a recent visit to photographer sites. These were really solid shooters and I didn’t give them much time. Three, four, five clicks maybe. So instead of uploading hundreds of images I made a decision to load just twenty-five total. My mindset is “If you can’t figure out who I am in these twenty-five then either I suck or you aren’t paying attention.” I also uploaded images I would have never uploaded before because they weren’t of a certain ilk. Images like this and this.
Remember, behind each image on this site is an in depth essay of twenty to fifty images.

Many photographers today are at the mercy of industry bottlenecks who need or want to quickly pigeonhole someone so they can mentally categorize them for current or future work. “That is the guy who shoots square urban landscapes.” “That is the woman who shoots lit portraits of animals,” or “That is the person who shoots protests.” I don’t have to deal with any of this anymore and I can now upload pretty much anything I want to upload. Am I a landscape photographer? No. Do I normally find intense satisfaction in stalking wildlife? No, but I like these images, and now I can put them up without risking an unwelcomed categorization. Who knows, in the future if I get bored with this, I might add more, but for now I thought, “Keep it clean and simple.”

For those of you wondering about the “photographer, not a photographer” thing just remember this is MY way of dealing with this. There is a HUGE difference between doing work on your work and doing work for a client. Secondarily, there is a significant dialogue that needs to take place regarding how the work will get done, get delivered, get archived, etc. With these conversations and arrangements comes a situation that constantly hangs in the balance of work vs. client. I won’t go into the details but these conversations are still ongoing and are actually laying the foundation for the future of the campaign. The balance is how I feel I need to work compared to what the client, in this case Blurb, needs or wants.

These “Creative Dispatches” will occupy a significant portion of my life, and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to do these. In many ways this is the dream scenario, it really is. I have been encouraged to make the work I want to make in any way I see fit. I have both professional and personal goals with these shoots, but I frankly need to brush the dust off and get my head around thinking like a photographer once again. The adventure begins.