Save your “Likes” buy a print? (if you can)

I wrote this post a few days ago and then when I reread it I felt like perhaps I was coming across as a world class a$%hole. I thought, “What right do I have to condemn anything, especially when it comes to supporting someone or something?” so I decided to delete the post. Then I promptly forgot about it. Then I read it again. I’m still not sure, but that is what you are here for. To make your own decision. I’m obviously not against support, read the post, just stunned by how much stock we put in something like a single keystroke, often times lost in the hundreds of billions of keystrokes. On the other hand that makes me think of another post. Last year I ran into someone who as spending every waking second plotting the development of his social media following. He was up in the near one million followers category and someone said “Geez, you must me making some serious coin from that.” “I haven’t make a penny yet,” he responded. Someone said “What’s the point of it all?” There was no answer. So, this is my take on this scenario.

What is a “Like” really worth?

You click, you move on. How many of these do we do in a given day? “Wow, thanks for the like.”

Now return to the real world where you find yourself standing at the counter at the local dealer holding a bottle of developer in one hand and a bottle of fix in the other. You need both, but you can afford only one. Where is the like? Can you use it for barter? Can you tell the salesperson, “Hey, you should see how many likes I got.” “Any chance I can trade those likes for this fixer?” “Seriously, a lot of people I don’t even know are telling me I’m awesome and liking pretty much everything I do.” That has to be worth something right?

I’ve thought a lot about this online reality. It’s my fault for doing so. I’ve formed a few opinions, spent much time watching, and am still so puzzled by it all, so puzzled by the addiction to check in and see who is providing the much needed electronic nurturing. And I wonder how much more the artist could have accomplished had they not spent so much time online and fractured their skull and attention by trying to consume so, so much.
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So when I encountered Jeff Frost a few months back, and he told me what he was working on, I thought to myself “Well, that sounds admirable….how can I get involved?” Jeff was up to his normal shenanigans, spending weeks and months in strange, twisted places consumed by broiling temperatures, dust, periodically hostile locals; left alone with only the thoughts in his talented little head. And believe me, most of us are unprepared for what is floating in Jeff’s head. He’s an artist after all.

Jeff explained to me a new print idea he’d hatched, editions of one, 24×36, printed by Mac Holbert. “I’m in,” I said. “I want two.”

Let me back up.

I like Jeff. I like Jeff’s work. I admire his tenacity. I know A LOT of photographers who have yet to discover their inner fire, but he found his a long time ago. He is relentless, and again, he is working in places that are not easy to be, doing difficult time consuming work but yet he’s there, time and time again because he is possessed. I have great admiration for this. A lot of people stand around and wait for handouts. They wait for donations, or the perfect setup or situation. Jeff just makes work. He finds a way. His odometer was somewhere near 250,000 the last time I looked. These were HARD miles. Dusty. Four-wheel-drive access only. No air conditioning. A little puff of smoke with the turn of the key.

There is a madness to these things. So when it came time to get involved I bought prints. They were expensive, at least for me, and so was the framing. The prints are BEAUTIFUL. Loading them in the car and the person helping said “God these are cool.” True, they are. They are Jeff. Every minute of his childhood walking the hills of Utah with his grandfather, learning about cave paintings. Every second of his staring at the stars and learning what was where and why. Every second of his art training. Every MILE on that odometer is in these prints. I know because I went out there and watched. I got a little dust on my boots. Just once, but enough to know.

These prints aren’t going anywhere, including on the wall anytime soon. You see, I don’t have the space to hang them but I got them anyway. I don’t care if they lean against the wall until I move in the distant future. It was important to me because I know how important it is to Jeff. The career of an artist is a battle. What Jeff does, or any artist for that matter, is their business. I’m not condemning promotion. I’m just saying there is a big, big difference between tossing out a “Like” and really getting involved. So what is your time worth? What is your word worth? And before I go any further, in addition to respecting what Jeff does…I LOVE THESE IMAGES. I don’t buy to collect, although it’s kinda cool to know I’m the only one to have these two images at this size, I buy because I love the actual work. Same for my books. I buy things because I want to look at them, again and again, for YEARS at a time. I’m fortunate to be able to afford these, something I do not take for granted. I work hard. I spend hard. I felt my support would lead to tangible, real-world results, like gasoline, paint, cameras, food, etc. I don’t know for sure, but that was my intention. I’m only saying these things because I think most people have a good heart. They mean well, and they want to help, but these online support things of today are often times just noise that doesn’t swing the bar outside of the site itself and the corporations buying your personal information. When you buy direct, when you get involved in a concrete way, its spawns potential for real innovation, experimentation, failure and the breakthrough.

The real, tangible world is out in front of us, starting just beyond the screen. This is the world I choose to live in. It’s fantastic in ways beyond your dreams. Like it or not.

PS: My wife came home at midnight so tired she walked right past these babies without even a notice. She is going to scratch her head and say “What have you done now?”

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Jeff holding a print of an image I made of him on our first shoot. California desert, 2014.

My Kind of Wedding Photo: Three

Not sure what I can really say about this image.

The light, from the side, but with detail throughout.

The dress, again, one of the best I have seen, and I have to say her hands are what make this picture for me.

This is the moment before it all begins. The last second, the last breath before she leaves to pass through one of our most significant rites of passage.

Just one frame of this, all I need.

I meter in the middle, ambient, then compose and shoot one image. I know it when I see it how it will work, and how much I will like it, but I quickly block it out because I’ve got hours of work ahead of me.

35mm, all of the images I’ve included from this event were all done with the 35mm. This is an intimate yet quiet way of working. This photo, for me, although moments before the entire party begins to move toward the ceremony, is in essence a very quiet photograph.

In my mind weddings are mostly about quiet moments. Of course you have the dance floor but when the sun rises the following day, those dance images don’t really mean a whole lot. What means a lot is the idea that two human beings are about to be married, making that leap to be joined forever. It’s a big deal, but often times it is reflected in the quietest of moments.

I prefer to be a part of those moments but without active participation. If I participate it no longer is a reflection of reality, and reality for me is all I need. I’ve heard much talk today of posing, and that posing is “what everyone wants.” I guess I didn’t get that memo because it surely isn’t what I want.

I can’t tell the bride how to feel. I can’t tell how how to breath, what to think. She does it on her own, and it reveals itself in many ways. I’m there to watch, listen, anticipate and shoot.

I’m going to print this image, 16×20, and keep it for myself. A few others as well. I want to remember it.

My Kind of Wedding Photo: One

This is my kind of wedding photo.

Over the past few months I’ve been asked by a fair number of people to show more of my wedding work. If you are one of the few who have actually tried to FIND my wedding images you will see there are no public photographs online. That might seem odd for someone who calls himself a “wedding photographer,” but there is a method to my madness, and while I do call myself a “wedding photographer,” at the same time, I’m NOT a wedding photographer. Hopefully that is crystal clear. Now let’s move on.

Did I mention that this was my style of wedding image?

First, I’m in it. I know, ridiculous, egotistical, inconsequential, etc. I know, but this is a theme that has developed over the past few years. I don’t purposely set out to put myself in the images, but depending on the location I can’t HELP but be in the images, and when there are mirrors on the wall in a room with great light…it’s part of the process. The way I look at it, if I can add another layer to the photograph then so be it, and in this case that is exactly what I’m doing.

I see a lot of wide angle abuse in this cruel world of ours. I see the 16mm-35mm photographer racking that baby out to 16mm and taking in an entire scene, soft edges and distortion for all. The wide angle lens, although capable of making wide field of view images, is really, in my humble opinion, designed to create DEPTH in an image. Depth people, depth, think submarines.

When I do documentary work I basically walk around all damn day, in the heat, rain, mud, sand, concrete, looking for layered images, foreground, mid-ground and background, all with the right light. Do you have ANY idea how difficult this is? If you don’t, I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s REALLY frickin difficult, especially when you are looking for REAL moments in light that is gone in minutes. But this is the allure, waiting, watching, working and suddenly there it is and if you are not on your game that moment is gone forever and all your left with is that burning feeling in your gut and heart that you just weren’t good enough. Me, I use this as motivation. Sometimes it works, other times I’m reaching for my Pepto.

As you can see, there are at least four layers of depth in this image. I shot another frame of this, but I THINK this one is better. You have the lovely bride in the middle, far back. You have the film crew to her left, and look at the tall guy standing. His gesture is part of what makes this an image I like. He is there working, but he is also admiring how wonderful this moment really is. You can’t help but get caught up in the happiness that is enveloping the family, the bride, etc. The bride is smiling, the cameraman is smiling, etc. It works. (Remember this cameraman for upcoming post, both guys were super cool by the way.)

Then, you have the hair and makeup, the other girls getting prepared, and finally you end with little old me. What I’m forcing you to do is follow my eye through the photograph, but due to my focus being on the bride, hopefully you start there. There isn’t one point of interest, there are several, but they all play well together. And if you didn’t start with the bride, just keep it to yourself and play along. And if you are a Leica freak I know where you will start.

This was shot with a 35mm lens, which is the widest lens I had with me. I used to carry a 24mm, but I feel it is SO difficult to make great images with anything wider than a 28mm, just too much real estate to control. I couple the 35mm with a 50mm, my telephoto, and I’m done. What else do I need? And by the way, I’m working the same way, with the same INTENTION, with the 50mm. (When I use all caps I’m not yelling at you, I’m suggesting a sense of urgency, that’s all.)

The only thing I don’t like about this image…I’m busted with digital camera on my hip. It’s a Canon, 5D Mark II, a remarkable piece of engineering. But, there are reasons for why I had this, reasons that aren’t important for this story, but on that note, thanks to mi amigo Paul for backing me up on this one, short notice.

So I hope this image, this post was of some value, and in case you are saying, “What the H%$#, ONE photo?” take a deep breath and do some deep knee bends. Yes, one photo at at time folks. That’s how it works in my book. Real images don’t happen in motored sequences, in perfect light, with the bride holding a Tibetan prayer wheel with a unicorn riding a rainbow in the background. Real moments aren’t perfect, they are interesting and they land on your retina with impact, so they need to be digested ONE at a time.

I’ve got two more posts, yes single images, on the way, so stay tuned and thanks for tuning in.