Australia Bound

It appears as if my dream of going to Australia might come to fruition. At least one version of one version of the dream might come to fruition. Years ago I came close to venturing down under but the trip was thwarted at the last minute. This time we are all systems go.
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This isn’t a vacation. Far from it. In fact, by my estimation we, meaning myself and the other Blurb crew members, will do something like twenty or twenty-one events in about a fifteen-day time period. If this sounds crazy it actually is, so the description “crazy” is accurate. I know this because a few short months ago we embarked on a similar venture which took us to four cities in less than two weeks with five events in each city. At one point in the ordeal I did ten hours of presentations in one day. That IS a bit much, but like anyone who has been training for a while, you get used to it. And, I think being in front of people, showing them examples of what you can do with the tools of the Blurb platform, is the best thing I do for the company.
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Many people know the Blurb name, many have used the system, but few have fully explored the potential of the platform and the range of possibilities. This is where I come in. There is nothing better for me than to hear a seasoned photographer say “Man, I would have never thought of that,” after I offer advice, direction or suggestions. We are all products of learned behavior, whether that means learned in the direction of our friends, family, beliefs, or in the direction of being photographers. I know I was, and I suffered under the system before I realized the system didn’t feel right and I needed to invent my own.
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Over the past few weeks I’ve been creating a new presentation called “The Tools of Modern Storytelling,” which is a look at one project and the multiple lives that project lives via the multitude of modern formats at my fingertips. Book, magazine, short-film, PDF, Rich-Media, as well as the channels in which these formats take flight. The traditional channels of information exchange are changing, and in many cases, limping along(Which I think is just normal change). If you are professional, have training, create unique work and have the trust of those following your work, then why do you need those traditional gatekeepers of information? There are reasons why you need them, or would want to work with them, but you need to determine your plan first and we are no longer limited by the system.
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At the end of this trip I’m hoping to drop everything, except my camera, and head out into the bush for as long as I can get away with. I can’t go to Australia and NOT photograph something, someone, anything, anywhere. The images here are a few from my new presentation, just random things that all fit together in my twisted little mind. I know the image of my bag and contents will cause heart palpitations amongst some people, but just know within arms reach of my laptop are several different cameras, all of which I use for specific reasons, but this post is about Australia, storytelling and the potential of the unknown not what is in my bag.
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What is so interesting for me on a trip like this is the fact I get to branch outside of photography and work with designers, bloggers, students and also get to connect with the festival world. I think there are no less than THREE major festivals going on in Australia at this time, Head On, Reportage and Analogue/Digital. I’ve already begun getting emails from photographers from all over the world saying, “Hey, I’m going to be there too.”
I have much, much, much to do before embarking on this little voyage. Several of the presentations I need to do are more about my photography than my job, which is new for me. I don’t normally lecture, talk, speak about my photography, so I need to invent new and interesting presentations that are outside of what people are expecting. I’m always amazed at how much work these are and how much time they actually take to produce.
I have a sinking suspicion I will be in Australia JUST long enough to wet my appetite for more, more, more. Hey, I’ll take what I can get. My goal, at some point in the distance future, is to ride my bike across Australia. This is, of course, after I have ridden it across the United States and from Alaska to Patagonia. The odds of this actually happening are SLIM but a guy can dream.

If you know people in Australia who would be interested in these events please alert them via the links below. The great thing about our plan is that regardless of your skill level there is something, potentially multiple things, that are suited to your needs.

Melbourne
Photo Safari – http://melsafari.eventbrite.com
Blurb-Meet-up – http://melblurb.eventbrite.com
Tools of Modern Storytelling – http://meldesign.eventbrite.com
Pro Photo Books workshop – http://melpro.eventbrite.com

Brisbane
Photo Safari – http://brisafari.eventbrite.com
Blurb-Meet-up – http://briblurb.eventbrite.com
Tools of Modern Storytelling – http://bridesign.eventbrite.com
Pro Photo Books workshop – http://bripro.eventbrite.com

Sydney
Photo Safari – http://sydsafari.eventbrite.com
Blurb-Meet-up – http://sydblurb.eventbrite.com
Tools of Modern Storytelling – http://syddesign.eventbrite.com
Pro Photo Books workshop – http://sydpro.eventbrite.com

And in case you need a little description….here you go.

Photo Safari: Urban and mobile photography enthusiasts and bloggers will be led by professional photographers on a free, three-hour photographic exploration of each city’s visual beauty.

Tools of Modern Storytelling: Professional designers and creatives are invited to breakfast to learn new ways in which creative minds and businesses are leveraging tools and technology to tell stories in both print and digital formats.

Pro Photo Books Workshop: Suitable for aspiring and professional photographers, Blurb’s most popular three-hour workshop provides a complete picture of the book-making process within the context of a quickly changing photography and publishing industry.

Blurb Meet-up: All interested book-makers and photography book-lovers are invited to check out an array of beautiful Blurb books and share a drink with the Blurb team and other like-minded DIY creatives.

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Cleveland Musuem of Art: DIY Photobooks

So I have this book called “On Approach.” I call this book, “The book that won’t die.” Technically, everything about this book is wrong, at least in terms of traditional thinking when it comes to the photographic book. It’s only 5×8. It has eleven photos total. It is only twenty-two pages. The paper is a 60-pound ivory paper never intended for photographs, and I purposely put critical or key elements in the gutter. Everything is wrong. The only problem is, for whatever reason, the book works.

This book has literally traveled the world. It’s sold in key, high-end photo bookstores. It’s in a variety of really high-end collections, and it has garnered me, BY FAR, more accolades than any other book I’ve done.
The saga continues in a good way. As we speak, this book is part of the “DIY Photobook” show at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I applaud the museum in dreaming up and fulfilling this show, and I’m truly thrilled to be part of it. I recently received the catalog that accompanies the show and was pleasantly surprised to see one of my images.

If ANYONE ends up at this show I would love a short report. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make it and it’s driving me crazy. I’ll be everywhere else this fall but have no plans for Cleveland.

The moral of the story is not about me, or a show, or a museum. The moral of this story is to take our learned behavior, note it, and then move on and make something new, unique, interesting or different, especially when it comes to books. There is an entire world outside of the monograph and it’s our job as the “creatives” to explore.

Stephen Schaub

Recently I’ve found myself in contact with Stephen Schaub a US based photographer who if I had to describe in one word would be “Productive.” But I can’t describe him in one word so I’m going to add “creative,” “driven,” “technical” and “diverse,” and just because it’s Saturday morning and I’m in a good mood I’m going to add “someone who really seems to love and understand the very fiber of photography.”

Stephen ran a site called “Figital Revolution” which I don’t believe is still in operation. This site was the ONLY site I saw that made something interesting out of the film/digital debate, and it did so by NOT pointing fingers or drawing lines in the sand but rather by celebrating the GREAT things about each.

Stephen shoots everything, prints everything and experiments with everything. He operates out of a mountain lair somewhere deep in the hills of one of those states I can never figure out on the eastern or northern side of this slab we call the US.

Schaub Opening Preview Peter Marcelle Gallery from Stephen Schaub on Vimeo.

He has also recently begun to play with Blurb, and when I say “play” I mean he attacked with a plan and a massive amount of focus. I honestly expected nothing less, but he has taken it to a very high level. I’m not kidding. It feels like I JUST spoke to Stephen about Blurb and this is what I now have to look at….AUTHOR’S PAGE.

I barely know Stephen, met him once in person while be both fell pray to our bag fetish, but what I absolutely love is the fact he just does it. He does his own thing. People think I’m driven and productive but I’m the Chevy Impala (I actually love the Impala) to his 911 Turbo.

In an age of homogenization it doesn’t appear that Stephen is waiting for anyone or anything, he is just finding things and doing things. I can’t tell you how rare this is. It shouldn’t be that rare but it is. We are all creatures of learned behavior, tradition and what’s been done before, but still among us are those that continue to look around the proverbial corner.

What a surprise…he has an upcoming show which you can see a preview of in the film above.

Art Brewer SVA Show

Photographer/Artist Art Brewer is someone I’ve written about before, and someone I will surely write about again. I’m a big fan of cool people. I’m a big fan of good photography, and I’m a big fan of photographers who have poured their lives into creating an archive on one particular topic or subject. Art is all the above. Recently, I was able to stop by Art’s studio to check out a few of the images he is printing for a MASSIVE show at the School of Visual Arts in New York. This show will highlight over 150 individual pieces from Art’s collection on the history of modern surfing.


At 43 I finally feel like I found a subject I can work on the rest of my life. Starting now I’m way behind the game. Art has been covering modern surfing for over thirty-years and his archive is one of the greatest ever compiled. Years ago, when I worked for Kodak in Southern California, I realized there was an opportunity for me, and for the company, in working with the global collection of surfing photographers. Problem was I didn’t know a single surfing photographer. So, being a good corporate detective, I called around. “Talk to Art Brewer,” was the response I heard over and over again. Not only was Art open and receptive to learning what Kodak had to offer he also became my link to the entire surfing photography world.

What I love about Art’s archive is the range of work. Browsing the work you see every format imaginable from 35mm to 6×6, 6×7, 6×9, 4×5, point and shoot as well as an odd assortment of other formats and techniques. When you walk into Art’s studio you find yourself frozen and wanting to simply stand and look. Big prints and artwork adorn the walls, an incredible range of oil, ink and emulsion. And every time I go there is something new to feast my eyes upon.



And as you can see by the above images, Art is also a bookmaker. And like all things Brewer, Art publishes a range of books. From his Masters of Surf Photography monograph to his two-volume Blurb masterpiece on Bunker Spreckels you never know what he is going to come up with next. And if that’s not enough…he teaches as well, which you can see in the film below. I was going to write that Art is a great person for young photographers to study, but I’m going to amend that. Art is a good person for any photographer to study. There are certain people who are creatively restless. They are creative searchers, people who run the river of life and can’t wait to see what lives beyond the next bend. Art is one of those people.

Photo LA

Okay, how about the world’s latest review. In modern attention span terms, Photo LA happened sometime about 38 BC. But, why not show some photos and give you my reflections? That is the kind of gal I am.

All I heard about Photo LA were complaints. But, don’t let that sway you. This is par for the photo-course these days. People complain. Heck, I LOVE complaining. But I’m not gonna do it here. Why? Cause I thought Photo-LA was just fine. But let me preface this by saying I always temper my expectations when it comes to events of this nature. I think the safest thing to do is remind yourself that art-photography is perhaps first and foremost the BUSINESS of art-photography and if you know this going it, you will be far happier and can just roll with the work.


Do we really expect to walk in and be blown away by image after image? No. After all, great photography doesn’t happen that often and I think a show like this is a reminder of that. There WAS great work at Photo-LA, and I’m ONE person with ONE point of view, so if you factor this by the range of people and views, I think there was actually a pretty solid base of work. Again, this is a business people. It doens’t matter that our heart is attached to this because it is beautiful, visual and sensory. It doesn’t matter. A gallery has overhead and it will have an impact on what goes on those blankity white walls.


Thank God the over-sized print revolution seems to be coming down EVER so slightly. People still print the vast majority of work far too large, but we do have the technology now, and larger prints CAN equate to more money so I get it. At Paris Photo a few years back, in the height of the madness, there were literally 20-footers gracing nearly every booth. It was like billboard advertising at arms length. BLAH. (On a sidenote, the print with the largest crowd, BY FAR, an 8×10, Cartier Bresson.)
Now, the good stuff. I thought there was some very nice work at Photo LA. Not a HUGE amount, but I didn’t expect to see a huge amount. I’ve been going to this event for years, and I typically have about the same experience each time. And let me as you this….if there was only a SINGLE image that really struck me…isn’t that enough? I think so. But, there was more than one image I liked.

There were at least three galleries from China. I love this. China, as we all know, is a powerhouse in nearly every regard, so it was great to see the Chinese representation. I also really liked Riflemaker Gallery from London. The guy in their booth was super-cool, and they had a nice show of the darkrooms in London, called “Analog.” I can’t tell you how nice it is to run into a normal, nice, cool person at a gallery. And as we all know…that isn’t always the case. Ego in the art-photo world can be off-the-chart at times, so meeting this guy was a refreshing event.

This was the year of the book. At least in my mind. The publishers just killed it. Great books. Interesting books. Editioned books with print, etc. I seriously thought of stealing a credit card and just maxing it out. Then I realized I’d have to steal a truck to transport all the books, and that put ended my grand plan. But really, the publishers, some selling books over $10,000, really made a good show.

The only negative things I can say is that there was a fair amount of CLEARLY derivative work, and I mean derivative of work that came out TWO years ago. Again, photographers chase the market, as we all know, as do the galleries. I get it, but it is still painful to watch.

Oh, one more thing. Where the heck are the gallery owners under 40? I didn’t see a SINGLE one? What gives? The economy? The realization that the market is extremely difficult to enter? If you have any ideas let me know.

My final thought comes to me courtesy of the Peter Fetterman Gallery, an LA based operation. I don’t know him so don’t go thinking he and I spoke about this. He just inspired my observation. The photo-art world seems to be in need of reinvention. The vast, vast majority of spaces in the show are all white. Okay, I get it. But, Fetterman has a RED walled gallery. Each year I walk the space, and when I turn a corner, BOOM there he is. He represents Salgado, so I have a soft-spot anyway, BUT my point with this is the simple fact that his booth looks different. I think, with this concept in mind, if I lived in the photo-art world, I’d be looking to turn a corner.

I’ve run into so many people over the years that have said, “You know, I find galleries so quiet and sterile they kinda turn me off.” And folks, the people saying this aren’t lobotomy patients they are smart, fun, educated folks. So I started thinking about it. It’s true. The gallery world, in many cases is kinda quiet, sterile, etc. This is why I think reinvention is ripe for the taking. Create a space that isn’t so…well, cold and make something that sucks people in like a buffet on a cruise ship. I heard a museum director say “People who go to clubs don’t go to galleries, and people who go to galleries don’t go to clubs.” His point was that his space, his museum, intended to draw both crowds. I like that. I think it’s time to share art-photography with people who don’t know what it means. Like me you might be saying………