School’s Out For Summer!

I’m shocked to find myself in the summer holidays. Where did the year go? My kids are now rattling around the house looking for things to do. If I were them I would want to spend my time in The Music Shed with David Morgan.

Instead I’m finding myself swamped with multifarious commitments and obligations making doing the things that I want to do a challenge.

Photography seems harder in the summer, trees are less interesting when they are fully clothed and blogging is taking a back seat.

How about you? Ready for a summer break?

Friday Inspiration: Peter Bohlin

When I get the feeling that I want to run away and join the circus, something that happens once or twice a year, I start looking at artist residency opportunities. My usual preference is for something in Japan. When I was looking at available residencies earlier this week I came across the program at Tusen Takk. Which in turn led me to the architect Peter Bohlin, who designed and built the house and studio space.

I have an appreciation for the ‘art’ in all disciplines and architecture is a particular love. Reading about Tusen Takk Peter Bohlin’s resume stood out – the architect behind the apple store and Pixar’s headquarters among many other projects.

Bohlin grew up in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania where his firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson has it’s headquarters. He trained at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY and Cranbook Academy of Art in Michigan before opening his architecture firm. He came to public prominence when he had the opportunity to partner with James Cutler on the design of Bill Gates Mansion.

To learn more about Peter’s approach check out the videos below – you will have to click on the link in the second one to be transported to YouTube.

Looking at Pictures: Orsa, Dalarna, April 12, 2013 – Jan Töve

I’m looking at Jan Töve’s ‘Faraway/Nearby’ book the image above stood out to me. I was surprised that this image wasn’t on his website as part of the portfolio for this work. Hence the wonky image above snapped from the appropriate page in the book.

What goes on in this building? At first glance I thought that it looked like a grain silo but then there seems to be more going on.

I’m still working on articulating why this caught my eye. Certainly the color palette – I like the muted red and especially the blue. I find that I’m drawn to blues like this more broadly. The graphic form is also something that appeals to me, both the shape of the building and also the negative space that it makes. The diagonal line to the upper right and lower left give the image a bit of movement. Finally the mix of textures is also appealing to me.

Why did Jan take this picture? What do you make of it?

Looking at Pictures

I was listening to an interview this morning with Paul Sanders of the website ‘Discover Still‘. Paul was formerly the picture editor for The Times newspaper in the UK. In his job he estimates that he was looking at at least 10-20,000 pictures a day and on the day of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding over 100,000 pictures. That is a lot of pictures!

As photographers looking at pictures, being able to read them and then talk about them is an important part of our development. It is important to be able to move beyond I like this and I don’t like that, even more so if we are to critique our own work or that of others with the intention of making stronger photographs.

I have been looking for a simple framework that will allow me to move further on my journey of looking at and reading photographs. I was excited to come across the workshop in the video below presented by Eileen Rafferty where she describes the system that she uses. Take a look at the video below and let’s talk about it. How do you look at pictures? Do you have a structured process? Is it useful for you to talk about what you’re seeing and feeling in images?

Is Something Better Than Nothing?

We’re rapidly heading towards the end of the school year here. With it will come celebrations and changes in routines.

One of the things the kids do in the local elementary school here is to have an end of year play. It was a remarkable effort – the kids were split into small groups, did their lines separately in front of a green screen and then the whole thing was cut together afterwards. I was impressed what the teachers were able to do.

Listening to my daughter though it sounded like there had been some grousing but parents that didn’t think it was up to standard. Putting my thoughts about that to one side, it made me think about whether producing something in challenging circumstances, if it’s not up to your usual standard, is worth it.

What do you think about that? I have mixed feelings and I think that there’s a place for it all – it’s about how you frame the conversation.

I think that we should ruthlessly curate our work to create a portfolio that we’re proud of. As we continue to work, rather than add and grow the body of work that we present to the world we should edit so that we are only showing our best work in our portfolio.

I think that there’s also plenty of room now to show work in progress, behind the scenes and other raw ideas. Personally this is something that I’m interested in and thing that it adds rather than detracts. Good fodder for blogs, posts/stories on instagram and other platforms. What about you? Do you share works in progress? Do you think it devalues the images in your portfolio?

Doing it on Purpose

My days are packed, I’m sure yours are too, which means that I often find myself wondering is this the most important thing that I can be doing right now. Prioritization is both a chore and something that I find painfully difficult because I don’t like saying no.

I was recently reintroduced to Ikigai a Japanese term meaning ‘having a direction or purpose in life, providing a sense of fulfillment and towards which they the person may take actions, giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning.’ Take a look at the graphic below for a sense of what were talking about but also realize that this isn’t quite ‘it’. See here for an explanation.

If you’re interested in digging into your own purpose check out this work sheet from Dandy People here.

Being clear about my sense of purpose has really helped remove some of the big items from my plate leaving me clear to focus on a smaller set of things where I can really make a difference. How about you? How do you make sense of the myriad of things that you could do?

Friday Inspiration: Paul Strand

Tir A'Mhurain, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, Paul Strand | Mia

One of the great things about being ‘self-taught’ when it comes to art and photography is that it is a choose your own adventure type of experience. I have, and continue, to explore the things that capture my attention. I will go on deep dives into particular areas until I hit the limit of my attention span and then move on to a different topic. That’s the great part. The not so great part is that this approach leaves large areas not just unexplored but untouched.

I recently rediscovered Paul Strand. I say rediscovered because I’ve certainly heard the name before but couldn’t think of a single iconic image of his when his name recently came up in conversation. I thought that I would spend a few moments this week to have a bit of a read and exploration and share a bit of that here. As an aside, the Metropolitan Museum has a good set of essays on the History of Photography, important movements and photographers including Paul Strand.

Strand was born in 1890 and died in 1976 and as such his photographic career spanned almost all of the 20th century. His early work was very much in the mold of his mentor, Edward J. Steichen – pictoralist – focusing on life in the city. Fascinating to realize that this was at the time when the use of cars were on the rise and so it would have been a period of great change.

Paul Strand: Portfolio Three | Aperture

His later work focused more on communities. I’m currently looking for a copy of ‘Time in New England’ to complement the book he created from his time in the Outer Hebrides – Tir A’mhurain: The Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

I was surprised, or rather amazed, at the quality of the reproductions in this book. Digging further I learned that Strand was committed to the print and worked hard to be able develop technical expertise that allowed him to capture images with good tonal range. Learn a little more about Paul Strand in the videos below.

Mid-Year Goal Review

It’s hard to believe that we’re in June already. Where did the first part of the year go? I’m taking a breath this week and with that comes a reflection on what I’ve managed to achieve in the first part of the year and set myself up for the second half of the year.

While the first part of the year has zipped on by I’ve had some successes and some misses.

In the successes category I’ve got a new computer and restructured my catalog and back-up strategy. I’ve started posting regularly on instagram and used some of those images to make a small handmade book. Which in turn gave me a project to learn more about InDesign. I’ve gotten clearer about my why for photographing, something that I have wrestled with and continue to wrestle with. The struggle is real! As a result of my regular posting on instagram I’ve photographed more, all with the iPhone, and found myself hitting the limits of the iPhone as a camera.

There are lots of things that I haven’t done of course. I had plans to photograph and compile a family cookbook. I started taking pictures for that but haven’t gotten very far with it. Perhaps for Christmas 2022? There are many other things that have been pushed to one side to make room for photography, blogging and instagram. As I look now towards the next 6 months I’m thinking about what do I want to achieve by the end of the year.

Elizabeth King tells us that ‘Process Saves us From the Poverty of Our Intentions‘ which really resonated when I first came across it and still does. Having a daily practice of creating is the only way for me to accomplish all of the different things I have up in the air.

It is also fitting because I’ve been thinking a lot about intentions vs goals. They can seem like the same thinking but are subtly different. I like to think that intentions describe a desired end state, The Why. Plans are where the process fits in and are the How. Goals are the things that will need to be achieved in order to get there – The What.

Still some work to do to nail down intentions for the second half of the year but it’d definitely coming into focus.

How about you – Goals? Intentions? Plans? None of the above but just see where the breeze blows you? I’d love to hear about your process.

Learning to See Life

It’s the semi-official start or summer here in the US today. Connecticut has a vaccination rate of 50% and the requirement for mask wearing indoors has been dropped in many businesses for those that are vaccinated. So the summer may look relatively normal. I hope it will be where you are too!

Beginning in January I posted on Instagram every other day as a challenge to make more images. It’s been fun, but also hard, to come up with something to post given the geographic restrictions. In the next week or so I will take a deeper look at what I’ve created, how I’ve created it and what I’ve posted.

At a higher level what I think that I’ve learned in the last 6 months is how to see life. To slow down and take time to recognize the every day things that I might otherwise have walked by in the hurry over everyday life.

Previously I had thought that photography happens on trips or when I had a special time set aside not as part of my regular day. This was the only way to hold back the chaos and make mental space to create. Now I know I don’t need this but can be creative in and around home and daily life. An important lesson to learn.

Friday Inspiration: Mary Daniel Hobson

I continue to be fascinated with how we can push photography to express our emotions and to explore our inner narrative. Mary Daniel Hobson’s work, that I recently found on the Datz Press website, resonated with this interest.

Hobson’s interest in photography started when she was 14. Like many of us, having the camera taught Hobson to see. Her undergraduate degree in art history was followed by a masters degree in photography and then time in France where she was able to dig into the work of Picasso and surrealist photographer. It was this experience that pushed her away from straight black and white photography in search of some other way to express her emotions.

Her work now combines photography with other objects to create layered collages and intimate still lifes. I found Hobson through the book ‘Offerings‘ which is a collection of 5 of her mixed media series – Evocations, Mapping the Body, Invocation, Sanctuary and Milagros – created between 1996 and 2018. Listen to Danny describe the work in the video below:

Listen to Danny describe her work and process in the interview below and learn more about her by checking our her website and instagram feed.