Logging My Days

Tempus Fugit

It’s amazing to me how quickly the days go by and how little I remember of them. A little bit like the conversation with teenagers at the dinner table – what did you do today? Nuthin… it’s so easy to let the day go by and not hang on to any of it.

This has been especially so in the last year where every day has felt like the same. To combat this I have gotten into the routine of logging my days. Nothing spectacular just a few notes at the end of the day to capture what I did. It’s a little bit Austin Kleon and a little bit bullet journal.

Austin Kleon’s Notebook Turducken

I also like to capture my energy level and focus and also what was the highlight for the day. I have a template that I made for Evernote that makes setting all this up pretty easy.

I find that on the days where I have taken a photograph I can reconstruct what I was doing, what mood I was in, what the weather was like and on and on effortlessly. The photographs immediately take me back. I can’t help but think that this is because I am usually very ‘present’ when I’m photographing while I’m thinking about what’s next, racing ahead through my day, when I’m not.

How do you slow time down to relish and remember your days?

Chapbooks As A Vehicle for Your Photography

Time to finish the thought about zines and chapbooks this week.

I had never heard about chapbooks until I came across them through Brooks Jensen. Chapbooks have a long history as a way for artists to self publish smaller bodies of work. This seems to mostly have been a way for poets to get their foot in the publishing door and to pave the way for publication of a larger collection.

With the advent of inkjet printers we photographers can get into the game too! I had said previously that for me the real difference between a pamphlet, zine and chapbook is really the production value. With a chapbook being at the top of the heap, requiring more hand work – i.e. sewing of the signature than a zine which I would typically expect to be stapled.

I have included below a flip through of a Brooks Jensen chapbook ‘Worlds Within Worlds’ which I think illustrates the chapbook concept nicely.

I really do like this idea of small handmade books as a way to get my photography out into the world and will be exploring these more in the coming weeks.

What Type of Photographer?

The Three Types of Photography That Appeal to Me and Their Intersection

While I was recently poking around on the Royal Society of Photography website I was curious to come across the genres of photography into which you could categorize your body of work for assessment. Of the eight categories only three really appealed to me:

Contemporary: Photography that communicates a visual realisation of a stated argument, idea or concept.

Landscape Photography: Photography that illustrates and interprets earth’s habitats, from the remotest wilderness to urban environs

Visual Art Photography: Photography which communicates a creative vision.

These are quite broad and give you a lot of space to work in. Never quite satisfied. And because all three appeal to me, I wondered about the intersections of these genres and what’s there.

I had fun putting together the graphic above to explore this a little bit. Also fun to learn a bit more about the history of photography in this way.

I think that ‘contemporary’ could be interpreted in two ways – it could mean ‘of our time‘, it could also mean ‘conceptual’. I’m going with ‘of our time’.

My new types of photography then are:

Contemporary Landscape – think Robert Adams or Edward Burtynsky

Fine Art Landscape – think Hiroshi Sugimoto or Michael Kenna

Contemporary Fine Art – I’m thinking of people such as Arno Rafael Minkkinen or those doing composites such as Jerry Uelsmann or John Paul Caponigro or what Jeremy Cowart is doing with photography, light projection and painting.

I still don’t want to be hemmed in by definitions but these seven categories – including contemporary fine art landscape – nicely encapsulate the world that I’m currently playing in.

How about you? Do you put a label on the kind of work that you’re doing? Does it help or hinder?

Chapbooks and Zines

Dark of the Moon

I’ve been enjoying an exploration of ideas for handmade artists books. I was started off down this rabbit hole by a ‘how-to’ video that I saw on the Peg and Awl website.

Whether stitched or stapled this kind of single signature book is the foundation of Zines, Pamphlets and Chapbooks. I have yet to find a good explanation or description that really differentiates between the three. My interpretation is that it’s the production value that really sets the three apart but even then that’s not cut and dried.

I had been thinking of zines as being a bit rough and ready, a home made DIY magazine. I had come across zines before in the context of music – fans diy efforts to put together a magazine that supports their local music scene or their favorite band.

A collection of zines from Another Place Press

Photo book publishers such as Another Place Press and Kozu Books are producing zines, using the term zine to separate these smaller books from their other books. For Kozu books this means perfect or pur binding rather than thread sewn. While the zines (Field Notes) from Another Place Press are folded and staple bound. Take a look below:

I definitely think that a short body of work could be printed and finished by hand in a similar way to these more ‘commercial‘ zines are. Looking forward to giving this a go in the next couple of weeks.

More about Chapbooks soon!

Feeling Bloated

For a variety of reasons my diet went south at the end of 2020. I indulged in making all the things I enjoy but I’m not supposed to eat – ice cream, pizza (I could live on these alone!), bread, cookies and cakes. A few months of that has left me feeling bloated. Happy but very bloated. Fortunately my choice of clothes can tolerate a 10lb swing in weight. I’m now following my version of the Fast800 diet and back into a zone my doctor would rather I be in.

Thinking about this and the bit of spring cleaning that I have been doing in my office has made me recognize that I need to trim back on some of the stuff.

I love books, so it’s always hard to consider getting rid of them. Low hanging fruit are the manuals for long gone versions of photoshop and light room. I like Scott Kelby’s 7 point processing system which is described for Photoshop CS3 (Wow – that was 2007) while a little dated the thinking is still sound. I’ll hang on to that one until the new edition comes out later in the summer but the others – Lightroom 4, Lightroom 5, Photoshop CS5 and more – will all have to go.

I have boxes and boxes of prints that I made when I was first starting out. While it kills me to do it, these also really need to go. I’m never going to use them for anything – the prints are my first attempts to make art prints, long before I met Bob Korn and had some foundational lessons in how to see color in a print.

I also have boxes of gear that need to be purged. I found recently that the speed lights I have didn’t work because the batteries in them had corroded. Oops! An expensive mistake. How much other stuff that I have that is in danger of going the same way?

How about you? How often do you have a good clear out? Where are you in the scale of minimalist to horder? How do you decide what to keep and what to toss?

An Alternate to the Folio – Boxes of Prints

Having written about folios as an alternative to a book I thought it was worthwhile pointing to another solution which is the box of prints.

I understand that historically these might have been matted prints but a trend that I am seeing emerge over the last few years is for photographers to offer boxes of prints to their audience. These prints can range from a representative collection of prints spanning a few years, the output from the previous year or just the most recent season.

I was exciting to receive Simon Baxter’s first box set of prints recently and thought I would show you how he pulled this project together as a case study for what excellent could look like.

It’s easy enough to to buy a photo box off the shelf pop your prints in and call it a day but Simon went beyond this. He has his logo embossed in the box lid, the lid itself is hinged and held closed with a small magnet – a nice touch! Inside the box is a colophon/text sheet describing the project and the package of prints. I was impressed – the small details took it to the next level. Take a look in the video below.

Check out more of Simon’s photography at his website here and take a look at his videos at his YouTube channel here.

Engaging with the Masters

In looking at the work of Peter Dombrovskis over the last few weeks I couldn’t help but wonder about how we engage with the work of the ‘photography masters’. My preference of course is through books. Based on my Peter Dombrovskis experience this is a challenge.

There are of course the exceptions. Access to Ansel Adams’s photographs are readily available through books and calendars. It’s even possible to get prints from the original negatives printed by Ansel’s assistant Alan Ross.

Not every photographer has the kind of machinery behind them that Ansel has. What about the others. Is there space for periodic ‘remastering’ of classic books in the way that classic records are remastered. A very different undertaking but certainly possible.

I feel like one of my favorite photographers, Eliot Porter, received this kind of remastering in 2012 when a new edition of
‘In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World’. was published to mark the 50th anniversary of the first edition.

The Getty Museum also published a collection of Eliot’s work at around the same time, ‘Eliot Porter: In the Realm of Nature’. This book rather than a new edition is a great survey of Eliot’s work and for me is reminiscent of the Peter Dombrovskis book I recently acquired.

I wonder how many of the masters will get this additional chance to reach a new audience through a book, how many will achieve something similar through the internet and how many will fade away.

Ways to Present Your Work

Having looked through the boxes of prints that I have it made me think about how we share our work with the world.

If you’re like me then one of the most exciting was to offer my work into the world is in the form of a book. To do this using the traditional offset printing route can be an expensive undertaking. Print on demand services such as Blurb or MagCloud are certainly a pragmatic alternative but the unit cost of the book can be a little steep.

I’ve been thinking about alternatives to the print on demand style books such as handmade ‘artists books’. More about that in coming posts.

An alternative to the book is the folio – a concept that I believe Brooks Jensen originated.

A folio is a collection of loose prints, with or without text, in an enclosure. I made some for my ‘Going Coastal’ project many years ago, take a look at the video below to get a better a sense of this.

I really like this idea – it’s a book like object, manageable in size and can be produced relatively easily. I think more of us interested in presenting our work as books should explore the concept.

Spring Cleaning

Wow – how did we get into April so quickly. It feels like winter zipped on by and now we are on the doorstep of the summer boating season. The arrival of spring is usually marked, domestically, by a period of spring cleaning. I rarely feel moved or motivated to pick up the duster but this year is different. After a year at home with no travel my office has gather some barnacles that need to be scraped off in readiness for the next part of the adventure.

I have indulged, splurged would be a better word, on a number of photobooks and art books in general that have yet to find their place on my books shelves. This is also an opportunity to rethink how the shelves are arranged and organized. I also want to get the paper I have for printing organized so that I know what I have and can find it!

Perhaps for once I will get everything off the floor and be able to run the vacuum around. Ha! Wonders will never cease.

Sketching Techniques for Artists – Alex Hillkurtz

One of the urban sketchers that I came across during the Christmas break was Alex Hillkurtz. Alex teaches a course called ‘Architectural Sketching with Watercolor and Ink‘ that you can find on domestika.org. I highly recommend it!

From his biography it seems that Alex has had a peripatetic life – he born in England, grew up in California and now lives in Paris. His sketching and watercolor work use and are informed by his work as a Hollywood storyboard artist.

Digging into Alex’s process more I was delighted to learn that he had a book recently published that details his approach.

Sketching Techniques for Artists: In-Studio and Plein-Air Methods for Drawing and Painting Still Lifes, Landscapes, Architecture, Faces and Figures, and More as the title suggest goes beyond the architectural sketching that I had enjoyed in the online course and provides a much broader foundation for the beginning artist. I particularly enjoyed the pages that are in light yellow. These are pages where it feels that Alex is talking to you as a friend and mentor, advice that helps provide some perspective on the particular lesson or example. Really great!

To find out more about Alex visit his website here and check out the video of the interview with him below.