Being ‘geographically restricted’ for the last 18 months or so has forced many of us to either stope making photographs or shift our thinking. For me that has been a deeper dive into subject matter that is close to home. What I have come to realize of course is that I would make the same photographs regardless of whether I had travelled 5 miles or 5,000. It’s just how I’m wired.
I’ve also been thinking about how people work close to home but make stunningly original work. One person I came across was Lori Vrba. Originally from Texas, Lori moved to North Carolina about 14 years ago. With that move came a shift in perspective and some really imaginative photographs.
I often think about the subject matter and process and how they inform one another. Does Lori make the images she makes because she uses film and traditional darkroom processes? Would she be off in a different direction if she were to switch to digital? I suspect we’re not likely to find out any time soon, the magic of film and the darkroom (her new darkroom!) pull too strongly.
Check out the flip through of Lori’s book ‘The Moth Wing Diaries’ below and see more of her work on her website here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been enjoying looking at Sal Taylor Kydd’s photographs in the last couple of weeks. Her work really resonate with me. Home, family and nature are themes that are very present in Sal’s work, the importance of these to me has become heightened over the last year.
I was fortunate enough to get a copy of her book ‘Just When I Thought I had You’ that combines images of her children on Deer Isle with her poetry. In many ways it reminds me of how my kids spend their summers – outside in nature catching frogs and toads and doing all kinds of other fun stuff.
Take a look at the book in the video below.
I was interested to hear Sal’s description of her father, a chemist who collected vintage cameras. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that she is now playing in the darkroom and making platinum palladium prints of her work.
I was also drawn to the fact that Sal is making books as a way to complete her projects. These are either with small presses such as Datz in South Korea or hand made by Sal. I think the book is a perfect vehicle to complete projects and especially so for the intimate subjects that Sal has turned her camera towards.
Check out more of Sal Taylor Kidd’s work on her website here and hear her describe her work in the video below.
Susan Bein is a teacher, graphic designer and photographer based in Portland, Oregon. I first came across her work on Instagram, although how I found her there I’m not sure. I think I was following links from one person to another to another. On Instagram Susan is @Wizmosis – check out her work!
In her bio she says:
I was an art kid who began photographing as a teen because I couldn’t paint or draw what I could see in my mind’s eye. I took classes from many of the photo giants of the time; Ansel Adams, Minor White, Aaron Siskind, and Paul Caponigro. I used black and white film and large format cameras.
What an amazing opportunity to learn from the masters of photography a veritable who’s who.
Susan drifted away from photography and into graphic design and teaching. Falling in love with photography again with the advent of the iPhone.
I love her iPhone work that is on Instagram and featured in her book Slightly Bonkers. The book is more magazine-like which gave Susan an opportunity to include a large number of the images that she made during the craziness that was 2020. I’m glad she did. Take a quick look in the flip through below.
Check out Susan’s presentation in the video below and learn more at her website here.
In my poking around on the web I recently came across the photography of Josef Sudek. Sudek was based in Prague and actively photographed until 1976 when he was 80. He had lost an arm to shrapnel in the First World War which makes his work produced with a large format camera all the more impressive.
Sudek is often referred to as the poet of Prague and I can understand that. I find his images to be quiet and contemplative. I get a sense of loneliness or melancholy from many of the images. Perhaps that’s just me. The images shot in and around his studio reminded of Saul Leiter’s photographs – largely because of shooting through the condensation on the windows.
David was not formally trained as a graphic designer but as a sociologist and taught high school sociology before making the leap into graphic design. This means he doesn’t have formal training but a great instinct for design and a willingness to go with what feels right.
This approach manifests itself in work that is free and unstructured. Work that has really challenged my notion of what is ‘correct’. It clearly has worked out for him. Starting with magazines such as Surfer and RayGun he’s worked with an ‘A’ list of clients as diverse as Microsoft and Nine Inch Nails.
David is an advocate of putting yourself into your work, an ethos that all of us should embrace since this is where the innovation lies.
Check out more of David’s work at his website here and get a sense of his work and the fun he brings to his work in the Ted Talk below.
I’ve been enjoying finding photographers that are new to me and exploring their work. I recently came across Gerry Johansson, a Swedish photographer known for his black and white photographs of what would otherwise be unremarkable places.
Gerry has a ‘geographic’ focus have produced books of work from photographs taken in America, Sweden, Germany, Antarctic and Tokyo. I like his thinking in that the book is really the tangible product of his work because exhibitions are too fleeting. Gone after a couple of weeks.
He clearly has a love of photography books as you can see in the video below of Gerry in his studio going through some of his photo book collection.
I wonder whether the books that he selected to discuss influenced his decision making about his own books which are often relatively small by some standards. I think that these smaller books, smaller prints and images call for a closer engagement with the work and for a more intimate experience.
Gerry talks about his work in the video below. The audio is in Swedish, if you don’t speak Swedish there are captions in English so that you can follow along with the conversation. Check out Gerry’s website here to learn more.
I’ve been thinking a lot about community recently – how do you build it and how do you sustain it. Even harder as we live through the challenges thrown our way because of COVID-19.
David and Clare Hieatt seem to have built a great community with the ‘Do Lectures’. I was flicking through the book ‘Stay Curious’ about the first 10 years of the Do Lectures in search of inspiration.
Clare and David started the Do Lectures with the simple goal:
‘To gather together the world’s Doers – disruptors and change makers, experts and pioneers – to share their stories, and encourage others to go and Do.’
Looking through the list of speakers by year I was curious to see when they hit the mainstream and ‘big names’ started to appear. I recognized some of the names – Tim Ferris right there at the start, David Allen of GTD fame in 2010 and others that I think I know from the Do Lectures themselves.
Rather than make the Do Lectures a huge circus they’ve stayed true to their core values and purpose, kept the event intimate and made a good deal of positive change in the world.
I couldn’t resist finishing up with the video by Andrew Paynter ‘A Visual Language’ about his journey as a photographer and the recommendation to check out his book Do Photo.