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?

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?

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.

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.

Managing Expectations

I continue to think about and torture my friends by asking them about making Art and making photographs specifically. What is it for? Who is it for?

There are so many ways that we can use our time why make art if it’s not putting food on the table? Why make art if there’s no waiting audience for it?

The answer that I keep coming back to is that for me, and I suspect many others, creating things is an internal drive. I just have to do it. The world gets out of balance without the ability to create things. Nice if there’s and audience for what we’re making but it’s not the reason for making it.

Where things get a bit wobbly is when you have expectations for what you are creating. Whether it’s the standard that you set for yourself for quality? Whether it’s the ‘likes’ on Instagram or the number of pieces sold. Focusing on these things as measures of how good the work is will inhibit your progress as an artist.

Instead it’s much better to focus on the process of creating. Thinking about how many days did I get out to photograph this week, this month, this year or how many photographs did I ‘finish’ – take through the edit process and print? Seems to me a much better way to measure our creative output.

Friday Inspiration: Sal Taylor Kydd

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.

Exploring New (To Me) Papers for Printing

I’ve been having fun with my printers in the last week. I made several prints of the tree in fog that I had taken recently trying out different papers.

Epson Ultrasmooth Fine Art, Epson Hot Press Natural, Epson Exhibition Fiber and Hahnemühle Fine Art Baryta. It’s hard to tell the difference between the papers in the photo above and video below.

For my prints I have previously preferred a Matte paper but for this image I really like the fiber based photo paper leaning towards the Hahnemühle Byarta. I know that there are general rules of thumb when it comes to choosing paper – glossy images do better on glossy paper – with the final choice being an aesthetic one. For me this image seems to have a bit more depth on the byarta paper, so I’m going to stick with it for now.

Are you printing your images? Do you have a favorite paper? I’d love to hear what you’re using and why.

Friday Inspiration: Josef Sudek

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.

Prague was occupied in World War II which meant that Sudek’s photography business ground to a halt. During this time he continued photographing mainly shooting from his studio. These images and more from later years can be found in the book ‘Josef Sudek: The Window of My Studio’.

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.

Learn more about Josef Sudek in the videos below.

Friday Inspiration: Masao Yamamoto

I was excited to see recently that a new edition of Masao Yamamoto’s retrospective book “Small Things in Silence’ will be published in May. It looks like it will have a new cover and additional images. This news made be go through my library and dig out the previous version of the book and take a look.

Masao Yamamoto was originally trained as an artist, studying oil painting with Goro Saito in Gamagori City, before turning to photography. As an artist his range of subjects include the nude, still life, landscape and wildlife. To these subjects he brings a painters eye and aesthetic, pushing the gelatin silver process by dyeing, toning with things such as tea distressing the final prints. The result is of course much more than a straight representation, achieving a more ethereal and poetic quality.

One of the striking things for me is the print size. Masao’s prints are typically small – small enough to be hand held. This way of finishing the work is the antithesis of the ‘immersive print’ movement. Prints so large that you can almost feel as though you could walk into them. Intimate prints beg for a different kind of engagement, a more personal one. A print that you can hold in your hand invites you to look deeper. Printing images like this makes the statement that this is only a small piece of a larger whole.

Check out the videos below to hear Masao talk about his work and see more on his Instagram page here.

The Gap – Be Kind to Yourself, Don’t Compare

I often fall into the trap, as I suppose many people do, of being generally dissatisfied with the work that I’m producing. I make images that I like just often enough to keep me engaged but it can be tough to keep going especially when we’re surrounded by an onslaught of great work on social media.

The guitar teacher Tomo Fujita tells his students ‘Be Kind to Yourself, Don’t Compare, Don’t Expect Too Fast, and Don’t Worry.’ Good advice for anyone whether they are trying to learn a new skill or to be creative.

The other advice that I turn to when I’m struggling is what Ira Glass said about ‘The Gap’ (see video 3 below). He’s describing the difference between what you know is good and want to be able to do and what you’re currently able to achieve.

Check out the illustrated video below.

The solution of course is to do a lot of work. Bang it out even if you don’t feel like it. Just keep going. You will get better, you will evolve and you will close the gap.

Checkout the full interview ‘Ira Glass on Storytelling’ in the following videos. This should be required viewing for anyone in the creative arts.