Friday Inspiration: Robert Adams

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I first came across Robert Adams when I was looking for the answer to the question ‘why do people photograph’ and found his book ‘Why People Photograph‘ and then later I came across his book ‘Beauty in Photography‘. These small books are collections of essays covering topics such as collectors, humor, teaching, money and dogs and discussions of Photographers such as Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Laura Gilpin, Judith Joy Ross, Susan Meiselas, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Minor White. I have enjoyed reading these books and get something new out of them as I reread them with a deepening understanding of photography as an art.

Why People Photograph must have been on my bookshelf for almost as long as I’ve been taking photographs, almost 10 years now, and yet it was only last year that I realized that Robert Adams can not only write but he is a well know photographer too! How many other holes in my appreciation of the history of photography could you drive a truck through?

I’m at my beginning of my exploration of his work, and I’m doing so by starting with his most recent projects first. Photographs taken around his home near the Oregon coast of the forests, coastline and meadows, very different subjects to the photographs of the American west increasingly spoiled by the urban sprawl that brought him to prominence. This work can be found in ‘The New West‘ a new edition of which will come out in the summer.

Check out the interview of Robert Adams on Oregon Public Broadcasting here and the interview below from 2006 that supported his exhibition ‘Turning Back‘. Also below is a profile of Adams by Joshua Chang, curator of the retrospective exhibition ‘The Place We Live‘.

http://video.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365178810

ROBERT ADAMS – JEU DE PAUME from Terra Luna Films on Vimeo.

http://video.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365178810

Looking Back, Reaching Forward

I’ve been taking a dive into the world of JMW Turner in recent weeks. I still have not managed to see the new film although hopefully I’ll get to see that soon.

I’ve seen Todd Henry of ‘Accidental Creative’ fame discuss a model that describes the phases of creative growth – discovery, imitation, divergence and crisis. The phases are just what you would expect: A growing awareness of an interest in an area; copying of the masters; making work that is their own; and finally a recognition that to move forward the old techniques will need to be abandoned.

There are clear echoes of this pattern of growth in Turner’s work. A major inspiration for Turner was Claude Lorrain, born Claude Gellee, 1600-1682, and sufficiently famous to be known just as ‘Claude’. John Constable described Claude as ‘the most perfect landscape painter the world ever saw’. The book ‘Turner Inspired – In the Light of Claude’ explores the relationship between the work of Turner and that of Claude from a century or more earlier and provides many examples of Turner’s recreations of Claude’s images.

There is a distinct evolution in Turner’s style with time. His early work closely resembles the paintings by Claude but slowly he drifts away from the precision embodied by Claude to something much looser. Eventually of course Turner’s work becomes very loose indeed, perhaps the result in his passing into the crisis phase?, which gave us work that was in turn to inspire generations of artists to come including the Impressionists and the case is made in ‘Turner, Monet, Twombly’ that the reach of Turner extended to Cy Twombly.

In this dive into the work of Turner I was struck by some of the comments on his use of color and in particular incorporation of ‘new’ colors into his work that gave it a sense of vibrancy bordering on gaudiness. As an earlier adopter of new paints that set him apart from his contemporaries I couldn’t help but wonder whether Turner over did it a bit with these paints in the same way that early adopters of HDR technology did initially (and still do in some cases!).

I do find it amusing that for someone like me who has largely ignored history I’m finally coming around to the recognition that there is much to be learned from those that have gone before us. Spending time looking back at the work of the masters can indeed help to propel us forward. Or as Mary Oliver put it in ‘A Poetry Handbook‘:

‘To be contemporary is to rise through the stack of the past, like fire through the mountain. Only a heat so deeply and intelligently born can carry a new idea into the air.’

Friday Inspiration: Camille Seaman

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It never ceases to amaze me how small our world now is. That we can easily get on a plane and travel to almost anywhere, even some of the most remote places in the world, is something that continues to fascinate me. Many of my photographer friends have been to the polar regions of the world, particularly Antarctica, and the discussion between them is when they are going to go back.

Being in the presence of ‘big ice’ has yet to capture my imagination in a way that pulls me to the ends of the earth. Until the time that it does I’m happy to enjoy the work of photographers such as Camille Seaman who have spent time in these places.

Camille is part Shinnecock Native American Tribe and is using photography to explore her connectedness with the world, which in many ways is an extension of the things that she was taught by her paternal grandfather. Her 10 years of visits to the Arctic and Antarctic have been collected into a book ‘Melting Away‘ that is well worth spending some time with.

See Camille talking about her polar project ‘The Last Iceberg’ in the TED talk below. Also see Camille share a few few thoughts on her process as well as a longer talk that gives more detail on her background as well as her projects.

Embracing Constraints

It feels to be that I have a very delicately balanced existence.  It doesn’t take much to throw everything out of whack.  A demand for extra time in one area of my life has repercussions everywhere else, leaving me scrambling to pick up the pieces.  Of course if the kids are sick, my wife is sick or I’m sick, all of which has happened essentially continuously for the last month, chaos ensues.  All very much part of life’s rich tapestry and something to be embraced rather than to get frustrated about.  He tells himself through gritted teeth.

The ability to know what to do and when in order to be maximally effective is one of the ultimate aims of David Allen’s GTD methodology.  An updated version of the GTD book came out this week and I’m very much looking forward finishing working my way through it.  While it looks very familiar but also with enough new stuff to make it worth taking a look at.  The last full chapter deals with GTD mastery, what does it look like when you’ve got this GTD thing down?  It looks like mastery in most other fields, a freedom to add value without getting bogged down in the mundane.

While I get back to good health and back on track bear with me.  If you’ve commented here and not seen a response I apologize.  I can assure you that I read the comment and will respond soon.

 

 

Friday Inspiration: Julieanne Kost

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As I look around for ‘how to’ resources for lightroom and photoshop one of the people that I continually come back to is Julieanne Kost. Julieanne is the Principal Digital Imaging Evangelist for Adobe Systems, which means that she spends much of her time on the road speaking at conferences and teaching how to get the most out of lightroom and photoshop. I recently worked through her ‘Advance Photoshop Layers‘ course on the CreativeLive site which was excellent. She’ll be teaching during the upcoming Photoshop week on CreativeLive which will be worth checking out.

Many of the examples that Julieanne uses during her demonstrations are from her personal projects. Her book Window Seat is quite interesting and now available as a digital book. Well worth a look. It’s the photoillustrations, such as the one above, that of course really capture my attention given my interest in assembling images from parts. Check out the videos below to see more of how these are constructed:

Friday Inspiration: Danny Gregory

The Art of Breakfast: a film about Danny Gregory from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Being able to draw always seemed to me to be something mystical, reserved for the special few, when I came across Danny Gregory’s book ‘Everyday Matters‘ I was sucked in – it intersected two things that I was interested in teaching yourself to draw as an adult and living intentionally everyday. Since 2007, when I first came across the book, I’ve followed the ups and downs of Danny Gregory’s life through his blog and his books. His output shows that it is possible to have a very active publishing career while also balancing the demands of a family and busy career – Danny was a copywriter and creative director for an ad agency for a number of years.

Everyday Matters‘ was a reaction to the accident that Danny’s wife had on the New York Subway that left her paralysed from the waist down. It’s a sad story that concludes in his book ‘A Kiss Before you Go‘.

Since ‘A Kiss Before You Go‘, Danny has left his job at the ad agency and started ‘Sketchbook Skool‘ which looks like fun and lets him work with many of his friends, friends whose work he’d previously shared in his books of pages from their sketchbooks.

For more from Danny including his first feelings on receiving ‘A Kiss Before You Go, check out the videos below:

Jane LaFazio interviews Danny Gregory from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Danny Gregory at VCU – part 1 from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Danny Gregory at VCU – part 2 from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Danny Gregory at VCU – part 3 from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

A Kiss Before You Go: First feelings from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Friday Inspiration: Wendy Macnaughton

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I first came across Wendy Macnaughton’s work through her venn diagrams, such as the one above. I was sucked in by both the humor and her minimalist, colorful style. Once I started paying attention I recognized her work in lots of places – funny how that works isn’t it?

Macnaughton describes herself as a graphic journalist, a term that I’d never heard of before but it does make sense if you explore her work beyond the venn diagrams and other lettering work that she’s done. She tells the story of the people that she interacts with through her drawings, marrying these with snippets of conversations that she’s had with them and calling the result ‘Meanwhiles’. I was pleased to see that her earlier collection of ‘Meanwhiles’ from the San Francisco Public Library, one that I had unsuccessfully tried to get a hold of, was collected into her recent book ‘Meanwhile in San Francisco’. Well worth a look.

Watch Wendy talk about her work and see her drawing in the videos below.

Wendy MacNaughton: Listen to Strangers from 99U on Vimeo.

Amanda Palmer’s – The Art of Asking

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I was supposed to be getting on with organizing my life this weekend. Instead I inhaled Amanda Palmer‘s new book ‘The Art of Asking‘. It’s a compelling read for any ‘maker’, anyone who’s interested in connecting and making a difference with what they do.

I was vaguely aware of The Dresden Dolls, Palmers early 2000’s band but it wasn’t until I heard Seth Godin’s Domino Project speak about her enormously successful Kickstarter campaign that I started paying attention. The kickstarter campaign let to a TED talk which led to the book. The TED talk is a good place to start – check it out below and let’s talk some more.

The book covers the story in the video and so much more. It charts Palmer’s career arc, her intersection with Neil Gaiman and then life beyond. From the 8 foot bride in Harvard Square to Kickstarter sensation. Through it all you get the sense that she hasn’t really changed much, grown and matured most certainly, but the thread of wanting to connect at a deep level seems to be a constant.

I’m looking forward to rereading the book to see what I get out of it on a second run through but from the first reading what stuck with me were a couple of things. First it’s amazing to me how someone who appears to be really extroverted can be so wracked with insecurity. Perhaps everyone creating things that are important to them and putting them out in the world have these doubts, but I was shocked.

Of course the big theme for the book is asking, the exchange that occurs between artist and community or audience. Why is it so difficult for some of us to ask for things – help, money etc. and equally why is it so hard for some to accept help, money etc. when it’s offered? If you follow Palmer’s career she’s spent almost her entire professional life participating in this exchange – asking, giving and receiving. Putting herself out there, being vulnerable and trusting. By doing this time and time again, being authentic and showing up, she’s built an enormous following.

A role model for anyone who wants to develop a supportive community who could sustain their creative work? I think so.

Get the book here and follow Amanda and Neil on twitter they are very active and there’s always something interesting in their twitter fields. Finally check out the interview of Amanda by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings below. It’s excellent.

Friday Inspiration: Doug Eng

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One of the things that I continue to struggle with is ‘why do I photograph’?

There are of course many reasons to photograph, having your photography being in service of something larger is awesome, being able to tell stories with your images and to capture a moment in history is clearly important.  Doug Eng is someone who does this incredibly well.

Doug is a Florida native with a background in structural engineering and software programming who works in both the natural and urban landscape. In fact some of his projects have involved bringing the natural landscape into the urban environment.

For an example of this work check out the ‘Beyond the Facade’ project where Doug installed huge prints on the east facade of the old Barnett Bank building. The behind the scenes section (click here) gives a fascinating look at how art on this scale is created and handled.

I was fortunate to recently hear Doug present his project ‘On Fertile Ground’ which captured images of the last property of his family’s truck farm providing a record of his family’s successes for future generations. I was profoundly impacted by these photographs, they made me really feel that the farm stopped while the world moved on.

I came out of Doug’s presentation thinking that everyone with a camera, which means almost all of us now, should spend some time documenting their family history.

‘On Fertile Ground’ is currently on show until December 5 th, 2014 at the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery. Check out the video of Doug describing this project below.

Crates and Barrels

How Building Daily Routines Can Help You Create More

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“Inspiration Is for Amateurs—The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work”

Chuck Close

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how small changes in habits can have a profound impact in what we are able to achieve across all aspects of our lives.

Mason Currey‘s book ‘Daily Rituals‘ is an interesting collection of observations of the daily routines of many of the great creators and provides an interesting insight into the lives of people who need to develop a body of work. What is apparent across almost all of these examples is commitment to showing up and getting to work. Not too much lolling around waiting for the muse to visit, just simply a matter of putting in the time whether they feel like it or not.

This attitude of ‘show up and do the work’ makes me realize that doing something every day, regardless of how small it is will could eventually yield substantial results. The simple act of writing 500 words everyday will mean that you will have written over 25,000 words for the year. Not too shabby.

A photo a day projects were very popular a year or two ago and seem to be unsustainable to me but doable for a month or one photo shoot a week for a year would both result in a body of work that you could do something useful with.

Changes in other parts of your life would also mean potentially useful changes. 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up had a big impact on my weight loss. Meditating before your day gets going or journaling at the end of the day could lead to more positive changes in your outlook and getting more done.

What small change could you incorporate on a daily basis that would move you in the direction of your goals?

Jump to minute 19:00 of the video below to hear Mason Currey talking about his book ‘Daily Rituals’