Friday Inspiration: Lori Vrba

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.

Going Deeper

I’ve been off on a tangent this afternoon instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing.

I was thinking about how much fun it is to know more about things – whether it be how to read a picture or how to make and taste coffee. The more we know the richer our experience is. It reminded me of the Richard Feynman anecdote about the beauty of a flower. Check it out in the video below and in the link here.

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?

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?

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.

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.

Your Potential is Limitless

Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right!

I’ve been having one of those weeks, as I often do. I’ve had a couple of things happen that have really made me challenge my assumptions, especially about what I’m capable of.

I think what you are capable starts with what you believe. So it’s definitely worth asking the question ‘what beliefs do I hold that prevent me from achieving what I’m capable of?’

Sometimes you can’t see this for yourself and need to talk this through with others. Sometimes you’re pushed out of your comfort zone and this changes your perspective.

Obviously just believing that you can is not enough. It requires work and effort to close the gap between your current reality and what you know you can achieve. There will be frustration and disappointment along the way but you have to stay the course and keep at it.