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.
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 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.
I am fascinated with the idea of how time can be represented in a still image. I return time and time again to David Hockney on this subject and recently came across a video that I hadn’t previously seen of him talking about this topic and thought that I’d share it here.
When I first came across Tokihiro’s photographs I was fascinated. A representative image is above – points of light or strings of light in the landscape. He calls these photographs ‘breath-graphs’ or photo-respiration with the points of light or lines representing his movement through the landscape.
From a technical perspective how did he do it? He uses a large format film camera to make long exposures – while the shutter is open Tokihiro uses a small mirror to shine a point of light on the lens and then moves and repeats the process. The videos below give some additional insight to the technique that Tokihiro uses.
I think it’s hard for anyone who spends even a little bit of time around the ocean to ignore the fact that there is a lot of trash in the water. Whether it’s stuff visibly floating or at the tide line it is there in larger quantities every year.
Mandy Barker grew up on the east coast of England and experienced the growth of plastic trash washing up on the beach in increasing amounts when she was young. This spurred her on to document it and bring it into the public conversation. Her work however is not just simple documentation but rather uses the images of the trash that she has collected to create images that resemble images of that natural world such as the image above.
I really enjoy seeing behind the scenes, to better understand how other people create. Mandy provides that with a look into her sketchbooks that she uses to develop ideas that she may then work up into a final piece. Take a look at her sketch books here.
Listen to Mandy talk about her work below and do check out her website and books.
I’ve been taking a deeper dive into the guitar again in recent months and have enjoyed the unabashed geekery from the ‘That Pedal Show‘ guys. I’ve also learned a lot over the course of the many episodes of the show that I’ve watched, although I don’t have the ears that Mick and Dan have to discern the nuance in the various amps and pedals that they discuss.
I wanted to share this particular episode with Ed O’Brien one of the guitarists from Radiohead because I really enjoy listening to creative people at the top of their game talk about their process. There are many parallels between the various creative arts that I think that we can learn from and apply to our work some of the ideas from other disciplines.
If you’re not interested in the guitar stuff skip ahead to 17:17 which is about where Ed starts talking about his process.