Wherever You Go There You Are

I doubt that I am unusual in having an almost continual running conversation with myself.  One of the topics of conversation with myself when I travel is is to manage expectations for the photographs that I’ll create.  ‘You take you with you wherever you go’, I told myself.

Playing with that phrase over the weekend I came to ‘Wherever you go there you are’, which felt too familiar for me not to have seen it somewhere else.  A quick search came up with the most likely place that I’d seen it before – the title of Jon Kabat-Zinn‘s book of the same name that deals with mindfulness.  Other sources were fun though, particularly Buckaroo Banzai, a cult film from the ’80’s.

The chapter in Kabat-Zinn’s book that is titled ‘Wherever you go there you are’ the problem that I was coaching myself through is described perfectly.  Namely this – we have a tendancy to flee from things, if it’s not good here it will be better there.  The problem of course is that many of the things that we’re running from have an uderlying root cause and that is us.

Not being happy with the photographs you’re taking at home doesn’t mean that the photographs you make when you travel to an exotic location will be too much different.  They will inevitably have your signature all over them, they will be you, that it if you’re doing anything right at all.  For me this means that I won’t suddenly channel Michael Kenna or Michael Levin when I travel to Hokkaido.  I may go to the same places and see the same things but the photographs will be different, either dramatically or subtly.

In fact you should be striving to take ‘you’ photographs, those photographs that are a unique expression of how you see the world, and being doing that whether you’re at home or not.  I, perhaps we, need to get comfortable with that, own it and milk it for all it’s worth. 

Friday Inspiration: Rolf Horn

Rolf Horn‘s work caught my eye when I was recently poking around on the Soulcatcher Studio website.  I had been looking at the Paul Caponigro images that they have displayed there and decided to spend a few moments looking at the work of some of the other artists that they represent.

Rolf’s square black and white images, often long exposures, are reminiscent of the work of the other photographers that I enjoy – especially Michael Levin, David Fokos and of course Michael Kenna.  I perhaps shouldn’t have been surprised, although I was, to find that Rolf had worked as Michael Kenna’s assistant for a while.

Like Kenna, Rolf uses medium format cameras (Hassleblad) and film for his work, producing silver gelatin prints.  He is very much committed to this mode of photography, in fact if his comments regarding digital photography in this Black & White article when taken at face value are quite inflammatory – ‘thems fightin’ words’ as we would say where I grew up.  In addition the Black & White magazine feature, Rolf’s photography has been featured in a number of other magazines.  A full listing can be found here.

Rolf’s website is well worth exploring, there a large number of his completed bodies of work to dig into.  What I find interesting is that some of the portfolios date back to the early 1990’s and so as you look through it’s interesting to track Rolf’s aesthetic evolution.  His most recent work has a quiet energy that I particularly enjoy and I have to say it – his snow monkey picture (below) is one of my favorites to date.

Friday Inspiration: Michael Levin in Japan

I first came across Michael Levin‘s work last year when it was featured in George Barr‘s book – Why Photographs Work: 52 Great Images Who Made Them, What Makes Them Special and Why. Michael works in black and white using long exposures, as long as 60 minutes, to create images that have been described as ‘soulful and evocative’. Read an interview with Michael in ‘The F-Stop Magazine’ here.

The video below was shot in Japan by Brad Kremer and is a showcase for who Michael is and what his work is about.

KI: Michael Levin from Brad Kremer on Vimeo.

More videos featuring Michael’s process can be found here.