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.

Friday Inspiration: Thomas Joshua Cooper – The World’s Edge

“Looking towards the Old Lands.” Thomas Joshua Cooper

I’m currently thinking about projects that I can engage with while travel is restricted and we are locked down. I feel like a good photography project, one that will keep you engaged for a while, is one that is multi-dimensional, one that engages multiple areas of your interest.

Thomas Joshua Cooper certainly found this with his Atlantic Basin Project. The ambition of this project was to chart the Atlantic Basin from the extremity of land north, south, east, and west. An enormous undertaking and one he has been engaged with since the end of the ‘80s. Longer than he’s been married and a project older than his kids!

The work recently reached completion with the publication of ‘The World’s Edge‘ and the exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

I find the work absolutely captivating, although I struggle to put my finger on what it is about his photographs that draws me in. The subject matter appeals to me. I enjoy being at the coast, I’m awed by the power of the ocean and can’t help but feel that the transition from land to water is a place of great possibility.

The images of Thomas Joshua Cooper for this project are abstractions with no real sense of place, not grand vistas but truly what it would feel like if you were stood at the edge of the land looking out to the sea. Often they appear to be long exposures, giving movement to the water which really gives you a sense of dynamics. There are images that provide visual breaks – the images taken during white out conditions on Antarctica or those taken during the winter solstice at the North Pole.

If you only get one book from this project get ‘The World’s Edge‘ if you want to dig deeper you could explore The Point of No Return, Eye of the Water Ojo De Agua, or True that represent images from major sections of the work. Watch the video below to hear Professor Cooper provide an entertaining and engaging description of his Atlantic Basin Project.

Friday Inspiration: Rachael Talibart

I must have been living under a rock to only recently have found Rachael Talibart’s seascape work. She is perhaps best know for her Sirens photos, a series of storm waves named after mythological beings. A book of the same name was published by Triplekite Books in 2018. As an aside I can’t believe I missed this book since I thought I had all of the books that Triplekite had published. I found her work through the recently published book, Tides and Tempests, that further explores her interest in storm waves but also the coast in general.

It sounds like Rachael has had a lifelong relationship with the sea having grown up on the South Coast of England, spending time as a child on the family sailboat. She describes herself as a poor swimmer and a poor sailor who is happier and safer viewing the ocean from the shore. Reading between the lines in the introductory essay to Tides and Tempests it sounds like she had lots of ‘fun’ on the sailboat as a child. These episodes really do shape your life both as an adult and as a child, either pushing you away or drawing you in. Personally I’m glad that she is drawn towards the ocean and chooses to capture the majesty, power and potential that the ocean offers. Check out more of Rachael’s work on her website here.

Also check out the videos that Rachel put together below. Scroll all the way to the bottom to hear Rachel talk about her work and her process.

Check out the mini-documentary/interview with Rachel that Sean Tucker put together below. Sean is worth a ‘Friday Inspiration’ slot of his own. Until then check out his YouTube channel here.

Our Daily Bread

In the spirit of picking up old interests I’ve been making a lot of bread over the last few weeks. Starting with the tried and true recipes in Ken Forkish’s excellent book – Flour, Water, Salt Yeast. The picture from last week was his Overnight Loaf. When I was making this bread regularly it would stick to the cloths in the proofing baskets and generally would be a nightmare for me to deal with. However picking things up again the recipe was easy to follow – no ambiguity – and I had no problem with getting the bread out of the baskets.

With that success under my belt I decided to try the signature loaf in the Poilane book I recently came across. Poilane is of course a marquee name in the bread world. The recipe was a little more involved than others I’d made – requiring a natural yeast starter and also makes a substantially larger single loaf. Going through the planning I realized that I didn’t have a proofing basked large enough nor did I have a Dutch Oven large enough. In all honesty who would? The loaf is ~ 3 times larger than the ‘normal’ home loaf size. I had things that were close enough though so off we went. It was frustrating to not have a good sense of what I was aiming at and I ended up disappointing the in house food critics. Scaling the recipe back gave better results but was still not the wow expected by the local critics.

With a natural starter bubbling in the corner I thought I would try out a final recipe, this time from ‘The Baker’s Year’ by Tara Jensen. When I mixed up the dough it was very wet, a bit tricky to handle and the timings proposed in the margin completely misleading. I should have realized that I would be in for a bumpy ride when the instructions for mixing up the leaven – a foundational recipe for any bread book – were corrected in the form of errata stuck in the front of the book. Oops! Nevertheless I persevered, leveraging the understanding from working through the Forkish recipes many times and also the Tartine bread recipe which is similar. If a dough was going to stick to the cloth in the proofing basket it would be a wet dough like this one – nope, not at all. Came out of the proofing basket nicely, into the cast iron Dutch oven and baked beautifully as you can see at the top of the page.

What if anything you may well ask does this have to do with photography. Well not much if I’m being honest but it did make me think about how I had retained the bread making skills from 3 or 4 years ago. Not only that but some of the things that had been a struggle now seem relatively straight forward. As I re-engage with photography I’m hoping that I will at least have retained a foundational set of skills. It will be interesting to see how the passage of time has changed my thinking and perspective as I get behind the camera more frequently.

Stuck at Home

While I’m thinking about the subject of photographing close to home I thought I would share a couple of book recommendations.

I’ve talked about photography close to home before – remarkably in 2011, where does the time go. Then I was talking about a recently published eBook by Stuart Sipahgil ‘Close to Home’. Sadly it’s no longer produced by Craft & Vision but you can find it here at least for a little while. Well worth a look.

The other book that I was looking at, and the one that I think of when I think of photography at home, is ‘Home Photography’ by Andrew Sanderson. Andrew is a UK based photographer who found himself tethered to home as he and his wife navigated raising their young family. Picking up on the Home Photography theme again during lockdown in the UK Andrew Stuck at Home Photography. There are lots of ideas in the book (and blog) for how to shoot in and around your home that I will be digging into more deeply in the coming months. I’ll share the results here and also on Instagram. Send me a link to what you’ve been doing while Stuck at Home.

Working at Home

Happy New Year!

What a strange year 2020 turned out to be. Turning the page it looks like 2021 will also be fraught with challenges – the hope for an orderly transition of leadership in the US was thrown into chaos with the events of yesterday. We can only hope that this is a low point from which the country will move forward from.

More virulent strains of the SARS-CoV2 virus appear to spreading throughout the world after first making an appearance in the UK. I have had a ring side seat to how we are responding to this threat and have been fortunate enough to work on therapeutic interventions one of which is now in clinical trials. From my vantage point it looks like we are a long way from being out of the woods, with more lockdowns to navigate.

All that leads me to think that I’m going to be working at home for the foreseeable future. I put my fancy cameras down a couple of years ago now and have used my iPhone exclusively since. The camera in the current iPhone is a sophisticated tool much more so than the camera that was in the phone when the ‘The Best Camera is the one that’s with you’ movement got going. At the time I was always impressed with what people were able to achieve with just their phones, now that’s much less of a novelty. With an expectation that the iPhone is as good a camera as many DSLRs. Perhaps I’m stretching that a bit but I’m sure if you’ve seen the evolution of the iPhone camera you know what I mean.

Perhaps because of the lockdowns and social distancing expectations or maybe it was just the right time, my desire to re-engage with photography in a deeper way has been growing over the last couple of months. I will probably post more here although it looks very much like the world has moved away from Blogs to Vlogs with everyone and the dog now running a YouTube channel. Not for me. Not yet at least.

More to come…

The End of Summer

For me just as the beginning of summer is when we get the boat in the water, the end of summer is when we pull the boat out of the water. This weekend marked the beginning of that process as we made the trek from our mooring to the marina in Norwalk where will be hauled.

This year we were accompanied by Jay our buddy from TowBoatUS who gave us a tow to the dock. If you have a boat a BoatUS membership with on water towing is an amazing insurance policy. I highly recommend it!