Friday Inspiration: Susan Bein

From ‘Slightly Bonkers’, Susan Bein

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.

Dark of the Moon: A PDF, A Zine & A Chapbook

Dark of the Moon

I’ve enjoyed looking at chapbooks and zines over the last couple of weeks, especially as an alternative to ‘prints on the wall’ as a finished product. To begin exploring the practicality of this I thought I would pick a small set of images and make something.

I had been playing with my iPhone at night just to see what it was capable of doing in low light. Over the course of a couple of weeks – usually when I was taking out the trash cans – I made a series of images of the moon. I then wondered whether I could actually get a crisp image of the moon with my Sony A7RIII.

I pulled these together in a Lightroom catalog, picked the ones I liked the most and then started in.

I have also had ‘learn InDesign’ on my list of things to do, so this was an opportunity to do all of this at once.

I started simply by making the chapbook using square museo cards. These are double sided so it was easy enough to set up a print template in light room for the card and run them through for the front and back. It was a bit of a brain twister to make sure the the right image was in the right place, in the right orientation but I figured it out eventually.

Not everything went to plan!

I then moved on to the zine which I had decided I would make on regular photocopy paper using my laser jet printer. I made a project for this using InDesign and was able to relatively quickly assemble the images for printing. My laser jet printer has a duplex option which means it automatically prints on both sides of the paper. It did take me a while to get all the settings figured out and by a while I mean a lot of paper! I finally realized what the issue was and got the zine printed.

Finished zine printed on photocopy paper

For binding, the zine was stapled using a long reach stapler – what a cool toy that is! – and the chapbook was sewn using the three hole pamphlet stitch. I was happy with how they came out.

Take a look in the video below.

Finally using the InDesign file I made a pdf of this project – check it out here.

I was quite happy with how this came together. I still have a lot to learn but have a number of ideas for other mini-projects that I could do in a similar way which will build into something a little more substantial.

Final Chapbooks and Zines

Friday Inspiration: Josef Sudek

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.

Prague was occupied in World War II which meant that Sudek’s photography business ground to a halt. During this time he continued photographing mainly shooting from his studio. These images and more from later years can be found in the book ‘Josef Sudek: The Window of My Studio’.

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.

Learn more about Josef Sudek in the videos below.

Friday Inspiration: David Carson

I’ve been taking a wander through the world of book making which has led me into book design and graphic design. It’s not a world that I’ve deeply explored previously and I’m learning a lot.

On this journey I came across David Carson on the Masterclass website. Check out the class trailer below.

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.

Chapbooks As A Vehicle for Your Photography

Time to finish the thought about zines and chapbooks this week.

I had never heard about chapbooks until I came across them through Brooks Jensen. Chapbooks have a long history as a way for artists to self publish smaller bodies of work. This seems to mostly have been a way for poets to get their foot in the publishing door and to pave the way for publication of a larger collection.

With the advent of inkjet printers we photographers can get into the game too! I had said previously that for me the real difference between a pamphlet, zine and chapbook is really the production value. With a chapbook being at the top of the heap, requiring more hand work – i.e. sewing of the signature than a zine which I would typically expect to be stapled.

I have included below a flip through of a Brooks Jensen chapbook ‘Worlds Within Worlds’ which I think illustrates the chapbook concept nicely.

I really do like this idea of small handmade books as a way to get my photography out into the world and will be exploring these more in the coming weeks.

Friday Inspiration: Gerry Johansson

Bridgeport, Nebraska: Gerry Johansson

I’ve been enjoying finding photographers that are new to me and exploring their work. I recently came across Gerry Johansson, a Swedish photographer known for his black and white photographs of what would otherwise be unremarkable places.

Gerry has a ‘geographic’ focus have produced books of work from photographs taken in America, Sweden, Germany, Antarctic and Tokyo. I like his thinking in that the book is really the tangible product of his work because exhibitions are too fleeting. Gone after a couple of weeks.

He clearly has a love of photography books as you can see in the video below of Gerry in his studio going through some of his photo book collection.

I wonder whether the books that he selected to discuss influenced his decision making about his own books which are often relatively small by some standards. I think that these smaller books, smaller prints and images call for a closer engagement with the work and for a more intimate experience.

Gerry talks about his work in the video below. The audio is in Swedish, if you don’t speak Swedish there are captions in English so that you can follow along with the conversation. Check out Gerry’s website here to learn more.

Friday Inspiration: Do Lectures – That Crazy Dumb Idea

Stay Curious – How we created a world class event in a cowshed Clare Hieatt

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.

An Alternate to the Folio – Boxes of Prints

Having written about folios as an alternative to a book I thought it was worthwhile pointing to another solution which is the box of prints.

I understand that historically these might have been matted prints but a trend that I am seeing emerge over the last few years is for photographers to offer boxes of prints to their audience. These prints can range from a representative collection of prints spanning a few years, the output from the previous year or just the most recent season.

I was exciting to receive Simon Baxter’s first box set of prints recently and thought I would show you how he pulled this project together as a case study for what excellent could look like.

It’s easy enough to to buy a photo box off the shelf pop your prints in and call it a day but Simon went beyond this. He has his logo embossed in the box lid, the lid itself is hinged and held closed with a small magnet – a nice touch! Inside the box is a colophon/text sheet describing the project and the package of prints. I was impressed – the small details took it to the next level. Take a look in the video below.

Check out more of Simon’s photography at his website here and take a look at his videos at his YouTube channel here.

Friday Inspiration: Elizabeth King

Pupil Pose 1

“Process saves us from the poverty of our intentions.”

I am currently reading Seth Godin’s new book ‘The Practice’. More about that when I actually finish it. I was struck by the quote in the front of the book from Elizabeth King shown above and went on a hunt to find more about her. Frustratingly I couldn’t find the exact source of the quote but many people who attribute it to her but the journey was fun.

Elizabeth King is a sculptor who taught at Virginia Commonwealth University for 30 years before retiring to focus on her work. She is best known for her figurative sculpture that she combines with stop motion animation. Perhaps remarkably she was creating the articulated sculptures that were perfect for stop motion animation long before she had the idea for animating them.

I am always fascinated to watch artists at work, regardless of the medium that they work in. The behind the scenes look that you get in Olympia Stone’s documentary “Double Take’ is a real treat in this regard. It shows Elizabeth at work in her Church Hill studio as well as installing her work at various shows.

What is evident in the documentary is her attention to detail. She really cares about getting the sculpture right, capturing the imperfections in joints on the hands of her sculptures so that the fingers end up a little wonky. I thought she was describing my fingers as she described this detail in the documentary. She’s clearly looking and not just going through the motions and means that her sculpture stands up to the closest of scrutiny.

Of course her attention to detail doesn’t stop with the creation of the work. It’s interesting to see how much attention she puts into the installation to make sure that the pose of the sculpture is correct and that the lighting is just so to provide the correct emphasis to the face and hands. This is what separates masters from the journeymen.

Check out more or Elizabeth’s work at her website here and listen to her describe her work in the videos below. You can watch the full documentary at amazon.

Friday Inspiration: Brooks Jensen

Brooks Jensen, Winter Trees, Mt Erie, Fidalgo Island, Washington, 2003

When I was thinking about what I had learned in the Portfolio Development class with William Neill, one of the things that I was reflecting on is how much you can learn from the other students. A good group that are freely sharing their previous experiences, understanding and viewpoint can really support your growth.

One of the students in the class turned me on to Lenswork – a magazine that I had never heard of and certainly wasn’t carried in the local bookstores at the time. I eventually ended up getting a subscription so that I could see what it was all about. Lenswork is a bimonthly magazine that emphasizes photographs not gear and is exquisitely printed – book quality printing. From what I understand the emphasis on photographs is very similar to the principals that were at the heart of Aperture Magazine when it was established and under the guidance of Minor White. To see some of the early issues check out this anthology.

The editor, Brooks Jensen, is an accomplished photographer and his work can be found at his personal site, Brooks Jensen Arts. The image above is from Brooks’ first Winter Trees portfolio – you can download a pdf of the portfolio here. I continue to be fascinated by this image – it has a depth to it, a three dimensionality, that I have not experience in any other photograph. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a print of this image when Brooks was still selling individual images and it is even more stunning in the flesh, as it were.

Brooks’ thinking about photography that he shares through his writing and podcast have had a profound impact on my thinking about the ‘photographic art life’. He makes really great points about in his article about what size should editions be, has suggested multiple ways of presenting your work to your audience including, Folios and Chapbooks and additionally was an earlier adopter of PDFs. I have learned a tremendous amount from Brooks and think you would too. Go take at look at Lenswork, Lenswork online and Brooks Jensen Arts. Listen to the interview with Brooks in the interview below.