Friday Inspiration: Danny Gregory

The Art of Breakfast: a film about Danny Gregory from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Being able to draw always seemed to me to be something mystical, reserved for the special few, when I came across Danny Gregory’s book ‘Everyday Matters‘ I was sucked in – it intersected two things that I was interested in teaching yourself to draw as an adult and living intentionally everyday. Since 2007, when I first came across the book, I’ve followed the ups and downs of Danny Gregory’s life through his blog and his books. His output shows that it is possible to have a very active publishing career while also balancing the demands of a family and busy career – Danny was a copywriter and creative director for an ad agency for a number of years.

Everyday Matters‘ was a reaction to the accident that Danny’s wife had on the New York Subway that left her paralysed from the waist down. It’s a sad story that concludes in his book ‘A Kiss Before you Go‘.

Since ‘A Kiss Before You Go‘, Danny has left his job at the ad agency and started ‘Sketchbook Skool‘ which looks like fun and lets him work with many of his friends, friends whose work he’d previously shared in his books of pages from their sketchbooks.

For more from Danny including his first feelings on receiving ‘A Kiss Before You Go, check out the videos below:

Jane LaFazio interviews Danny Gregory from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Danny Gregory at VCU – part 1 from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Danny Gregory at VCU – part 2 from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Danny Gregory at VCU – part 3 from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

A Kiss Before You Go: First feelings from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Friday Inspiration: Wendy Macnaughton

McNaughton

I first came across Wendy Macnaughton’s work through her venn diagrams, such as the one above. I was sucked in by both the humor and her minimalist, colorful style. Once I started paying attention I recognized her work in lots of places – funny how that works isn’t it?

Macnaughton describes herself as a graphic journalist, a term that I’d never heard of before but it does make sense if you explore her work beyond the venn diagrams and other lettering work that she’s done. She tells the story of the people that she interacts with through her drawings, marrying these with snippets of conversations that she’s had with them and calling the result ‘Meanwhiles’. I was pleased to see that her earlier collection of ‘Meanwhiles’ from the San Francisco Public Library, one that I had unsuccessfully tried to get a hold of, was collected into her recent book ‘Meanwhile in San Francisco’. Well worth a look.

Watch Wendy talk about her work and see her drawing in the videos below.

Wendy MacNaughton: Listen to Strangers from 99U on Vimeo.

Be Water My Friend

I was reminded of the Bruce Lee quote ‘Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless like water if you put water in the cup it becomes the cup and water can flow or it can crash’ last week. I was in California and had expectations of what I was going to photograph. I believe that it was Ansel Adams spoke about previsualization, having a sense of what the image is going to be before you make the exposure. I think that Ansel was probably previsualizing as he stood in front of what he was going to photograph. I on the other hand was guilty of previsualizing from thousands of miles away.

As I stood looking at the pounding surf, 3 feet above a normal low tide, that hid the rocks that I had imagined photographing for the previous 2 years it would have been a natural reaction to be frustrated. I’m not sure why I wasn’t but I just let it go, enjoyed the magnificence of the fury of the Pacific Ocean, and then moved on to photograph other things. I don’t think that anticipating and being prepared to get a specific shot is a bad thing but it is bad not to be flexible enough to recognize other opportunities that come your way. While they might not be what you’d prepared for they could be equally, or more, enjoyable.

Friday Inspiration: Arnold Newman

Stravinsky

I was prompted to look at Arnold Newman’s photographs this week. Arnold Newman is widely thought of as the ‘Father of Environmental Potraiture’, contributing photographs to all major publications from Life to Scientific American and everything in between. He got his start in portraiture by taking photographs of artists. At the time the artists he photographed were neither rich nor famous and Newman himself was an unknown, honing his craft. His approach of using the camera to explore the world of the person he’s photographing, to show something of their character by placing them in their surroundings began with his work with the artists.

He has said that a good portrait must first be a good photograph. For me the most iconic of his photographs is that of Stravinsky shown above. Stravinsky propping his head on his arm neatly echoes the way that the lid of the piano is propped open. It is a strongly graphic, minimal image that appeals to me greatly. Looking at many of his other portraits you start to see how he has stripped away all but the essentials that he needs to tell the story of the artist, celebrity or statesman.

An exhibition of his work ‘Arnold Newman – Masterclass’ is now showing at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Fransisco. If you’re not able to Make it to the show you can watch a gallery tour given by the shows curator William Ewing here. There’s also a catalog to accompany the exhibition that can be had here.

Finally check out the interview with Newman below for insights into how he worked and a behind the scenes look at how some of his most famous images were made.

Friday Inspiration: Bryant Austin

sperm-whale

I stopped in at The Focus Gallery recently and while I was there saw the image above created by Bryant Austin. The image was awe inspiring – ~ 5ft x 20ft. Truly immersive and a fitting presentation for images of the largest mammals on the planet.

Austin, a California based photographer, has spent over 10 years working out how to take compelling photographs of whales – images that could really move someone, that reflect the experience of being in the water with the massive mammals. To achieve this goal he evolved his approach, from shooting off the coast in the US to more tropical settings, the gear he used, from film to digital, from fish-eye lenses to traditional portrait lenses and built computers able to handle the resulting files. His talk at Google that I’ve included below is a fascinating insight into what it takes to pursue a dream and what you can achieve if you’re prepared to go all in.

Check out the gallery of Austin’s work here and click here for a book of his work.

Light, Lines, Moment – Light, Gesture, Color

I truly enjoy looking at other people’s images, mine drive me nuts, other people’s work I enjoy. It doesn’t matter to me whether they are photographs, paintings, drawings or some other way of interpreting the world. I enjoy looking at it all. As I’ve mentioned here before, I do feel as though in some work I’m missing the joke and so I’m working hard to be able to see more, to understand more clearly what was the intent behind the creation of the image.

This of course cuts two ways – it allows me to enter more deeply into the world that creator of the work has established and it also gives me tools to help bring my vision and voice into the world. In thinking about how I look at images – what is the light, how do the lines work, what is the role of color etc. I was reminded of some of the phrases that I’ve heard thrown around when people are both making images and looking at them. Variations on light, lines, moment such as Jay Maisel’s Light, Gesture, Color.

Since I’m easily distracted, with this thread to pull at I disappeared into the internet only to find that Jay Maisel has a new book out ‘Light Gesture and Color‘. I’ve been fascinated with Jay’s ability to find photographs in the most mundane places. After watching some of the videos of him at work such as the one below and looking at the resulting images I always feel that I could try harder.

This is the fluency that I am striving for – to not only be able to take to see and appreciate the image once captured but to see and anticipate the possibilities all around me.

Friday Inspiration: Michael Fletcher

Amberay from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Michael Fletcher is the film maker behind the documentaries that support the Ninety Degrees Five projects. The twin brother of photographer Christian Fletcher he turned to film making in an effort to differentiate himself from the stills that he’s brother was making. I’m quite glad that he did since I really enjoy his style of film making. I wish that he had a fully fledged website of his own. Instead I’ll point you to the video section on his brother’s website here and to his page on Vimeo.

Enjoy a few of my favorite videos above and below from the over 70 that Michael has posted.

Lofoten – A Photographic Adventure In Norway from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Born to Fly – Canon 1Dc from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Amanda Palmer’s – The Art of Asking

theartofasking_image

I was supposed to be getting on with organizing my life this weekend. Instead I inhaled Amanda Palmer‘s new book ‘The Art of Asking‘. It’s a compelling read for any ‘maker’, anyone who’s interested in connecting and making a difference with what they do.

I was vaguely aware of The Dresden Dolls, Palmers early 2000’s band but it wasn’t until I heard Seth Godin’s Domino Project speak about her enormously successful Kickstarter campaign that I started paying attention. The kickstarter campaign let to a TED talk which led to the book. The TED talk is a good place to start – check it out below and let’s talk some more.

The book covers the story in the video and so much more. It charts Palmer’s career arc, her intersection with Neil Gaiman and then life beyond. From the 8 foot bride in Harvard Square to Kickstarter sensation. Through it all you get the sense that she hasn’t really changed much, grown and matured most certainly, but the thread of wanting to connect at a deep level seems to be a constant.

I’m looking forward to rereading the book to see what I get out of it on a second run through but from the first reading what stuck with me were a couple of things. First it’s amazing to me how someone who appears to be really extroverted can be so wracked with insecurity. Perhaps everyone creating things that are important to them and putting them out in the world have these doubts, but I was shocked.

Of course the big theme for the book is asking, the exchange that occurs between artist and community or audience. Why is it so difficult for some of us to ask for things – help, money etc. and equally why is it so hard for some to accept help, money etc. when it’s offered? If you follow Palmer’s career she’s spent almost her entire professional life participating in this exchange – asking, giving and receiving. Putting herself out there, being vulnerable and trusting. By doing this time and time again, being authentic and showing up, she’s built an enormous following.

A role model for anyone who wants to develop a supportive community who could sustain their creative work? I think so.

Get the book here and follow Amanda and Neil on twitter they are very active and there’s always something interesting in their twitter fields. Finally check out the interview of Amanda by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings below. It’s excellent.

Friday Inspiration: Tony Hewitt

THEWITT-Canal-Rocks-1-WA

I’ve enjoyed poking around on Tony Hewitt’s website as part of learning more about the photographers that make up the Ninety Degrees Five collaborative group. Tony is a wedding and portrait photographer although it’s his landscape and fine art work that I’m drawn to. I was curious to see that he isn’t just what I consider a ‘straight shooter’ but is will to add textures to his photographs and really push them to get the feeling he’s looking for in his photographs. I wasn’t expecting that from some of the work that I’d seen of his as part of the ND5 exhibitions but it just goes to show that it’s worth digging in to get a better sense of the breadth of work people are doing. Check out the interview and other videos of Tony below.

Tony Hewitt, “Keep Looking For Your Style…” from AIPP TV on Vimeo.

The Pilbara Project – Tony Hewitt from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Tony Hewitt and Christian Fletcher talking about the Pilbara Project – Photographers Cut exhibition from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Friday Inspiration: Peter Eastway

Peter Eastway

I wanted to continue the Friday Inspiration series looking at the work of the Ninety Degrees Five photographers. Up this week is Peter Eastway.

My introduction to the ND5 group was actually through Peter Eastway. I’ve been a subscriber of Better Photography, the magazine that he edits and publishes, for a very long time now and have enjoyed his various online tutorials. In fact as I was thinking over the summer about the options we have as photographers to express our voice Peter’s work came immediately to mind. I essentially decided that there were two places in which your voice can shine through – in the subjects you choose to photograph and then how you choose to process those images. Peter has a really unique style that, to my mind at least, is largely achieved through his post-processing work. In particular I feel that he has developed a a distinct and unifying color palette, perhaps not intentionally, through the consistent use of a particular set of tools in photoshop. The masterclass tutorials show you his process in detail and are worth a look. For single image processing check out his photo atelier series which give a behind the scenes look at Peter’s thought process.

I found the interview below to be a fascinating look at how Peter thinks and works. Check it out: