Ep140 Types of small stories in photography

In an episode a few weeks ago we talked about how the smaller stories of life are just as important as the bigger stories people think about telling. For many of us, there is a paralysis of the larger story whereas with the smaller stories we can more easily pick up the camera. 

In this week’s podcast, we talk about how to take some of those smaller stories and pull them together into larger thematic bodies of work. For my own work, I have created five simple buckets

story of ideas (stories with an unknown outcome or path)
story of place (stories of very specific places)
story of identity (these are stories showing multiple layers of a person, place or thing)
story of subtext (complex ideas told through images of iconic objects or cultural references)
story of concept (stories having a known outcome or path)

When I am working with my own images, I find that some photos fit into one ore more of these buckets, but by using these buckets I am able to branch out the work and start to see how these seemingly unconnected images might start to fit into a larger project based body fo work. 

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Ep139 In memory of my little brother: grieving, loss and photography

This past week my little brother, Jim, unexpectedly passed away. I have never felt the pain and sorrow that I have been living with for the past several days. My heart is truly broken. It has been a sucker punch to the gut and a 2×4 to the face times ten.

My little brother was amazing. He had a huge heart filled with joy, compassion, and friendship. He spent the majority of his career in wetland conservation helping to protect wetland environments for future generations. His generous spirit was something that impacted the thousands of people he touched in his life. He was always helping others, sharing a hug and a smile or just being present to share in a moment.

We were more than brothers. We were best of friends. While we shared different interest and paths, we were always there for each other. Although not a photographer, he knew how much photography was my life. Last year, when the new studio was just a big empty trashed up space of a garage, he came up and helped me build the analog part of the darkroom. I wouldn’t be able to make the work I create day in and day out without him and his help. I will never be able to make another photograph without thinking about him and everything he gave to me. I love you bro.

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Ep137 Visual literacy and impacts on critique

I have a lecture that I’m giving later this week at the Photographic Center Northwest on visual literacy. As I’ve been preparing for that lecture, I also noticed a number of different people asking me for critiques in interesting and unusual ways. So in this week’s podcast we’re going to talk a little bit about how people go about asking for reviews, the nature of intention, and critiques and finally have a think about classifying work for more valuable critique.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that people are asking for critiques to be brutally honest or subjectively honest or some other adjective in front of their critique. I think the reason for this, is that they want an excellent critique and I want to avoid the fluff of social media. The issue with asking for a brutal critique is it implies that the response is brutal. When what they want is just a good critique. We talk about this a little bit in this week’s podcast to help people understand what they’re looking for when they want a real valuable critique.

One other area that I’ve noticed is really interesting when working with people and critique is around the area of intention. While it is great, we will ask an artist their intention, and in many ways, you can push them to understand their work better if they think about their intention you will not always have the opportunity to work with the artist to get their intention. So, it is essential for you to be able to think about what are some possible intentions the photographer might’ve had if you do not have access to them.

Finally, in this week’s podcast, we take a look at Mina White and Walter chapels experiencing photographs content. This content is the foundation for the lecture will be given on Thursday and is at the heart of really starting to make the transition from just looking at photographs to creating a deeper meaning. One of the central tenets of this application is that photographs have different buckets or genres that they live in. And because of that, we should have different ways of analyzing and thinking about those photographs.

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Ep136 Is repetition bad?

At the risk of repeating myself more than once in this podcast, I raise a question about the value of repetition in the photographic process. When we are working creativity is there something in the process that repetition can help with and at the same time can it hinder? As we explore this topic, I think you will quickly discover that much of what can cause problems for us photographically is an over-reliance on repetition.

Be it in how we frame and compose to setting up a new portfolio; there is something to be said about the negative impacts of been there and done that. In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the places where our photographic process can become stale from repetition and some ideas to help move beyond those often repeated traps.  

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Ep135 Unnecessary questions

I am working on a new lecture on visual literacy for later in October. As I was reviewing a number of different aspects of language in photography, I occurred to me that we often phrase questions in our creative practice that can impact our approach to our photographs and photography. 

As I spent more time thinking about this, I came up with a few phrases that in my opinion could be shifted to cause a difference in your approach to your creative practice.

What could I do to make this better? This question leads to a conversation that is more about what someone else might do rather than getting to the real root of what we want to know about an image. When we ask this question, we often know that something is off, but we aren’t sure. A more insightful question might be What do you see in this image? What do you feel when you look at this image? What do you think this image is about? All provide more context and boundaries for an answer. 
I wonder what would happen if…If you ever think this, you should go ahead and see what happens in your creative practice. It is at the edge of our wonderment of the possibilities do we discover amazing images and photographic ideas.
Is it possible? Much like, I wonder, the notion of possibility is something that shouldn’t be dismissed without investigation. The creative life and photography are all about seeing what is possible behind the camera. And, everything is impossible until it is done once. 
I’m sorry. There are a lot of reason that people apologize. Sometimes it is warranted, but in our creative practice, we should be unapologetic about our work. We have something to say and have the universal need to say whatever that is to the world. 

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Ep134 Schrödinger’s cat and photography

I am a huge science junkie, but I have never been able to handle the math necessary to make it something more than an interest. I love to read all the books that explain the science but remove the math. Books like Godel, Escher and Bach, The Elegant Universe and other have always fascinated and inspired me. 

One of my favorite stories is about Schrödinger’s cat. Erwin Schrödinger explains the nature of a quantum superposition with a cat. You place a cat, a vile of poison, and a radioactive element into a box and close the lid. In the box is a hammer and Geiger counter. If the Geiger counter detects a single radioactive decayed atom, it drops the hammer to release the poison which kills the cat. The superposition is that until we open the box, we don’t know if the cast is dead or alive, so it is both. Once we observe the cat, the superposition collapses, and the state of the cat is now the reality. 

I got to thinking about how much of our photography and creative practice is based on the duality of our work, our response to our work and the very nature of photography are a lot like Schrödinger’s cat. Much of what we struggle with in our photography are things that exist in two or more states and only until we actually commit to the work, practice and understanding do they become clear and actionable. 

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Episode 133 Five simple habits to improve your photography

I was recently having a conversation with a good friend, who also listens to the podcast. He said that he has heard me say over and over again that printing makes a shift in your work as a photographer. But, he wanted to know what other things might I recommend to someone who is feeling a little stuck in their process. Are there other things that can make dramatic shifts in our photographic practice?

So in honor of the David Letterman Top 10 list, here are my current five habits that I think every photograph could use to take their work up a notch. 

Always carry a pen a paper. It is hard to know when that next great idea will strike. You want to make sure that you can always capture the idea.
Add one minute. All it takes to make a difference is to take one additional minute on any photographic or creative task to see what happens. Stay one minute longer on a landscape shoot. Spend one more minute working with a model. Take one more minute and clean the studio for the next day’s shoot. You will be surprised what one minute can do.
Build your visual library. The more photographs you have to look at, the more you will know about how to make great photographs.
Have heart and integrity in your work. No one ever got to meaningful work by creating work that didn’t matter. You have to find your message and your voice. Then no matter what anyone tells you, you listen. The most important photographs are the ones that come from integrity and heart.
Eliminate distractions. Take 30 minutes and leave all the distractions behind. Find out what no phone, no book, and no distraction does to open your mind to seeing and hearing the world around you. Then take that principle into your images and photography. Eliminate all those distractions in an image. See what the most basic ideas and concepts look like when you peel back all the layers. Simple Simple Simple. 

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Episode 132 Changing seasons and the value of the printing process

In this week’s podcast, the changing of the seasons from summer to fall has me thinking about how the change of seasons causes a shift in my photographic practice. As I looked back at my photographic process, I have learned that the limited light and gray of the Pacific Northwest has me hole up in the darkroom in the winter more than I spend time out shooting. Recognizing this, I have shifted what I do in the summer and fall to be better prepared to take advantage of the darker days of winter. After some R&D this summer, I am ready to really focus on printing a number of projects this winter. 

In anticipation of printing this winter also lead me to think about how printing my images can help me think more and more about the indented audience, printing substrates and the final look and feel of a project.  

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Episode 131 Fraud in the creative practice

In this week’s podcast, I got interested in looking at how fraud can rear its ugly head in our creative practice. I was researching something else, and I wanted to see the exact definition of the word fraud. When I looked the word up, I found the following:

” a person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.”

As I read the definition, I realize there are times when I have ascribed the word fraud to my photography and creative practice. I noticed this when I had to relearn some of the things I knew I had already learned in Photoshop. Did the fact that I had forgotten and had to look it up mean that I was a fraud? Did the fact that I thought I already knew the skill but in but couldn’t make me a fraud? If someone had asked if I knew how to do that in Photoshop and I said yes make me a fraud? I used to know it. Is forgetting something make me a fraud? I had to find a way to process those questions.

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Episode 130 Yearly physical for your creative process

It’s about time for my yearly physical with my doctor, and it got me thinking about some of the test results you get back during your appointment. One of the things that I find interesting is that they have a standard set of bloodwork they do year-over-year. By doing the same basic test year-over-year, they have something to compare and benchmark how well we’re doing with our health. They are also able to use these test to help identify potential problems that may come up in the future.

I was wondering if we could do something similar with our creative practice or with our photography. Is there a set of test we could come up with that would tell us our overall health as a relates to our creative practice and our photography?

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Episode 129 Smartphones verse the value of time and space in a creative practice

In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the impact of not allowing ourselves to have any alone time with our thoughts or moments of silence by filling that time with our smartphones. I believe part of the creative practice is allowing yourself to have moments with your thoughts and observations. However, recently I noticed that when I have a spare 30 seconds to a few minutes, I reach into my pocket and grab my phone. Most of the time, I don’t even know I did it. This action has become an involuntary response. I spent that time looking at social media, playing a game, or just randomly checking out various apps on my phone rather than observing, thinking and reacting to my creative ideas.

As I caught myself doing this recently, I began to wonder how much is that impacting my creativity and photographic process. A significant part of the photographic process is observation and being present and observing things in the world. I began to wonder, is my smart phone causing my creative muscles to atrophy.

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