Monday, May 22, 2006


One thing I could do without for the rest of ever: progressive Jpegs. You know them. They're the images (usually large photographs) on web sites that load, one pass after another, slowly becoming clearer and clearer.

The problem? I usually decide whether or not an image is worth continuing to load after the first pass. I don't wait for the second, third or, heaven forbid, the fourth pass. It's just too late. You lost me. I've even left web sites when the progressives begin to load. I figure it's not worth the wait.

That's not to say that regular Jpegs load any quicker. But I know that by the time I see the bottom of the image filled in with data, I'm done. With the ridiculous progressives, it's almost a guessing game. How many more passes until I see the actual image? Two more? Three? Really... really not worth it.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Suggestion: Adam Holtzman

Many of the new photographic books I come across are found through the Photo-Eye Newsletter. Not only is it a great way to find new photo books, but new (often unpublished) talent as well.

Adam Holtzman - Absence #14I saw Adam Holtzman's work several newletters back as their featured portfolio. It just goes to show you that many times, thumbnails can be misleading. I wouldn't ask someone to judge a gallery show based solely on the mailer (although that usually is the first impression, and can probably have a dramatic effect on initial attendance), so why are we so often ready to judge (dismiss) a body of work based solely on thumbnail images? I know I'm guilty of it myself.

Adam's work is intriguing in its simplicity. The images are beautiful on their own, but the story is one many of us can relate to. I am speaking, of course, of his "Absence" series; the work about his grandfather's home after his death, and the stripped house that remained after his family removed most of the belongings. It made me long for an opportunity to return to my grandparents' house when I was a child and they passed away.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


It's been difficult to think of things to write about on this blog. It will come with time, I'm sure. But reading Todd's post over at Gallery Hopper about how many photos one shoots and shows in life was inspiring enough.

I've actually been thinking about the concept of editing quite a bit recently, especially after my recent experience at the portfolio review. I received a few very strong responses to my work, but the majority of them were along the lines of, "good, but you need more images to fill out these series, and to edit the work that's already here more". No one really outright said to cut certain images (save one informal review outside the bounds of the event). But sequencing and editing have become very apparent critical steps for me since then.

And up until that point, the idea of sequencing made very little sense. I understood it in the abstract, but seeinig reviewers' confusion at a misplaced image drove the point home. I started understanding how ineffective arbitrary arrangement can be. Needless to say, by the end of the event, I had completely rearranged the portfolios and cut two images. With only an original total of 19 images, those could have been a critical two. And I'm sad to say that one was cut mostly for the inadequate printing, which I should have never accepted.

(OT: I put up a note to myself in my darkroom a few weeks ago when I was in the midst of some heavy printing. It says something along the lines of, "It's never OK to settle for a mediocre print" and, "Don't take shortcuts. It's always better to do it the right way." Those obviously come across as a bit vague and lame, but I've had the tendency in the past to get tired of making test strips and just try printing a full image before I'm sure I have the right values. And then I might even settle for a print that's close but not perfect. This is what happened with that one image. It was a tad on the flat side, and actually had a majorly blown out window that could have easily been printed down. I took a shortcut, then accepted a sub-par print.)

Anyway... I think we, as photographers, need to accept that not every image we make is going to be exactly as we'd envisioned it. Moreover, just because some images do turn out how they were planned doesn't mean they're any good. Often the most powerful weapon in a photographer's arsenal is the ability to cut an image from the lineup... even if they're in love with that image. If it doesn't work, it should disappear. There's the argument that it could be made to work, but again, it's about context, so it would probably take adding more images to the lineup for it to work.

And that's why I think it's important that not every photograph see the (public) light of day. We need to live with our work, and of course show others, but specifically in the form of critique. At least that's how I'd like to operate.

I told a friend of mine today that I had a singular image that has always gotten enormous praise, but no one's ever seen the first image I took at the same shoot. And thank goodness... it would have diluted the power of the second image.

Another friend of mine and I always talk about photographers we find online and see in shows and books. We came across someone's work recently and liked most of it. But we were always disappointed when the photographer would have two images that were very similar, and essentially (and obviously) just two takes from the same shoot. "Just pick the best one and move on... you can't just not decide."

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Great Idea

I will be attending a portfolio review soon, and I've been working on my new body of work for the past several months. The only problem, it seemed, was just coming up with an appropriate body of work for an event of this magnitude. This review session will involve some fairly large names in the fine art photography world. It might just be the pressure, but I was not anywhere near a complete portfolio a few months ago. I didn't even have a real theme, but it seems one has emerged in the time I spent trying to come up with one. It's not the most satisfying idea I've ever had, but the imagery is what matters most to me, not some great idea necessarily.

See, that's what has always been my problem. I want to think big. I always feel like I have to come up with some novel concept to really "make it", even though it's not entirely my goal. But the reasonable side of me says that I should just stick with the best work I can produce and perhaps something significant will come out of that.

I have a mentor that tells me that I haven't really found my voice yet. And I agree with that assessment, thankfully, because otherwise I wouldn't have a thing to look forward to. He insists that I must loosen up, and while I hear those words and understand them, something still isn't clicking.

It comes through in my darkroom work, and he's pointed this out. I've always tried to be very meticulous about printing, writing down every variable so future prints can be achieved as simply as possible. I realize different conditions on different days can net a completely dissimilar result to that which I was trying to mimic, but I look at it as a way of getting in the ballpark. The problem with this way of thinking is simply that it is very rigid. He always says, "It's just zen... a zen way of printing", which has always frustrated me. I watch him get in there and print with very little accuracy (in terms of time, mostly) and come out with a beautiful print every time. I might just not be as comfortable with the equipment as I once thought, but I think it goes beyond that. It's a problem of just trusting my instincts.

But I'll tell you, my next body of work doesn't have a theme yet, and that's ok. I plan to use a camera which so simplifies the process of taking pictures that I won't be able to have the control I feel like I rely on too much. It's not a Holga or anything... I can at least be more precise than that, but I will have to trust my instincts much more just to get by.

I had a teacher that once told me (after I admitted my lack of big ideas) that she felt ideas were the easy part. It was coming up with the time and logistics that were challenging. I would normally say I envy her, but I'm starting to realize we all have certain strengths, and getting past my own obstacles should make me a better photographer than I might be otherwise.

What's your biggest challenge... the great idea? ...the execution?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Richard Avedon

I'm somewhat ashamed to admit this to you, but my initial reaction to Richard Avedon's "In the American West" was neutral, leaning slightly to the negative. I shouldn't be ashamed, because as we grow as photographers, artists, and our tastes and appreciations should change... or at least update a bit.

I was working on my own portrait work at the time, and though it was very different, I feel like I should have known better and appreciated the work immediately. See, my real introduction to his work was at an event where he was speaking. I looked up a bit of the work online for reference, and found it to be a bit too high contrast for my tastes. But the problem is that nothing has its true tonalities represented well on the web. Plus, I think it was the glaring white backgrounds that threw me off. Throw in the fact that I found Avedon to be quite unlikable that evening, and you can imagine why I really couldn't wait to leave the auditorium.

Fast forward a few years. Avedon has died, and I find myself in a Half Price Books downtown with some time to kill. It just so happens to be the store with the rare book collection, and I find an original (and might I mention, HUGE) copy of the "In the American West" book.

Stunning is the first word that comes to mind. It became instantly clear why these were hailed as masterpieces. Such luscious tonalities. But I'm sure even the diminished scale (the original prints were larger than life, I believe) failed to do the images justice.

So I've come around, and now love this work. I think about it on occasion because I find myself nearly falling in lock-step with some of his ideas and that makes me want to do something completely different. (Inspiration is one thing, but I fear comparison... seems to dilute both artists' imagery unless one is supremely famous like Avedon.)

So this is my first post. I have other web sites on which I post my work and occasionally express opinions, but I look at this as a clean slate and a chance to express the kind of opinions I might not want forever tied directly to my name. I'm not ashamed of my beliefs, but when things become part of a written record there tends to be a little more hesitancy. I hope to avoid that. So I'm a coward.