And… I’m back.

So I got laid off a few weeks ago, right? Which meant I had a bit more time on my hands, so I’m like “Hey, let’s start a blog.” Then a week after that my son’s summer school ended, and all that free time went to watching him all day.

Which, don’t get me wrong, was awesome. I’ve spent the entire time since he was born working full-time, often with stupid-long commutes and for the last couple of years, weekend hours as well. I think most working parents can relate to the situation where your child (or children, depending) spends more time with other people than they do with you. In my case, I would get him on the bus in the morning, and then get home around 6:30 at night, where we would eat dinner, play for a little while and then he’d get ready for bed. Lather, rinse, repeat.

And you know what? That fucking sucks. Non-parents can’t really comprehend the feelings of parental inadequacy often involved in making ends meet. It’s always in the back of your head and just grinds you down.

So the last few weeks have been an absolute blast for me. I can’t speak for him, but I think he’d agree. We hung out, played video games, made trips to parks and the library, built things with Legos, drew pictures in chalk on the driveway, read books, he started learning how to skateboard, all sorts of generally-awesome shit.

Today, however, marked his first day back to school. Well, it was a half-day, so he was home early. And now that I have a bit more free time on my hands, I’m back to writing this (amongst other projects).

And that’s that, at least for the time being. Time to get back to writing my artist’s statement for a juried art show I’m applying for. Let the good times roll.

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Hybrid Workflow, Part Two: Acquisitions

My desk

My desk

Before starting, here are the links to the previous posts in this series:

So we left off last time with my deciding to get implement a hybrid workflow. Today I’m going to talk about what equipment I ended up with, and why.

I knew that I had a reasonably tight budget to do this on, so like most things in my life, I needed to get a lot of bang for the buck. Let’s start at the digital capture point of the process, the scanner. Continue reading

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HIS HERO IS GONE

His Hero Is Gone, The Odum, Chicago

Continue reading

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SINCE BY MAN

Earlier this year, we stumbled on a box of old prints that I had done in college. It’s by no means complete; I know there’s a ton of stuff still missing (maybe at my parents’ house?) in terms of prints and negatives, but there’s still some fun stuff in there.

I’ve decided to scan some of it and upload it both to here and Flickr, though here I’ll be sharing some applicable memories I have of the shows. Let’s start with this photo of Since By Man:

SINCE BY MAN

This photo was taken the first time I’d seen Since By Man, at a basement show in Madison. I was playing in a band at the time (I’m still playing in a band with some of the same guys, over a decade later), and we were friends with the guys in Seven Days of Samsara, who were from Milwaukee. I remember their singer, Dave, telling us that we had to check out this new band called Since By Man because they were fucking nuts.

Shortly thereafter, we got on a show at this kid Vance’s house up in Madison. It was us, Seven Days, Since By Man and Usurp Synapse. I remember that we got there early and were hanging around in the living room and Usurp Synapse kept talking about how they were in a band and that they were awesome and all this shit. It was hilarious.

Since we were borrowing some of Seven Days of Samsara’s gear, we were playing after Since By Man, even though they were local. Todd was sick, so he was upstairs, and I have no idea where my brother Blake was. I think our friend Nick was with us at this show, too, but I can’t remember if he was downstairs with us at the time. I do remember standing in the basement with Brendan, watching Since By Man set their shit up. Then they turned out all the lights, which I thought was weird. Then the feedback started, and I began to get excited, because, hey, pitch black dark and feedback. There was a quick four-count on the sticks and then the place fucking exploded. In the darkness, the band had put on these fucking skeleton outfits and they had built their own lighting rig. On the one, the band hit the first note, these bright lights went on and then the rest of the time it was a blur of strobes and flailing bodies. It was absolutely mind-blowing. I remember Brendan and I looking at each other and just being like “Fuck, how are we going to top this?”

We couldn’t, obviously.

This is one of the photos I took that night, and the band actually ended up using it on the insert of their split CD with the band With Arms Still Empty. They quickly dropped the skeleton costumes and the light show, so I’m glad I was able to capture the moment here for posterity.

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Hybrid Workflow, Part One: Rationalizations

I couldn't find a picture I liked for "hybrid workflow," so instead I used this picture of Linkin Park getting ready to pump your gas from the back of their Hybrid Theory album.

I couldn't find a picture I liked for "hybrid workflow," so instead I used this picture of Linkin Park getting ready to pump your gas from the back of their Hybrid Theory album.

So you’ve read my biography, at least as far as photography is concerned. If not, I’ll condense 1600 words into a short sentence: I’m a dyed-in-the-wool film guy who, after a few years of wandering the digital wilderness, has returned to the fold.

I had mentioned that I have a BFA in photography; I’m pretty sure that I was at the tail end of curriculums that were written when film was the be-all, end-all of photography. Within a couple of years of my graduating, digital curb stomped film, leaving film’s teeth shattered in the gutter. So I count myself fortunate there, because there are millions of people out there right now who will never hold a film camera. Continue reading

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Photography and Me: A (relatively) Brief History

What follows is my history as a photographer, such as it is. Consider yourself warned: what follows is some seriously self-involved shit. This is a prelude to my upcoming series of posts about transitioning to a hybrid workflow.

I’ve been writing and rewriting this on-and-off for about a week or so, and despite the fact that I’m sure that probably shows in the quality of writing, if I don’t click the publish button now I’m scared I never will. Continue reading

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THE PEOPLE OF CLOUDS

Matt Black is an amazing documentary photographer. Above you’ll see the Kickstarter video of his ongoing project titled The People of Clouds, which he’s currently raising funds to complete.

His photography mainly deals with the migrant laborers in his native central California. In The People of Clouds, he goes to the other side of the border to explore the origins of over 250,000 Mixtec migrants; an indigenous people from the Oaxaca state in Mexico. The video above explains it much better than I can, but my short version is that he examines the root cause (literally, in this case; man-made soil erosion has devastated the ecology of the Mixteca region) of the mass exodus of a people that threatens to bring low an ancient culture.

Black’s work is incredible on many levels. At first glance, it’s formally beautiful. The grain, the contrast, the compositions; all of it is gorgeous. But more importantly, all of these aesthetic elements serve the interest of the work itself. It’s a case of form following function.

Black has spent over a decade documenting forgotten people and places. His work tells a big story, but on a human level; it unfolds one small moment at a time and gradually builds on itself the deeper you go. It respects his subjects and his audience by not sensationalizing its themes or ham-fistedly trying to tug at heart strings*. There’s a quiet dignity to the proceedings that’s rarely found in this type of subject matter, the handling of which often borders on the exploitative.

To see more of his work (there’s a lot of it and all of it is great), check out his website here: MATT BLACK.

For his Kickstarter page, go here.

*(Example: his multimedia project Address: Kettleman is about a community in central California that has five birth defects in every sixty-four births. The project shows photos of houses alongside addresses and marks the ones that have had birth defects. No pictures of cleft palates. No Sally Struthers “For the price of a cup of coffee a day” bullshit. Just façades, addresses, and — where appropriate — a description of a birth defect and maybe a brief audio clip of a parent talking about it.)

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City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs, 1912–1948

My crime scene Graflex camera.The other day I posted some work by Alexey Titarenko from a project called City of Shadows. Well, there’s also a completely unrelated book of the same name that has some amazing police photography from early-20th century Sydney, Australia.

I’ve had an interest in old police/crime scene photography for a long time. It started with Weegee and built from there. My brother-in-law Casey gave me some books of crime scene photography for Christmas one year, and my father-in-law recently (well, a few months back) gave me a 4×5 Graflex that was used by the police department in Springfield, IL. Which I guess has nothing to do with me being interested in crime scene photography, but having a camera that was used to take pictures of crime scenes and, possibly, corpses, is a bit creepy.

As usual, I kind of got off track by talking about myself there, so let’s move on to the book itself.

City of Shadows, as stated earlier and up there in the title of this post, is a collection of police photography. Apparently there was a flood in some building in Sydney that was inadvertently warehousing thousands of glass plate negatives, and they were rediscovered, sorted through and eventually published as a book.

There are your standard crime scene photos in there, but the really interesting things are the mug shots. These are completely unlike any mug shots probably in existence anywhere else in the world. Ever. They’re absolutely gorgeous: well composed, tonally perfect, often covered in printed lettering and flowing script. The subjects range from children to the elderly; all of whom are incredibly interesting to look at — some are angry, some are scared, some are laughing, some are posing. Maybe it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I find them fascinating.

There’s a Wikepedia entry on the author who curated the photos, Peter Doyle. Astute readers may notice that I’ve cleverly hidden a link to it in the previous sentence. You can also check out the book on Amazon here. And you can whet your appetite for awesomeness by looking below and checking out a few of the many mind-blowing shots contained therein.

Enjoy.

City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs, 1912-1948City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs, 1912-1948City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs, 1912-1948City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs, 1912-1948City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs, 1912-1948City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs, 1912-1948

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Grand Royal vs. The Nuge

Shown: Ted Nugent, being a dickhead

Shown: Ted Nugent, being a dickhead

Once upon a time, the Beastie Boys ran their own record label called Grand Royal. Aside from their own releases, they released stuff by people like Bis (who did the awesome Power Puff Girls theme song), Money Mark, Luscious Jackson, Russel Simins (JSBX drummer, not former Def Jam records head), At The Drive-In and more. It was eclectic, to say the least.

But beyond that, the Beastie Boys also had a magazine of the same name, and in the issue of Grand Royal with Lee Perry on the cover (which also came with a Lee Perry flexi), they had an interview with the Motor City Madman himself: Ted Nugent.

Despite my undying love for the song “Stranglehold,” I think that Ted Nugent sucks. I don’t like his music and I don’t like his politics. He’s always struck me as a racist, self-important douchebag, and this interview does nothing to dissuade that. In fact, it reinforces any negative preconception you might have had about the man.

Let me conclude my introduction by saying that this is, in my opinion, the single greatest interview in the history of rock music. The first question is “What was up with Damn Yankees? They were pretty lame” and it just goes downhill from there. At one point The Nuge takes credit for inventing short skirts, and answers another question with “Goddamn right! I’M THE FUCKING NUGE, MAN!” It’s so batshit fucking crazy that you’d think it was entirely made up if not for the fact that there’s an audio clip of part of it.

So after telling anyone who would listen about how fucking insane and awesome this interview was for over a decade now, yesterday I finally took to Google in an effort to track it down. I figured that someone had to have saved it for posterity. And as it turns out, someone did, and here’s the link:

Ted Nugent is a Mad Man | Glorious Noise

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Alexey Titarenko: Art et la Maniere

My first real connection with street photography came from Robert Frank’s book The Americans, which I was exposed to as an impressionable student in art school. Despite the fact that it’s totally one of those books that you get into in college, it’s managed to stick with me all these years and I consider it to be one of the major cultural influences on my life.

Which, I suppose is neither here nor there; I just mention it in an effort to say that I like street photography. This past spring I found myself indulging that interest by reading a sweet book called Street Photography Now, which is where I came across the Russian photographer Alexey Titarenko.

Now originally I was going to ramble a bit about him here, but I decided to spare you any more exposition and just cut to the chase with a few photos from his project titled City of Shadows (all of which were taken in his native St. Petersburg):

Untitled, (Crowd 1), 1992

Untitled, (Crowd 1), 1992

Untitled, (Zigzag Crowd), 1994

Untitled, (Zigzag Crowd), 1994

Untitled, (Boy), 1993

Untitled, (Boy), 1993

Now I won’t pretend that I know where he’s coming from. After all, I wasn’t raised in communist Russia. As such I have no frame of reference for his portrayal of a failed utopia, a world where the people are ghosts of themselves shambling along through their dreary business of survival. That being said, there’s something there about futility, hopelessness, anonymity and alienation that is universal, and I instantly connected with that something. Intellectually, aesthetically and — on a very primal level — as someone who alternately feels like both the ghosts and the boy. They’re all trapped, just in different ways. And yes, yes — I know how pretentious that sounds. I did mention that I went to art school, right?

Moving along.

For your viewing pleasure, I’ve embedded a documentary about Titarenko that originally aired in Europe. They have it up on YouTube in three parts, and, unfortunately, they all sort of look like shit. I mean, seriously: you have a documentary on a photographer, and the best you can do is 240p? That’s just shameful. And it’s doubly shameful considering that it’s uploaded to Titarenko’s own account! Come on, man — have some self-respect.

Regardless of the video quality, it’s a pretty fascinating piece. Aside from the obligatory biographical information, they show him following an old lady around and taking pictures of her and they never mention whether or not he has permission to do so, which is reasonably creepy. They also show him making a print and briefly talking about the bleaching/toning process he uses that makes his work look so fucking dismal. So check it out! Or not; I don’t really care. Also: visit his site if you want to see/learn more.

Now without further ado, I give you Alexey Titarenko: Art et la Maniere. Just don’t watch it full screen.

 

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