The Art of the Personal Project: Fernando Decillis

- - Personal Project

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Fernando Decillis

Photography is amazing for the access it gives the photographer to moments and stories that might not be apparent in a moving moment. It allows you to freeze time and look back at what happened. Or to draw someone out of their shell and learn about who they are. Without a camera, I would probably talk to people a lot less. And I’m already accused of being really quiet at least a few times a week.

My friends at We Love ATL had a brilliant idea— to highlight the unsung heroes who dedicate their lives to serving their communities within Atlanta. They asked me if I was interested in shooting in volunteering some time to making portraits of someone. After realizing how much these people do for their communities, I was hooked! I really took the project to heart and made a personal project out of it. I took pictures of 7 more people after the first.

I met some amazing people through this project. People who have literally changed this Atlanta to make it a richer, safer, and more friendly place to live.

Sanjay Patel, the founder of Soccer in the Streets, is the man Atlanta’s first Marta (Atlanta’s light rail) soccer station. It’s democratizes soccer culture in our city by making the field itself accessible by public transportation and allowing anyone to sign up for pickup games.

Jason Ikeem Rogers, established Orchestra Noir, Atlanta’s first all African-American orchestra. He’s invigorated music culture here and given an underrepresented group of musicians a place to belong and thrive.

Nedra Deadwyler of Civil Bikes offers bike tours of Atlanta that tie history into the neighborhoods’ current cultures.

Pat Hussein is a civil rights activist whose mission is to reframe the way the South is viewed by serving the LGBT community and creating a space of belonging in community. Her organization is called Southerners on New Ground (SONG).

Ultimately, personal projects connect me to my community and give me a window into what is going on right around me. It’s crazy how with a camera in my hand and a story to tell, people just invite me into their worlds.

http://www.weloveatl.org/the-time-is-right/

@weloveatl

 

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

 

The Daily Promo – Jørn Tomter

- - The Daily Promo

Jørn Tomter

Who printed it?
This issue was printed by Pensord in Wales, UK. For the next one I am looking at a London based printer, known for great quality print. The whole idea of the magazine is to keep things local, so it makes sense to print it closer to home.

Who designed it?
It is designed by Beatriz Coias at Studio Pyramid; a local design studio near my office. I also have a team of journalists for the stories, an editor to sub the text and each issue includes the work of a local illustrator.

Tell me about the images?
All the images are from my local neighbourhood based around Chatsworth Road, which is the high street, with mainly independent shops. In 2010 I returned to London after living in Berlin for two years. My wife and I just had a child and I wasn’t that keen on travelling much to do projects as I wanted to spend time with my son. I could see that the area I’d moved to would probably change a lot as part of the gentrification most big cities go through. I wanted to document this process and at the same time prove to myself that I don’t have to travel far to find good stories and interesting people. I decided early on to make sure that I covered all demographics and not exclude any groups of people; specifically those who grew up here and had deeper roots than middle class people like me arriving with the baristas. I am hoping the pictures can work as a bridge between the different cultures. All the photos in the magazine are of local residents, local businesses or visitors. I have a few different approaches: one set of images are created just by me walking around looking for situations or interesting people to photograph. This also includes the newly added drone photos. Part of my project is to photograph local business owners, so each magazine issue has a series of portraits of shopkeepers that I work more like a portrait commission for a magazine (except it is commissioned by me). I take a lot more portraits than I publish in print but they all go on the dedicated website. I also organise free portrait studios from time to time. These can be in empty shop spaces, at school fairs or anyone who can offer me a space for a day or more. People who turn up get a free portrait and a print to take home. Every mag issue has a selection of these portraits. One of the very interesting results of the portrait studio is that some people have turned up since the first one I did in 2011. It’s great to see how they change and how families grow in numbers. Then I also feature local talents like musicians. Millie Turner who is in the latest issue, is only 18 but has already been recommended by Billboard and Spotify for her music, so it is very fun to see how the people we feature actually make it. I was recently approached by the talented creative director Thomas Ollivier after he saw a previous issue. He had this idea of making a series of portraits of children (from cultural backgrounds unlikely to send people into space) in astronaut outfits. He had the outfits customised and all he needed was models and a photographer. A great thing about doing this project is the access I get to people and spaces. All I had to do was call up a local school I had already worked with and it organised all the children for us to photograph. It was great and the school used it as part of its learning about space that term. Overall, my photos are a document of an area and its people over a long period of time. If I have an idea for a shoot I have the world’s biggest studio and models on my doorstep.

How many did you make?
I print 5000 copies. Most of these are hand-delivered to local households. I think it is really important that the people I photograph feel part of the project and can follow it. Often they recognise each other in the street and new friendships are born. I feel it would be wrong to make something like this and have it for sale in shops that only a fraction of the people I photograph frequent. I keep some copies that I mail out to clients and agencies I think it would be fun to work with.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I personally send out roughly once a year which is when the magazine is out. My agent, Tea & Water Pictures, do most of the promo for me and do it so much better than I ever could. They have been great and really understand the way I like to work. One of the reasons I started to invest so much time in the magazine was that I felt a bit lost doing all the promo (before I had an agent). At one point I felt I was just recycling old photos onto cards and felt no joy mailing out. It took a lot of time and I started asking myself how I could use my time differently and enjoy it more. I invested that time into making this publication and was hoping the clients would come to me rather me chasing them. So far it has landed me a few good commissions and one client did actually come to me.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I believe print is the best way to look at photos, but it has to be done right and it has to be your way of doing it. Don’t try to replicate. I believe it works better to send out a project rather than a random collection of photos. I think giving the creative person whose attention you want a good story, presented well, means he or she will remember your work. For me it has worked very well doing the magazine.

What do you like about becoming a magazine publisher?
I would never be able to do this without working with a great team. I’ve also learnt new skills through this experience: I commission freelancers, am creative director, sell advertising to cover the print and am a publisher. I am even a newspaper boy. It is great to work in a team like this, since most of my work as a photographer is often quite solitary.

In the beginning I had no intention of creating a publication. The first issue was just meant to be a paper to go with an exhibition I did with some of the portraits early on in the project. Back then it was only 500 copies. It turned out to be so much fun making it. People loved it and it encouraged me to take more photos, so I decided to make another one. Then a third one. With the fourth issue, I stepped up the game and printed 5000 copies. This is when I decided to hand deliver to local households. I have some help doing this but most of them I do myself. I look at it as a free workout session! People ask me how often it comes out, but to be honest, there is no set time. I look at it as when musicians make an album. When it is good enough we are ready to publish. This tends to be about once a year.

The Daily Edit – Under the Radar: Ray Lego

- - The Daily Edit

 

Under the Radar

Publisher/Creative Director: Mark Redfern+ Wendy Lynch Redfern
Senior Editor/ Music Editor: Mark Redfern
Creative Director: Wendy Redfern
Photographer: Ray Lego

Heidi: You’ve shot so many musicians in your life, what kind of photographic responsibility comes along with working with such a change agent in the music scene?
Ray: I am the change agent! My goal usually is to take pictures that have a clear vision, not to take pictures that have been done before by other photographers .
Be persistent and lead by building trust with my subjects and clients. Some times you have to fail to move forward, “there’s more than one way to do things”.
Who, What, Where, When, Why and how is where i start…the uncertainty of change make it challenging! “Adapt or die!”

What type of direction did the magazine give you?
I’ve been working with UTR for years and  know what they want and what to expect. Knowing its a cover I need to keep it simple with negative space, leave room for text. Kasami was
so intense looking I wanted nothing to distract from that, the sun was blazing and it was one of the hottest days of the year. I wanted the sun to open up every detail in his
afro and beard. The shot looks like it was edited but really it was the electrifying sun playing with the cameras sensor. The magazine picked and mocked up a bunch of cover ideas
and I thought anyone of them would be great.

Since UTR is noted as the only real indie music magazine still around, what did you two discuss between takes?
We talked about music Art Blakey+John Coltrane and Eric Dalton. Snoopdog and how he use to play with him, Fist of Fury video game that he played and named a song after. and of course his GOLD superstar Adidas kicks

How difficult was it to shoot on a crowded Canal Street?
The Canal street images I shot over my shoulder and never looked though the camera, this makes people walk normal and not stop or duck not wanting to get in the shot etc.
It was over 100 degrees and super humid, that’s why some people have umbrellas and why i think it looks bare. The closer we got to the crossings the more people we attracted,
in the middle of the block was  more quite and we only did one pass and done. He was so big the people on the sidewalk would clear out and leave plenty of room, it didn’t hurt that he was carrying a solid wood staff about 4 feet and 2 inches round.

Did you two discuss wardrobe prior to shoot?
I read an article where he talks about being a big fan of african culture and the clothes, not being ashamed of being black or connected to Africa.
I told his PR people he should wear what ever he wanted. I thought be looked super cool showing up in a colorful tunic! Super Throwback! He also
had a cane/staff and trying to remember what he said about it, might have to ask PR person. He also had his sax case and the sickest pair of gold Adidas Superstars.

Tell us about the trance shot.
While flashing on set up and the only set up I used a flash ,I noticed that I was putting him in a trance. Every time the flash went off his eyes would roll back and he would be dazed for bit. I stopped using the flash. Not sure if he was doing this as part of an act” and it was never scary just bizarre.

Was that sun flare in the portrait?
Prism Spread: at one point I was shooting through a small prism and the flare and refracting light suited his vibe, it was very uncontrollable and focusing racking all over the place.

Tell us about the inspiration for the ring shot/last spread of the magazine story
Close up of Hand with Rings: His rings on his hand remind of an image made over 20 years ago of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with all of his championship rings that barely fit
one on each finger.

This Week in Photography Books: Corinne Vionnet

 

Thanks for reading, and giving this column its legs.

Thanks for taking what I say seriously, but also having the self-awareness to know when I’m joking. Lord knows I’ve written some crazy things in this column over the last 7+ years, but I’ve never felt the need to dumb things down. (And I have the coolest editor in the world, which helps.)

But mostly I’m saying thanks because after last week’s nakedly honest column, I got several lovely, positive emails in reply.

I don’t do this for the feedback, obviously, or Rob and I wouldn’t have gone to war with the Trolls back in 2011.

Not all responses are worth considering, but I was caught off guard last week when several readers reached out to wish me well, and let me know they appreciated the candor we offer here, and the attempt to contemplate real ideas. (Rather than ripping off hot takes faster than Stephen A. Smith can say “New Yawk Knicks.”)

So today, rather than gloat at the Democratic House victory yesterday, or rip into Trump and his followers one more time, I’d like to do something different.

I’m going to speak to everyone at once.

Democrats and Republicans.
Urbanites and country-folk.
Artists and commercial photographers.
Haters and lovers.

All of you.

The experiment we have going on here in America, that of a massive, heterogenous, democratic Republic, is fairly new. Relative to China’s 5000 year history, we are newcomers.

And as we all know, the founding of America, and its subsequent expansion, was rife with corruption, misery, and genocide.

Yet I’m still proud of this country, and the system and values that were built by genius Americans like Ben Franklin and George Washington.

It’s easy to disparage those old Christian White guys, and to point out their sizable flaws, like slave ownership. In fact, it might be easier to dismiss them than mine for the brilliance of what they enacted.

The American system of government has allowed for our polyglot society to grow and flourish, and unless and until you can be legally shot for your opinions, then our free speech principle is one to support and uphold.

And perhaps, for once, it’s time to quote Rodney King: “Can’t we all just get along?”

These days, I feel like most people are defaulting to the idea that we can’t. That some awful future is guaranteed up ahead, and we’re all marching to the ovens with our eyes firmly on the floor.

But that is simply not the case.

There are nice, family-loving people in Red and Blue states. And there are cool, hip, fascinating childless folks in both urban and rural Americas as well.

It’s foolish to assume we can leave all this accrued hate behind, but then again, what is our alternative?

If “Divide and Conquer” is such an obvious and successful strategy, then perhaps it’s time to employ the “Re-unite and Thrive” response?

My Uncle and Aunt, whom I love, are both Republicans. They hate Obama, and want a wall.

But I can talk to them.
I don’t wish them dead.

Quite the opposite.

Perhaps, that’s the best I can offer you guys today. The idea that maybe, individually, each of us can make an effort to reach across the (metaphorical) aisle and tell your political counterpoint that you don’t hate them.

You don’t wish them dead.

You disagree, but conflict can lead to change, which begets growth.

Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a book review? Isn’t there an implicit promise that if you sit with my ravings, at the end, you get to look at a book?

Yes, that’s the deal.

And not surprisingly, today’s book inspired my desire to knit together what years of discord have rendered.

“Total Flag” is a new, small-batch, self-published photo book by the Swiss-French artist Corinne Vionnet. One of her representatives reached out offering the book a few months ago, as I’d reviewed another of her publications (by Fall Line Press) late last year.

Ironically, the European PR person was traveling to Texas, and thought she’d be able to send me this French-artist’s-take-on-America more easily, once inside our formidable borders.

Like Robert Frank, or de Tocqueville before him, occasionally the lone European flaneur has raided our shores to reflect our society better than we can from the inside.

This book is about the furthest thing from street photography you can get. Frankly, to the naked eye, it doesn’t look much like photography at all.

Sure, they could be shots of a computer screen. Maybe they’re totally straight, unmanipulated pictures too. But that doesn’t matter much, as what we really see is a set of digital information as it degrades to nothing.

I’ll admit, the idea of the flag succumbing to entropy is not the subtlest, or most original symbol for contemporary America.

Let’s be honest, it’s kind of obvious.

But as a book, it’s effective. Slowly, bit by bit, the fabric of America has begun to come apart at the seams. We were one nation, and that sustained us, but are we any longer?

Or will the City vs Country war allow us to implode?

Normally, I focus on what’s wrong, and call attention to our problems.

Today, I don’t feel much like doing that.

Rather, this book has inspired me to push for reconciliation, because the alternative is much, much worse.

Bottom Line: Abstract, symbolic book about the rendering of America

To purchase “Total Flag” click here 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We currently have a several month backlog, and are particularly interested in submissions from female photographers so we may maintain a balanced program.

The Art of the Personal Project: Dana Sabre

- - Personal Project

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Dana Sabre

Personal projects are hard! I’ve been trying to do one for years.  I kept thinking…. what do I care about? Empowering women…. the first thing that came to mind was a project featuring the super badass high achieving women who have defied all odds, shattered glass ceilings… survived cancer.  But what about those of us who haven’t crushed chemo or invented Spanx? I started thinking about doing something more simple. Just something very “every day” and relatable…. more me.

I’m lucky to have a large group of amazingly talented and hilarious female friends and I’m one of three sisters. So I drew inspiration from the stuff we talk about and the things we find funny.  My sister and I have always joked about our “mirror faces” we make when we are trying to get ready and the way we must have our mouths hanging wide open to do our mascara (try to do it with your mouth closed, it’s impossible).

That was the idea. For the execution I had a giant mirror behind me while shooting and I told the models to do the things they would normally do in front of a mirror.  I practiced at home with my own mirror faces and wrote down about 50 different kinds of faces incase we ran out of ideas. I’m pretty sure if anyone had seen me preparing for this shoot they would have thought I was mental.  I also had an excellent team of two hair/makeup people and two wardrobe stylists.

Then I sent the work out in an email blast.  I specifically said in my email that this was a personal project. I didn’t say much else however, just a couple quick sentences. Within about 15 minutes of sending my second round of emails out I got an email back from a creative director who wanted me to bid on a job for Samsung.  He liked that I had my own ideas and wanted to work with someone who could get authentic moments from people. I was awarded the job AND I was able hire a couple of people from my original crew for the shoot, which was awesome.  That’s the long explanation. But to put it simply, the important question is — “what’s your mirror face?”

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

 

The Daily Edit – ESPN: Randall Slavin

- - Working

 

ESPN

Creative Director: Chin Wang
Director of Photography, Print + Digital: Tim Rasmussen
Director of Photography, ESPN The Magazine: Karen Frank
Deputy Photo Editors: Kristen Geisler, Jim Surber
Senior Photo Editors: Nick Galac
Photo Editor: Kaitlin Marron
Associate Art Director: Linda Pouder
Photographer: Randall Slavin

Heidi:  Did you shoot this specifically as a cover or was it an outtake from the feature?
Randall: I was asked to shoot portraits at the 2018 ESPYS of 100+ victims of sexual assault who were receiving the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. So I had a portrait studio set up in the green room to shoot the former gymnasts.  It was extremely taxing emotionally and creatively as we only had 2 hours to do all of them and i try to make some personal connection to everyone I shoot, even more so with portraits like this.

As I was set up the people from ESPN said “as long as you are set up feel free to try to shoot anyone you can get into the studio.” So before and after my shoot with the gymnasts I was able to pull some people into the studio for quick portraits including NFL hall of famer Jim Kelly, The Villanova Wildcats , and a few other people, and I had seen Odell Beckham Jr. around the green room and with his bleached hair and his black and white Gucci shorts outfit I was aching to shoot him.

I’m not a big NFL fan but I’m a fan of interesting characters. I had told someone who was working the event to try to wrangle Odell into the studio. The night wound down and nothing, the broadcast had ended and the green room was emptying out.  I told my crew to pack it up as it had been an extremely long day. We were taking down strobe and packing up lenses when my friend poked her head in and said
“Odell is on his way.”

I  hurriedly told my boys set everything back up just as OBJ walked in w a drink in one hand; after quick introductions he stepped on the paper.  At first it was pretty normal; then I told him to reach out to me to infuse some energy into the shot. (that was the cover shot) I asked him what his newest tattoo was so he lifted up his shorts to show me the jungle scene on his leg.

He had a new diamond inserted in his incisor so he loved snarling his lip to show me the sparkling cross. When I’m shooting these portraits I get really close to the subject as I’m usually shooting these at 24mm. It feels very intimate and personal. He was leaping and jumping. We only shot about 30 frames but I knew we had something special. and then he asked me for camera, “my turn” he said so we switched places and he took my picture. Odell shooting me leaping and goofing around. Its not usually my vibe but it had been such a difficult day, I was a bit punchy knew Odell and I had just shot something special, so sort of in a way to thank him and not ruin the good energy that we had going I did it. 10 later minutes later it was over and he grabbed my phone put his number in it
“text me these pictures,” and he was gone.

I turned to Alison Overholt and Tim Rasmussen the EIC and photo editor for ESPN THE MAGAZINE with a  big smile on my face.
“You know,you just shot our NFL preview cover,” Allison said.
“I did?”
“We have been trying to get Odell to do a cover for us but we weren’t able to make it happen.”

Did you always see this in B/W?
I always intended this to be black and white, I’ve never even looked at it in color!

The Daily Promo – Mark Fleming

- - The Daily Promo

Mark Fleming

Who printed it?
My designer and I looked at several local printers. In the end I decided to go with J.S. McCarthy Printers out of Augusta, Maine.

Who designed it?
I worked with a good friend, Danny Gugger, of Deciduous Design. Danny is a hell of a designer and really brought my initial concept to the next level.

Tell me about the images?
The images in the promo are from a story I photographed for Down East Magazine a few years back. The story focused on a wilderness survival camp in Northern Maine that has been experiencing a boom in student enrollment from recent veterans. The writer, Brian Kevin and I stayed at the camp for a week, documenting a class of recent veterans as they learned the skills necessary to survive in the wilderness. It was incredible to see how being in nature and learning these skills helped them readjust to their civilian life.

How many did you make?
I did a small print run off 100 units to target specific clients.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I typically create one major promo a year and will send out postcard touch base promos 3 times a year.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I do. Our lives are dominated by screen time these days, and I think getting a piece of mail still brings a certain level of curiosity and excitement.

This Week in Photography Books: Joshua Lutz

 

Holy shit, has it been a crazy week.

Sometimes, I feel like I can’t catch my breath, because no matter how hard I work, and how much positive energy I try to push out into the world, everything is just too big.

Too wild.
Too raw.

I’m helpless.

Most days, almost every day, honestly, I know who I am, where I’m going, what I’m doing, and what my goals are.

Be a good husband and father.
Make good art.

Write smart, entertaining and beneficial things for you, my large (and largely faceless) global audience.

But every now and again, I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and I just can’t understand how the world is so fucked, with people constantly talking about the impending extinction of humanity, the onslaught of fascism, or the likelihood of Donald Trump’s 3rd Term.

Since the Enlightenment, it has generally been accepted that human beings are predominantly rational creatures, and that we make decisions based upon our own self-interest.

Capitalism, the big idea that drives all global commerce, is essentially built upon the concept of rationality. It accepts that because people are greedy, governments are necessary to serve as a counter-balance to that greed.

Dirty rivers and dirty air are guaranteed, unless there is a bulwark to force corporations, (or in the past, rapacious individual owners,) to spend additional money to dispose of their waste properly.

Still, I think most of us believe we’re normal, as are our neighbors, and that almost all of us share a common goal: to provide for our families, give them the best life possible, live in a nice house, have time for leisure, and get to eat food that is better than the insect-jello they had to eat in that super-depressing movie “Snowpiercer.” (Damn that Chris Evans looks good in a beard!)

I always tell people that Taos, where I live, has a particularly high incidence of mental illness, and anti-social behavior. If you live here long enough, it’s super-obvious to see. (And it makes sense, when you know the history.)

Taos was the one place to rebel, when the US claimed and invaded New Mexico after the Mexican-American War, and the Taoseños killed all the White folks and fed them to the pigs. (No lie. You can look it up.)

And since “Easy Rider” dropped in 1969, misfits, outlaws and malcontents have flocked here like they’re giving away free reefer.

My personal experience with the Taos Crazies, (as we call them,) changed radically a few years ago. I took over as the Chair of the Fine Arts Department at the college where I taught, despite being repeatedly warned that the student body was unruly TO THE MAX.

Foolishly, I assumed that because I’m a nice guy, and relatively high functioning, I’d be able to straighten the place right out. My bosses assured me they had my back, and were serious about reforming the place, to make it work better for the next generation. (Ron Howard voice: They weren’t.)

If you’ve been reading for the last few years, (Hi Rob, Hi Jessie,) you’ll know how it all turned out.

There’s a reason people use the expression “driving me crazy.” It’s not that mental illness is contagious, like the flu or Ebola, but when a healthy person is continuously exposed to a sick environment, eventually it gets to you.

Without exaggeration, I remember the time I was accosted by a woman who shrieked at me for not inviting her into an art show, when I had verifiably done so in several ways. (Including an email that I retained, making her assertions “fake news.”)

Or the time a guy who was actually friends with Jessie’s family got so angry, when I was forced to deliver bad news from my superiors, that the spittle flecks flew at my face like snow flakes in a beautiful blizzard.

Or the time an older woman, who admittedly did look a bit like a witch, came up to me, got right in my face, and screamed “BOO!” before cackling and walking away, gobsmacked at the fear that was plainly registered on my face.

(I could go on, but I won’t.)

I will admit, though, that I became progressively testier, and grumpier, to the point that I was being short-tempered with my kids, and knew I had to quit.

I began this ramble by talking about our collective crazy week, and boy was it. One lunatic tries to blow up the entire power structure of the Democratic Party, while living in a van, another shoots a bunch of elderly Jews while they pray, and all the while, the Saudi government changes its story about the Jamal Khashoggi murder more times than Eli Manning got sacked by the Washington Redskins on Sunday. (7 sacks, if you’re counting.)

The plain truth, as near as I can gather, is that the world is genuinely bat-shit, and the best we can do is try to keep it all straight.

Human beings are not entirely rational, as Jung and Freud figured out, and expecting us to behave “normally” is a fool’s errand.

Or as my therapist likes to say, “Crazy always wins.” You can’t convince crazy with logic, or reason. Better to recognize it, and then figure out a workaround.

If you’ve followed along so far, and didn’t decide that Blaustein must have eaten a bag of mushrooms before writing today, I applaud you. (And I’m stone cold sober, other than some really strong coffee and a healthy dose of late-October sunshine.)

Instead, I’ll blame these musings on “Mind The Gap,” an excellent, mind-bending, and genuinely insane new book by Joshua Lutz, published by Schilt Publishing in Amsterdam. (While we’re being honest, I did once go half-mad after eating an Amsterdam space cake, before boarding an inter-continental flight, and recall trying to talk myself down, looking in the mirror of the airplane bathroom while flying over the Arctic Circle.)

Rob wrote to me, after last week’s review of “Hidden Mother,” that he’d never seen a book quite like that one. I heartily agreed, and passed the compliment along to the publisher.

As always, I never plan the connections between books, but this week, I can clearly declare that I’ve never seen a book like this one either.

And that’s probably a good thing.

Given what I’ve learned about mental illness, this book channels it better than any I’ve previously read or perused. It is a genuinely crazy photo book, which explores actual insanity, for our sadly twisted times.

(Before you say it, I know there were assassinations galore in the 60’s, and that Michael Douglas was a sex symbol in the 80’s, but really, 2018 feels like it hits new heights on the WTF scale.)

This book doesn’t make sense, and clearly isn’t supposed to. There are interludes that refer to history, blending 17th Century Indian attacks and Walt Disney with Robert Moses stories, and others that relate the 1-10 scale for people contemplating suicide.

A couple considers buying a house where a family was killed, (outside on the swings, not in any of the bedrooms,) and a parable is included about a Prince who’s the heir to the Mad King.

The photographs, (this is a photo book after all,) seem straight, and mostly black and white, but they could easily include digital composting, and you wouldn’t know it.

At first, I felt like the references were mostly about New York, but then I picked up New Orleans and Florida. (There’s definitely a picture that speaks to the mass shooting at the Pulse night club in Orlando.)

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention the book opens up with an admission that the writer might be suffering from schizophrenia, which he may have inherited from his mother?

We’d normally assume it’s real, but for some reason, right away, I gathered it wasn’t.

The pictures are strange, and compelling, but by themselves don’t answer any questions. We’re trained to figure things out, or at least to try, and I have to say that’s impossible here.

Which, thankfully, is the point.

This book drives you crazy, and what better way to explore the experience of insanity?

Finally, in the image-title page at the end, we get a tad of closure. The photographic locations are more comprehensive than they seem, and include pictures made at Sandy Hook, Columbine, Pulse, and other places that contain the resonance of terroristic violence.

On some level, all the mass shooters are crazy. They have to be, because their actions are in no way rational.

Even if you think George Soros is funding the migrant caravan, how does killing an elderly 80-something Jewish couple stop the brown people from getting to the border?

It doesn’t, and every time you try to understand where that kind of hatred comes from, your head hurts just a little bit more.

Bottom Line: An excellent, appropriate look at our crazy culture

To purchase “Mind the Gap,” click here

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We currently have a several month backlog, and are particularly interested in submissions from female photographers so we may maintain a balanced program.

The Art of the Personal Project: Sandro

- - Personal Project

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Sandro Miller

Centurions. I started thinking about all that time on this earth that these beautiful people have seen good and bad.  Each of my subjects were so kind, generous, and loving.  I was humbled by their insights on their longevity on this earth.  For every one of them, the LOVE they gave and received was the main factor of why they felt they had such a long life.  Their family and friends played equal importance in sharing that love. I was particularly moved with empathy when I was given the honor of photographing the three African-American Centurions.  I thought of the hardships, the injustices they have seen and felt.  I thought of the unthinkable hatred from whites they have all sadly have endured.  I held each and every one of their hands and stroked their beautiful soft cheeks as I photographed them. It is my way of letting them know that I truly care and love them.  For this they gave me a split moment of their time, over 100 years on this earth.  There is so much to learn from these gifts from God that we can all learn from.   I was an honor to sit with each of these beautiful members of our society.

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

 

The Daily Edit – Bloomberg Businessweek: Victor Prado

- - The Daily Edit

Bloomberg Businessweek

Creative Director: Chris Nosenzo
Art Director: Alexander Shoukas
Deputy Photo Editor: Aeriel Brown

Photographer:
Victor Prado

Heidi: How did this idea come about?
Victor: We originally shot the story months ago where images of a specific motherboard were potentially going to be on the cover. Bloomberg was able to get ahold of a few chips months after, and we did another shoot after based on an idea with the chip.

Did you cast a hand model?
We worked with two employees at Bloomberg who had been casted prior to the shoot day to be the hand/finger models.

Why did you feel it was important for a male finger?
I think it was finding someone with a short trimmed nail who was available at the time, so that the emphasis of the cover would be on the chip itself. We tried some cover idea options without fingers like a penny and pencil next to the chip and two different fingers.

Were you looking for any finger print in particular?
For the fingerprints, we first weren’t sure of how close the crop would be, and happened after that the crop was to be so up close that the fingerprint is really detailed.

Was it difficult to place the chip?
It was a bit difficult to position, and worked with tweezers because the chip was so small, like a speck of dust.

The Daily Promo – Eric Helgas

- - The Daily Promo

Eric Helgas

Who printed it?
Got print

Who designed it?
I collaborated with my friend who’s a designer, Tessa Law. I really wanted something minimal and clean.

Tell me about the images?
Two of the images are commissioned still lives for editorial clients and one is a personal portrait of a Brooklyn Drag Queen. I always try to include one piece of personal work in my mailings. I think its important to show editors what you’re really interested in making and your point of view.

How many did you make?
I sent the cards to about 250 photo editors and art directors.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I send out promos 3-4 times a year.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
Printed promos are definitely effective for marketing my work. Most of my first shoots for clients came in due to printed promos. I’ve heard from editors that receiving a printed piece is more impactful than an email, which can be easily ignored or looked over. I always keep my promos really consistent (with three full bleed postcards) and I’m really careful about which images I choose to send together, as they are initially viewed as a group.

This Week in Photography Books: Laura Larson

 

Have you ever heard of Bitty Schram?

(Probably not.)

Don’t worry. It’s a pretty obscure Pop culture reference. (Even for me.)

Bitty Schram is an actress who’s best known as the player in “A League of Their Own” at whom Tom Hanks shrieks, “There’s no crying in baseball!”

But if you think this is a column about the World Series, (Red Sox vs Dodgers,) you’re very wrong. I don’t give a shit about baseball anymore. The steroid era, (and the fact that baseball’s boring,) quashed any love I might have previously had for America’s former pastime.

Some of you might know Bitty Schram, though, as the sassy, spunky, spirited, Jersey-girl foil to Tony Shalhoub’s famous-early-aught’s OCD detective Adrian Monk, in the long-running USA series “Monk.”

Bitty Schram, (yes, I love typing that name,) co-starred as his assistant and sometime nurse Sharona Fleming, who was as Jersey as Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi combined. (It helped that the actress was a Jersey girl herself.)

My wife and I occasionally watched the show back in the day, (it first aired in 2003,) and recently re-discovered it in its current incarnation as a streaming option on Amazon. (Or Prime Video. Whatever. Same shit.)

I remembered that they replaced the Sharona character at some point with a very bland, far-less-talented actress, and that we eventually stopped watching because the she kind of sucked. (No offense, Traylor Howard. If you’re reading.)

So this time around, I began to feel wistful for Bitty Schram, as the show evolved, knowing she was not long for this world. I even did a bit of Googling and discovered that she and two other co-stars had advocated for more money, (so they say,) and she was summarily fired and replaced mid-way through the 3rd season.

The male actors, who according to the internet were in solidarity with her, (including Ted Levine, Buffalo Bill of “The Silence of the Lambs” fame,) were not fired however.

And Bitty Schram was essentially never heard from again. (According to IMDB.)

We counted down the episodes until we knew she’d be kiboshed, and wondered how they’d handle it. An astute viewer could see that the chemistry was not quite right, towards the end, but as there was little warning for what the producers would do, Bitty Schram was there one week, and gone the next.

(They said she moved back to Jersey, and that was the end of it.)

Ironically, though, as they essentially cleansed her from the opening credits, there was one shot left in which her curly hair, just a hint of it, can be seen at the edge of the camera frame as she supports Monk’s arm.

It’s impossible to miss, if you know what you’re looking for, and that little bit of Bitty haunts the show each time I see it. (Sorry, that was a terrible pun.)

For a week or so, I felt really bad for her, and internalized her struggle.

Poor Sharona, treated so unfairly.

But then you could see the creators clearly wanted to pivot, as the meta-narrative became less about Monk’s paralyzing OCD and germaphobia, and less of a who-done-it murder procedural.

Rather, they wanted to increase the physical comedy, and give the brilliant Tony Shalhoub more time to shine. His new assistant, as bland as a piece of wheat toast with no butter, was there as straight-woman only.

No personality necessary.

Still, the hint of Bitty Schram sits at the edge of that frame, each episode, reminding me of all the under-appreciated women who stuck their necks out, only to get their heads chopped off. (Metaphorically. There’s no decapitation in “Monk,” to be clear.)

We take women’s issues seriously here at APE, which is why I’ve been on a year-long-crusade to increase our submissions from female photographers. Rob and I agreed that having balance was necessary, and vital, and it wouldn’t happen on its own.

You may have noticed our repeated request for such submissions at the end of each column, and you can trust that I also respond enthusiastically each time a publisher offers to send a cool book by a female artist.

And today’s no exception.

“Hidden Mother,” a recent photo book by Laura Larson, published by Saint Lucy Press in Baltimore, turned up in the mail recently, and I’m so glad it did.

Photo geeks are probably aware of the 19th Century trope of child portraits taken with mothers stabilizing their kids, hidden beneath a cloth so they didn’t become photo subjects themselves.

It leaves most people to question, “Why not just include Mom with little Timmy or Sally, (more likely Harriet or Woodrow,) and it’s a question the book poses directly too.

I assumed, when the book was offered, that it was a collection of these creepy pictures put together in one volume, and wouldn’t it be perfect around Halloween? (Coming next week, making this my official Halloween column.)

Boy, was I wrong.

Laura Larson has instead created a hybrid project that includes some intellectual-speaky essay writing, (replete with obligatory Roland Barthes reference,) but even that is a feint.

Mostly, the super-strange and unsettling “Hidden Mother” pictures are interspersed with poetic, lovely, personal stories about the process through which the artist adopted a little girl from Ethiopia.

As a single mother, no less. (Just like Sharona Fleming.)

Honestly, this is an excellent little book, and I love everything about it. The size is perfect, making it intimate, and just-right in the hand.

The writing is wonderful, and manages to straddle the line between formal language and a vulnerable spirit. And of course the pictures are great, in particular the set in which the “Hidden Mother” has literally been scraped away.

Sometimes, rather than leave her covered in the frame, they removed the emulsion, a complete eradication that is symbolically resonant in ways I need not explain in 2018.

Later, rather than expose the pictures she took of her daughter, Gadisse, (which she wants to keep for herself,) Ms. Larson describes the imagery in words.

Never too many, and never too few.

(It’s just right, like that fairy tale about the sassy, spunky, spirited girl who ate porridge that did not belong to her.)

According to the book, before she was united with her daughter, Laura Larson felt an almost umbilical-like connection to Gadisse via photographs she received through the Interwebs.

In turn, she sent selfies to Ethiopia that she made using Photo Booth on her Apple computer.

The 21st and 19th Centuries marry so well here, as do the imagery and text. It’s a killer book, and I hope you’ll read a few of the text pages below, rather than just look at the pictures.

It’s a great reminder, (to the many parents out there,) to take nothing for granted. If you’re lucky enough to have healthy kids, hug them tight, and make sure they don’t eat too much candy next week.

(But you can. You’re a grown up. Kit Kat’s for everyone!)

Bottom Line: Gorgeous, poignant story of the birth of maternal love

To Purchase “Hidden Mother” click here 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We currently have a several month backlog, and are particularly interested in submissions from female photographers so we may maintain a balanced program.

The Art of the Personal Project: The Voorhes

- - Personal Project

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  The Voorhes

Regarding the project,

Plaster & Bone began as a meditation on addiction.

We all have our vices. Some are innocent and some are brutally self- destructive. But as a society, a global society, we are raging addicts with no concept of control or consequence. Much like the way tobacco creates a body that can’t sustain life, humanity’s addictions to oil and coal compounded with the rapidly growing human population seems doomed to destroy its self.

It sounds dramatic, but can you deny it?

We are living in a glimmering golden age, yet we can all see what’s on the horizon.

***

Regarding the experience,

This project has been an outlet to express themes of anxiety, decay, famine and hopelessness. But also, it has been a venue to explore more traditional imagery at a time when we spend so much of our energy on contemporary visuals. Given that there were no rules, I was able to explore and play. I could re-shoot an image again and again on my own timeline, or abandon a direction if it wasn’t working. That is a luxury I’m not used to. This was the first time in years that I put so much energy into not just testing an idea, or technique or exploring something for a specific project or portfolio development. This body of work exists for no reason other than to exist. Yet, I’m so happy to have put the energy into creating this body of work, and I look forward to developing it in the future. Or maybe not! That’s the freedom of the personal project.

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

 

Marketing: Stop talking about you and make it about them

- - Marketing

In the past two weeks: Droga 5 just got Hershey’s from CP-B; EP+Co got the social media business for LinkedIn; Heat got an assignment from Levi’s to tap the millennial market; Deutsch got Neiman Own’s account and Peter Mayer lands the Mississippi Tourism account.

First: Why is this important? Because if you are going to do your marketing efficiently then you will stand out in congratulating your marketing targets on the work they do and the brand wins they receive.

Second: What is the difference between assignment and account (technically AOR- agency of record). Years ago a brand would assign their creative work to just one agency, but these days many brands are awarding assignments to several different agencies to handle a portion of their marketing needs. For example:

Droga 5 is added to the creative roster of the Hershey’s brand. They have split with Crispen, Porter & Bogusky. According to AdAge, the Hershey’s account is working with Droga 5, MDC’s Anomaly and Dentsu’s McGarryBowen.

EP+Co (formerly called Erwin Penland) Greenville, SC office is doing the social media for LinkedIn.

Heat (SF) got an assignment from Levi’s for one market-the millennial market.

Peter Mayer (NOLA) has landed the Mississippi Tourism account.

I have been in this business for years and have witnessed the changes in not only how brands award their business but also the mediums in which the work is awarded.

I have said you should do your marketing as it was done before computers but now with a computer. The most effective photographers and agents read the trades (Adage, Adweek and others) and called us or sent a promo piece congratulating the agency for winning the brands business. Now, you should send an email to congratulate them on their recent win.

Why does this stand out? Because not only are you congratulating them on a win in this market, but it shows you are researching current information about them. It is a more direct way to do your marketing in addition to sending out epromo’s about recent work you have done in collaboration with the company that hired you.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

The Daily Edit – Rick McGinnis

- - The Daily Edit

 

Rick McGinnis/ Some old pictures

 


Heidi: Can you share some of the highlights and surprises of your 30 year career?
Rick: The highlights that come to mind most easily are shoots with people I admired – Patti Smith, Tom Wolfe, John Waters, Fela Kuti, George Clinton, etc. If your specialty is editorial portraiture – it was called celebrity portraiture for most of my career – then you obviously have to have an interest in the work and personas of some famous people. As I said in the introduction to my photozine Stars, everybody’s idea of celebrity is subjective; these people were a big deal to me. Apart from that, there’s those moments of inspiration, when something you’ve had in your mind suddenly comes out through the camera. There were some photos I took during a stormy day on the lakefront here in Toronto that had been in my mind for years – longer than I’d had a camera. It was as if I had a photo in my head that was trying to get out. That opened up the floodgates for a whole world of non-portrait work that I had no intention of pursuing, really.

 

What made you revisit these old photos?
Frustration, really. I had been applying for newsroom jobs for a few years after I’d been laid off from the paper I was working, and my wife finally said that this wasn’t going to work out for me, and that I should probably find something else to do with my days – a project. She pointed to all my old negatives just sitting in binders on the shelves in my office and said I should see if any of them were worth sharing. That I should set up a cheap, simple blog and post things that looked interesting.

What did you see in them now that you didn’t see then?
I always second-guessed myself when choosing work – I had a hard time finding the best shot, or I’d go for the most obvious, flattering one as opposed to the interesting one buried further down. With years of distance it became easier to find the interesting frames. Also, my skill with Photoshop far exceeds my skill in the darkroom, so I was finally able to produce finished images much closer to what I had in mind when I shot them twenty years ago, like my portraits of Bjork and Patti Smith. Then there are the shoots that I dismissed as flops, or ones from periods of my life that I didn’t recall fondly. I really undersold my portrait work at Metro in the 2000s; it turned out to be much better than I remembered.

The blog got me shooting again; I was doing travel work but I made an effort to shoot portraits. I set up with a really basic lighting kit at a skinhead night at a local club that a friend was promoting and did a sort of photo booth – anyone who wanted to get their picture taken just had to sign a release. It was very DIY, very punk rock. A while after that the Texas outlaw country singer Kinky Friedman came to town – I’m a fan and I talked him into doing a portrait session. Then I talked another friend who had an entertainment and movie website into having me shoot portraits again at the film festival in 2016 – it had been eight years since I’d shot at the film festival, which was once a big deal for me. I had stripped down to the basics trying to find a way back to the portrait style I had in the ’90s, and the shoot I did with British actress Rebecca Hall was the moment I felt like I had my stride again.

What would you tell your younger self?
Don’t shoot weddings. I’m half serious about that. I’d probably have told him not to be so cheap, and to go out and shoot more often – do work that isn’t assigned, that doesn’t have a paycheque attached to it. Some of the most popular work I posted on the blog – my Fela Kuti portraits, a portrait of writer Jay McInerney that ended up in the New Yorker a couple of years ago – were done on spec, and never published until the blog.

What advice do you have for new photographers?
Shoot, shoot, shoot. Also, are you doing this because you want to be “a photographer” or because you want to create images? Because it’s harder than ever to make a living doing this, while it’s easier than ever to take photos, to make them look the way you want, and to get them in front of an audience. You just might not get paid for a long time, if at all. Photography now is a lot like punk rock, which was my first big cultural moment and inspiration – everyone can form a band or make a record now, but you have to worry more about what you want to do and not the audience you want to have, or how big they are, or if the mainstream industry will accept you.

In a few works, describe how the industry has changed and how you changed with it?
Editorial portraiture, which was my bread and butter, seems to have very nearly disappeared. I’m not sure what’s replaced it, if anything has. It’s so much easier to distribute images and find an audience than it was when I started. Back then, you had to have an assignment for a newspaper or a magazine, or publish a book, or show in a gallery to get people to see your photos. Now it’s literally as easy as a couple of taps on a phone. That’s revolutionary, though I’m not sure if there’s a revenue model to match it yet. Maybe there might never be one. I don’t know. I do know that my photos have longer life out there in a digital ecosystem than they ever did on fading newsprint, or sitting in my negative binders or hard drives.

See more of Rick’s work at his Personal Blog

 

The Daily Promo – George Qua-Enoo

- - The Daily Promo

George Qua-Enoo

Who printed it?
I wanted to print with magcloud initially but I decided to print it locally at the Printing House (tph.ca) in the end.

Who designed it?
Lyndsey Matoushek in consultation with the lovely folks at Wonderful Machine.

Tell me about the images?
All the images in the promo are from my personal projects/ work. I reached out to Wonderful Machine to assist me with a new print portfolio and a mini promo. They felt that due to the strong body of my travel/documentary work, perhaps a separate promo entirely dedicated to my documentary storytelling will be best so we just focused on Lifestyle and some portraits with this mini promo. The promo is a mini cohesive edit that is a similar concept to my print portfolio in terms of image curation.

How many did you make?
I only printed a small batch of 300 copies for targeted prospects and clients.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
This is the first promo that I’ve ever sent out. I had always relied on face-to-face meetings and phone calls but I felt it was time I switched things up and send out promos. Email campaigns are not as effective as they used to be, in my opinion, especially in Canada with the new CAN-SPAM Legislation.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
The reactions have been positive so far. This is my first printed promo that I’ve been sending out and it’s only been just over two weeks, it’s too soon to tell.

This Week in Photography Books: Patrick Nagatani

 

“If fiction has given more to us than fact, then this is the greatest truth.” Ryoichi/Patrick Nagatani

 

There’s no such thing as truth.

That’s what they teach you in college or grad school, anyway.

Ever beholden to the French Philosophical titans Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, endless professors teach countless students that each piece of information is inextricable from the power dynamics that created and disseminated it.

It is the ultimate example of occupying the intellectual high ground, because the idea can’t be attacked.

If you try to undermine the principles, your counter-argument can be dismantled more easily than an Ikea Lack table. (Unscrew the four legs and you’re done.)

No matter what you say to critique the core essence of Post-Modern theory, your words will be deflected by attacking the vessel that hosts them: you.

Only a person from a very specific cohort, gender, or culture can critique that group, so if you’re not one-of-us, your words are too much a construction of your gender/status/culture for your opponent to give them credence.

(Each word must be parsed for its deeper social construct, like Bill Clinton musing about the definition of the word “is.”)

Unlike a few weeks ago, I’m not actually writing about the powers that be today, nor the intersection of varying levels of privilege.

Nor even will I attack Donald J. Trump. (Well, maybe just a little… for a laugh.)

Rather, I want to poke at some dead French guys, and the manner in which their very important ideas have come to undermine the collective fabric of society. (Since they’re dead, and French, we can mock them all we want. C’est vrai?)

There was something truly revolutionary in Post-Modernism, as it opened the door for various perspectives to be assimilated into the mainstream. (Going back to two weeks ago, Po-Mo was the operating system that allowed for minority voices to be taken seriously.)

By the time I got to grad school in the early aughts, though, I found the ideas a little restricting, with respect to helping us understand the burgeoning digital reality of the 21st Century. How would a philosophy that split the 80’s from the 60’s help us understand a world that was built on binary code?

Now it’s 2018, and we have a definitive answer.

Taken to an extreme, Derrida has given us Orwell, in the form of the President of the United States.

Like him or hate him, most people would be hard pressed to deny that Trump has a problem with the “truth.” He believes the larger narrative, the story he tells himself and his followers, is more important than what’s “true,” because there’s no such thing as true anyway.

I was concerned these radical leftist ideas would be co-opted by the right at some point, and that point is now. Unfortunately, given the stratification of media and information sources, these days there is essentially no way to provide new ideas to people that might challenge their entrenched worldview.

Even speaking for myself, I wonder whether I would be able to give Trump credit if he verifiably saved a young toddler from drowning in a Mar-a-Lago pool?

Can you imagine?

SCENE

A young child, drunk on too much ice cream, is stumbling around the edge of the resort pool. His parents, their backs turned, (they assumed the Burmese nanny was watching him,) are busy drinking gin and tonics, chatting with their neighbors about whether they should invite Brett Kavanaugh to dinner now, or wait until spring when it will seem less trendy.

All of a sudden, little Tad slips on the edge of the pool, and while he’s worrying about dropping his ice cream cone, he loses his balance and falls directly into the deep end.

(Unfortunately, he can’t swim.)

Thankfully, the President of the United States in is residence that day, and happens to be eating a triple-guacamole-bacon-cheeseburger, two tables away.

One might imagine the Secret Service would save poor Tad, but their job is to protect the President. So it’s up to DJT to jump into the pool, still wearing his Gandolfini-esque-POTUS-track-suit, and fish little Tad to safety.

END SCENE

Let’s say that happened.
For real.

How many Democrats in this country would come out and publicly say, “Great job, Mr. President. I really appreciate that you saved that pipsqueak from drowning!”

Would you?

I know this seems like a convoluted thought experiment, a stoner’s version of Schrodinger’s Cat, but bear with me here. In an era of fake news, where any sense of objectivity has been obliterated, what does the word “fact” even mean?

Or “real?”

True story: my 11-year-old told me the other day that he was more interested in the “virtual” LeBron James in his NBA 2K19 video game than he was in watching the “actual” LeBron James play an exhibition game against the Denver Nuggets. (Of course, the “actual” LeBron would appear on the same “digital” TV screen either way.)

To him, in that moment, the “fake” was more intriguing and compelling than the “real.”

I’m thinking about this today, if I’m being honest, having just put down “Buried Cars: Excavations from Stonehenge to the Grand Canyon,” by Patrick Nagatani. (Published by the Museum of New Mexico Press.)

I reviewed one of Patrick’s books last year, as he was my professor at UNM many years ago, and he passed away in the autumn of 2017 after a long bout with cancer.

He probably didn’t need to see 2018, though, as he had a pretty good handle on “truthiness” back when I studied with him in the late 90’s.

This book represents one of his stranger projects, and I recall him describing it to me before I’d read any of the French canon. (I was confused, but excited.)

The book presents this story as straight, all the way until the end, when they release the “truth.”

According to “Buried Cars,” Patrick collaborated with a mysterious Japanese archaeologist named Ryoichi, who had discovered some scientific evidence that would turn world history on its head.

Apparently, a series of sacred sites around the world included contemporary luxury cars that had been buried in previous centuries. The book features diary entries, and carbon dating information that proves that the cars, (like a Ferrari Testarossa,) were embedded in the Earth hundreds of years before they were actually built.

It is suggested that alien beings might have played a role in the car-burials, but whether they did or didn’t, worm holes were definitely to blame.

Wormholes that connected parallel universes in the multi-verse.

Now, if you’ve been reading for the last 7 years, you know I’m a sucker for parallel universe stories. (Though watching “The Flash” with my kids may have cured me of the predilection. Multi-verse stories get confusing VERY quickly.)

Patrick Nagatani conceived and created this project in the late 90’s, but had gone to graduate school at UCLA in late 70’s. These Po-Mo ideas would have been as familiar to him as his favorite dish at the Fronteir Restaurant across the street from the UNM campus.

When I first heard about this, like I said, I had a lot of questions.

What do you mean you have a fake-alter-ego?
What do you mean you made up a bunch of scientific data?
What do you mean you built models and pretended they were real?

You can just…do that?

These days, it seems quaint to think that photography tells the “truth” or provides “evidence.”

But in 1998, in just my second year as an art student, it was revolutionary.

Art is what you want it to be.

If you call it art, it’s art.

It’s not hard to see how that line of thinking connects directly to the underpinnings of contemporary, digitally-enhanced Global society.

Jamal Khashoggi left the Saudi embassy of his own recognizance. The water in Flint is safe to drink. The Arctic icecaps are not melting.

(You get the point.)

That this is a photo book, and one that was tied to a major exhibition at the Albuquerque Museum, seems almost secondary. The pictures of models painstakingly created are cool for sure, but they don’t have the same power they likely had when they were made. (Like Jerry Uelsmann’s stuff.)

Digital fakery is so easy these days that the “fools-the-eye” analog photography here doesn’t seem “real.” It’s more “cute,” and one can see how such work might have inspired contemporary model-makers like Lori Nix.

The “truth” is, I always found this work a tad kitschy, and much preferred “Nuclear Enchantment,” which I reviewed here glowingly last year. (I also preferred his meditative, contemplative, slightly-batshit, masking-tape-Buddhas.)

But I’m very glad this book was released this year, and the project lauded on the walls of New Mexico museums, because it could not be more timely.

As artists, we hope to make sense of the time and culture in which we live. We process those ideas into art for our own reasons, (often because of our need to make things,) but “Buried Cars” is proof that those musings might just be used by future humans to figure out what the fuck happened back then.

(Meaning now.)

Bottom Line: Trippy, intricate, false narrative about the multi-verse

To Purchase “Buried Cars” click here

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We currently have a several month backlog, and are particularly interested in submissions from female photographers so we may maintain a balanced program.

The Art of the Personal Project: Ashton Rodgers

- - Personal Project

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Ashton Rodgers

I recently was able to visit my hometown in southeastern Washington… a place that I couldn’t wait to leave growing up and now a place that speaks to my soul. My hometown isn’t traditionally beautiful or really noteworthy for much. But what I’ve come to learn is that it’s rolling hills of alfalfa and open blue skies had a huge influence on my sensibilities as an artist. Locations that are expansive and free of distractions with simple color palettes challenge me to create.

Before my trip I had arranged a lifestyle photo shoot with a Dodge Challenger in Texas where I live full-time. While traveling back from my hometown the concept for the shoot radically changed. Inspired by my recent trip I ditched the complications of sourcing talent and wardrobe and decided to put my focus on the car. Essentially deciding to strip away everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Once that decision was made everything else came together and I was free to focus on framing and light.

Simplicity is nothing new, in fact it’s a principle I employ in my commercial work all the time. Going home and seeing the simplicity of the landscapes just reminded me why it comes naturally to me. Less really can be more.

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram