Visiting Amsterdam, Part 2

 

Part 1. The Intro

 

Why do people travel?

Why do we go places?

Right now, it’s a good question, because we can’t.
Go places.

(Those of us not headed to “life essential” jobs each day, I mean.)

Speaking of which, two of my former photo students work at the local Smith’s Grocery store. I haven’t been there in three weeks, but I’m assuming they’re still at it, and hope they’re safe.

Big shout outs to Jason and Dylan! And to my father-in-law Mike, and sister-in-law Jemery, who are both Taos doctors.

The rest of us, anyway, are stuck at home.

Not going places.

And even though the uncertainty of it all makes it feel like this pandemic will be permanent, that’s not the way these things go.

Humans hate uncertainty more than anything else, which is what gave rise to monarchs and autocrats and totalitarians in the first place.

In China, for instance, as I have previously written, the depth of the bloodbaths that would occur under disorder caused many people to trade freedom for security, from certain Emperors to Mao on down.

Hitler came to Germany after the shitfuck of WWI and the Great Depression, (Please watch Babylon Berlin on Netflix,) and ancient royalty, from Egypt to England to Guatemala, has claimed to have a relationship with, and blessings from the divine.

 

 

So where we are now, with no clear answer as to how long “this” will all last, humans do lean into the hunker mentality. (Rhymes with bunker.)

But life will go back to some semblance of normal again.

It might be a different normal, like life was never quite the same after the Great Recession.

(You know I’m right.)

The Gig Economy, Uber, the permanent street class.
The first African-American President.

Donald Trump.

All of that came Post-Great-Recession.

Wait, I’m getting depressing again.

Sorry.

What I mean is, this scary phase will end.
It will.

And we’ll be able to travel again.

So, to get back on topic, why do we do it?

 

Part 2. The asshole

 

What kind of asshole writer opens a section with a question, and ends it with the same question, without ever answering the question?

Me.

So, here’s my answer.

I think we all love a proper adventure.

All of us.

It’s why we’re binge-watching all these shows and movies, and reading all these books.

We escape into the fantasy of adventure and drama.

Traveling to other cities, towns and countries, with different languages, foods and landscapes.

It is the hero’s journey.

It is the “actual reality” version of “virtual reality” that so many people like in their stories and video games.

(Minus the murder and mayhem, of course.)

When you’re out there, somewhere new, you never know what’s around the next bend?

How could you?

There is an inherent and proper romance in a great voyage, and somehow, even after the insanity that was #2019, I got to have a perfect, rambling, symbol-laden adventure in Amsterdam in February of #2020.

 

Though I am writing on April Fool’s Day, (just so you know,) I promise all stories told in this series are true.

And to be clear, I’m not saying I was James Bond, nor that it felt like my trip should be made into a movie or anything.

It’s just that it was MY movie.
My story.

And to relive it in my head right now, on lockdown, is kind of fun.

 

Part 3. Take my last Euro

 

When last I left you, I was departing the Jolly Joker, jet-lagged, on my first half-day in Amsterdam.

Saturday, February 15.

As an experienced traveler, I knew I was likely to need a bit of quiet time, and some food, to chill out before I hit the city hard again.

So I popped into a cute looking bakery/cafe, (they’re everywhere,) and got a bresaola, arugula, and fresh mozzarella sandwich, on fresh baked bread, with a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino to go.

(General advice, of the many munchies on offer in the city, including some with silly names, the bakeries and delis seemed to have the most consistent, high-end Euro product, that I observed.)

 

Dubble Trouble

It set me up for the afternoon, looking out the my window on the shimmering canal, watching a spot of local tv, and getting a bit of jet-lag-rest.

 

Hotel Room View

 

Once done, I left the Hotel Mai for my first big walk.

Is it creepy that I could consult my iPhone now and see how long I walked that day? (5 miles. It only went up from there.)

I remember that I cut through Dam Square, headed West a block or two, and then and just let whimsy be my guide.

Twisting and turning through the canal ring.

There really are few better feelings.

Turn here.
Look there.

Stop in a coffee shop and get stoned.

After a couple of hours, it got dark, and I realized I’d need food and another smoke.

I had 20 Euro left.

Decisions, decisions.

Coffee shop or restaurant?

There’s nothing wrong with having a smoke in the street, (except for the constant devil-wind,) so I opted to go with my grinding stomach.

Before me stood a Vietnamese restaurant with a cute name, Pho King.

Say it fast.
Get it?

 

 

It was cash only, which meant my commitment was complete, because I was hungry, it was relatively early, 7 or 8pm, and I wanted to be done purchasing food for the night.

To say the place had a great vibe is not an undersell. It was small, but clean, and my spider-sense tingled that it was going to be good.

I asked for some recommendations, and the smart, young Vietnamese woman behind the counter said the Pho was the best thing.

She was serious in all the right ways, and after I made a few jokes, all the ladies behind the counter liked me.

“OK,” I said. “I’ve got only 20 Euro. You’re the boss, now. I’ll do what you say, and you can use up all the money, including a small tip.”

I looked at the menu.

 

I love BBQ pork bun, and there it was. The meat is served over cold, or room temperature, rice noodles, typically with shredded carrots and cucumber, with crushed peanut, and then you add a cold, sweet fish sauce, nuoc cham.

“I love that,” I said. “It’s my favorite.”

The young woman behind the counter shook her head no.

“No?” I said. “I can’t get that.”

She shook her head no.

“No,” she said.

“But you have my best interests at heart, right?”

“Yes,” she said. “I do. We’re gonna get you a Beef Pho, with all three kinds of beef. It’s what we do best.”

“Great. Fine. But I can’t have the BBQ Pork Bun. It’s my favorite.”

“No,” she said.

I was bummed out, but keeping the faith.

She smiled.

“But look. The fresh spring roll. Look at number 14.”

I looked down, took a second, the marijuana and hash slowing me perceptibly.

I read: BBQ pork, rice noodle, shredded vegetable, peanuts, dipping sauce. Inside the fresh spring roll wrapper!

I looked at the price: about half of what I was badgering her to let me order.

“It’s the same thing,” I said, “but in a spring roll, and cheaper.”

She smiled.

Meaning: I could have the soup, and the spring rolls for my 20 Euro, including a small tip. (But no drink.)

I asked for it to go, and again, she shook her head, No.

“No,” I said? “I can’t take it to go?”

“No,” she said. “You eat the spring rolls now, while they’re fresh, and I’ll pack up the soup for you to go.”

“OK,” I replied. “If you say so. Like I said, I’m in your hands.”

The spring rolls, when they came, were a meal in themselves, and as good as any version I’ve had. The bbq pork was sweet, and succulent, and I didn’t think I’d have room for soup later. (I did.)

Nor that I’d eat BBQ pork this good again that week.
(I did.)

But after I cleaned the plate, I said thanks to my new friend, and headed back out into the night with my goodie bag.

Pho King, 2 locations in Amsterdam, Cheap eats, Highly recommended.

 

Part 4: I have a question

 

Were any of you drunken slobs in college?

I know I was.

(Thank you, Duke University. You trained me so well.)

I used to sleep until 1 or 2 in the afternoon each day, if I could.

Not since then, not since the mid-90’s, have is slept until 1pm.

Until Sunday morning, February 16th, when my jet-lag, weed-hangover, and a properly silent hotel room conspired to let me sleep.

Long and deep.

When I finally woke up, rather than food, I needed some tea, and then a fresh smoke.

The Hotel Mai had opened only a week or two before I got there, so the rooms were properly fresh. With a no-smoking policy.

They had a tea kettle and a Nespresso maker included, with green tea and coffee replacements each day.

Very classy, this hotel. (I hope they make it…)

In addition to the no-smoking policy, the windows were sealed shut. Jimmy at the front desk said it was because the city had too many jumpers, tourists high on magic mushrooms, and made a law sealing the hotel windows up.

So out the door I went.

For a moment, I stared at the water.

 

Then, down to the Jolly Joker I went, and as always it was crowded.

I spotted a seat up top and sat down next to an young Indian guy, wedging myself into the corner of a wooden banquette.

Like Gerrit had the day before, I introduced myself, since there were open seats around.

He asked if he could use my lighter, which I’d bought at the local head shop. It was black plastic, and said I heart Amsterdam.

“That depends,” I replied.

“That depends?” he asked, looking at me like I had a hole in my head.

“Yes,” I said. “It depends upon your answer to a question.”

“It depends upon my answer to a question?” Again, he looked at me like I was a two-year old.”

“Yes,” I said.

“OK,” he said, “what is the question?”

“Do you love Amsterdam,” I asked?

“Do I love Amsterdam?” he said? At that point, he looked at me like I didn’t speak English. What kind of a stranger asks that question, in these circumstances?

“Yes,” I said. “Do you love Amsterdam? If you answer correctly, you can use my lighter.”

“OK,” he said. “OK. OK. Yes, I love Amsterdam. Are you satisfied.?”

I showed him the lighter, he laughed, and then I passed it his way, as he had just rolled a joint with tobacco and marijuana, as was the custom in the city.

(There were little rolling paper dispensers on the bar, like napkin dispensers in a traditional cafe, and most people took them.)

His name was Yogesh, he was from India, on a business trip that took him to Poland, among other places.

He was in Amsterdam to get high and have fun, more or less.

My kind of guy.

The bar man was playing Travis Scott.
Drake.
And lots of trap music.

Things I listen to at home.

And there I was again, chatting up a stranger, listening to brilliant music, out in public, in a crowded, life-affirming, gorgeous, historic, European city.

Shout out to you, Amsterdam!

In the end, after an hour or so of chatting, we made plans to have dinner, but it wasn’t meant to be, as our timing was off.

So my final shout out today is to Yogesh, my erstwhile stoner buddy.

I hope he, and all of you, are safe out there!

 

The Art of the Personal Project: Kendrick Brinson

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:  Kendrick Brinson  Brinson/Banks

“I call this community: “Life after Life”. There are people well into 80’s and 90’s enjoying their life as if they were 50’s and 60’s. You can actually look forward to growing old. There is a lot to do. A reason to live,” said Vera MacIntosh, on a Sun City blog.

The first time I went to Sun City, Arizona was December 2009. I was a new freelancer after having left my last staff photojournalist job at a newspaper and I’d read about the age-restricted city of 40,000 retirees, and then read about the Sun City Poms, a cheerleading squad made up of women all the way in their 80s, and I read about the 50th anniversary of the place that would begin the next month, and I knew I had to go and take photos there. I never would have thought that December that I’d be returning with my camera for a decade, but I have.

For 60 years, those 55 and older have relocated to Sun City, Arizona, a city self-governed, a city unlike any other in the world. Sun City was the first place of its kind and it is still the largest. The city is 14 square miles of a retirement paradise of palm tree lined streets, each with a golf cart lane.  Sun City provides seniors with a life after work and a life after raising children.  Sun City is a life of enjoying friends and being active, in spite of age.

There are more than 100 active clubs in Sun City and the days are filled with lawn bowling and group swim classes and the nights are filled with dancing. All this living comes with loss, however. Friends and spouses die, and the singles dance night are just as full as the couples dance night for obvious reasons. Yet, there’s optimism everywhere.

“Enjoy your youth, I’ll tell ya, you never know how much you have left,” resident Tom Woods told me.

People can see more my work here:

Yes, I do intend to make a book of the project I just have to decide when I’m done going 😂

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 @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

Joe Baraban – One exposure, one frame, one click… shot on Kodachrome 25

- - Working

Sometimes you think you’ve shot just about everything!!

I got a call from an Art Director I had worked with before, telling me that he’s now at a new agency. The agency he was at lost a big account, so everyone got the proverbial boot!

If you professionals out there ever thought that being a free-lance photographer was/is a precarious occupation, you should try being an Art Director back in the day. Your portfolio was always up to date and under your desk.

You went home on Friday after a successful meeting with the client (third in agency billing) who had just approved a new campaign, and over the weekend the client decides they no longer want to go in that direction and fires the agency. You come to work an hour late on Monday and twenty-five percent of the agency is gone; happened all the time.

I’ve seen it happen because I was going to be the photographer that was chosen to shoot an (eight day) new big campaign on a Friday for Bud Light and by Monday the agency had lost the account.
OUCH!!!!!

The creative team usually consists of a writer and Art Director. The writer usually comes up with a concept, and the Art Director makes it come to life; sometimes the other way around.

This client was fairly new to the agency, so it was important that the Art Director/writer team deliver “the goods”, as they sometimes said. The reason I was called was that I had “delivered the goods” once before.

The client was an insurance company whose customers were owners of expensive sailboats and motor yachts.

The approved concept, that also went into focus groups, was that you never knew when trouble was coming so you had to be ready for anything; even when you are about to be attacked by a giant crab. Whoever came up with this idea was probably stoned…everybody must have been stoned for this one!!

And that’s where I came in.  The Art director asked me if I thought I could make a giant claw attack a boat…” Hell yes!”

I learned a long time ago that the secret to the success I have had was/is because I always surround myself with the best (most talented) people possible, and I still believe it.

Having said that, I hired Danny Harries, a good friend and an amazing model maker/illustrator, to create a giant claw that we could position where it looked like it was about to attack both a sailboat and motor yacht.

Danny carved it out of a huge block of foam (to make it light), painted it, and from one end to the other it was eighteen feet long.

We took it down to a bay near Houston whose depth was only about four feet deep and tried to set it up…it wouldn’t stand upright, and as a result we missed a beautiful sunset!!!!!!

Since there wasn’t a plan ‘B’, we had to keep working with what we had…the original ‘A’ plan. We took it to a nearby garage so Danny could figure out what went wrong and what he needed to do. While he was scratching his head the Art Director and I were toasting to the Photo Gods with a few beers, thinking that it couldn’t hurt.

The next day we went out again to a great sky and this time it worked like a charm; Danny had worked his magic, much to the relief of the Art Director whose color had returned to his face…and of course, yours truly.

While my assistant and I were lying in a Zodiac, I had the sailboat and motor yacht follow directly behind one another, so I could take full advantage of the last rays before the sun hit the water…as in the sunset. I was very close to the claw with a 20mm lens on, so it would appear larger than life; the Art Director’s words, not mine!!

Those were great days where you could actually use your imagination and then create those ideas in the camera, and having a hell of a lot of fun doing it. Now, the claw would be about eight inches long, shot against a green screen, and with post-processing it would be added to the shot…computer art…UGH!!!

We finished the shoot and had a couple of celebration beers while loading up the claw. After about a mile I had to make a pit stop. Luckily, I pulled over on the shoulder next to a semi-dense forest to disappear into it.

As I was getting out I told the Art director that I had to see “a man about a horse”. When I got back everyone was laughing, especially the Art director.

It seems that while I was gone the account executive, a young woman named Beth (fake name to protect the innocent) said to the Art Director, “Oh I want to go, I love horses”.

One exposure, one frame, one click…shot on Kodachrome 25

To read more of Joe’s stories visit his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/joe.baraban

The Daily Edit – Joe Pugliese: Social Distancing Portraits

- - The Daily Edit

Joe Pugliese


Heidi: Which was your first image, and how did they build on one another?
Joe: I started with a couple of my immediate neighbors, who are longtime friends and collaborators. As with all personal work, for me the biggest challenge is just getting the ball rolling. There is a huge unknown of what it will feel like to make the work and how the subjects will receive the experience. As I did a few of them, it became clear that it felt good and that I was being responsible in terms of my safety and that of my subjects, so I continued to reach out.

What was going through your mind during these portraits?
I tried not to overthink it. I had to disengage completely with any normal approach that I am used to, and that was challenging but refreshing. For instance, when my friends would come out to see where I was, they pretty much landed in a place that looked perfect for the photo. I did make some suggestions of moving to the left or right, etc but it was shouted from so far away that it  was easier for the subjects to just be however they wanted to be. For the images of people inside looking out, I suggested that and  they  had to direct themselves since I was  too far away to make any changes. The whole experience was fairly organic.

The magic of a portrait is the intimacy, describe the distance.
The approach here was to just record my friends in this odd moment. Luckily, there was a built-in trust that already existed since they are all close friends and know that I will not be taking advantage of them for my purposes. So even from 30 feet away there was this delicate exchange and I was surprised how similar it felt to an intimate portrait. In some ways, it may have made them more comfortable that I actually wasn’t so close. I’m learning a lot through this, and one of the things is that it takes radical change to understand how or why we do anything the way we do.

How much did you responsibly interact with each person?
Knowing that we are encouraged to get a moment or two of fresh air each day helped me wrap my head around the fact that I could do this in a very responsible way. The guidelines say to stay 6 or 10 feet from each other when outside but I wasn’t interested in pushing that in any way. I don’t think I got closer than 20ft to anyone that I photographed. I strongly believe in strict quarantine measures to quell this problem so I didn’t want to exacerbate the situation in any way. I also wanted to point out my distance and solo approach when I wrote the captions for my posts. I’m trying not to encourage a wave of photographers practicing unsafe methods to document the people in their lives.

Why do you feel people resonated with this work?
I think that it was inspired by the feeling I was having of not seeing new work of people for a couple weeks. Most of the photo coverage revolves mourned emptiness, empty streets, empty shelves, anonymous people wearing masks, etc and I craved some honest images of people doing what needs to be done, and maintaining dignity while doing it.

The Daily Promo – Myles McGuinness

- - The Daily Promo

Myles McGuinness

Who printed it?
PaperChase

Who designed it?
Me, I used my previous design skills as an Art Director.

Tell me about the images?
Series of images captured for Tahiti Tourism’s “Embraced by Mana” campaign. The ad featured opposing micro and macro photos.

Ad headlines read: MOVE / BE MOVED
As the Cradle of Polynesian Culture, The Islands of Tahiti are alive with expressions of craftsmanship, traditions, and history. Come immerse yourself and discover what it means to be Embraced By Mana.

Lots of great energy with this group of local guys. They all brought it and made for a super fun shoot in Cooks Bay, on the island of Mo’orea. There are many sides to The Islands of Tahiti. Yet they are all connected by Mana. Mana is a life force and spirit that surrounds us. You can see it. Touch it. Taste it. Feel it. And from the moment you arrive, you will understand why we say our Islands are Embraced by Mana.

How many did you make?
500

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Twice

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
Yes, it certainly helps to share your all mediums. There isn’t golden arrow, but maybe it’s just me but I think print is special again, and when done right can stand out more than an email blast or social media whatever’s. Measuring and trying to maximize investment is key, I’m always fine-tuning lists to match clients who might actually hire me. Shooting for the stars, ha.

This Week in Photography: A Vision of Italy

 

It was hard to motivate today.

(That’s the truth.)

I get so much joy from this column, all year long, but there are always one or two dips, per year, when my strategic-creativity-reserve drops precipitously.

I’m not alone, as most of you don’t want to work today either. (I’m writing on Thursday, as deadlines are deadlines.)

We’re living through exceptional times, and it takes so much mental and physical energy just to process it all without going crazy.

Let’s call it 60% of our total energy output?

Throw in parenting, working, home-schooling, cooking, cleaning, and all the rest, and how much energy is left for self-care?

For trying to feel good, rather than not-terrified?

Obviously, the answer is very little. We’re all going about, each day, doing the best we can, and some of us have it easier than others. (Geographically speaking.)

Right now, I think we all need to empathize with each other, more than ever, and expect a lot less from ourselves too. (In terms of our work productivity, anyway.) Hell, I just got up off the floor, (literally,) to write this column for three reasons:

1. Rob pays me, and it’s my job.
2. I have a responsibility to you, the audience.
3. I knew that any and all art practice always makes me feel better.

It’s that last one I want to harp on today. (Yes, I’m going into inspirational-professor-mode.)

When our energy drops and our spirits lag, blowing off exercise, or creative practice, is the easiest thing to do. Laziness can feel like a rational response to our current state of affairs, and I’ve allowed myself a fair bit.

I know a hard-core Yogi who admitted he wasn’t doing his yoga, so I gave him a little nudge, because I know how happy it makes him. (The dude glows.)

I’m certainly preaching to the choir, (to some extent,) as I’ve seen lots of social media posts about people cooking, drawing, or meditating.

We all KNOW this, on some level.

When much of normal life is stripped away, and we have so many emotions to process, (without our usual expressive outlets,) you have to give yourself permission to feel like shit, from time to time, while remembering that art makes it better.

Let me say that again: Art makes it better.

When was the last time you picked up your camera, or a pen, or a paintbrush, made some art, and then said, “Fuck! I totally regret that. What a waste of time! Heavens to Mergatroyd!

My guess?
Never.

I’m lucky, as this column forces me to make art each week. I can’t not be creative, as it’s my job to keep coming back at you.

With the benefit of that rigor, I wanted to share the message with you: Make art.

Make art!
Now.

Simply by making it now, you’ll be recording energy from a historic place in time.

Some of it will necessarily be interesting later on, because it was made now, and it will give a context.

Or then again, maybe a new context will change the work?

Am I simply speculating?

No.
I’m not.

I just got done looking at “Purtroppo Ti Amo,” (Unfortunately, I love you,) a photo-book submitted several years ago, by Federico Pacini in Italy, published by Editrice Quinlan.

(Yes, we’re going there.)

Just now, if I’m being honest, I’ve realized part of my coping mechanism has been to tamp down my heart. To lock away my vulnerability. I’ve put up the chest shield, and protected the emotions, because though I cried before leaving for Amsterdam, I haven’t cried since coming home.

All those poor people in Italy, suffering.

Dying alone.

Losing loved ones, no funerals, all the dread, all the death.

I lived in Rome for a seminal time in my life, and it made me an artist. Then I went back, in 1998, and made street photographs of the elderly culture, as old people were engaged and active in a way I’d never seen before.

Riding scooters, shopping with vigor, doing the passagiatta.

 

Why have I not cried for their loss?

You might get choked up when you see these pictures below, because it’s just too hard not to view them in the new context.

And what are they?

The entire book, near as I can tell, was shot in and around the artist’s hometown of Siena. A place, famed as any for its beauty, in the architecture and surrounding Tuscan countryside.

If most of us wanted to idealize a locale’s beauty, we might go with a place like Tuscany.

But that’s not what we see in this book.

Photograph after photograph of bleak, banal, real places. It is Italy, but not the Italy we’re accustomed to. This is all anti-aesthetic, no pretty.

When people do show up, and it’s rare, they’re often elderly. And when was the book made?

2013.

We see porn DVD’s and old parking lots. Miley Cyrus posters, and suave barbers.

But most of it is empty.
And sad.

About 1/3 of the way through, on the left hand page, we see a low-res image of an old man, looking disconcerted. On the right, an empty room, maybe in a Church basement, community center, or nursing home?

I strain to read one sign, and then translate it. My Italian is rusty, so I turn to Google:

“Le solitudine colpisce le persone che ti circondano,” which means…

“Loneliness affects the people around you.”

How was this book not made 3 days ago?

There is a juxtaposition, not much later on, of a small, 2-door-mini-Euro-car with a door-sign advertising funerals, next to a man, in a yellow, plastic volunteer vest, guarding the entrance to a supermarket.

How was this book not made 2 days ago?

There are empty restaurants, empty parks, empty streets.

How was this book not made yesterday?

I’m not sure there’s is much more for me to say about this one. The photographs below will tell the story better, from here on out.

So let’s all think good thoughts for the poor people in Italy and NYC, or New Orleans, Madrid.

We’ll all get through this eventually, so while you’re in the middle of it, don’t forget to make art.

Bottom Line: Bleak vision of empty Siena 

To purchase “Purtroppo Ti Amo,” click here 

 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are interested in presenting books from as wide a range of perspectives as possible.

The Art of the Personal Project: Andy Batt

- - 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:  Andy Batt

I’m very much a non-traditional landscape photographer. I don’t carefully scout or go anywhere with the idea of making “that shot”. I just wander with my camera, and occasionally get to do it in amazing places.

I spend a lot of time just looking when I’m wandering. It’s a search for a reaction in whatever’s in front of me— usually nebulous and poorly defined, but it’s what I’ve come to think of as getting an emotional reaction from a rocks.

My landscapes feel like an exploration of myself as much as they are about the land. I’m looking for resonance with shapes, light, and form. There’s an acknowledgement that each moment is fleeting and different—not better or worse. It’s about opening myself up and being receptive to that moment and taking the photo without judgment or criticism.

Landscape work gives me the freedom to simply be in the moment. It has a sort of artistic healing effect on myself—it bleeds over into my commercial photography, giving me much needed perspective.

There’s something calming and inspiring about being reminded that the world is a much bigger and older place than I often remember. I feel humbled being down in a canyon that’s been carved out over millennia or standing on a pumice field that’s been shaped by ancient volcanos and the constant scouring of wind. Creating art in these places connects me to them—it gives me a touchstone I can return to over and over.

 

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 @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

The Daily Edit – Art of Freelance addresses the COVID-19 world

- - The Daily Edit

 

 

Photo by Art of Freelance Alum Gina Cholick

Art of Freelance

CEO & Founder: Mathieu Young

Heidi: When and why did you start this organization?
Mathieu: Art of Freelance has been running 10-week online workshops since 2016. This spring will be our 10th. I love being a freelance photographer (well, maybe a little less so in the past two weeks), but was looking for a way to provide the accountability, community, feedback loops and deadlines that people working a normal 9-to-5 have baked into their lives, and we do not.  So we break into small groups, check in weekly, and help each other stay accountable to the goals we set for the 10 weeks. The workshop culminates in a Showcase where we can all show off the work we’ve made. It’s amazing how much more people get done when there is some structure, a deadline, accountability, and support.

What has this taught you about the industry and yourself?
Short term, I feel like COVID-19 just revealed our industry as fragile, and not particularly well organized. There is no one advocating for creative freelancers at a national scale, the way you see in other countries. Congress is discussing a massive bailout package for major industries, “small” businesses (which probably don’t include sole proprietors that don’t have payroll costs), and people who qualify for Unemployment Insurance, but independent contractors that have been getting paid via a 1099 may fall through the cracks. You have people literally wondering how they’re going to pay their rent next month, and not a lot of good answers. We’ve been trying to research and aggregate some info on FEMA/SBA loans, emergency grants, rent moratoriums and mortgage forbearance programs, etc, to share with the community.

Long term, I think that this crisis will force us to be the kind of intrepid  innovative, creative problem solvers that we naturally are, and develop interesting solutions to continue to provide the world with creative content. I also think that this crisis is going to push a lot of us to reassess the age old wisdom that you should specialize specialize specialize, and make a diversification of skill sets something to aim for. I think this crisis may push a lot of people to reassess their careers, and potentially pivot, or add additional layers to increase that resiliency in tough times like these.

Who are your members?
We’ve had hundreds of creative freelancers from all different industries participants in the workshop, and stay active in the community. Photographers make up a good portion of the participants, but there are also musicians, writers, directors, designers, illustrators, and entrepreneurs of all kinds. Part of what makes it unique is the cross pollination between people with divergent skill sets, interested, and backgrounds.

How are you coping with the current climate?
We’re hosting a free Zoom call at 12p PST this Thursday to discuss “freelancing in a COVID-19 world”, and I’ll be interviewing Andrea Stern (@asksternreps), Joe Pugliese (@joepug), and Hannah Soto (@greyhouseproductions).

There are also a couple spots open in the Spring 2020 workshop still available if people are interested in some additional community, accountability, and support over the next 10 weeks. The registration link is on the homepage here

And we’ve continued to update our resources for freelancers page here, and will continue to do so leading up to Thursday.

The Daily Edit – Chris Crisman: Virtual Shoot

- - The Daily Edit

Virtual Shoot

Photographer and Director: Chris Crisman

Heidi: Was Virtual Shoot a result of the outbreak or crazy synchronicity?
Chris: Around 6 months ago we had started preparing for early March to be a challenging time for our business. Not only was there launching the Women’s Work book but our executive producer, Robert Luessen, was scheduled to begin paternity leave the same week. Because of this, and also paired with our February decision to move to a commercial self-representation model, we were hyper-vigilant to everything that could possibly impact our work-flow. For years our team has wondered aloud how we could clone ourselves to be on more than one shoot at a time. But over the past 6 months preparing (with a side of panic) for Robert’s paternity, we half-joked that we would have to figure out a way to pipe him into the shoots with an iPad on a roller stand… And then on March 5th when clients were asking us for solutions, we began to develop bringing the idea of the Virtual Shoot to life. The “what if” now became a “how?”. And that question fueled us to rapidly find creative solutions. I’m also the kind of person who is always searching for new ways to challenge myself and the team when it comes to thinking about how to transform so the first call for our tech approach was to a trusted Digital Tech and DIT. I told him that I wanted to create an option that showed a scenario with as few people as possible on a set, but allow for conditions for everyone who should be there to attend and interact virtually, in real-time.

These final images were all created with existing photographs from Chris’s library or CGI then combined with a shoot of a single person in studio.

How long have you been working on this video?
The timeline for ideation to shooting this video was 7 days. We finished the final edit on March 18th. Within that time period, we were hyper-focused on establishing a pre-production protocol that was current to what we were learning at the time about safety-first. We took particular precautions and protocols that were published by various respected industry groups, like AICP. We also communicated with our crew daily prior to the shoot as well as during the shoot about their physical health. Our equipment and our studio was cleaned and disinfected prior to our arrival. We also opted for a larger studio to assist with the social distancing. Hand sanitizer and medical grade gloves were provided. The on-set producer took new responsibilities to ensure all surfaces were constantly sanitized with disinfectant.

Why does the world need this now?
This is not a time to gather. That is the critical first point I make on every platform where we shared this video. Again, Right now is the time to stay at home. I closed our physical office on Friday, March 5th and we re-opened our virtual office the following Monday. As for why now ? Because we wanted the video to serve as an example for anyone who will need to consider new, more efficient ways to conduct business. Our way of helping people see things not as they are but as they can be — and for us, more thought-provoking, the better.

What’s next?
Since launching, I’ve spent time hunkered down with family as well as time reflecting on how much gratitude, respect and hope I have for this industry. I am also looking forward to keeping conversations like these going — especially around what Is coming and more so than ever, how we keep safe. We also challenged ourselves along the way to explore the idea of shooting without physical interactions and what we found is possible there. So there will be more to show and then talk about. In the long run, challenging ourselves was also a reminder to everyone on the team of what’s ahead and how important it is to be able to contribute ideas to moving our industry forward, together

Visiting Amsterdam, Part 1

 

Part 1: The Intro

Blue New Mexico sky, #2020

 

I was scared shitless to go to Amsterdam last month.

Like, palpably afraid.

I cried, before leaving, I was so terrified.

My wife and daughter looked at me with deep empathy, and my son, nearly 12.5, had the awkward grin I recognized from my own youth.

A look that said, I’m uncomfortable with your naked display of emotion. Men aren’t supposed to cry. I’m not quite sure what to do here, so I’m going to smile like a paralyzed snow-monkey.

I understood how he felt, as for a moment, I could see myself though his eyes: the bearded, aviator-sunglasses-wearing hipster Dad, always cool.

And there I was, crying like a baby because I had to go to Europe.

We’d all discussed the risks, as there was not yet Coronavirus in Holland, no tourists were leaving China, and it wasn’t thought you could just pick it up in an airport.

So after my best mate and my book’s designer, Caleb Cain Marcus, told me the book could be 10% better if I supervised on press in Holland, he, my wife and kids all pushed me to spend the money and go.

To spend that much, (though I did get a great deal,) and to head out into a world where this new virus was taking root, it triggered some deep fear in me.

From the distance of only a month, (that feels like two years,) I now know why I was so fucking scared.

The wave that was coming was so much bigger than I could have anticipated, but I felt it in my bones.

Walking to my car, with my bags over my shoulders, I swear, I could hear the Jaws theme with each step I took.

Duh duh.
Duh duh.
Duh duh duh duh.

And then, (other than almost dying once,) nothing bad happened.

Nothing at all.
Quite the opposite.

I had a magical week, alone, in a shockingly cool European city.

 

Part 2. The journey

 

I bought a package trip on Orbitz, and the airfare and hotel were together what the plane ticket was supposed to cost. So when we all start traveling again, (which WILL happen,) I’d recommend you consider the tactic.

It meant I was able to leave my home, drive the 2.5 hours to the Albuquerque Airport, and board a flight to Houston, where I’d grab my international leg straight to Schiphol Airport.

In retrospect, the flight to the Netherlands, which I found obnoxious at the time, now seems like something powerful and special that I neglected to appreciate.

There we were, in the middle of the plane: A middle-aged, tall Dutch businessman to my left, an older Afro-Caribbean lady to my right, and a young Indian woman, living in Holland, to her right.

The four of us, crammed in tighter than a miser’s butthole, in a plane full of diverse humans.

Again, that was just over a month ago, as I write this on Wednesday March 18th.

I took two Benadryl to get some sleep on the flight, and it messed with my brain, because I know I watched two movies, but all these weeks later, for the life of me, I can’t remember one of them.

Seriously, what the hell did I watch?

The other movie, “Booksmart,” directed by Olivia Wilde, was a clever, Post-Me-Too update on “Superbad,” and maybe all teen movies like it, by flipping the protagonists to female, and making one gay.

Not that I saw the parallel until this very moment, but after my 4 hour nap, I watched the beginning episodes of “Killing Eve,” which I finished on the flight home. (A proper 10 hour binge watch!)

Killing Eve promo pic

 

Highly, Highly recommended.

Talking about flipping the script? Who needs James Bond, really, when you have female characters this badass, complex, sexy and surprising?

Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh are brilliant, and some of the foreshadowing, in particular in season 1, when Phoebe Waller-Bridge was show-runner, was bone-chilling.

(I won’t do a spoiler alert. I just won’t spoil it.)

In our new world, with plenty of spare time, watch this one and you’ll thank me.

 

Part 3: The arrival

 

If you think I’m teasing this out, well, maybe I am?

Do you have anything else pressing at the moment?

I’m reliving it in my memory, and if I savor every morsel of the now-forbidden-travel-fruit, would you blame me?

But as I said earlier, everything went so smoothly. Me and the other humans, pressed up against each other, and I was through customs in twenty minutes.

The train station is in the airport in Amsterdam, out at Schiphol, so it’s the easiest thing in the world to grab a 5 Euro train ticket into Amsterdam Centraal Station, the rail hub of the country. (Though all the other cities, Den Haag, Rotterdam and Utrecht are close by as well.)

Schiphol Airport

I remember sitting on that train, closing my eyes, and enjoying a moment of quiet, after I’d been traveling for 16 hours or so.

Then, I heard some loud American teenagers, and they wouldn’t shut up.

“Seriously?” I thought. “I travel halfway across the world, and my jet-lag-headache gets lit up by some dumb teenagers on a pleasure trip with their wealthy parents?”

Eventually, I moved, and then they got off at the wrong station, got back on the train on my new end of car, and sat down near me again.

After they kept yapping, I shot the Dad a look, and he quieted them down for me.

It’s an important thing to remember in these new times.

A lot of important information can be communicated through body language. (Nearly all of what we need to tell a stranger, anyway.) So as you approach people, and step into their personal space in the next couple of months, (or whatever,) just think like a martial artist, and read their energy and intent first.

I stumbled off the train, having to take a piss like you wouldn’t believe, and would you know it, but after walking up and down the train station, I found a public toilet, but you had to pay to use it?

I had no European money yet, much less coins, but the nice guy working there let me in, because I was polite, and obviously had to pee.

Why do I tell you this?

Because up and down that city, people were so cool and friendly. I’ve been around the block, and I can’t say enough about the Dutch, and the Amsterdammers in particular.

After leaving, I quickly arrived at the Hotel Mai, which is somehow located in a quiet, chill vortex that is both right up the street from the train station, and right on the cusp of the Red Light District.

Hotel Mai, looking North

Hotel Mai, Interior Entry

Hotel Mai, Chinese statues in the entryway

There is no reason for that spot, on the Geldersekade canal, to be mellow and relaxing, but it was.

I arrived shortly after 10 am, woozy from the jet lag, and met Jimmy, a nice young guy behind the desk, who told me there would be no Hurricane Dennis. (Which I wrote about previously.)

I asked if he’d take my bags, and he said sure, but then I kept asking about when I might be able to check in early?

The entire time I was in Europe during 2019-20, having a Verizon phone, which only works with Wifi, was a big downer.

Except for this once.

Because each time Jimmy said, “I’ll text you when your room is ready,” I could truthfully say, “I won’t get it. My phone doesn’t receive SMS here.”

He pushed some buttons around a few more times, and then said, “You want a king bed, right,” and I said, “Of course.”

“I have a room for you now,” said Jimmy, and then, all of a sudden, at 10:15am, I had a hotel room, a place to clean up, and my goodness, if that wasn’t a gift from the travel gods, and an omen of good things to come, I don’t know what was.

 

Hotel room view

Part 4: The coffee shops

 

So what do you do, standing in your beautiful, brand new hotel room, staring out at the shimmering water of the canal, now that it’s 10:30am, and you’ve washed your face, smacked your cheeks, and talked to yourself in the mirror to get psyched up?

Well, the first thing you do is change money.

I’d been to Amsterdam 4 times before, including one that I wrote about here in the column, so I had a rough mental map of the area. (Now it’s much sharper.)

I cut Southeast to Dam Square, though the tourist throngs, so I figured I could get my Euros there. (Cash only in the coffee shops.)

Dam Square, the former palace

It was easy to find the action, and I went to the money changer in the middle, because the ones on either end grab the first tourists to happen by.

The man behind the counter was friendly, and gay, with big chunky glasses, and we chatted for a few moments. I came back two days later, to get the rest of my money changed, and he told me about one of his favorite places in town.

It’s called “This is Holland” and is a 5D experience in which you get to simulate flying over the country. Though it sounded dope, I never made it. (But when things open again, you might want to try it.)

After I got that first batch of money, though, I hightailed it straight to the Oude Kerk, a beautiful 17th Central cathedral, because my favorite coffee shop was there, the Cafe Oude Kerk.

Though it seems like not much changes in Amsterdam, (until now of course,) the cafe was now called the Old Church, the English equivalent.

And it wasn’t open yet.

I walked around for 10 minutes, killing time, and finally the woman working there came out to talk to me.

Apparently, the “coffee shop” moved to a different part of downtown, and this coffee shop only sold coffee and food.

No weed or hash.

Luckily, they’d printed a map, (for all the idiots like me,) and I walked there in 10 minutes, like she promised.

Why did it have to the be the same place as last time, when there are hundreds of “coffee shops” in Amsterdam?

Good question.

The Old Church had a Cannabis-Cup-winning-hash, from 2004, a blonde hash that was my all-time-favorite.

(Brand loyalty, if you will.)

But the young woman behind the counter sold me something that didn’t seem the same, though it had a similar color, but she was confident.

Pineapple Express pollen hash.

I’d bought a pipe and a lighter at a little convenience store before I walked in, so a gram of hash and a pear Looza juice, (silky, from Belgium,) set me back 17 Euro.

I sat down, smoked a couple of small bowls, and felt a nice buzz, but that was about it.

Disappointing.

I overheard the ladies behind the counter saying “California, California.”

There was scorn in their voices, but also jealousy, so I went up to investigate.

“What’s that about California,” I barged in? “Their stuff is great, no question, but I’ve been thinking of coming to Amsterdam for years. You can’t get this hash back home in the US.”

“Well,” one young woman said “if you look at the menu, all the top strains are now from California. 30 Euro a gram or more.”

“I hear you,” I said. “I can get that back home. It’s great. But what about the hash? This doesn’t seem like what I had before. That won the Cannabis Cup?”

“Ah,” said a deep, smoker-throaty-voiced, blonde women in the corner. Obviously the boss. “You mean the Royal Cream.”

“Yes,” I exclaimed! “Yes. The Royal Cream. That’s what I came back for. That’s the shit you can’t get in the US.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” she said. “You can’t get it here now either. It doesn’t leave Morocco anymore. They have a new King, and new rules. Plus, most of the old timers are retiring, and their kids don’t want to do the work.”

“Bummer,” I said.

“Yeah, well.”

I left, with my mild buzz, and headed over to The Jolly Joker, a centrally located coffee shop, where I hung out with Hugo in 2013. (I still wear the T-shirt.)

The Jolly Joker

I bought some weed to go with my hash, the Tangerine Haze, for 14 Euro. A lot of the local strains had “haze” in the name, and all of them were pretty average, compared to what I have access to in Colorado.

It’s a blanket statement, but I’ll make it here and now.

The best part of the coffee shop experience was the social interactions, the music, the vibes, the people watching, and the fact that smoking decent weed and hash only made it cooler.

At The Jolly Joker, I sat down at a table for two in the window, and watched the world go by. Within minutes though, a young man approached and asked if he could join me.

As is (or was) the etiquette, I said sure, and as he rolled a joint, I began to ask him questions.

His name was Gerrit, he was a social worker from Munster, Germany, in town for a big guys-night-out.

10 German dudes, meeting up to go out for beers and grilled meat. (But he only knew two of them, and was therefore a little nervous.)

Gerrit made no mention of sex clubs, or anything illicit, and I took him at his word.

10 German guys in a food, booze and weed feast only.

I asked if he’d send me a picture, and eventually he did.

The Guys

I bragged about my luck, getting a hotel room a block away at 10:15 in the morning.

Gerrit’s face fell.

“What?” I asked.

He said he was waiting for his buddies to come to town, and he couldn’t check in to his hotel for 4 more hours. He was tired, dirty, and couldn’t wait to get some private space.

And there I was bragging!

I felt awful.

“The least I can do is help you pass the time then, since I can go shower and lay down whenever I want. My hotel is just up the block.”

“Thanks,” he said.

So I stayed, and we talked for another hour.

That a month later, the simple pleasure of smoking and chatting with a stranger, in a public place teeming with people, in a busy city crawling with humans, would seem so luxurious?

So impossible?

We’re all still trying to comprehend it.

 

The Art of the Personal Project: Pat Molnar

- - 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:  Pat Molnar

Most of our projects are pretty good-sized ad campaigns and image libraries with a big ole pile of people involved. Campaigns that include: agencies, clients, production teams, pre-pro meetings, pre-pre-pro meetings, trucks, motorhomes, castings, mood boards, etc., etc. It’s honestly a wonderful business and I’m honored to work with some of the best people in the world…a lot of whom are my closest friends.

Below are a few images that I have done as an ongoing personal project with families over the past year or 2. These projects are the absolute opposite of an ad project. We find a family….come up with a few very rough ideas a day or 2 before….and go shoot. Normally on these shoot it’s: myself, an assistant or 2, a wardrobe/prop stylist (we normally use the families own clothes) and a hair/mu person. Things are really loose and a whole lot of fun. We aren’t checking things off a list…..it’s really just playing around and finding what feels right.

The pictures aren’t really about what the subjects are doing….it’s really just finding an honest, human, imperfect moment that we all can relate to. I don’t remember any immaculate, picture perfect moments when I was a kid. The stuff i do remember is little details from pretty obscure moments. Working with kids is pretty cool because they are completely straightforward. They don’t care who you are, what you’ve shot or how big the budget of your last project was. If a 4yr old wants to pretend he’s a tiger for the next 2 hours…..you damn well better figure out a way to incorporate a tiger into your picture.

 

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 @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

The Daily Edit – Selma Fernandez Richter: La Luz Workshops

- - The Daily Edit

Selection of images from “The Ache for Home” by Selma Fernandez Richter.

La Luz Workshops

Founder: Selma Fernandez Richter

Heidi: What in your background led you to creating workshops?
Selma:I have been a photographer since 2001. I started my career en Monterrey, Mexico, where I attended college, primarily working on editorial projects for magazines. The desire to improve my photography led me to search for the most effective way to learn new skills. I found that photography workshops were an ideal way to do this. They provided an opportunity for me to immerse myself in a relatively short period of time, learn from some of the best photographers in the world, and apply the knowledge to my profession upon returning home.

Tell us about your relationship with Mary Ellen Mark and the connection to the photo center.
I was fortunate to have Mary Ellen Mark as my teacher, who ran an amazing workshop for nearly 20 years in Oaxaca, in Southern Mexico. I was able to attend her workshops for two consecutive years with scholarships from Conarte (Council for Culture and Art in Monterrey).

A desire to continue learning kept me close to the world of photography workshops. In 2007, I started working as Teaching Assistant for the Santa Fe Workshops and National Geographic Expeditions, also in Oaxaca, where I worked with photographers RaĂşl Touzon, Eniac MartĂ­nez, David Alan Harvey and Kenneth Garrett, among others. With time, I started to develop photography classes, in Monterrey, for advanced enthusiasts. Facilitating the learning process and bearing witness to student growth brought me great fulfillment and joy.

In 2011, I was invited to produce Mary Ellen Mark’s workshops which turned out to be the best school I could ever attend. Not only did I learn about photography, but also about her commitment to her students and her close relationship with the community. She always pushed students and staff to their fullest potential. I was fortunate to also assist her on assignment.


Mary Ellen Mark taking a portrait of me during her workshop in 2005

For many years, I collaborated with Photo Xpeditions, the company that produced Mary Ellen’s workshops. I started working with photographers Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, whom I had previously studied with; Maggie Steber, Tino Soriano, among others.

It felt like the natural next step was to establish my own company.  And in 2018, I created La Luz Workshops, which truly reflects my values around photography and teaching.

Today, I am honored and deeply grateful to work with some of the world’s leading photographers and industry experts, who are also remarkable teachers. We currently have two workshops in Mexico with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, Finding your Vision, which is held every year, and The Art of Editing, which is held every 3 years (we just completed the first one this winter and it will happen again in 2023). I am really excited to have our first portraiture workshop with Richard Renaldi this Summer, also in Oaxaca, called The Engaging Portrait: A Stranger in Oaxaca. And, in the fall, we will run the second edition of Your Work and Its Audience: Making the Match, with Mary Virginia Swanson and Special Guests.

Art of Editing Workshop: Oaxaca, 2020 with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb”
Finding your Vision: Oaxaca, 2020 with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Why in Oaxaca?
While I currently live in Minneapolis, MN, with my husband, photographer Andy Richter and our 3 year old son, Julien, I was born and raised in Oaxaca. Working in my home town is something that always makes me proud. I aim to share it with our students, who come from all over the world, in an authentic and intimate way.  We like to encourage meaningful engagement with the people and culture, not just taking things and perpetuating stereotypes.

Oaxaca is culturally rich, visually interesting, offers some of the best food in the world, has great weather year round, and it’s people love and embrace visitors that come to experience it. But there is also a history of colonialism on a number of levels. And that is why for us at La Luz is very important to engage in and promote fair business practices. We also encourage respectful relationships between our students and the people that they photograph. We are really lucky that our instructors and their work, attracts a crowd of experienced and sensitive travelers that come to Oaxaca with an open mind and heart.

To give you and idea of how Oaxaca is such a unique place, around 2003, McDonald’s tried to open a restaurant at the Zócalo —the main square where traditionally locals gather to eat and hang out, and the late painter Francisco Toledo, one of Mexico’s greatest artists, who was originally from Oaxaca, and the organization Pro-Oax, stopped the construction of the restaurant. During the last years of his life, Toledo was also very active in protecting native corn and local farmers from Monsanto. Oaxaca is considered by many the place where corn originated and where the most diversity of species exists. And as you may know, it is also a very important part of our cultural identity.

Tell us about your the connection to the photo center.
The workshops in Oaxaca are held at the Manuel Alvarez Bravo Photographic Center, founded by Francisco Toledo. The new director, Fausto NahĂşm and I are having conversations about how we can best collaborate and have the workshops be more involved with the community and vice versa.

Another important aspect is being able to offer scholarships to Mexican photographers. We currently offer the Friends of Mary Ellen Mark Scholarship every year, that is open to Mexican young photographers (18-32 years old) to attend Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb’s workshop in Oaxaca. This scholarship is partially funded by some of Mary Ellen’s former students and close friends as well as by the Webbs and La Luz. Our hope is to keep Mary Ellen’s memory and generosity alive in Oaxaca, a place that was so close to her heart. We are currently looking into ways to offer more scholarships.

Mary Virginia Swanson and Elizabeth Krist during the workshop Your Work and Its Audience: Making the Match, NYC 2019

Do you organize them anywhere else?
Every year we run a workshop in New York with Mary Virginia Swanson and Special Guests called Your Work and Its Audience: Making the Match. Our Special Guests include: Elizabeth Krist, former Senior Editor at National Geographic; Alan Rapp, Editorial Director at Monicelli Press; Photographer and Photo Book Editor Joan Liftin; Karen Marks, Director at Howard Greenberg gallery; Jane Yeomans, Photo Editor at Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine; and photographer Elinor Carucci.

This workshop is for photographers who are ready to share their photographic work with the world. This class will help them identify appropriate audiences for it and discuss how to effectively reach out to them, whether it be through exhibitions, fine prints, publication or other formats. As artists, we spend most of our time, energy and resources, creating the work, but as Swanee says, sharing the work with others completes the creative cycle.

As you know, the gallery and editorial markets and basically everything in our industry is rapidly evolving. It is so important that photographers invest the time to really understand, speak the language and learn to make better negotiations when commissioned to create new work, granting licensing rights for their images, or when publishing their projects, to mention a few of the topics that the workshop covers.

 

 

The Daily Promo – Evan D’Arpino

- - The Daily Promo

Evan D’Arpino

Who printed it?
Mixam

Who designed it?
I did

Tell me about the images?
The promo consists of 3 bodies of work, printed in separate magazines, and sent together as a single piece. There is an architecture portfolio, a still life portfolio and a book solely of fine mineral specimens. I decided to send out such a substantial promo because I just left a staff photography position I had been at for a decade. I wanted to share something that encapsulates the full scope of my work and get it in front of a new audience.

The work in the architecture and still life books ranges from assignments to personal projects- including assignments for InStyle, Surface Magazine, Rose and Ivy Journal, and Ghetto Gastro. Personal projects of note include a series that depicts symbols and metaphors from The Iliad in surreal still-lifes, and an architecture series of windows seen from NYC’s Highline Park.

The third book, Terra, is a portfolio of fine mineral specimens shot for assignments and exhibitions. A couple of years ago I wandered into a mineral dealer’s gallery and asked if I could shoot some of their specimens. My undergraduate degree is in geology and I have always thought crystals would be a wonderful subject. Since then, they’ve turned into a subject I specialize in. This portfolio is divided into four sections. The first is a collaboration with Wilensky Exquised Minerals, shot for an exhibition of emeralds they had last fall. There are 2 fine art series in the portfolio, Abiogenesis and Nucleation. Abiogenesis depicts specimens contained in bell jars and vitrines, with implied ecosystems allude to the fuzzy boundary between living and nonliving systems. Nucleation, is a black and white series that focuses on the architectural form of the specimens and illustrate nature’s influence over anthropogenic design. The remaining section is made up of photos taken of private collections. Crystals such as these are a subject that I haven’t seen explored very often, so it’s particularly exciting to share this work with the industry.

How many did you make?
I printed 200 of each portfolio. I felt like 200 would be a good balance between keeping it targeted but also allow me to get my work in front of more new faces.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I tend to send out postcards and smaller mailers a couple times a year. Promos like these portfolios usually go out every-other year.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
Absolutely! I still believe there’s something special about printed photography. A printed promo can be an experience, especially when it’s something that’s a little different and stands out. The responses I receive for printed promos back this up. I definitely see a difference in not only the number of responses, but the enthusiasm of the reply.

This Week in Photography: A Coronavirus PSA

- - Working

 

I’m doing something different today.

(Like proper different.)

It’s an advice-only-column.
Maybe think of this as a public service announcement.

Now that I think about it, in all my years here, I did do this once before.

After a near death experience.
In Mexico.

(No, it had nothing to do with dodging cartel sicarios across the NorteĂąo desert.)

Rather, my wife and I almost drowned in Playa del Carmen, during a rip current, with our young children back at the apartment with my folks.

We were so desperate to swim in the blue Caribbean, after a week of shit weather, that we ignored any and all warning signs, and swam out deep enough, in a brewing storm, when no one else was around. (“Hint, hint,” the Universe was saying.)

But we thought we knew better, and only through a lot of luck, some fancy swimming, (and not much else,) did we make it back to shore, exhausted, breathing heavy, arms trembling.

Jessie and I made a promise to wise up that day, and I wrote it into an New Year’s advice column for you, as it happened to coincide with the festivities.

I think I did wise up that day, and am proud of it. After a 4 year stint in therapy, a ton of travel around the US, building a new photo retreat program, publishing a book, and getting back to Europe twice now, I’m definitely a more capable, smarter, more nuanced, emotionally intelligent person than I was then.

Yes, I almost died in Amsterdam last month, (I promise to tell the story,) and I’m no “super-genius,” so all I’m really saying is that I try to learn lessons from life, and am happy to admit my fallibility.

Geared up for the weather in Amsterdam.

So what am I on about then?

Why no photo book?
Or art exhibition review?

Haven’t I seen enough in the last month to write ten articles about things on the wall right now?

Yes.
Yes, I have.

But for all the shit I gave #2019, for all its legendary absurdity and insanity, I didn’t feel compelled to do what I’m doing now.

Somehow, (though I’m not hating,) #2020 has managed to earn its hashtag in just over two months. Like I wrote about 2010 reminding me that 2009’s ass-whooping was not done, our new year has seen a full-blown global pandemic begin to arise.

Is that right?

My terminology?

I’m not sure, but what I am certain is that panic behavior has set in, with a major stock market sell off, and humans acted like flock birds by simultaneously voting for the “safe pair of hands” Joe Biden, as if connected telepathically.

I’ve heard stories from a friend of empty food shelves in New York, seen a photo of empty toilet paper shelves at a Target in San Diego, and a tweet about hoarding in Cincinnati.

San Diego

Cincinnati

My favorite soccer team, Arsenal, was supposed to play today, (I’m writing on Wednesday,) and the game was postponed because Arsenal players were exposed to the since-ill-with-the-coronavirus owner of the Olympiakos soccer club 13 days ago.

(ED note: Thursday evening the Arsenal head coach, Mikel Arteta, was diagnosed with the virus.)

South by Southwest has been cancelled.

Italy is in complete lockdown.

Old people are dying, regularly.

And China’s Orwellian, mind-boggling movement restrictions of earlier this year are now being held up as a (kind of) model for perhaps controlling the spread elsewhere.

(Oh yeah, this is probably a good time to mention the virus was likely started because some human beings just can’t seem to stop eating wild-jungle-creatures. Fucking assholes!)

It’s scary and crazy all at once, and as I have been dispensing advice here for years, and doing proper travel writing since last year, I wanted to share my two cents.

First of all, remain calm.
Secondly, remain calm.

Just because other people are buying up everything in sight doesn’t mean you have to.

(I took my kids to the grocery store yesterday, just to demonstrate that we could shop rationally, and ignore the panic instinct.)

Wash your hands well, and often, (I’ve always been a bit OCD in this one way,) but please don’t buy all the soap in your local supermarket.

Or all the TP, tissues, paper towels or hand sanitizer.

This type of hive-mind behavior perpetuates itself, as panic is as contagious as this nasty new virus.

With respect to travel, you all know I went to Amsterdam, and am glad I did. It made my book much better, and that was very important to me.

But I’m not sure how much non-essential travel I’d be doing now. (Ed note on Thursday: Travel from Europe has since been restricted.)

Last weekend, I was in Houston for a major domestic conference, SPE, happening right before a major international one, FotoFest.

I chose to hug and shake hands as normal at my book signing, but the new etiquette was to ask people what their preference was, before getting into personal space.

“Is it OK to touch you,” I’d ask?

Some people preferred fist bumps, or elbow bumps, or nothing at all. Most, though, kept it normal.

That was Saturday, and I’m guessing that at FotoFest, which began this week, far more people will revert to caution.

May I suggest we all culturally appropriate from the Japanese, and simply bow?

You can hug your family, but maybe we can all “honor” each other by staying hands off for a month or two?

I didn’t do it the other day, admittedly, but things change fast with new information, and if I had the signing now, I’d trade bows for hugs.

Also, it’s probably wise to check in on your elderly neighbors. (Assuming you know you’re virus-free.) At times like this, they need more help than ever.

I’m supposed to do a book signing at Paris Photo New York/AIPAD, (they need a more efficient name next year,) but now everyone’s wondering if it will be cancelled?

I’ve already heard rumors as such. (ED note: it was postponed several hours after I wrote this.)

Given all the health data about how helpful social distancing can be, should any of these international conferences go on, in major international cities? (ED note: now they’re not.)

Does the call get made piecemeal, one festival at a time, or all at once, in a wave?

Will this story, written on Wednesday, feel dated by the time I publish it on Friday? (ED note: the answer is yes. The NBA was cancelled later the same day, and the last session of FotoFest was postponed too. Now all sports are on hiatus, and the State of New Mexico closed all schools Thursday night.)

Here’s another piece of advice: do what you have to to keep your stress levels down. Beyond the hand washing, a healthy immune system is the best defense against getting really sick, so amp up your self-care regimen.

Exercise, make art, watch Netflix, cook good food, go for lots of walks.

Do what you can to stay calm and mentally grounded.

Given Capitalism’s efficiency, it’s unlikely, (beyond a guaranteed recession,) that this virus will interrupt global supply chains in a massive way, causing the kind of shortages that panic is currently making appear possible.

The only way that could even possibly happen is if all workers got a nasty case of coronavirus at once, and no one could work.

Erring on the side of caution, therefore, with where and when you travel, again makes a nasty exponential growth curve that much less likely.

So, in conclusion, as one who’s been in many public spaces in the last three weeks, in major international cities and airports, I’m now going to ease off, knowing what I know.

(ED note: as of Friday morning, the NM governor asked all people like me, who were out of state, to self-isolate for 14 calendar days. So I’m now stuck at home…)

Stay safe, stay smart, and please remember to remain calm.

It’s back to normal next week. (I hope.)

The Art of the Personal Project: Ewan Burns

- - 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: Ewan Burns

Florence

In the past I’d been to war zones and places of conflict.  Two distinct human themes seem to surface in those places.  It’s simple and clear to anyone who has had that experience.  In the face of communal disaster, one can witness the best and worst of humanity.

In NYC a local torrential thunderstorm can unit people getting mutually wet and cause interactions that on another occasion wouldn’t happen.

The disaster that was Hurricane Florence is no exception but the magnitude of the problem magnifies the human experience.

I had planned to head south from NYC on Thursday afternoon but I had to respond to a client who needed an executive team portrait shot on Friday morning and a quick turn around so I was delayed.  I arrived in NC on Sunday morning having entirely missed the most devastating part of the storm and headed for Wilmington, which was where the eye had made landfall.

My efforts were thwarted due to either municipal road closures; Interstate 95 was shut down for about 80 miles, or local flooding. I spoke to a man in a large heavily booted pick up with a broad North Carolinian accent who told me he’d spent 3 hours trying to get to Clinton which was where I too was heading.  It was 8 miles away, but every road that might have led in that direction was truncated by floodwater that ran for hundreds of feet away from our position.

Due to the declared state of emergency, it was illegal to enter the water, which made sense given the enormous drain on rescue services and first responders.

“You could have been arrested”, a fire martial told me as I waded away from an abandoned car I’d been photographing, which had failed to make the crossing. I never find it helpful to be told that what I am doing might be illegal as well as unsafe.  I understand that part but that I might be on the wrong side of the law too makes decision making much harder.  A veteran myself I understood the concept of not endangering another’s life because of a selfish whim.

On Monday I ventured to New Burn, an old town sitting on the fork of the tidal Neuse River and Trent.  As I drove over the elevated roadways that crossed the estuary to the east of the town I saw my first glimpse of the power of the storm.  I could see boats and yachts in unexpected places.

Unsure of where to begin I went in search of a local coffee shop, a number that were closed and the place had the feeling that something is really wrong.  There were a lot of people out and about but all the big box store parking lots were almost all empty except for people using them as temporary camping.  There were people with pickups’ and camper trailers running generators with dogs tied to trailer hitches in conversation with other parking lot campers.

In a coffee shop in the old part of town, a greeter called Nate and I had a chat about the storm and where he had been.  He told me of a couple of low-income neighborhoods that were close and whom he’d been to on the night of the storm in order to check on friends.

I first went to Trent Court, a low-income mostly African American neighborhood.  Almost desolate as most people had evacuated.  Apartments sat about one hundred feet from and two feet above the water of the estuary. There was nothing to stop the storm surge making its way into these homes.

Two men were pulling out waterlogged furniture into the street so it could either be disposed of or dry.  They invited me inside an apartment.  It was tiny, and all the furniture inside was upside down and wet.  It smelt of sewage.  In the back room, the two men were wrestling with a refrigerator.  They were emptying it of water and putting it back on its feet.  For a moment I tried to imagine what sort of wave action could have done this to a home.  It made no sense as wall and doors would have broken down the wave action.  I asked the workers and they told me that everything in the apartment had floated and once the water had receded it was left as I witnessed it.  Everything these people had in the home on the ground floor was done…

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 @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

The Daily Edit – BUST: Erin Patrice O’Brien

- - The Daily Edit

BUST

Creative Director: Laurie Henzel
Photographer:
Eric Patrice O’Brien

Heidi: How did Portrait of a Skateboard develop?
Erin: Portrait of a Skateboard developed because I became aware of the female and non- binary skate community through my daughter who skateboards. She was one of the only girls who skateboarded at her middle school at the time. And she was not comfortable going to the skatepark. The skateparks tend to be filled with mostly boys and men so it is intimidating for a young girl. I don’t skate and I have never been coordinated athletically. Maya, my daughter is pretty good for her age and it seemed like a waste that this was such a barrier. But it is. I found out about some organizations like @QuellSkateboarding and Skate Kitchen that had skate sessions for women and non- binary skaters so I brought her to one in New Haven, Ct.

When we arrived she and her friend looked at the scene said, “Mom, No. Let’s go home. “ They were shy. It was an oasis of women skating and I was completely drawn in, wanting to document everything. I walked up to a woman who looked pretty good and asked her to help my daughter. Her name was Jules Moriah. She immediately agreed and took Maya and her friend Kaitlyn to the ramps and gave them some tips. This was so empowering, I had never experienced such kindness between women.

Why did you exclude men?
It’s not that I excluded men. I have just focused on women and non binary skaters. I think there is plenty of documentation of male skaters.

How long have you been shooting that series?
I started shooting the series in June of 2019.

What tools has skating given these women?
I think that the tools it gives them is confidence and determination. It takes a long time to learn how to do an ollie or any other skate trick. It also takes a lot of confidence to go to a skatepark and be the only woman or non binary person.

Did you pitch BUST or did they come to you after seeing this personal gallery?
I pitched Bust because I was looking for other ways to be able to photograph the skaters that I met. Laurie Henzel – the creative director and founder- loved the series and was totally open. I went overboard because I wanted to shoot so many skaters that I had met and loved. I think she said get 4 models and I came back with 8 skaters. I begged Keia Bounds (who I know from working together photographing Dave Chappelle for Comedy Central in 2002) to be the stylist. Christine Herbeck has always been my main hair and makeup person. For this shoot Christine did the makeup and I had Nappstar Salon do the hair. Everyone worked really hard and we had fun. I was driving all the skaters in my 2004 toyota minivan back and forth from my studio to the skatepark in Brooklyn .

When is the launch party, will you skate there?
Unless a Corona cancel happens, the party is on March 12 from 7-10 at 110 Studios in Bushwick. Through the skate community I found a very cool venue which is photography and skateboarding centric. The owner Paulie, who also skates built the cyclorama strong enough to hold skateboarders and skaters bands will be performing.

The Daily Promo – Alexis Hunley

Alexis Hunley

Who printed it?
Zazzle – it’s a great company similar to Vistaprint where you can create customized products. They often have discounts and deals and for the set of promos I printed, I got a really great price.

Who designed it?
I did! However, I would love to work with a designer in the near future as I expand into more intricate promos.

Tell me about the images?
The first two images (man resting his head and the couple holding hands) are from a project titled Lovers or Friends. This project has allowed me to merge my love for science and art within a body of work that ties in a visual narrative to the psychological facts and figures that fascinate me. Lovers or Friends is a story about the importance of intimate connections via touch in the midst of a national epidemic of loneliness. From a psychological and scientific perspective, physical touch and emotional intimacy are integral to both psychological and physical well-being. Simply put – we cannot live happy and healthy lives without them. This project has been an amazing opportunity for me to build a photographic story around scientific data with the goal of reminding each of us that our needs for touch and intimate connections are normal no matter how or with who we fill those needs.

The final card is a portrait of Miss Hawai’i International 2019/Miss International Oceania, Raquel Basco. Shortly after this shoot, I was asked to travel with Raquel and her team to Honolulu to create still and motion content leading up to her trip to Japan to compete for Miss Universe International 2019.

How many did you make?
For each image, I printed 20 so in total, I printed 60 cards.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I send promos about twice a year but I typically try to send a card out after a meeting or portfolio review. This year I will probably stick with two promos and a quarterly newsletter and reevaluate my strategy at the end of the year.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
There is something really special about receiving a handwritten card in the mail. One of my amazing mentors, Amy Cooper, really encouraged me to take time to send printed promos consistently. Just over the last year the promos that I have mailed out have landed me meetings, opened up doors, and helped me create connections that I otherwise would have been unable to without that initial introduction from those printed promos. The combination of printed promos, digital newsletters, and social media has vastly improved my ability to market my work effectively.

This Week in Photography: John Baldessari

 

America is hopelessly divided.

Rendered in half.
Torn asunder.

So they say.

It’s certainly the conventional wisdom, and something I’ve mused about at length here in the blog as well.

Given that old clichĂŠ, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” it would lead one to assume the notion is true.

The US is split in two quasi-equal factions, and given they hate each other, as a nation, we’re essentially screwed.

Game over.
Let’s all go home.

That argument, that we’re broken into liberal and conservative camps, or Red and Blue states, or urban and rural enclaves, and it’s a bad thing, is so universal as to be unquestioned.

It’s so universal, in fact, that it was espoused by the very person typing these words.

(Do you sense a BUT coming?)

But…what if everyone is wrong? Even earlier versions of me?

I’ve been wondering lately, as for some reason, I’ve pushed words like split and divided from my brain, (not consciously,) and they’ve been replaced by another, very different word, that means more-or-less the same thing:

Balanced.

What if America is balanced between roughly-equally-sized blocks of people with naturally conservative and naturally liberal tendencies; citizens providing the warp and weft that has woven the nation together for the last 243 years?

What if?

What if it’s not so bad that some people don’t see eye-to-eye, or choose to live separate from one another?

What if we need each other, and that innate tension has kept us tougher these centuries, including after a Civil War that nearly created two separate countries?

Maybe, given our history, (of one half conquering the other,) and the fact that we (more-or-less) sewed it back together, plus the natural differences of country and city life, just maybe, this is our secret sauce as a nation?

Isn’t it a crazy thought?

The fact that Republicans and Democrats, (or Liberals and Conservatives,) continue to hand off the presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court to one another, over phases of time, could make us better, as one side checks the other’s wildest instincts over time?

It’s a lot to swallow, given I’ve been such a vocal critic of President Trump. (And was no fan of George W. either, as you well know.)

I feel like most of us assume our side is right, and if we could only grab control of all three levers of power, at once, and have them for a decade or so, we’d fix America for good.

Red AND Blue think that.

But what if we need each other, and have essentially found ourselves endlessly distracted by infighting these last ten years?

What if the internet and social media have allowed powerful entities to chop us up into individual “profiles,” and rig the game to the point that we don’t even know we’re being played anymore?

No, the blogger is not turning Luddite on you, and I’m not saying it’s the robots fault either. (If anyone’s got a raw deal, it’s slave-robots.)

I benefit from the internet more than most.

However, “30 Rock” just came to Amazon, and I’ve been re-watching it, along with my 12 year old, who wasn’t born yet when it first debuted.

The take on race, class, the media, America, sexism, all of it, even the fashion, seemed current.

It was weird, as I’ve seen other TV from NYC, not much earlier, that is very dated. (Hint: “Sex and the City.”)

As much as I admire Tina Fey and her staff, as they barely put a foot wrong, it made me wonder if we’ve been spinning our wheels for most of the time I’ve been doing this job?

(I began here in 2010, for goodness sake.)

And I know that my work has value, commenting regularly on our culture, but what if the culture has been stuck?

What if I’m commenting on a repetitive loop?

What if Trump is the natural evolution, the natural conclusion of a process of getting ALL our attention, of monetizing that attention, as well as our identities.

We’ve given companies like Facebook every piece of information about ourselves that we possibly can.

Whether Facebook gave us Trump, or Trump gave us Facebook, maybe we got suckered into a 10 year void, where we kept pushing the button, and they kept giving us the snack?

(Whatever type of content you want, whenever you want, 24-7, and very likely free.)

If we were lab rats, and they wanted to devise as system to keep us endlessly distracted and squabbling, maybe it would look a lot like the world we’re living in?

To be clear, I’m not suggesting upending the system, nor have I been binge-watching Bernie Sanders campaign videos.

Rather, after a nice walk, and a short meditation, I took a long look at my book shelves, and noticed “Pure Beauty,” by John Baldessari, published in conjunction with a show at the Met in 2010.

Not that any of you would likely remember, (even my wife, or my Dad,) but I wrote about that show here, back then, very early in my APE career.

I’d seen the exhibit, the first time Rob asked me to go to NYC to cover the PDN Expo, and it had floored me.

Rocked my head.
Shook me sideways.
Punched me silly.

(You get the point.)

I liked it so much that I bought the monograph, which I don’t believe I’ve done before or since. (While working.)

I liked it so much that I left my notebook at the cash register, and only by the grace of the writing gods did I remember while I was only a few galleries away, in time to get it back with no hassles.

The exhibition was so good that it reframed the way I understood art, and my own art in particular.

Coming from UNM, which was a conceptual program, I learned from Tom Barrow and Patrick Nagatani. (Who got his MFA at UCLA.)

I was encouraged to think about working with ideas, and using processes which could themselves be symbols. It stuck with me, that way of thinking, and led me to study conceptual art in grad school, along with photography.

I could talk about Warhol, sure, and Marcel Duchamp, but mostly I think I made work that way because it had been implanted in my early-artist-operating-system.

All of a sudden, in that John Baldessari show, it was as if I were seeing every good idea that I had ever had, or was likely to have, on display on the walls before me.

Already done!

It was all there, the playfulness, the experimentation, the use of processes to engender artistic outcomes. The humor, the use of color, and the radical lengths to which the artist would challenge convention.

Like I once wrote about the Mike Kelley show at the Stedelijk Museum, (the time I owned my lack of genius, and was liberated,) the Baldessari show opened my mind the fact that if it came into my head, if I wanted to do it, if it was where my art took me, I should go.

And if, in the end, even with all the love and joy I had, I still felt like life was a bit absurd, well, that was OK too.

He threw red balls in the air to make a straight line, set against the blue sky, and documented it.

He made up games where you point to a carrot or a green bean?

Took selfies waving goodbye to strangers on boats.
Or wearing hats to block his face.

He made photographs out of secret handshakes!

He sang songs of Sol LeWitt art instructions.

Or took pictures of letters he built in the natural environment that spelled out the word “California.”

Everywhere we see games and systems.
Lots of play.

There were mini-movies, told in stills, and color blocks made from car doors.

This guy, John Baldessari, was a machine, just rapid-fire making amazing things, turning humor into pathos, and both balanced life experiences into something deeper.

Something that felt like the whole of life itself.

Looking back, nearly 10 years later, wondering if the last decade was a glitch in the system, I realize how much I learned that day, and how much his work had influenced me until that point. (And since.)

There are paintings, (for which he is rightfully renowned,) in which the artist painted instructions, in words, for how to sell lots of paintings. Or critiqued the process of painting, in words, inside his own paintings.

Everyday citizens have all heard of Warhol, and Picasso, but JB might have been just as influential.

Sadly, John Baldessari passed away in late #2019. (Another data point that year was a bitch and a half.) While we’re all less-well-off without him, and I’m sad I never got to shake his hand, (pre-coronavirus days, obv,) books like this one carry on his legacy.

Highly, highly recommended.

Bottom Line: Monograph from a 20th/21st Century master, #RIP

To purchase “Pure Beauty” click here 

 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are interested in presenting books from as wide a range of perspectives as possible.