Featured Promo – David Strongman

 

http://www.davidstrongman.com

http://designreflektor.com

Tell me about your promo.

This was my first real promo piece having been a working photographer since 2001 – crazy I know. But as a photographer living in Vancouver we’re a small community, and work is word of mouth in this provincial town. That being said I think the practice of mailing out promos is under appreciated and is another asset that the right editor will appreciate. It’s really your opportunity to put together work in a meaningful way, on chosen print stock, with design intent, that provides an editor the sensorial cues about the person they’re about to hire … without having ever met them before. It invites a mutual relationship of trust. This is the blessing and curse of our industry these days. You just don’t get that kind of connection with the disposable Instagram-one-hit-wonder post that is so prevalent in our swipe right culture these days. So this is why I sent you my 2lb mailer. Here’s how it all began ….

I knew it was time to do something with the images I’d been commissioned to create over the last few years. Do I send out a mailer with a selection of images to tell an editor a story? Ok what images do I send? What do they mean? How do I present them? How many should I deliver? Am I over thinking this whole process. Well… yes and No.

I called Jaden Critchlow – @jac_illustration and the two of us got to work on creating a visual brand package. Jaden was a third year student at the design program at Capilano University in Vancouver (he’s now in Berlin … good move). He’s also my cousin so I was able to hold him hostage while we took 3 months to get these books completed. It was great to have a designer at the desk beside you who was skilled at the technical details of layout and design. Great for me, but I suspect an exercise in futility for Jaden because I was wielding executive control over the image selection and layout. I eventually stepped down from my lofty perch realizing he was full of great ideas and that we worked better as collaborators.

We ended up printing a few thousand 4×6 prints for the initial edit covering the main floor of my house, and we began laying out the shots according to whatever arcane and esoteric principles we could BS each other with. It’s amazing what you see when your floor is completely covered in photographs. Colours, shapes, themes, stories, light. The limitations of a computer monitor were quickly realized when we made visual / narrative connections with a room full of photographs that never would have been made on a tiny screen. This is really where the magic happened. When we had our final edit we realized that we were sitting on over 450 images. I stubbornly said let’s print them all. He agreed because again … he was family and couldn’t say no.

After the wide edit we then started the layout for two separate books. One focused on Editorial images – people and places. And the other on Interior images – something looser than pure architecture. I kept the two separate because it’s pretty rare that the interiors guys are also people shooters. One job is total silence, the other requires people skills. And people hiring for one often don’t consider you for the other. It made sense to kept the two brands separated.

After month of back and forth we had agreed on a layout for both books. I had a few ideas for a cover that Jaden worked up and we then dove into the print world. I initially went to an offset press house and was quoted about $15,000 for a print run of 100 of the books. Kinda out of budget but damn did the printing look amazing. Can’t beat it really. So I settled with digital output for about a third the cost. We ended up spending about $5000 for 50 copies of the the 178 page Editorial book and 100 copies of the 106 page Interiors book.

My Art Director in Vancouver Tanner Wilson (tannerwilson.com) always went to the same print broker – Russel White at Nine Yards Print (nineyardsprint.com). Russel deals with printers who are not public facing and handle large commercial jobs. They often sneak in the smaller guys a the end of a print run for a better price. It was great to have Russel stick handle the print brokering as his job is to connect you with the best print houses in the city, matching your budget and print requirements. It took the guesswork out of printing and one day we met in a back alley where he delivered a trunk full of printed books. Magic.

These images are a departure point in my photogrpahy, the culmination of 7 years of commissioned work in Vancouver. A personal retrospective. They’re largely street imagery and portraiture created during a great run of work for local real-estate developers who would hire me to go out on the street, create whatever images I wanted to, and come back to them with a look and feel for a specific neighbourhood that they were launching a tower in. What a gift. Because we are without an editorial scene in Vancouver, the opportunity to roam the streets to create images and get paid for it was a total blessing. The trade off was you’d get paid better than editorial rates, almost great for feeding a family of four in the overpriced city of Vancouver, but no one who mattered ever saw your work because it was locked away in a brochure for a development that sold out in a day. The challenge then was to get these images into the hands of editors and agencies around the world for their consideration. Do I ramp up the website? Blast social media? And then make cold calls?

I already spend way too much time in front of a screen and I’ve lived through watching old clients suddenly disappear to hire photogs based on their one-hit-wonder Insta image – who by the way have returned because it turns out you need to know something about something to re-create the magic of a lucky single image. So I thought that the best way for me to engage a photo editor was not with a few good images, but with a book. Two books actually that are 100 and 175 pages each. Something that when you drop them off on an editor’s desk you let loose from three feet and the reverberation is felt throughout the office. Something that that they could really engage with.

These books are a way for me to entice editors and creatives into digging deeper into my work, give them something to sit with for more than 15 seconds. Each and every page has been laid out with intent and purpose. Nothing is by accident. Images play off each other though light, texture, content, narrative. There’s easter eggs everywhere. The real joy for me is in watching someone sit with the book. Do they flip through it rapidly or do they spend time with each image. Most people these days unfortunately flip through so fast that they barely remember a single image. Oh well, I tried.

The challenge I face now is in how best to get these to the agencies/editors who really matter to me, and have them hire me for jobs that will push my creative boundaries? I recently sent the books to the UK and it cost me $80. But it felt great when that editor responded immediately to my phone call because they had received the work and loved the production of it. Will it get me work? Maybe. Maybe not. I think what will get me work is consistency. I gambled putting all my eggs in one basket. But I did it for myself because who would be crazy enough to delver 275 pages of printed content to a random editor? It’s now up to me to keep up with these new relationships by calling/sending more work.

Living out on the west coast, without an international agent to put you forward for work is a big challenge. The goal now is to identify the finest editors/agencies worldwide and target them specifically with this work. And I’ll eventually upload all of the books to Instagram and revamp the websites. And start another body of work that makes my happy.

This Week in Photography: Nothing Makes Sense

 

“I’m just trying to understand it, Mother.”

“What is there to understand? Just read it. There it is in black and white. Who wants you to understand it? If the Lord God wanted you to understand it He’d have given you to understand or He’d have set it down different.”

John Steinbeck, “East of Eden,” 1952.

 

 

 

Have you ever heard of Andy Kaufman?

 

He was a comedian back in the 70’s, and got famous for pissing people off. (And for his weird-ass accent in the TV show “Taxi,” which would certainly be considered offensive in today’s cultural climate.)

I must have seen a few minutes of his stand-up act, back in the day, and then Jim Carrey played him in a movie, but I do have strong recollections of his place in the culture.

Andy Kaufman was such an absurdist, he’d get on stage and say strange, not-particularly-funny shit, just to get a rise out of his audience. Some of it was hilarious, but mostly because he was toying with expectations in a manner that feels very of-the-moment.

 

 

I’m pretty sure he got involved with professional wrestling, and got his ass kicked for real, because he made his living pushing the envelope.

Plus, he did a spot-on-perfect Elvis impersonation. (And got to hang out with Johnny Cash on “Hee Haw,” which melts my brain.)

 

 

These days, we know all about trolls, and gas-lighting, but it seems Andy Kaufman helped pioneer the practice, back when it would have seemed revolutionary.

To me, the point is to grind into the human consciousness that our desire for things to “make sense,” and for us to be able to “understand” the world, much less the Universe, is hubristic and fallacious.

Much like Loki needed to get the shit beat out of him by Hulk, in my kids’ favorite scene in the first “Avengers” film, Andy Kaufman was the canary in the coal-mine for our 21st Century misadventures. (He died young, and didn’t live to see our new-times.)

Poor guy.
At least he had some fun.

 

 

 

But today is not one of those days where I’ll weave together ten strands of American culture into a tapestry of awesomeness. (Sorry if that sounds cocky, but sometimes I get there.)

No.
Not today.

I’ve been immersed in trying to reason with a teenager, who’s been hell bent on self-sabatoge, as were millions of teenagers before him.

Trying to understand the teenaged mindset, from a 47 year old vantage, makes about as much sense as a chicken trying to force its way into a KFC. (A true story I heard on Sirius radio the other day. Dumb fucking chicken.)

 

 

 

Today, I’m going to cut to the chase more quickly than normal, and the connection between the introduction and the book review will be as obvious as a wet-dog-fart.

Today, I spent some time with “Providencia,” a book by Daniel Reuter, published by Skinnerboox, which arrived in the mail nearly a year ago. (Almost done with the 2020 submissions, thankfully.)

Today, as I sit here and write, I can honestly report that I was thinking of Andy Kaufman WHILE I was looking at the book, because I couldn’t make any sense of it at all.

 

 

 

Normally, when I spend time with a book, I look for clues, and figure things out, as slowly the narrative begins to focus. Eventually, I get there. (Almost always.)

But not today.

The title, which means Providence in Spanish, made me think maybe the series was made in Spain. (Such a Euro-centric vision of the world, it’s true.) And early on, there is a publication in Spanish, so that exacerbated my reaction. (As did the inclusion of a palm tree in one photo.)

But as to the theme, or point of the work?

I just couldn’t get there.

We see buildings, walls, hard-scrabble desert scenes, buildings, junk, trees, and occasionally, some people who don’t look at the camera.

Circles form a repeating motif, including a cool image with a hole cut in a wall, and another with a record player sitting before metal tubes that remind me of pipe bombs.

There are no words, until the end, and no context until then either.

Mostly, beyond thinking about Andy Kaufman, I realized the book was not really meant for me, as an American. (I know they sent it my way, but you likely catch my drift.)

It felt loaded with cultural references that I could not access, and the book also felt intentional about it.

As if creating a state of chaos and confusion was part of the book’s mission. Or perhaps it was commenting on a society that experienced those sensations, and the point of the art was to communicate that emotion through visceral means.

Furthermore, the production values are high, and the inclusion of images printed on vellum, as a way of breaking up the visual consistency, was great. (By not half-assing the production, it also lets a viewer know the project is serious, if inscrutable.)

In the end, we get a long essay in Spanish, (of course, as I said, this was not designed for Americans,) and then a translated version.

It’s by Alejandro Zamba, and quickly establishes the book is about Santiago, Chile, not long after the city erupted in protests, violence, and social disorder, not unlike what happened in the US in 2020.

It’s a beautiful short story, almost in the form of a parable, as a stranger lands at an airport, and takes a long taxi ride, during which the driver catches the author, (and we, the viewer,) up on what the book is actually about.

There’s a quote within, which summed up my feelings about our innate human desire for things to make sense: “The feeling of understanding all is useful, hopeful, cocky and false, while the feeling of understanding nothing returns our humility to us…”.

I must say, one of my very favorite things about this job is that I get to learn about faraway places, and share that knowledge and “intel” with you.

The end notes tell us this project was supported by a publisher in Italy, foundations in Luxembourg, in conjunction with Les Rencontres d’Arles in France, but what that has to do with a Dada book about Chile, I cannot say.

Only after I was done did I notice some press materials that likely tried to explain things, including an essay by Adam Bell, but it was pointedly not included in the book. Nor was it an insert.

So I didn’t read it.

I’m not being petty, though.

Rather, I was luxuriating in the not-knowing. In being reminded I’m just a puny human, living for a short time on a spinning rock, hurtling around a star in an ever-expanding Universe.

And so are you.

To purchase Providencia click here

 

 

The Art of the Personal Project: Jared Leeds

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:  Jared Leeds

 

PATHWAY TO FERTILITY

My wife and I struggled to get pregnant. We are lucky enough to live in a state (MA) that covers up to 6 rounds of in vitro fertilization, and we used almost all of them. On our fifth round we were ready to consider other options because of the emotional toll, but our doctor encouraged us to try again. We had very low expectations, and possibly because of that we felt less pressure. That’s when it finally worked. For my wife, the struggle was both physical and hugely emotional. I only had the emotional part to deal with. I think it was difficult for both of us to put it out there so publicly, but time has a way of softening the hard edges of difficult emotion. Plus, we ended up with two beautiful and healthy twin girls who are now 7 years old. We couldn’t be more grateful.

 

To see more of this project, click here.

Instagram

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

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 – Jelle Mul: Shifting Culture and Creativity for Change



Jelle Mul

Heidi: How often do you take your camera when riding? Do you ask, “Am I riding and taking photos today, or am I riding only?”
Jelle: It really depends. I got my hands on a Fuji x100f not that long ago, which fits in my jersey, this has changed quite a lot for me. The cliché that the best camera is the one you have on you, is pretty true so I was always dragging my SLR around, but not really on faster rides. This one fits in my pocket so I can bring it whenever I want. On bikepacking trips I always bring my SLR with a 50mm 1.4 This really is my go-to setup. For me it really depends on the light if I bring a camera or not, I really am a sucker for natural light.



What challenges or surprised you about surfing/photographing in Iran?
My friend Easkey Britton was the first person and women to surf in Iran. She started an organization that took women into the water and the ocean and was fostering positive relationships with the ocean through creative learning experiences. I had visited Iran before because it really interests me, the history but also the present. We westerners think everybody should think like us, but this is a way of thinking we do not share with many other cultures.  When Easkey asked me to join her, I did not have to think about it for a second. Heading to the south of Iran to search for surf and see what surfing does to a mindset & culture standards really has opened my eyes. It takes away so many boundaries and joining her and her organization twice is for sure one of those moments in my life where I started looking at things differently. A second one was when my friend broke his neck paralyzing him from the neck down. Just a week before his accident we were on a camping trip on Lanzarote and I took this one photo of him which reminds me every time I see it how luck we are to do the things we do, it also really thought me that there is no better feeling than helping others . I started doing that through my photography. Because I have an amazing job, I have the opportunity to give everything I make through photography away to small organizations that do the hard work in making the little place we call earth a better place.

How has riding in so many different countries informed your photography?
Taking photos really makes travelling a lot more fun. I am really curious to start with, so love strolling around or waking up before sunrise, but finding a nice shot really brings you to different places and you meet people along the way. However, guess it is not really the countries that have informed my photography, but my setup. About 90% of what I shoot is with a 50mm lens. All my gear was stolen ones and I did not really have the means to buy everything again. I bought a second-hand Full frame SLR and a new 50 1.4 and that really opened my eyes. Being stuck into one setup really challenged me to look at different angles, which I still enjoy till today. I am fortunate to have some really talented friends like Wouter Struyf, Lian van Leeuwen and Chris McClean, hanging out with them on trips always opens my eyes. Also my friend Natasa Lops, who is an extremely talented artist has opened my eyes and we have done many super fun exhibitions and projects where she draws on my photo’s.

Did you ride close to home during the Pandemic?
I have not really traveled at all since the pandemic hit 1,5 years ago.  When I was I used to race bikes and travelled all over the world to do bike races, when I stopped I kept travelling for surfing or snowboarding. So I am one fortunate son to have seen so much of the world, but being forced to stay at home has really opened my eyes. I started exploring little stretches of the Netherlands and spend loads of time in the dunes where I live. A bike, A board, some friends and a camera are all I really need to have a perfect day. At the start of the lockdown in Holland me and Lian van Leeuwen rode around Amsterdam and took shots which have been published on bikepacking.com So surreal to see that city as a complete ghost town. I really think we all got so used to everything we have and hope we all learn from this pandemic that our safe little world should not be taken for granted.

With the energy removed from the city, what did you see without hustle and bustle?
I am not really a city person to start with. Of course I love hanging in a bar with some friends but will choice a beach of forest over that anytime. So for me it was not about if I would move away from the city, but more when.  I also really believe that we humans have lost way to much of our connection to nature and therefore do not realize what is at stake. Holland does not really have nature, but the little stretch of beach and dunes with some fun trails is what I really appreciate. Friends joke that they enter my Instagram account when them join me for a surf or ride. Guess it is sort of true.

How do you collaborate with Shifting Culture
Shift cycling culture is a small NGO from a friend, Lian van Leeuwen. Shift is a global not-for-profit movement that thrives on the support and engagement of the cycling industry and wider community. They believe a transition to a more sustainable future for the cycling world can only be achieved from the inside out!  She is one of my favorite bikepacking friends and we have been doing some fun trips. One of them was a quite iconic one, Island hopping over the Dutch Islands in the north of the country. These Island will not be there anymore when we do not stop the rising sea levels. This story is featured in the newest Gestalten book about bikepacking. Another trip we did is on the potential future coastline of Holland. We Dutch pride ourselves by fighting the sea, but these same sea level rises are something we eventually will not win from. This will push the coastline a lot more east. This story was featured in the last Farride magazine. The latest one I am playing a small role in, is a film from Shift cycling culture about climate change as a whole and the impact it has on our cycling communities.How did you use your photography to address climate reality?
For me polarization of the issues we face is likely even a bigger issue than the issue itself. Climate change is not left or right, not blue or red of black or white. This is the time we just need to come together and start working together no matter what we believe. We can argue how we do it, but should stop debating if we do it. Facts like 100 companies in the world are responsible for 70% of the emissions and the last 40 years the wildlife population dropped 60% just blows my mind. I am fortunate to get asked to publish my photo’s quite often and the stories I write with them or in case of a collab with Lian she writes, always have a double layer. The trip and the beauty of nature, but also what is at stake. I always try to celebrate the positive and not get sucked into the negative too much. That will just bum people out. Not everybody is interested in these issues, but all readers are interested in images and words about the thing they love, which is riding or surfing. So that extra layer just might make them think about it, which is all you sometimes need. The butterfly effect. At the end we do not just need those that worry about the end of the world, but also those that worry about the end of the month, or when the next swell is coming in.


Do you hope your riding images encourage others to choose bikes over cars?

I never really think about it like that. I just take images and tell the stories that I think are important. Up to somebody else to do with it what they like. More people riding bikes or picking up boards is of course really great! Enjoying all good that nature has to offer might just bring back some realization why we should do everything we have to protect it, so we can keep riding great trails.


Tell us about this image with the drawing.
I have always liked Natasa her drawings and had been doing exhibitions here and there and was looking for something new.
Natasa and I talked about it and one conversations lead into an exhibition in Antwerpen followed by one in Amsterdam.

The goal really is to add some fun to my often empty photos, but also some food for thought through a bit of humor. The world and everybody is so serious all the time, and a bit of humor won’t make things any worse but for sure a bit better to handle.

Please share some parting words.
Of course you do not have to give everything away, but there are so many issues in the world right now, and I truly believe that the only thing that will help us fix them is creativity, in word, art, photography, music. By using that thing you love to fight for something bigger than you, you make yourself happier, the world a little better place and you can keep doing it forever.

Featured Promo – Poby

Personal project to show different views of under/above water photography
Personal project of high end athletes in New York and in the Saltflats
This was a story for SNOW magazine. Photographing Heli skiing in Alaska at the exclusive Tordrillo lodge. What a blast!
This was a story for SNOW magazine. Photographing Heli skiing in Alaska at the exclusive Tordrillo lodge. What a blast!
photoshoot for a personal trainer and IG influencer with 2 million followers
Michale Phelps for VISA

A classic bicycle race called EROICA . This one took place in Northern California.
For several years I went to Ecuador, photographing for the foundation of native Indians in Ecuador to raise money. Each time I lived with the tribes in the rain forrest for around 3-4 weeks.
A little project with my kids.
Kids soccer in LA : AYSO

I photographed this one for Asphalt Green NYC a non profit community Sports club

POBY

Who printed it?
I print with www.uprinting.com
They are pretty precise and are also based in LA, so I can actually pick everything up.

Who designed it?
I designed it.

Tell me about the images.
The poby booklet you published are my best of images of the last 2-3 years.
I always mix some images of actual jobs, with mostly projects I photograph so i can show my vision.

How many did you make?
Usually I print every 3 years around 5000

Some of them are sent out to selected creatives and art buyers and others I just use as leave behind when I see agencies/brands in person.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Not more than every two years.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I still believe that printed pieces make a huge impact. Yet I also know many art producers who simply do not want anything printed anymore and save space (also many work remotely and dont have any space).

This Week in Photography: Teaching Children

 

 

I photographed some chickens the other day.

(And some cows.)

 

 

The latter creatures had escaped their pasture up the valley, and were officially on the lam.

I watched the herd descend my father-in-law’s driveway, across the field, and quickly went to investigate with my camera in tow.

The kids were enraptured, far more than I expected, but then again, so much of our lives here the last 18 months have been repetitive.

(A bunch of cattle descending upon us was anything but routine.)

I figured it would be easy to get a great shot, under the circumstances, but that was simply not the case.

Whether due to the overly harsh light, once or twice, (or the family dog finally getting to experience the cattle-herding for which she was bred,) it took me two days and 200 shots to get exactly what I saw in my head.

Certainly, it was worth the trouble, and I had to learn how not to antagonize the massive bull, so he’d forget about me while I skulked around.

But in the end, after many attempts, I got the shot.

Soon, my daughter suggested we stop eating beef, as once we’d all hung out with the cows, and saw their intelligence first-hand, it was hard to imagine them getting slaughtered, methodically, to add protein to the collective food supply.

Rather, we saw the cattle as fugitives, running for their lives, and we secretly hoped they’d stay one step ahead of their owners, who didn’t come searching until Day 3.

 

 

 

 

As to the chickens, they were in the front yard of a neighbor’s house, and I asked for permission first.

The light was perfect, the chickens naturally photogenic, and I made the exact photo I wanted within a minute.

(Sometimes it’s hard; sometimes it’s not.)

At the time, though, my neighbor, whom I’ve gotten to know better over the last few years, insisted that I never take his photo.

Ever.

I said, “Sure, no problem,” and reminded him I’d never so much as raised my camera in his direction.

Still, when I stopped back by, after we’s shot hoops at the basketball court across the street, (behind the firehouse,) I wanted to ask if he knew anything about missing cattle.

As a joke, while I approached, I pretended to take his picture with my finger. There was no camera in my hand, as it was safely zippered up in the bag slung over my back.

Anyone could see I was kidding, but he got offended, thinking I was making fun of him, and he said, angrily, that he hated being photographed, and didn’t like being teased.

I apologized, of course, said I was trying to funny, (and had obviously failed,) so I changed the subject quickly, and that was that.

But you can be sure I’ll never do anything like that again to Morris.

(No sir.)

Being an outsider in an insular, poverty-stricken, mountain community at the edge of the Universe, you learn it’s very hard to be accepted, (takes years really,) and you can blow all that good-will in an instant, if you make the wrong move.

 

 

 

We came back home to New Mexico in 2005, straight from Brooklyn, and I was hired to teach photography to school kids within a month.

In order to circumvent the University bureaucracy, UNM-Taos was able to get me working, straight away, if I’d be willing to teach “college classes” at a high school for at-risk youth.

I had no experience working with that population, and barely any teaching experience at all, aside from one semester as a professor of Beginning Digital Photography at Pratt.

This was a different kettle of fish, teaching black and white, chemical darkroom photography to disturbed teens, in the back room of a falling-apart, old school-house, where we had to worry about getting Hantavirus from all the stray mouse droppings.

 

 

I kept that job for ten years, and over time, the school’s head raised private funding for computers, digital cameras, and Epson printers.

I still remember harping on the need for secure storage, and being told, “Yeah, yeah,” until one of the students in my program “allegedly” broke in with a few buddies and stole it all.

We couldn’t prove it, but he walked around that week with a little twinkle in his eye, and that was enough for me.

After that, they took my opinions a bit more seriously on the subject, and built some massive, sturdy, fire-safe cabinets, where we locked everything up tight.

(Nothing was stolen again.)

But a few years later, a bureaucrat, (who soon washed out of the system, and was most recently seen teaching skiing,) shut the entire school, and it’s still sitting there, empty, rotting in the harsh-mountain-sun.

I shot some photos there a few months ago, and watched the tumbleweeds roll around the dirt parking lot.

Times change, but when you live in the 48th or 49th poorest state in the US, for this long, you begin to understand that cycles of poverty and violence are nearly impossible to break.

 

 

 

That said, I still recall one student, who studied with me for two years.

When we met, she was non-verbal, resting her head on the table the entire class. She made no eye contact, and wouldn’t respond to questioning.

Still, I did my work, starting each class with a check-in, asking about their days, and family lives, as they would only open up and relax, letting their creativity settle in, once they felt safe, and knew I cared about them as people.

By the end of the second year, that same young student was making the best work in class, taking the camera to shoot her family home on the Pueblo, and was regularly conversant.

One day, she told me secrets about what happened in the Kiva, the ancient underground educational system for boys, and it was, without exaggeration, one of proudest moments of my life.

I likely didn’t change many, or any, lives in that decade, but I’m sure I taught the students that art, and creativity, are powerful coping tools for life’s difficulties.

And yes, I miss the work.

 

 

 

As usual, there are reasons when I reminisce.

Something always sets off a thought train, and today, it’s that I just spent an hour and a half reading and looking at “Portraits and Dreams,” a re-issued and updated book by Wendy Ewald, published by MACK in 2020.

Though I admit I hadn’t heard of the project before, it was apparently first published in 1980, and later became a documentary film by Appalshop, a well-known media lab in Appalachia.

I first assumed it was set in West Virigia for some reason, (maybe it’s all the Joe Manchin talk in the mainstream media?) but the project happened in Kentucky, where Wendy Ewald taught photography to extremely poor children in a two-room-school-house, in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

If you’ve ever seen the excellent TV show “Justified,” you might have a sense of the mise-en-scene, and coal-country-issues people live with down there, but that was a fictionalized account, starring the dreamy Timothy Olyphant. (And the phenomenally charismatic Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder.)

 

 

This book, though, is straight truth, no fiction.

I admit, I wondered once or twice where the money came from to get this all going, (though the children had to raise $10 to buy their cameras,) and the end notes confirm there was grant funding made available by the NEA, and a couple of other sources.

 

 

 

As to the book, it features images made by the students, and written statements as well, though I do wonder if those were transcribed from audio interviews? (Not that it matters.)

Dead cousins, shot uncles, slaughtered pigs, fathers with black lung, fun times walking in the mountains, it’s all in there.

We see the world through the children’s eyes, and hear their thoughts. I could relate to some of their ideas in ways that seemed impossible, across so much time and space.

One boy, Delbert Shepherd, shocked at watching a chicken killed, actually imagines what it would feel like to be chopped into pieces and served as food. Another, in a pre-Climate Change age, writes that if all the humans disappeared, the Earth would be able to regenerate, after the ravages of human greed.

Powerful stuff, for sure.

At the end, Wendy Ewald shares details about how she got to Kentucky, and then fast-forwards the book to the present day, as she reconnected with her former students in the last decade, and we see images of them, pictures they’ve shot, and read about their current lives.

One woman practices photography, semi-professionally, and others are engineers and educators.

From a two-room school house, up in hollers with no running water, some of these kids actually made it out into the world. (One ended up running factories in China, another went to jail.)

But to a person, all the students remembered their time in Wendy Ewald’s photo program fondly, and it seems their experience as young artists stayed with them always.

Maybe today’s not a bad day to ruminate on that, and cultivate some hope in our dark times?

 

To purchase “Portraits and Dreams” click here

 

The Art of the Personal Project: Mike Belleme

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:  Mike Belleme

Wild Roots

In the mountains of North Carolina there is an expanse of donated land inhabited by a small group of people who, for their own reasons, choose not to live as members of modern society. Tod and Talia, a couple, have been living in this place called Wild Roots for a decade, half of which I’ve documented periodically.  A belief that modern civilization was on the brink of collapse was a big part of the impetus for Tod and Talia and others coming to Wildroots, although after years of living a simple mostly primitive way of life in the woods, they find it harder and harder to fathom modern mainstream life. In July of 2015, Talia had to move away from Wildroots back to her native California due to a mold allergy. Tod, unwilling to leave his home of Wildroots for California, now needs the community to thrive more than ever in order to continue making it his home.  The homes at Wildroots are mostly waddle and daub, a technique that uses on site timber, saplings, and a clay solution along with bark or metal roofs. Although wild food harvesting is a big part of the lifestyle, the majority of the food consumed at Wildroots comes from dumpsters which they visit on their periodic trips into town, roadkill, and wild game that is given to them by local hunters. They use almost every part of the animal including eyeballs, tongue and brain. Cooking is done over a fire created using friction every morning and evening. The number of community members fluctuates through the seasons, from 2-10 or so. Talia plans to return this Winter to stay with Tod but has no plans of returning after the coming Winter.

 

To see more of this project, click here.

Instagram

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

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 – Okii niitaniko Micheli Oliver


Micheli Oliver

Heidi: How did your photographic journey start and what memories do you have from your first images?
Micheli: Growing up my Dad captured photos and video of everything. He wanted to record it all, remember it all and later he would cherish it all. As a result my early years are a combination of photos, videos and real memories. Storytelling with cameras have been woven into my life for as long as I can remember. My first time really connecting with a camera, however, wasn’t until my junior year of High School when I took a film photography class. We developed our own film and I was fascinated with the tedious process, but after that it was many years before I picked up a camera again. I graduated from college and knew without a doubt that all I really wanted to do in this life was to tell stories. With money from graduation gifts from relatives I bought my very first digital camera.

How has your Niisitapi and Shawnee cultures informed your work and how has your eye evolved?
My cultures as a mixed person, from Blackfeet, Shawnee, Irish and Italian heritage, have shaped many aspects of my storytelling. My photos tell stories of resilience, of joy and of truth that are unique to my communities. In addition to the focus of stories I can tell the way I wield my camera is shaped by my Indigenous communities. It’s imperative to me to shoot with compassion, consent and reciprocity, understanding that the stories of who we are and the images created are extremely personal.

Did you always want to be an artist?
I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller. The moment I learned to write I began to write fantasy stories. Along the way, however, I stopped taking storytelling as a serious endeavor for my life. I started listening to what sounded good to relatives, what paid well and what was seen as a clearly successful job. I’ve also always cared for humans, so I began college as a pre-medical student. If I’m being honest I liked the way being a doctor sounded. Then I had a realization that I could be happy with my studies and fell in love with geography. It was a way to study the land and the integral relationships of humans with the land.

My family was at first confused by my decision to switch majors. Both my parents grew up very poor and they operate in a scarcity mindset because for them that’s how they’ve survived. They want more for me as an adult, they wanted consistent paychecks and a solid career path. My parents have always had my best intentions in mind, but they saw how happy Geography was making me and they eventually began to understand. Slowly I explained that because of their sacrifices I am now able to do what I love both as a geographer and a photographer. It was a combination of trusting my intuition and following what comes to me naturally.

You mentioned drawing inspiration from your ancestral lands and those who existed before you, how do you hope to use your gift reciprocally?
I believe to get to know a land, to protect and love a land, you must first know her people. I hope to tell the stories of original peoples and in doing so non-natives can truly learn how to protect the environment. To me that is the best gift I can give earth mother in return for all that she gives us.

Broadly speaking a portrait is the art of capturing the inherent character and essence of a person, why do you gravitate to this genre of photography as I know authentic representation is a cornerstone to your work.
Expression, eyes, the up close and sometimes uncomfortable, are to me an undeniable truth of what it is to be human. So as a storyteller the truth of being human is what a portrait represent. Each portrait to me is a human truth, a visceral moment of intimacy with a person, my camera and myself. There is also a simplicity to eliminating all other factors of a photo aside from eyes and expression. It’s the raw moments that create authenticity of story and personhood. Additionally I trust what comes naturally to me, taking portraits is not only natural, but sometime I truly love to do.

How are you using your voice and art form “to keep Indigenous languages burning bright, and steward Mother Earth and relationships” in your work?
Art of any form is resistance. Art centering Indigenous, Black, Brown, Queer and underrepresented peoples is way to resist a dominant heteronormative society. Art is born from counter culture change makers, rebels, loud mouthed lovers of life and truth, and my art is full of the latter people. With each story heard loud and clear, we are pushing back at a society that has tried to eradicate an Indigenous way of life. With this collective empowerment, too, we are cultivating a generation that is proud to be Indigenous, proud to keep our cultures, languages and practices alive.

What personal projects are you working on now?
Currently I’m working on a few different projects revolving around being a guest on Native lands that are not my own. I’ve been getting to know the ocean in particular. Recently I was on Tlingit lands fishing with my family, which has been a long standing tradition my Uncle traded for in years past. Then after that I traveled down the coast of California and got in the water nearly everyday. This lead me into some personal photo projects centering on joy, gratitude and what it means to be a guest.

 

Featured Promo – Amy Roth

Amy Roth

Who printed it?
I printed my promo with Blurb. Even though I’d heard great things about their magazines, I was still blown away by the quality.

Who designed it?
I started with a template from Creative Market, then updated the fonts and adjusted the layout a bit to work better with my images.

Tell me about the images.
Like I say in the promo, cocktails are a mood and an experience to be savored. So many of us have been missing our regular social interactions for the past year-plus, whether it’s a big night out, a party at home, or just getting together with a friend or two over a tasty beverage. I guess this was my way of lifting my spirits (heh) and reminding myself that the world will become a place we recognize again.

From a practical standpoint, I’ve been a food and beverage photographer for several years, so I had quite a few drinks in my portfolio already. When northern New Jersey was locked down early last year, it made sense to lean into beverage photography because I could handle the styling on my own much more easily than I could with a full food set.

How many did you make?
I printed a single copy to check for errors, tweaked a couple of images, then printed 75.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
With so many people still working from home, I haven’t worked from a strict marketing plan for printed pieces. Ideally, I’d like to send out quarterly promos.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I believe in the power of the printed photograph and a well-executed printed promo. So much of our photography exists solely in a digital space now; it’s an ephemeral, yet oddly static way of experiencing photos. Printed pieces are undeniable and demand attention — flipping through a printed magazine creates an experience you just can’t get scrolling through social media feeds. And, of course, I think there’s something magical about having a big, beautiful cocktail staring you in the face. Maybe these pieces will end up in the recycling bin, but I hope some of them have a life outside of that and leave the recipients looking forward to post-pandemic cocktail hours.

This Week in Photography: Send in the Clowns

 

 

How are you feeling today?

 

Are you keeping your shit together?

Or is this another crazy-ass week in a year that just won’t quit?

 

 

If you live in America’s Gulf Coast region, or on its East Coast, things might be a little hairy for you right now.

The photographs of Ida’s devastation are horrifying, and it’s hard to believe we’re looking at a storm that seems a combination of Katrina and Sandy, rolled into one. (If slightly-less-destructive to both regions.)

I swear, when Trump finally left the White House in January, I felt like #2021 might chill the fuck out, and give us a chance to catch our collective breath.

But it didn’t happen.

I’m one of the most positive, optimistic people I know, yet the last few years have triple-bonus-points loaded my cynicism meter, while doing a number on my goodwill for humanity.

How about you?

 

 

There is so much to unpack in contemporary America, it sometimes seems like we have a year’s worth of news packed into any given week.

Just a few days ago, the end of the 20 year war in Afghanistan was the biggest thing out there.

When the US Department of Defense tweeted out the photo below, of the last soldier departing the country, (shot through, or with night-vision-goggles,) I did an immediate screen grab, thinking that might be a worthy subject for the column.

 

Courtesy of the US Department of Defense

 

Then it went viral, and other people had the same idea, so I decided to give it a rest.

But within TWO DAYS, that story was old news, as the Climate Change disaster unfolding before our eyes was the top headline.

(When I wrote a few weeks ago that Climate Change was the new Trump, I was sort-of-kidding, but now I think it’s true.)

 

 

It was nearly impossible for me to avoid the fat orange guy, for five years, because this is a weekly opinion column, based upon photography, and we mine politics and culture on the regular.

To do that job, and ignore Trump, was not possible.

And that’s where we’re at with Climate Change now. It creates terrifying weather spectacles every fucking week, so how do I do my job and not acknowledge what’s happening out the window?

Hell, dancing fire embers might ruin all of Lake Tahoe by the time next week rolls around.

Or maybe another Hurricane will take out Houston?

Who knows?

What started with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with these extreme-weather-events being compared to hundred-year or thousand-year storms, now seems quaint and irrelevant.

The Earth is changing, and it’s fighting back against human rapaciousness.

We need to deal with it.

 

Video screengrab courtesy of the NYT.

 

 

Part of my current cynicism comes from the evidence before me; human beings no longer seem capable of collective action in the face of cataclysm.

I’m not sure if we ever were, but certainly, we’re not right now.

Our country, our society, has essentially chosen to perpetuate a pandemic, based upon politics, and inability to agree upon a shared reality.

It does not matter how many doctors, public health experts, politicians or scientists tell us we need to get vaccinated, to save our lives and our culture.

It’s just empty air to millions of our fellow country-people.

I actually had to keep a straight face, a few weeks ago, when someone I know told me that if you can smell a fart though underwear, masks don’t work.

Then, that same person laughed, saying that vaccines were so bad they LITERALLY couldn’t pay people to take them.

I smiled, and kept my mouth shut, because I am fully aware that in today’s climate, (different use of the word,) it is impossible to get anyone to open, much less change their minds.

{Ed note: This morning, I started posting the column, went to drop my kids off at school, and when I got home, the phone rang to say my daughter had been exposed to Covid, as someone in the 4th grade tested positive. This is now intensely personal in a way it wasn’t an hour ago. Kids her age cannot get vaccinated, so parents who won’t get the shot are risking my daughter’s life.}

 

 

Sometimes, I feel like we just need to catch a break.

If there were even a few weeks with no bad news, and Americans felt they could breathe again, it would make a big difference.

With the briefest pause in the unceasing tide of bad news, and prognostications of a deadly future, people would be able to chill, and reconsider their actions.

If every single moment of time didn’t feel like a battle to the death, between red and blue, pro-vaxx and anti-vaxx, north and south, science and religion, we might be able to grasp for a smidgen of collective sanity.

But it never seems to go that way.

If people could party again, hug, play, sing, shout, dress up, laugh, dance, drink a bit too much, and have a big old ball of fun, I actually believe we’d see some improvement in America.

Do you remember how to have fun?

How to feel like there was even A DAY when the weight of the world wasn’t on your shoulders?

It’s doubtful, but I’m going to provide visual evidence that such things once happened, and might well again.

 

 

I love the way the right book seems to materialize at the right time.

Living in one of the New Age, spiritual capitals of Earth, I’m happy to chalk it up to the power of the Universe.

Or Taos Mountain looking down upon me with grace.

 

Taos Mountain

 

Maybe it’s just luck?

But when I reached to the bottom of the pile, grabbing a book that came in nearly a year ago, I had a good feeling.

And wouldn’t you know, but “Then And There: Mardi Gras 1979,” by Harvey Stein, published by Zatara Press, came out of the box, just begging to be reviewed.

It shares some similarities with last week’s book, as it sticks to a pretty traditional script, design-wise.

The cover sets up the context, and then we see a succession of polaroid portraits of Mardi Gras revelers, back in the day.

I’m going to skip to the end, just for a second, as the essay, by Joanna Madloch, says the pictures were made in 1981 and ’82.

It’s hard to think the writer got it wrong, which makes this book’s title one of the strangest I’ve ever encountered.

Oddly, while I was looking through it, I thought a few times it was weird there wasn’t really a 70’s vibe going on. Given the costumes and make-up, probably these images could be made in 2023, or whenever Mardi Gras comes back, but titling the book with the wrong year makes me think Harvey Stein is a true absurdist.

{Ed note: when I just went to the Zatara Press website for the link to purchase the book, it said the images were made in 1979, so really, it’s hard to know.}

 

 

Cutting to the chase, I’ll just say these photographs are awesome.

They’re great.

The photos truly make me miss fun, parties, carnivals, all of it.

It’s like for the last 18 months, we’ve been living with all the shitty parts of being human, without any of the good bits. (Though I have loved getting to spend all the extra quality time with my kids.)

Page after page, and we see versions of the same image, compositionally, but the people and the get-ups change.

Can you even imagine a street thronged with thousands of people, all in costume, having the time of their lives?

In NOLA, Rio, or Venice?

Do you think it will ever happen again?

Like Bruce Haley’s book last week, I admit I was looking for a bit more of a mash-up, design-wise, but whenever I’d start to get bored, I’d see an image that demanded my attention.

They say the Devil is in the details, and maybe that’s true, but it’s also a negative way to look at things.

Maybe God is in the details?

Maybe the Buddhists are right, and if you can’t find a way to live in the moment, and appreciate the gift of life, then you’re going about things the wrong way?

Maybe it’s time we stop waiting for the world to get better, and begin figuring out how to trust each other again, as members of a cohesive society, rather than going down with the ship?

I was hoping to get to New Orleans and party, later this year, and now I’m not sure it will happen.

That makes me sad.

Because I love having fun.

Don’t you?

To purchase “Then and There” click here

 

 

 

 

The Art of the Personal Project: John McDermott

 

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:  John McDermott

 

A little over five years ago my wife, who is from Germany, and I moved from San Francisco to Appiano, a small town in the South Tyrolean wine country, near the Dolomites in northern Italy. It’s halfway between Munich and Milan and two hours from Venice. There is a very beautiful lake nearby, the Lago di Caldaro, or Kalterersee in Germany (the area where we live is close to Austria and bi-lingual so both German and Italian are spoken). Every autumn Germany’s national women rowers come down for a week of training on the lake. They are hosted by some good friends of ours who own a nice hotel. I have always enjoyed shooting sports and have been on assignment to ten Olympics and nine FIFA World Cups for clients like Newsweek, Kodak and FIFA and Sports Illustrated. I’ve always been fascinated by the special beauty of sports on the water, particularly rowing and sailing. I wanted to do something for my friends and also for the athletes, so as a personal project I accompanied them in the early morning during their training to see what I could come up with photographically. It was also a great opportunity for me to “train” visually during a year when, thanks to Covid, there wasn’t that much going on. The rowers were pleased with the results and so was I. This was one of the last nice projects I was able to work on before we went back into a fairly strict Covid lockdown again where our ability to move about was restricted. Thankfully there has been a high degree of solidarity here in Italy regarding Covid and the payoff is that now we are able to live in a quite normal way again. I’m looking forward to their return.

 

To see more of this project, click here.

Instagram

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

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 – John Brinton Hogan

Hikers Resting Under Boulders, near Tinajas Altas, Camino del Diablo, Barry M. Goldwater Range, Arizona, March 2014 (magenta with light blue pearl, glass beads, and light blue glitter blisters)
Recreational Hikers Near the Summit of Ghost Mountain, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California, November 2017 (black/turquoise/brown/red/orange with gold pearl and glitter blisters)

Botanist and Volunteers Identifying Invasive Species, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California, February 2015 (rainbow with blue holographic glitter flocking)

John Brighton Hogan
Marshall Contemporary 

Heidi: You started as a pro skateboard photographer, how did you evolve to landscapes?
John Brinton Hogan: I began my “professional” career photographing skateboarders who represented the manufacturing companies I worked for in the 1980s. In the ensuing years I found myself working as a commercial photographer and later spent more time employed in commercial filmmaking. I never received any formal technical training in photography so I had to learn on the job.

Once I was confident in my abilities, I began to use cameras as tools to investigate the subjects that had always interested me the most: how humans interact with the natural world, the ways in which they use land, and the artistic interpretation of wilderness.

When did you decide to combine illustration and photography?
Due to personal circumstances, I was away from art-making from 2010 through 2013. When I restarted my practice, I realized I was no longer interested in creating “straight” photographic images.

I began to explore the memories of pictures that had affected me emotionally during my boyhood. Some of the illustrations on sci-fi novels and rock album covers were intriguing and scary to me back then.

Once I’d returned the studio, I found myself distorting photos I’d made, rendering them increasingly unrecognizable.  As time went by, I began to experiment with visual adaptations of techniques some audio engineers use in their studio recording work.

Despite spending a great deal of time using image editing programs, I didn’t feel the work was complete until I began adding elements by hand (often by painting or otherwise embellishing the prints). In this way I found I was able to engage with the work physically- which I hadn’t done since my last darkroom days in the 90’s- and something I felt was missing from my process until then.

The past year and half has been full of turmoil, how did that affect your work and or reinforce your notions of extinction?
The period between late 2019 and spring of 2021 was a disaster for me personally. Strangely, the threat of Covid and the chaos of the US political landscape ranked below some other issues that can only describe as harrowing.

A number of people have remarked to me that “the Covid era must have been a productive time for artists.” Perhaps that’s true for some, but I made no work at all during 2020, and have only recently begun to get back into the studio, in late summer of 2021.

Without going into the grim details, life during that time felt like an ultra slow-motion plane crash: riveting and terrifying, with lots of time to ruminate on the mistakes I’d made leading to this moment. Frozen by fear, and powerless to change the aircraft’s trajectory, I was simply a witness to my own demise, observing myself falling, inch by inch, heading toward the dirt.

With regard to notions of extinction, humanity has done very little recently to convince me that it will make any significant efforts to save itself or begin to offer even a modicum of respect to the planet which sustains it. Perhaps, like some type of sentient tumor, humanity is programmed to consume our host, incessantly, until both expire.

For fans of the planet, there may be a type of hope, I suppose… in Abbey’s words: “Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear–the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break….I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.”

You used metallic car paint in one work, was that a nod to fossil fuel extraction?
When choosing material for my work, I use what is expedient and will help me create what I’m imagining. I generally don’t choose tools or materials to reference a particular idea, rather, it is my hope that the finished objects will generate a conversation about ideas.

That stated, I do find it somewhat ironic that many “landscape artists” require so many resources in order to make work, that is, in many circumstances, about the ecological impact of unrestrained consumption.

I’m reminded of the story wherein a landscape painter travels by jet to Greenland from California to witness melting glaciers with his own eyes, so he may better paint them in a body of work addressing climate change.

I too am guilty of consuming those same resources. I am conflicted, to be sure. But I continue to carry on, just like the painter with his glaciers.

Which brings me back to the analogy of the plane crash: Frozen by fear, and powerless to change the aircraft’s trajectory, I was simply a witness to my own demise, observing myself falling, inch by inch, heading toward the dirt.

This Week in Photography: Weather Patterns

 

“All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray. I’ve been for a walk, on a winter’s day.”

The Mamas & the Papas, 1966

 

 

 

The California hills turn green in winter.

Or they used to, anyway.

 

 

When I first moved there in ’99, I was thoroughly confused. Where I came from on the East Coast, everything was opposite.

It was hard to wrap my mind around, the way the same hills, emerald in winter, would sere to wheat-gold in summer.

Back then, it rained from November to March.

WTF, I thought?

It’s not like that in Jersey.

 

 

But I didn’t move to California from NJ, directly.

I spent two years at UNM in Albuquerque, after graduating college, and the weather pattern there was tricky too.

Each summer, it got so hot, at 5000 ft, you could see heat waves rising off the asphalt. The city is mostly made of concrete, (where it’s not dirt and trees,) creating a heat situation that made people mad.

I called it angry-hot, as road rage incidents rose, tempers were short, and lots of people got shot. (Though the murder rate in the Burque is higher these days.)

I remember hiking in the Sandia Mountains, in October, and the sun was cooking my skin so badly, I had to turn around after 15 minutes.

I shook my fist at the sky.

Literally.

It’s not a turn of phrase.

I actually screamed at the heavens.

“Enough already! It’s October! Give it a rest, will you? For fuck’s sake, it’s Autumn!”

Still, the weather went on as it cared to.

 

 

These days, I live at 7000 feet, in a horse pasture outside Taos.

It’s a riparian; a river valley ecosystem, with all sorts of wild nature.

The farm ends in a box canyon; the lands beyond privately owned, but impossible to develop. Thereafter are several miles of completely untouched nature, home to all the mountain creatures you can imagine.

Years ago, the (very) little river split off from the acequia system in a different place, according to my wife, and beyond, lay a waterfall that fed a crystal-clear-pond.

Her magic place.

A paradise.

In the late 80s, the local acequia commission built a small, concrete dam to control the water flow for irrigation, and it killed the pond forever.

We walk back there sometimes, (though part of it’s not on the property,) and I love it just as it is.

 

Along the acequia

 

There’s a small path between the two waterways, so you hear the gurgling flow. Ancient, volcanic cliffs rise on both sides, with petroglyphs visible in the distance, if you know where to look.

I see it as it is, but not Jessie.

She doesn’t bring it up often, but I’m sure whenever we’re there, in her mind, she misses the untouched perfection of the past.

 

 

Leafing through Time Magazine the other day, I noticed an article about the historic drought affecting the American West.

The headline writer, lazily in my opinion, promised a grim future.

Need it be so?

Is this future already written?

Are there no humans among us prepared to plant some fucking trees, and skip the meat once in a while?

Are we truly doomed, with only hyper-rich guys like Jeffrey Bezos and Elon Musk riding their own rockets and space ships to their private colonies on Mars, where they lord over a new society as Emperors, all Hail Emperor Bezos, king of all that is before us! (Or a least half of it, anyway, because the other half belongs to Emperor Musk.)

Wait.
Where was I?

Have we never survived tough times before?

What about the Joads?

Didn’t they flee the dustbowl of Oklahoma for the then-greener pastures of California?

Things looked bleak in the Great Depression, right?

How about that run?

World War 1, a pandemic, a Great Depression, and then another War War, which came with the Holocaust.

People kept going back then, and figured shit out, right?

Maybe, with Climate Change, we will to?

 

 

 

Many years ago, I got an email from a photographer named Bruce Haley.

We kept up a correspondence, and as he lived in Big Sur, where Jessie had family, maybe we’d have a beer one day?

It didn’t happen, and he moved away before I got back in 2016.

 

Big Sur area beach, 2016

 

Bruce sent me a note last year, about a new book, the first in a two volume series he was working on with Daylight, and the first was about the desolate stretch of the San Joaquin Valley, in California, where he was raised.

They were kind enough to send the book along along, and “Home Fires. Vol.I: The Past” was just right for today.

His excellent, opening essay describes a childhood much like my wife had, and my kids are having. Running around the woods, playing in the ditch, romping around, treating his neighbors’ land like his own.

(His ancestors had come from Oklahoma, like the Joads, with their own major migration.)

Bruce had a secret spot, like Jessie, but it’s not there anymore.

(He also used the word riparian, inspiring me to drop it in earlier in the column.)

But really, to say the book is bleak is an understatement.

Rarely have I seen one that leaned so heavily on a color palette of brown and gray.

Though it was published in 2020, the images were shot in 2014, just as the California mega-drought was building in earnest.

It doesn’t make for pretty viewing, but we need to see what we need to see.

 

 

 

I realized half-way through this was one of those books that chose not to employ fancy design. It was a photo on the right, followed by another, and then another, all in the same shape and size.

Normally, that’s a no-no, unless the pictures are riveting and varied.

These are very good, but not brilliant, so I began to get a bit bored, as I’m inclined to do when books don’t shake it up.

And then… boom.
Something different.

I laughed.

In an odd photo, there are some cement shapes rising up in a pattern, like tombstones, and they’re photographed from behind.

There’s graffiti.

One of little things says “Poop on it.”

Another has a poorly drawn emoji face.

LOL.
Poop on it.

Can you imagine, laughing at such a sad, weary book?

It’s what I call a tension-breaker, when you shake up a run of similar images by giving us something different, tonally.

After that, for a while things stayed consistent in tone, before we see an image of a very racist statue of a Native American. It’s funny because it’s crass, and inappropriate.

That snapped the rhythm.

We move along, and it’s more sadness. Then, a set of tire tracks that went straight, when the road curved, leaving the viewer to imagine the potential car wreck that ensued.

Finally, there’s a great photo of the end of a paved road, with a sign that says End, and yes, the photography ends right there, followed by an essay by Kirsten Rian.

Throughout this book, we see a lot of parched earth, and deep poverty.

It’s a dry California, as far from the glamour of Malibu as you’re gonna get.

Just oil wells on dirt against sad skies.

So to all my California friends and readers out there: I hope it rains like crazy for you this winter.

(But not so much it causes mudslides, and wipes out Highway 1 again.)

To Purchase “Home Fires. Vol.I: The Past” click here

 

The Art of the Personal Project: Kremer/Johnson

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:   Kremer|Johnson

 

Artist Statement

There’s a grace & beauty in diving that’s impressive to witness in person. Perhaps even more impressive than that are the moments of focus, determination, and clarity in a diver’s body, mind, and expression when they’re on the board. To the human eye, dives appear fluid & graceful. Though, most consist of an immaculately choreographed progression of awkward, tense, and violent actions which, together, create the illusion of grace. We found a great deal of humanity in those isolated moments.

This series was photographed at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center over a period of 5 visits in early 2020. The diver’s range in ability from beginner to Olympic hopefuls. Strobes were used to fill in shadows and create a more illustrated style. The Phase One IQ3 was the chosen camera for its ability to mix strobes with a 1/2000 shutter speed.

The series was recognized by American Photographer and Communication Arts Annuals.

The commercial advertising community has received the series well. We’ve received dozens of compliments and potential job inquiries.

 

 

 

To see more of this project, click here.

 

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

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 – Miguel Casar: Photography as an instrument of freedom; the right to our own stories

Miguel Casar is a PhD student at the University of California Los Angeles, a doctoral researcher at the Center for the Transformation of Schools at UCLA, and an adjunct professor at Cal State Dominguez Hills. His work focuses on exploring the the tensions, contradictions, and possibilities that exist and emerge in the spaces between schools as places of social reproduction, racial violence, colonial and neoliberal assimilation, and the legitimizing of injustice; and schools as places of possibility, future building, community healing, and liberation. He believes in the transformational potential of re-claiming and re-imagining schools as foundational to imagining and building democracy, conviviality, and social change. Miguel also enjoys spending time in the mountains, taking photos, and sharing those two with the youth that he has the honor to learn from. We connected about a photography project he developed, the images shared above are from his students.

Heidi: How did this student photo project develop?
Miguel: It is always hard to trace back the genealogy of a project like this for me. At its heart, this project goes back to a deep belief in the power of stories, a commitment to justice, a group of young people, and the forging of a set of relationships and a community that has continued to grow.

Although I have never dedicated myself to photography, I have always loved taking pictures and the idea of taking photos as a way to interrogate the present and reclaim our right to storying began to grow on me a couple of years ago. Whether it is through challenging dominant perspectives, an oppressive and violent gaze, rushed notions of temporality, settler colonial values and aesthetics, or any of the dozens of layers through which normality participates in oppression; there is latent power to be claimed. At the same time, replicating larger patterns across our society, this power is often only recognized as if it was held only in the hands of some. This not only acts as a barrier to the surfacing of others’ stories but actively dismisses and deligitimizes a multiplicity of perspectives, imaginaries, and futures.

This project, alongside much of my work, rests upon the idea that these imaginaries and these futures are not only important but necessary to us building just, free, and kind futures.

What direction did you give the students for this exploration?
There were actually just a few directions, if we could even call them that. Pedagogically, there were “exercises” and “activities” where we all went out to capture things like beauty, struggle, and fear, among others. At the same time, we would collectively have dialogue around who takes pictures, whose representations become ubiquitous, and how stories and the representation and storying of others’ identities contribute to issues that are relevant to our lives, like criminalization, racism, sexism, and the reproduction of the carceral state, among others.

Being emotionally literate and staying  developmentally responsive is at the core of what you do, how did photography help that?
I don´t know how much being emotionally literate I actually am, especially having grown up as in a machista, patriarchal, misogynistic society where to feel was a sign of weakness… Having said that, a writer that I deeply respect (Fanon) wrote that when we possess language we also possess the worlds expressed and implied by that language, which makes me feel of all that I have learned and grown by engaging with language (photo as story) alongside the youth. It is a beautiful experience to allow ourselves and create deliberate spaces to name and to story our worlds.

What did you learn about your own work after reviewing the students’ images?
I think one of the biggest findings of this project, as I often find in my work, is both a recognition of the beauty and complexity of the human spirit, and a simultaneous reminder of how flawed and mistaken are many of our assumptions of what is actually happening in the world. Perhaps the most sobering lessons continues to be how invisibile oppression is, how these deep structures of racism, misogyny, settler colonialism, and “modernity” have been solidified into a complete “taken for grantedness”. Working alongside, and in community with young people that are actively marginalized by these very systems is not only a reminder, but a call to action…

How does your love for climbing transcend into your work life?
There are countless lessons that climbing has taught me, all of which are deeply connected to the work I do. From facing fear, to the power of our own minds over us, to the importance and power of community, to feeling small and deeply interconnected… I think most of these lessons I have etched into my being and are now deeply entangled with most of what I do.

 

 

Featured Promo – Andri Tambunan

Andri Tambunan

Who printed it?
The Newspaper Club printed it. I ordered their free sample pack and decided to go with the digital tabloid size.

Who designed it?
Initially, I worked on designing the layout myself using the Book Module Lightroom. I often use this tool to create custom PDFs for moodboards and pitches. The process was familiar, starting with image selections, pairing and grouping photographs, trying out different layouts, adding and positioning text. I shared the rough draft with a couple of friends for feedback and made necessary refinements. Once the sequencing and the rhythm of the layout felt solid, my talented designer friend Cat Oshiro (catoshiro.com) added finishing touches, and she ensured that the file followed the artwork guidelines for printing.

Tell me about the images.
After spending a decade based in Indonesia and covering the South East Asia region, I moved back to my hometown Sacramento, CA in December 2019. A month before moving back, I spoke to my friend who was based in Shenzhen, China. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, he was evacuating his family before the government closes the borders. I was keeping up with the spread of the virus. However, I didn’t expect it was going to arrive at our front door so quickly. I was still adjusting to living back in the States when the Shelter in Place order took place in March of 2020. Prior, I was on track re-establishing my career meeting with editors in LA and San Francisco, connecting with colleagues and collaborators, and networking with potential clients, and looking for a new home base in California. When the pandemic hit, all my plans and progress got put on pause, and upcoming projects and assignments got cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Almost all the available assignments were related to covering the COVID-19 pandemic. In my field of work, I’ve covered armed conflicts, violent protests, and humanitarian disasters. However, because I was staying with my mom and other family members I didn’t accept or pursue any assignment that carried a high risk of infecting my household. I had saved enough money to cover my expenses for the rest of the year and I opted to hold off from working until the pandemic was under control. However, it was necessary to record the impact of this pandemic on individuals, families, and communities around me and I found personal projects to pursue that were safe for me and the people I photographed.

The first one that I photographed was the deserted playgrounds in the Sacramento suburbs. I was walking my Mom’s dogs to a park nearby when I saw the yellow tape reminding me of a crime scene. While still adhering to the shelter in place protocol, I ended up visiting over 60 playgrounds near my home. I photographed them at times that families and children in the community would normally come to gather and play.

The pandemic had forced us to alter many aspects of how we live, work, learn, and interact with one another. My family had to cope with new sets of challenges and adapt to the norms. My biggest scare during the lockdown was when I had to take my mom to the Emergency Room. She was sleeping and woke up around 1:30 am because her blood pressure shot up to 200. My mom is healthy and she has no history of high blood pressure. The first thought that came to my mind was that it could be related to COVID-19. When I reached the ER, I wasn’t even allowed to enter inside. The nurse took her in and I waited several hours while the doctor ran multiple tests. Luckily, it wasn’t COVID. The doctor said that her test results were normal and that the high blood pressure might have been caused by stress and exhaustion. My mom is still very active and independent and she told me that she was experiencing stress from being confined inside. This experience inspired my next series “6 Feet Apart” where I photographed and interviewed individuals and families a month into the Shelter in Place mandate.

I had a personal connection to each photo series in this project. For the last 10 years, I was mainly taking photos in places that weren’t my own. At the same time, after being away for so long, my hometown felt unfamiliar because I was still a stranger and an outsider. This project had helped me in ways that I never expected. It has given me a new sense of belonging.

How many did you make?
I made 70 copies total. I sent out 50 copies to selected editors and publications in a clear vellum envelope and a handwritten note. I gave out the rest to some of the people I photographed.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Since I relocated from Bali, Indonesia to Sacramento, CA, it was a great opportunity to create and share a new body of work. I try to send a promo out at least once a year. Nowadays we have to actively promote our work since it’s such a competitive field. I started allocating a budget and time for self-promotion a few years ago.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I believe making printed promos give you an incentive to share and promote your work with current and new potential clients. I can imagine that editors are bombarded with emails daily so this approach separates you from the rest since it is more personal and thoughtful. In this digital age, it’s not often that I get to see my photos in physical form. I enjoy the process of making printed promos, especially for my personal projects because it gives me ample time and creative freedom to digest and reflect on the overall experience before moving on to the next one giving me the stamp of closure.

This Week in Photography: Thoughts & Prayers

 

 

It’s been a crazy week.

 

Out here in Taos, we hosted a Bar Mitzvah for my son, (on the second attempt,) and people flew in from around the US.

I was apprehensive, as the Delta variant has brought America back to its knees, and we were terrified our daughter might get Covid. (She’s too young to qualify for the vaccine.)

But cancelling wasn’t an option this time around, so we soldiered on, kept things outside as much as possible, and hoped for the best.


 

I catered a dinner for 30 people, the first night of the event, and after years of running our Antidote photo retreats, I got it done without too much stress.

Sure, one of my pans caught fire while I was making teriyaki chicken, but luckily, I put it out, and no drama ensued.

It was a tremendous amount of work, but we wanted to honor Theo’s commitment.

Because that’s what we do for our kids, right?

We sacrifice, and give our all to the endeavor, as raising human beings in such a complex world is the biggest job a parent has.

Thankfully, it all worked out in the end, and everyone had a good time.

It was challenging, but pales in comparison to what others have dealt with this very same week.

(I think you know what I’m talking about.)

 

 

Back in college, when I studied Political Science as a freshman, it was conventional wisdom the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan brought down their Empire.

(That was the word on the street.)

Just like Wallace Shawn gave us the famous quote, “Never get involved in a land war in Asia,” everyone knew Afghanistan was an unconquerable country; a quagmire where great powers went to die.

 

 

And yet…

When Osama Bin Laden and his asshole buddies attacked the US on 9/11, we backed the proxy army of the Northern Alliance, and then basically took over Afghanistan.

That was twenty years ago.

It’s hard not to imagine how those trillions of $$$$ might have been spent here: universal health care, free college, homes for the unhoused, a Green New Deal.

Who’s to say what might have happened, if things had gone another way?

 

 

But they didn’t, and this week, America’s failure to build a stable government in Afghanistan was all over our screens, in every form imaginable.

Twitter, FB, TV, IG.

It was a cluster-fuck of epic proportions, and avoiding the news was impossible.

Such travails we have over here, as we worry about ingesting too much “traumatic imagery” for our mental health.

If only the Afghans had problems like ours.

(But they don’t.)

The Afghan people, or many of them anyway, are too busy running for their lives.

They don’t have the luxury of worrying about the negative ramifications of traumatic imagery, as the misery they see is in front of their ACTUAL eyes, without the mediation of an iPhone screen.

It’s nasty business, what they’re living through, and honestly, I hope to never endure something like that.

The people of Afghanistan have my empathy, and all the “thoughts and prayers.”

To face the realistic fear my family might be annihilated by bullets, bombs, swords or stones does not compare to worrying whether I’ll overcook the lasagne.

(I didn’t, though. It was delicious.)

 

 

The world we inhabit is insanely unfair, and the place you’re born ultimately has more to do with what your life will look like than any other indicator.

Here in the US, the difference in neighborhoods in the same city can have a massive impact on life expectancy, health outcomes, and income.

Still, almost everyone in America has a safer environment than those living in impoverished, war-torn societies.

People in places like Afghanistan, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Syria, and Yemen face obstacles we simply can’t comprehend.

It’s not possible.

(And notice I wrote “almost” two sentences ago, as there are some US residents living in very dangerous situations.)

 

 

At times like these, Art is most helpful, as it allows experiential information to be transmitted from one life to another.

Artists can share their POV, and viewers benefit from receiving the stories we read, see and hear.

That’s how it works.

Hell, just two weeks ago, I wrote about the necessity of those photographers who “bear witness” in the chaos of the 21C, as there are now phones with video cameras to capture everything that happens.

Frankly, that’s my only hope for Afghanistan, small though it may be.

Short of shutting off the internet, the Taliban will face a wave of recording technology this time around that didn’t exist at the turn of the century.

 

Courtesy of AP News

 

It’s at least possible the Taliban will be somewhat restrained by images and videos of their atrocities reaching the global pubic.

(It’s not much of a hope, but more than nothing.)

 

 

Again, it’s easy to for me to sit on my chair, put my feet up, and write this column for you.

I have the privilege of safety.

And all the smartest people are telling us a global refugee crisis is just getting started, as Climate Change will render some places uninhabitable, (where people currently live,) and then a lack of vital resources, like water, should kick off more drama.

It seems the refugee phenomenon will overwhelm our current system of borders, paperwork, passports, and institutional infrastructure.

(Come for the photography review, stay for the futurism.)

 

 

That being said, you can’t have a book review column without a book, and you might guess where we’re going today.

It just so happens I had the PERFECT thing in my book stack for a week like this.

Earlier this year, I received an email from Thana Faroq, a Yemeni refugee living in the Netherlands, who asked if she could send me a book, “I Don’t Recognize Me in the Shadows,” published by Lecturis, with support from the Open Society Foundations.

I was flattered, and happily accepted her offer, so let’s dig in, shall we?

 

 

It took a minute to figure out how to open the book, and then how to make it work.

The cover wraps around, and you have to open it a few times to get a sense of the object, but then it functions like a traditional publication.

(Turn the page, see something new.)

Certainly, I hadn’t considered how much the interminable periods of not-knowing-what-comes-next would be so maddening.

As we flip through, we learn about the constant waiting on paperwork, on status updates, on hearing from some bureaucrat whether you can stay safe, or if they’re planning on sending you back to Hell.

Can you imagine?

That’s why books like this are so helpful, as empathy differs from sympathy in its requirement that we put ourselves in others’ shoes.

 

 

The book is experiential, as after the opening text, we see a set of color photos made in a refugee camp in Djibouti, but then it goes Black and White, until another set of color photos at the end.

We see page after page of people in apartment block windows, standing around.

At first, I was confused, and then realized, as they built upon each other, it was a metaphor for standing around, waiting, looking out the window because you have nothing else to do.

We see photos out bus windows, walking down institutional corridors, and little moments that give a sense of the banality of fear.

(These people are safe, temporarily, but until the permits come through, it’s purgatory.)

Then, in the book’s middle section, we have portraits of refugees, taken through blurry glass, perhaps to protect their identities.

And those are paired with their hand-written-type statements on pieces of paper that have been glued to the page.

As I wrote when I reviewed Katherine Longly’s “Hernie & Plume,” or Maja Daniels’ “Elf Dalia,”  it seems the European-based book artists have a great sense on how to break up structures to prevent boredom, these days.

When I turned the last page, I felt grateful as much as empathetic.

I appreciate the bravery it takes to stay present in such difficult circumstances, and offer evidence to the rest of us.

So, thank you, Thana!

I hope you stay safe over there.

And when you get a chance, make sure to check out the pan-fried noodles at Kam Yin in Amsterdam.

The best!

To purchase a copy of Thana Faroq’s book, click here

 

The Art of the Personal Project: Scott Streble

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:  Scott Streble

 

“The vibrance and enthusiasm of drag queens yields great photos. I like to capture that energy. “

 

To see more of this project, click here.

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

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.