Category "Creativity"

This Week in Photography: Make Art in Difficult Times

 

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t made photographs, as art, in more than two years.

(Well, until the other day, but that was as a favor to my wife, so it doesn’t count.)

I haven’t made art with a camera in more than two years, and those pictures were crap. The tail end of my Party City series, and none of the 2018 images made the final cut.

Which means, as an art photographer, I haven’t engaged my craft for the longest phase of my adult life.

I’ve made editorial images for you, here in the column, but as a conceptual, studio based artist, it’s not the same thing.

How do I reconcile this?

Well, the way I learned about art, (and the way I teach it,) is that all avenues of creative expression are equally valid. It was assumed that most, if not all artists, would have multiple outlets in their creative practice.

So the idea that one was inherently better than another, or more noble, was never ingrained in my mind.

That I made photographs for my first twenty years as an artist does not have to be relevant to what I’m doing now, or next.

In #2019, I made installations in a museum exhibition, and worked on a set of pencil drawings, based upon portrait jpegs I took from the internet.

That was way out of my comfort zone. And I made a book.

Now, in #2020, I’m leaning into this column, because it’s a stable foundation in an unstable world.

Yet the camera has not called to me.

But like I said, photography isn’t the only way to express ideas, it’s only one of many. (I recently surprised someone on FB by proclaiming her banana bread counted as art.)

I’ve been teaching a long time, so much so that there were certain crutches I leaned on, year in year out, when I taught at UNM-Taos for 11 years.

For teaching composition, for explaining the flow of visual information in a rectangle, I always used the same book: Hokusai and Hiroshige.

That’s right: I taught the crucial element of photography by deconstructing Japanese 19th Century woodblock prints.

Year in year out, this book delivered the goods, as it features Hokusai’s famed “Thirty Six Views of Mt Fuji,” and Hiroshige’s “Fifty Six Stations on the Tokaido Road.”

If we dated it, I suppose the camera was invented in a couple of spots in Europe, with some overlap to this time period, but on the ground, printmaking was the way visual information was recorded in 19th C Japan.

And its mass production allowed the images to be collected by regular people, much like the 17th C Dutch middle class spawned so many great paintings.

I wanted to share the book with you today, because the serene colors, all sorts of blue, and then the snow scenes, white on white, are a visual gift from the past.

Why do I love them so, beyond the color, and the constant change of perspective?

Beyond the curvilinear water, the slope of Mt Fuji, and the ochre contrasts to all that blue?

It’s because this book represents a place in time so deeply, with the clothing and the postures and the boats and the hats.

This is what we have of then.
As in so many other cases, the art becomes the history.

 

Which brings me back to #2020.
To now.

I may not be making art photographs, (other than the other day as a favor,) and maybe you’re not either.

Maybe you’re drawing, or painting, or bread baking or dancing or gardening or yodeling or playing French horn or practicing your French. (Bonjour, je n’aime pas le yodeling.)

Or maybe you are making photographs?

Maybe you’re pushing yourself?

Maybe you’re making your best work, or are about to? Maybe all the frustration you feel, the anger, the anxiety, is going to spring up as something dynamic and meaningful?

I’m asking, because last night, I saw some new work from my friend, and former student, Andy Richter, during an online critique I set up for the alumni and expected attendees of our Antidote Photo Retreat. (Andy was the 2019 Antidote Fellow, as he came out to run a morning Kundalini yoga program for us, along the acequia.)

During our group crit last summer, I pushed him to go beneath the surface.Β He was showing some aura portraits, with strong colors, were perhaps more style than substance.

As an artist, I thought he had more digging to do, and I told him so.

So that’s the context for understanding why I was so happy for Andy, seeing his new series, currently titled “Walking with Julien,” which received Minnesota public funding for an exhibition in Spring 2021.

All the images were taken on walks with his young son, around his diverse Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood, (he’s originally from MN,) and everyone on the Zoom call, including an important museum curator, was blown away by the work.

The portraits, in particular.

Andy confirmed that certain aspects of fatherhood were tough, as it constrained the freedom to which he was accustomed. (This is a guy who photographs hermits deep in caves in India.)

And now, even worse, like the rest of us, he was literally stuck at home. With his neighborhood as his unexpected muse.

He admitted, as many artists have before him, that the combination of inner necessity and logistical constraints has perhaps forced him to see more deeply.

Are these meditation walks?
Does it matter what we call them?

So I wanted to share the story, and some of the pictures, with you here today. And Andy was gracious enough to agree.

Some days, maybe some times every day, things might seem grim.

Certainly, I never thought I’d long for the insanity of #2019, but here we are.

Please remember, art is best at times like these. It helps your psyche, day to day, and it records the moment for the future.

Stay safe, and see you next week.

Trending – Making Sense Of People, Their Behavior, Needs, And Mind Set

- - Creativity

While visiting NYC for the expo I met Karen DSilva, a former founding partner at Spark Visual Research and current creative consultant. At the Sony party she was telling me about a talk she gave at ShootNYC on trending and how to harness the power of societal trends to get your photography to connect. Now, I tell a lot of people that making a connection to someone with your photography is a lot less linear than they think, but I’ll admit I was a little nonplussed at the buzz-y sounding idea behind trending. Well, her talk has spawned a workshop and considering her pedigree (creative depts at Photonica, Getty and Image Bank) I asked her to explain it further. After reading her explanation, I have to say, this sound pretty awesome for the right person:

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with images (television, books, internet, newspapers, packaging, billboards…) so the million dollar question now becomes, how do you get your images to stick? The secret to creating an image that resonates is simple, your images need to connect with people. When an image connects, it is because your image holds meaning for the viewer. Maybe there is an emotional connection or your image provides inspiration, or possibly it makes them feel empowered. Decoding our society is all about understanding how it evolves and what makes people tick. How do we do this? Two words, understanding trends.

Trending is about making sense of people, their behavior, needs, and mind set. It is about the direction in which something is moving. When we experience a shift or change in the way we live as a community, that reaction is a trend being born. For the last few years, life quite frankly has been a little scary. War, terrorism, foreclosures, and unemployment, need I say more? As a society we push back by craving something safe, something comforting. What gives us a sense of security? Historically, safe + comforting + security = tradition (the ultimate comfort zone). In the marketplace, we refer to this trend as HERITAGE. Heritage is thick wool sweaters, tweed, beards, old fashion barbershops, curves, artisan food, suits, and smart looking hats. It’s old world quality and time honored tradition. Heritage gives us a sense of identity, timeless elegance, and a soulful spirit.

Now, going back to getting your images to stick. As a photographer, when you tap into a trend like Heritage, you’re adding relevance to your image. Of course, the next question becomes how does one apply heritage to your images? First of all, it’s a lot easier to recognize a trend and even discuss the effects of a trend than actually incorporating the trend into your work. In order for it to be meaningful, the trend needs to complement your aesthetic and take into consideration the stories within your work. A true connection is made when an image embraces the spirit of the trend, rather than just adding a trend wash. Mixing in the trend of Heritage into your work, can add a modern marketplace vernacular to your images. Bottom line, it’s that extra something. The old β€œI’ll know it when I see it” client answer to the eternal question β€œwhat are you looking for?”

So, on December 6th (with the support of APA), myself and 2 other trenders are hosting our first trending, brainstorming, workshop extravaganza. The aim is to download our photographer audience on the trends of Heritage, Transparency, and Cinematic. We’ll break up into small groups and walk through different stations designed to make you apply these trends to your work. This is going to be about thinking outside the box, collaborating together, being creative, and just plain having fun. Go here for more information:

http://www.karendsilvacreativeservices.com/events/

Michael Bierut – I Don’t Consider Myself Creative

- - Creativity

Michael Bierut is a graphic designer and partner at Pentagram. He worked on the redesign of The Atlantic.

Here’s a great video where he talks about his creative process that I found on The Design Observer. I thought this quote was particularly poignant:

“I don’t consider myself creative. I don’t have ideas that I want to express that I make up myself. I can’t think of any personal projects that I’ve done. I just don’t work that way. The reason I became a designer is I wanted people to come to me with problems I can solve. I know how to do that, I can be creative then. I feel like I’m a doctor and I can’t just practice medicine on myself, so I need patients who are sick, the sicker the better in fact.”

Your thoughts absolutely determine your reality

- - Creativity

I always say if someone from the future travels back in time to tell you that your lifelong dream will fail 100%, and you still go for it anyway, it will work.

…in my experience, taking the same path someone else did results in getting close but never where you want to end up. Ignoring those paths and making up your own route leads you to where you really belong, wherever that may be.

The David Horvath Edition – SUBvertMagazine.com
via, Seth.