This Week in Photography: Sitting for a Virtual Portrait

- - Working

 

All ________ people look alike.

We’ve all heard the racist expression before, which has been applied to a host of ethnicities, and is clearly untrue.

So it’s ironic that my doppelgänger in the photo world doesn’t resemble me at all.

Like, we could not look much more different, while still being similarly sized humans.

To whom am I referring?

Jon Feinstein, my fellow Jewish Jonathan, who’s also a photographer, writer and educator.

We have EXACTLY the same job, though we’ve shown our work in different spaces, and written for different publications. (How he managed to keep a relationship going with the assholes at Vice, I’ll never know.)

Coincidence or not, I met Jon at my very first portfolio review, in Santa Fe in 2009, and we’ve stayed in touch casually ever since.

Me and Jon, Santa Fe, 2009

Last year, he was kind enough to do a story on “Extinction Party” for the Humble Arts Blog, and I think it was the first time we officially worked together. (10 years people. Relationship building is a long-term endeavor.)

Even though we look different from one another, (and I’m the Gen-X’er to his elder Millennial,) there have been multiple times during my career when someone thanked me for curating their work into a show, or publishing it online, but it wasn’t me.

Of course when I tell them that, they always look at me funny, at first, as if I’m fucking with them.

“Sorry,” I’ll say. “That’s Jon Feinstein. My last name is Blaustein. We’re not the same person.”

It’s gotten to the point that Jon and I joke about doing a project together called Jonathan Something-stein, or Jonathan ______stein, because there must be more of us out there.

He even planned a prank where we’d swap tables at Filter Photo last September, and we were all set to do it, but he had to miss the festival due to a death in the family.

Needless to say, I respect and appreciate his taste, so when I got an email from him last month, suggesting I look into a friend’s project, I said sure, and then promptly forgot about it for a month or so.

Jon was recommending Robert Canali, a San Francisco-based, Toronto-born artist who’d started up a pandemic response project, and did it in just the right way. (I now know.)

All details I’ll share, henceforth, I learned yesterday, when I became a portrait sitter for the first time, (maybe ever,) and the process was fascinating enough that I’m writing about it here. (For the record, Manjari Sharma asked me to be a subject for her shower series, back in 2010, but I politely declined, being too insecure about my body at that point.)

So, where were we?

I followed up with Rob a month later, and booked a slot on an efficient digital calendar system, but for what, I was not sure.

I only knew he was using Zoom.

The gist is, a sitter reaches out to Rob, and in many cases, based on the social media buzz he generated, he has no idea who the person will be.

Though I normally do research on everyone I work with, Jon’s vouch, plus my own desire to be creatively curious, meant I knew nothing about him either. (Which surprised him.)

The scheduled 45 minute appointment begins with an introductory chat, and because I’m a curious journalist, (and like trying to entertain people,) our appointment ended up going long.

Straight off, he explained what would transpire, and why he created his anthropological project to begin with.

Like many of us, Rob was trapped in his home early, and was limited to the materials he had on hand. So he got working, (as I’ve encouraged you all to do many times,) and also got out of his comfort zone, as he had not done portraiture previously.

He realized he could use his iPad screen to expose photo paper, (much like Robert Heinecken did on TV screens in the 80’s to mock Reagan,) and then played with the process.

 

by Robert Heinecken

 

By inverting the image on the iPad screen, the resulting print becomes a paper positive, as if he left the image alone, he’d get a paper negative instead. (He called the iPad his enlarger.)

After that, it’s into the fixer, and you’re done.

In order to get the image to render, though, the technology needs a lot of time to soak up the person’s visage, which is being beamed along fiber-optic cables around the country, or the world.

But how do you do this with with complete strangers?

That’s where the interview process comes in.

Writing everything by hand, with a pencil in a notebook, he asks his sitters a few questions to create rapport, and also gather data.

I believe I was his 173rd subject, so at that sort of scale, it allows for a collection of personal information, and stories, that relate directly to our upended lives in #2020, due to the fucking virus who shall not be named. (The Voldemort virus?)

I found Rob to be charming and thoughtful, so the chat was an enjoyable experience as he explained the process to me, prior to the official interview.

Basically, he asks people to sit still, and play a specifically chosen set of music for 15 minutes, so that the image will render, and the environment will be curated.

Music is meant to be shared, he told me, and I said, “So is art.”

Once I knew what I was getting into, he hit me with the questions. (I’m paraphrasing the exact words, but not the meat of his questions.)

1. How has the pandemic changed your life for the worse?

I responded that at 46, I’d spent years building up a self-care regimen to support my mental health. It worked, as I am a relatively healthy, successful person with a loving family.

Martial arts, watching sports on TV, visiting friends at festivals, and having alone time in my house were at the top of my list.

Now I’d lost them all, and finding new ways to stay healthy, while also mourning those I’d lost, was a challenge.

2. Has anything in your life improved?

I admitted that for most of #2019, my wife and I would regularly say, “I wish I could press a pause button on life. I need a break so badly!” Again and again, we wished we could get off the ride, so as to visualize what the next phase in life might be.

And then our dreams became an actual nightmare, as a pause happened under the worst case scenario. (Outside of nuclear war, I suppose.)

Sure enough, after 10 weeks of enforced isolation, we have finally begun to figure out what we wanted next out of life, and how to go about restructuring things once a “new normal” returns.

3. Is there anything about life, when it returns to a “new normal” that you think will be changed permanently?

I told him the truth, which is that no one on Earth knows what comes next, at this point.

I don’t know what will change, and neither do you.

The only thing I’m certain of is that things will be permanently different in ways we can’t visualize yet.

I said, “When the planes hit the Twin towers, who would have thought that everyone would have to take off their shoes and belts at the airport forever?”

After that, I cued up my music, which was the middle portion of Bill Withers’ brilliant debut album, “Just As I Am,” from 1971.

RIP Bill Withers

He told me I could only blink, and not move at all, so I settled into a lotus position in a good chair, with a pillow behind me for lumbar support, and then asked where to look?

I realize that staring at the green light on my webcam would hurt my eyes, so I chose a spot just outside my bedroom window, where some Aspen leaves were shimmering in the breeze.

In Rob’s process, at that point, he turns off his webcam and his speaker.

He disappears, and I was left with my music, my trees, and my stillness.

Obviously, it felt like meditating, and because the songs were both powerful and emotional, a serious tone was set.

It was amazing.

I don’t remember the last time I sat that still, without my mind wandering.

You can only blink.

By the time he came back, and said we were done, I wasn’t cramped, or bored, and probably could have gone longer.

I felt refreshed from the meditation, and energized by being a part of someone else’s creative process.

“This should probably be this week’s column,” I said, and Rob quickly agreed to share his images with us.

My only caveat was, I needed to see the photographs first.

Given the process, they look like ghostly 19th Century pictures, which is a great visual connection to the past, given that photographers also required still sitters then too.

The truth is, the prints are soft and pasty in the best way, I imagine, but the reproductions of the prints are a bit flat for our purposes.

Rob was kind enough to agree to boost the contrast just this once, for us, as it will help you appreciate the project more, in my opinion. (And this is an opinion column, after all.)

I asked if he’d be willing to answer his own questions for us too, and he blushed for a second, admitting no one had asked him to do that yet.

So behold his thoughts on Covid-life, and then we’ll share a set of images too. (Including portraits of Jonathan Feinstein and Jonathan Blaustein, who look nothing alike.)

See you next week!

Rob’s Answers:

1. What is something you’ve lost since shelter in place was mandated and the world went into quarantine?

I’ve lost the sense of urgency with which I used to navigate my life, and have since found the time to slow down and appreciate the subtleties that its made of.

2. What is something you have gained through this experience?

I’ve gained this project and through it a great sense of purpose and countless meaningful connections to people around the world.

3. What is something that you think will never be the same after this?

It’s difficult to say that something will never be the same – forever is a very long time after all. I fear our memories only last so long and perhaps not long enough for us to realize the positive changes that can come of this. The sentiments that have been echoed throughout the making of this project make me hopeful that enough people believe that things will be different. I’m not sure what that different looks but I’m curious to see where we land. It’s just a matter of time.

Jon F

Jonathan B

 

The Art of the Personal Project: Judy Doherty

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:  Judy Doherty

Quick Pickles is a collaborative project between myself and Publisher Cheryl Koehler, of Edible East Bay Magazine, in the SF Bay Area in California. We wanted to create an eBook that would inspire folks to make beautiful quick pickles in their kitchen. I got to work with some tempting flavor pairings, and developed recipes for many concoctions including: carrot ginger, asparagus basil, cabbage hot pepper, and garam masala cucumber.

The quick pickles “quickly” came to life in my photo studio and when we published our eBook, I blogged it to my base. The line of the email was, Pickles in Cupcakes? Maybe Just A Few, it was a metaphorical line to suggest we were really creative and maybe you could use them in your cupcakes. This line came from my favorite children’s book of all times, Warthogs in the Kitchen. This book taught math and generated an interest in cooking by having sloppy fun with warthogs in a kitchen.

Well, I received thousands of hits on the blog and Instagram post and dozens of requests for a recipe for pickles in cupcakes came into my inbox!

So, I delved into my past as a pastry chef for Hyatt, remembering that I used to make a red velvet cake with beets instead of food color. So pickled beets were a natural for a red velvet cupcake and it was a whole lot of fun to make, too! It turns out that they pair well with rich butter, fluffy cake, and cream cheese frosting. And the color is a deep ruby chocolate.

 

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 – Caitie McCabe Face Time Portraits

- - Working

Facetime for charity


Photographer: Caitie McCabe

Heidi: How did this idea come about?
Kaite: I was extremely bored and missing production life and FaceTiming my family when I figured out you could take photos using the phone. I posted on social media that I was looking to do a few shoots for charity and it EXPLODED from there. Over 100 sessions and counting!

How do you direction the kids, they seem receptive, what do they think of this situation?
Not all, but many of the kids are from the model community which generally means they are super outgoing and LOVE to be in front of the camera which helps the shoots tremendously. We spend the early part of the session finding the best light and discussing what they want to do and then it’s all about collaborating and playing for the best shots.

What are the challenges?
Technology has been the hardest part- if the kids don’t have good service or are using an iPad/older phone it tends to be harder to get everything in focus. Much of my time is spent making sure they’re in the best environment for the tech to work and explaining what I need in order to get the shot.

How do you decide which charity?
The charities I’ve chosen to put on my site are 3 that I volunteer with often. I prefer for my subjects to donate to those charities but have left it open and on the honor system for them to donate to any charity they choose.

How are you getting the outside shots?
The outside shots are actually the easiest! Often I ask to have a parent or older sibling present for the shoot to make sure I have someone holding the phone and able to take direction so the child can focus on playing. Once we’re in the right environment, everything just falls into place honestly.

102 portrait is stout, which was your first session and what have you learned about your work?
My first session was the 1st of May and has been nonstop since. I was feeling in a real creative rut before COVID-19 so this project has actually been amazingly helpful for me to push my ideas and collaborate with the kids on really authentic portraiture. I always love to work with the kids on set when setting up a shot, they have the best insight on how to make something real and fun, there’s no reason for me to not involve them. I’ve reignited that style in this project and am really looking forward to bringing these fresh ideas to my client work.

This Week in Photography: The King of Atlantic City

 

I used to have a step-grandpa.

But he’s dead now.

I’m not sure when he died, or how, because my grandmother divorced him when they were in their 80’s.

(And she passed away in 2006.)

Grandpa Sam was a 20th Century character through and through; a miniature powerhouse of a man, completely crazy, but charming.

He was a narcissist and a gambler who loved chunky gold things, and tacky objects that implied they cost a lot of money.

His favorite place in the world was any cruise ship, or whichever casino in Atlantic City gave him the best comp deal at a given time.

Grandpa Sam became my step-grandpa when I was 10 years old, give or take, because my real Grandpa, Sy, had died of cancer when I was three. (Just old enough to have a token memory or two.)

Given my youth, I have no idea how Grandma Flo met Grandpa Sam, but it probably had something to do with cruise ships. And as a self-respecting Jersey Boy, I should mention here that he was the most Long Island guy I ever met. (Tri-State area folks will get the barb.)

I remember at my Bar Mitzvah, (which was held on the Asbury Park boardwalk, 30 years before it properly gentrified,) he got so drunk that he fell asleep on one of the tables, and I found him there at 1am when I was cruising the then-empty hotel with a friend.

Or what about the time he invited me on a walk around the neighborhood, which made me light up with excitement, but was only a ruse to chastise the 15-year-old-me for being a bad grandson.

Talk about a blindside hit!

But there’s no way to understand Grandpa Sam, who was about 5’3″ and wider than he was tall, without understanding Atlantic City.

That was where he felt most at home.

Given that he was no proper whale, he’d never have gotten the VIP treatment in Vegas, and you couldn’t get there by cruise-ship anyway.

But in A.C., as everyone calls it, they treated him like a King.

Free dinners, free hotel rooms, and even better, they’d hook up his family if he ever brought them along.

To be perfectly honest, I forgot about Grandpa Sam for about 10 years, and he only flashed into my memory last month, when my son was asking about his family history, and Grandpa Sam popped back in mind.

I can see his gaudy shirts now, opened three buttons down to show off his gold necklaces and fuzzy chest hair.

How did he die?

Was he alone?

I remember he was estranged from much of his family, because he was nuts, and Grandma divorced him for being abusive. It was considered brave, her willingness to be alone at that age, but then she got sick and died within a year or two, so there was no late-life Renaissance to be found.

They used to tell us Grandpa Sam had been a POW of the Nazis, having been captured in WWII, and that was the reason he was such a prick.

It might have had something to do with it, but I think his type, all macho bravado, bad taste, and shady business dealings was archetypical, as was the pull to a worn-down, once important, seedy place like Atlantic City.

The casinos came rather late, compared to its run as a fancy vacation destination in the early 20th Century, and they never brought the wealth and glory that was promised.

Rather, the entire corrupt system was just a sham for money laundering, luring tour busses full of glassy-eyed day trippers to windowless rooms where they pissed their retirement funds away.

And who was King of Atlantic City in the 80’s and 90’s?

Who plastered his name on the casinos, all of which went bankrupt or out of business eventually?

Who used the place as a platform for publicity, and for siphoning poor people’s cash into his own coffers?

Do you have to ask?

Donald J. Trump.

(Still known as the guy who stiffed everyone, leaving unpaid bills in his wake as he scrambled out of town.)

One day, I’ll get tired of writing about him, but that day is not today, as I went to my book stack this morning, and grabbed what may be the last book left over from the spring of #2019.

What did I find?

“Atlantic City,” by Brian Rose, published by Circa Press in London, and I’m not sure if he and I even corresponded at all.

It may be that the book showed up unannounced, landed in the pile, and was finally LIBERATED today, when it has even more resonance than it might have last year.

It’s perfect for now, what with public beaches finally opening around the country, cramped spaces like casinos being abandoned, and a potential new Depression popping up, promising to hollow out many a small city like A.C.

I’m going to cut to the chase, though, and tell you that I found the book to be flawed in its construction and vision, but the photographs and excellent opening essay by architecture critic Paul Goldberger make it worth showing anyway.

(And it allows for a teachable moment.)

I always talk about the relationship between image and text in a photobook, and how it’s hard to get right.

How much information do you provide, and when and where to place it?

We need to ask those questions when we make or judge a book, and this one gets it wrong, after the opening essay.

There is a text blurb opposite each photograph, and the graphic design sensibility is off. The words float in odd places, and I did not like the pressure to pull my eyes away from the pictures to read every time.

It messed with the flow and detracted from the images, which were strong enough to communicate the book’s thesis.

Added to that, many of the text pages also contained Trump tweets, which were also repeated at times, thereby bashing us over the head with intent.

On the flip side, any photo book that has compelling photos that tell the story by themselves should be commended.

So it’s a muddle.

Trump is everywhere, though he sued to have his name taken off buildings he abandoned years ago, and the pictures also do justice to the feeling of empty facade that speaks to both A.C. and Trump so well.

At one point, we read a Shakespeare quote from Julius Caesar, and then the next photo shows a tacky billboard of the Bard, but that was the only example where the text created an unexpected frisson with the pictures.

I think, if rebuilt, this book would be better chunking up the words into a few sections, thereby letting the viewer get the pleasure of flipping through photos that don’t need words.

Sadly, Atlantic City is one of those places that people always think will “come back,” yet it never does.

Then again, that’s what they said about Asbury Park.

My Bar Mitzvah was held in a hotel that opened in the 80’s, confident they’d lead the wave of gentrification.

A wave, like the fickle Atlantic Ocean it abuts, that didn’t arrive for another generation.

So you can keep waiting, or give up.

Your choice.

Bottom Line: A flawed but intriguing look at a zombie city on the Jersey Shore

To purchase “Atlantic City” click here

 

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

The Art of the Personal Project: Jason Lindsay

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:  Jason Lindsay

Reflecting Forward

In science, we are often contemplating the future by evaluating the past. The portrait obscured by reflections represents the idea of looking forward and backward in time. The ambiguity and the unknown come to the surface, clouding our vision of the past and the future. These portraits explore the uncertain futures of the next generation that will be struck the hardest by the impacts of Climate Change. Just as these images suggest, we are intertwined with the natural world and will need to find our path. My 13-year-old son, Björn, inspired the “Reflecting Forward” project. During one of our many daily chats, he asked about Climate Change and what the world will look like in the future. I realized I had only murky visions of that future myself and could not give him a clear answer. As a father, I hated the fact that I could not provide much clarity for Björn and knew I needed to explore this idea with a photography project. “Reflecting Forward” was born.

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 – Art Center College of Design Zoom Portfolio Review

- - The Daily Edit


2020 Spring Graduate Work

Everard Williams and Ann Field from Pasadena Art Center College of Design had their Final Crit Grad Review for photography students recently. Not surprisingly it was conducted via Zoom. Over the course of about 4 hours we looked at a variety of stellar work. You can see all of the graduate work here.  There is a tremendous amount of strong work, however I was struck by these two images in particular.

Photographer: Marly Ludwig

Marly: When I first heard the story of a girl from my former high school who lost her finger, I was immediately interested. One day during school, Victoria
decided to hop over the fence and skip class. Upon climbing over the chain-link fence, a ring she was wearing snagged and her finger suddenly ripped off. That is not quite the repercussion one would expect from ditching school. Being quite scared of losing an appendage myself, I wanted to confront that fear with my camera. I felt placing her in the shadow of a fence with her hand to her face would be the best way to illustrate the story. Victoria showed such stoicism, and she wiggled the little piece of finger for me, which I found endearing. The image came out exactly how I envisioned it, and I love how beautiful she is without her ring finger.

Photographer: Sohui Kim.

I enjoyed her interpretation of a Korean moon jar from. Moon Jars were originally created in the 17th and 18th centuries as household food storage jars but have been admired as artworks since Korea’s colonial period (1910-45). They are formed as two halves thrown on a wheel before being skilfully luted together horizontally around their widest point before being glazed and fired. The joint line is visible and they are admired for their unintentionally artful asymmetry.

 

Fostering Creativity and Personal Health- MJ68 Productions

New Production Protocols

I received an email from agent, Cynthia Held with a brochure producer, Michael Horta created about how to create safer working environments on photoshoots during this pandemic.  I was thrilled to be informed that this brochure is to be shared with other photographers and crew.

Thank you so much Cynthia Held and Michael Horta and showing us that we are all in this together.

Click below to download your copy:

 MJ68_Fostering Creativity + Personal Health

 

Michael Horta

MJ68 Productions is a highly efficient, friendly, budget conscious, action forward production company with an enthusiasm for bringing talented people together to make great images happen.  Our goal is to make every production feel effortless for the photographers, agencies, and client.  On-set, MJ68 Productions is proud to provide talented, professional, and friendly crews; healthful, foodie inspired catering; optimal organization and a savvy to gracefully handle almost everything that comes down the pike.  MJ68 is at your service for estimating, budgets, insurance, excellent crew recommendations, casting, location scouting, art department, travel coordination, etc.—We love our work and are ever-expanding.

 Held & Associates

Since 1994 Held & Associates has represented advertising photographers and directors who have risen to the top of their profession thanks to their dedication and talent and our well-recognized track record of promoting successful relationships with advertising agencies. We pride ourselves on building lasting partnerships and striving to always create brilliant content that will surpasses client’s expectations.

 

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.

This Week in Photography: Recipes for Disaster

 

Part 1. The Heads Up

Heads up.

 

I’m coming in hot today.

Last week, I wanted to avoid staring into the darkest parts of reality, but today I have no choice.

I’ve been chatting and texting with my good friend, and erstwhile collaborator, Iván. (He was my professor of Globalization Theory in graduate school at Pratt, and has a PhD as well.)

We did some successful modeling of potential Great Recession outcomes at its outset, and then properly predicted the multi-polar world that followed, some years later.

But when we spoke at the beginning of The Troubles, it wasn’t any fun, as he always takes the pessimistic, idealistic side of the argument, and I go for the realist/pragmatist/optimistic angle.

There is not much optimism in our current global affairs, so the chat was grueling, and way too soon for either of us to have made any real observations yet. (Mid-March)

In the last two weeks, though, we’ve talked twice and texted ten times.

Before I get to that, though, I should mention one more thing.

When I met Iván, on the first day of class, he claimed he was a Mexican, Marxist Yankee Fan.

I laughed out loud, and challenged him on the spot, saying there could be no such thing.

The Yankees represented the heart of Capitalism, always outspending their way to World Series titles, and Karl Marx invented Communism.

These were antithetical concepts.

(I once compared “Das Kapital” and Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” in an economics paper at Duke, so I am familiar with the material.)

Iván said he was a Guatemalan-by-family, Mexican-by-birth, Jewish, long-time New Yorker, and entitled to root for the Yankees, because he lived in Upper Manhattan, a short subway ride from the Stadium.

(I’ve picked that bone with him ever since, in jest.)

But last week, having finally connected the dots, his words from our second phone call still ringing in my head, I called Iván.

“Well, hello,” he said. “Nice to hear from you again.”

“Listen,” I said, “I don’t have much time. I need to go on a walk with the family, but I can’t get this one idea out of my head. About what you were saying. About Marx.”

 

“Go ahead,” he said.

“As I understand it, Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to force meat-packing plants to stay open, and meat-packing workers to report for work, or lose their jobs.

Because god forbid America goes a week without eating all its cows, chickens and pigs.

But the workers are going to get sick, and they have, and they’re dying too.

 

 

These workers are lower class, and often Mexican or Central American immigrants, who are also demonized in our culture. Given the low status and wages of the jobs, how good will their health care coverage be?

(Or more likely, they won’t have employer health care at all, because surely some of them are part-time or contract workers.)

With the state of the economy, if the workers choose not to work, they might not have food or a home, and if they do work, they might get sick and die.

And because we live in a country without a robust, free public health system, if these people get sick, and don’t have the right insurance, they might go bankrupt.”

“Yes,” Ivan said.

“All so the higher classes can get their meat,” I continued.

“And don’t forget, these plants are also factories of death, assembly lines that kill and dismember live creatures. And the entire industry is also one of the largest drivers of Climate Change.”

“Yes,” he said, “all true.”

“Then I learned in Reuters that China actually owns the largest pork processing company in the US, Smithfield, and that some of the meat processed in the factories, which are being forced open by Donald Trump, is being exported, while American grocery stores are rationing meat.

“That’s Marx,” I told Ivan. “As much as I’ve teased you all these years for calling yourself a Marxist in the 21st Century, what’s happening now is what he described.”

“Exactly,” he said. “The workers must be exploited, surplus value must be derived from them, for the owners to extract profit.”

“It’s a rigged game for the lower classes,” I said. “If they stay home, they don’t eat. If they go to work, they might get sick. If they get sick, they might die. Or if they don’t die, they may go bankrupt.”

“Yes,” said my friend. “That is true, and tragic. And it is what Karl Marx critiqued in the Capitalist system.”

And as to being a Mexican, Marxist Yankee fan…in the end, I apologized for teasing him all these years.

The world is infinitely complex, and one can be a Marxist, and a Yankee fan simultaneously.

(Or an American and an environmentalist.)

 

Part 2. The Book

 

By now, you likely know I published a book called “Extinction Party,” and I’ll be writing about that, in conjunction with the Amsterdam series, soon enough.

Today, though, I was actually inspired by the book I mentioned last week. The one that was really good, but too bleak for my mood.

(It was THAT book, and not my own, that inspired today’s column.)

Like the excellent Sheri Lynn Behr book I reviewed a month ago, this is also self-published, with a similar construction, and a suggestive cover.

The red/white checker pattern, askew, makes me think of restaurant tablecloths, or old recipe books, and the partial circle makes me think of a heat map of the world.

Looking again, now I see the outline of North America.

Open it up, and it’s called “Recipes for Disaster,” by Barbara Ciurej + Lindsay Lochman, an artist team from the Midwest.

Though they haven’t been in the column much before, (if ever,) I’ve been a huge admirer of their work for years.

Barbara and Lindsay do food based, studio, conceptual, still life constructions, using absurd humor, so you can see the connection.

(They showed me a nearly-finished version of this book at Filter Photo in September, so it is definitely not pandemic-response art, despite its timeliness.)

Open it up, and we see, for Chapter 1, what looks like an appropriated graphic poster, which has been partially redacted, of a family around a table. (Black rectangles over the eyes.)

It’s the lead to “Expunge Cake,” which references Trump’s early gambit of removing all Climate Change words, and the like, from government websites.

The cake, though, looks delicious. (Yes, I’m hungry, I’m writing before breakfast.)

Feedlot brownies, with all sorts of statistics about the cost of the cattle industry.

Crust, with a skeleton baked on what looks like desiccated Earth.

Profit Pies, Clearcut Roulade, Rainforest Flambé, all with rigorous statistics.

Can you see why I didn’t want to write about this last week?

It’s so in your face!

Frankly, I feel like some of my favorite work by the team is a bit more subtle, but this is not a subtle moment, is it?

Radioactive Tea Cakes, Extinction Cookies, this goes right for the jugular.

And since we’re all baking these days anyway, now you’ll have this stuck in your head while you’re doing it.

(You’re welcome.)

Bottom Line: Wicked, satirical recipe book about the end of the world

To purchase “Recipes with Disaster” click here

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

The Art of the Personal Project: Dana Romanoff

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

 

Today’s featured artist:  Dana Romanoff 

Logline:

NOAH, Rising from the Ashes in Flint

Short general synopsis: 

“Noah” tells the story of Noah Patton, a young man from Flint, Michigan, who was going down a one-way street backward. With a gun on his hip and always in search of the next lick, he had many enemies and was living on borrowed time. However, like his hometown, Noah is striving to rise from the ashes. With the support of his pastor, he is turning his life around and helping to positively shape the future of his community.

Artist Statement

Noah caught my eye the second he walked into the room. I was seated at a table with a group of men, mostly ex-felons, at the Joy Tabernacle Church in Flint, Michigan where I had been commissioned to create a video on resident engagement by Community Leads. I had been introduced to Pastor McCathern as a potential subject. When Pastor opened up the church doors to me he said: “if you want to know my story, you have to hear the stories of my council.” That’s when Noah entered, gently placing his sleeping toddler down on a couch and taking a seat across from me. He looked up at me and said “I got a story that’s meant for the movies.”

Directed by filmmaker Dana Romanoff and edited by Blue Chalk Media, “Noah” tells the story of Noah Patton, a young man from Flint, Michigan who was going down a one-way street backward. Backward past abandoned homes and empty schools and the sounds of bullets echoing louder than children’s laughter. With a gun on his hip and always in search of the next lick, he had many enemies and was living on borrowed time.

Flint is a city built on the American Dream. With the disappearance of industry, it became impoverished and neglected, and so did its residents. The water crisis is just one more tragedy piled upon a mound of oppression.

But Flint is a city of survivors. And like the phoenix, Noah and his city are rising from the ashes. Noah returned to his deep-rooted faith in God, and with the help of a pastor, he is turning his life around and helping to positively shape the future of his community.

Noah’s story provides an entry point into the discussion about the role of grassroot efforts in urban revitalization. Flint is a city looking to build itself up from within by empowering its communities from the ground up. Both Noah and his pastor are examples of such grassroots efforts. Today’s political climate, and the often harsh rhetoric about inner cities, make the discussion about resident engagement, and Noah’s story, ever more important.

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 – Ventura Covid-19 Protest: Angelo Partemi

- - The Daily Edit


Angelo Partemi

 

Heidi: How did you protect yourself while you were shooting? 
Angelo: I wore a mask the whole time but skipped the gloves as it would have been too hard to handle my cameras with them. Longs sleeves and pants were essential, and upon returning home I washed my clothing and disinfected my gear immediately as it was very difficult to keep with social distancing in crowds that don’t respect that advisory. I only went in close for shots when absolutely necessary, but I tried to not let that dictate my flow.

How did you approach people since you didn’t have a media pass? 
I’ve never had a media pass I didn’t make myself. I honestly treated it as any other day out on the street. I have been photographing strangers in public for 7+ years and am very comfortable approaching people and taking close photos. In this case, I felt people knew I wasn’t there as a supporter as much as an observer.

Did you get any resistance from the protestors?
I didn’t get a ton of resistance, but I did get a lot of questions. I was accused of being media by several different people because I was protecting myself with a mask. People asked if I was selling photos to China or working for China. To go back to my country, which is America. You know, the normal stuff you hear when you cover something like this and don’t fall on their side of the fence. I kept calm and rational and told them I was there because it was interesting, nothing more.

Were you concerned for your safety at any time?
Never.

How did photographing this protest push your work?
I’ve been working on this project since 2016 and because it’s been going on for so long, it has really pushed me to go to events where I don’t support what they’re doing. But to be honest to the project I have to see both sides as it’s part of the greater story. So, it pushes me personally as I wouldn’t be at an event like this if I wasn’t taking photographs.

How do you approach a project like this, do you think about your body of work, and then create a shot list?
I do not have a shot list in my mind before going out as I think it can stifel my creativity and close my mind to pictures that are in front of me. I usually find greater success when I have an open my mind and listen to my gut. I try to shoot first and edit later. If it’s interesting I try to put a frame around it. I don’t see this body of work as a whole yet, nor am I at a place where I can fill holes. I think my bucket is close to half full with a lot of work ahead.

Since you are shooting only film, what are the advantages?
I don’t know if there is an advantage, but definitely a preference. The look, feel, and tangibility of the negatives far outweigh any advantage digital would give me.

Do you keep a mental checklist of what you’ve photographed and do you take longer to frame up the image?
I think not being able to review my images keeps me in the moment, and constantly scanning for the next image which is good. I might take 5 frames at most on an amazing scene, though it’s typically 1-2. Like all photography, it’s a numbers game, but I think shooting film increases mine.

This Week in Photography: Now & Then

 

I read a great quote this morning.

By Alison Herman in The Ringer.

“Constant dread and anxiety do not pair well with creativity.”

She was writing about why “Mad Men” was gaining an extra following during the pandemic, as it was good enough art to distract, but not so dark in tone as to make one’s thoughts return to The Troubles.

(Hey Northern Irishfolk: May I please borrow the term temporarily to refer to now?)

As to the quote, I will tell you that it’s true.

But last week, I suggested you make art anyway, because it’s good for your psyche, and will help you feel better. (It will take your mind off The Troubles.)

If you take your camera with you on a walk, (of course you do, it’s your phone,) and then slow your pace a bit, on purpose, it might help you see the details that you miss, walking quickly on your daily route.

Maybe that’s what The Troubles are really about, on a metaphysical level?

At first, I called it The Pause, and maybe I will again.

I hoped that it would allow me the chance to slow down, assess my life, and get my house in order.

And in the last couple of weeks, it finally has. I’m feeling better, and going on lots of walks has really helped. (Shout out to Bryan Formhals.)

If you walk around your world, and slow down, what might you find?

Is it possible you’re living in Asia, and despite the enormous cliché we all imagine of Asian architecture, all you notice is the roots of colonialism?

Much like so many of us fetishize elements of Asian culture, maybe you can’t stop seeing what was left by the West?

Maybe this isn’t a hypothetical exercise?

This morning, needing something to write about, my wife handed me the latest book to come in, as my book stack was in my son’s closet, and he was sleeping.

It felt wrong to skip the line, but I knew the book she gave me was good, as I’d seen a preview.

It is excellent, and I’ll write about it another day, but it was bleak for my mood.

I set it down, and then my son woke up.

Rather than jumping the line, I reached into the stack, and pulled out something from April #2019. (All those #2019 submissions need to see the light of day! Free the books!)

What did I find?

Something from Chris Wong, sent from Asia, and wrapped well and tight.

The text on the cover, “Now & Then,” looked to be Chinese in origin, and I’m sure Chris told me about where he was from a year ago, but I don’t remember.

The Polaroid on the cover is a hint, but the block wall literally “blocks” any visual reference we might have.

Open it up, and we get the artist’s name again, the book’s title, and another Polaroid telling us look left, look right on a red brick wall.

Then, a succession of Polaroids.
One after another, featuring Western style, colonial architecture.

Reveling in the details.

Picture after picture, we see columns and arches.
Fancy corner after repeating motif.

And where are we?

It doesn’t say.

For some reason I think Macau, though it could be Hong Kong. At first, it’s mesmerizing, and the washed out colors make it look old.

Are they old?

When were they shot?

Then we see a tank, and shit gets real for a moment, but that’s the only sign of modernity or violence. (This is not a protest movement book.)

Just as I start to get a bit bored, (though the image sizes do change,) we see cathedrals, and the difference, the references to Christianity, snaps me back into my very-curious-mode.

We finish, and then in the bio page, we learn it is Hong Kong. Not sure why I imagined they were Portuguese buildings at first, having seen English architecture in person, but it proves even a pro like me can get fooled.

I get the sense this book is self published, and we learn that Chris is a commercial photographer in Hong Kong, specializing in Polaroid.

But this work is his personal vision for sure.

The image map at the end proves to be much more valuable than in most cases, as it is reveals the Now & Then concept. We learn what these colonial structures are used for now, (often in cultural capacities,) and what they were used for under the British.

Now and Then.

The world has been through many crazy times before, including plagues, and Alison Herman theorized that people were digging “Mad Men” again because seeing the 60’s onscreen, another batshit time, reminded people we made it through that, and we’ll make it through this too.

See you next week.

Bottom Line: Mesmerizing, British colonial architecture in Hong Kong

To purchase “Now & Then” click here

 

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

The Art of the Personal Project: Paul Elledge

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:  Paul Elledge

iPhone Once A Day                                              by Paul Elledge

This is a body of work that I started January 1, 2009 as a visual social media experiment on Facebook.  More than ten years later the project still continues.  It can now also be found on Instagram at iPhone once_a_day as well as it’s own website of the same name.

I am not a writer, thus I have chosen the camera as a tool to create a pictorial diary.  In some ways, this project brings me back to when I started my love for photography.  Rather than a commissioned assignment this project is personal expression. I’m making images just for me that are about how I feel as well as living in the now.  This project keeps my skills sharp to the process of making images, as I am always looking, feeling and creating them.  I photograph every day to capture an image that mirrors an emotion, an experience, or a feeling that illustrates my state of mind for that day.  I have always believed that making images is not about where my feet are, for me it is really about where my mind and heart are.

In order to bring some visual consistency, I have set up a few rules for this project.  I can only make images with the iPhone and they have to be shot vertical.  The images are always black and white, and I can only alter the images within the app network on the iPhone.  The final rule is that the daily post must be done as a mobile upload.

 

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 Promo – June Kim

June Kim
@junebugkim

Who printed it?
Magcloud – having used Blurb before (who I believe owns Magcloud), I trusted the quality and ease of their online interface.

Who designed it?
My friend David Jung who is an art director based out of LA. http://davidjung.studio/ It helps so much to have someone who knows you and your work shape how others will see it. He finessed the typefaces and page layouts, creating a system for displaying the images and even the page numbers—all the details matter.

Tell me about the images?
I decided to call this “Selected Works” because the images span the gamut of collaborative projects (in particular with my good friend and closest collaborator Michelle Cho), editorial assignments, fashion shoots, and personal work. I wanted the images to flow from one type to another and exist under the umbrella of “June Kim” without having to label or categorize them.

How many did you make?
150 copies officially, and did an initial batch of proofs which turned out to be great too.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I’ve been mulling on this first one for over a year, but going forward I’d love to make a promo yearly. In between, I’ll be putting my efforts into building a solid (and hopefully ever-evolving) website and promote that way.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I sure hope so. As timing had it, I printed these right before coronavirus hit the states hard, and then everything began to shut down. But I’ve sent some out, I’m holding on to some others, and we’ll see what happens!

The Daily Edit – John Hryniuk: Covid-19 Portraits

- - The Daily Edit

Air Canada pilot photographed wearing mask at Toronto’s Int’l Airport.

Woman prays in front of Church in Toronto on street. Church closed due to Covid-19.

Decontamination workers pose for a photo before they clean a construction site.

A man walks his dog protecting him with a mask.

Misc. pedestrian poses for a photo wearing his surreal mask.

Costco shopper wears high end  3M respirator mask to shop at the store

Chinese traveller on his way back to Shanghai on a 22 hour flight wears PPE suit.

Disabled shopper poses wearing his mask and gloves while driving motorized wheel chair.

Steel worker near construction site wearing his home made mask and steel work helmet.

John Hryniuk


Heidi: What have you been doing during lockdown?
John: When work came to a halt here in Toronto because of the pandemic, I needed to find a creative distraction. The need to be creative as a professional photographer during these difficult times isn’t a maybe, it’s a must.

How are you able to connect with people on the street?
I’ve been walking a lot and riding my bike around town.

How long have you been on lock-down?
This week in Canada we are entering our eighth week of a country wide semi-lockdown.
I decided to document the pandemic and the lock-down of my city in the best way I knew how, my photography skills. Little did I know that this distraction would turn into a full time on-going project.  While documenting this event I’ve photographed so many interesting individuals.

Which moments stuck with you the most?
There are so many moments that capture these dynamic times. It ranges from a woman praying on the street in front of her church because it closed and to a man wearing a full on heavy respirator while shopping at Costco and a Chinese student at the airport preparing to travel back to Shanghai, wearing full personal protective equipment. These are indeed historic times we are experiencing at the moment during Covid-19 and we as artists should all try and document this in any way we know how. I hope that the photos that I take during this time will someday allow others to experience what this period in time was like. Difficult, emotional and the our ability to adapt to the change.

 

For more portraits, please visit @johnhryniukphotography

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. 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.

The Art of the Personal Project: Justin Bettman

- - Personal Project

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

 

Today’s featured artist:  Justin Bettman

When it became clear that the COVID 19 quarantine was going to keep us at home for a while, I was really bummed. This meant that the situation had become really serious, lives across the world were at risk, and all my commissioned jobs were cancelled. For a personal project, I wanted to create a series of quirky images that illustrated things that we could all be doing alone during this quarantine. This was the impetus for my latest personal project, Isolation Inspiration.

There are many ways in which people are providing assistance during this global pandemic. I am extremely appreciative of the many healthcare and food workers on the frontlines, the photojournalists who are capturing the stories that need to be told, and the individuals sewing masks from home. While I don’t have skills to contribute in these ways, I started Isolation Inspiration in hopes of bringing a small smile to people’s faces during a challenging time.

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 – Eric Bissell: Patagonia Catalog + Farm to Crag

- - The Daily Edit


Eric Bissell

Heidi: How long were you a ranger and were you also shooting back then?
I was a ranger in Yosemite for 8 seasons. I started when I was 19 years old, working in the park during the summers. Living in Yosemite was some of the most memorable years of my life, but I started to feel a bit claustrophobic living between the 3000’ granite walls and moved away last year.

I studied sculpture in college, and although I always wanted to make work in Yosemite, I could feel my creative energy being siphoned into the physicality of being a climbing ranger and spending so many days out climbing on the cliffs. I was accustomed to working in studios for sculpture and picking up the camera gave me an opportunity to engage aesthetically with the world without the burden of three-dimensional work. I wasn’t shooting much at the beginning, but started shooting more and more in later years as I drifted farther away from sculpture.

Were you shooting at the same time?
When I moved to Yosemite, I didn’t have the perfect studio space to make sculpture, which is what I was studying in college. I also didn’t have a ton of the motivation to be honest, because climbing was such a full energetic and creative outlet. When I would get back to college after the summer, the experiences in the park would be fuel throughout the year. It was a great reset each season and helped me realize the need for both time to collect and time to create. Trying to do both at the same time has always been a struggle that I’m trying to improve at.

What did the park teach you?
Living in the park taught me how incredible it is to live in a place that people are deeply excited about. I got the opportunity to meet so many amazing and passionate people because they were constantly making pilgrimages to my (temporary) backyard. Yosemite gave me a lot of opportunities born from the shared love of a place. I was taking photos inspired by this community and was also invited to go on some trips through people that I met in the park. On a trip to Kenya, I took a photo that sold to Patagonia when Jane Sievert selected it. The photo department sent me a handwritten note with the catalogue that featured the image, and I was hooked.
.

How do you choose to climb only and not shoot, do you simply leave your camera behind?
Climbing at a high level is my passion and I’ve found it hard to accomplish that goal if I’m also thinking about my camera. It’s not an easy balance for me, so I’ve tried to minimize the conflict between shooting and climbing by creating a camera kit that is rugged, light, and easy to use.

There’s the mental capacity and the physical capacity of the trying to do both activities at once. If I’m climbing at my limit, I don’t really have the mental energy to also be thinking about documenting what’s going on around me. I’d like to challenge myself on that, but for now it’s a limitation I face.

On longer routes like multi-day walls every waking moment is spent on getting the team up the cliff, so taking time from upward progress to take photos can be a big deal. It’s important that I have climbing partners that trust me to get good images while not holding us back.

This is always a struggle for me, especially on expeditions. I want to be contributing as an equal member of the climbing team, but I also am responsible to document. Often it means running double time. Jogging ahead to get a shot when we’re all tired anyways, or climbing higher on a wall, or strategizing what shots I want to capture the next day when it’s late at night and I’d rather be going to sleep.


Now that you’ve returned from Kyrgyzstan, when you are presented with an opportunity again, how will that experience help you decide?
I’ve done a few international climbing expeditions with visual storytelling components. Each one was a unique process from the origin of the idea to arriving at the airport. I know that the decision-making process leading up to the next trip will be its own weighing of desire, opportunity, risk, and intuition.

Something I witnessed from the first trip, was that as time passed after returning home, gradually an appetite appeared desiring for another comparable experience. I got something deeply satisfying out of being physically, emotionally, mentally challenged in a place far from my own home. That lingering buzz meant made me realize I would be more inclined to say yes the next time an opportunity came up.

With Kyrgyzstan, I hesitated a little because I was trying to establish a life directly in contrast to the transient seasonal park service life. But a month isn’t really that long in the end.

Do you say no to trips?
I have said no to some trips, but I think it’s important to know that the more I say yes, the more I want to go on more trips. Like all experiences, big trips are a learning process. Looking back at my photos from Kyrgyzstan, I already see a lot of gaps in the images I chose to take. Being self-critical, I know that when I do something, I’m going to want to do it again if possible because I will have an opportunity to improve.

Climbing as a sport is both macro and micro, do you see your own photography different now? You study miniscule rock features, you see big sequences. Does that pivot transcend into your work?
In climbing we talk about “exposure” on a big wall like El Capitan. When you get that feeling most is when the micro and macro play off each other intensely – stepping from a ledge onto a blank face, traversing above a roof, leaving a corner system. Not every image needs to heighten exposure, but I think there are similarities in how we balance an action in a frame with the setting surrounding it and how the exposure of certain climbs can make us feel more present in a moment and place.

Photographing climbing is a neat challenge and perhaps has parallels to many documentary photography situations. At its most simple, the goal is to balance the climber against their setting in a way that a viewer can feel both intimate, but not lose the larger sense of place.

I’ve played with cameras my whole life, but climbing is what made photography into my work. I’m grateful to climbing for doing that for me.

During Farm to Crag did you search for that metaphor of the handle and the crack, or did that evolve?
The idea to place the farmer’s hands with the rake and the climber’s hands with the crack was an idea that developed while watching one of the climber’s (Alexa) hand appear around a corner on the climbing day of the event. I saw Alexa’s hand in isolation touching the granite and thought back to the day before when our hands were in the soil on the farm. I had been a little underwhelmed by the images I was getting out climbing and had encouraged myself to keep engaging and searching for a new way to look at the scene. It was a little pep talk and it paid off in that I was trying a little harder to see something new when Alexa’s hand catalyzed the visual metaphor. The next morning, I went back to the farm and got the image of the hands on the rake.

What was the most unique thing you learned about your own work shooting Farm to Crag?
That was probably the key learning moment from Farm to Crag for me as a photographer. Look hard for the little symbols that connect what is happening in front of the camera with the bigger idea I am trying to get at.


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The Daily Promo – Tarona Leonora

- - The Daily Promo

Tarona Leonora

Who printed it?
The work was printed by PrinterPro, a printing shop that has two locations in The Netherlands. They’re a fairly small company who do huge turnovers and I love their team.

Who designed it?
Originally, I designed every single aspect of the book from the cover to the simple layout and deciding what kind paper should be used. When I had done a test print, I showed it to my friend Franky Sticks. He mentioned that the (original) cover design didn’t match what was happening on the inside in terms of the work, so he offered to do a cover redesign. And that is the version that is out now. Thank you Franky!

Tell me about the images?
The nine images that you find in the zine are a combination of works I have shot between 2015 and 2020 in different places on the planet. I have always very much been attracted to colors, and it is also something that has always been very distinctive throughout my work. I love what colors can communicate and how you can use them to convey messages on a different level than what instantly meets the eye. I ended up having this enormous archive that I had collected all over the world from all different times and I decided to pick a few that resonated with me the most and that I believed could tell a story on their own. The hardest part in the process was finding the balance and rhythm between the images in terms of placement and which image would follow up which. I was also very aware of how the colors could possibly work on the retina when being viewed and how the next or previous images could be influenced by that.

How many did you make?
I printed an edition of 50.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
This was actually the first time I did something like this in my entire timeline as a visual artist. All my work, so far, has only ever existed online. The idea for this thematic zine, came to me due to frustration of solely seeing my work in a digital space and never being able to hold it. I realised that I had a huge archive of images and I never knew what to do with it. So, this format makes it possible for me to work in themes that interest me and share them quickly in a tangible format. This also allows me to mix and match old archival work with freshly shot work and bind it all together according to theme. With that said, there are more themes to come.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I think printed work is always something that people enjoy. We are, after all, tactile beings. Even while living in this digital age, I still find myself having love for objects that are tangible and I wanted to make something that I would like. I always thought that if I will like it, someone else will too. So far, some people have bought the zine as well, so I suppose it’s not only effective marketing in that sense, but it’s also something to collect.