I don’t own any expensive photographic equipment. I prefer to shoot with cheaper point and shoot digital cameras. The reasoning for this is both practical and philosophical.
First the practical: I’m hiking through a treacherous, rocky area and I drop my camera into a crack between two huge boulders completely out of reach or rescue. Do I want to dish out thousands to replace it? No way. Since I tend to be rough on things, this is the practical option.
Now the philosophical: I tend to be rough on things, and that’s how I like it.
That is not to say I don’t respect certain physical items. I actually do have the ability to treat certain pieces of my equipment with care and respect. For example my new GoPro Hero4 Black camera. So far, I’ve been very kind to it and have even purchased lens covers and I keep it in it’s protective casing whenever possible. At $500, it’s the single most expensive piece of photographic equipment that I own, so I should treat it with care, shouldn’t I?
Pictured below is my previous camera collection:
A few details: the Kodak DC-280 died in a sandstorm at El Mirage Dry Lake. The Canon Powershot A640 pretty much gave out when it was waterlogged while trying to photograph waves close up. The iPhone died after hitting the floor right after I flipped it in the air while making my bed (I think it was hiding from me under the sheets…) The other cameras simply passed, most likely searching in desperation for relief in the camera after-life. One, not pictured here, was stolen at a large field event when a person impersonating a trash collector walked up and took it right from my side, (this was decided after some deduction and with no one else to blame it on…)
But the practical side is not my only rationale for the purchase of these cheaper cameras, it’s also the philosophical. It’s the feeling that I’m doing a lot with a little. It’s the feeling that the equipment that I’m working with is not interfering with my creativity due to its being complicated by switches, dials, and gizmos. It’s the feeling that I’m not trying to be part of some kind of techie club, trying out and discussing the latest features. It’s the feeling that technology is not interfering with my way of seeing, (or is it?) It’s the feeling that my camera is simply an eye through which I view the world without barriers, (or is it?)
Mostly however it’s the feeling that the camera is part of who I am and that it takes on my personality. If I am leaping from rock to rock, it leaps along with me. It doesn’t dictate how I should move from place to place. I don’t have to think about protecting it while I’m on the move. This frees me up to concentrate on the terrain around me. It allows me to work with the lay of the land on my terms rather than the terms of some external influence.
The idea is to see beyond the camera. Or to see in spite of it. Or maybe simply to spite it, to get pissed at it for my needing it in the first place. Why do I need it? Why can’t I do all of this without it? The very idea of having it is forcing me to think within narrower terms than I would otherwise. When I don’t have it I accept everything as legitimate, without worry. Why does its presence cause me to be narrow-minded? Without it I’m free to see however I want. With it I’m forced to see things more specifically, to think less freely. But alas, I do need it there with me. The one I have inside me with all of that freedom won’t do the job.
At least I can be rough on it. I can beat it up a little. I can take out aggressions on it for its attempts to hold me back. If I do drop it in that crack between two boulders, that’ll serve it right. True, I’ll have to buy another one, but at least the first one will get what’s coming to it. Crappy little vision minimizin’ contraption.
But OK, maybe I shouldn’t let these things affect me in this way. How can a small device such as a camera really change the way I view the world? What is it about the thing that makes myself and others question my abilities to see correctly? How is it that rooms full of people can sit and intensely discuss captured visual moments that are not worth a single word when the parameter of time is included? There’s an apple on a table over there, not a big deal, but hey I have an idea, let’s turn that into single moment in time so that we can contemplate the way it looks even though each of us already saw it beforehand.
What is it about the power of the camera that causes fear and shyness in otherwise outspoken individuals? “Oh, I could never show anyone my work, it’s not very good”. Not true, it’s every bit as good as it is in the real world, in fact it IS the real world, and we don’t get embarrassed or shy about that do we? We walk past a tree and we see the tree there in front of us and then you show me a photo that you took of that tree and somehow, someway, it’s not as good as the tree, even though it is the tree, the same tree we’re looking at right now.
So it comes to this: Stand there and look at a beautiful scene, nice, but raise your camera and click a button and now that same scene is subject to criticism, curation, mockery, imitation, praise, rejection, ego, valuation, collecting, selling, over-rating, under-appreciation, promotion, distribution, duplication, framing, archiving, theft, damage, and with any luck, auctioning. No one man-made object deserves to have that much transformative power over something that can already be viewed by everyone, anytime, without it.
So do yourself and all of us a favor. Destroy your cameras. All of them. It’s obvious that they’ve got an agenda, one which is already influencing the masses, instilling fear, inflicting pain, and limiting our ability to see clearly and subjectively.
Everything is a good photographic subject. There are no bad photographic compositions.
I was incredibly lucky and honored to have given an artist talk to the Disney Imagineering Photography Group last year. One of the Imagineers bought my photography book at Photo L.A., and she later invited me to speak to the group. It was very difficult and intimidating to know what to say to them. I thought, “Should I include in my talk examples of my photos that had shapes and lines that were reminiscent of the shapes of Disney Characters?” Well, I did spurt this out at one point:
“I view many of my photographic subjects in terms of living characters: characters in danger, characters overcoming hardships, characters triumphant in the end. Without this humanistic nuance, my work has far less meaning to me.”
Which is actually very true. I do indeed view many of my subjects in terms of living characters.
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t treat my talk as if it were a job interview. I showed them a bit of my 3D graphics work, and played them some of my music, in a way that illustrated how they were components that influenced my current photographic style. All of this was very true as well. But in the end, I was not offered a position in Mickey land.
However, the talk went very well. I held their interest, and had them laughing at a few key moments. I had been preparing the talk for about three weeks, and realized as I was almost finished that I needed a much more poignant ending, an ending that left them all with something to think about, so a couple of days before the talk I wrote out the following which I read off of a piece of paper while they watched one of my fractal animations below:
“I believe that the ideas and potential of photographic composition have only begun to be explored, and that we’ve only just scratched the surface. Diving into a 3D Fractal, I find that there are an infinite number of potential compositions and that each one exists equally in terms of importance and visual impact. Why is that? I believe that the removal of humanistic qualities changes our perspective on what is acceptable and not acceptable in any given composition. We accept more compositionally in the abstract world since we aren’t as concerned with the organizational features we are used to dealing with in the humanistic world.
I believe that there are an infinite number of potentially great compositional possibilities in the field of view of any camera at any time, but to see them we must unlearn what we believe to be correct or familiar. It can be educational to see the world in terms of micro worlds, to break down what you see into smaller measures, each with equal importance. We’re used to thinking in terms of one composition being superior to another, but it can be very insightful and liberating to think in terms of everything being equal, visually or otherwise, at infinite scales, until scale becomes a parameter which allows us to be free, rather than dictates to us the implied limitations of our placement within 3D space”
It’s important to keep in mind that the way we interpret what is inside the field of view of our cameras is based on more than what we have been taught is a good photographic composition. It’s based on our current view of the world, our current moral beliefs, what drives us and what we want to communicate to others, and our fears of making mistakes. It’s based on our inner need to impress others and to impress ourselves. It’s based on pressure we receive when we’re forced to produce.
So if you take away all of that interference, what are you left with? Well, freedom for one thing. With all of that pressure absent, you’re free to think in new ways, see in new ways, feel in new ways. Instead of emotions pouring out of your mind, you can open up a new channels into your mind.
When thinking about composition, try to think about it without all of the humanistic and familiar qualities. Try thinking purely in numbers and patterns. Walk around with your mind cleared out. The goal is not to take the humanness out of photography, it’s to reassign it to a composition at a later time, but to first allow yourself to see in new ways without any interference.
A tree is no longer a tree, but a shape. A river is no longer a river but a large mass with some kind of strange movement. Buildings are not man-made, but have always been present. Think of every shape as generated by a mathematical formula within a 3D space, and realize that you can get closer to and further away from these shapes without affecting their importance or meaning. Try viewing the world through a new set of eyes that block out emotion and redefine what is both meaningful and meaningless.
So I’ll say it again:
Everything is a good photographic subject. There are no bad photographic compositions.
You may or may not agree, but just try it: Walk around for an hour or two taking photos while BELIEVING IT and see if anything new happens.
Photography is a means of recording current events and memorializing them for future generations. Photography is a means by which the egos of individuals are surfaced and multiplied. Photography is a long road to financial loss. Photography is a form of intellectual expression. Photography is a means by which the undeserving can find fame. Photography is a form of tension-release responsible for lowering the crime rate. Photography increases discouragement in individuals which increases tensions and raises the crime rate. Photography is created by the poor and collected by the rich. Photography is an outlet for those seeking to blabber on about elitist nonsense. Photography is pretty. Photography is gritty. Photography crosses borders exciting unity between opposing forces. Photography instills fear and causes death. Photography is a summation of ideas and beliefs, communicated uniquely by each individual based on their existing ideas and beliefs. Photography is a battlefield in which an individual fights for the right to speak as loudly as they like. Photography is a path, a journey, hopefully without a clear destination. Photography is just a huge lie.
I have no idea what photography is, ultimately. However, I’ve been asked to write about it here and I’ll do so even at the risk of becoming overly cerebral.
When I’m out doing photography, I usually don’t think about it much. I try not to let it worry me. I try to “zen out”, not thinking about any one thing in particular, and let the shapes in front of me dictate my actions. I try to relax. The less I know about those shapes, the better off I am. The more I know about a subject ahead of time, the less freely I interpret it. I just like to let things flow. That’s really all I can ask of myself.
If I’m lucky, the results will please me. If I’m luckier, the results will also please others, and they will not be thinking in their heads as they look at my work, “I could do that better”, or “I’ve seen that before”, or “That looks like so and so’s work”, or “This guy needs help”, or, “This guy is wasting his time”. I guess I really don’t care what others think about my work. OK, that’s not true. Yes, it is true. No, it isn’t.
I’m not big on equipment, so asking me technical questions about cameras is probably a waste of time. To me, cameras are simply data gathering devices. The light goes in and sticks itself to a chip somehow and it stays there until it is beamed to my computer and I can play with it. That’s what I personally love the most about photography, playing with the light.
Light is amazing to me, as are shapes. I tend to see everything in terms of abstract shapes, and to make matters even more complex, I tend to see almost everything symbolically. When I look at something, it almost always appears to me to be a representation of something else. This can cause me to zone out sometimes. I’m all there, I’m just busy processing. There’s so much out there that is worth processing, don’t you think?
I’m not big on “preconceived notions”. In fact I really hate them. Those bloody beliefs that we have to do things a certain way, or think about things within specific terms, or obey the intellectual laws and rules that are so often thrust upon us. I’m not saying that these laws and rules aren’t correct, and I’d even call them handy at times. I’m just saying that if we over-worship them like gold-plated zebra goddesses we’re likely to follow a path that eventually leads us to the largely populated berg of Boresville.
So, during this month of February, as I write about this thing called photography, don’t be surprised if I jump around from topic to topic, or if my emotions change from paragraph to paragraph, or if at times you think I’m a little nuts. Because really, we’re all a little nuts, we just try so hard not to show it by being overly careful. You know what I mean.
I doubt I’ll provide you with any answers here, because I don’t think I have any. I’m just not the go-to guy for answers. I prefer to ponder, zoning out as I do, and play with the musings going on in my head, and then somehow spit them out through my art. Very rarely will you find me bringing any of this up in casual conversation, being overly careful as I am.
So as an ending to this beginning, I’ll leave you with an unknown maxim that occurred to me a little over a year ago. I’m not saying it’s the truth or anything, but it occurred to me and I keep on reading it over, trying to prove it wrong but so far I haven’t had any success in doing so. I’ll place it within quotes to make it sound a little more imposing, like a preconceived notion:
“There is no true originality, there is only a mixture of two sets of laws: the laws in front of you, and the laws inside of you.
Your creativity is defined by the ways in which you mix these two sets together.”
I’m certainly looking forward to posting here 11 more times, three times a week, for the next four weeks, during this month of February, in the year 2015. Hopefully we’ll have some fun.
Printed Matter’s (2015) LA Art Book Fair
This coming weekend on the Left Coast is what is becoming an annual event; Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair which will take place again at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.
As I have written about the past (2014) LA Art Book Fairs taking place at MOCA, this building is a maze of rooms, small hidden rooms, medium size display areas and a huge room usually reserved for the Zine world. A ton of books, magazines, zines that are new and old (“collectibles”) that can overwhelm the senses. Fortunately the food trucks out the front doors can provide sustenance to help you endure. In past years there was a section reserved for photobooks up on the mezzanine, but guessing there will be spot somewhere.
Preview Thursday 29th January, 6-9pm
Friday January 30th, 12–7pm
Saturday January 31st, 11-7pm
Sunday February 1st, 11-6pm
Also nice about this event: FREE Admission!
Douglas Stockdale, Founding Editor
Photo LA – 2015
Having missed Photo LA for the last two years and growing a little disappointed with the show, I was pleasantly surprised by this year’s event. It was clean, fresh, and much easier to navigate than past shows. This year I opted to take a docent tour led by Eve Schillo, Curatorial Assistant in the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at LACMA. Schillo added more relevancy with her running commentary on many of the artists and why they are considered “worthy” of inclusion. She elaborated on the labor over time going into creating many of the pieces, such as the eight-hour exposures of Chris McCaw and the prevalence of contemporary works using alternative processes such as tintype, cyanotype, and platinum.
Docent tour of Photo LA before the crowds arrive:
Some of my favorites were works by Jennah Ward (cameraless cyanotypes), Jacob Gils (huge composites), Rosemary Warner(montaged prints), Susan Burnstine, Nick Brandt, Jo Whaley, Mona Kuhn, Hiromu Kira, Tadao Ando, Bart Synowiec, Bruce Davidson, Eric Holubow, David Adey (raised pinned images), and Susan Turner. It was also nice to see old favorites like Dr. Dain Tasker’s x-ray photos from the 1930s and the work of the late James Fee.
Eve Schillo discussing landscapes by Photo LA honoree Catherine Opie:
Abstracts using light as a key element by Barbara Kastin:
Copyright Barbara Kastin
Cameraless cyanotypes by Jennah Ward:
Copyright Jennah Ward
Printer Amanasalto Working with Platinum:
Also exhibiting was a Japanese company, Amanasalto, that is making platinum prints from contemporary photographers as well as masters like Imogen Cunningham. They were beautiful prints but not to be confused with originals printed by the photographer.
Copyright the estate of Imogen Cunningham, print by Amanasalto
APA LA’s Off the Clock
For the first year, 100 winning photos from the American Photographic Artist’s (APA) annual contest Off The Clock were displayed at Photo LA. If you are a photographer, this is yet another reason to consider joining APA and to participate in their many events.
Photo LA Downloadable Catalog:
For more information and to see more images from the show, download Photo LA’s 128-page catalog here.
Classic Photographs Los Angeles
Entrance, Classic Photo LA
A few years ago, a number of galleries that carry primarily “classic” (black & white) photography split from Photo LA and started their own show. This year it was again held at Bonhams auction house. It was easy to spend an afternoon there and enjoy looking at the variety of Classic and Contemporary photographs including work by: Ray K. Metzker, Val Telberg, Bruce Wrighton, George Tice, Brigitte Carnochan (hand colored selenium prints), Giacomo Brunelli, Pentti Sammallahti (and his book, Here Far Away) and Sebastiao Salgado. I have eclectic tastes and was tempted by a Muybridge and a lovely Bromoil by an unknown photographer…perhaps next year.
Alex Novack, the man behind iPhotoCentral:
Several years ago I became acquainted with exhibitor Alex Novack who is the man behind iPhotoCentral, an online resource and gallery collective where buyers can search an enormous inventory of photos. It’s worth checking out whether you are a potential buyer or simply want to educate yourself on what’s available.
If you are interested in learning more about collecting, I highly recommend subscribing to Alex’s newsletter. He sends it when he can (almost monthly) and it consistently contains a wealth of information from around the world.
PhotoExchange Contributor: Nancy Albright
Photographs copyright Jeff Alu
I am very pleased to announce that Jeff Alu will be the Guest Curator for ThePhotoExchange blog for the month of February. He resides here in Orange County and in addition to his day job as a 3D Animator and Flash Developer, he is a photographer, author, curator and the Exhibition Developer at Orange County Center of Contemporary Art (OCCCA), located in Santa Ana, CA.
Zero+ Publishing released Jeff Alu: Surrealities in 2012 and Alu has had five solo photographic exhibitions, including Marks Art Center, Palm Desert, CA, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, and Studio 343, San Pedro, CA, and has been included in over 60 group exhibitions. His photographs have been featured in 24 publications, including Adore Noir, B&W Magazine, LensWork Extended (#68), Shots and Focus magazines. As a curator Alu has five exhibitions that he has organized and developed at OCCCA. He has provided presentations at Disney Imagineering Photography Group, Glendale, CA, Marks Art Center, Palm Desert, CA and Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Ana, CA. He has a Bachelor of Music from Chapman University, (Conducting, Piano Performance, and Music Composition) and attended Eastman School of Music, Rochester NY.
Jeff states that the path that let him into photography began in his childhood, where he grew up in an artistic household. His mother was studying art and he witnessed her development through many mediums and learned at a very young age the value of experimentation by watching her in action. Large canvases on the garage floor that were splattered with paint and abstract sculptures being created out of found objects were being brought to life before his eyes. This in conjunction with a job at the Jet Propulsion Lab and Palomar Observatory a little later in life hunting for Near Earth Asteroids and comets led him to appreciate the spirit of searching for the unknown.
As to his own creations, his photography is a combination of art and science, where he combines his love for searching with his love for alternate worlds and meanings. His style hovers between documentary and a semi-dreamlike state. He is constantly searching for what he likes to call “clues.” These clues generally represent the initiation of questions that should be asked, rather than answers to pre-defined questions. He never has a set idea of what it is he’s looking for. He simply seeks, occasionally finding exactly what it is he wasn’t seeking. That’s the time he learns something new about life: when he discovers a new path, a new way of seeing, a new reason for continuing his search.
He has a very broad background in photography, digital art and gallery exhibitions and has provided a tantalizing submission as to what he hopes to accomplish during the month of February. I am extremely delighted to have Jeff take the reins and I highly recommend that you check in frequently and join the conversation!
The deadline to submit submissions as Guest Curator for March is February 18th.
Doug Stockdale, Founding Editor
Next week is a fabulous time to make a trip to Los Angeles for anyone interested in art and photography. With three huge shows listed below, one can see the work of the hottest artists, up-and-coming artists, and tried-and-true masters. There is sure to be something to impress and inspire all working artists/photographers.
LA Art Show 2015: (Historic, Modern and Contemporary Art including Photography) at the Los Angeles Convention Center: (January 14-18) http://www.laartshow.com/ Discount tickets can be purchased through Groupon.
Photo LA: (The 24th Annual International Los Angeles Photographic Art Exposition) at THE REEF/LA Mart (January 15-18) This show includes docent tours and a number of classes for photographers and collectors. http://www.photola.com/
Classic Photographs LA: Galleries and dealers of classic photography at BONHAMS (January 17 & 18). See the work of masters of photography with many pieces quite reasonably priced. http://www.classicphotographsla.com/
Guest Contributor: Nancy Albright
This is an Open Call for submissions to be the Guest Blogger/Curator of this Blog, The Photo Exchange, for a 30 day duration.
You need to provide a brief proposal, not to exceed 200 words, as to what you want to accomplish during your 30 days curating this blog.
Update: Please include your Bio/CV with your submission. This is secondary to your submission proposal but will help us with the selection process.
This is a photography blog focused on like discussions and content. Although this blog has had a strong emphasis on photographers, photography and photographic gallery events occurring in Southern California, the submissions do not need to be limited to this regional scope, although those that do will be provided preferential treatment.
The submission deadline to curate the month of February is Monday, January 27th. If you have a specific month that you prefer to be the guest blogger, please state that in your submission.
This is a non-paying gig, but then again, there is no fee to make your submission!
The blog has been in existence since 2008, viewed over 200,000 times and has 100+ pokes per day.
The content posted will need to comply with the WordPress guidelines.
So if you are looking for some exposure, want to try your hand at photo-blogging, have a photographic issue or theme you want to explore, here is your opportunity. As you may already realize that posting on a blog has a longer virtual life than the brief exposure of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, with many of the articles posting here currently obtaining repeated reads many years after they were posted.
Let me know if you have any questions or send your submissions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to take this opportunity to personally INVITE YOU to participate in the International Photography Contest PHOTO ANNUAL AWARDS 2015
Since I work both as a photographer, curator and publisher, I am fully aware of the importance and the greatness of your work.
My particular desire is that the Photo Annual Awards, which is held under my leadership, will achieve good quality participation.
The contest results will be exhibited – as in last 4 years – in the Wall Gallery in Teplice, near Prague.
(see last Opening Ceremony: http://www.photoannualawards.com/2014-in-pictures.html)
The exhibition time is overlapping with the beginning of the 861th Teplice Spa Season.
Since this event annually attracts the attention of more than 50,000 VISITORS, my task is to exhibit the real jewels of modern photography – like your photography.
(see – for example – last winners http://www.photoannualawards.com/2014-winners.html)
For Grand Prize Winner is $500 cash and Art Residence for one month in romantic chapell
And finally: All 2015 winner photos will be publish in photo magazine Art Photo Mag (www.artphotomag.com)
(list of published photographers in Art Photo Mag is here http://artphotomag.com/photographers)
Early Bird for contestant:
Entry fee for contest is 5 EUR per photo, but to the end of February you have special discount – only 3 EUR per photo.
Contest Deadline: April 19, 2015. Don´t forget please.
Thank you very much and I look forward to seeing your photo at our Opening Ceremony.
Link for upload of photos: http://www.photoannualawards.com/log-in-and-upload-photo.html
Director PAA 2015 & Publisher Art Photo Mag
Copyright Douglas Stockdale 2014, self-published Pine Lake
As a book artist and photobook specialist, this is the time of year that I provide kudo’s to all of the photographers, photobook designers, photobook publishers and the book artists who use photography as a part of their creative medium. .
What came as a very pleasant surprise is when the amazing NYC book designer Elizabeth Avedon (yes, a familiar last name to those following photography over the years) selected my artist book Pine Lake as one of her Best Photography Books of 2014. A total surprise as this is a very limited edition artist book (edition of 25 plus 2 A/P’s) and thus I am assuming not many have actually held or seen this.
What a sweet ending to the year and which reminds me that I need to get my butte back into gear and finish my next limited edition book Bluewater Shore, the second of the three photo-narratives planned for this series.