Archive for the ‘My Work’ Category

On the Road

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis week I’m tagging along with the amazingly talented Lauren Zuniga on the final leg of her tour throughout the Northeast and filming a short documentary.

We had breakfast this morning at a giant wooden table at a coffeeshop  in Lawrence, Massachusetts, among what I could only describe as a sort of industrial ruin. I’ve been in three states today. I really like pointing cameras and microphones at things and people I find interesting. More soon.

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I’ll be posting snippets and updates from the road this week, so check back (or comment on this post and select “Notify me of new posts by email”

Redbud

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Spring, 2013. Medium-format film.

An Architecture of Thought

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I learned two major lessons in my years in architecture school: first, that design is my passion in life, in all its forms. Design is not a collection of geometry and color on paper; great design lives and breathes. It touches people.Secondly, I learned that I have no interest in being an architect.

In telling this story I’m often met with a response that implies that three years was some kind of a waste, a path to nowhere. I don’t see it that way.

The staunch traditionalism of this Beaux-Arts-styled program meant that computers, in the first two years, were nothing more than a research tool. Our designs began as rough sketches and words on trace paper and developed with markers, thick-lined sketch pencils, and quickly constructed models of cardboard. Our final products were hand-drafted, exquisitely-inked and meticulously-colored on expensive presentation boards, or bound in hand-made books of vellum and chipboard with marker and watercolor renderings. We learned to design — learned to think — with pencils in our hands.

When we start on paper, we start with an entirely different mindset. Lead on paper possesses a fluidity, a subtle impermanence. Mistakes will be made, just scribble harder. I can think of nothing that clears the mind like wadding up a bad idea and throwing it into a wastebasket, then looking down at a fresh, blank page. Touching a pencil to paper feels like channeling ideas from the intangible to the tangible. The pencil becomes a direct conduit between the brain and the page.

Computers, by contrast, exist quite literally in an ecosystem of details. Pinpoint precision and perfect geometry can be the death of ideas. I have tried, in vain, to begin designs on the computer. These endeavors inevitably end with me frustrated, retreating to the corner with my notebook and away from the computer where I’ve drawn a neat set of perfectly-spaced, dead lines.

When I show my clients sketches, they understand that I’m showing them ideas, concepts, possibilities. When I present them with computer “comps” they see a finished product. It’s important at the beginning phases for things to remain flexible. Presenting a client with a pixel-perfect Fireworks export may wow them, but it may also make them feel like we’ve taken some control from them. I’d rather the people I design for feel like they’re part of a creative process, not witnesses to it.

What that time in architecture school really taught me was not how to design. Sure, I learned a lot about color theory and composition, the importance of empty space and harmony. My handwriting became more legible and I learned that sometimes my best ideas come at 3am. But more than anything else, architecture school taught me to think like a designer. And I’ve learned, over the years, that I just think better with a pencil in my hand.

Brewtäl Coffee

The concept is simple, the reality anything but: make a movie in twenty-four hours

It’s fast-paced, it’s stressful, it’s exhilarating, challenging and a little bit crazy. And it’s one of my favorite parts of the year, creatively-speaking. The guidelines are simple: make a 5-minute film in 24 hours, incorporating a pre-determined (but secret until midnight on the night of the contest) elements: a theme, a line of dialogue, and a prop.

Please enjoy.

In Transition

April has proven to be a month of change for me, but despite the constant push forward it’s important to stop and pay attention to the details sometimes.

In this case, the light on the quilt-covered bed in the pink bedroom you slept in for a week.

New Theme

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A long time coming, but finally here: the ump-teenth redesign of this blog, featuring a few firsts for me. Notable points include:

  • html5 & css3
  • responsive, mobile first design
  • Elegant balance of typography with imagery
  • No images for the design (lightweight)
  • No small photos on the site (thumbnail-free)
  • Custom post types (standard, aside, image; video coming soon)
  • Bite-sized content on the home page (custom post excerpts and large images)

Essentially I designed this theme from the ground up with my own work in mind. I produce media in a variety of formats, and often the strict bloggy nature of my previous themes kept me from displaying my work in a way that did it justice. In short, I’m utilizing post types to achieve this: “aside” posts feature primarily text, rendered large and legible; “standard” posts balance text and images and are suited to longer format posts; “image” posts display my photographs and graphics the way I want them: large, “full-bleed”, and perhaps most importantly without thumbnails or lightboxes.

I’ve read a lot of angry / heated language about the use of larger fonts as body text on the web recently, but I don’t buy it. I’ve designed the text on this site to be both legible and elegant; I have balanced longer line widths with wider line spacing and used media queries to adjust text for various screen sizes. Modern displays provide an ever-decreasing pixel size and an ever-growing resolution, which results in more screen real estate; for Thoughts on Stuff  I’ve chosen to dedicate that real estate to big images and legible type that’s allowed to breathe.

The studio

For a few months last year I rented studio space downtown. It didn’t end up being cost-effective for me, being that I’m a sort of anti-commercial photographer*, but it did give me the chance to coerce more of my favorite people in front of the camera.

I swear, these people make my job way too easy.

I have beautiful friends. Pictured: Katie Cunningham and Jillian Summar at Loose Leaf Co. Fall 2011, Grace Grothaus in her Tulsa studio, Summer 2011.

 

*not entirely true. I just tend to offset the paid photography I do with expensive stuff like “still shooting film” and “buying more old cameras”.

Breakfast

This morning I took a picture of my breakfast. It occurs to me that maybe I should get out of the house more.

But can you blame me? Look how pretty it looks. And yes, in case you were wondering, it was delicious.

Did I pick that bowl out specifically because I planned to photograph my breakfast? Yes. I have priorities. And cereal is one of them. It is, though I’m a little ashamed to admit it, one of my absolute favorite foods. I’ve been known to skip dinner and eat a bowl before bed. I’d say it would be my “desert island” food but inevitably the milk would curdle in the hot tropical sun and then I’d be screwed.

What’s your favorite kind of cereal? Answer carefully — I’m judging you.

Winter Part 2

Here’s more wintry coldness, because I’m finding it hard to think about anything else right now. On a positive note, the 24-hour video race is tomorrow night and I’m totally stoked. Here’s my team’s winning entry from last year and a write-up I did for Tasha Does Tulsa about my experience. But more on that later; grab some hot tea because it’s time for more cold photos.

This one’s actually from last year. I was shooting long exposures out my back window while firing a giant manual speedlight from the side through a garden window. Apparently when I get cabin fever this is what happens. I’ve actually used this photo as the background on my phone all winter, because apparently the feet (plural) of snow outside isn’t enough of a reminder.

And another from last year, though not so snowy. Fog is one of my favorite photographic subjects, as well as one of my favorite things about winter and the cooler parts of the year in Oklahoma.

Also I apparently have a thing for the lines in the middle of roads or something. I’ve always liked this shot though, because if it weren’t for that bright yellow line this photo could pass for a black and white. Again, I dig that monochromatic quality that winter brings into our lives; having said that, I’ve had enough of it this year. Spring, we await you with open arms and short-sleeved t-shirts.

Winter

It’s always seemed like I get most inspired to take photographs in the winter, which most people would probably call the least photogenic of all the seasons. The truth is I never saw it that way; I think one of the reasons I was always interested in photography was that it allowed you to capture the beautiful in the mundane, the everyday. I also think there’s a sort of minimalist beauty in the sparseness of winter.

There’s just something about it.