I spent a good part of the last half of 2011 traveling. It was amazing for all the reasons that wandering is always so, but I sadly returned into a world so hectic that I’ve barely had the chance to process it all. In the coming weeks I intend to sort through the photos, journals and video I shot while galavanting around the country (and even, for a brief time, outside it). I’ll likely condense it into a few posts, but consider this a teaser and a proof of concept. It’s coming.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
From the beginnings of my aspirations to be a “photographer”, I always considered low-light and night photography to be sort of my go-to genre. The very first photograph I took that I really felt was “good”, the first one that made me feel like maybe I was getting a hang of what I was doing, was a long-exposure shot I took in Arkansas outside my tent in the middle of the night (it’s on flickr here, if you’re interested). Though I’ve branched out a lot since then, available-light photography is still very near and dear to my heart. So recently as I’ve been thinking a lot about the “professional” or “commercial” work I do it starts to occur to me that I do very little photography these days just for the sheer enjoyment of it, which is a real shame. So I decided to get back to my roots and head out after dark with my friend Matt, a camera and a tripod. Here are some of the results.
Abandoned drive-in movie theater on old Route 66 west of Sapulpa, Oklahoma.
Abandoned building, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
That last one came out looking like something from a horror movie or something, which was totally unintentional, but I like it.
I was inspired to write one blog entry every day in February by my friend Erin — you should check out her blog (and amazing photography) here.
Brides are quite possibly the portraitist’s dream.
When you shoot a wedding, it’s all about capturing moments in time: memories, details, cross-sections of day where a million tiny (and some not-so-tiny) things happen almost all at once. As a photographer you’ve got to be on top of the situation; you’ve got to get good shots, and you only get one chance. This is the rush of wedding photography: you’re part portrait photographer, part event coordinator and part photojournalist. It’s great fun, but there’s also something to be said for taking things a bit more…slowly.
There was a time in my life when I didn’t enjoy shooting weddings. I thought there was too much pressure, that they were too hectic, stressful. Now? I find them really enjoyable. I enjoy each one more than the last.
People make a big to-do about making sure everything is just right and goes according to plan, but what a wedding ends up being about is the moments shared between people. Parents and children, life-long friends, people very much in love. The beautiful things about weddings are almost always the ones you could never plan for.
Photographing a wedding isn’t just about knowing which events need to be captured. Sure, there’s a “list”: the kiss, the first dance, the cake. But it’s also about finding those little moments, the ones often happening when nobody knows you’re watching.
For me every wedding has an overarching theme: people in love, people being happy. Photographing a wedding is all about capturing those happy moments.
Congratulations to Josh and Natalie, and thanks for letting me be a part of your big day.
Sitting down to write this post, I asked myself where I go for inspiration. I guess my first inclination, as always, was to make some kind of list. But what would this list look like? Websites, photographers, designers…books? I arrived at the conclusion that inspiration necessarily comes from all around me. There’s no one place I go for inspiration. But that doesn’t really make for an interesting read, so I made a list anyway.
So, what’s inspired me lately?
Vanity Fair: The Portraits
I received this book as a birthday gift last month. It’s a truly amazing collection of images documenting a century of modern society, by many of its most iconic photographers (and a few of my personal heroes) including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Leibowitz and Edward Steichen. I love taking pictures of people, this is no secret. I haven’t had the chance to do a lot of that lately, but I’m working on it (see my previous post). It seems to me that if you want to do something well, you study the best. This book showcases some of the finest portraits from the last century, and thumbing through its massive pages is awe-inspiring.
500 Days of Summer
This film has been praised as the anti-love story and dismissed as a hipster romantic comedy, but I think what I liked about 500 Days of Summer is how it defied categorization. It had moments of genuine emotion alongside lighthearted comedy (and even a dance number). The film didn’t claim to be something it wasn’t—I think the opening narration says it best:
“This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story.”
But I must confess: it takes more than an enduring story for a movie to truly inspire me. 500 Days took it to the next level with an interestingly jumbled chronology—which in some movies proves confusing or disorienting—and tied it all together with a very slick design. The feel of those interstitial spaces was more reminiscent of information graphics or user experience design than simple movie titles. The design of the movie is what made it work. And it worked out quite well, in my opinion.
Though something tells me everyone already knows that. In addition to the epic (and previously blogged) trip to California this summer, we also took a summer-ending road trip to Kansas City over the Labor Day weekend. It was awesome. Just long enough to be relaxing and see the sights, short enough to keep things cheap and simple. The problem with me and travel, however, is that the more I do it…the more I want to do it. Not to mention the fact that every time I visit some place other than Tulsa, the less I like Tulsa. But that’s not inspiring, so it doesn’t belong on this list.
I’ve never been a big fan of New Years Resolutions. They’re always seemed kind of cliche and commercialized, and when I’ve made them they always seem to fall by the wayside, forgotten.
I am, however, rather fond of making lists. So this past January I made a list of things I wanted to achieve. Some items were short-term goals, to be completed in the year, and some were more long-term. Some were more practical (put $25 a paycheck in savings) and some were perhaps a little ambitious (work out 5 times a week? a nice concept, but I know myself better than that). The list can be viewed in full here (link).
One entry that falls squarely into the ambitious column: “Take a picture of everyone I know. Everyone.”
See, it’s underlined. That means it’s important.
The People Project
So I realize the full magnitude of the statement. It’s everyone, underlined, after all. And that’s undoubtedly going to be a lot of people. If we’re speaking in broad everyone terms here, then I could probably say that I know people I had classes with, the guy who seats us at our favorite restaurant, and people who work with my wife. So where does one draw the line?
The short answer is that I’m not. I’m embracing the true scope of the undertaking. Sure, I may never photograph everyone I know. For starters, there’s not enough time in the day. Then of course we factor in that some people simply don’t want to be photographed, some people would be inappropriate to ask, and some people I simply don’t want to (I just can’t get excited about taking a picture of former coworkers and managers, let’s be realistic). Those caveats aside, I’m just looking at this as an opportunity. Maybe I don’t have to meticulously document every single person I know, but it encourages me to look for subjects in the people I see every day. And there are no rules here. Some will be formal portraits, some will be snapshots (I’ve already got some of both). I’d love as many of them as possible to be quality photographs, because that’s just the kind of person I am, but I’m also a big fan of the fortuitous snapshot (like this one, after which she asked “did you just take a picture of me? to which I simply grinned sheepishly).
So maybe it will never be a coffee table book, a major motion picture, or a PBS documentary. But even if nobody ever sees it but me and the people I photograph, I feel like I’ve done something worth doing. I’m pointing something I love to do more than just about anything (making photographs) at the people who matter most in my life. And if nothing else, someday I’ll be able to look at the pictures and remember all the people who have touched my life.
You probably saw this coming
If you’re reading this blog post, it probably means you belong to that not-so-exclusive group, everyone. Which means I’d probably be giddy to take some shots at you. This doesn’t have to be a formal get-dressed-up kind of affair. If you’d be interested in taking part in the project, shoot me an email (spam filter don’t fail me now), I’d love to hear from you.