I spend the majority of my life outside of work on photography. I take photographs, make photobooks, and hang out with photographer friends. But since I am no longer in school, I miss the support and growth that can come from interacting with a community of engaged photographers.
Commercial photographers, hobbyists, equipment fetishists, and alternative processors have established places to go in person or online for support and interaction.
I want to be a part of a community of photographers who are focused on one goal: making the best photographs we are capable of.
So I am starting the Pioneer Camera Club. The first meeting is this Thursday from 7-9pm at my apartment in downtown San Francisco. Peter Rittling will talk about his self-published photobook Park Fugue and I am hoping that other attendees will bring prints of their work in progress that we can look at after Peter’s talk.
If you are in the area and would like to come, please get in touch! More info is available on my Pioneer Camera Club Page.
On the train to work this morning, a guy across the aisle with a Leica M8 or M9 was trying to be sly about taking some pictures of me as I was dealing with some work stuff on my phone.
It didn’t bother me; I’ve taken plenty of photos of people when they weren’t aware of what I was doing. But I found myself wishing that he would come over to me and ask for permission, or even just get right in my face with his camera without asking. I think the likelihood of ending up with wimpy photos is lower if you avoid sneaking around like a pervert with a camera.
My mom forwarded me an article (thanks Ma!) about Google+ adding some new photography features.
One of the new features is an automated photo editor:
Given an unedited batch of photos from a recent family vacation, Google+ can narrow the images down to what it determines are the best shots.
So you can fill up your memory card with a bunch of crappy photographs, upload them to Google, and have the "best" ones chosen for you, no personal input required.
Vic Gundotra, the guy in charge of Google+ says "I don’t have time to pick them out (myself) because my vacation is over." I wonder if he has time to review the automated selections that he expects his social network friends to wade through.
I can see conceptual artists salivating at the prospect of being the first to do a project that uses Google+ as an editor. Maybe someone has done it already. Write an obtuse artist statement about how your project explores the implications of technology in art and you could be the next Doug Rickard!
Visual art doesn’t affect me the same way music does. I have a visceral reaction to music. Songs remind me of experiences and easily convey strong emotions to me.
Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision when I gave up music for photography. But I didn’t have much choice because of hearing problems I developed after years of going to shows and playing in bands.
Occasionally I have a strong reaction to a painting or photograph. Several years ago I was at a James Nachtwey exhibition in Berlin and I came upon one of his photos from 9/11: a cloud of dust rises from collapsing buildings behind a cross in the foreground. When I saw it, I was overcome with emotion. I reacted to the subject of the photograph, but also I was amazed by Nachtwey’s ability to create a moving photograph in a situation where I am certain I would have been running for my life.
A few days ago I went to the De Young Museum in San Francisco and I saw the Vermeer painting of the girl with the pearl earring. Yes, there is a lot of hype around this painting. How many paintings have their own movie? But there is something powerful in the painting that is difficult for me to identify. When I saw it I was surprised to feel overcome with a wave of emotion. The painting allowed Vermeer to communicate with me across time.
Moments like this keep me going when I want to give up photography out of frustration. Each of us has the potential to communicate through visual art, and to provide sustenance to humanity across time. It is up to us to decide if we will take a chance and reveal our authentic self in our art.
Today I had lunch with my photographer friend Peter Rittling.
Topics of conversation ranged from Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus to the importance of form and content in photography and painting.
If you aren’t in school, one way to keep growing as an artist is to challenge yourself through lively conversations with artists you respect.
I flew to Los Angeles to meet my friends Laurence and Pierre who were visiting from Paris.
I stayed downtown at the Milner Hotel. Spending time downtown changed my opinion of Los Angeles. It reminds me of the neighborhood where I live in San Francisco with interesting architecture and no sign of strip malls.
Laurence invited me to be her guest at Paris Photo L.A. If you’ve never been to a big art fair, it’s like a temporary mall that is constructed to sell art. I was expecting that I wouldn’t enjoy most of the photography and I wasn’t surprised. I overheard a few explanations of the trite concepts behind some of the work. "He created a replica of the Taj Mahal out of marshmallows and photographed it. It symbolizes…"
The small number of photographs that I liked was older work by Daido Moriyama, Michael Jang, William Eggleston, and Fred Herzog. And a small photograph of rooftops by Jaromir Funke who I wasn’t familiar with. Seeing what galleries are selling (or trying to sell) at the show was an opportunity for me to affirm the direction I am taking with my work.
The show was at Paramount Studios. Part of the event took place in fake buildings that are replicas of New York and Chicago. Above is my photographic nemesis Alec Soth signing books for adoring fans in front of one of the fake buildings.
Next we went to the Getty Center and Laurence and Pierre photographed the sunset.
The next day we went to MOCA.
I saw sculpture made out of cardboard, foam, and dust. I didn’t care for it.
But my faith in art was restored by Rothko…
and Franz Kline.
And before I knew it, the wonderful weekend with friends was over and it was time to head back to San Francisco.