Sunday, May 23, 2010

Final Project


I really wanted to branch out and try something different with this assignment. At the same time, I wanted an assignment I could get excited about. Originally, I really just wanted to play for my final project. Experiment with things, see what happens if I shot this way, or processed this way, or used this paper and that developer...but that's not an assignment. Furthermore, I had no idea what to shoot for that. So I thought about it some more, and realized that in some ways, I could experiment and play with this final project. I've wanted to shoot the faces contact sheet for some time - last year I almost got to (I drew out an outline and everything), but at the eleventh hour realized I didn't have enough time or willing subjects to do so. Because of this, I was really excited when I realized I would have the opportunity to try again.

Shooting is hard. The longer I'm in photography, the truer that becomes. At the same time, I feel like shooting is the most rewarding aspect of photo. Sure, you can admire film without purple hearts, or how nicely you toned something - but at the end of the day, nothing gives me as much satisfaction as a nice shot gives me.
For this assignment, there are some things I wanted to shoot and didn't - buildings, for one, and possible some interesting interiors. I would have loved to have the chance for me and my camera to spend a day hanging out on downtown SLC rooftops. However, even though I didn't get to do this, I am happy with my shooting for this assignment. It took quite a bit of planning - but in retrospect, planning is my forte. My favorite sheets to shoot were pieces of faces, and the contact sheet where the faces watch disapprovingly as Jonah and Jamey steal cookies and hang out of car windows. The river images were less fun to was cold, I had no jacket, my bike got soaked, a ten year old kid kicked said bike over, it started raining halfway through one of my rolls, and then that very same roll turned out to have been shot the wrong way (I should have tilted my camera to the right, not the left). At the same time, the horror stories make the success stories that much better.

This assignment presented me with the most difficult and frustrating printing I've ever done. At the same time, I completely loved it. I like learning new things, especially in photography class. It's interesting, and exciting, and I adore the do-it-yourself feeling darkroom photography gives me.
That said, contact printing was its own kind of hell. Dusting and arranging those negatives required of me incredible patience that did not come very naturally. But around my third or fourth print, I learned to really slow down and pay attention to what I was doing. I realized that if one strategy wasn't going to work for me, there were others I could try. And even though it took me twenty minutes to set up one exposure, that was still much more efficient than rushing and needing to set up my paper four or five times. Patience actually is a virtue. Go figure.
Also, I came to like toning. I was really happy to be able to look back on my photos from the toning assignment to help me decide what would work best with each individual image. And while toning can be a little scary (I was terrified I would over-bleach my faces image, which would have been tragic), I really liked the results. I still love selinium toner. Huzzah for subtlety.

My first sheet, the one with the pieces of faces, is my favorite of the entire bunch. I thought the split toner would be a tad more sublte than it turned out to be, but it doesn't affect how much I like the image anyway. I've been waiting to have this image for a long time, and I'm very, very pleased that now I have it.
The next image, the vertical one of the creek, is a bit of my fail image. Fail shooting. Fail printing - how does one ACCIDENTALLY print on warm tone paper? I suppose it must be because I printed that one before I figured out that no, actually, I should be patient. Rushing makes you do stupid things. So I'm not happy with this picture. I think the top and bottom rolls barely have enough continuity to pull it together and make the image sort of work, but no cigar.
The horizontal creek is better. I like the beam running along the bottom, and I feel like the strip of negatives that's just water turned out really really nice, which was something I had hoped for, but wasn't really expecting. Those shots are the reason I didn't tone that image sepia or even split - even though I feel like the top three rows could pull off that kind of nostalgic tone, but I loved those water shots in black and white. I think I should shoot lots and lots of water over the summer. 
The contact sheet with the faces looking at Jonah and Jamey is a funny one. I love the faces around the edges. I think that I could have had a slightly better middle...maybe someone more obviously stealing something, or an awkward middle school slow dance, or someone dancing like no one's watching...I think that Jonah and Jamey just would have worked better if it had been bigger, and if you could tell what it was without me explaining it. But hey, if I do explain it, it's pretty funny, yes? I love funny pictures. They let me use terms like "that tickles my fancy." Yes, that's it - Jonah stealing cookies tickles my fancy. 
The last image had a few technical difficulties, resulting in my neighbor being rather wasp-wasted. But the image is still pretty cool overall. I wish I'd been able to shoot more people (my siblings and neighbor are getting old...), but for the most part I'm very happy with this contact sheet. 

I was mostly joking when I said I wanted a cheesy name - but part of me was serious. I'd call this project "contact", not only for the obvious reason of my prints being contact sheets, but also because I like the idea that this project is a way of interacting with - or "contacting" - the world around me in a way that I don't usually experience. I like looking at pieces that fit into a bigger puzzle. It was interesting to try to put the things I see into a different format. Any fool can frame the world - but I want to rearrange it. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Assignment Allegedly #7

Life and Death

*hangs head in shame*

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to.

I don't hate much in the world. I'm opposed to some things. I don't respect others. I can get annoyed. But rarely do I actually hate something.

But I loathe this assignment.

Again with the shooting issue....I was so lost. As usual. How metaphorical should I be, how literally should I take this assignment, should I focus more on one thing than another, etc. Once I figured out how I finally - finally finally finally finally finally finally finally - wanted to shoot this assignment, things began to look up. I was hopeful. And then I shot it. And then I was sad.

My theme was "To Die For", which I liked. If I expanded this project, I would diptic portraits. Or portrait diptics? Either way, I'd have one image of someone holding something they felt was to die for in that superficial way - jewelry, clothes, cars, expensive toys from Apple, etc. - and I'd shoot another image of that same person with something they actually WOULD die for. A Bible, a baby, an opportunity for someone they loved. Hm. I might actually RE-shoot this assignment, because the more I think about it, the cooler I think this project could be. Why didn't I shoot that? Ugh.

In case you can't tell, this whole "Life and Death"/"To Die For" project just unfolded itself entirely in my mind about thirty seconds ago while I was writing this. Again with the perpetual tardiness - my brain couldn't have figured that out even just a week earlier?

There was a lot I wanted (and still want) to do with this assignment, and I lot I just didn't get to do. I'm not happy with my images. I'm not happy with my contact sheet. I'm not happy with my negatives. They do this thing where they're always dusty.

However, I think that doing abysmally on this assignment has strengthened my resolve to make the next one the greatest thing I've ever done. Furthermore, that assignment that I have to do well on so all hell won't break loose is my final project. And I'd like a really strong final project. Scratch that, after this disaster, I'm CRAVING a really strong final project. I feel as though I have to redeem myself.

Now that I'm about to draw this post to a well deserved close, I do feel as though I should have a bright side moment and try to see what good came of this experience. Hmmmmmmm...well, I had a bit of fun shooting the jewelry. I got to arrange sparkly things in pretty light. Some of those photos turned out not so well, but some were alright. I wish we had the time in photo to do some studio lighting stuff - not only do I think that would have helped my jewelry turn out better, but I also think that that would be really fun.

So. Yes. With feelings of forced optimism, I'm off to print contact sheets.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Assignment Probably #6

Fish Out of Water

And now, for a bit of reflection....

I can work really hard, and I can work really fast. Which is good.

The reason I can do this is because I'm perpetually late. Which is bad.

I liked what I shot once I got it shot. Which is good.

It took me forever to get shooting, because I'm crazy indecisive, crazy busy, crazy procrastinating, and crazy. Which is bad.

In the end, I was really pleased with this project. My dead fish image is interesting (and I love the focus). The one with the hose is grainy, but funny. The staircase, self portrait, and the lettuce I could give or take, but in comparison with, say, my eighth grade body of work, they're stellar. Yay improvement!

The biggest problem I had with this project was shooting. When pressed, I can print like nobody's business. But shooting...meh.

I don't know what to shoot. Then I know what to shoot, and I shoot it wrong. Then I know what I want to shoot, even though it's not what I need to shoot, and even though it's underwater in Fiji. Then I start shooting, and I want to rip my hair out, then I love my camera more than life, then I get kicked out of Whole Foods and my relationship with authority figures is turned on its head and I don't know what to shoot.

Rinse and repeat.

It just takes a lot for me to load the camera, walk around a bit, and shoot. I lack momentum. That's something I really ought to fix before AP next year. But it's more than that - it's that I just don't know what to shoot unless I have it planned out perfectly.

With this project, the way I FINALLY got around to shooting was to take the assignment literally. I shot dead fish and fish furniture - they weren't in water. After I walked around Market Street Grill for a bit, taking LITERAL pictures, I moved on to very controlled images - like the lettuce in the McDonald's bag. And finally, I managed to pull myself together a bit and shoot people. I don't like to shoot people. Portraits and I have a love/hate relationship. I do love to look at and shoot beautiful portraits that have something about them that goes deeper than a facebook pic level. But it's hard to get that. And people I can't control. I see the exact expression I want on their face in my head, but I can't describe it. Even if I could, I don't know if they could even do what I asked - "arch your eyebrows to a forty-three degree angle, soften your lower eyelid, and convey years of pent up emotion with your eyes" just won't work. I guess "people photos" are really just a series of compromises, and after a while you get something beautiful.

This journal makes me sound like a psychopath.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Assignment #4 and or #5


If I'm serious about AP Photography next year, I probably ought to kick my eleventh hour work ethic. However, it was okay here. I had like a day of nothing but photo, and this assignment was done on time. I think I have learned a bit about efficiency (the goal I set for this term), but very little about procrastination. Working on that, I swear.

So, this assignment felt like a bit of a turning point for me. Not really because the assignment itself felt big and dramatic (I love contrast, but it feels...old. Like been there, done that, probably need to still work on it), but because I actually convinced my parents that photography matters to me. Usually they're just irritated when they see me carting around a shadeless lamp and taping bed sheets to my wall and setting up odd arrangements of eggs around the house. But they had a bit of a change of heart, and for some reason, watching my mom look at my blog made me feel more like a real photographer than anything else has. Like I'm not just a person who snaps pictures. I make a statement, or an image that hasn't ever existed before, and then I freeze it.

Now, for all that build up, the actual assignment might have been a bit anti-climactic. It felt done. I did like the photograph of the statue. I like the angles and the drama. But the hands feel like everything I've ever seen on TNT. And the black was just ugly. Upping the contrast helped, but really, it was a boring picture. It only barely won out over eighth grade bowl of potatoes. In all honesty, I just didn't have the assignment sheet with me and completely forgot to shoot flat images on purpose. But I probably wouldn't have shot them anyway. I hate flat pictures. They're gross.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

For how much I love darkroom, I do miss putting photos on my photo blog. Writing and research are great and all, but that's not really what this blog is about. That said, here are a few photos from last spring break to tide me over until I do digital again sometime next year. After break, my camera and I were BFF's. Usually. It does have a tendency to make everyone look super pale. 

I like the composition in this one. I like the repetition of the chairs and the bright colors. This is my favorite. 

Sweet air. 
Setting my camera to "manual" isn't just useful for formal assignments! It works in real life! It's not like math! I get to do things like slow my shutter speed just enough to make my brother blur. 

I shoot things directly looking at them or from below a lot...I'm going to experiment with this above angle more. I like it. It's not one 5'4'' me gets to see a lot. 

I don't like the man in the red shirt in the background, but I like the vibrant red in the foreground. It really pops, especially with the white/gray/blue of the scene behind him. 

This isn't a very good photograph. I just really liked the duck. 

Dumb picture, but standing in line at Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (which should be called "Mr. Toad Goes to Hell") I had this little epiphany, where I was like, "Window light is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen EVER!" And that was nice. 

This makes me want to do a photo project on hypnosis. Wouldn't that be cool? Photographing illusions and hypnotists/the hypnotized. Volunteers? 

I love color. I love black and white too, but sometimes I just miss color. I write it long lamenting letters when I'm having filter troubles. 

Again, this above angle thing is working for me. I love the colors. This photo makes me feel like sunshine and chlorine. Good times. I like the weird pose. 

This is actually from February. It was an accident, but I sort of like the result. It makes me feel cold and haunted. I like some of the composition...those trees cut in half at both ends of the photograph are a bit obnoxious, but not terrible. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Assignment #3 Journal


I liked parts of this assignment, and disliked others. No really strong feelings about it, but it was interesting.

What I was happiest with was my image itself (the hand on the window). It had a kind of Alfred Hitchcock-y kind of vibe, and that fits with my discovery that I like photographs that don't show me anything - I like a little mystery. A little uncertainty is good for everyone.

As for the was so so. Although it smelled terrible, I thought it was really cool, and it did give me that "do-it-yourselfer" attitude I love feeling in the darkroom. I ended up really liking selinium toner. I like the subtlety. I do NOT like sepia toner. I think if I want that kind of warm, nostalgic feel then I'll print on warm tone paper. Sepia (and split toner) feel too...extreme for me, I guess. I just felt like I wasn't looking at my photograph anymore. My photo was black and white. My photo didn't feel like a sentimental Western. If I ever want it to be otherwise, then I will use sepia toner. But for now, I'm happy with the more enigmatic selinium.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Assignment #2 Journal

Paper/Developer Comparison


Just because you focus on craft doesn't mean you can't also focus on "art", "personality", "voice", "creativity", etc.

For example, I was a bit skeptical about all this new paper/developer stuff. I'm not against change, but I am a fan of the whole "path of least resistence" idea, and I felt like if I was fine with printing on RC paper with LPD developer, there was really no point in trying anything else. Ha, WRONG. This assignment turned out to be a lot cooler than I thought it might be. While the contrasts between the different developers wasn't quite as dramatic as I expected, I genuinely liked seeing the differences in different paper. I like warm tone paper and how it makes me feel all nostalgic. I adore neutral tone fiber paper, and although I am terrified of the hot press and the noises it makes when it thinks no one is listening, the quality of fiber paper blows my mind. Fiber paper and RC feels to me almost like glass and plastic. They can look alike, but where one is durable (if a bit flimsy), the other is just so...nice. Neutral tone fiber is the classiest paper I know.

What's more, I liked realizing that I could use what I learned from this assignment could actually help me make more of a statement with my photography. If I want my audience to take me seriously, I'll probably use fiber over RC paper. If I want to make people feel all nostalgic, if I want them to remember things and talk about "the good ol' days", I'll use warm tone. If I'm printing photos for my friend who really liked the silly myspace picture I took of her, RC's the way to go.

Also, a bit of self evaluation: I'm pretty happy with my photos. While the one of my sister and the big hat may have slightly weird focus, and may also be a bit cliche, I still like it. There's an "air of mystery" I appreciate in a photograph. But I'm really happy with my other image. I love the focus - something I was freaking out about before, because micro-focus in digital all but ruined me. But this turned out nicely. I love the lighting. Again, I like that you can't really see her face. I like photographs that show me something by hiding something.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Photographer Report

So, in the spirit of bidding a fond farewell to digital, I thought I'd report on my favorite printer of all time - Koudelka. 

Of course, he's not really a printer. No, Josef Koudelka is a Czech photographer, born in 1938 in Moravia. He got his start in photography by photographing his family and surroundings with a 6 x 6 Bakelite camera. Which just goes to show even the most famous of photographers started out doing nothing different than what we're really doing now - shooting what's available, which is the Salt Lake Valley. Koudelka later went to University of Technology in Prague, and later staged his first photographic exhibition. 

Koudelka then started regularly photographing stage productions at Prauge's Theater Behind the Gate on an old Rolleiflex camera (no idea how this one works, but it looks just as cool as the Bakelite). Later projects include shooting gypsies in Romania and recording the military forces of the Warsaw Pact as they invaded Prague. Koudelka's books include GypsiesExiles, and a combination of the two titled Chaos. He's won awards such as the Prix Nadar, the Grand Prix National de la Photographie, a Grand Prix Cartier-Bresson, a Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography, and the Robert Capa Gold Medal (no Olympic affiliation, sadly) for photographs requiring exceptional courage. 

As of this moment, Koudelka resides in France and Prague and is continuing his work documenting the European landscape. He has two daughters and a son. He celebrated his 72nd birthday this last January. It's nice to do a report on a famous person who is actually alive. 

And now for some images...

This is one of his most famous ones - streets of a city moments before military invasion. I love the emotion of this photograph - the sense of "something's coming". This photograph reminds me of ancient men who sit on ancient porches and shake their ancient heads, saying "There's a storm coming, son, I can feel it in my bones." I love the watch, I feel like it really adds to the picture. It freezes that moment in time so perfectly, and so definitely. Koudelka took an instant and turned it into an eternity. 

How do you do this? Hats off to Koudelka here. I think it takes skill and experience to be able to photograph soldiers without making them feel uncomfortable and without them shooing you away. When I ask strangers if I can take their picture, they usually look at me awkwardly and say, "Uh, um, uh, why?" I don't get the true "soul" of a person who's hiding their hands in their pockets and slumping their shoulders and asking if they ought to smile. But looking at the expression on these people's faces, I feel like they aren't hiding anything. They aren't afraid of the camera - more importantly, they aren't afraid of the photographer. 

This one...probably staged, but you know, I'd like to think it isn't. Again, I love that emotion - that nostalgic feeling of stopping your industrious, 9 to 5 (and possibly 5 to 9) life to just listen to the same sounds you heard growing up. I love the composition of this photo as well. And I do like that it's a bit lighter than a lot of Koudelka's photography, because it shows he's well rounded. He's versatile, that Koudelka. He can take a photograph of anything, of any emotion, and make it beautiful and well-exposed and even a bit heart wrenching in all the right ways. 

Like fashion, words tend to come in and out of style. Currently the word "epic" is very, very in fashion (particularly in conjunction with the word "fail"), and I'm worried that if I say this photograph is epic, the popularity of that word will take away from what I mean. But really, this photo is epic - it's bold, classic, brave, grand. It's awesome. Knowing that Koudelka didn't use a little point-and-shoot also adds to this image for me - this man was prepared. He had to have set up his camera in advance, to have determined the proper exposure, to have decided his angle and depth of field. He put maybe hours of preparation into capturing this particular second - a second no one else could have captured. 

Again, Koudelka was prepared. He was in the right place at the right time, and I understand why he won an award for photographs requiring exceptional courage. Look at the soldiers, at the weapons, at the destruction, at the burnt up tree. I don't know many people who would willingly throw themselves into this kind of situation. Koudelka had courage ever photographer ought to have, and he chose to tell the best kind of story possible with his photographs - the kind of story only he could tell. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Assignment #1 Journal

Not so sure about this "craft" thing.

While the technical this term has been nicely balanced out with my more creative final project in digital, it still leaves me feeling a bit lopsided. Craft feels more...draining. The assignment I just finished took a lot of time and effort. I had to look at things a lot more carefully. I had to ease back into an overwhelming world of filters, chemicals, emulsion, archival washes - it's madness in there! The darkroom is not for sissies. It wasn't even so much that it was hard to learn how to do everything, but it was hard to figure out the best way to go about doing everything, if that makes any sense. It's not hard to print. It's incredibly difficult to figure out how/when/where/etc. to print. It's not the action itself, it's deciding where it fits in my life. My goal for next term? Efficiency. 

But hey, it's all part of the learning and growing process, isn't it? And I am pleased with a lot of my photographs. I should tell you that I have officially sworn off taking even one more image of my sister spring term. She's a fabulous model, but I'd like to push myself a little more. I think I can do better. Well, at least, I sure hope so. However, the images I've already taken I've deemed completely fair game. I've fallen in love with 100 speed film. Not always fun to shoot with - not at all - but the quality of some of my images leaves me giggling in delight and rubbing my hands together like a man who has just figured out how to conquer the world. 

Looking forward to spring term. Here's hoping I can live up to its expectations. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Final Project - Onomatopoeia

I love the idea that a photograph is more than a picture. It's more than texture, than color, than focus and light. I want it to be more than that. I want it to make people feel something.

I think I suceeded fairly well with that first goal. I've had the experience of people looking at my photos, and not being able to resist saying the sounds out loud, which makes me happy. It makes me feel like I did the first half of my job well - I've made an image that's more than something you look at.

For the second one - wanting people to feel something - I'm not sure how I did. I certainly got some reactions (from "awesome!" to "grosssssss!"), and I think that means that some of my photographs were at least memorable. I did have a few people laugh (especially with "clink"), but no one cried. I wasn't trying to make anyone cry with them, but still, it might have been nice, as it would have been a clear indicator of whether or not anyone actually got something emotional out of my photography.

If I got anything out of my photography is a different question. And the answer is complicated.

Some of it I love. Some of it I hate. It changes. Right now, though, I'm not super happy with it. I feel like its all the same. Literally - all of my pictures look the same to me.

I have a very easy shooting process (at least, easy for me). I plan my shots out very carefully, but fairly quickly. I know exactly what my photo is going to look like before I even shoot it. In fact, shooting, which I feel like should be a beginning, is usually the ending. And I wish I'd pushed myself out of my comfort zone more. I wish I'd experimented more with light, focus, composition, because all of my photographs feel the same to me, and it drives me insane - they're all close up, macro focus, studio lighting. And while that's really worked for me, I'm done. For one thing, macro focus is being violently ripped away for me. For another, I think that a good photographer (or a good artist in general) ought to be able to make something beautiful out of something unfamiliar, and even frightening, not just something they feel like they know well.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think this was a good project. The images are sound (a couple white balance issues, but nothing too horrible). Some sounds are more effective than others, but I think all work fairly well. My favorite is clink - I think its whimsical and fun and really me. Power of the beta fish. Silence is probably my least favorite - I like the idea, but I don't think that I conveyed it so well.

And in an attempt to add on a more positive note, I look forward to darkroom photography. I think it'll really push me into trying things wildly different than what I've done in this class, which is why I love our photo program so much - it's so diverse. Kind of yin and yang-y. I get to try some of everything.