New Learning Context

Framing desire

I don't know why framing is such a horrible struggle for me, but occasionally I'll do something that makes me feel kind of cool. (I cut some nearly perfect spacers one time, and considering how jagged and sketchy I tend to be away from computers, that's pretty dang great.) I had ordered some really lovely frames from Frame Destination, and poured money into getting my prints just right from Adorama. I had just gotten a good batch after a month of shipping drama, and just as I place the first print in the frame ... I realized that Adorama had trimmed the prints 1/4 too narrow. Considering how Passover is in full stride and they are an Orthodox Jewish company, and how many well-presented images I want to show in May, this was devastating. 

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I finally had a workable idea: I would just put my spacers in the wrong way and double them up, hopefully giving enough of a lip for the photos to rest against, and not pushing past the edge of the frame. After a tense moment of testing: Voila! It was a success!

Elated, I set up three prints with minimal issue, but discovered the fourth was just too narrow, even for this solution. Fortunately, it was also fairly damaged from shipping, so I think I'll be able to get a refund and replacement as soon as Adorama reopens.

In the meantime, I'm going to set about ordering the same type of prints from Bay Photo and probably 4-8 more identical frames from Frame Destination. 

Seeing a finished print is just really nice after a year of trying to feel like I've done something despite nonstop work. 


The equipment Massacre Continues ...

And just like that, my digital back is damaged and I won't be shooting new photos for this any time soon ... I was shooting another photo for this series, and then the flash input fell inside the back ... Yep. 

I guess this coincides well enough with having to wrap up my show prints for my NLC presentation, and making sure I have the slide show and handouts together nice and tight so I can do a few practice runs with everything ready. 

Speaking of the prints, I'm superbly happy with the paper, the mounting ad the frames themselves, but my initial run does not fit inside the frames as well as I had hoped. I have some ideas to assure I won't have any unwanted blowouts, though. How many more hundreds of dollars do I have to spend to get one damn framed print I'm happy with? On top of that, two of my new prints were damaged, meaning I'll have to request replacements from a company that's going to be closed half the time until my review (for Passover). Regardless, I'm trying to have 12-16 hanging for my NLC review, and 35-40 for my hopeful exhibition. I guess that largely depends on what space will actually allow when I can get in there and measure it out. I have the photos, and now I just enough money.

In great news, I've had a nice run in competitions:

1) I received Juror's Honorable Mention in the A Smith Gallery show, "She."

2) I was picked for an online gallery in a PhotoPlace Gallery exhibition, "Intimate Portraits," which would normally make me feel like a loser, except this one was juried by Joyce Tenneseon

3) And to cap the great week of recognition, at least one of my images was accepted in to the Yale Photo Society's Spring Exhibition as a Guest Graduate Artist. More on this as it develops!

I hope to be able to swing by campus next week (and had hoped to this week, but forgot that Good Friday pretty much erases any hope I have of getting a day off). 

More t/k!




The light outside

Finally got to shoot a few more indoors. There's a thing about the light from outside. More thought soon. Doing work, researching, but very little time to actually talk about it. Sleep now.

And somehow, it's March ...

I honestly don't have much to show photographically post-January as far as this project goes.

• The first couple of weeks were affected deeply by the postponed presentation. I had hit a solid pause to try to get that together, and figuring out my approach after proved time-consuming.
• Weather finally happened. Lots of rain-outs, chill-outs, etc. 
• Lots of illness hit. Mine and my subjects'. 
• The semester started and myself and many potential subjects have been swamped.
• I suffered a terrible string of broken gear. Namely my two primary flashes have bit the dust (kind of literally, smashing into the ground). I've patch worked a new kit, but makes consistency a bit tougher for the moment.
• I've been much more focused on some following things ...

I wanted to finally pin down a presentation I know I could afford and would mirror most of the best points of the successful semester presentation in May. I've got my shots down to about $130 per image, with very minimal assembly required. I should have a number of items to prove this by the end of Spring Break, as I begin assembling what I intend to be the final hanging pieces. This was a pretty expensive process, leading to several hundred dollars in errant prints and frame purchases. But I'm more confident than ever I can assemble as many of these photographs as I can afford – and maybe I can mount another GoFundMe campaign, or even a Kickstarter to furnish my estimated $3,000 cost. 

I'm trying to lay the ground work for a quick exit after my NLC presentation. I'm not financially capable of incurring MORE debt by entering yet another academic year. Nor do I have any interest on this taking any longer than it has to.

I've been entering various contests, sadly to no avail. I've got 3 more I'm going to chip my work into this week, and I'll know the results for those before late April. (Those include calls from Texas Photographic Society, A Smith Gallery, and PhotoPlace Gallery). 

I've also been working on a list of curators to contact, but I want to get my finished photos on a wall to photograph before I follow through on contacting them. It's not so much that I don't want to be criticized or hear negatives (something I've gotten a steady diet of for the last three years, I might add), it's that I want to be sure I have the best chance possible of giving them a presentation of work that isn't going to waste their time. I also don't want to contact people who already say on their sites that they do not take unsolicited work.

That said, I have attempted some conversations with some MFA-level teachers, to very little result. So I'll just have to hope my plan to elicit .... any kind of response ... is actually productive.

I have been reading a lot, still. A Jeff Wall essays book, about 5 or 6 other monographs, a collection of writing about women in art, Justine Kurland's "Spirit West," which is something I've been seeking out even before I arrived at TAMUC.

I've also gotten (somewhat) into poetry. I've been poring over Major Jackson of late. Lots of studying about symbolism and topics. Regional influence, influence of poetry on photography, and so on.

And finally, I've continued to explore the cinematic form, including more work into producing supplemental video. The video has fallen prey to "busy schedules," but I've got an opening in late March which should help things out. Meanwhile, I just feasted on "Moonlight," visually and philosophically. 

And to finally fix the work issue, I have about seven shoots scheduled for the next week, with plans to make some interstitial landscape shots, too. I feel like this will be mostly my final flourish before I complete a set for exhibition and have to turn my attention more fully to wrapping up the academic end of this degree. I'm sure I'll be making work during that, but it will have to be sporadic, or it will have to just join the body of work after this is done. This last string of images will include more indoor work, a few more landscapes featuring relics of East Texas industry, more colors of clothing, and some more action. I'll have nearly 80 images to pull whatever my final number is ... currently 30 is the most I could ever hope to afford to hang, even if I liked them all. And this isn't like 5 of the same shoot ... I am talking nearly 80 different photoshoots where I drag a bag, flash, stand and 20+ pound battery pack along whatever terrain I need to (sometimes half a mile) and try to fight the wind and not always succeed in catching the light after the legs of the stand fail or I had taken the weight off to move it. 

So in short, I have been working, researching, perfecting and consuming nonstop. As I did during the initial Summer-Fall period. Work is extremely time-consuming, but I couldn't do any of this if I couldn't support myself financially, so what can I do? 

The work continues.

Still no luck on the studio visit front, but I hope hours spent with artist lectures on Youtube, mountains of books, magazines, websites, interviews, etc will count for something.

Enter video

I have long been resistant to doing video, despite my first photographic idol (Spike Jonze) becoming quite famous as an Oscar-winning director of movies and music videos. Honestly, I've been resistant of anything but photography. I'm a purist. But that's not really true.

I get me out-of-medium kicks through books, music and movies. Maybe these aren't as "pure" as painting or sculpture, but I don't really care? 

Nevertheless, I have thought about dabbling in motion now and then – just not at the detriment of photography. I think of motion as garish and unnecessary in a lot of cases. I believe strongly in the storytelling abilities of the still photograph. 

That said, illustrating a typical scene I might see in my head when I'm making one of these photographs does seem quite useful. I see something like this play out with just about every photograph I take in this series, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

I'm what I would call "film school bad," but I'm pleased enough to go forward with this one. Which is, I guess, about how I feel about anything I shoot. 

Consider it all

Not sure this one fits in, but strong color, unusual subject. Strong light, strong color. Contemplation. Strength. A look outside. Need to sit down and clarify the role of indoor shots in this series. But first, sleep. 

(Quick tally for Tuesday's meeting: 
46 "Will Consider" to about 21 "meh." photos posted here. Excluding large amounts of images that did not require enough effort to consider separate. I probably had about 5-8 shoots fail to produce any results, and probably about 5-10 shoots that have rescheduled past Tuesday or vaporized. So technically, we have nearly 70 shots out of a potential 80-90, 46 of which I'm still seriously considering for the MFA exhibition. Considering the amount of work that generally goes into making one of these work, I feel like I'm doing ok. I've really only wasted a couple of available weeks in my eyes, and a couple of those involved my camera or lens being repaired. 

Join the party

Full disclosure: I shot this in late March. Technically in enough time to be included in my May review. However, it needed some extra time in the oven. So here it is. So far, this will be one of only maybe two images I might use that were shot before the final review in May. Don't know how sticky the rules are, but the editing process is fresh, so that work on this is technically part of my Semester Away work.

Anyway, I like* this photo. And it's currently in contention with dozens of others for potential inclusion in my final.  

*To answer the "well, why do you like it"? question: Its pleasing aesthetics, its outdoor placement, vague occult imagery, the subject's mature/knowing expression, her dominance of the East Texas landscape. The strong black theme recalls Victorian fairy paintings, in which characters in black sometimes suggested a more mischievous or less whimsical fairy (or mourning). Similar characters in this body of work tend to possess a more sinister energy, or be the people those with ill intent do not wish to come across. Are they villains? Not so much in my work. They are the embodiment of justice, revenge or are anti-heroes in this realm. By not portraying her as a broken/mourning victim/evil figure, I have avoided/broken the more common type associate with this color of clothing. That is not to say that mourning is weak, nor are moments of frustration or defeat. But that is another discussion  ...

Some polishing.

-Down a rabbit hole so deep. Trying to keep it from going too out of control – I want to have a manageable thesis. I'll let myself fall all the way down when that's done. Still, Tuesday's meeting will provide the proper sense of direction. 
-Going to talk to some East Texas ... experts? Not really. People who have pondered things more formally than I have. Whose other perspectives can enrich mine. 
- Gregory Crewdson makes work about his home. 
- Victorian Fairy Painting
- Despite this East Texas obsession, this work is still about the women.
- In fact, it's incomplete without either one.
- The women as heroes was fine (as it was presented in May). but the adversarial ET galvanized it.
- Now a tight circle, gaining more and more definition.
- Fixation on not being about the male gaze. The photos are beautiful, The subjects are, too. My goal is to push WHAT is shown as beautiful. This will involve some very exciting shooting coming up in the next few weeks. (Busy schedules are so hard to work with, but this will be very much worth it.) As I say, "My umbrella is wide." I think close inspection shows more diversity than one might perceive at a glance.



Look back

Shot this a couple of weeks ago, but wasn't feeling it. I finally edited it tonight, and here it is. 


I have always appreciated Stephen King's On Writing as a brilliant instructional autobiography, but have never thought I'd care much for his actual fiction. Even though I had dabbled in The Stand, it all seemed so bleak. I do well enough making myself sad or scared. However, an inkling I still can't recall or figure out made me want to read IT. I remember attempting to watch the ABC miniseries adaptation when I was about 10, and managing to not be scared long enough to watch the final confrontation. Flush with Audible audiobook credits, and lacking much time or concentration because of work and needing to save what's left of my reading tolerance for thesis work, I decided to take on the audiobook of the thriller about a killer clown. 

It was not far into the first chapter that I realized this was far more than a distraction – this was actually relevant to my work. The fictional town of Derry, Maine, might as well be the Piney Woods of East Texas in my mind. And while my dark forces are not necessarily as tangible as the shape-shifting monster that is the eponymous character, the place being the villain remains the same. 

I should point out that we aren't talking 1:1 here – there are striking differences and other issues a mirror comparison would bring up, but IT stoked a lot of thoughts and has helped my motivation and goals solidify. 

Despite a couple of things I was uncomfortable with, I am utterly thrilled I decided to include this in my research. It's likely that this won't even make a blip in my thesis, due to the unfortunate lack of academic research on King, but the contribution to my work will prove to be immense.