I’m on a social media diet. This isn’t the first time that I have done this, but this time the act of suspending Facebook, deactivating my Twitter, and pretending that I actually used Google+ seems more pointed and significant. I realized that I have been using the steady drip of social media to distract myself from my actual work–making images, occasionally writing, and, honestly, exposing myself to new work. Coincidentally, I recently learned the theory that, if you spend 1 hour per day reading/researching within your chosen field, in 7 years you will be an “expert”. I’m not exactly certain the validity of this claim or what it means to be an “expert” in the world of quasi-conceptual, space-oriented photo. However, I would like to be an expert. So, for the next 3 months or so, I’ll be knee-deep in reading and researching, my only digital mass communication outlet consists of this blog and my neglected portfolio. Wish me luck (it is much needed).
I have been incredibly frustrated with photography lately and as a result, have been struggling with my own creativity. The weather in LA has been absolutely perfect for trekking around, exploring and making images. There’s a Nike missile site still lingering in the hills that I’ve been itching to checkout. However, my shiny new 5D and Zeiss lens is still tucked away in my camera bag – an unfitting slumber for such a great tool.
The way that we produce and consume images has really dug into my nerves. It seems that every single image is a call for a tumblr blog. As soon as one gets an idea it must be turned into a blog of similar images. These images are then firmed up into an “official” photo essay. Shortly after, the photo essay is magically reborn as a self-published book.
It all feels so disposable and lacking in spontaneity and chance – two things that photography has always been able to capture and play with. An image rarely gets to be an image and, if you’re an artist that uses photography in a less-than-serial way (such as I do), it seems pointless to keep working.
Not so long ago (almost a decade) I was in Italy studying color reduction woodcut printmaking with one of my professors from the University of Nebraska. At the time, I was under the impression that I was some sort of gifted, up and coming printmaker. (It is truly remarkable what a perfect storm of ego the mixture of anti-depressants, alcohol, and youth can produce). It seems like an eternity and, by all current accounts it was. I mean, look at this photo… it was taken with an honest-to-gawd film camera because there was no alternative that could do a suitable job. The shock, the horror… the disappointment! I remember returning from this trip (I was 20 and this was my first time leaving the US), dropping off my numerous rolls of film at what I thought was a reputable lab and then waiting. And waiting. And eventually getting some of the worst prints of my life.
When I was working my way through the first year of the MFA program at the University of Minnesota, I took an amazing class called “Performed Photography” with a professor who would later end up as a vital part of my thesis committee. The course consisted of making projects that used photography (or any media really) as a documentary tool to record and present the actions or conceptual artworks that were produced by students outside the studio. So, less focus on photography as a fine-art medium and the pursuit of aesthetics and more attention to the photograph as witness or document.
This course continues to influence me and has been on my mind almost daily as I walk around the neighborhood and try to orient myself to life in LA. One assignment in particular sticks out: the walking assignment. We were directed to create a piece that utilized walking in some way – as the basis for the piece, or as a result, byproduct, whatever – the direction was wide open.
Somehow this was the assignment I flubbed. Continue reading
LA is the perfect place for the process of self-renewal. After all, the city’s architecture seems to be in a cycle of demolition and reconstruction much like the faces of women just over the hills from me in Beverly Hills. So far I have little to report, other than my intimidation. Sometimes, you see a place laid out before you on google maps and you can’t help but think, “I can handle this” or “I could live there in a heartbeat”. Such were my sentiments before moving here.
But reality often has different plans for us. When we move from the abstraction of space to the realities that make a place a place and such has been my experience in the first week of living here.
However negative my initial reaction to Los Angeles may have been, I can already sense the inklings of new work ahead. The dialog between space and place (along with the phenomenology of passing through each), takes on a unique tone here. Public space feels highly abbreviated, unpopulated, and ripe for intervention.
Cross fingers now.