collab

“Actors on a Stage”

It was a lightbulb moment. The ship chugged and crunched its way through pack ice. The excited babble of the photographers fell to an awestruck silence as we passed one of Antarctica’s most inspiring sights, an iceberg the size of an apartment block with a deep crystal blue interior. I was shooting from the prow. I turned to look back along the deck and saw about 50 photographers, all shooting from the port side. But one – John Paul Caponigro – had moved to the upper deck and was shooting wave crests on the opposite side of the boat. Why?

Later he explained his philosophy as, ‘actors on a stage’. These images weren’t to be seen singly. Rather they were part of a bigger narrative, characters in a story. Some might go on to become heroes, others were bit part players. For me, a lightbulb went on.

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From two to three dimensions. Suddenly I saw an extra dimension to my work in terms of series and stories. Just as individual words/notes have greater meaning together as a poem/song, so images can have more energy when seen as part of a project. I was possibly the last person on the planet to realise this but projects make us think more deeply about our work as iteration takes over from the endless snapping of new images. But why stop there? If a switch of mindset can have such a beneficial effect, what else could I do to stimulate my creativity and take the next step?

From three to four dimensions. Enter stage right; new technology. Collaboration is something we take for granted. As humans we have a basic need to collaborate. We do it every day with partners, friends and colleagues. More recently it has become a buzzword in social media as technology compresses time and distance to give us the tools to collaborate artistically. Think Adobe Creative Cloud, Asana, G+, Dropbox …etc. Now it is coming of age in photography.

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Enter stage left; Eileen McCarney Muldoon, a fine art and travel photographer and educator based in Rhode Island, USA. Since meeting in Tibet two years ago, Eileen and I have collaborated on a variety of projects. We’ve explored multiple exposures, visual rhymes, incorporating words and working in film and digital. Along the way we made a simple but startling discovery–that despite collaboration being so unusual in photography, it produces dramatic results.

And the benefits aren’t just temporary. When that extra dimension transferred back into our solo work, we realised that we had stumbled on something important, which had enabled us to grow artistically. If it worked so well for us –why shouldn’t it work for others?

The inspiration generated by collaboration will lead you to pictures that will astonish you…and your friends. We have developed a range of tools and techniques to guide you through the collaborative process. You can learn more by checking out ‘Visual Conversations’, a workshop I’m co-teaching with Eileen McCarney Muldoon at Maine Media College, starting June 21st 2015.

Find out about the Visual Conversations Workshop here.

Find more Alumni Success Stories here.

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Image courtesy of Taubman Museum

This is a guest post by Sam Krisch, a John Paul Caponigro Next Step Alumnus who lives and works in Roanoke, Virginia. He has curated an exhibition entitled Paul Caponigro and John Paul Caponigro: Generations which will be showing at the Taubman Museum of Art through March 28, 2015. An exhibition of his work Sam Krisch: Elements will open at Virginia Tech’s Center for the Arts on December 5, 2014.

             About 18 months ago I was asked to join the staff of the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia as an adjunct curator of photography.  The position was part-time and my job was to act as a proposer and organizer of exhibitions and to meet with others in the curatorial staff to discuss and plan our future programs.  The Taubman Museum opened in 2008 and was a successor to several art museums in Roanoke, a small railroad heritage city in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The facility consists of nine galleries, an exploratory gallery for children, a theatre and an auditorium. It shows all kinds of art including painting, sculpture, ceramics, decorative arts, film, folk art and photography. In recent years it has exhibited works by Dorothea Lange, Edward Burtynsky, Alan Cohen, Civil Rights Photographers of the 1960s, Roanoke Times Photojournalists and several local photographic artists. The notes for one of its current exhibitions “Beg, Borrow and Steal” states that photography “plays a significant role in much of the work, which is represented in the exhibition by artists John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, Richard Prince, David Salle, and Cindy Sherman; all of whom are using manipulated photographic images to create dense collages or appropriating stereotypical portraits in humorous ways.”

           It has been a valuable experience. I have learned that curating is a basic skill that all artists need to use in evaluating their work. We need to examine our artistic influences, create collections and bodies of work, see their evolution over time. Peer review also is vital in artistic growth and again is another data point in the personal curating process. Professional curating is an extension of this skill.

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The Speed Curators

For the past several years I have taught workshops in digital creativity. We use mobile phones as a basis for this practice, but we always start with an exercise in “speed curating.”This is valuable because people start to learn the elements that attract their eye and verbalize those aspects. Recently, I have had the pleasure of participating in leading continuing education programs for art teachers at the Taubman Museum. Some of it has been adapted from my mobile photography courses, but the speed curating exercise is a vital part of the day.

The exercise begins with about 200 5”x 5”of my iPhone prints spread out on tables in the library. I tell the group “I am setting a timer for 6 minutes. During this time you can look BUT YOU MAY NOT touch the images. Don’t touch. Your assignment will be to choose between 6-8 images that work together and that you will present as if you are a gallery or museum curator. After that you will have 6 minutes to collect your images and then we will take them in the next room.”

It is always interesting to see the personalities at play. Some aggressively grab images and others hang back only to be disappointed that some of their favorites have already been taken. They have to either rethink their collections or find similar images. This mimics a curator’s dilemma of sometimes not being able to get all the works he or she wants and having to substitute work.

In the board room we talk about why we have chosen our images. The art teachers are used to talking about their own work as well as the work of their students. Each has a different idea and a different style. Some strictly look for artistic elements such as composition, contrast, color and form. Others use the images to tell a personal story or struggle that they are working through. Some even use song lyrics or musical references. All bring their own creative views to the collections. The act of rejecting and culling is as valuable as the act of inclusion. The same is true whether curating personal work, a personal collection of other artists, or for an institution.

Campbell Gunn, a fellow alumnus of John Paul Caponigro’s workshops, has created a portable collection of curated work. He finds photographers that he admires and organizes them in a collection on his iPad. Campbell says: “I simply create a dropbox master folder with subfolders for each photographer I am interested in and then as I find images that I think are instructive for my own visual reference library I copy them across. Then I have a Lightroom catalog that I use as a database which then syncs with an iPad app called PhotoMgrPro. The theme is developing ‘visual literacy’ or a ‘pattern language’. As with all languages, if you have a basic vocabulary and understand grammar, you can combine words or phrases to create new sentences (or in this case images) – without falling into the trap of being derivative or repetitive. It helps you find your own voice by understanding what it is in others voices that resonates most.”It is important to note that you should only copy low res images for this collection, keep them for your private use, and don’t copy images from books. Copying images from books is against the law in some countries.

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From Two Generationsto “Generations

When I started curating I had a number of ideas for photography exhibitions and busily contacted artists and curators from other institutions to attempt to work up presentations for our curating committee. My projects were competing with space and scheduling of other exhibitions in other media. The Taubman Museum keeps variety and balance in its programming and even within each medium is careful not to overdo one type of painting or one type of photography. For example, a fine documentary photography exhibition that may of been available to us was discouraged by the committee because of recent documentary exhibitions. The committee was interested in the Paul Caponigro and John Paul Caponigro exhibition that had shown several times in other institutions and encouraged me to explore this work.

I was delighted because not only has the Caponigros’work strongly influenced my own,  but John Paul is my mentor and friend and there was a comfort level that was valuable in planning this exhibition. The Caponigros were very gracious in making their personal collections available to us and sent us a list of the works that had been exhibited.

We found a slot in our gallery schedule that worked and it was one of our larger galleries. Our Deputy Director of Exhibitions and I walked into the gallery and realized that we could have a very sterile show. It is a large room with almost 200 feet of wall space and is an average of 40 feet wide. I saw a long row of father on one wall and a long row of son on the other. The room would have very little flow, very little interest. We needed more work, we needed a better design.

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With help from the artists and our Exhibitions staff we came up for a design for the gallery that included temporary interior walls to add interest and variety to the presentation. The walls allow for a dialogue between the two artists. Some of the interior walls have images by father and son that are related, others have a single artist in direct contrast with the other.

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I am a fan of John Paul’s book Process and he had prepared some of the images in that book to form a framed presentation that was ready to display. We thought that it would be very useful for educators to have JP’s thoughts and illustrations on his show in its own separate section. Although the images were set, it became a challenge to provide text within our guidelines for display. Our solution was to take quotes from the book—under fifty words a piece—and let the images and text guide the viewer through that part of the exhibition.

           With the addition of the Process materials we had a show that embraced both the artists and the artistic process, the two generations of vision and work, and the generation of ideas.  We also designed the exhibition in a way that would help slow people down during their walk through the gallery and stimulate discussion—perhaps even argument—about the merits of each artist’s work and their use of two of photography’s main technologies. It has become an illustration of photography’s history, the creative process, and for many their first exposure to two major artists.

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Find out more about Sam Krisch here.

Find more Alumni Success Stories here.

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Congratulations! Alumni Andy Batt’s new book Camera & Craft was voted one of the best photo books of 2014 by photo.net! (Yes. Many of my alumni are or become working pros.)

“An instructional photography book at heart, Camera & Craft is refreshingly conversational. It does dive into the nitty gritty of professional workflow, but it also throws working photographers from a variety of disciplines into the mix to share their stories and working preferences so that you can build the foundation to move your photographic work to the next level. Once you understand and harness the power of the technical tools at your disposal — combining your camera with your craft— you will become a better artist too.”

Here’s what Andy shared about his new book.

“As a way of going about this backwards, let me start with something that happened at the end. After a year of writing the book Camera & Craft, I went to Argentina with JP and Seth. This was a gift from my wife and business partner Therese. It was a perfect gift—it was an immersion in getting my head back together, and finding time for my own photography. It was an amazing time, and the work I created there is still influencing me and moving me forward. This much needed photographic adventure came right on the heels of delivering my final draft of Camera & Craft to my co-author Candace Dobro so she could do an amazing job of polishing my words and making sure that our book was readable and grammatically correct.

The book was a project that came directly from my teaching the online Digital Masters of Photography program for SVA. My experiences there gave me a good idea of an audience for this book: the inspired amateur and the dedicated student of photography. I wanted to craft a book that was conversational and technical, and meant to be read like a class, from front to back. To be blunt: these days anyone can take a good picture. Smart cameras, good automatic software, Instagram and iPhones—all of these enable anybody to call themselves a photographer. So what qualities drive the rest of us? What is it that distinguishes the professional and the fine art photographer from everyone else? One of the answers to that question—in my opinion—is mastery over the tools you use. Whether it’s cameras, lenses or software, I believe that understanding how they work leads to mastery, and mastery opens doors to creativity. My hope is that emerging photographers will learn to put their cameras on manual and take charge of their photography, and become better artists. ” – Andy Batt

Get the book here.

Find out more about Andy Batt here.

Connect with Andy on Facebook and Twitter.

Read more Alumni Success Stories here.

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David Reinfeld’s new photography exhibit Ideograms opens Jan 29 and runs through Feb 15 at the Piermonts Fine Arts Gallery in Piermont, NY

David Reinfeld describes the work in his new exhibit.

“Intention,  Randomness, and Meaning. This is the central theme of my upcoming exhibit Ideograms at the Piermont Fine Arts Gallery from Jan 29- Feb 15, 2015.  It is a series of images about all and nothing, the source for finding meaning and inspiration in my life. This latest series of composite images traces back to my first attempt to make a composite photograph at JP’s workshop several years ago.  His workshop was transformative for me- finally a way to express my imagination as jazz.  I’ve made thousands of composites since that time and my thinking about the composite process has come full circle.  Making a composite now feels the same as walking down the street taking traditional photographs.  Looking back, I think the idea for Ideograms came to me when I was very young; I remember going to the movies just to see the credits.  The photographs are very much a part of two aesthetic constructs- letters that intersect to create new shapes, and letters pasted on the abstract walls of our culture.  The pictures are large, up to 30 x 40”, organized by the interactions of shape and color across the span of each wall area.

When I make Ideogram images, I look for shapes and colors to create new shapes and colors, sometimes all by themselves.  At first, I felt it was important to use photographs of mine that stood strongly on their own.  Now I am more receptive to using any image, looking for constructs hidden in plain sight. Somehow pictures seem talk to each other in this process regardless of how I intervene.  My role seems to be as a guide with an ill formed idea.

I’ve always been intrigued by how letters and symbols create meaning, something from nothing, imagine that!  It’s a curious endeavor, a bit obscure, but endlessly intriguing. It’s like seeing a print come out of the developer for the first time, each time.”

Read more Alumni Success Stories here.

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“Ends of the Earth is a dramatic, photographic voyage of the world’s ice caps and glaciers that depicts the magnificent beauty of the frozen landscape in large format color images.

Martyn Lucas grew up in England and was first introduced to photography by his father, a photographer who taught him composition, contrast, and how to perfectly capture a landscape.  Lucas’ natural talent for landscape photography has led him all over the world, seeing and preserving each new place through the lens of a camera.

Inspired by the Polar Regions, Lucas has quite literally travelled to the Ends of the Earth to photograph the world’s ice caps and glaciers.  These photographs, each breathtakingly beautiful, leave the viewer stunned as they are given the rare opportunity to see the vastness of Antarctica: the coldest, driest, and windiest place on Earth.  Carefully photographing the urgency of global warming and the ice melting at alarming rates, Lucas has been able to present the unseen dilemmas of the world’s climate system.

Like viewing something out of a dream, this haunting exhibition promises to deliver the extreme beauty and silence of the frozen tundra, as seen through Martyn Lucas’ artistic vision.  Each work complements the others when viewed as a whole, and yet each is a distinct work of art on its own.

The artwork of this incredible photographer is nothing short of captivating, revealing the massive size of the ice and the strong current and movement of the icy water.  Viewers are welcome to come celebrate this incredible exhibition January 10, 2015 for the opening of Ends of the Earth, located in the Bunzl Gallery.  Visitors of The Bascom also invited to Martyn Lucas’ Artist Talk and Reception Saturday, March 21, 2015 from 5 to 7 pm at The Bascom.  Experience the wonder of Martyn Lucas’ Polar Regions photography through this breathtaking assemblage of photographs. ”

For more information, please contact The Bascom at 828.526.4949 or visit www.thebascom.org.

Find out more about this exhibit here.

Find out more about Martyn Lucas here.

Read more Alumni Success Stories here.

LensWorkGrasso

Alumni Jerry Grasso’s photographs are featured in the current issue of LensWork magazine. It’s a dream come true for him. Congratulations Jerry!

“One of my “bucket list” items was to be published in what I consider to be one of the most prestigious magazines dedicated to the promotion of fine art photography in the world today: LensWork Magazine. I have been a subscriber since 2004. In fact, I credit the podcasts of editor Brooks Jensen as one of the early influences on my artistic training. There are so many great, brief articles related to photography; more than enough food for thought.

I am humbled and honored to say that my series, “Moorish Influences”, has been accepted and will appear in the December issue #115 of LensWork. My interview and images will also appear on the Extended Edition dvd. And, one of my images even made the cover of the issue!

This series is an exploration of the progression of the impact the Moors had on Spanish architecture from 711AD to 1492AD. This impact can best be described as ordered repletions, radiating structures, and rhythmic metric patterns. These designs captured in my work are based in spirituality. The Islamic view of the world in general emphasizes and symbolizes the infinite nature of the one God. For them, there was an infinite pattern of forms that extend beyond the world and symbolizes the infinite essence of God.

I would like to thank John Paul for his training, guidance and support over the years. Also, I would like to thank my fellow Next Steppers for their encouragement and artistic suggestions that have helped me solidify my goals and techniques.

My dedicated perseverance and determination continues to sustain my passion and my vision. I look forward to my continued growth as I explore new projects and experiment with new visions. And thanks for indulging me in my moment of success!”

Order your copy here.

View Jerry’s statement here.

Find out more about Jerry Grasso here.

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Louisa Paez Michelin’s new exhibit opens tonight Thursday, Dec 18 from 6-8pm in Boca Raton, Florida.

Congratulations!

Find out more about Louisa Paez Michelin here.

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Disko Bay #4, 2013

Sam Krisch’s new exhibit Elements opens at Virginia Tech in Blackburg, Virginia Friday, December 5, 2014 (5-7 pm) and runs through Sunday, February 1, 2015.

“The sheer power and splendor of nature in far-away places is the subject of Sam Krisch’s photographic practice. Over the last five years, Krisch has journeyed to remote locations ranging from the Mohave Desert to Antarctica to capture stunning images of ice formations, the raw force of turbulent waters, and empty expanses of desert landscapes. This exhibition presents a selection of the artist’s digital photographs created between 2013 and 2014, in which his approach to composition verges on the abstract, taking the work beyond documentation into a world of pristine, yet daunting, beauty. These are gorgeous, even idyllic landscapes, tinged nonetheless with the terrifying knowledge that these worlds are slipping away in an irreversible trajectory caused by human forces. Krisch lives and works in Roanoke. He is the adjunct curator of photography at the Taubman Museum of Art.”

Find out more about the exhibit Elements here.

Find out more about Sam Krisch here.

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Exhibit through December 4, 2014

“On Fertile Ground: The Wing Lee Yuen Truck Farm”

Lufrano Intercultural Gallery for Peace

University of North Florida

Jacksonville, FL

The Importance of Personal Projects – By Doug Eng

“We de-prioritize personal projects due to lack of time, commitment, or guilt about working on something that doesn’t generate income or Facebook “likes.” It’s easy to make a great snapshot or prioritize paying work, and hard to find personal projects with depth and meaning. In 2007 my family’s farm of 70 years was being sold and I struggled to find the motivation to photograph the vacated buildings and family houses. Fortunately curiosity overruled and I reconnected with a lifetime of memories of monthly trips to the farm. As I walked through the property with my camera, vague memories were brought into clear focus through the act of photography. Each space, object, and smell, triggered a recollection of my past and realignment with my own origins. The images sat on my computer for several years. In 2010 I received a grant to create an exhibit for the public. I used a framework provided by JP to bring the body of work to a completed state for exhibition with great success. In late 2013, the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery for Peace at the University of North Florida provided another opportunity to exhibit the project. I decided to re-visit all of the images, both content and process. I was surprised to find the difference 4 years made in my own interpretation of the images. Photography is a wonderful medium that allows us to continuously evolve our message. Only after I began to write about the project several years after the images were made and the land sold and cleared, did I realize the importance of creating the only visual record of this American story. I am reminded of a quote by Emmet Gowin: “There are things in your life that only you will see, stories that only you will hear. If you don’t tell them or write them down, if you don’t make the picture, these things will not be seen, these things will not be heard.” It may not be obvious to you why your personal project is important, but it is. Work on it now, before your “farm” is gone. “

Lean more about the On Fertile Ground project here.

Lean more about Doug Eng’s photography and projects here.

View more Alumni Success Stories here.

Willoughby_VisualConverstions

By Olaf Willoughby

“A Visual Conversation sets up a rhythm, a pattern of communicating in which images fit with one another, with a chosen text, a piece of music or artwork of any kind. It helps develop our voice and vision.

Working through a series of Visual Conversations, each becomes a stepping stone which exercises the creative muscles and takes us beyond our regular shooting routines.

Visual Conversations work so well because they are based on the centuries old principle of ‘call and response’. A tradition of improvised exchange evident in everything from Hindu spiritual chants to modern day blues/gospel and jazz. From Japanese Renga linked poetry circles to folded paper stories.

How does this work in practice? I select an image which resonates, share it with you and ask you to shoot an image which rhymes, fits or starts a conversation with the original. Pretty straightforward, although there are systematic approaches to doing this. And still more ways of building that into a dialogue.

Now what if I select a painting by Rothko, or a poem by Edgar Allen Poe or Roberta Flack singing, ‘The first time ever I saw your face’? It’s a little more difficult. It requires more intense study and understanding of the original work of art to interpret it photographically. It stretches our minds to think about art in new ways.

Or how about if we develop the conversation into a narrative through storytelling? There are multiple permutations leading into other exercises…. I’m sure you get the idea. Add into this group discussion and feedback and it becomes an exciting learning experience. Each call and response takes us out of our routine and asks us to think differently about our photography.

But that’s not all. What makes this special is that your creativity can be extended beyond assignments into the process itself. As you’d expect, some Conversations involve working solo but others take ‘the road less travelled’ and involve working together on shared projects.

There is a spectrum of co-operation in the arts. Whilst some prefer to write books alone in coffee shops, others operate in collectives. Some partner up at different stages in the production process (choreographer/dancer, author/editor) and some of the most famous simply collaborate. Think Lennon & McCartney, Picasso & Braque. Look around. Every movie, play, symphony, rock ballad, even architectural space and garden involves artists working together. Yet collaboration is rare in photography. There are examples like Bernd & Hilla Becher or today, the Starn Twins but they are few and far between.

Occasionally we catch a glimpse of the collaborative spirit in photo workshops. At the end of the day, participants gather to share their solo work and you can feel the buzz in the air as people are amazed at the different ways of seeing and shooting, even though they were often at the same location.

Sharing projects captures that buzz and helps us let go of the need to control. We both give and receive in creative decision making and come to see our own work in a different light.

I’ve experienced the benefits of Visual Conversations and collaborative projects first hand. They are fun but clearing the creative blocks arising from routine ways of working can be challenging.Expect to be jolted. But also expect to benefit from taking a different approach to your photography and returning to your personal work refreshed and enhanced.

I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with Eileen McCarney Muldoon, a talented photographic artist in Jamestown, Rhode Island. We’ve captured that creative buzz and put it into a workshop. We’d be delighted if you would check it out. Even better, the course includes complimentary access to Leica equipment.

Plus a guest appearance during the week from a world renowned digital artist. I’ll leave you to guess who that might be!”

For more information contact: olafwilloughby@gmail.com or emmimageloft@gmail.com


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