Wherever I go I explore the world visually with a camera. Sometimes this is during a walk. Sometimes this is during a workshop. Other times it’s while I’m making a body of work. You might think it distracting to think about one thing while you’re doing another but I find that working on two different ideas at the same time often leads to a fertile cross-pollination. I find new ideas this way.
Of course, you’ve got to stay flexible. Recently, while I was leading a photography workshop in Maine’s Acadia National Park I went looking for the cairns so many visitors leave behind. I don’t like them in public lands, because when I go there I want to be able to experience the land uninterpreted. Still, I appreciate the playful contact people have with the land when they make cairns. So to work on my ambivalence I started making art out of the cairns. But this time, they weren’t there. I was pleasantly surprised and a little disappointed, which also surprised me. So I started to make my own cairns to photograph, intending to scatter them before I left, and never got to it because the first two stones I picked up were all I needed that day. The relationships between them and their environment were much richer than I expected. It felt like arranging still lifes, which I did for hours – and I’m sure I’ll do it again.
These studies relate to my series Alignment.
View my Maine Cairns studies here.
View my studies of Maine Artists here.
View more studies of Maine here.
Find out about my Maine fall photography workshop here.
For years I’ve used my iPhone as a sketchbook to play, make images more spontaneously, and explore ideas. I’ve always been fascinated by how the tools we use change our perception. Yet, knowing it wasn’t the tool that made the difference between a study and a finished work, I’d been challenging myself to create a series of images with my iPhone that had as much depth of content and feeling as the images I’ve made with cameras that make higher quality files. Land In Land is the first series I’ve done this with. Here’s a quick look at how it developed.
I knew I was onto something when I saw this first image in New Zealand.
I got confirmation that the idea could be sustained with this second image.
I found that meaningful variations could be found in other locations like California.
This process of discovery was repeatable in Utah.
This new way of seeing finally became intuitive for me, leading to increased productivity in Spain.
My mother (an artist, a picture editor, a designer) has an exceptional eye. When she asked for a print of this last image and hung it near a prized Tibetan tanka, it was confirmation for me that I’d achieved a real depth that carries through to others.
View the suite of images from Maine here.
View the video here.
Listen to the statement here.
A new series of images surprised me during our recent DPD Project Death Valley Workshop. While developing another iPhone initiated project Land In Land I discovered Interference and these images ran away with me in a new direction. I anticipate both series will be expanded with DSLR exposures soon. The iPhone is a wonderful laboratory for experimentation. There is no finer sketchbook or journal. Sometimes what you thought were sketches turn into finished works.
View more images in my Gallery.
View my related series here.
Find out about Print prices here.
Two of my recent studies (experiments made and processed entirely on an iPhone) combine historical photographs with contemporary exposures.
Exposures for Antarctica Now & Then were made at Whaler’s Bay, Antarctica on the active volcano Deception Island.
Exposures for Greenland Now & Then were made in the East Greenland village of Ittoqqortoormiit.
I’ve been wondering if there was any connection between these explorations and the work that was foremost on my mind during these voyages.
At first glance we seem to make many unrelated images, but often it’s just a matter of finding the connections. Sometimes we find the connections between what we were thinking and feeling while we are having the experience; sometimes we find the connections long after; sometimes we never find them. At the very least, doing one thing provides a rejuvenating break from the other. There’s usually more going on than we are consciously aware of.
What connections have I found? I was looking into the spirit of the land in these locations and these two experiences provided stark contrasts to that sensibility. People concerned with the spirit of a place wouldn’t kill whales in the way they were slaughtered in Antarctica; thankfully this activity has stopped. That bygone members of Greenland’s indigenous population had a stronger sense of the spirt of the place and practices for interacting with it than the quickly westernizing current members do was made evident in the art they left behind. Was my experience limited by my cultural inheritance and current circumstances? Could I, a westerner living today, also participate in more sacred ways of relating to the earth? I think so.
The finished images I produced on these trips, for my series Revelation, are evidence of this.
Social networks can be wonderful ways of sharing events in our lives, with or without images. Most posts are seen, commented on, and shared more if they include an image.
Some posts are just images. And there are social networks just for images. This all creates an insatiable demand for images, specifically photographs. Now, over one trillion photographs are made every year. (For the past several years, each year more photographs are created in the current year than in all previous years combined.)
Usually when photographs are shared there is no indication of what kind of photograph it is. They’re all shared equally, almost as if they’re all equal and all made for the same reasons, which they’re not. Never mind that some photographs are of higher quality than others. Making this kind of value judgment is another matter entirely – and not the point here. The point here is that we make many different kinds of photographs for many different reasons. (We quickly disregard the imperfections in family snapshots, sometimes they feel more real and immediate because of them, favoring instead their accuracy and spontaneity. We evaluate and use formal portraits in entirely different ways.) How successful photographs are is determined by how well they do what we want them to do. There is no one set of criteria that can be applied equally to all photographs; instead we apply different criteria to different kinds of photographs.
They shouldn’t all be read the same. If we looked at all photographs as being the same, and if we looked at all photographs in the same ways, we’d make many inaccurate conclusions and miss many important points.
So it’s important to ask, “How do we want the photographs we share to be received?”
Can we make it easier by taking some of the guesswork out of it all and tell our viewers more about what we’re trying to say by telling them more about how we’re trying to say it? There aren’t standard conventions for this – yet. (And we need them.)
In an attempt to embrace the challenge of communicating what kinds of photographs I share, I’ve started using specific language to describe and ways of presenting different types of photographs differently.
Here’s my current solution.
Documents are shared bare with no border.
Studies made during the development of more resolved work are shared with a textured paper border.
Fine art is shared with a matt and frame.
It takes a little extra time to add these touches but I think it’s worth the effort. In the end, I feel I’m communicating more effectively. I also find making the distinction between these types of images personally useful. I become clearer about what I’m trying to do, often while I’m making photographs. I’m better able to assess how well I’ve done what I’m trying to do and don’t waste time and energy applying an inappropriate set of criteria; sometimes this affects both productivity and how I make photographs. And finally, because I ask these questions I find new ideas – and that may be the most rewarding part of this process.
How do you share images in social networks?
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My most recent study, Antarctica Now & Then combines historical photographs with contemporary exposures made at Whaler’s Bay on Antarctica’s active volcano Deception Island – made and processed entirely on an iPhone.
View more Studies here.
Find out about our next Antarctica digital photography workshop here.
I find making images with my iPhone extremely stimulating. For me, the device implicitly offers an invitation to play, reminding myself how important spontaneity is in making good images, and to experiment, growth and innovation require risk. Doing this offers me an opportunity to make images in situations, of things, in ways I ordinarily wouldn’t. It also raises very important questions, “When should I use a more professional tool?”, “When should I return to my standard practices?”, “What’s gained and what’s lost?” I haven’t found a single easy answer. I’ve found many hard ones – and more questions. Simply engaging this process has made me see in more versatile ways and make stronger images, both studies and finished works.
Here are a few of my recent experiments.
Use standard tools as props.
Bring new props.
Combine photographs and drawings.
Make double exposures.
When I start making images with my iPhone that I would ordinarily make with a DSLR it’s probably time for me to switch tools – again.
Find out more about my Acadia Maine Fall Foliage Workshop.
Learn more about iPhone photography here.
During my recent Fall Foliage / Acadia Maine Workshop we explored many of the highlights of Acadia National Park; Cadillac Mountain, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Monument Beach, Sieur de Monts, Wonderland and more … including an overnight stay on the Schoodic Peninsula at The Schoodic Institute).
We had great color, great weather, and great light. Great weather means a little bit of everything; clear sunny days with direct light, overcast days with soft indirect light, fog and mist, even a little rain (perfectly timed, mostly over night). It was an almost perfect study of weather, the many lights it brings, and the many moods it creates. We oscillated between two powerfully magnetic poles, the colorful forests and dramatic seacoast.
People ask me if it’s challenging to make images in a place I’ve visited so many times. I tell them its like reconnecting with an old friend; the relationship gets deeper. What’s most challenging is that many of the subjects don’t complement and even challenge key aspects of my life’s work, so I take a lighter more personal approach and rather than rushing to finished professional results I engage in deep play, asking many questions and trying many things, both new and old, to find more clarity in my creative life.
Here are a few of the sketches I produced on sight with my iPhone.
You can enjoy many more images on Google+.
Find out about my next Fall Foliage / Acadia Maine Workshop here.
Email email@example.com to receive advance notice on our next Acadia Maine Fall Foliage Workshop.
We made many memories during our recent boutique (limited to 6) workshop in Amalfi, Italy. The coastal towns of Amalfi and Positano (famous for making world class ceramics, paper and limoncello), the international concert series in Ravello, the sunny Isle of Capri, the Greek ruins of Paestum, and the ruins of Pompeii once buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius are a few of the places we visited. Of course, the food and wine was fantastic!
You can enjoy my images of from our recent adventure on Google+. They’re an assortment of spontaneous sketches, rather than a collection of fully finished pieces that develop a cohesive theme. They’re not likely to become a body of work, but a few of them will influence other bodies of work.
Find out more about our recent Amalfi workshop here.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive advance notice on our next Amalfi workshop.