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Back in the blogging saddle again!  In the guise of trying to prepare for graduate program number two I’ve been doing some fun reading, which has led to even more fun image creation.  Perspectives on Place: Theory and Practice in Landscape Photography by J.A.P. Alexander has been a great blessing in disguise for me.  I picked this book up at the 2016 SPE conference in Las Vegas earlier this year, having never seen it and also realizing the potential it had to guide me along this creative path I’m on.

The pages within spew forth so much wonderful information and many helpful exercises, which come at the end of each chapter and inspire the reader to create small photographic projects in response to what was read/learned in the previous pages.  So that’s really why I’m here, to start talking about the newest summer fun project I’ve been working on.  As the assignment explains:

“Create a series of photographs that describe the place where you live.  You might wish to use this opportunity to turn your camera on the different places that you visit each day and try to make some interesting compositions with familiar subjects, or you may with to explore some parts of your town or neighborhood that you do not yet know well…”

So, I’ve been shooting lots of rolls of film, and compiling some images of what I think of when I hear the phrase “the place where you live” – when I finally get around to developing them (hopefully in the next week or so), I’ll make a more official post.  Though for now I’ll share the following image, something I was already working on a little bit when I stumbled upon this book – which directly relates to the feelings of home, place, space and living.

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Been tossing ideas around in my head since January or so, snapping a few rolls in LA, and MANY rolls on the road back east – now its time to develop, scan, and process all this shit, and as Todd Hido suggests “ALL KILLER, NO FILLER” – so you’ll see more images when they are damn ready to be seen.

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Show is up.

Defense is right around the corner.

Paper is underway.

It is what it is.

I think the one thing that I will be asked/questioned about the most is the existence of the one small image on the back wall of my space.  It was something I had wanted to add for quite some time, I just hadn’t found the right image.  It marks the next step in my works evolution, a turning point if you will.  I was encouraged by three different artists I spoke with to really push the overall idea further, to convey what I’ve been trying to say about these unexceptional spaces in newer ways, to avoid repetitiveness.  The small image, made that size intentionally, shows the existence of the enjoyment found in these underwhelming environments: a used firework.  It is the next step in the microcosm of this idea, starting with the overall space – massive, zoomed out, taking everything in.  Then the piles – more focused, drawing the eye to a particular aspect of the overall space, creating a portrait and record of what happens within the space.  The firework – the closest detail, the proof of human use, the surprise found in the subtlety of these spaces.

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As my final critique before showtime looms, I am prepared.  I think.  In the past few weeks I have been working with mentors and visiting artists to narrow down my image selection, as well as size requirements and framing options for everything pertaining to the upcoming thesis exhibition.  I had a really awesome studio visit with Brian Ulrich, Anna Shteynshleyger, Michael Goodson, Shannon Benine, and Tim Rietenbach all at the same time.  The idea was daunting at first, but having the three excellent photographic minds of Ulrich, Shteynshleyger and Benine as well as Michael and Tims outside input was incredibly helpful, and being able to have a cohesive conversation about my work that bounced between all of us answered lots of questions, and helped me practice for talking about the images.  The best part about the visit was having Anna and Brian both recognize the feeling I’ve been working to evoke within my images.  The existence of the fallow and unexceptional nature of my images was very noticeable to them… which was a welcoming result.

The lightboxes are still in play, and I am focusing on size, frame material and thickness, as well as color options to best match the other works and to fit in the gallery.

The recent development and changes that are occurring are as follows:

a. I’ve eliminated two entire series from the work that will be shown – mainly due to size constraints in the gallery location I have, I got feedback about the risks of having an overly-crowded space and I have to agree.  Also, both the series that were eliminated don’t precisely convey the same concepts as the pieces to be shown, so they may become referential in my written thesis, but won’t be shown in the gallery.

b. Relics.  As I have been shooting over the last two semesters I have been collecting small items/relics from each place I photograph.  These items are similar to the photographs in their unexceptional nature – straw, broken bricks, a broken shovel, gravel, etc. – that exist in the spaces I have photographed.  The potential plan right now is to possibly have a shelf or pedestal displaying these items, to help drive home the concept of just how overlooked the existence of these places is, and literally inferring importance by placing them on a pedestal in a gallery setting.  Still mulling this idea over.

c. video?  Anna Shteynshleyger mentioned how interesting a still video of these places could be.  A video piece that just remains stationary, as if it were one of my photographs, simply existing with subtle movements and the ambient sound found within these spaces.  I believe it might be a little too late for that idea, in terms of the exhibition, but I am going to experiment with adding a sound element to the still/lightbox images in a way to hold the attention of the viewer a bit longer.  We shall see.

I’ve been reading some new things and looking at a few new artists, the most influential so far is Michael Vahrenwald and his Universal Default series, amazing work!

Next time I critique, my work will be in the gallery, so this is it on the random musings about selection and hanging issues, here we go!

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so christmas/new years break happened, and some photography happened as well.  lately i have been focused on a single statement that i think will embody the whole idea of my thesis, and that is ‘consider the landscape.’  i am trying to get the viewer to consider what they think of when they hear the word landscape.  what is pristine? what is beautiful? what is worth looking at vs. what isn’t? my goal is to show that it is ALL worth looking at, especially the banal and unexceptional spaces.  my images have taken shape in four different ways: piles, lights, pathways and spaces – and as i look through all my photographs, old and new, those four things have been focal points in everything i look at.

piles: act as a barrier, a stopping point within the frame that causes the viewer to have to stop, look around, figure out what the pile is obstructing.

lights: illuminate and create importance on one particular space within the image, almost creating a second image within the first.

pathways: lead the way, creating a place for the eye to travel, a visual escape route.

spaces: simply exist, void of any tangible or necessary thing.

i’ve been working on image selection and framing options lately, now that we have a better idea of the gallery space the final exhibition will be in.  i’ve been printing out various sizes and setting up different arrangements.  next in line is deciding a  few things: polaroids, do i use them? i am still hung up on them for some reason, so i need to work out those details if i want to include them.  also: the letters i’ve been writing to serial killers about my work, but that’s probably far more random than it sounds.

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The work of Erek Nass employs continuing experimentation and exploration of filtering perception; often tricking all five of the senses with finely constructed technologically savvy pieces. His artistic output, which spans from large whole-room installations to multiple small pieces, attracts you with its unique design and clean presentation – and the patient viewer is pleasantly rewarded with an individual and personal art experience.

In a recent group show at Lumos Gallery in Columbus Ohio, Nass was able to successfully demonstrate his drive to confuse and intrigue the senses. At the center of the works was a small cone, which emitted an array of pleasant odors and agreeing sounds when the viewer ventured to bring their face close enough to the piece, though they would disappear if the viewer pulled away. This lovely sensory illusion, which utilized motion sensors and a parametric speaker mounted out of direct sight, truly grasps at what Nass’s explorations are all about: a search for personal accumulation of perspective on the world. Nass approaches these works with the idea that many various filters influence the perceptual world. From man-made filters such as video screens and camera lenses to naturally occurring ones that range from a foggy skyline to our own memory, Nass’s experiments sequester and intensify these filters to create postponed ticks in time, so that they can be contemplated on a deeper level by willing viewers. The main piece in the recent Lumos show is a perfect exercise in patience, and the reward a vigilant viewer receives. Comprised of an amalgam of a projector pointing straight down, a slanted mirror, a small tray of water and a series of hoses that pumped out water vapor, the installation projected an ever-moving, ever-changing image upon a hanging backdrop. The image was often disrupted and abstracted by the simple airflow of the gallery, creating a captivating exercise in patience to wait and see what was being projected when the vapor and loosely hanging backdrop calmed down for that split second.

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This work brings to mind the work of Gary Hill, and his famed Tall Ships installation piece, which featured moving and disappearing figures that reacted to the presence of the spectator – ‘running away’ when the approaching onlooker got to close – triggering a range of unconscious emotive reactions activated by the interaction with something alien and unfamiliar. Nass is getting to that place within his own work, drawing in the spectator with an unfamiliar yet very inviting piece of artwork – and then altering their expected perception of what an experience viewing art can be.

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had an eye-opening studio visit with ofer wolberger recently, and he helped confirm a lot of reservation i have been having with my project.  SO, things are changing on certain levels.  primarily, i am altering the way i choose to talk about the photographs i am taking: before, i was looking at things from way to broad of a viewpoint (’empty places’, ‘importance of the everyday’, etc.), so i’ve chosen to narrow it down.  i’ve also decided to start bringing some undertones of the problems of over population into the conversation.  last year we discussed our tentative plans about our thesis projects as we moved into the summer, one of the topics i mentioned tackling was the idea of over population; and in many ways that is what my work has been this semester: unpeopled places.

over the summer i was reading a lot about landscape, specifically a book by frank gohlke where he addressed emptiness within landscapes, referring to them as ‘unpeopled places.’  this term has come to be a major influence on my mindset when i take photographs, and i see it as a lasting impact on how i will talk about my work in the future.

i’ve also made some changes technically.  having made all my pictures this semester using a very wide-angle lens, i’ve chosen to stop using the wide view that has dominated my images thus far.  ofer pointed out that the use of the wide angle, while nice at capturing a lot of the foreground and surrounding space, limits the images and makes them look very moon-like and somehow off.  they are immediately recognizable as having been shot with the wide-angle lens, and this brings up the question of why the technique was used in the first place, and the conversation quickly moves away from the intended meaning.  i am going to play with adjusting the lens corrections in photoshop to hopefully fix some previous images that i do like, but for now it is time for a different lens, and a different view.  thankfully the overall content of what i will be shooting is not going to change too drastically, so all this gibberish about change won’t seem hugely apparent.

with my final critique of the semester right around the corner, who knows what i’ll show and discuss, but something will be there…

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had my MFA midterm review on friday,and thankfully everything went well.  i got lots of good input from both my mentors, thesis instructors and faculty who were present to look over my progress.  the general consensus is that i am on the right track, and i just need to narrow in on my imagery choices and presentation options, so i’m happy with the review.  i have fully grasped onto the theme idea of being unmoored, something one of my thesis instructors said when thinking about my images – i see it as a perfect way to think about and view the pictures i’ve been taking, as some sort of place that exists but is simultaneously unattached to anything and full of ways to escape if needed.  here is a basic rough artist statement that i have been working on for a show that i will be entering using some of my images:

“Unmoored”

 “Our existence in one specific space or environment is often fallow, unfulfilling and inert – leaving us with a need to create false paths and escape routes to be able to find some level of comfort with where we are. These images ask the question why stay in one specific place, and what exactly makes that space uniquely mundane enough to want to remain. The images embody succinct stoppages along a randomly generated timeline, and the unpeopled landscapes in an urban environment are used to emphasize a parallel moment in time when the feeling of dissatisfaction with any one place is constant.”

the other big thing that came out of my midterm review was the idea of giving myself a set of technical and emotional rules for when i am shooting, to help narrow my scope of choices for everything about how, where and when i choose to snap a picture.  when i have them all fleshed out i will post them here.

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just finished up a week of travels in maine.  i visited five different cities/areas that i once called home to snap pictures and think about things.  i think i’ve made some headway with the direction of some of my images, and some not.  i find myself constantly being hung up on things that are not at the forefront of importance, which is making me feel a bit iffy at this point in my process.  but, i must soldier on and do what i usually do: go and take pictures.  i feel like LOTS of the images i’ve been making wont end up being used, but in some ways it’s all part of the journey.

ideas are swirling around, and i keep finding little bits of inspiration along the way.  been having a lot of fun with my polaroid camera again, so i think i will include a piece with polaroids in it for the final show, i hope to at least.

lastly, i’m currently stuck at the airport in portland maine, and by the time i get on my delayed flight to chicago, i will have already missed my connection to columbus… soooo maybe i won’t be in crit tomorrow after all.