(Click on images to enlarge.)
(Click on images to enlarge.)
This may be a stretch in terms of a holiday link, but a good part of my Labor Day weekend was spent revisiting my career as a professional photographer specializing in corporate/industrial editorial assignments. A friend of mine had expressed interest in seeing samples from my commercial portfolio, most of which pre-dates the digital age and exists largely in slide form.
I hadn’t shown that work in more than 25 years, and since then, the presentation had gotten broken up in the course of 3 different house moves and a shift in career focus from business to higher ed. Putting something together for her involved emptying a closet full of cartons, spending hours going through boxes of slides amidst the resulting chaos (see below), and then more hours restoring order.
It all goes to prove that sometimes retirement still involves work!
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Title Slides from an Ancient Career Retrospective:
My first job in photography was painting a white bathroom black for use as a darkroom . . . or was it a black bathroom, white?
I rarely photograph people at work smiling. If work was really enjoyable, it wouldn’t be called work.
A professional photographer is one who makes every mistake in the book — once. After 16 years, I’m still an amateur.
Two of my favorite pieces of photographic equipment: Swiss Army knife (with toothpick); airplane air-sickness bags (good for separating each day’s exposed rolls of film).
Things go wrong so often on assignment, I now take it as a sign that things are going right. If there are no problems during a shoot, then I really begin to worry.
Photographing in cluttered, aging factory environments quickly gives rise to the aesthetic known as the “art of exclusion.”
The question I am most often asked: “Do you photograph women naked?” To which I reply: “I only take my clothes off when I bathe, sleep, or skinny dip.”
[NEWS FLASH] In the midst of writing this update, my camera died: the problem was a lens that wouldn’t retract or extend fully without pushing, pulling, rotating, or some combination thereof. Without anything to lose, I decided to take it apart and see if I could restore it to life. Thirty tiny screws later, I still couldn’t extract enough of the lens to examine it.
Below is a mashup of the deceased, taken with both the iPhone 7, and the 8 megapixel camera I started Pixetera with. Until I find a “real” camera upgrade that fits my specs, these will accompany me on my travels. From what I can see of the current market, it may be awhile :(
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It should be interesting: Any self-esteem I may have had as a long-term professional will, I expect, go down the tubes because of the total disdain I’ve had for smart phones as photographic instruments. Maybe I’ll discover a new way of working, however, and grow to embrace them. Greater miracles have occurred for sure.
• • • • •
When I started Pixetera as a photo/day project in 2012, I hadn’t done any personal work in almost 3 decades as a professional photographer. At the time, I didn’t give any thought to the future but when 2013 came and went, and 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 as well, I found myself still going strong. I sometimes think that I’ve been taking photos with a vengeance to make up for all the years that I missed out on doing my own.
Recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve become much more demanding about what I post. Pictures I would have been content with years ago now grow old in a desktop folder called “New”; others that I would have accepted straight out of the camera with only minor processing begin life instead as raw material to be sculpted or worked on (and on and on) until a more satisfying image results.
Last year I became enamored of the unusual color palettes that are sometimes produced with Photoshop’s Inversion option. It’s surprising because the original colors were often what attracted me in the first place. I also like Photoshop’s Oil Paint filter — in moderation — for replacing the sharp realism of photographs with something softer and more lyrical.
If I didn’t feel that I was still exploring the medium, or discovering new subject matter, I’d probably slow down or stop. It certainly helps to be living in a small-size city whose illustrious past and struggling present offer a seemingly inexhaustible bounty of photographic inspiration. Now that I’ve decided to get outside every day for fresh air and exercise, the images come on an almost daily basis.
In February, I began experimenting with the visual stories I call New Novellas, distant relatives, I like to think, of the graphic novel and Duane Michals’ sequences. Unlike those antecedents, however, the narratives always come after seeing the images themselves rather than vice-versa. The different personas I enjoy taking on as narrator are part of the fun.
Mashups, which I’ve been doing for at least five years, continue to be a never-ending source of discovery and pleasure.
I don’t do shows much, and when one of my photos was accepted for the Western Massachusetts 2019 Biennial exhibition (“From Seed To Fruition”), the experience confirmed why not: The recognition was hardly worth the time, energy, and cost involved in being a participant. I have no idea how others do it without being blessed with discretionary resources I lack.
Digital exhibition opportunities, on the other hand, are a different matter. A local gallery stages an open show in the fall and spring that displays images on a large video screen in addition to framed prints. I had 50 photos total in the last two shows I entered at a cost that was a fraction of what I spent for the biennial. Their reception was in inverse proportion to their expense.
Continuing in the same budget vein, I finally broke down — despite all my antipathy to Facebook — and opened an Instagram account at the beginning of the year. Can’t say I understand why it’s preferable to a blog where the artist has more control over the presentation of his or her work, but I’m old school. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a photographer whose Instagram images I feel like following, but the floor is certainly open to nominations :)
May next year at this time find us with a new American president and a Congress fully controlled by Democrats! It’s our democracy’s last best hope.
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In Memory of Morris Goldsmith (July 3, 1907 – August 31,1992)
It’s not a book or retrospective exhibit at MOMA but it’s the closest to either that I can reasonably hope to get, at least for the immediate future. It’s Alighting, my new website, that organizes Pixetera images dating from 2012 — plus some earlier work — in a more systematic fashion than is possible with a chronological blog. Today, it finally went live.
There’s lots to look at — more than 500 images in fact. If you’re like me at a blockbuster museum show, feel free to whip through them like a whirlwind just to get a contact high. Otherwise, take your time and come and go as you like — admission is always free. Don’t forget to bring your friends :)
Know too that any feedback, positive or negative, is absolutely welcome. Brief comments can be left here, but I’d prefer that serious suggestions or criticisms be communicated via phone or email using the contact information you can find at Alighting.
FYI, current work will still be posted on Pixetera so don’t turn the dial (as they used to say in times that now feel pre-historic.) The plan is that at some point, the more exceptional images will also alight on Alighting.
My hope is that the new website marks both the end of one chapter and beginning of another.
On January 1, 2012, I posted my first pictures on Pixetera. It was the start of a yearlong photo/day challenge that immediately turned into a one-or-more photos/day project. Twelve months later I remember being ecstatic that I had accomplished my goal and could now relax, relieved of my self-imposed obligation to take and post images on a daily basis.
Much to my surprise, however, I continued to photograph quite regularly, such that my Pixetera posts have averaged out to one every 1.5 days over the past six years. It’s fun to look back and see where I started and where I am now: Some of the early work I still marvel at; some, I wouldn’t think of posting today. Still, I’m generally pleased at the way the work has progressed.
The reason I’ve been going backward in time is because I’ve started to develop another website where my images can be organized in a way that’s more meaningful than straight chronological blogging. At this point I’m pretty much resigned to the likelihood that the book I’ve been fantasizing about for years will never get done — mostly because of expense and time, but also the necessity of leaving so many photographs on the cutting room floor. Those won’t be problems on the new site, called alighting. There’s also a satisfying sense of continuity in sticking with the medium that birthed Pixetera. Having started my professional career when slide shows were all the rage, I have a special fondness for backlit images.
The downside of all this is that after six full years of picture taking/making, I need to back off a bit from Pixetera: Between eking out a living, railing against our fake president, getting alighting off the ground, cooking, cleaning (on rare occasions), and nourishing an inner self, something had to give. I’ve also been aware of encroaching burnout, a sure impediment to producing fresh and exciting work.
I’ll still be taking photos, just not posting them as frequently as I’ve been doing since 2012. Instead, I’ll be aiming for once every 7-10 days. At the same time, I expect to continue following my blogging friends daily — one of life’s great pleasures I hope to never relinquish. Some of you I’ve only become acquainted with in 2017. You should know that in a year filled with so much destruction, loss, tragedy, and profound disappointment in what this country has become, you’ve become bright spots in my day.
As a consequence of posting more infrequently, I’ll be ending my memorial to terror victims. My fear is that in a worst-case scenario, such posts will take over Pixetera now that the number of photos will be reduced. For better or worse, I don’t have it within me to create another blog chronicling the blood that’s shed in the delusional and horrific perversion of religion.
Here’s to the better angels of our nature in 2018. I like to think that one of them lies behind the photographs we take and why we’re so moved to share them.