Monday, December 27, 2010

Down River

Yesterday. I was cruising Belmont Shores the hip beach section of Long Beach for images. The sun was nicely diffused by some residue cloud moisture from the previous day's rain. I eventually meandered my way to the Alamitos Bay side of the peninsula. The tide was low and laying neatly along the beach, parallel to the shoreline, was a column of debris. The refuse was an olio of plastic, styrofoam, tree branches, and other crap that had made the long journey from its origin, the streets of East Los Angeles county. Most of it had probably already been in the storm drains, lying dormant until it was swept up by the recent rains and finally flushed through the storm drain's intestines flowing into the San Gabriel river and eventually swept out to sea. Conversely and ironically this junk finds its way back to land by the eastward ocean currents emanating from where the storm came. Dumped on the beaches where it now rests for those who live in very nice coastal properties to view while sipping on their morning coffee. This debris was able to survive the long journey because it's an entwined mix of floatable and hardy non-biodegradable detritus. One, although I would not recommend it, could safely walk barefooted on it because its sharp edges had been worn smooth due to its long eroding journey along asphalt, concrete, the ocean's bottom, then finally buffed by the fine sand of the beach. The debris would not entice such strong feelings of disgust if it consisted merely of broken branches and other naturally occurring organic matter; however, the ugly imprint of modern civilization has it's footprint all over it. I picture, staring at a remnant of a Styrofoam cup, someone however long ago discarding it after exceeding its purpose without thought or consequence. To that at best uneducated person it was only a useless expendable cup, but multiply that by hundreds of thousands and what results is what you see on my post. And what washes up on the beaches is only a minutia of what ends up in the ocean. Where do all those cigarette butts go that you see smokers toss out of their cars. Do you think those butts are biodegradable?
There was another photographer also documenting the mess. He blamed the debris on corporations for producing the non-bidegradble mess. This made me laugh, knowing how the new congress will attempt to whittle away at environmental regulations enacted under the Obama administration, which they label as job killers. I disagree with my colleague. I say, look no further than us. We did this.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Keeping it Analog

In Brian's last class I showed my tintype of Larry. This image, taken directly onto a tintype with an 8x10 camera, with 300 mm lens wide open at 5.6, was a 4 second exposure. Fortunately, Larry was able to hold very still. I am still learning how to spread the emulsion onto the plate as you can see by dark spots on the edge of the plate. I feel they work for this image, but my inability to spread the emulsion evenly made many of the plates unusable. But I got one, and in the end that's all that matters. You can have a successful shoot if you have 99 horrible images but one great photograph. Likewise, you can have a painfully unsuccessful shoot if you have thousands of just good images.
One of the other students asked me if I would ever do a tintype from an inkjet transparency-- a contact print. I answered absolutely not, just like I can't imagine making a platinum/palladium print from a digitally produced negative. To many I might seem stuck in the past, which admittedly I am, but I consider using digital technology to obtain an analog affect cheating. It's an insult to the masters. She seemed a bit surprised by my response.
As is in most instances the better answer came to me much, much later. What I love about making tintype images in camera is the result is first generation-directly from light rays to emulsion, very much like a polaroid. There is also the mystery of not knowing I have an image until after the required fix time and I turn on the light in the darkroom . The bottle of Ag plus does not come with a film speed, although after some trial and error I start by assuming it has an ISO of about 1/2. And it doesn't hurt to play it safe and overexpose it. But that's the magic of the tintype process-- it's inexact.
On the other hand if I was to make a tintype with a digital transparency it would be indirect; the image would have to make its way through at least two computers (I consider an printer a computer), and the soul of the image would be lost in a binary code. And what you would see embedded in the tintype would not be nearly as magical.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Artistic Profile

Hi All,
In August the city of Lakewood sent out a video crew to film me at Phantom Galleries where I had my show, Lakewood, a Photographic Journal of Sacred American Journal. I thought Jerome Academia, who produced and edited the piece did a marvelous job. It's a bit awkward for me to watch myself. As I can so easily see the flaws of my photographs; I can, likewise, see the flaws of my character. Cheers....

Monday, December 6, 2010


Sydney and I recently visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art primarily to see the current exhibition of William Eggleston. I have been an admirer of Eggleston’s work since I was introduced to it about ten years ago. Like many other of my contemporaries his pictures have and will continue to influence my own. But this evening rather than just appreciate Eggleston’s work, (Actually, I can never just appreciate photography, when I look at the work of others I have a terrible habit of torturing myself about my work. If I wish to merely enjoy art I’ll view sculpture and paintings, two mediums I have no intention of dithering in) I wanted to understand why his work is so revered.

I acutely studied Eggleston’s Color Dye Transfer Prints. The simple answer to my inquiry is he is a genius. He was/is able to do with a camera and color film what Miles Davis could do with a trumpet, Brando a script, Picasso a brush, and Updike a typewriter. They could take the same instrument their contemporaries used but do something their contemporaries couldn’t: take something simple and make it brilliant. William Eggleston was born with the innate talent to see an angle that composed a normally mundane chromatic scene into a two dimensional masterpiece.

In the forward of William Eggleston’s Guide, the book originally published in conjunction with Eggleson’s exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art in 1976, John Szarkowski explains that before Eggleston photographers were struggling with color film in their camera. Color photographs were either taken without consideration of the hues and form was ignored, or with pretty colors being the focus resulting in an image that, “comprises of beautiful colors in pleasing relationships” (Szarkowski 9), yet substantially meaningless. Eggleston was the first to be able to organize colors the way the greats of black and white photography mastered the composition of shadow and highlight.

Within his images I feel the touch of a jazz musician, an improviser of scenery who can twist a note or extend a beat that tickles the ear, or in Eggleston’s case the eye. In some of his images the scene is classically composed in perfect thirds as if to demonstrate to the viewer that he knows the rules. Then the next image, a famous photograph, of a white man in a suit in front of a black man wearing a white jacket both to right of a white car. At first glance this photograph is unsettling because it appears unbalanced. Yet, like an unmelodic Stravinsky opus it grows on me and I begin to admire its offbeat ness. The open car door, the pairs of trees that fall off into the background, the similarity of the two men’s posture and melancholic expressions, all sustain, within a monochromatic brownness, a 3-4 tempo that swirls around and around the white man’s red tie.

Many before me have tried to dissect Eggleston and his photographs, and from what I have read and seen the artist gives very little insight as to what motivates his imagery. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., a director at MOMA suspected that the inspiration for most of Eggleston’s work radiated “from a central circular core.” Eggleston’s response, perhaps a bit flippant, was that the composition of his work was based on the Confederate flag (11). This description is appropriately implied, not in composition, but in the theme of the photograph in the preceding paragraph. The references to the old south are obvious. Even though the two men stand in a similar pose there is a droop to the black man’s shoulders. Standing behind the white man, his white jacket without a tie, suggest the black man is subservient. The reference to the days of the confederate flag could not be clearer and more painful.

Eggleston once noted that he was at war with the obvious, and from my point of view there isn’t an obvious credo to his work. It’s feel and nonintellectual. Eggleson’s famous exhibit at MOMA in 1976 was initially harshly criticized. Hilton Kramer reviewing for the New York Times wrote, “the truth is, these pictures belong to the world of snapshot chic” (Weski). Perhaps there-in lies the answer to my original question: Eggleston was apt at conveying so much with an irreverent click of the shutter, and southern life of the 1960’s and 70’s is explicitly there.

Szarkowski, John William Eggleston’s Guide. New York, NY: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002.

Weski Thomas “William Eggleston: “The Tender-Cruel Camera.” American Suburb X February 2009

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I apologize to my dedicated followers for it has been much, much too long since my last post. And I promised myself when I began this blog that I would write at least two entries per month. Well my post before this one was nearly two months ago--bad Tom, bad blog writer. My excuse is: I was distracted by politics. Those of you who know me, know that I have a passion for politics and that I get distracted by it. I volunteered way to many hours on getting California democrats elected and proposition 23 defeated. Numbers wise my efforts did not make much difference, but it felt good, even though I was sacrificing precious photographic time, to be a part of the effort that smashed the right wing wave at California's border. I can't imagine upsetting to many of you with this post for I'm sure few of you reading this post are politically minded or are Republicans. Which reminds me that in a future post, when I stray from photography once again, I would like to write why is conservatives suck at art.
But this blog is about my photographic process and not politics, so let's proceed. The last assignment in Brian's alternative photography class at Long Beach City College was to make a tintype photograph. Once again I would be going outside my box of comfort. I do not know if it's the same for other artists, but for me to try something new I sort of have to be pushed into doing it. It's why I suppose I enrolled in Brian's class. I purchased the Tintype kit from Rockland colloid Corporation. The kit included the metal plates, the liquid emulsion, which contains Silver, the tintype developer and a standard Kodak film fixer. I found the trickiest part of this process was spreading the emulsion on the metal plates. There is no need for me to go into the technique, because like everything else you can find it on-line. I will, however, write that spreading the emulsion on the metal plates is an incredibly messy process that is done under safelights and requires many unsuccessful attempts before acquiring the knack of spreading an even coat of emulsion onto the metal plate. Once spread on it takes, depending on weather conditions, about a day for the emulsion to set and dry. Patience, an attribute I am still short on, is key.
It's possible to make a digital negative than make a contact print onto the emulsion. Everyone in the class did that exept me. What would be the point of going through the trouble of creating an archaic photograph using a digitally manipulated negative? I did some test images to ascertain, or at least within the ballpark, what the ISO of the emulsion was. The tech people at Rockland told me it changes from batch to batch. And I'm sure the ISO of emulsion varies depending on how thick it is spread on the metal. With that I can tell you it's very slow, perhaps ASA 5.
Because of my political distraction I was late getting prepared for the assignment, so I was unable to test and practice with tintypes as much as I would like. I shot the 4x5 tintypes in my Super Graphic 4x5 camera. And I am quite sure the shutter speed on the 135 mm Super Graphic lens is way off ( I need to get the lens cleaned and tuned), so my exposures were a bit of, or should I say a lot of, an educated guess.
Yet, more challenging than the tintype process was conceiving a subject matter that I thought was appropriate for the medium. As always with these things it didn't come easy. After much brain strain the idea finally came. My neighbors nephew, who comes by quite a bit to go on bike touring rides with his uncle and aunt passed by, and as soon as I saw him the light inside my thick skull turned on and I knew Jonathan would be perfect for this project. I normally see him with his two brothers. All three are good looking lads, but Jonathan is uniquely handsome. I can't say for sure where the idea to photograph him came from. More than likely it is an amalgam of all the images I've seen since I became interested in photography. I can't even say which photographs were influential in my thoughts. However, I'm imagine I was influenced by the portraits of Irving Penn and Walker Evan. Yet I am certain some of the inspiration was drawn from my days as a model. I could easily imagine Giorgio Armani selecting Jonathan chiseled face for his fall/winter 2011 men's line. Whatever the inspiration I knew Jonathan's face would work for this process, and as you can see for yourself it did. His expression is that, not of an old soul, but certainly of one that has endured hardship. Except for the haircut, the image is timeless. The streak on the left side of Jonathan's face is from my uneven emulsion application. The scratches on his right side are from the removal and replacement of the dark-slide. These mishaps accidentally work and compose the photograph perfectly. Unfortunately the original tintype is too dark. Of all my emulsions this is one that came out the lightest, and it is even underexposed. And a day after the image was fixed with each passing minute it appears to fade and become darker. If I am to continue this process I must find out, if possible, how to prevent the image from completely fading. Nevertheless I sense I am on to something, and I am considering taking this process to a higher degree. I promise to keep you posted. Cheers for now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pinhole Sex

It's rare when art and pornography work well as an ensemble. I am sure there have been directors of pornography that were good at creating visually stimulating-no pun intended-work. But one does not usually view pornography for art's sake. I think I either read or heard that the average length of time one views pornography at a sitting is around 7 minutes. My experience is closer to 3. That does not give one too much time to appreciate the presentation. Of course there have been some very talented fine-art photographers who have explored pornography and its world: Larry Sultan's ironic and satiric images in his ouevre The Valley sardonically examined the blandness behind the scenes of the porn industry. Terry Richardson's raunchy fashion work illustrates that glamour and porn rub more than just elbows. Robert Mapplethorpe's extremely controversial yet beautifully photographed hardcore X portfolio shocked even the art world and raised the question: where is the line drawn between art and obscenity? Timothy Greenfield-Sanders larger than life clad and unclad diptychs of porn stars reveal the ordinariness of the industry's celebrities. Pornography is a billion dollar recession immune industry. It's everywhere, and as much as we try to avoid it we still cannot avoid clicking that link. So, it is only natural that art explores it. Yet, where does the artist find himself within his work? And how do we know the work is art? Is our judgement tainted by our excitement?

Last week in my alternative photography class, where I had least expected it, I saw a collage of imagery that was pornographic, artfully done, and, I am bit embarrassed to admit, arousing. Pinned to the wall amongst all the other pinhole images of my other classmates were about twenty prints of women in the middle of intense sex; however, all that was visible in the photographs were their heads. It was evident these women were in the midst of copulation by the intensity and lust of their expressions. They were all attractive and young, and my first guess was-- the author of these photographs must have been a woman to have been able access such emotions, or these images were outtakes from a set photographer on a porn video shoot. The number and uniqueness of the work was so completely different than those of my other classmate, including mine, that I thought this presentation was from another class, a different project. Mixed within the erotic head shots were images of splattered red on black. Initially I had no idea what these photographs meant other than to give the viewer a break from sex. I felt like a voyeur viewing this work.

Our assignment for this project was to build a pinhole camera-see my previous post-then make a photograph. Most of the class photographed something simple; the challenge of making a proper exposure with a unconventional camera was creative enough. Yet, Shinichi Ishikawa took it much further, much further. He downloaded clips from the Internet, found then froze the frames that suited his objective, then he photographed them with his pinhole camera. With a combination of cardboard and "a lot" black gaffers tape he rigged a pinhole lens to his Hasselblad . He set brightness to the max, turned off the energy saving mode, and shot Polaroids of his monitor to check his exposures. He opted for positive film to capture his images, because he wanted true colors and he believed "using positive film would give his project a positive interpretation." He aimed a red laser pointer at his pinhole rig to make the splattered red on black images. These photographs he explained represented the girls' climaxes.

Shin's project is conceptually brilliant, and I believe will one day be exhibited in a museum. I look forward to viewing more of his work, and he has inspired me push my own envelop further. Finally, I admired Sin's pinhole images for much longer than 3 minutes. Perhaps that's what separates art from pornography: art of pornography arouses long after the climax.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Alternative Photography

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was enrolled in an alternative photography class at my local community college. The teacher is a South Vietnamese refugee named Brian Doan. For my tone death ears his strong accent can be difficult to understand, but his passion for for conceptual photography could not be more clear. I also wrote that he wanted us to exercise our creative muscles to make a photograph that is a reflection of us. Initially I thought of doing figurative studies of my wife. Abstract nudes. That was not enough for Brian. So, with nothing else coming to mind I threw myself, without clothes, into the photographs. Et voila here are two images of my wife and I. The exposures are about three minutes long give or take a second or two.
I've included a couple of photographs of the 4x5 pinhole camera I built. I followed the instructions from an article that another student in the class found in an online wood working magazine written by Christopher Schwarz. Because I don't have all the proper wood working tools I constructed the camera out of 1/2 inch plywood rather than, White Oak, the material the instructions called for. And even though my cuts were not perfect, I have been extremely pleased with the results. I've tested 6 minute exposures and there is not one ray of light leakage.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Altruistic Photography

Recently, I was viewing the work of the 50 winners of Critical 2009 and one image grabbed my eye. It was a photograph of a latex gloved hand holding some kind of a small animal. Because I am an animal lover the thumbnail piqued my curiosity and I opened up the work of Mary Shannon Johnstone, titled Breeding Ignorance. Her images were taken while she volunteered at an animal control facility in North Carolina. There she learned the cruel detail that for every 1 cat or dog that is sheltered 29 are euthanized because there are no places for them and nobody wants them. She also learned that many pet owners are opposed to sterilization and abortion of pet pregnancies. Inspired by her anger of their ignorance she demonstratively illustrated the fate of unwanted cats.
If you've read my previous posts you know that I am a lover of cats and seeing any cat suffer rips my heart out. What you don't know is that Sydney and I have started trapping feral cats, which we take to a local clinic to have spayed or neutered. After, we board them for a couple of days until they've recovered from their surgery then release them where we found them. It's a thankless job, and the cats we trap don't exactly appreciate our efforts. However, we've learned that what we're doing is humane, and now Mary Shannon Johnstone's photographs and words have motivated us to continue our efforts.
I do not have the stomach or courage to take the photographs that Mary Shannon Johnstone makes, but I am so pleased that she does. I hope that every potential cat owner sees her work and that it will hopefully enlighten more to the fate of unwanted pets and what results when pet owners are irresponsible and ignorant.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I am sure this is not unique, but since I am one writing this post I'll believe it is special to me. In the theaters now is the trailer for the movie Social Network directed by David Fincher. The first time I saw the trailer, it was the music that drew my attention. The tune was one I heard before, but not by the same musicians. Well tonight I finally discovered the name of tune I could not get out of my head was Creep. With a little research I learned the Scala and Kolacny Brothers are the Belgium ensemble that are covering Radiohead's 2003 song. It's one of those songs I will play over and over again until I am sick of it. I'd buy it off I-Tunes if it was available, but I checked and it is not. Perhaps after all the positive feedback it will be on the market, but until then I'll just have to listen to it over and over again via the You Tube video. Cheers

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Visceral Photograph?

This semester I am enrolled in Experimental Photography at Long Beach City College, taught by Brian Doan, and I think it's going to be a wild ride. Brian, who is Vietnamese, speaks with a thick accent that I find very hard to understand; however, he is extremely passionate about photography. Initially I considered dropping the class, because I didn't think it would be the most beneficial use of my time. But my intuition has overcome what perhaps is my common sense, so I've decided to not only take his class but give my all to it. We'll see. The first assignment is to make a pin-hole camera to create a conceptual photograph. Before we made our first exposure project Brian meets with each student in the class to discuss their concept. After seeing some examples of pin-hole photographs that Brian showed the class I opted on doing figurative studies. I decided I would do nudes of my wife in our dining room, and I would shoot it with a black background. I think the minute long exposures combined with the affects of the pinhole would make for an interesting photograph. It would be a challenge, but I thought I came up with an idea that made for a provocative and perhaps beautiful photograph.
I was quite confident that Brian would willingly accept my idea. I was wrong. Brain's first question was what does this concept have to do with you? In short my idea was intellectual, not visceral, and that's what Brian wanted. He's asking us to go beyond what we think.
Most of my photographic ideas have evolved from just picking up the camera and taking pictures. The concept derived from the photograph. Rarely have my photographs derived from a concept. That's why I hesitate to call myself an artist. I feel that artists create everything from a concept generating bug deep within their innards that only they have. Or perhaps it's a muscle that everyone to some degree has, one that I haven't fully developed? And maybe, that's exactly Brian's motivation for giving us this project for our first assignment.

Monday, August 23, 2010


As I wander the streets of Lakewood in search of provocative photographs I continue to learn more about what makes my suburb special from meeting its residents and hearing their stories. One of the most popular photographs in my series is that of the elderly woman wearing a floral pattered dress under a blue sweater watering her lawn. What caught my eye and what makes the photograph unique is her right hand that is is holding the hose is protected by an orange oven mitt. It was a scene I came upon by chance on my way home from a meeting. I spotted her and the orange oven mitt, and I hurried home to grab my camera, all the time praying she would still be watering her lawn when I returned. Sure enough she was still at work, the orange oven mitt still insulating her hand from the cold spray. Normally I initiate a dialog with my subjects before I commence photographing them, yet with her I did not want to interrupt the moment and without speaking a word I began photographing her. Fortunately she ignored me, and our dance began: she watered her lawn as I did the best I could to follow. Not until I took my last frame did she ask, "what are you doing?" I did not reply because what I was doing just didn't seem worth explaining, and I didn't think she really cared.
If I hadn't made an interesting image the story would have ended there, but luckily my tenth frame was a winner. It's become one of my favorite images of the "Lakewood Project" because it says so much about my suburb: many of Lakewood's citizens take great pride in maintaining their yards. The orange color of the oven mitt, her resourcefulness of wearing it, and the lady likeness of her dress and elegance of how her right knee is bent accord the photograph grace and dignity.
A few months after it was apparent I had a photograph I could use for my show I returned to the home of the woman with the orange oven mitt to give her a photo. I rang her doorbell, however no one came to the door. I stopped by her home on several other occasions over the course of the following 5 months, until I stopped trying. Then about 3 weeks ago, while my show was still hanging, as I passed the house of the woman with the orange oven mitt I noticed in the open garage door a man getting into a SUV. I parked my truck and approached him. I asked if he knew of a older woman who lived in this house. He was suspicious at first, but after I explained to him my reason for inquiring he told me that he was her son, his name was Daniel, and his mother's name was Louise. He informed me that the reason I hadn't recently seen his 94 year old mother was because age and dementia were getting the better of her.
I told him about the photograph and my "Lakewood Project", and he said that he had read about me in the paper would be very happy to have a copy of the photograph I took of his mother. It was an amicable encounter, and I was pleased I finally had a name for my photograph.
Later that day I received an e-mail from Daniel where he explained that he had seen and liked my photograph of Louise. In his e-mail was an invitation to his blog which has since become a favorite of mine. Dan's blog is a record of his spiritual journey taking care of his mother in her twilight years. His blog is emotional and informative as Dan navigates the challenges of caring for his mother. It ain't easy and doesn't get any easier until it's over, but Dan, who has a lot of faith, manages to, without the aide of a caregiver, gives his mother the best possible care a son could give.
At my final reception Dan's sister came to the gallery. She gave me a little book that she had made from the photographs and favorite recipes she had collected of her mother. It's a charming little book with photographs of Louise spanning her many years. And in every photograph Louise displays the same spirit and grace that she exhibits in my photograph.
Meeting Louise's children and learning more about their mother are wonderful souvenirs from my Photographic Journal of a Sacred American Suburb.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The "Lakewood" Show

This coming Friday, August 13th, 2010 the Lakewood cable network will interview me then video my show at Phantom Galleries on 350 East 3rd Street in Long Beach. It will be the conclusion of a month long showing of my project “Lakewood, a Photographic Journal of Sacred American Suburb.” It has been an exhilarating experience that has occupied most of my thoughts and energies since the beginning of this year when Neil France, the curator of my show, said it was a go.

Although I have been working on “Lakewood” for nearly nine years this was my first opportunity to exhibit the work. I immediately ramped up my efforts and began printing and reprinting my best images. As well, I took more photographs hoping to create better images and the effort paid off. 80% of the photographs that were selected for the exhibition had were made within the last year. There is nothing like a show to stimulate creativity.

At the end of March I participated in portfolio reviews at the Palms Springs Photo Fest where I showed my “Lakewood” work to 13 different curators, publishers, and gallery owners. The suggestions and constructive criticisms I received about the substance of the project, the artistry of the images, and technical quality of the prints aided me greatly in preparing for the show.

At the end of April Neil informed me that he had secured a venue and I would open on the 11th of June. I had just over two months to prepare. I was tremendously excited yet equally nervous; we were on! A month later I saw the gallery and freaked out. It was huge, and I realized the size of the prints I had been making were too small for this space.

A lesson I’ve learned from fifteen years being a professional photographer is when I’m given an opportunity make the most of it. So, I dipped deeper into my wallet, and within reason and a lot of resourcefulness I decided to present “Lakewood” as if I was showing my work at the Museum of Modern Art. Thus began the final 4-week mad dash of printing, framing, and preparation for the opening. There is nothing like a deadline to shoo away the distractions and become severely efficient.

About three weeks before the opening a colleague asked me how the publicity was going for the show. At that point I had the invitations designed, but I hadn’t really developed a mailing list or a strategy as to how I was going to promote the show. I had to work fast; I had not a day to loose. I called my mentor and colleague Aline Smithson, and she came through big time. I’ve experienced when you do the work help is available. She not only announced my show on her blog, she gave me a list of other relevant blogs and press resources in Los Angeles to contact. There was a lot to do, but I felt with the help of my dedicated wife I could get everything ready for the opening.

Two weeks before the opening night I dropped off an invitation to my friend and real estate agent Mark Shandrow, and he asked me if I was sending out a press release. My reply was, “a press release?” I had no idea. Fortunately that wasn’t difficult to arrange because I was prepared. I had a project statement, my bio, and most importantly I had the supportive writings about “Lakewood” by DJ Waldie.

I would never of had as much success with “Lakewood” if it hadn’t been for the backing of Donald J. Waldie who has been a supporter and a source of information on all things Lakewood. Soon after I began photographing Lakewood I sought Don’s council upon reading his book, “Holyland, a Suburban Memoir.” Don graciously wrote about my work for my website, and I was able to use this and his name to secure contacts with the Lakewood and Long Beach newspapers. Don was also kind enough to announce and write about my show on his KCET blog. In truth, it would have been difficult to acquire the press I received without Don. When I called both the Press-Telegram and the Lakewood community newspaper their interest in my project rose once I mentioned that Don was a supporter.

Ten days before the opening and a day after I had mailed out all the invitations I received a call from the head of Phantom Galleries, Liza Simone, to inform me that the space for my show at the Pike had been leased and my show would be indefinitely postponed. For two days I was in shock, and then I fell into a deep state of self-pity and depression. I had to call and e-mail everyone I had sent invitations to, to inform them that the show had been cancelled. Many wrote back with their support and told to me to keep my chin up, but still I felt like a royal schmuck.

In the same conversation that Liza had broke my heart, she assured me that she would do whatever she could to find another space for me to show Lakewood. She also told me that sometimes these things happen for a reason. Yea right! And sure enough three days later Neil called and told me they had found another gallery. However, initially, the new space did not inspire me. My vision was tainted by the appeal of the previous venue, so I declined Neil’s offer. Then I became more depressed as I began to believe all the hard work and money I put into presenting a show would be for naught.

But Liza, bless her, convinced me that the gallery would work and to give it a chance. Upon seeing the space a second time with my wife I not only visualized the possibilities, I realized the new gallery was a better venue to show “Lakewood.” This new arrangement forced me to make a tighter selection with my prints, yet it allowed me an opportunity to break up the work into themes. I now realized that “Lakewood” would look better than ever, and my depression instantly dissipated.

As Liza had guessed the month postponement was a blessing. With the delay I had more time to circulate my press release. Prior to the cancelled show I had missed the June edition deadline for the Lakewood Community newspaper. Now, I had time to meet with the editors before the July paper hit the streets. They wrote a very nice article about my project and announced the show and its location. I was surprised by the number of phone calls I received from Lakewood residents interested in my project and the exhibit. I followed this up with an interview with Pamela Hale-Burns of the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Her article with my picture on page A-3 of the Wednesday paper before the reception gave the show the necessary gravitas and press. Anyone who read newspapers and was interested in Lakewood, photography, or both was now aware of my show.

In hindsight sending out the initial invitation, then e-mailing and calling everyone to warn them that it had been cancelled, followed by sending those same contacts a second yet altered invitation announcing that the show was indeed happening at a later time and different location only enhanced “Lakewood”s publicity. By the night of the reception almost every newspaper, event and art blog had something written about “Lakewood.” The word was out.

We opened “Lakewood” on the 10th of July to coincide with opening of the Long Beach Art Exchange. It was a good opportunity for those who could not make the reception on the 17th to have a chance to attend. Also many who were not aware of me or my work randomly walked into the gallery. The opening also gave us the chance to work out the kinks, so a week later everything was near perfect for the reception.

The reception was a smash. On the hottest day of the year over a hundred people showed up. They came from as far away as Ventura, and I sold two more prints and ½ of the books I self-published. At the end of the evening my back was sore from all the pats I got on it.

Because my wife had purchased enough wine to get all of Long Beach tipsy we did two more Saturday evening receptions, and I made sure anyone who missed the opening or the first reception knew they had another chance to see “Lakewood.” Of course there were those who flaked- some whom I had really counted on. I learned who my true supporters were, but I can’t complain because “Lakewood” was a success.

Was my show a financial success? Of course not, but I knew that going into it. Very few people buy photography from a photographer who is not acclaimed; however, the show was a major stepping-stone to obtain the necessary credence to one day become acclaimed. Yet, the fact that I sold three works in a horrible economy I consider a great success.

More important, at this point in the project and my career, than selling work was getting “Lakewood” out there. And here I succeeded greatly. The press I received along with the video the Lakewood cable network will create carves out a new notch on my resume and will assist me to connect with other galleries and curators.

The “Lakewood” show was not the end of my work on Lakewood; it was a celebration of it. As long as I live in Lakewood and am able I will continue to photograph it. There is so much more about my suburb I have yet to discover and tell, and now with the success of the show and the press I’ve received it will be much easier. At times photographing Lakewood has been awkward. Quite often my motives have been questioned- sometimes aggressively. Now that my work has been validated I’m sure it will be easier to gain more trust of Lakewood’s residents, and I’ll have greater access to new domains of my city.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jorge Sato

You know sometimes we desire what others have. In my case it's more about envying what others can do. I would love, for just one session, to be able to surf like Kelly Slater, write like Philip Roth, or play guitar like Eric Clapton. These envies do not last long, because I know those talents commenced their passions early and worked extremely hard to hone their innate abilities. My envy towards other photographers is different. I rarely envy another photographer's skill. Mind you I do not diminish a photographer's craft because I believe it is on par with vision, yet technique can be studied and mastered. What I envy are photographic visions that are most unlike mine.

If my head is in a good space rather than a self-critical one I'm able to enjoy the work of photographers I envy, especially the younger ones. I just viewed the work of this month's featured artists in the current issue of the photography ezine F-STOP and I stumbled upon the images of a Brazilian photographer named Jorge Sato. Perhaps because, like me, he shoots square I gave him particular attention, but squareness is about all we have in common. For one he's latin, and I'm not. I marvel at the offbeat samba like whimsical way he composes his work. I admire how he effortlessly avoids what I try so hard to accomplish in a photograph. His colors are off, but he doesn't care; his pictures are not painstakingly organized, but so what. They work, and they are magical! His imagery has a freedom that I envy. He dances with his camera the way his countrymen dance with a futbol (soccer ball). It's the beautiful game and in his case it's the beautiful photograph. He does not have a website, but you can view Jorge's work on flickr.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The "Lakewood" exhibit is winding down, and soon I will need to return to typical life. It's been a lot of work and a wild ride, but now I have to figure out how to make money at what I love to do. It's never been easy for me to learn a living at this, yet somehow I must not allow the hindrances of the past inhibit the future. Perhaps the key is to stay in the present. Cliché but true. I must make work, and make sure people see it. So, how do I write, read the classics, remain atop of technology, create, earn a living, and love my wife. Ahaa, not a moment to waste. Let's make tomorrow the most efficient day ever.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My "Lakewood" Video

In my show "Lakewood" accompanying my photographs is a video I recorded using the Canon 5d Mark II. I created it to supplement the photographs and add a second dimension to the show. It is my first project. After spending hours editing it- I now know why directors do not edit their films-I was kind of sick of it. The amateur flaws and the harsh sound the 5D recorded made it difficult for me to repeatedly watch it. However, I have been encouraged and heartened by the number of compliments I've received, especially from those with experience in cinema. It's inspired me to shoot more and expand upon what little I know about film making. Perhaps I am on to something. Ain't naivité great?

Monday, July 12, 2010

A few thoughts on my opening

I am still reveling from the opening of my exhibit, "Lakewood" last Saturday. It was a nice beginning. Some very neat people came and were very kind with their comments. For the last 6 months I have been busting my butt preparing for the show and in the process I sort of lost all sense of self. Preparing for a show is an exhausting and stressful endeavor. I told myself not to freak out but of course I did. And at times I embarrassingly took out my anxiety on my wife, until she told me she would stop if I didn't stop. I stopped. One thing I have learned, or reinforced what I had learned before, is rarely are things going to be as you planned them. And it always takes longer than you imagine: you never consider lost hours due to mistakes. But, you're level of craft reaches new heights because when forced to make something better you find a way. And I don't recommend including images that are recently captured because even though they are fresh they haven't gone through grinder of time and objectivity. Will you love it 6 months from now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Meaning of Lakewood

Yesterday, when I met with the folks of Lakewood's Chamber of Commerce to show them my photographs, John B. Kelsall, the president asked me what type of photograph represents Lakewood. It was a simple of enough question, but his inquiry caught me off guard. This was odd, because to make photographs that represent Lakewood has been my quest from the outset. Yet, his question made me painfully realize that not one of my photographs sums up "Lakewood!" As a body, my work depicts a lot of about Lakewood, but I don't think even if I placed all of my photographs on a wall side by side they would create a mosaic of what Lakewood is. That has been the challenge when making, selecting, and writing about my photographs. And it's not static, the more I photograph the more I continue to learn about Lakewood. Yesterday, I was trolling the streets north of South Street and east of Woodruff Avenue where I found the feel and architecture of the homes to be completely different to that of where I live in the western half of Lakewood. It felt like I was in Orange County.
I suppose my point is this, and the reason why "Lakewood" as a project is challenging. There is a certain feel to Lakewood, and as John B. Kelsall noted, "you know when you are in Lakewood." To capture that in 20 provocative photographs is my mission and something I am close to, but have to date not completed.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dog Days

Daily, I would like to write something clever, inspirational, or share an artistic breakthrough, but to accomplish that would take much more discipline than I have. Actually, tonight, I feel like writing something negative. I've had a few hard knocks of late, and I would love to rant about them. Yet, I have learned that nobody really wants to read or listen to someone bitch. So, I'll instead I'll yell at my wife. Kidding, she would merely tell me to can it.
We have our ups and downs as artists. It truly is a roller-coaster ride. I made some good photographs today, and that usually keeps the buggars out of head, but sometimes even on good days I feel like I am spinning my wheels. The world news hasn't been all that great either. Maybe I should just go to bed, and go after it tomorrow.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Preparing for my Exhibit

Well, I made my final 15x15 inch print for my "Lakewood" exhibit, and that was the easy part. Now, I must frame them, which means cutting mat board, foam core, and plexiglass, making beveled edge window cuts, and assembling 30 pieces together. I am making this task easier having purchased Blick aluminum frames. They are not the most attractive frames, but they are inexpensive and reusable. Even at that the cost of printing and framing thirty prints will be about $60.00 per image. That's not bad, but it's not chunk change. It's expensive, however I am exited. The prints look fantastic, and I am sure once they are framed and hanging, and an ensemble, they will look marvelous.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yesterday an Angel greeted me.....

Yesterday, while working on a variation of my Lakewood Project, I came upon an angel. Just as I got out of my truck to make a photograph an adorable long hared, cross and green eyed Calico greeted me. She was meowing away; she said: hi!, how are you?, what's your name?, will you please pet me?, I'm lonely so lonely, would you happen to have any Fancy Feast with you? I bent down to greet and per her atop of her head and rub under her chin, and her purr engine roared. She sensed my residual grief, her purring ceased, and she whispered to me, "I am sorry about Buzz, but don't worry he is in a very good place now." I thanked her, wished her a very pleasant day, and promised her that I would come visit her again. She welcomed me back anytime and said good-bye. I went in the other direction and made my photograph.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How do I remain sane?

OK, after a two year sabbatical I have fully returned and am committed to being a photographer. And now I am overwhelmed. I am crazy busy and I have not even begun to promote myself--the most important part of being a photographer. I have taken on Final Cut Express, which is a 1/5 the cost of Final Cut Pro, yet the learning curve is nearly as steep. I purchased FCE rather than FCP, figuring you don't buy a Porsche if you don't know how to drive. Yet FCE does not handle the Canon 5D Mark II media at 24 fps. More about that in future posts. I have spent at least thirty hours on it, and I have yet to cut a video. Simultaneously I am trying to learn Aperture 3, which I won as a door prize at Palm Springs Photo Festival. I spent 3 hours trying to make a damn contact sheet-see above. Yet, recently I have my doubts, because Joan Paul Capionigro told me at a ASMP workshop he did with R. Mac Holbert, that I should sell Aperture 3 and buy Lightroom 3. Yikes. Then yesterday, Amanda Friedman, another very talented photographer, told me Capture 1 is the bomb. Yikes again.
So yesterday I fell upon Emily Shur's blog, and it inspired me to write more about my experiences returning to photography. Besides being a very talented photographer she is a damn good writer. Now I must learn how she links every one and everything she writes about without writing out the entire URL. Digital, has not made photography easier. Oh yea, it has made it easier to make an interesting photograph, but to stay on top of what is happening it has made being a photographer much more complicated, time consuming, and expensive. Yesterday evening, after a day in front of the computer, which is where I spend most of my days, I was exhausted. Yet sleep was light last night because I was haunted by nightmares self-doubt. Oh, and I have decided to post to my blog first thing in the morning rather than at night. It's much too difficult for me to write anything sensical when I am exhausted. Cheers for now, but I promise to be consistent, and write what I daily learn.
This is the contact sheet I was working on yesterday. It's part of my Lakewood project....

Friday, February 12, 2010

Buzz Continued

I continue to ride the highs and lows of my cat Buzz. He has been pretty sick for the last few days, and I am beginning to prepare myself for the awful eventual day that I must make to let him go. The Vetinary Cancer clinic called me today to inform me that his blood tests from yesterday indicated his white blood count to be low. And that he needed to be placed on anti-biotics immediately to quell what might be a possible infection. This could have been the cause for his listlessness this last week. I gave him his first dose this afternoon, and although it's to early to know for sure, he seems to be improving. The vet also told me that if he doesn't improve by Sunday, it maybe time. I pray that it is not. Lord I don't think I am ready to let him go. When it is please give me a loud and clear signal.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Edit, Edit, Edit

I am taking a basic color class from Neil France at LBCC. It is a beginning class, and almost every student in the class is a novice except for me. I question my enrollment sometimes, but for $78 what the hell. I'm still learning. Neil told us something about projects a couple of classes ago that made a lot of sense and stuck with me. He said constantly edit your work, and don't add fillers. Wow! I knew there was something not right with my Lakewood project. As a body it wasn't working. It needed to be edited. So I removed all the photographs that were not in sync with my project statement. Then I realized my project statement was vague-good but vague. Today I edited out the the still lives and the landscapes from the portraits, and there was the project. Portraits of Lakewood's residents. That I can nail in 20 photographs, and it will be much easier to compose for a project statement. Oh, I'll still create images without people. I love doing that. But the project holds water with just portraits of folks from Lakewood.