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Spring Polaroid Week

I don't really consider myself an instant film person. . . . however, I certainly did enjoy spring Polaroid Week this year! Without really giving it much thought in advance, I set myself a little bit of a challenge each day (decided upon the day itself) and had a blast burning through the hoard of I type Polaroid Originals film in my fridge.

First it was a Sunday drive down a stretch of road that I am required to travel a lot more often than I would like (once every 3 months would suit me fine, but nowadays it's sadly more like twice a month).  It's a beautiful stretch of highway, and I always want to stop and photograph so many things but usually don't have the time.  This trip, I made the time, and I stopped.

Next, I challenged myself with the familiar.  This pretty much represents my daily life, since I can't seem to go much more than a couple of hours without making something, and I usually have to draw from my immediate surroundings.

Part of the familiar is my town.  I took a drive around it, seeking out things I thought the instant film might enjoy in the light.  I could claim that the diptych was intentional, but I'm really not that cool.  It was a delightful surprise when I spread out the little prints back home.

I made a trip to visit my family, and as usual everything around my hometown inspired me.  Also, we inherited a huge bag of gourds.

Fall Polaroid Week starts October 21!  I'm ready, are you?

Mothering

2018 has been a painful bunch of months for me as a mother.  I have too many words for it, so I feel like it's best to keep silent for now.  Instead, I will share with you the series my daughter and I have been working on for the past 4 years, with some pieces that I have not shown before.  The title, everything about it, has taken on a new meaning for us, but the words remain unchanged.

Together

I grew up surrounded by photography, so it’s hard to say how much of my passion for it is nurture vs nature.  My daughter is now growing up in the same way, and on an even more intense level thanks to modern technology and camera phones, but my expectations for her embracing it as a huge part of her life are very low.  She doesn't need to be just like me; in fact, I wouldn’t want her to be.  At age 10, she is a strong, intelligent individual, an interesting, wonderful combination of genes and environment.  

Since she had shown some interest in photography, and since I had always been curious about the camera myself, I had Santa bring us a joint gift of a Holga 120N in 2014.  We immediately decided to start making a series of photographs that are double exposures:  I photograph her, then she photographs me, on the same frame of film.  We started almost right away; the first image we made with the camera became the first image in the series.  

This project, like motherhood, is all about letting go and accepting flaws.  Using a camera like the Holga as a creative tool requires a lot of that anyway, since there’s very little control you can exert over it.  This is something new for me in photography; I am not a control freak, but I do like to be able to properly set exposure and focus.  My daughter, on the other hand, is not detail oriented in any way in her life in general, so the fewer controls the better.  Letting go: letting go of my own child, as she grows and follows her own path, letting go of creative control since I have zero ways of predicting exactly how she will choose to frame her shots, letting go of the inconsistencies that the camera delivers, and accepting the flaws that come along with all of that.  In some of the photographs, I am little more than a hint of a ghostly figure, but I like it that way.  I may be difficult to see, but I am there, and in a way that’s how all of us mothers end up in our children’s lives.

The finished product of each installment of this project is presented flaws and all, to match with the imperfect perfection of life and parenthood itself. 

Johnnie Kay

Recently I was lucky enough to get to photograph the talented and beautiful Jamie (who performs under the name Johnnie Kay), a local singer / songwriter / musician who is currently involved in 3 projects in addition to her own solo work.  These photographs are a celebration of her as an independent woman with her feet on solid ground.  They are a celebration of this particular time in her life.  They are a visual expression of who she is, in her own space, in her own moment.  Here are a few of my favorites from our session!  

Be sure to check out Johnnie Kay in In the Umbra, The Shadow of Nine, and in the brand new Americana / bluegrass project Bastard Gumbo!

Spring. . . . . break?

Spring break!  Party time?  Nope, PHOTO TIME!  The clocks rolled forward (how's that lost hour of sleep going for you?  I'm still trying to catch up.) and so did life.  

The "break" began with a long drive down back roads to Houston, where my "baby" girl headed out for a week of skiing and I embarked on an annual journey so remarkable that it changes me in a number of ways every single year.  Shootapalooza is a gathering, a murmuration, a celebration of talent and friendship, a time of generous sharing and encouragement.  And it's more than just that:  it's a group of my dear friends.  This year it took place during FotoFest , which meant we were able to enjoy a plethora of wonderful art on display around the city in addition to our own shenanigans.  

We had a demo on lumens, which especially focused on fixing the finished product.  The making of lumens followed, of course.  We also used the plentiful UV that morning to make a cyano-banner.  Waiting nearby as it exposed in the Texas sun, I thought about our much-missed, gone-too-soon leader and friend Judy.  We all agreed that she would have heartily supported our efforts, and I thought I heard at least one "hot damn!" coming from the region of heaven.

 

There was a print exchange, an evening of portfolio sharing, silver leaf, wet plate, and hand coloring demos.  

There was also plenty of camaraderie, laughter, and plain old hanging out.  Can you place any kind of value on time spent with your Tribe?  I think not.  

Meeting and learning about fellow artists was another part of the Shootapalooza / FotoFest experience.  It was such a pleasure to chat with Caroline Roberts while she shared her work and gallery with us.  And learning about how Richard Tuschman makes his images was nothing short of mind blowing.  

It was straight into the darkroom for me when I arrived back home (ok, I slept first), to process the rolls of film chock full of portraits of my friends.  Then, a day later, it was straight back to work!  This time I was fortunate enough to have my handsome "photo assistant" along for the adventure, and I was plenty grateful for the help with my gear while we hiked around Pedernales Falls State Park.  Large format outings will build the muscles!

Some pinholing also took place that day.  It was a challenging afternoon with the view camera.  Dark cloth issues, wind, sandy / uneven / dangerous ground. . . . . it was frustrating to say the least.  The work from that day seems to have (surprisingly) come out well, so expect to see new alternative process prints before too long.

What else happened during spring break?  Two client photoshoots, an art opening, a load of street photography, and a partridge in a pear tree!  Rest not, moss not.  More news next weekend, friends!  Don't forget my Instagram feed and Facebook page, and thank you for joining me here.  

A day out with the Kodak 33a

For Christmas last year, my father gifted me yet another amazing large format camera - one of slightly more manageable proportions than the previous year's!  This time it was a Kodak 33a view camera, with both 5x7 and 4x5 film holders, and a variety of lenses (on homemade lens boards; this is typical of my Dad).  I gleefully ordered a box of 5x7 HP5, did a couple of tests at home in January, and have been coming apart at the seams waiting for the opportunity to get out with the camera ever since.

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March 2, I was at last able to embark on her maiden voyage, to Austin's Pease Park for the pleasure of checking out Patrick Dougherty's new installation.  It ended up being an incredible day!  When I arrived, there were a fair amount of people exploring the artwork, mostly children, and as I walked around it looking at the light I was thinking about how I should 1. make sure the parents were ok with me photographing since it would invariably include their kiddos and 2. ask the parents if their kids would like to look under the dark cloth.  I picked a spot, started setting up, and came out from under the cloth to see a group of women standing in front of me smiling who immediately said "Hi!  The kids are VERY curious about what you are doing!"  Moments later I found myself giving an informal mini-lecture on large format photography.  If I had to pick my favorite thing about large format, this kind of thing *might* actually be it!  After all, it is the beauty of humanity that drives me to reach for a camera in the first place.  

The joy of passing on knowledge and the spark of photographic passion aside, one of the women that day asked me why I choose to use something like a view camera instead of the quick & easy option of my phone.  My response was my usual, about loving the tactile, real quality of film, and the challenge.  But the next day when I held up the first 5x7 negative from that outing to the light in my darkroom, all I could think was "this is why."

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The aftermath of an inspiring day out with a large format camera is a day spent mostly in the dark, waiting with baited breath for 10 minutes at a time until I can dash back into the light with a fresh negative.  These took me the better part of 3 hours to work through (I could have worked faster, but I had no time constraints and also being in a rush usually leads to mistakes.  Plus, I like to stop for snacks).

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I adore the Kodak 33a.  The extra versatility it offers over the Crown Graphic is pleasant, but what also makes it stand out for me is the Protar V lens that I have for it, which I can use with either 4x5 or 5x7.  Being able to expose at f64 is exciting for all kinds of photo-psychological reasons, but that lens also has the most delightful magic about it.  It's fun in a pinhole, in-control-but-slightly-out-of-control kind of way, since I have to use the lens cap as my shutter speed.  This gives me more creative license, as in the photograph below. The contrast it gives my negatives is exactly what I like, both wide open at a whopping f18 and stopped all the way down.  

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I am looking forward to working more with this camera!  I am looking forward to trying some portrait work with it, and am keen for willing participants, so please contact me if you are interested!