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Shying away from Street

“It is easy to harden your heart but opening it is the hardest thing” — Emmet Brickowski

It’s probably been a year, maybe more, since I felt inspired to do street photography. That’s not to say that I haven’t done ANY during that time, but it’s been spotty and mostly lackluster. More than likely, my lack of enthusiasm shows in the photographs. Sometimes life deals you a rough hand, and for me one of the side effects of last year’s hand was backing away from the type of photography I’ve been passionate about for over 15 years. My faith in a lot of things took a major blow, and I’m not sure how to candidly photograph my fellow humans with so much doubt in my heart. When I have tried, I’ve felt like an impostor, fearful behind the lens, afraid of being seen, of being spotted and called out, unwelcome. That’s not a good place for a street photographer to be, and seems rife for becoming a self fulfilling prophecy.

When your eyes have been opened to How the World Really Is, can you ever look at it the same again? Can you repair rose colored glasses once they’ve been smashed?

Last year the better option for me was to photograph landscapes, quiet places, familiar people, or within the safe structure of employment, instead of seeking out compelling compositions on the street. It was a year of searching with my camera for things that I have lost. It feels like I am trying to be something I’m not; it’s strange to be exploring a new path, but mainly what I miss is the fire and desire of the work itself.

In December 2018 I went to a local Christmas festival (alone), and felt the joy start to come back to me. The air was filled with it! I felt safe there, and welcome. I photographed with happy confidence, but since that hour or so in Georgetown have managed very little. I haven’t even wanted to try.

There is always goodness, and kindness, in the world, if you are open to it, if you know how to look. These days it takes me by surprise every single time - I don’t take it for granted. I have been seeking motivation to get back out on the street with my camera: in photobooks, in working with local businesses, in little dreams of pursuing photojournalism (which may be a crazy idea), in my search for the resurrection of my faith in humanity. I’m starting to wonder if maybe part of healing my broken view is just getting back out there. After all, I have seen some incredible examples of community and love lately, and felt a part of it. I know it’s there, I just need to keep looking.

salamander dance  (1 of 1).jpg

I’ve been thinking about all of this for a while, and after last week’s post sharing a collection of photographs I made a few years ago, now seems like the right time to talk about it. Looking back at that work has inspired me. I’m still not at the place where I want to prioritize street photography, or go out of my way to make it happen, but I am getting there. Festival season is coming up, and fingers crossed by then I will have a little bit of a revival of my own.

Love of Place

Hartley Coleridge asked if love was a “fancy or a feeling.” My question is: can you love a place as it changes over time? Can you love a place even if the changes break your heart?

For me, the answer is yes. I’ve been in Austin regularly for just about my entire life. It started out with visits to my Grand-mere, who lived in an apartment behind where the Chuck E Cheese used to be on Burnet. My Mom and I would drop off my Dad for a day of caving, hit Northcross Mall for some ice skating (including a pizza slice from the place in the mall), then go visit her. I remember sunflower seeds in the carpet, a fish tank full of those kind that look like they’ve swallowed neon, a lively miniature Schnauzer named Julie who would go out a sliding glass door to a little patio, and paint-by-number.

By the time I was a teenager, my Grand-mere was long gone from that apartment, having moved to Louisiana to live on my uncle’s horse farm. My parents became inexplicably obsessed with blues music, so our trips to Austin revolved around hitting up a few landmarks (Amy’s Ice Cream and Threadgills, especially) before spending a long, smokey night in Antone’s (when it was on Guadelupe). This happened just about every weekend when I was 16 or so, and that’s when it hit me: I fell in love with the city. I knew it was where I wanted to be - a big (I’m from Waco y’all), laid back, open minded town full of sunshine and people out enjoying it. A place where not very many people knew me and I could really be whoever I wanted to be.

Life brought me to the University of Texas when I was 19, and that was it: I WAS HOME. I loved every single day of the 4 years I spent in Austin in the late 1990’s; even bad days weren’t that bad because hey I was where I wanted to be. How bad could it be if I could go to Zilker Park? How bad could it be if you were living exactly where you’d dreamed of for years? I wept for hours when life shifted and I had to leave it. Everybody I met during the 10 years I lived away from there probably was sick to death of hearing me talk about it; even the things I loved about Manhattan were things I loved because they reminded me of Austin.

My heart waited a decade. I didn’t visit it more than a handful of times during those years. I moved back as soon as life turned again and gave me that chance. And I’ll be honest: after a short time of kinda reliving the glory days, I couldn’t ignore the fact that the city I loved had changed almost to the point of being unrecognizable.

Where I perch my boots these days is in a town north of there but most people consider it a suburb. It’s growing like wildfire; it’s where my family has put down new roots, and we have a deep love for it that I will talk about another time. I still drive in to Austin, but not regularly, and when I’m there it just doesn’t feel like home anymore. Where is the love? Where did it go? I’m looking for it; I’m holding on to those shreds of it that remain deep in my heart. Under the condos clinging to the land like barnacles, I know the soul of the city is still there. Maybe a lot of creatives / artists can’t afford to live there anymore, but we can dream about it. And where the dreams are - well, that’s where the real action happens anyway.

All the photographs I’m sharing with these words are from 2012-2014ish *. Like the city, they’re some of the ones I love most.





* from back in the day when I decided I should watermark my jpegs and what can I say I just didn’t have it in me to dig out the negatives and redo them in time to get this out to you, so here they are watermarks & all.

Hello February!

It was a full week! It started out with a print day - a short one, but I accomplished what I wanted, which was mainly to contact print the 5x7 negatives I had made the week before. There’s a part of me (inspired by Edward Weston’s daybooks, of course) that would like to do more large format portraiture, so I got some practice in on my family. They came out better than I expected, especially since I was using the Protar lens which means my hand with the lens cap is the shutter. I also printed one of my favorite images from the week before, both another contact print and an 8x10, which is still not perfect but I had other things to do so I decided it was good enough. . . . .

crummy cell phone photo of the prints

crummy cell phone photo of the prints

One of the negatives took me by surprise when I turned on the light after developing it: I had expected it to be a portrait of my daughter, but lo & behold it was a landscape that I couldn’t for the life of me recall. An accidental double exposure with sheet film was bound to happen eventually. The contact print helped me remember oh yeah that time I hauled my gear on a really hot day to the park and the lake had amazing reflections on it. Ohhhhh well

another crummy cell phone photo, because I haven’t had time to scan the prints

another crummy cell phone photo, because I haven’t had time to scan the prints

On Thursday of last week I found out the 3 photographs I submitted to TAG at 120 Art were accepted (yay!), on Friday I drove into Austin to pick up my pieces from the SHE. exhibit at Soma Vida (which meant I finally got to see the show because most of it was still up), and then on Saturday I delivered one of those pieces plus the other two to my friends in Taylor. I can never say I don’t get enough time to think with all the time I spend in my car

A look at the show at Soma Vida (that’s my friend Lili in the first photo with a reflection on it - Lili who is very much missed since she moved out of state!). It’s such a lovely space

A look at the show at Soma Vida (that’s my friend Lili in the first photo with a reflection on it - Lili who is very much missed since she moved out of state!). It’s such a lovely space

One of the photographs that will be in  TAG at 120Art’s  next show, from a project I was super excited about a few years ago & have since totally abandoned

One of the photographs that will be in TAG at 120Art’s next show, from a project I was super excited about a few years ago & have since totally abandoned

In other HUGE NEWS, a long time friend of my Dad’s - a caver - sent me the extraordinary gift of a Widelux. Holy Random Act of Kindness! Oh, stuff of legends! Oh my goodness! I still can’t believe it, but I sure have been having fun playing with it. The first roll didn’t get loaded correctly - in spite of me loading it with the instruction manual sitting in my lap - so I got some blurry edges, but the 2nd roll came out fine & dandy, and a 3rd roll is awaiting development.

One of the fun things about a camera like the Widelux is being able to jump into the photo when you’re using a slow shutter speed. I’m realizing I need to use it on a tripod, or at the very least pay attention to the level bubble, unless I am going for the distorted look. But I am excited about the possibilities of this camera! I photographed band practice the other night and took it with me; this is Ilford Delta 3200, the only high speed film I had on hand. Obviously needed a bit more light but I’m just happy the shot came out.

I spent Saturday night photographing bands at the Dirty Dog on 6th Street, this time using digital because quite frankly it’s so much easier than wrestling an image out of film in such challenging light. It was a fantastic show!

Last but certainly not least, I had a freelance photography session for a local business that took me to Belton. I’ve driven through there on I 35 a million times, but never stopped, so I was thrilled to have an assignment that took me somewhere I hadn’t been before. I met some very nice people and a super talented massage therapist who I will hopefully get to visit without a camera in tow one day, and I photographed the downtown area as well before heading back south. Maybe I will share some of those images next week. Until then, hope all is well with all of you!

2019 so far. . . . .

In 2018 my Dad gave me a plethora of books about Edward Weston for Christmas, including his Daybooks, which I started reading at the time but had to set aside because it wasn’t practical for me to focus on anything besides unpleasant Life Stuff. Fast forward to this past December, when I picked them up again - they’re so inspiring to me that I can barely read more than a few pages at a time without wanting to throw my entire being into photography. That whole hog 24/7 thing doesn’t work when you already have a full time job, namely Motherhood, that deserves to be put first. Priorities! Balance! But I do have a business now, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what on earth I’m going to do with it. So far, it’s pretty much dead in the water (Real Truths) and part of that is probably because I am not marketing correctly and doing a ton of other things wrong. Either that, or it’s just not meant to be and I’m not willing to accept that fact yet.

While I’ve been looking in to networking, attending meetings, submitting to shows, working on lighting and backdrops and internet searches for freelance positions and being Mom, I’ve been thinking about what direction I want to go. What do I WANT to do with photography? In my heart of hearts, I’m pretty sure I already know. One of them is printing, and LOTS of printing is a goal of mine for this year (in addition to doubling the number of clients from last year - that means I only need 6, so I’m telling myself that should be doable). I have a new darkroom shirt, thanks to my awesome FSC friend who opened up Obscura Darkroom . I’ve been printing, and washing said shirt, weekly. . . .

Thanks to a lot of hard work, mostly by my excellent other half, my darkroom is really awesome now. No walls yet, but it’s a little bit of heaven for me anyhow. Better light means I don’t have to run inside to see the test strips properly, and a super fantastic dry side table (instead of speakers and a mini fridge) means I actually have room to work.

Anyhow what I’ve been printing is the negatives from last summer, both enlargements and contact prints. My hope is that I can print the entire series and - gulp - try to do something with it. Here are crummy cell phone shots of the prints, untrimmed, not yet flattened, and not yet culled. Actually, they look terrible compared to how they look in person - but I guess you’ll have to come and see that for yourself someday heh.

In other news, 2019’s Christmas gift from Dad was a camera I had long pined for - you’ll get to hear about that properly when I finish up the article I’m writing for the FSC. Earlier this month, I was gifted the Motherload of Accessories for it by another kind FSC friend; it arrived in a box that’s almost as awesome as the contents. So I’ve been having a lot of fun making larger medium format negatives, and I am astounded how terrific the lenses are - I’m going to use this camera a lot!

In addition to darkrooming, mom’ing, and a couple of freelance shoots, I am also showing a collection of my cyanotypes with 3 other super talented artists as part of Print Austin, thanks to the kindness of Wilco Creatives and my own dear City of Round Rock. This is the fist time Round Rock has participated in Print Austin, so I am beyond thrilled to be participating in it! The opening reception is Friday Feb 1st (read all about it by visiting either of the organizations linked above); please stop by and see the show if you can. I’ll be there in spirit. . . . .

More news to come! Happy almost weekend everybody - hope you have a day filled with good light.

41

”Fear, he is a liar"  -- Zach Williams  

“We're less than perfect, more than flesh and bone.” — Matt Maher

My 41st year was by far the most challenging of my life so far.  Parts of it were shockingly horrendous.  Most of it, however, was incredibly wonderful.

One important lesson that facing extreme adversity taught me is that there are certain things no one can take away from you.  It also brought me face to face with myself, my true self, and reminded me of exactly who I am.  And you know what?  I'm pretty darn happy that I get to be that person.  And I'm happy to continue to photograph her.

This selection of self portraiture from the past year is presented in no particular order.  As usual, they are all on film.