Thursday, April 30, 2015

Searching for a solution

Year before last I was invited to join a group of 15-17 artists who were working on collaborative projects. I missed their first go-round and started in the middle of their current project - which is based on the concept of a Mandala. Each artist started with a piece - the first step of a work and then it passed to the next...and so on, until completion.  You get about 6 weeks to work on each piece and towards the later part of the project, often you'd find that you had to pass on the piece when it got to you because it felt finished. Now we are having an exhibition of the series - and included in the show will be an individual mandala for each of us in our own style.  

The above image was one of my first tries at the individual version...but what it had in symmetry, it lacked in meaning and I just couldn't continue with it. When you're working with a concept, it's important to not be too confined by the literalness of it, or how others have interpreted it. I decided to focus on the idea of four doorways imagining that it was something I could view from another angle. 

This was one of my first tries. The archway came out of a building that I was using in another shot and I loved the light and airy quality it had...but felt the layout didn't really work. Finally, I continued with the idea that I would not make a mandala from an overhead view, but would see it as something towards the horizon - to strive for.

This "room" felt right to me and I loved the dark shadows the front and back curves made on the sand...then came the real problem...perspective for the side curves! When I create constructed images one of the first things I do is draw out all of the perspective lines so I can see how to fit the new objects in from a single viewpoint. The problem was, how would the shadows work on the sides as they connected the front and back surfaces? If this had been a straight rectangle, I would have been fine...but it was the arches that really threw me.

After many attempts to figure it out...I gave up and went to the literal! Cutting out the arches from a photo, taping them together onto a white sheet of paper and sitting them in the sun to photograph how curved shadows moving towards a vanishing line actually look. Having the "maquette" really helped me understand how it worked. The shot I used was taken from a much lower angle to simulate the viewpoint from the photo.

This shot let me know how the shapes work, but the shadow would be way too long to fit into my photograph, so I placed the whole thing onto a large box and tilted the angle to shorten the shadow since I wasn't going to wait for the sun to rise to the correct height.

Finally, I started lowering the camera to get a better sense of how the perspective would change and flatten in my image.

For my final piece I'm still deciding how I want to crop it, whether or not to include the figure...but hey, I have until Friday to figure that out (yes, that's tomorrow). This weekend we install 17-20 works (some ended up evolving into multiple pieces) which should be quite the experience!

Join us the following weekend for the Opening Reception:

Saturday, May 9th, 5:00pm - 9:00pm
The Mandala Project
SCA Project Gallery
281 S. Thomas Street, #104
Pomona, CA

If you're on Facebook, here's the event page.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Good Contracts Make Good Clients and Keep Good Friendships!

There's an old saying "good fences make good neighbors" and I'll be honest that for the longest time, I didn't have a firm understanding of what it really meant. Was there something wrong with my neighbors? Was it about trust? It sounded so negative.

Then this week, I had a very interesting conversation with a student about a job she had done for a "friend." Let me tell you right now...the only time I ever got stiffed on a job was when I worked for a friend. Why? Because you don't want to offend them by creating a structure to work in and that always gets in the way.

The student told me about an event she'd photographed for this friend - and I guess it didn't go as well as they both would have liked. The friend ended up wanting all the photographs, but only wanted to pay for a know how it goes. One thing lead to another...and now the friend is a former friend. I asked if they'd had a contract - "oh no, I was just doing a favor for her, but I told her what I was going to give her" was the response.

At the heart of this problem was a lack of clear communication - and that's what a contract is.  When I describe a job to you - you see it in your own way - which may or may not be the same way I do. So, contracts (or some type of written agreement) create a clear space between us where we have some chance of really understanding what the other person is thinking.

There's a classic Japanese film, Rashomon, the core of which is several characters provide very different views of the same incident...we see everything through our own filter - what we want to see, what we need...etc.

Scared of legal documents - worried a friend will take offense if you hand them a serious doc with pages of small print? ASMP has some great information and straightforward contracts - but, if that's overwhelming - a contract can be something very simple:

1. When is the shoot / event going to happen and when am I supposed to be there?

2. What specifically do you want me to do while I'm there?

3. What will you make sure is ready for me when I get there?

4. What is the end product? How and when will it be delivered?

5. When will I get paid?

6. To add a bit more could include - what will happen if any of the above items don't deliver as promised? Are you reshooting for free? Are they paying you for your time if you show up at the agreed upon time and they're not ready?

To keep those friendships - and to treat your creative work with respect - use a contract!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Intersect Project

This week is a simple post - we've started a new "event" at the college and a good friend suggested the perfect name, "Intersect." The idea came out of both my past experiences running PhotoFest@LBCC (which I didn't want to repeat) and the new home that photography has at school, which is the Digital Media Arts program. 

For many years, I had felt that photographers had to do more than just shoot stills. Obviously, this wasn't a new concept...and it seemed to echo what was happening in the "real world" where everyone was using a wide range of tools and techniques to tell their stories. It took a while to get good collaborators on board - but now, with Morgan Barnard (CG) and Eli Daughdrill (Film) we're getting to the stage where we're learning how to work well together. 

So,  Friday, May 8th and Saturday, May 9th we'll be diving off the deep end and have put together two days of interesting workshops and discussion panels that range from alternative processes to "5x5" videos. Here's the website LINK - it's free, but we need you to register since some of the workshops have a limited space.  

Interested in starting your own arts-oriented (or whatever your area of interest is) event yourself? Here's a few tips to get you going: 

1. Start with a deadline even if you don't know exactly what you want to do...honestly, this will kick you into moving forward...even if it's mostly in a panic!

2. Find collaborators and don't try to do everything yourself. Working with others is important - yes it's diving into the "unknown" but the potential rewards are worth it. Start with the people you know - the local businesses you frequent, your'd be surprised who might be on your wavelength. 

3. Allow your idea to evolve - and talk about it with everyone you meet - this will spark interesting discussions and potentially can bring on other collaborators you never thought of. 

4. Think about what your "assets" are and how you could leverage an interested company to participate in your events. 

Good luck and hope to see you at Intersect!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Be Your Own Critic

A few weeks ago we went to the Sacramento area for an exhibition and during my off time, we took a drive around the neighboring areas. A small town really caught my eye and as we were driving through one of the older areas, we saw a real estate sign in the yard of a very sweet home...and the door was open! I couldn't resist and ended up taking a few images inside. Working with real environments is a great way to bring memory and emotion into your images. I was also taken with the beautiful spring fields filled with swaying tall grasses (although the whole allergy thing made me eventually regret that). 

Starting with two types of images - this is where I ended up. Doing the first "sketches" really starts me on the road to seeing how images will work together and if they create the feelings/evocations I'm looking for. This one after some work, I made a print and I wanted to share that part of the process with you. 

My process is to make a print and start drawing all over it to remember the items I wanted to change (I created this graphic for this blog post only).  Overall: I like the "first look" but it had items I wanted to change (removing flaws, straightening the tree) and broader issues I wanted to reconsider, such as how dark should the wall image be and how to make the tree on the left side feel more dimensional.  

Images evolve. After I'm happy with this one, I'll probably move it to the side for a few weeks and then come back to it and see what I think at that point. For now, I really love this room and the sense that time has grown into the room while it waited. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Opportunities Abound!!!

Wanting to add some creativity to your life?

The Alternative Photographic International Symposium will be held mid-July in Pasadena this year. Art Center College of Design will be the host and Bostick and Sullivan and the organizers. This three day event is the place to go if you're interested in hand-made photographic practices. They've got very low prices for students - and even the regular price isn't bad.

The Palm Springs Photo Festival happens at the end of April and features a wide range of workshops, seminars and portfolio reviews. It's smaller than FotoFest or PhotoLucida...but it's local (to SoCal) and less expensive.

When I was learning advanced Photoshop skills Natasha Calzatti was one of the people I took a seminar from. She's giving one on Portrait Retouching through Samy's Camera in April.

Finally, this year we're starting something new at LBCC - a two day conference with workshops and speakers that's FREE and celebrates a variety of disciplines from photo to film to computer graphics. It's called Intersect and we'd love to have you during our inaugural run at the beginning of May.