I was backing up some hard drives today, and found this image of Jim McGuire today. He’d asked me to shoot a portrait of him for his solo show. Great dog, too.
We worked on this yesterday — a wet-plate portrait, and other images for my friend Melissa Greener.
We moved into the new Dharma center a few weeks ago. Dave brought in Noah Levine this past weekend, for a short talk on Friday night, and then an all-day meditation on Saturday. More information on the center and the schedule here.
Last Sunday, Jerry Joyner made a meal from scratch, and we drove out and visited Virginia Team, at her home near Ashland City. I met Virginia in the early 1980′s, when she was the main Art Director at CBS Records, on Music Row. She had a reputation as being a world-class Art Director, with high standards. I remember being terrified when I went their the first time to show her my book. I remember it was summer, and she was dressed in all white, and the sun was shining in the window, and she was nice to me and welcoming.
Later, we became true friends, as we traveled the country, doing record covers over the years. There were many fun adventures out west, in Arizona and New Mexico, scouting remote locations. She has a heart of gold, (even though it was scary to work for her!). She has an eye for subtle CMYK color like I’ve never seen with anyone else. She was known for taking her grease pencil to Matchprints, and marking them up for retouching. I’d just stand in her office and marvel over what she’d take note of. There was this retouching broker, in those days — Bob Towery — and he’d bring in these Matchprints and retouching — on dye transfer prints, done by hand in those days, and she’d send them back, over and over, til they were perfect.
Now, she’s retired, and lives on many acres outside of Nashville, with sixteen chickens, two cats, and Beau, the dog. Pete died a while back; he looks a lot like Beau.
We made a nice meal that day; took the golf cart out across the land; and built a nice fire. Was a good day.
We photographed graphic designer and illustrator Jerry Joyner yesterday. Here are a couple of initial images. More to be added later.
We met this fellow today, coming home from a shoot. The offramp of I-440 and Nolensville Road.
On Tuesday, I helped judge some final portrait portfolios, via Skype, for the Photojournalism program at Western Kentucky University (my alma mater, if you can say that if you never graduated). Also judging was Chris Stanford, from Atlanta. Tim Broekema is the professor for that class. Looking back on it, the whole process was pretty intense — seeing all that work at one time, and trying to be honest and not candy-coat the feedback, but also trying to be supportive. I think the last thing a student needs in these crazy times is candy-coating, especially as a senior. Especially as a PJ major. Never before in the history of the world has there been such a glut and oversupply of photographers. At some point, the rent is going to come due, and you gotta do something to not live under the Shelby Street bridge.
Anyway, Tim and Chris and I have been emailing each other, since that day, and today, Tim sent these two links for review. I had been bitching to him about these young kids getting too involved with gear, and flash units, and all the things that keeps them being truly being with their subject — and the importance of avoiding people/photographers that seem too sales-motivated, with hokey gear (to get in the way). I’ll let you fill in the names. I’d teach a class where every student only had one body and a 35 1.4, and they’d duct tape their body on ASA 6400, and wide open, and no other gear, and they just get in the car and go see the world, and hang with interesting people. Be a human being first, and then a photographer second. Chris cited Danny Clinch, during the Skype session; I agree with Chris. I’d probably add Ryan McGinley to the list as well, maybe minus the sparklers.
Anyway, here are these two links. Both links give me hope for young photographers coming out of a photojournalism school in the year 2012.
Edit: After I posted this, I saw this link on Joerg’s site. I love the Artist Statement on the body of work. I feel this about young people — so many options and distractions. Nice images too.
“Every new day gives us hundreds of opportunities. Gigabytes of new information, armfuls of exciting events, kilometres of unexplored places, chances of adventitious meetings – all this is waiting for us with the beginning of each 24-hour time span, which we are to use as effectively and rationally as possible, acting profitably and getting a satisfactory result. It could seem that realization of this fact is sure to inspire us. The problem is that the variety of alternatives and the great number of possibilities result in a deep fear of losing something really essential, missing some unique events or relevant information. Consequently, the fear leads to an inner catatony, a moment of floating in the air, which paralyzes our will and puts us into inexplicable panic. The endless variety of choices that we have to make doesn’t let us decide on anything. Instead of taking up new challenges, we stay at home in our cosy and safe little world which is ready to keep us away from the stream of this impetuous life beyond it.”
Very interesting documentary on the life and deals of David Geffen. Streaming, from PBS. (Hidden detail: Joni Mitchell’s song “Free Man In Paris” was written about David Geffen).
Attended a film last night, titled “Griefwalker”, about author Stephen Jenkinson. And then today, an all-day workshop with him. I made this portrait after the workshop, on the grounds of Scarritt Bennett. You can stream the entire film here, for free.
(Thank you Michelle, Kristy, Kelly).
Update: Here is Kristy’s blog post about the workshop that we attended on Saturday.
A friend shared this work with me. I love the Orwo Chapter. No idea what it means, but it’s strong work. On Facebook, she’s leading a double life as Tia Danko. Not sure about all the backstory, but all that matters is that the work is interesting. She lives in Slovakia. It’s a big world out there. (Edit/Clarification: She writes that Orwo is an expired GDR film that’s very unpredictable in its results).
R.A. Dickey won the National League Cy Young Award tonight. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. We shot his book cover recently, and after the session, he actually pitched some knuckleballs to me, (but not at full speed). And yes, they were hopping around more than Charlie Sheen on a fresh EightBall. I have some iPhone video of it somewhere. Anyway, below is an outtake frame that I shot with the old Liberator camera, on 4×5 B/W Polaroid. Congratulations to R.A. It was one hell of a season — he went 20-6, and was the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young. His entire family was at the shoot — a bunch of kids and a really kind wife.
I know very little about Lauren Simonutti. I’m just now beginning to read about her. All I know is that she had some type of mental illness, and that her photographs were strong, and that she seemed quite intelligent. She seemed to do all of her work in a very small area, in one room. She died this year.
Also, I just rewatched the Francesca Woodman documentary the other night, so all this is on my mind.
Link to Chapter One work from Edelman Gallery.
Link to Chapter Two work from Edelman Gallery.
And below, a video of Lauren, explaining her work.
I watched this nice video today from a woman in Washington state. Her name is Dinah DiNova. She’s doing a kickstarter thing to go back to her hometown area, New Orleans, to keep shooting. Her pictures are quite nice. The video is especially good. I also love the background music; the dog is pretty bad-ass too. I think it’s a Rat Terrier; might be a good breed to consider. Will send her some money today; she’s very well-spoken about her work and her approach. I like when people take a more modern slant on the collodion process.
Here are some frames from today, from Allison Marusic’s Red Barn Roundup in East Nashville. We got great character faces all afternoon, but ran out of ambient light at dusk. Could have shot faces all night. We went back to the Dallmeyer 9″ Petzval on this project, to get in closer to their faces, and to throw the depth of focus to almost nothing.
Thank you to Samantha Angel for great collodion prep, and to Derrick Hood for the dark box design.
I took a small light and a camera to a Halloween Party tonight at my friends Diana and Brent, on Belmont. I shot some portraits of all the children in their outfits. I’ll post those tomorrow. But I shot a portrait of Courtney also; I could not stop looking at this picture when I got home. Mesmerized by her face and spirit.
I also really like the presence in this little girl’s face, below. It was a madhouse in this dining room, where I was shooting, but still, she found this nice moment where she was truly “there” with me. She’s an Old Soul.
Shot several things with fine artist Jessica Clay today. Tested some wet plate; bought a hampster; shot a lot of candles; this is a frame with a collection of walnuts from a tree in my back yard. I keep them, knowing I’ll use them for something.
I’m not sure how to really write about this, but in the past few weeks, two “friends” have died. The odd thing, in my mind, I think of them as a friend, but in actuality, I never met either one of them face to face. Both were photographers, and we shared this interest in historic photo processes. It’s just so odd to have shared emails and even phone calls, but never having met, and then one day you simply get the news that they died.
The first man that died lived in Clarksville, Tennessee, and he collected a large assortment of historic lenses, and he was always scheming, (like me), on how to fit old lenses onto new cameras. He’d come to town fairly often, “to go to Vanderbilt”, he said, but I never really thought that much about the degree of his illness. We kept planning on meeting up for lunch, to look at the old lenses, but our schedules never coincided. But we kept talking over email, and kept exploring our passion for old cameras. Then, one day recently, I see on Facebook where he simply died. Quickly. Unexpectedly. I can remember that disbelief in my chest, when I kept reading and re-reading the post about his death.
The second fellow, well, I never really had a chance to ever meet him, but we wrote back and forth a couple of times, and I’d follow his posts on a photo forum. He was probably well into his 80′s, but it was his profile photo, and the way he wrote, that captured my attention. He was one of the early “modern guys” doing wet plate collodion, in London, so I had massive respect for him. His name was Sean MacKenna.
I’d made up this story in my mind that he was the modern grandfather of wet plate. There he sat in his chair, proud and dignified, and I wondered all the scenes he’d witnessed through his years in England. Here is one Obituary article.
And then a couple of days ago, I see where he went in for emergency surgery, and he just died. Gone. So today, I’m mourning the loss of two people I only met over the computer screen. Maybe in Mr. MacKenna’s case, I’d created some grand story that was much too large. Or, maybe I’m just missing my own grandfather as well.
Here’s a teaser image from tonight’s Buttermilk Road Sunday Supper. A gigantic stripped-together image from the kitchen. By the looks of this image, everyone in 37215 was in attendance. The soup and the biscuits and the figs were to die for. Yummy.
We had a great time with Dave Smith, from Against The Stream Nashville today. A diptych portrait; 8″x10″ wet plate collodion on black metal. Good stories; lots of laughter. Dave is a very admirable guy; he’s done the hard work.
Update: Here is Dave’s talk from last night’s practice, (Sunday night, Sept 30, 2012).
Yesterday, we made three large plates of good friend Jimmy Abegg, here at my house with the homemade collodion camera. Three plates in three hours; not bad I guess. Thanks also to Samantha Angel for great assistance with the chemistry and the workflow. Everything about this process goes “against the rules” of how the real collodion guys do things, but we are learning as we go. Once you go up in size, and leave the traditional plexi compartment workflow, it all gets dicey. We had some silver issues; not sure why. We had some skimming issues; not sure why. Hopefully the varnish will cover over my mistakes. Below are the actual black aluminum metal plates, (24″x28″) that we load into the camera. Each one is a mono print; no negative, no copies (unless you rephotograph it).
Long story, but I shot this image of this man in New Orleans a few months ago. Then, my cousin called me and said he knew the person, and he once lived in this commune of “radical faeries”, about an hour from Nashville. So I just had to go there, to see what it was all about.
Today, I drove there for their weekly open-to-the-public pot-luck dinner. I took some chicken salad, (and then freaked, on the way, thinking they were probably vegans). What I found, after driving deep into the boonies, and then down a long gravel road, was a nice farm with multiple buildings and dwellings. There was a main community building, and a community barn. Goats and chickens were on the land. Dogs lying on the sofa. They all pitched in for the weekly dinner.
Of course I want to photograph it, but after today, I think I want to photograph a much larger “gathering”, that happens twice a year there. Probably a couple hundred people. Today was just a gentle “entry trip”. I would say that when they saw the camera, they were a tad skeptical. But I will go back, and try to sink into the spirit of it. I think I had expectations of some type of “living Renaissance Festival” or something, with people flying from tree to tree, with translucent wings.
This weekend was perfect — rented a giant tiller, and cut up my front yard, making borders for mulch and bulbs. Kristin wanted a garden, too, so I headed to back yard to make one long run, for tomatoes and beans and lettuce.
And then, about sunset, we’re sitting on the front porch, and Kristin is giving me a haircut, and I see my neighbor across the street, shuffling down the sidewalk with his dog. But this time was special — he was in his church clothes, and I’d been waiting this for months. I lurched up out of the chair — haircut half-finished — one side long, the other side short, and ran inside to grab my big camera, find a card, and grab the right lens, before they made the corner. The light was perfect — golden sunset and saturated.
They make my block most every afternoon. His full name is Mr. Matthew Sherrill, and he was raised outside of Pulaski, Tennessee, (and original home of the KKK). He’s now either 96 or 97, depending on which day you ask him. He moved to my street, Bradford, in the late 1960′s, when this street was very rough. He raised a family here.
Today, he told me the story of Lacey, his dog. He had rushed to the vet one day with his old Bulldog, because the dog had overheated. The dog didn’t survive the night. But the next day, the vet called him and told him about an older lady in the neighborhood who’d had a heart attack, and she’d died, leaving this white/yellow mixed breed. The vet offered her to Mr. Sherrill. She was named Lacey, and she went home with him that afternoon.
He also told me today that he was leaving the street, and moving in with his son, out on the river. His house had been sold. It was time. He needed someone to check on him a bit more often. (Mr. Sherrill still drives, to this day — a giant, gold Lincoln Continental — and you see him coming down Bradford, at about 15 miles an hour, and then he finds his house, drives the car up on the curb, and then drops it back down in the street, perfectly in front of his house).
Note: He still sings in his church. Here is a video that I shot of him and neighbor Julie Lee, singing in his driveway, last year.
Today, I made public the first stage of a new blog. This is an experiment to loosen up, to shoot with less gear, (to shoot with more Polaroid), and to connect more on a human level. And since I’ve been working out of town mostly in the last two years, it’s also an attempt to reconnect with the interesting people in my home of Nashville, Tennessee.
I haven’t added the stories yet in some of these posts, and some of the posts in the new blog were stolen from this blog, in order to show potential photo subjects what I wanted to do. So this blog might be a tad slow in the next few weeks, as I put all my attention into this new project, called MyDayWith.com.
Sample page below. Maybe, in time, this will evolve into a printed magazine or book.
Today, I worked with a sweet mother and tiny tiny baby. This image below is just a part of a much larger image that’ll come later. I shot it with this tiny ringlight; wanted it to feel like a suspended reality, almost like still in the womb.
I made a salad a few weeks ago. Cut an onion in half, and set the other half in the window sill. It stayed there for forever. It started changing. It started turning into a face. It started talking to me when I’d get up and make coffee in the morning. Funny how things will start to take on a life on their own. Two nights ago, I started photographing it; it was becoming human. Reminded me of that scene in Coen Brothers film with William Burroughs, with the typewriter, when things started coming alive.
I thought it was going to be part of a project that we’re all working on, but I don’t think it’ll make the cut. Even though I find the face pretty interesting. (Full retouching disclosure: it had the one ear, on its own, and I cloned it and made a second ear).
I shot this with this old funky Nikon f1.2 lens that I bought recently. I don’t even mount it on the camera — I just hold it up to the camera body, about a half inch away. It’s amazing how it still makes a picture, even though the lens is not even touching the camera. I just move the lens in and out, with my left hand, to focus it. Surprises me that it doesn’t flare more, since there’s light entering the mirror box all around the lens opening. Just move the lens around with your hand; your own homemade tilt lens.
Shot this yesterday for my friend Diana. We had a wonderful child to work with. Brent was with his mother, in a Cracker Barrel somewhere, and somehow, somebody knew somebody, and he met this child and her grandmother, I think. Not sure about the specifics of the story, but on some level, it doesn’t matter, (but doesn’t Cracker Barrel have to be involved in every story that happens in The South? Really). She is so poised and well-spoken, all for three years old. And these incredible birds were flying all over my house; at some point, they’d get bored from sitting in her hand, and they’d fly off, and Brent and I would climb a ladder and get them down off the seamless or the window sill. They are tiny little doves from Petsmart, and I want a couple for myself, along with a victorian bird cage. They make a soothing little cooing noise.
(Edit): Here’s a second image too; just playing around with the window light.