What I’ve Been Up To

I haven’t blogged in quite some time, but it’s the end of the semester and I thought I’d share some of the photography  I’ve been working on. Below is a selection of photos from the semester, including images I made in response to weekly assignments from one of my classes and everyday photos of my housemates.

In addition, I created a book from a selection of my photos from Hong Kong, a process that taught me a lot about how I make work, what kind of photos I take, and why I take them. It also was a good lesson in sequencing and storytelling, and it feels really good to have a final tangible product that I can hold in my hands. You can see the images on my website.

Blogging is a pretty egotistical act in some ways.

What I wish I was doing

Every once in a while, I come across a series of photographs that is so in tune with my own artistic vision and personal interests that I curse myself for not coming up with it myself. Most of the time it is something that I have turned over in my mind as an interesting idea, but quickly realized was totally impossible give my current education, finances, and occupation (is student even an occupation?). The project Shadow Within by Christian Houge is one of those projects that I wish so badly was my own. Houge photographs wolves. But it’s not your typical National Geographic photograph that was shot with a telephoto lens at long distances. On the contrary, many of the photos show just how aware the wolves are of Houge’s presence , and amazingly, how comfortable they seem to be despite him being there.

I’ve been in love with wolves since I was little. I remember being only 11 or 12 on a trip to Canada, where I watched in complete awe as a pack ran through the woods next to the road, silent streaks of grey that seemed to dissolve in and out of the trees. For me, the wolf has always symbolized the wild nature that we all have inside of us but choose to ignore and surpress. Additionally, the wolf has always been associated with evil and darkness; one only has to look at fairytales and folklore to confirm that the fear of wolves runs deeps in human society. Yet I would argue that part of that fear comes from the fact that we are afraid to admit how much the wolf reminds us of ourselves.

And this is why Houge’s project is so frustratingly perfect. It explores these issues that I have considered dozens of times. Wanting to get close to the animals, he had to take a safety course in order to learn their language and understand the signs they use. He had to let himself go.

“You have to face your fear,” he says. “They are in your face, and they have their tongue in your mouth, if they choose to come and greet you. This is how they get food from their parents when they are young. It is a sense of security, but it is their way of showing they’re in charge.”

Working with packs around the world and spending days at a time in the woods, Houge manages to get extremely close to these beautiful animals and in his images he shows us those wild elements which we all have deep down.

Houge believes that exploring our more wild side, our “shadows within,” is crucial in learning more about ourselves and how we interact with nature.

On his website, Houge writes, “I think the idea of Man trying to control nature as opposed to utilizing and respecting it, brings up a strong metaphor of how we humans deal with the environment we are a part of and dependant upon. Most people have their own reference to what the wolf represents, starting from their early childhood… I wish to explore deeper into Mans psyche and what we all can learn of our own shadow sides through this creature.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh, and to top it all off, the images are absolutely stunning. The black and white photographs, depicting flashing teeth and piercing eyes, have rich blacks and sublime midtones. Again, the project of my dreams.

You can see the full series on his website, and read more on the Lens Blog

Transitions

I’ve been living with the same group of individuals, more or less, for the past 3 years. During that time I have made countless photographs of them, documenting the time we have shared. Traditionally I used my trusty 35mm camera to capture moments as they happend, spontaneously. However this semester I began to use a medium format camera, the Mamiya 7, which I liked so much I bought my own. Because the film is so much bigger, the number of frames per roll of film is less, and therefore each photograph costs more, literally. This fact, combined with the size and general slowness of the Mamiya forced me to take a different approach.

Still interested in photographing these individuals who filled the minutes & hours of my life, I began setting up appointments which my friends, placing them in front of the camera and taking more control over what I saw through my viewfinder (technically it’s a rangefinder). As the semester progressed I thought about the way my friends and I had changed from that first year we spent together, and how these photographs were so different from those early snapshots (I still continued to shoot my ‘snapshot’ photographs throughout this time). The most obvious change, and probably the most cliche, is that we are growing up. But it is deeper than that. The more I look, the more I realize that my pictures constitute an ongoing  investigation of the way my friends have crafted their identities. These more formal portraits represent the way I saw my friends at this point in time; they are frozen in transition, for even today their identity has been further developed.

As I continue to photograph and live with these individuals, I cannot help but think of a long-term project, one which attempts to show the development and molding of myself and my friends. I guess you’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, enjoy the portraits from this semester, and CHECK OUT THE NEW WEBSITE I MADE!!!!!!!!!

Night Work

It’s been a month since I’ve been able to post, mostly because of the crazy whirlwind of sleeplessness, spending time with friends, and stress that is the last few weeks of the semester. I managed to survive and I am now enjoying my time off with my family before my next adventure in Hong Kong begins. I want to use this time to catch up on my work from the semester and share it with whoever it is that stumbles upon this blog. First up, the final selection of photographs from my “Night Work” project.

I spend a lot of time walking around Somerville, often making 3 or 4 trips a day from my house to Tufts campus, Davis Square, or elsewhere. As a result I spend a lot of time taking in the same surroundings every day, and as the days got shorter a lot of those walks happened after the sun went down. I became very accustomed to (and enamored with) the way certain scenes would be lit up at night. What some might consider ordinary suburban landscapes suddenly became transformed by both artificial and natural light,creating dramatic scenes that captivated me on a daily basis. I therefore set out to document these scenes, to slow down and really look at the surroundings that served as the backdrop for my daily life.

As always, leave any comments below and let me know what you think!

Thursday Night Gone Wrong

Been a while seen I’ve been able to post, as I have been totally swamped with work, but expect a lot of new content in the next few days. I’m going to start off with a story that happened several weeks ago.

A couple Thursdays ago, my friends were messing around trying to find something to do, since none of them have class on Friday. When my friends or bored, either they create some awesome, or something goes terribly wrong. We happened to have a wooden stool in our kitchen, and Andrew got the bright idea for us to play stump using this stool. If you don’t know, stump is a drinking game usually played on a tree stump outside. Each player has a nail which they tap lightly into the stump. To make your opponent take a sip of their beer, you need to toss a hammer (yes, a hammer) upwards so that it rotates 1 full rotation. On its way down, you need to catch the hammer (ideally on the handle) and try to hit your opponents nail, all in one fluid motion (I’ve done the work for you and found a video). Now, it might sound dangerous. And frankly, it is, if you’re with a bunch of super drunk idiots. Luckily this was the first beer all of us had, which in the long run didn’t matter since we all sobered up immediately after this event.

So we’re stumping away, but this is a wooden stool, not a giant tree stump, and after a while the poor stool starts to show some cracks. After about 10 more minutes of playing, the stool was in shambles, missing large pieces and making it largely impossible to play on. So, like any ordinary kids, we decide to just beat the crap out of this stool and totally obliterate it! (Think of it as stress relief) So far it’s all fun and games, we’re just joking around and smacking this stool with a hammer. We decided it was time to end this thing and start raising the hammer high above our heads and crashing it down. Once. Twice. Three times. Then Neil grabs the hammer and brings it down on the stool. Instantly he falls to the ground, clutching his face and cries out “Oh God! Shit, I’m not OK!”

When he pulls his hands away from his face there is blood everywhere. His girlfriend starts freaking out. I grab an ice pack. Andrew tries to calm him down as we move towards the bathroom. As we’re walking, Neil cracks a smile and says, “Guess this is the end of my bowling career.” This is why we love Neil.

And then what do I do? I run into my room and grab my camera.  For the next 10 minutes or so, 5 of us are packed in the bathroom as Andrew washes out Neil’s eye and uses a headlamp and a pair of tweezers to try to remove any debris from his eye. As his girlfriend looks on, I begin taking pictures, getting as close as possible without interfering with Andrew. There is no resistance.

Eventually Andrew says there’s nothing left that he can see, but now Neil’s eye is pretty swollen and he’s beginning to get worried. He keeps telling us that everything is blurry and that he cannot see very well. He starts to get dressed to go to the hospital, but eventually we convince him that it’s ok. Coincidentally, Neil’s father is an opthamologist, and so at midnight Thursday evening, Neil calls up his dad and proceeds to tell him what happens. The next day he went to a doctor and got some drops, and weeks later you can barely see the cut below his eye.

So obviously I’ve included some photographs in the gallery below, but what I loved about this whole event was the fact that I could get right in there and not have to think twice about taking pictures. I’ve been making pictures of these friends for over two years now and it’s what I am currently focusing on as a semester project, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it is I’m doing and what it means, if anything. I like to think it shows the intimacy of the relationships but also the idea that “everyday” moments can be totally crazy. Whether or not I’m making work that others can find merit in is up for debate, but I know that at a personal level, exploring my immediate surroundings in this way is incredibly rewarding.

9-eyes

Everyone knows about google street view, Google’s project of creating a panoramic view from every possible point on Google Maps. The project, which started in 2007, uses cars, bicycles, trolleys, and snowmobiles with cameras and GPS devices mounted to each vehicle as they traverse the globe. Pretty amazing if you think about it, and just another example of Google’s huge presence in our world. From a photography point of view it’s fascinating because the aesthetic and strategy is very similar to street photography, except that in this case the camera is entirely neutral and is merely responding to a predetermined set of directions. There is no human bias that decides when the pictures are being taken. This makes Jon Rafman’s hand-picked collection of street view photographs all the more interesting.  In his website 9-eyes, he presents a lengthy string of these incredible photographs, which document everything from wild horses to prostitutes and much much more. The images Rafman has put together show great natural beauty and surprising human moments, if not sometimes both in the same frame. In one picture a tiny baby has been apparently left alone in front of a Gucci store. In another, a very slow moving man shows up twice in the same frame, a result of the software which puts the pictures together. There are several pictures of drug busts and car crashes, and just as many have people giving the middle finger or showing their bare asses. There is much to be said about these photographs, but what I like to believe is that this project shows something inherently powerful and beautiful about the practice of photography. That even when it is essentially a random, mechanized process, a camera still has the ability to show us something wonderful, something tragic, something poignant and revealing. On the other hand, perhaps this only enforces the idea that there are no “artists” in photography, only button-pushers. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see how the concept of photography as art continues to develop.

UPDATE: Time’s Lightbox website posted a short article and series of photos from artists who use google street view in their work, including Rafman’s 9eyes project. Just remember you read it here first!

Bill Viola, “Two Women”

In my photography class we’re making the plunge into short videos, which is totally new but because of that kind of fun because there are no expectations. Our TA Case showed us this video piece, and it is unreal. So simple, but there are so many layers here; you can just keep going deeper. I especially love the fact that it goes from black and white to color. Unfortunately I can’t embed it because I don’t have permission, but there’s a still frame below and you can watch it here.

Earth as Art

Being back in school reminds me how lucky I am to have all these resources available to me. My professors are so knowledgeable, I have seen so much amazing art in the last 2 weeks it amazes me. I’ll continue to post things as I come across them. First up, some AMAZING photographs of earth from space. The resulting frames are abstract and full of rich colors, while also demonstrating the immense patterns that create the landscapes around us. I posted a few below, but click here to see all these incredible, mysterious pictures.

These 3 are just from the 1st series. There are 3 series total, so there is a ton of material to appease your eyeballs!

“Man with a Movie Camera”

I was asked to watch this originally silent film from Russian director Dziga Vertov for one of my photography classes. Filmed in 1929, it’s an awesome film that was so far ahead of it’s time. Many groups since have added their own soundtrack, but the accompanying music created by The Cinematic Orchestra fits unbelievably well with the movie. You can see the whole thing here on youtube. If you don’t have the time to watch the full hour long feature, at least watch about 10 minutes, or just put it on for background music. One of my favorite parts comes later at about the 45:27 mark. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed!

New Hampshire

It’s been a long time since I’ve written on here. Just finished my first week back at school and it feels strange to be back. I got a lot going on this semester including a bunch of photography classes so hopefully you’ll see a flux of images shortly. I’m excited for the semester but I also know it’s going to be a lot of work, but luckily nothing intense yet.

Anyway, to continue my trend of posting photos by theme, here are some of my photos from my trips to New Hampshire.

As always, you can check out more pictures here, and take a look at my UGallery.