Sunday, January 3, 2010

January Monthly Special: Lists

Really? Lists? Yeah, I know. By now, every magazine, blog, and newspaper you've read has probably done some sort of "2009" list. I know I did. And why is that? Why this obsession with lists? According to Umberto Eco, that question merits a book and an exhibit at the Louvre. Here at Take-out Photo, the rest of January will have to suffice.

I am not proposing that we all take photos of our to-do lists (like the one of my ipod above). Instead, I want to look at lists as an organizing principle. "Workflow," a big part of a photographer's life, is basically a list of steps. At some point in this month, once I finish the dodge and burn post (look in the photo, it's on my list), I want to give you my portrait retouch workflow from start to finish.

As for lists and our creative process, I like the following quote from Lewis Baltz (from the "Contacts" dvd that I find very inspiring):
"Anyone can take pictures. What's difficult is thinking about them, organizing them, trying to use them, montage them in some way so that meaning can be made out of them. That's where the work begins."
If you're at a loss for inspiration, try a list. Umberto Eco claims that the phone book would be his pick for a desert island because he could make up so many stories from such a long list of possible characters. I question his sincerity, but I like the idea of it: the most boring, banal list as a source of creativity. It's a good challenge. Look at your "to do" list and imagine that it needed to be the basis for a photo essay. What other lists do you have? How would they manifest themselves in a photographic form? As with the desert island phone book, a list won't tell a story on its own. However, we don't need to be writers to make a list come to life. A careful reader can pull meaning from a list. Help someone else see that meaning, and you have created a story. If I were to "read" our local phone book (and I won't, but still...), I might begin to notice all of those hybrid names (mix and match all of your beloved ancestors) that Utah spawns (check out this hilarious site for examples). Or maybe I would notice clusters of certain family names grouped together in the same part of town—all except one. You get the point.

I'm bringing back the links this month, so I hope to see some participation from you (participating in Take-out Photo was at the top of your New Year's resolution list, right?). Do a list post of some sort, and come back here to add a link. Maybe when we're done we'll have a nice list (fingers crossed!).


Alex said...

Hey! I'm one of your newest students. :) Your blog is awesome! its kind of like my dream blog... One day i'll have a blog like yours.. :) feel free to check out mine as well,