Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Concept inspiration from one of my students

I have been procrastinating doing final grades (tomorrow, I promise) so I don't want any of my students who are reading to think that this post means your projects aren't good. I just happened to look at Ryan's yesterday because he was in my office, and I liked the idea so much I thought I'd share it as concept inspiration. Seriously, I wish I had thought of this.

Here's the background: He was in the library searching for a book. Next to the computers are little slips of paper for jotting down references. The slips were made of cards cut in half, cannibalized from the thousands of index cards that have since been replaced by computers. It's kind of tragic, really, to think of those relics of the pre-digital world ripped from their original role and cast aside next to their victors. But I digress...

Something sparked an idea and Ryan asked the librarians if they had any more of the old cards. They responded by hauling out a big box full of them, and he went to work giving the cards a new life.

I won't explain the rest because he has written an excellent intro in his own post and I want you to check it out. It's a three part post, very entertaining and inspiring. I would love to see an entire book of these. Enjoy:

Monday, April 19, 2010

We are (not) amused.

Somewhere in Camden

End of semester grading frenzy, entertaining various opportunities that have come from the ABC Paris exposure, still spending too much money on photography books, too in love with Netflix watch instantly movies on the big TV in the man cave. So many distractions. Nevertheless, I'm almost ready to post a tutorial. Meanwhile, does the above photo make you smile or is it just me?

Friday, April 16, 2010

A blurb book just for fun

MANIF by Marc Olivier | BOOK INFO

Just for fun, I did a Blurb book called "MANIF" (short for "demonstration" in French) about demonstrations, parades, and even a riot all photographed in Paris between 2003-2009. I'm not actually trying to sell it (I did zero markup) and I don't know if I will be happy with the print quality, but they have a new widget that shows your book so I thought I'd share. [Just a brief disclaimer to those who might be offended by the content: this book is about the energy of crowds and should not be viewed as a political statement.]

The widget is pretty cool because you can view the entire book full screen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Concept inspiration: John Baldessari

John Baldessari photo © 2007 Sidney B. Felsen

For those of you who read my blog mainly for the tutorials, I promise that one is coming soon. But if you also like inspiration, you'll be seeing several posts this month about creative minds doing conceptual work. First up: coneptual artist John Baldessari.

I'm skipping the bio (you can get that at the links) and giving you a few examples of his conceptual work. Maybe one of them will inspire you:
  • The first time he used photography in his work was on a project where he looked at the letters C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A on the map, drove to the precise location of each letter, made that letter on the spot out of found objects, and then photographed it. I wish I had thought of that (but then, I was a newborn at the time so I had other things on my mind).
  • The relation between text and image is a recurring concern in his work (I could go into pedantic mode about the relation between his work and that of various surrealists, but this is supposed to inspire ideas, not sleep.) I love "the pencil story" from 1972-73 (on a side note, don't you find dual dates strange? I mean, it's two pencils and some text, pick a year. Unless he made this on New Year's Eve, I'm just not buying the two dates thing):
(In case the text is difficult to read here it is: "I had this old pencil on the dashboard of my car for a long time. Every time I saw it, I felt uncomfortable since its point was so dull and dirty. I always intended to sharpen it and finally couldn't bear it any longer and did sharpen it. I'm not sure, but I think that this has something to do with art.")

  • Long before others were doing it, Baldessari worked with found photography. He would raid the garbage bins of photo processing companies, for example, or simply rip photos from a dictionary. Sometimes he overpainted the images, other times he used them to create collages. Once, he took photos from TV shows, asked his assistant to write a one word caption on or below each photo, and then organized the project into a visual dictionary.
  • He collected a series of movie stills and made grid-like collages of heavily cropped sections. In one work, he gathered images of people's hands pointing guns.
Kiss / Panic, 1984, Medium black and white photographs with oil tint
  • He often adds bright round circles (like price tag stickers) over the faces of his found subjects
(buy this and others at the Barbara Krakow Gallery)

And finally, here's a little Wikipedia excerpt about Baldessari's conceptual games:
"Baldessari has expressed that his interest in language comes from its similarities in structure to games, as both operate by an arbitrary and mandatory system of rules. In this spirit, many of his works are sequences showing attempts at accomplishing an arbitrary goal, such as Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line, in which the artist attempted to do just that, photographing the results, and eventually selecting the "best out of 36 tries", with 36 being the determining number just because that is the standard number of shots on a roll of 35mm film."

The point in this and future posts on conceptual inspiration is not to give you ideas to copy, but to try and appreciate how one artist's mind works, to get you thinking about and reacting to that work, and from that thinking/reacting....who knows?

Want to read more about Baldessari?
Read the X-TRA interview.
Read Wallpaper's article about the recent Tate show and watch the slide show.
Read the Smithsonian's oral history interview with Baldessari.
Another interview at Art Review.
An interview with Seesaw magazine that I find particularly interesting.

Don't want to read?
OK, watch an interview.

Want to buy a book?
I recommend Pure Beauty. I own it and I love it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

And the winners are...

First, here is how the winners were chosen:

My son, Max, wanted to write a computer program to randomly select the winner. I told him that it wasn't necessary because there are randomizers on the internet. Later that day, he said "So when do you want me to write that program?" So I let him write the program.

We first plugged in those who had done the posts—the $80 winner.

And the winner of the $80 credit is: Marcel

We then plugged in the comments in the non-blog post category, eliminating the accidental doubles and including the few comments that were non-post comments placed on the post comments side. Confusing? Well, trust me, we made sure it was fair.

And the winner of the $40 credit is: Jill

I will email credit codes and instructions on how to use them.
Congratulations! And thank you to all of you for commenting.

Didn't win and still wanting a photo or two? Through the end of this month you can use the coupon code "takeoutphoto" in step 3 of checkout for 15% off your entire order.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

And even more coverage of ABC Paris...

Black Eiffel is running a story about my project and they are doing a $100 giveaway.
happy happy joy joy

Major coverage of my ABC Paris project!

Design*Sponge, a hugely popular design blog did a story about my ABC Paris photo project! Remember that this Friday I am doing a giveaway to one randomly chosen reader who leaves a comment on my april monthly special post ($40) and to one randomly chosen reader who does a post about the project and puts the link of their post on the april monthly special page.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Amy Dresser rebroadcast on RetouchPRO

There is a rebroadcast of the RetouchPRO webinar with Amy Dresser this Wednesday at 2 p.m. CDT. You might have to sign up for Retouch PRO to even visit the link (but it's free and worth it). This is the only event in which they have used an image of a man for the retouching—something I found not only refreshing, but useful. I actually prefer a version she did a few steps back from the "after" above, but even if the end result is not quite to your liking, the technique of the retouch is amazing to watch. I did a post not long ago about how much I loved the event. Read it if you're on the fence. It will give you an idea of the content so you can judge if it's useful for you. If you're an absolute beginner with Photoshop, you might be overwhelmed, but if you're intermediate and up, it will be well worth it. I mention this because accessing one of these events on Youtube is $20—a bit too high if you ask me. But when RetouchPRO does the event (including this rebroadcast), they are only $10. You need to pay in advance (via Paypal) to reserve.

Friday, April 2, 2010

April Monthly Special: Concept

"P" a graffiti photographer. Having a concept helps you notice things.

In the photography class I'm teaching this semester, we have covered several photographers whose work is highly conceptual. Sophie Calle and Hans Eijekelboom, in particular, come to mind. For one of Eijekelboom's projects, he managed to get himself into photographs (sometimes the front page) of his local newspaper for 10 days in a row. His more recently published Paris—New York—Shanghai is based on a self-imposed routine of going out in the city for a couple of hours, looking for a "type," (say, people wearing camo pants) and then photographing it to create a visual typology. His grids of photos featuring mean wearing striped polos makes me never want to wear another striped shirt (and not just because those horizontal stripes are unflattering). Sophie Calle's many projects include a chromatic diet (in which she ate a menu composed entirely of one color for each day of the week and photographed it) and the hotel project (in which she worked in Italy as a maid and photographed the contents of the guests' suitcases) stand out.

Clearly, those projects are at the more experimental end of the spectrum. But one thing we can all learn from conceptual work is how forethought and method can create coherence and a sense of purpose to our work. Sometimes the most arbitrary set of constraints can lead to unexpected and thought-provoking work.

"N" on a carousel ride

This month, I want to explore "concept" as a form of inspiration. And to kick off the month, I am officially launching my "ABC Paris" collection. I did a post about the project a long time ago, but now I am finally ready to promote it as a series of prints. The "concept" behind the project goes back to when my son, Max, was a baby and learning his alphabet. We were living in Paris and I was working on my PhD. The simple abécédaire became the organizing principle that helped me capture the city. I have always liked Victor Hugo's quote from Notre Dame de Paris: “If you know how to see, you can recognize the physiognomy of a king in a door knocker.” Hugo felt that although the invention of the printing press had help disseminate knowledge, it had also made people visually illiterate. During the Middle Ages, he most common laborer knew how to "read" a cathedral, but in post-Revolutionary post-Napoleonic France, cathedrals were falling into ruin and architecture had become a dead language.

"O" of a door knocker on Notre Dame

My ABC Paris project is a sort of primer for reading my favorite city. Whatever the literary connections that I may draw, however, the project is meant to be accessible and even commercial. For me, the thought of those images hanging up in someone's home is as great an end to the project as a book (well, maybe a close second), which is why I have priced the letters very low—starting at just $10 for a 5x5 print. I have made a minimum of 3 versions of each letter with the idea that people might want to buy several prints and spell things without repeating the same version of a letter. In all, there are 113 letters.

I have divided the project into three galleries:
1. The individual letters (available as 5x5 inch and 8x8 inch prints)

"L" stack of chairs at the Jardin du Luxembourg

2. A 24x36 inch print with the entire original alphabet

3. 11x14 inch prints of each original alphabet letter accompanied by a quote from a French historical/literary figure.

As a real "monthly special," I am offering my readers a 15% discount for the month of April. Just enter "takeoutphoto" (as one word, no spaces, all lower case) as a coupon code at checkout.

"H" chairs inside Saint-Sulpice church

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I don't do this for self-promotion and don't use ads, but I am making an exception this month in this most blatantly self-promotional move ever:

Two ways you can win FREE ABC PARIS PRINTS:

1. For a chance to win a $40 credit, check out the galleries, leave a comment on this post saying which thing you would choose to buy, and on Friday, April 9, I will announce a randomly chosen winner. (I will let my 4-yr-old daughter choose a name out of a hat)

2. For a chance to win an $80 credit, do a post about my ABC launch, post the link to your post back here (my FAQ page tells you how to link here), and I will announce a winner on Friday, April 9. You can add images to your post from any of my galleries by clicking on the "share" tab and getting a link.