April 27, 2017 – Scuffed Metal

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“Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.”
~Matt Hardy

Sometimes I’m amazed by what I don’t see – that I can walk down the same street I’ve walked down a dozen times and see something interesting or beautiful that has always been there, but that I have never noticed. The exercise of abstract photography makes it easier to actively look, everywhere you go, and it makes life – even the most boring parts – undeniably more exciting.

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April 26, 2017 – Under Construction

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“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”
~Diane Arbus

I agree with this quote. In my experience, I think that I often photograph things that everybody sees – things that everybody sees all the time. I often photograph things that are so common, so banal, so boring that even though we see them all the time, we never notice them. My trick is to add focus and direction to how I photograph these subjects, so that people can see them anew.

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April 25, 2017 – Longitude (industrial textures)

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“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
~Elliott Erwitt

I’m not sure if I really have much more to add to the quote. It’s something I’ve said, in my own words, countless times over. This image was hugely inspired not by any photographer (or photography mentor) but a print-maker named Nathan Abel, who I had the pleasure to learn under in the printmaking lab at the University of Arizona. I made this photograph while I was attending his printmaking course, and the process of drawing solar- and mono-prints, etchings and xerox transfers, influenced how I looked at the world through the camera lens.

Even though I’m not a print-maker like Nathan, or anybody else who works in a printmaking lab, I have worked as a photographic print-maker for my entire adult (and most of my teenage) years. I was struck how the introduction of a new discipline opened new doors for me, and is the most solid reminder I have to continue introducing new ideas and disciplines into my day-to-day life, because they tend to help my own work grow and evolve.

Experimentation is key in the creative arts, and I highly value that very brief summer course. I learned an awful lot that I hadn’t expected to learn in the least; I was just trying to fill up that damn credit requirement. I guess you never know what’s going to happen, so long as you’re willing to dive in, give new things a try, and say ‘yes’ to uncomfortable territory.

Thanks, Nate.

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Better Call Saul 3.03 – Sunk Costs

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One of the greatest assets of Better Call Saul is its treatment of time. The entire series is a framework-piece, beginning in a black-and-white sequence that takes place in the present. This divorces the narrative of Better Call Saul from its Breaking Bad roots. Then we rewind and dive into the prequel narrative, where we learn about Jimmy McGill’s apotheosis. He’s is a fallen god in the present but a serf struggling to feed himself in the beginning of his story.

It may just be possible for Better Call Saul to be both a prequel and a sequel to Breaking Bad. If audiences remain engaged and the show continues, we may just see the present-day narrative extend into the future. It’s a clever slight-of-hand that the writers are playing, and I don’t believe there’s any precedent for this kind of story-telling in television.

Like the previous two episodes of this season – and some moments from the previous two seasons – much of this episode’s story is told in montage, rather than spoken dialogue. This is a curious story-telling trick that motivates audiences to pay attention to the television and not their smart phones, to remain engaged, to empathize with the characters and guess at what they’re thinking, theorize what they’re going to do next. Just as the entire show is a framework piece, this episode functions the same way on a smaller scale, opening with the dangling red sneakers on the power lines south of the border. This opening scene foreshadows the Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) story-line, but we later realize that the scene takes place after the main events of the episode.

*The composition of the frame in the first scene even manages to conveniently crop out the toe of the shoe.
Season two already explains why Ehrmantraut has a grudge against the Salamanca cartel – Hector Salamanca had a civilian “not in the game” killed in the wake of Mike’s truck robbery – and this episode finally illustrates how Ehrmantraut and Gus Fring finally come together. The recipe is simple and as old as time:

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

The opposing narrative is more procedural and less intriguing, but we know that it’s building to something. We pick up where we left off last week, with Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) preparing to deal with the consequences of breaking into his brother’s house and destroying the recording of his confession. Chuck (Michael McKean) has clearly assembled increasingly clever plans to dismantle Jimmy’s career throughout the course of the series, and his recent trickery appears to be the last nail in the coffin – Jimmy isn’t going to forgive him. We already know that Jimmy is going to become a successful (albeit shady) attorney from the Breaking Bad story, so we aren’t overly concerned with the outcome – we’re concerned with how things unfold. All we have to do, as audience members, is wonder how exactly Jimmy is going to get back into the ring and make it happen. Chuck wants Jimmy to give up law, and we already know that it isn’t going to happen, so we wonder.

It’s a new kind of subtle suspense, and it’s a very compelling gimmick.

We all know that Jimmy McGill is a criminal, that he’s conniving and immoral. Somehow, though, we sympathize with him. We watch him struggle professionally, we watch him struggle with his older brother. We somehow want him to succeed, even though we recognize his moral bankruptcy. Television and Hollywood are replete with anti-hero stories, but Better Call Saul has tapped into the story of the anti-hero without dipping into bald-tire cliché. This story is infinitely more human in its exploration of these characters; it is, quite brilliantly, the best adaptation of Goethe’s ‘Faust’ – thematically, not literally – that television has to offer.

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April 24, 2017 – Lavender Sunrise

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“In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”
~Alfred Stieglitz

Capturing a moment in time – it’s one of the most satisfying things that the camera can do in a world that is constantly in flux. Whether it’s capturing an athlete in freeze-frame action – something we simply cannot do with our eyes alone – or locking-in a body of reflective water. We watch the world inhale and exhale around us, constantly, and so very little in the world actually manages to sit still long enough for us to absorb it.

During a monsoon flood in Tucson, I drove south of downtown, where there are warehouses, artist studios, and train tracks. The whole area was flooded, virtually impossible to drive through. I walked around and got my feet wet, and found myself training my camera on the ground, rather than the buildings and textures around me. The rippling water, frozen in time, captured my imagination.

Where one reality ends, another begins. Above the horizon line, static light poles and structures – below the horizon line, ripples of water reflecting everything above. There’s a magic to it, at least to me, and that’s why I’ve never stopped making pictures.

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April 23, 2017 – Urban Patterns

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“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever. It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”
~Aaron Siskind

Nothing is boring to look at if viewed from the proper perspective. I could walk around town, all the live-long day on one of my “urban hikes” and never be bored. Recently, I’ve been circling around the neighborhood – walking the dead or visiting the grocery store – and I continue to be astonished by the interesting things I’ve missed the previous dozen times I’ve walked the exact same route.

It’s an enjoyable sensation, to be so easily amazed. And it took a lot of training.

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April 22, 2017 – The Lizard (No. 4)

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“Listen, real poetry doesn’t say anything; it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through any one that suits you.”
~Jim Morrison

I suppose it makes sense to plant a quote from The Lizard King (or Mr. Mojo) at the top of today’s post. It’s not the most profound quote, but it does remind me of the active decisions that artists have to make – to include this and exclude that. Composition – whether visual, musical, or literary – is about making very specific decisions. It’s all an abstract problem-solving exercise.

I made a lot of decisions – invisible to you – about this image, regarding the color saturation, cropping, and texture. A lot of folks think that photographic art is something that requires a snap of the shutter and that’s it. I’ve spent half of my adult life in a darkroom, and learned how to use a number of tools in the digital darkroom. I make all kinds of subtle edits, trying to sculpt a good final product. A lot more time goes into images like this than you might realize.

I hope you dig it.

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