Kill Your Television

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So there was this one day when we had a lot of spare time, a case of beer, a JEEP with a failing transmission, a .22 caliber rifle and a television set that I’d been spending way too much time trying to fix. Call it ‘capricious youth,’ but there’s something cathartic about driving out into the desert and firing a few rounds into a useless item that needs to be put down.

My lady and I had a similar experience last week when we wanted to shampoo the carpet before assembling our baby’s new crib in the soon-to-be nursery. After struggling for about an hour and spilling water & cleaning solution all over the house, it was clear that the machine needed to be put out of its misery. I would have enjoyed driving out to the mountain and delivering a genuine and honest execution, but who has the time anymore? Instead, it was a gangland assassination commensurate with the xerox machine scene from Office Space, in the parking lot outside of our townhouse.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to exhale some serious frustration.
My recommendation? Kill your television, not a person. Then make some art out of it.

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Patterns In The Blacktop

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From my earliest days in the darkroom, before the digital revolution, I started veering toward abstract compositions. It seemed so incredibly counter-intuitive, contradictory even, to sculpt abstractions from camera images. In the beginning, the camera was designed to be the most accurate method for re-creating images from the world around us; before the camera, we relied on drawn and painted images to reflect the world. The painter’s hands could be biased, however, but the cold gaze of a lensed machine promised to never lie.

As an example, photo-mechanical images brought the true horror of war to the public, rather than the glorified tableaux as depicted in works like Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s “Washington Crossing The Delaware” or Eugène Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading The People.” Scholars in the field of visual culture studies credit broadcast television for helping galvanize the American public against the Vietnam War; with images of dying young men being beamed nightly into American households, it helped foment an unprecedented anti-war attitude.

The camera also liberated the painterly arts, which had been preoccupied with attempts to reflect the real world. Once the camera proved it could make the most accurate portraits, the most detailed architectural studies, we begin to see the painterly arts fragment into impressionism, expressionism, cubism, die brucke, de stijl, and a multitude of other styles. If we look at the timeline, we’ll see that this revolution in painting began at almost the exact same time that Henry Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre patented their photographic technologies in the mid-1800’s.

The truth is, though, that the camera can lie just as effectively as anything else, and the photographer can be just as biased as the painter. The process is different, but the camera operator is perpetually editorializing, purely by choosing to photograph ‘this’ over here rather than ‘that’ over there. Framing, color, composition are all methods to generate atmosphere, convey emotion, manipulate the audience’s reaction to the images presented. With the modern advent of image editing software, it could be argued that the camera has the ability to both tell the objective truth and, at the same time, lie more effectively than virtually any other medium.

I think the reason I enjoy abstract photography is because it’s very difficult for it to become political. We respond to shapes, colors, and textures based on our own individual histories. Each viewer can have a potentially different reaction to an abstract composition, based solely on the emotional and intellectual experiences they carry with themselves into the room. I’m fascinated by the little details we miss on the way to the bus stop, making our morning coffee, walking down to the mail box. I like to think that, by making images like this one, I can help remind my audience that there are curious little things all around us, at all times, that we kind of choose to ignore. And if we could just slow down for a moment and look around, turn over the rocks and see what’s underneath, we might develop a greater attachment and appreciation for this tiny, insignificant little blue marble we have the unique and exquisite privilege to live on.

Creativity is one of the greatest gifts we possess, folks. Life is a blessing, and I hope each and every one of you has a wonderful day.

-joe

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 12, 2017 – Promotion

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“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.”
~Robert Frank

Life, experienced life, is a patchwork of sensory experiences – sights, sounds, feelings.

As a photographer, I’ve always been intrigued by the ephemera, the little textures and details. They add up to something much larger than the individual parts, and I enjoy photographing the tiniest little details.

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April 05, 2017 – Cracked Typography

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“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”
~Ansel Adams

Simple words, but profound. We live in a world that Adams never could have predicted, where phones have camera lenses that outperform most film cameras from the last hundred years, where every single citizen is in the business of making and distributing images. Now that everybody has access to the technology, and now that everybody practices with social media – facebook and snapchat are the real juggernauts – the photographer is easy to miss, and the photographer is motivated to try and look at the world differently, rather than just document it.

Perspective is everything.
Where you stand is everything.

Everybody is in the business of making pictures now. But not everybody is in the business of making unique images. It still takes determination, creativity, and skill to make memorable photographs. Selfies at the bar are a dime-a-dozen, and there’s a great big world out there.

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March 10, 2017 – It’s A ‘Sin’

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While wandering around in Creel, Mexico, I gathered tons of images of posters, signs, storefronts, and interesting garbage. This one, obviously, is a play on words, as ‘sin’ in Spanish simply means ‘without,’ which is a radical departure from the English ‘sin.’ Nevertheless, I found the textures and layers of this weathered advertisement really dazzling. I know that minimal and semi-abstract imagery isn’t everybody’s particular cup of tea, but I know that there are some of you out there who understand.

I hope you like today’s ‘image of the day’ and scroll through other images from this sprawling project.

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March 01, 2017 – Serial

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As we enter a new month, I’m considering the theme of ‘March in Mexico.’ I have countless images that have never been published from my springtime trips to the Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) Region the the state of Chihuahua. There’s a unique mix of indigenous tradition and Catholicism, an appreciation for tradition and an embrace of modernity, and there just isn’t any other place on earth quite like it.

To start things off, though? I present to you another semi-abstract image I was tinkering with. Aligned with other monochrome, macro, minimalist images, this is a photograph of a line of numbers hammered into a small piece of plate metal affixed to a wooden light pole. It certainly asks more questions than it answers. The area is roughly the size of a chewing gum wrapper, and it’s one of those easy-to-miss textures and details of daily life. I’m sure that the number refers to a manufacturing spec or is related to inventory or is somehow connected to the area that the product was routed to for installation, but your guess is as good as mine.

I enjoy the texture and contrast, and I don’t really mind the mystery.

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