Photography

1. I started, like most photographers in my age bracket (middle 30’s), by working in a home darkroom. I processed my tri-x film in a cheap plastic canister and printed contact sheets and 8×10’s. This was the late 80’s. I fell in love with the thrill of watching images appear in the developer solution. At the time I had a crappy enlarger from a garage sale and I was working in a cramped, poorly vented space. It’s best to start small.

2. Photography is hard work. It takes time, thought, money and effort. Without these ingredients don’t be surprised if your portfolio is bad.

3. The equipment doesn’t make the photograph but you can’t make the photograph without the equipment.

4. I am naturally inclined to asthetics and artistic sensibilities. Add to that an impatient personality and the desire to create and you have a classic profile for a photographer.

5. The reasons that I keep going in photography are simple. I love taking photographs. Dancers dance, cats meow, the sun shines, gravity pulls and I photograph.

6. Poetry is the fuel for most of my creativity. I am a terrible poet though. Favorite poets? Li-Young Lee and Raymond Carver.

7. I love the combination of words with photography. The photographer Brett Weston used to publish books without a single word in them. He reasoned that the work should speak for itself. I disagree.

My favorite photographer writer? John Szarkowski. He had clarity of thought and incredible insights. Check out the forward to the book “William Egglestons guide”. Great words can illuminate a photograph. The photograph is a mute.

8. What makes a photograph excellent? I think if you refer back to it in your mind or if it isn’t forgettable it’s good.

9. The constant quest I work towards with my photography is the pursuit of content along with form. The first decade of my photographic life was spent making a lot of pretty pictures, a lot of great diagonals, textures and patterns. Essentially eye candy. Maybe I had nothing to say?

10. Photographers who have never worked with a large format camera have no idea what they are missing. It’s like going to the buffet and only eating jello. There is so much more.

11. One of my favorite quotes about photography was written by a favorite photographer of mine Lee Friedlander. “Photography is a generous medium, you want a photograph of aunt Edna and her new car but you get the sky, trees, a million pebbles and blades of grass, the neighbors dog and the peeling paint of Ednas house.”

12. People cherish their portraits. Its funny, they would grab their portraits if the house was burning down but if they tried to simply give their portraits to anyone else they couldn’t. Noone would want them. They have infinite worth to them but are perfectly worthless to another person.

13. I eschew most cliches and gimmicks that mark the work of millions of photographers (no offense to the millons)

    a.Extremes in focal length (superwide, superlong zoom). Try a 50mm on a 35mm with tri-x and see what happens. Go see the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

    b. Closeups. If I never see another closeup of a childs eyes I will be happy. (can be the gateway drug into photography for some)

    c. Rivers running. (I’ve done about 100 of these)

    d.  Super contrasty, super saturated, super fuzzy, super shallow depth of field. (give me great basic design and quality content!)

    e.  Hands on a pregnant belly. (I hope the trend ends soon)

    f.  Jumping bride and/or grooms. (Or in swimming pools, mudpits or rolling down hills)

    g. Any baby on any vegatable, basket, or other unnatural object. (Anne Geddes excepted. She’s the original)

    I am not holier than thou. I’m just sick of the images that are way, way too overdone. I admire photographers who go out there and try to take the content and present it carefully and beautifully with a single focal length lens. Joel Meyerwitz, Alec Soth, Richard Misrach.

      14. Another quote: “Painting is a meditation, photography is a stab” Henri Cartier-Bresson

      15. I own a substantial collection of photographic monographs. I love them. I’ve spent hundreds of hours etching the images into my memory. My photography is a massive conglomeration of all of their influences. It’s hard for me to identify one photographer who made the biggest impact. But the first photography book to slap my photographic mind was “The Americans” by Robert Frank.

5 comments

  1. I agree that photographs and words belong together. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts when they’re paired.

    I love your list of cliche photographs. Goethe said that
    ‘Everything has been thought of before, but the difficulty is to think of it again.’ Seeing the everyday with fresh eyes will always be a challenge.

  2. Hey Jon ,
    Welcome back to Boise, I enjoyed your blog and of course, nice to see some of your new work, great job! .
    Best Wishes to you and your family!
    Dirk D.
    Lightdances Photography
    Boise ID.

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