Tuesday, January 31, 2012

To Clarify

Since there seemed to be so much confusion about what I'm expecting for the class, and I'm sorry for that......let me clarify in this way......I'll do another blog later that's more interesting.

This is a group site...but you can reach  me privately by e-mail or on facebook...  I reply in the message section of facebook, but not on the wall...      I'll get a chance to talk to many of you, one-by-one next week and the week after...

There are components to the Workshop, just as there were to the Photo I class, if you took it here at UMass. This is a four, 4, credit course. In an Art Department.
As it says on the first page of the handout, photography is a visual language, the operative word being language. You are trying to say something with images. You don't have to decide what you are saying/are trying to say/until you are finished with the project. You can start out by starting out -- just taking photographs.

It also says to join the blog and look at it weekly and contribute. It said that on the white board and was written on the templet for the book (as was the request to look up JR photographer.) Five people did that, plus my friend, Susan, who lives in Portland and is interested in the ideas of this course and will undoubtedly do some work along with it.

It also says PROACTIVE (in capitals)...please don't wait around for an idea.

On page 2, it says that the typed page about your first idea (project) is due next Monday. (I think the date is wrong..but it's next Monday.)

I think that I had asked each of you, during that first class, what your ideas for a first project were, however vague they might be...as well as what you'd worked on in the past.

On page 2 is a fairly long paragraph of suggestions for possible projects...a range of potential ideas, but in no way meaning that you should pick one of them..

and then there is a small paragraph about how it's better to do something beyond your capacity...that echoes risk, challenge...  (you are free to ignore this)

and on page 3, it says that the first due day is March 5th. That would be for a project that will be finished by then so that you can start on a new one, or a project that you'll continue to work on. (You may also do smaller projects so that you have more than 1 or 2... )

Another component of studio classes has always been writing and reading (though you may have had classes that don't require this.) I think that Margaret has readings, discussions and writing. I used to take care of this by requiring visits to two photo shows and two papers about them. But.... this time we are following a thread of ideas that will vary, but is starting out with street art...JR is first...(and gorilla work.)  Then about Zoe Strauss...I'll have a reading for that, but you are supposed to look at her blog, many times more than once.  I'M WRITING about what you're supposed to do IN THE BLOG...

as the handout says, attendance is crucial and contribution to class discussion is important. I realize that English is not the native language for some of you, but please make an effort. We really appreciate hearing about your ideas....everyone's ideas... the whole point is finding different opinions, discussing them...

the small group project which will take very little of your time will, hopefully, be a pop-up show or a gorilla show...that's NOT the focus of the class, but as interesting spin-off from thinking about JR, Zoe Strause, etc. It will involve agreement/participation by most of you, finding a basic idea, site, etc. OR most of you agreeing to another group undertaking.

IT'S IMPORTANT NOT TO FORGET ABOUT THE CLASS UNTIL MONDAY... I realize all of you are fiercely busy with class, probably with one or two jobs, late hours, lots of pressure, I do understand, but the drawback of a once-a-week class is forgetting about it or doing the work on Sun. night or Mon. morning..

I am not trying to say anything with these photographs. I was just having fun, walking along, taking photographs without stopping...I often use my camera for amusement and don't have anything to do with the images, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy taking them. This is an easy luxury in digital. It wasn't when I used film!  I have a great time making small compositions out of graffiti where I walk the dogs...
 I've always liked the cat walk. or catwalk. and have walked on it 50,000 times. This time I took photographs upside down. But, when I imported them, they were all right-side-up on preview..., bummer... but in photoshop, they were as I intended them.

Though I've done very, very little traveling, I was in Stockholm during the winter, where people stood against building in the sun, at lunch time...this reminded me of that.. I took 3 photographs and chose the one with the most 'stuff' (shadow lines) on the right angle...I didn't even remember that I could have used the telephoto. I like wide angles..

so, that's done...

I had an interesting talk with Rose about the TED awards and the how many interesting IDEAS are represented on that site, (in addition to the fact that JR actually won the 2011 prize, $100,000 and a wish.) I don't know the man who was teaching the class that required researching in that area, but he started out with Ted Johnson as the focal point. So I will go to TED and watch his lecture... since I was caught up with her enthusiasm...hopefully she'll talk about it and about developing a paper over the semester...

I hope you all understood that I was not only interested in what you were trying to say in the work you showed from past classes, but, more importantly, trying to talk about how projects might be developed from a particular visual style or idea embedded in an image.  (I did NOT mean that you should chose to develop one of those projects...)  

For instance, the self-portrait with the pearly, bubble necklace involved shape (as sculptural shape of the body), traditional emblems of  being a young, beautiful, female, the comparison of  her skin color to the sheen of the necklace to the hair in back (tones of black, white and gray, glisten, texture, pattern? ).

Someone could take element of those ideas and use them in other ways...to define ideas about beauty, being male/female/transgender/age/race...what might be understood/interpreted by a photograph that defines itself by photographing sections of a person.

Monday, January 30, 2012

JR and the Ted Prize

Obviously ignorant, I'd heard mention of TED videos, but never looked them up and didn't know about the prize of $100,000 and a wish that's been given since 2005 to various serious thinkers. (1-3 each year) JR was the only winner of the prize for 2011. His work is at the TED site and at Lost At E Minor, a site about street art, among other web resources.

I'd been looking at his work this morning -- huge portions of women's face in Kiberia, Kenya, applied with water resistant material to their rooftops, often of the houses they live in, visible by Google Earth and the train that goes by twice a day, etc. (Please check out Women are Heroes, 2008, victims of violence on the favelas in Rio DeJanero.

He's in his twenties, started with a camera he found, used 18x24 paste-up prints first, now covered rooftops and buildings, now had a big staff, serious money, and is, probably, now recognizable, just as Banksy is probably now recognizable.

Issues -- how does a person move from small scale social-statement street art to this massive production?
Do artists need to know about business?
Would his work be possible without the net? and Google Earth?
Was he from a privileged background?
Did he go to art school?
Is anyone working in public art who hasn't received a Masters except Zoe Strauss?
Where might the impulse for using art for activism come from?
Might the images in Rio or in Kiberia have any particular effect? (If he won the TEd prize, they must have...but there's more to think about here..what would have happened if the same amount of money had been used within those communities?)
How much does this type of work cost?
How much does money matter in being an effective artist?
How freeing is it to do work anonymously? What advantage did he have by being unknown? Did Banksy have?
How does street art get found?

I put a link to Hell Ton John, a Tahitian street artist/graphic designer on my facebook page...it is a nifty, economical little video of him painting a wall in what would probably be equivalent to a barrio.

speaking of which, I didn't look at the site in Lost At E Minor about the French artist who works on pencils, but I will...

Will our gorilla show have an activist slant, be a political statement in some way? by that I mean political in a broad sense...environmental issues, for instance...pollution, overcrowding, waste....
Or not..
It could have themes...
What makes an exhibit like this worth doing?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thinking about

what various people said during the Monday class,, in no particular order and with no preferences (it's just information)..taken from my notes and they are NOT suggestions...but could be used.
    industrial images/metal/lines
   out of comfort zone
   unconventional places
   energy (some images, for me, are very energetic, charged, while others are calm, placid)
  being in control (either in the taking of photographs or the printing)
  stilling the hustle and bustle (makes me think of ground level photographs, stopping people in mid-step...which is another thing to think about.)
   adolescence (that was an area of interest for later, but it could be a subject of photographs. Having three or four adolescents take photographs of themselves, write about them, take pictures of them taking pictures, or separate portraits..write about memories of adolescence to use with images that don't necessarily relate.)
  (Or interviewing other students who are about to graduate..taking portraits, getting interviews of what they hope for/worry about/expect..blah and blah.)
   (Or interviewing other foreign students about their experiences, taking portraits..)
   landscape (how to make them interesting, find a way of viewing them that surprises us...could the landscapes be of miniatures? The only problem with this idea is that most people don't have access to macro lenses and can't get close enough to the subject...but it might work with a very wide-angle..
   glare (what we usually try to avoid by putting out hands up to shield the sun)
   cut outs (most people forget how interesting photograms can be...what an intense display that a grid of them would make...or how cut outs can be used while printing, a cardboard figure laid over the exposing printing paper..that would allow cartoons or narrative...)
   setting up scenarios
  explore and let the idea develop/take a lot of photographs to see where you want to go
  working hard for some surprise
  (paraphrase)..My work is fine, it may not be the best, but it's certainly not the worst (perspective)
  emotion..........(for my point of view, bland is not all that interesting...joy is hard to come by in photographs/confusion, darkness, frenzy are easier as abstractions. Dream like images or images of dreams.
For my own part, I decided to do one-page-fold books and contacted friends in various areas who will put them around for me. So far, the Cape, L.A., Tucson and N.Y. and I'm still asking.

So, after many tries, (mock-ups), i came up with this and took it on a flash drive to have 200 printed. After being so careful, I made one mistake which resulted in the photo on the front page being pushed over too far.

As a friend once said, things take 3 x's longer than you imagine
and as a lot of people say, nothing is perfect.

I'm going to go with it, in spite of flaw..
    That evening, after I got back from having it printed, I got the stomach virus, a fierce 6 hours and a couple of days of lying around. In the meantime, the cat threw up on the package of Xeroxes...so the first five or six are ruined.
   nothing is perfect..

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First Class..

I was totally energized by yesterday's class...though I know it's boring to sit there for an hour and a half, that folks probably don't get my sense of humor and that for non-native English speakers, it must be extremely hard to understand what I'm aiming for.

Though I really think that artists basically end up working in a specific style, that photographers usually have a basic way of framing and thinking about what they want to say with their images...it's really important to challenge yourself...to try something you don't know how to do...to be uncomfortable. I didn't emphasize that in terms of the dreadful grading, I'd give a higher grade to someone who really pushed, took risks, was uncomfortable and kept going than to someone who is basically repeating an idea, refining it...unless, of course, the idea was very engaging to begin with.

I'm assuming, though I didn't stress it, that you're starting to work right away...developing the idea and starting on it or taking photographs to find out where you'll go. Anyway, start working! Please!

I know that some people are more comfortable with a deliberate plan, a vision that they are trying to fulfill. If that's you, then just be open to whatever change might happen and go with it, without worrying that you've lost your original concept.
It is a process, though some people, like me, prefer to think more about process than product. And some think about product.

There's no right or wrong, there are just a variety of ways of doing things. You just have to be able to understand how you function.
From my point of view, a large part of this class, and undoubtedly of any class, is understanding how you look at challenges, assignments, think about them, about yourself...    I loved the idea of looking around, saying, "Well, that wasn't so great. I can do better than that," as a way of dealing with the endless comparisons to other people that many of us make.

I happen to be teaching the class, but essentially we are all teaching each other. And we all have different opinions. Please disagree and argue. We need dialogues with different opinions.

So, just to repeat...
please make 20 copies of the one page fold book. Though I didn't emphasize it, it make sense to use it as a 'book'...therefore, have a cover and back page. Obviously, you could fill the whole page with images, images and words and then fold it and not have a 'book' which implies a vague narrative..  Anyway, have fun, play with it (in some senses), put in meaning or narrative...

We'll begin having discussions about what you want to do as a public (gorilla or not) event...and where...so please think about it...
taping photographs to telephone poles downtown?
to trees on campus?
inside an abandoned building?
in the hallway by the studios?
Do you want names on them? contact information? "If you took this, please e-mail me at..."
same subject?
each person's favorite photo?
or do you want to get permission to put them on the walkway so they all have those stamps on them?
or make one-page-fold books?

more about where I've gotten in my semester plans in the next post...
don't forget to comment, not about what I'm saying, but about what you're thinking...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wrong, totally!!!

I was completely wrong about when the class starts...this Monday, not two weeks later.

And I'm befuddled about how to use this blogspot. My attempts to write this vanished twice when I tried to add photographs. Try again. It's always try again. With most everything.

Ten years go, I had a poem published by 24th Street Irregular Press in San Fransisco...a tiny book that the publisher left in various places, hopefully to be found. Mine was  #107th that he'd published. I liked the idea of something that was both discoverable and throw-away-able.

I'd been making fold books, usually hand sewn pages, but sometimes folded from one page. I'd mail them to friends, and for a while sold them at Printed Matter in NY... but after reading both the Zoe Strauss explanation of her 10-year project and Sally Stein's essay, I thought about doing a class project that would involve a gorilla exhibit... something like that...

and also about what I will do as a project along with the class. I've done that for the Workshop since I retired...usually I make books that involve more complex binding, but probably I'll make signed editions of 100 single-page fold-books if I can get friends in L.A., New York and Tucson to help me leave them around in odd places. I spent the afternoon making three mock-ups, two in color...

 A coffin that one of the Pharohs was buried in, Museum of Fine Arts.
 Chart in the specialist's office.

These (glazed) figures were so wonderful to make, lunky and cranky, but hard as hell to glaze. I finally gave up and just used a wash of zinc or something like that on them so they look more primitive and bone-like, but these creatures took so long and I never could figure out what use to put them to, so I gave up.

 For several years I photographed the outsides of buildings that were being renovated and covered with drapes of plastic. But to put that into an homage would have taken a lot of effort and been too far outside of my usual mode of working. However, on one of my first outings after I'd been sick and in the hospital, I was surprised to find myself so fascinated by a row of winterized boats that I was out of the car and photographing without thinking about the effort. Digital is so easy, it takes so little effort to take the image even if you'll never use it. Black and white film is a much greater commitment.
There's nothing to do with graffiti, but it's so fabulous to look at ... on the wall under the railroad bridge where I walk the dogs. Usually, it's just color, but this one piece had significance.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Two weeks before the Workshop starts and this is a dry run on the group blog....