Every time I think my favorite places in the West are played out photographically, devoid of further inspiration for me, I go back and have to eat my words.
One of my best friends and I made a long photo journey to the northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain foothills recently, looking for those elusive photographic treasures called “keepers.” On the way, we talked about innumerable things, but one of them was the Giant Thirst series, and how it continues to evolve. I channeled George’s wisdom regarding the wider world, and this image is a response.
We needed milk and eggs, but I never made it into the store.
I know, I know: I’ve been gone a while, again. Since the last post in June, I’ve been busy teaching at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, and making a bevy of new images for my now-named project, “A Giant Thirst.” The project is inspired by an Edward Abbey quotation, given to me by a close friend and fellow photographer, Melinda Green Harvey (who should also be congratulated for being named to the 2016 Texas Photographic Society Members Only Exhibition).
In any case, I’m not going to spend any time explaining the image, per the Robert Adams verse I provided in my previous post; my hope is that the image speaks for itself.
I have just returned from a photo expedition intended to jump-start a new series, which I will not yet name in public. Why? As Robert Adams notes, if we must use words to describe what we endeavored to do in an image, we have failed. So I give you this photograph, and hope it speaks eloquently in the place of language.
Yep, I have been gone a while. Such is the life of a nearly-done PhD student who is working overtime and has a family. But the darkness is gone, and though I feel very withered from a tough, tough semester, I can now return to photographing—after all, that’s what I do.
So I began looking for images to warm my skills again after a 4-month hiatus, and to rekindle my visual emotions. And behind a school in a far-flung county in the Nebraska Sandhills, I found a greenhouse that reminded me how much I love the light.
At Hastings College, we have a special term during January called, well, JTerm (big surprise on the name, right?). It’s a three-week period where students take one course for three hours a day, travel, or do exploratory work; it’s also my favorite time at the college, since I can teach workshop-style photography courses that the regular fall and spring semesters just can’t do.
This year, I was excited to teach a new course, “Photographing Gourmet Food,” and it must be interesting for students, too, since the course was overloaded in terms of enrollment. Clearly, the class was interesting to the local media, too, since over the three-week period, three separate media teams came into the class and did multimedia stories (you can see one of the stories here). My goal, though, was to help students understand the complicated and controversial topic of food photography, all while learning to shoot food like a pro.
The final project was a competitive fictional scenario: Shoot the cover for the February edition of Food & Wine magazine, and hope your group’s shot is good enough to win. I hadn’t anticipated the level of excitement that would generate, but the students were bubbling—and competitive to the extreme—about the chance of winning the shot. I hadn’t anticipated the level of quality I’d get, either—for a group of 18–22-year olds, most of whom had no photo experience, the shots turned out impressive.
And so I give you the winners: Andrew Boge, Sean Backer, and Jeff Burke’s shot of chocolate fondant was meticulously planned, well-styled, and well-shot. It will be printed inside the dummy cover and stay on display in the Gray Center Gallery for 3 months.
The runners-up were the team of Carolina Hall, Sarah Johnson, and Elisabeth Mundy, who shot marbled chocolate brownies.
I’m proud of my students, so I’d appreciate it if everyone would show them some support: Give ’em a like.
My friend George left for Japan today to teach with Arthur Meyerson. George makes images of solitude, and while I was in a hotel room in Denver this last weekend, I found myself empathizing with the emotions George channels in his photographs. I missed my children and my wife, and my compatriots in the photographic life. So I made an image of my own loneliness, inspired by George’s vision.
Life’s bittersweet underbelly revealed itself for me this last year, making 2015 one which I’ll never forget. As written in some previous posts, I’ve struggled trying to identify, to understand, then to express the emotions 2015 has left with me; as artists, we don’t run from the pain, we embrace it and use it.
I’ve long contemplated this photograph and several variations thereof; I knew I had to make it, but struggled with a satisfactory iteration in camera. But in December, one of my dearest friends suggested a balloon for the composition as we discussed my image plans while driving in northwest Texas. The wheels began turning, and this last Saturday, I made the first image of the idea, channelling my sense of isolation in the below-zero temperatures.