color photography

I’ve been gone a while, but the light has returned. Literally.

Greenhouse, Tryon

Greenhouse, Tryon

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.

My Students Shoot Food: The Winning Shot

The Winning Shot: Chocolate fondant, shot by Andrew Boge, Sean Backer, and Jeff Burke.

The Winning Shot: Chocolate fondant, shot by Andrew Boge, Sean Backer, and Jeff Burke. Blank spaces are left in the image to allow for the magazine title, as well as the mailing box and inside teasers.

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: Marbled chocolate brownies, shot by Carolina Hall, Sarah Johnson, and Elisabeth Mundy.

The Runners-Up: Marbled chocolate brownies, shot by Carolina Hall, Sarah Johnson, and Elisabeth Mundy.

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.

Hotel Room, Denver

Hotel Room, Denver

Hotel Room, Denver

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.

Chairs, Texas

Chairs, Texas

Chairs, Texas

I went to Texas recently with my good friend and former assistant Liz McCue to see several other dear friends, including two accomplished photographers, Melinda Green Harvey and George Nobechi Bumstead. On the way there, we drove through myriad small towns, but in one, took a wrong turn. As we looked for a spot to turn around, both Liz and I exclaimed at the same moment, “Did you see those chairs?!?!”

Junk Jaunt Shopping, Custer County

Junk Jaunters, Custer County

Junk Jaunters, Custer County

Oh, what fun. Lured by the romance of finding hidden treasure, knickknack and antique hunters rummage a county fair building packed with items during the annual Nebraska “Junk Jaunt.” The 200-mile, 500-plus vendor trail includes more than 20 towns, whose residents will see visitors from half the states in the US.

I was lucky enough to travel two days of the Jaunt this year with some of my best students, and in Broken Bow, we found our own treasures…photographs.

Moth and Window, Northern New Mexico

 

Moth and Window

Moth and Window

Some people shoot pretty things like landscapes; I find Sylvia Plath and Ezra Pound in the nooks and crannies of the places I visit. And here was just such a poem, a Plath tucked away in the forgotten recesses of the desert air. Steiglitz called his small images “Equivalents,” for they were the visual equal of his emotional response to a scene. Indeed such a thing happened here for me, but as Andrew Southam has said of me, I live in a poet’s body.

Mud-Painted Car (For Sam Abell)

For Sam Abell

For Sam Abell

In his first Geographic story, Sam Abell made a photograph of his mud-splattered car as a response to the inspiration of Christopher Pratt, one of Canada’s most important modern artists. In the same spirit, while in the rain-soaked, mud-sodden region of eastern Wyoming in 2015, resulting in much the same pattern on my car, I made a photo as a tribute to Sam Abell’s importance to modern photography.

 

Bouncy House, Elwood

Bouncy House, Elwood

Bouncy House, Elwood

Ah, the unexpected. Photographically, it’s de rigueur at the small rodeos of the West, whether it be those in the crowd, the cowboys, the cowgirls or the children. Honestly, while this project is about much more for me than novelty, it’s what often keeps me coming back to each and every backwater event I can find. This image is case-in-point.

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Cowboy and Ferris Wheel, Elwood

Cowboy and Ferris Wheel, Elwood

Cowboy and Ferris Wheel, Elwood

I recently wrapped up another stint of teaching at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, somewhere I feel most honored to be an instructor. But that’s not the point of this post. Color is.

Someone I met this year in Santa Fe noted that while I’m known as a black-and-white artist, I haven’t worked solely in monochrome, and what’s more, some of my best—best!—images are in color. Ironic, no? Yet, I often feel like Eeyore when I make such images.

“I might have known,” said Eeyore. “After all, one can’t complain.”

So when I made the above image and chose to leave it in color (which may mean it never goes in my forthcoming book about rural rodeos), upon seeing it, another person made a related comment regarding palette. “Oooh, color! That’s not like you.”

Oh, bother.

It’s been busy, so I’ve been away…but here’s a new photo to compensate.

Woman Traveler, Omaha

Airline Traveler, Omaha

It’s a tough thing, creativity. It comes and goes, and regardless of projects extant, oftentimes creativity is, as artist Chuck Close so eloquently said, difficult and inconsequential much of the time: “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.” So, I’ve been out sweating. Being inspired? Well, that too.