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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Book Publishing

  I spend a fair amount of time researching book publishers and opportunities to get my photos published. The goal of most artists is to get the public to view their work and there's usually four ways for that to happen, purchasing the art, exhibitions, books, and finally the worst option is the internet where everyone is famous for 15 seconds ( Sorry Mr Warhol, even you would be over the internet by now). Book publishing is by far the most expensive option with prices far exceeding $20,000 for a small black and white book. This is why finding a publishing house is a must. Yes profits are much smaller or non-existent but that's not why you want a book published in the first place. I have to be perfectly honest, I'm very disappointed that I haven't had a few books published by now. It's not an easy task and very frustrating. Several years ago I approached a local book publisher and that flat out told me that "books about Philadelphia don't sell". I thought to myself these people are fucking stupid ! How would you know a book about Philadelphia wouldn't sell if you've never published one ? Besides that useless encounter I've sent emails to at least a dozen other photography book publishers in which I was a granted a single response of " you don't find us, we find you". Hey, no one ever said they were nice people. While nothing would please me more than having books of my photography published I've grown very tired of the process.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Breaking Point

 Today has been full of anxiety, depression and isolation. It's been nine years since I began my three year Philadelphia Project and I have a necessity to continue in that manner. I know the fight to wade through the sea of boringness that is todays city will be a tough one and being removed from it's center will make it even more so. Last week I turned 50 and I'm beginning to feel time is running out to express myself through photography. I've caught myself several times trying to tone down my gritty high contrast photos for the masses but each time I was able to stop myself. I've reached the point where I truly don't care what the art world thinks of me and my manifesto. The biggest obstacle right now is trying to survive as an artist and finding a way to photograph a city and it's people who have become sterilized without being disingenuous.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Another Dimension

   After a move six months ago I'm finding it somewhat difficult being an urban expressionist in my new neighborhood. Granted the center city/downtown area was becoming a little less city like every day but it's like I've been transported to another dimension. The strange thing is I'm still within Philadelphia's borders and a mere 10 miles to downtown, a 30 minute train ride. Don't get me wrong, they love art out here and maybe more so than downtown but it's different. The overwhelming preference here is landscapes and still lifes for both painting and photography. Frankly I think my dark gritty contrast photography and paintings scare the hell out of them. While I did have a photograph in the local Woodmere Art Museum Annual last year I doubt my art will be added to any local collections. Granted even downtown more people wanted New York City photography on their walls than those taken in Philadelphia but they were more open to urban photography. I know it's only been six months but I'm very good at predictions and I don't see much of an opportunity for me here.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Money, Creativity, Art, and Money Again

  Living as an artist is a daily struggle to not only pay one's bills but to pay for your art. Painting at least to me is more affordable. The cost of paint, brushes, canvas...ok, I use cardboard a lot, is nothing compared to photography's cameras and all the little things you need for it, film and processing, scanner, printer, ink, paper, storage, software, travel, etc, etc. Which brings me to today's topic of constantly needing money to continue as an artist. There's nothing more frustrating than having a great idea and not being able to follow through with it because of money. The very lucky well connected artist relies on grants which are usually in the area of $50,000-$75,000 ( PEW, USA GUND, Guggenheim) while the rest of us without those connections will never get to prove our full potential. Is the game rigged ? You bet it is ! I've been thinking about street photography again even though I've been fighting that thought, but the cost of doing so will quickly squash any ideas of starting up again. First would be my 6x6 medium format photography of some street and mostly of Rittenhouse Square Park. I would need a reliable TLR camera, medium format film, lab development fees, scanning fees or a scanner, transportation costs because I no longer live in center city. A conservative estimate would be $4000-$5000 and that would be without printing a single photo. I often wondered what my "Lonely New York" project cost but I don't want to think about it. Amtrak to NYC and back were mostly covered by points due to spending hours a night filling out questionnaires for points. Besides the train there were subway costs both in Philadelphia and New York, eating in diners, two Ricoh GRD1 cameras, several batteries, and the cost of printing the zine. One of my cheapest projects was my three year Philadelphia Project. No travel cost, several cheap cameras and the zines paid for themselves. The biggest cost was shoes. Over 36 months I did so much walking I went through 15 pairs of shoes !

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Another Gear and Upgrade post

 Another photographer sent me this great quote from a camera review website forum.

  "Photographers use 10 seconds to proudly show their beaten up GR, rubber falling off, full of scratches etc. Then they use the rest of the day to show and enjoy the pictures it has taken. Maybe even go out together and shoot some more.
Gearheads use the whole day to whine about 0.5mm, study the rotation of symbols and shake their gadget to find more flaws. I bet, in the process, they forget what their gadget is supposed to do."

     The upgrade bug of the 21st century has gotten out of hand. When you find a camera that you love why do some feel the need to toss it aside for the latest model ? No one wants to hang on to anything anymore or learn how to really use it. I question these gear junkies as real photographers. Take Ricoh for example. If there was a good supply of used GRD1 8 megapixels cameras from 2006 around I wouldn't think of another camera for black and white. But since that model Ricoh has released six versions with the latest having three times the megapixels. I really believe that photography beyond the internet is in real trouble.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Pay to Play

 Like most artists I search daily for opportunities to exhibit my work but over the last 12 years it has become almost impossible to find galleries that are either open for submissions or do so for free. Artists rarely have enough income to survive let alone pay to enter contests masquerading as  exhibitions. A quick internet search today showed me enough pay to play contests to pass the $600 mark with ease. There's something very disingenuous about the current state of the art world below the blue chip level. I don't expect this to change anytime soon as there are plenty of people willing to pay without the understanding of the ramifications. Yes galleries are trying to survive but they would be better off trying to educate than giving in to trends. It's bad enough that the internet is full of art contest scams that we don't need it coming from brick and mortar galleries too.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Location and Creativity

    Just about six months ago I moved from what was a gritty post industrial neighborhood that's been through several levels of gentrification to the very suburb area of Chestnut Hill. While I'm technically still with in Philadelphia's borders by a few feet it seems like I'm a hundred miles away, ok a 30 minute train ride away. My biggest concern with living in an environment like this was that my creativity was going to suffer, especially my photography. The transition of living in very large and open "artist" lofts measuring almost 3000 square feet to an 1100 square foot condo with individual rooms is something I'm still dealing with and most likely will for a while. Reason number one for this move is that renting anywhere near center city has become ridiculously expensive. Second is that the newer ever changing transient residents were not only boring 9 to 5'ers but they were succeeding in turning a once great area into the suburbs in which they came. So convincing myself that the city has changed and became to sterile wasn't that hard after all but sometimes I the residue of the past washed over me often leading to depression once I was out the front door. So as for creativity I'm painting more and have produced 80 paintings even though I'm limited to smaller canvas size because of a lack of real work space. Photography is something much different and difficult. I try to take as many photos as possible in my neighborhood but not in my gritty, high contrast style. Every once in a while I'll take the train back to center city to photograph but quickly become disappointed in what I see. Maybe I'm done with urban photography because urban doesn't exist anymore here, it's just a dense homogenized suburb for those that think it's cool to live in the city. I've tried to escape to New York City but it's no different and actually much worse.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Artist Friends Lend Me Your Ear

 I believe it's necessary for artists to have artist friends. If nothing else for than a support system because who else would know better your struggles, your ideas, or the art life. While I communicate with a lot of photographers most of my in person conversations are with painters. Painters talk about the art itself and not obsessively about brushes, canvases, and paint, while it's rare to engage with photographers where equipement doesn't dominate the conversation. One of the photographers who I miss talking to is Philadelphia's Ted Adams. Ted ia not only a great photographer but also has a very interesting personality. As for painters most of my conversations are with Mikel Elam. I have yet to come away from a conversation without learning something. Several times I've tried communicating with the under 35 artist but came away with a headache. First it was almost impossible for them to not play with their phone during the conversation and they didn't seem interested in artists outside of their generation.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

One Photo At a Time

  I've reached a point in my portfolio photography where I would be very happy going back to the dark room. With myself finding modern day life so very uninteresting I found myself not needing to take large sums of photographs. I realized this last Summer when I was using a medium format Yashica Mat 124 TLR camera where you're limited to 12 exposures per roll. Searching for subjects worthy of one of those 12 exposures was a form of meditation. I felt relaxed and in absolutely no hurry with some days taking only two or three photos. I would then send the film to a local lab that just closed for developing and scanning. While at the time I was living in a large open loft I didn't have the closed room or money to put together a darkroom. Since then I've moved into a much small condo with no space and again no money to assemble one. While at one time I would have spoken against the hybrid practice of analog capture and digital output I've grown to accept it. While you would no longer need a darkroom you would need an expensive scanner and some basic supplies. Maybe one day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Noir Attitude

  In interviews I'm often asked what other photographers have inspired me. It's not so much who but a certain type of work they sometimes produced. Whether it be Daido Moriyama, Takuma Nakafuji, Eugene Smith, Weegee, etc, etc, it's that dark gritty kind of photography that gets my heart pumping. A noir attitude that I can relate too as someone who prefers the night. A couple of years ago I stopped photographing in this manner because of it becoming very disingenuous in today's world. As I've stated many times it's become too sterile, too homogenized, too planned and curated. I see too many young photographers try to recreate those photos, usually so young that anything before the year 2000 is foreign to them. There's no truth or accuracy to them which became very evident when I found local photographers trying to emulate my photos.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Worth Remembering

 WIth astronomical amount of photos being taken everyday will any of them be worth remembering 10, 20 or even 50 years from now. The rush to take as many photos as possible and post them on social media as fast as you can has taken over quality. I then begin to wonder if you could eliminate all the selfies, food photos and pet photos just how many daily photos would be left ? While some older photographers put the blame on digital photography alone I believe that we haven't reach this critical mass shit storm until the release of the smartphone. Can photography ever be taken again seriously as an art form???

Friday, March 15, 2019

Location, Location, Location

   A conversation that keeps repeating between myself and several other photographers is why does a location of a photograph matter so much. By that we mean why does location outweigh the photo itself. A good photo is a good photo no matter where it was taken. We started to take notice every time one of us would travel to New York City to photograph and the response to those were much greater than our local photos. Also there always seems to be more interest in the purchasing of those photos. I would bet that if I took one of my Philadelphia photos with no widely known recognizable buildings or landmarks and posted that photo online with locations Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and New York City, that the New York City would garner the most attention.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Searching

 I'm always searching for new projects and ideas, it's what keeps me going. But what happens when every place begins to look the same on street level ? The same chain stores, color schemes or lack thereof. The masses on their phones oblivious to their surroundings. Cars consisting of the three non-colors of white, black, and grey. I haven't done any real street photography in a while but I still watch and listen like one.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Who Cares ?

   There are too many photographers today that look for acceptance on social media. Even photographers who've been around long before it post photos looking for that "like" or the "It's Brilliant !" comment. The problem is that the vast majority on there don't have an eye for photography and the bigger problem is they're interacting for no other reason than to get you to interact on their page. I've watched photographers change artistic direction and even modify their own taste for the masses who are by no means an educated curator or patron of the arts. To me as an artist this is very dangerous.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Self Publication

 About 8 years ago I set a goal for myself of self publishing 100 zines and books. So far I've only been able to reach the halfway point of that goal. My first publications were the 40 issues of "The Philadelphia Project" and "Out of New York" in which all 2400 copies sold out quickly. After those I noticed a slowdown in sales with each new publication and began to worry. I spoke to at least a dozen other photographers who self publish and found out they they were experiencing the same slowdown as myself. While we're still not sure of the cause, at some point we would like to continue. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Urban Expressionist

 I'm asked all too often about my style of photography. I never liked the idea of labeling art but I understand it's something that the masses need to comprehend it. I've never liked artist statements and very often do submit my work for exhibitions due to the fact that there seems to be more weight put on the statement, bio and CV than the art itself. I speak to a great of other artists who also hate the idea of the artist statement but find it somewhat necessary. I would prefer just to say that I'm an "Urban Expressionist" and leave the rest of the mess out that has all the charm of a job application.


Friday, March 8, 2019

Why Do People Throw Shoes on Powerlines

Murder, sex, drugs, art, politics… sneakers hanging on telephone lines have become a powerful urban symbol, inspiring genesis theories both hilarious and sinister.

A short documentary about the practice.

https://vimeo.com/71867019




Thursday, March 7, 2019

In Between

 A lot of photographers struggle on what to do with themselves when they're uninspired with photography or in-between projects. I myself struggled for a long time with this which usually made myself doubt what I was doing. Several years ago after just finishing up a photography project I picked up a paint brush. I've been painting on and off since 1992 and while back then I found it frustrating I recently found myself and have been producing a body of work over the last couple of years that I'm truly happy with and hope to continue. Painting help clears my head, relaxes me, and prepares me for when I pick up the camera again.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

I Can Dream, Can't I

  I use to think about creating a gathering spot for artists to get together and talk about art and about the art life. Several years ago when I was still drinking I thought about places like the Kodoji Bar in Tokyo that catered to photographers or the famed Cedar Tavern in New York City during the 50s. Then it switched to more of a cafe/coffee shop type of establishment  because not only myself but most of the artist I knew gave up alcohol mostly because of health problems. Today more than ever I want one of these places where we could hang out until at least midnight and separate ourselves from the growing army of people with laptops and phones who have taken over just about every coffee shop in America. Maybe a place with some space to paint or print photos, no wifi, a non sterile beige environment. I can dream, can't I.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Cliché

 The image below was taken several years ago and has not only been used hundreds of times without my permission but has also spawned hundreds of copycat photos. After I was lucky enough to take this photo during my Philadelphia Project and searched the internet and found no other photo like this. A a couple of months after posting on social media my photo started popping up everywhere, then out of nowhere similar photos began to appear. Several years later there are far fewer pay phones on the streets but even more copycat photos. While mine wasn't stages I'm betting that most of the copycat versions were. Even today I can find endless pages of them of Google's image page. With the over saturation of likenesses my photo has been devalued and turned into a cliche. Is any photo safe from today's infestation of non creative copycats ?

Monday, March 4, 2019

It's Hard Work

    One of the most frustrating aspects of trying to live as an artist is people devaluing your work. By devaluing I mean when people, organizations, and businesses either want to pay you next to nothing or with the promise of exposure. The amount of people who think that being a photographer ends with the taking of the photo is astounding. They give no thought to the decades of learning and mastering the art of seeing, editing, and printing, or the further skill of finding your own vision and syncing it to the camera. Besides the skill you also need equipment and space. Cameras, lenses, film, scanners, printers, paper, ink, lab fees and or chemicals, digital storage, back ups, print archives, and the hundreds of other little things that tie it all together. To add further insult to those of us who began this journey well before the smartphone was invented is the over saturation of photos due to the digital age and social media. I'm not sure if photography can ever be saved from the sea of shit that is today's internet.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

G.A.S.

       I receive a lot of inquiries for advice on what cameras to buy. I never understood why so many people needed help with the decision and I'm sure it wasn't the case before digital cameras. I use to read camera blogs, forums and watch people agonize over making a decision, but the funny thing is watching them do this a couple of times a year. Yes, they would change or "upgrade" to whatever the latest model was that had the largest megapixel sensor, ridiculously high ISO  or touch screen. The belief amongst these people with G.A.S. which stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome is that the latest tech will make them better photographers. To make matters worse the vast majority never print their photos so they buy these cameras to post on social media, something that they could do with just about any digital camera made in the last 15 years. In the end all this upgrading tends to lead them down a path of being a worse photographer because they never learn to fully understand the current camera in their hands.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

9 to 5

Late last Summer I decided to rent a car and drive through the small South Jersey town where I spent most of my childhood. Cinnaminson was only 11 miles from my loft in Philadelphia but over the last 25 years I've only returned a couple of times. I guess my main purpose for this return was to try to find some of the places from my childhood. Places open at night with bright neon or plastic color lights, and not the dull beige and grey that has infest today's cities. This small town and the even smaller towns around it were full of diners, motels, liquor stores, hobby shops and fast food establishments brightly and oh so colorfully lit at night. While I knew I wasn't going to find what I was looking for I was still shocked that only one original place still existed and that the drive down the interstate highway that bisected the town was dark by 8pm. This lonely motor lodge was all that was left and the smaller towns of Palmyra, Riverton, Riverside and Delran were no different. My heart broke.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Everybody City

 I miss this view even though it's in part of the city I didn't wander around a lot in. There was something very humbling about seeing those small row houses across that field. I few years before there was the massive Schmidt brewery blocking this view. The huge old brick structure was a great sight to see, a symbol of this city's great blue collar past. Today on this lot stands another structure that's more for the young trendy suburban transplant and has nothing to do with blue collar. Add to that, most of those homes have been modernized, razed and replaced by a more "townhome" structure, or had additions attached.

Press Photos

 I always like the thought of collecting press photos. The idea of having the only known physical copy of a print is an exciting one. Yes so...