So last fall, while I was in Sardinia, I took a little side trip. The festival we were at was at the north end of the island, in a little town called San Teodoro. From there, I took a bus to the train station in Olbia, and the train took me all the way across the island. I don’t want to belabor the point, but I could take a bus and train, about 6 hours total, to get to a place that was about a three hour drive away. Whole island has the population of less than the greater bay area, and yet somehow high speed rail in california ‘doesn’t make sense’? They’ve played us for fools.
Anyway. These aren’t in any particular order, I exported them in numerical order and then they got randomized when I uploaded them. No big deal. I was in the town for a total of like 24 hours? And there’s 25 pictures, so pretty good. I don’t know why when I do something like this I shoot like it’s National Geographic back when they were decent. Walk and shoot, walk and shoot. Wait, look, shoot some more.
Unlike those guys (almost to a person, guys, and if you want to see the seeds of their self-destruction, well, there’s one), I don’t have any patience or, as it turns out, time. Where they could sit on a single corner for days to wait for one shot, I move around probably too fast. Impatient, maybe, but also there’s so much to see, especially in a new place. This goes back to what I was saying about not slowing down and working a subject a while back. Knowing I only have a certain number of hours left in a day definitely plays a part.
There’s also a little alarm bell, a little flag in my head that goes off when some things happen that says ‘this is important! something is happening! take a lot of pictures of it!’ and for some reason the 20 minutes after takeoff and the 20 minutes before landing in an airplane are always flagged. Big landmarks, definitely flagged. Times Square in New York, I could photograph there for days (and have, I go basically every time I’m in NYC, it’s a sickness).
Something I’m thinking about for San Pablo though. I started out with the thesis, handed to me on a silver platter by Robin, that it was the most interesting street in the Bay Area, more so than Market or Polk in SF or Telegraph in Oakland/Berkeley. But the place I’ve ended up is that any street (any place) becomes interesting the more you look at it, and also it becomes harder and harder to pin down what you’re talking about.
This town was cool though, not super touristy in the bad way, good vibes, nice light even at night. Nothing shouty, but nothing terrible either. Lots of hills.
Posted on 2024-02-21T09:25:47Z GMT
so somehow, these photos from 2022 driftwood went missing and didn’t get developed with the rest. When I had the film run for last year (2023) I threw in a bunch of random rolls that had been sitting around for quite a while (some for over a decade), and these were in there.
in any case, I’m working on the rest of those pictures, the ones from the most recent driftwood. Trying to decided if I should tell my internal critic to shove it and just publish a 30-picture edit. Maybe. Maybe another day of staring at the grid will let me cut another couple, and really shake out a nice 15-picture edit.
see, this is why I need to work with a photo editor on San Pablo. I’ve got a big edit of about 500 and a closer edit of about 150, and this is really where the rubber meets the book sequencing. Figuring out what goes where and how it all fits toghether is a whole thing by itself. For my first two books, I did it my self, over the course of months. Big stacks of work prints. Actually the first book kind of sequenced itself, just fell into place like magic. The second one was harder, and this one is going to be even more so, because it’s also shot over a longer time period.
Anyway. just didn’t want to let these go before I published the ones from last year. Better late than never.
Posted on 2024-02-06T08:39:20Z GMT
I never used to worry about repeating myself, because I thought it wasn’t possible to take the same photograph more than once, in a “can’t step in the same river twice” kind of way. Even two photos taken very close to the same time and same place will be different by infinitesimal details, and in those details, I thought, there would be enough difference to fill up a lifetime of photography.
There’s definitely a part of me that recognizes that, and also sees that even though I have a routine, and do some of the same things over and over again, my approach changes, and in the case of these photos, I’m a different person than I was when I was taking the photos the first year.
That last point might seem trite, but it’s worth some emphasis in the light of my last post. The idea that the photographs are a trail of evidence left by the photographer of their own personality, a cryptic map of their psychology.
“I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.”
I am affected by what I see, and that feeds back into the pictures. Anyway. I’ll quote Ulysses basically for any reason, love that poem. “Some work of noble note may yet be done, not unbecoming men who strove with gods.” I’ve also been reading Moby Dick since last Friday, maybe that’s why I’m thinking of ancient mariners.
So for these pictures, this year, I used the new camera, the Nikon Z8, with all my Leica M lenses. There were some growing pains (turns out for non-CPU lenses the Z8’s meter is finicky), but it definitely allowed me to do different things than last year, when I relied mostly on the point-and-shoot Ricoh GRIIIx. I also wasn’t trying super hard to make a record of any one thing, again, just shooting what was interesting at the time.
I don’t know about other photographers, but once that pressure is off, I can relax and just make honest pictures. I’m not trying to make any great statements about anything; it’s more a kind of sense making, trying to understand the world by making art about it. Of course now I’m making a post-hoc justification for how I work based on how I feel now, I wasn’t thinking about any of this while I was shooting. Of course, that new understanding will feed back into the work I do from here on, and so maybe I don’t need to worry about repeating myself, still? Let’s not and pretend we never did.
Posted on 2024-01-16T10:57:46Z GMT
I almost titled this one ‘posting hole’ for reasons that will become obvious once you scroll down. I made that post last week and then promptly got busy not posting any more. I did, as you can see, find the missing photos from our fall trip to Italy and Portugal. These are from our brief stay in Rome, arriving late in the evening and leaving the next afternoon.
I have some notes here towards an essay about how I don’t want to end up like W. Eugene Smith in Pittsburgh. Smith was, if not the inventor of the picture-story, then one of the first real masters of it. Incredible pictures, you should look him up. Country Doctor and Minamata and also here’s a good essay on his work in general. Anyway, in the middle of his career, freed from his contract with LIFE magazine, he took a job to spend 3 weeks in the city of Pittsburgh, produce some photos for a book that was already in process.
Instead, he ended up staying for two years. At the end, he owed everybody money, the people that had initially hired him had moved on, his relationship with his photo agency had turned sour (it may have ended altogether, it’s been a while since I had photo history class). He was lost in the vastness of what he’d uncovered, just like, scratching the surface and seeing what he thought was the real Pittsburgh and trying to get it down on film.
I think, when confronted with a story where there was no through line, no simple message, his little tool kit of classic storytelling (classic may not be the right word? but I’m thinking in contrast to, say, Winogrand’s nihilism or Robert Frank’s, well frankness) just fell apart. It was too big for him; not the city but the multiplicity of stories, the necessarily fractured view that trying to take in a whole city brings. He wasn’t able to deal with the contradictions inherent in a place with that many people. I say ‘deal with’ but I really mean put together a photo essay in the narrative mode he was used to from the city at all. That kind of storytelling just can’t be applied with that broad of a subject matter, there are too many things working at cross purposes. Imposing a narrative at that scale, or trying to find one latently, just like, shooting and hoping to get something other than your own projected self, is just impossible.
Is this sounding familiar? Because it’s also me, trying to make San Pablo work for the last five and a half years. I started out thinking it would be a couple weeks of shooting, and then it stretched out, and suddenly I was a bit lost, lacking a compass. Probably didn’t have a firm point of view, from which to really see what I was looking for. That said: the photos are also a record of what I was feeling at the time, the way I responded to the place. If you get enough pictures, or maybe just the right ones, you can kind of get a feel for the person who was taking them, a reverse-psychogeography. It’s a latent image, not something you try for but something you see in review.
There are a lot of approaches to bigger subjects (a comparison of, say, Robert Frank’s approach versus, say, William Eggleston’s, might be interesting), but obsessively continuing year after year isn’t one of them. So anyway, that’s what I’m working on. A final edit, working through the years until I’ve got all the San Pablo together, and then I’ll hopefully have a book. Or, I will have a book, but hopefully it’ll be something worthwhile.
Hope you liked the holes.
Posted on 2024-01-12T09:08:45Z GMT