I keep saying what this project needs is portraits. San Pablo is people, and for a long time, I thought of myself almost exclusively as portrait photographer, shooting what’s known as environmental portraits. People are invariably more interesting than stuff, I thought. and also, the project has seemed a little rudderless. Like “Now what?” So, portraits make sense. But.
but. I keep going out and shooting these abstractions. These things that are definitely not portraits (or are they? some feeble art-school thought whispers). I’ll get myself together to go out to shoot, and just completely freeze when I think about approaching people. In New York, I didn’t have this problem. Here, for some reason, I do. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
And, they definitely work on some level. It turns out my documentary photo project on the socioeconomic inequality in America through the lens of this one weird street is actually a weird art project about the same weird street? There are projects that require fighting, and leveling up, and do the thing you set out to do. The bike frame project is that for sure. One thing I’ve learned over the years, though, is sometimes you have to go with the grain of the material you’re using.
I remember there was this project I did in college. Speaking of bikes, it was about a local program that did free bike repair, called RecycleABike or something. Great people, taught me a lot about wrenching. But the photos from the workshop weren’t gelling into something I could use. So I decided to do something I’d been wanting to do, but hadn’t thought was ‘right’ or ‘documentary enough’. I brought a bunch of the people into the studio, took portraits against a white psych (one at a time), and did interviews at the same time, all in little 45 minute sessions. Took me maybe a week, and the whole project was done. Felt amazing.
Does this need to be a documentary project? Does the primary limitation I’ve set for myself need to be front and center in the final edit? The ‘grain’ of this project, so far, is not that of the standard sense of place stuff I was thinking it would be. I’ve read a lot of novelists’ accounts of writing, and finding somewhere along the way an unexpected turn in the story. This isn’t that, but it’s the same energy. The work is telling me something.
(I will note that I wrote this twice; the first version was swallowed by me accidentally hitting the back button. I think I got most of it, although the part about novelists was in the middle, and I concluded talking about a couple other projects that turned on me that way. seems fine now.)
Posted by Matt on 2020-05-08 07:34:49Z GMT
So, a couple days ago, I started writing what was going to be the first post on here in about a week. I got a good three paragraphs into an essay on the pain scale they give you when you go to the doctor, and then I was like, ‘I’m tired, let’s go sleep’ and well, you know the rest, because that post didn’t happen. It’s in my drafts.
In the meantime, bear with me as I’m have some difficulty moving around the house, which makes getting to my computer in the basement to do image editing, especially at the end of the day like I’ve been doing, kind of difficult. I keep running out of spoons. Really, the last year or so of not having decent mobility a lot of the time has been a drag. Hopefully, in a week or so, the tendons in my left ankle and right knee will be done being mad at me, and normal service will resume.
Posted by Matt on 2020-05-07 16:28:18Z GMT
Last week was kind of a shit show, don’t know if you could tell from the blogging, but I was kind of a mess. Bad sleep, unable to focus on doing stuff during the day, one particularly bad panic episode that saw me going to three stores and driving through the parking lot of a fourth to get new locks for the house (which was a thing I needed to do anyway, one of our spare keys went missing, but probably not quite so rushed). The calm distance from the first three or four weeks of social distance is gone, and I’m just treading water at the moment.
All that said, continuing to shelter in place is the right thing to do. Many more people will die if we don’t. It’s nuts to think that some states are talking about opening up as early as next week, (fact check me; I don’t actually know any of the dates, but Oklahoma and Georgia, my home state and the place of my birth, respectively, are making asses of themselves).
I’m doing a little better this week, trying to manage my sleep better, at least. The world is pretty messed up right now, and it’s easy to fall in to despair. But I can’t think of a time where that wasn’t true, either. I was reminded, by a friend, of the end of Ulysses:
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
I have an essay to work up about local minima and false vacuum; I think there are parallels to our current situation; the current situation is a local minima, and the new ground state is out there, waiting to happen. Anyway, the whole essay should happen sometime this week, if I can give it a polish and push publish.
Posted by Matt on 2020-04-29 08:13:47Z GMT
These were just after we got back, I think. Datestamp is the fourth of January, which makes some sense. When we got home, the cat went out to a party, and we spent a good part of the next day finding him, so between the road stress and the stress of the cat missing, that little break at the end of the year wasn’t, really.
Still working on the design, although now the links have color again.
Self portrait. I promise I’m not trying to tense up in this photo, that’s just kinda how I look taking a picture sometimes? I’ve got a lot of pictures to work through, but I think they’ll go pretty quickly at this point; the first 2.5 months of the year had a rhythm, and I’m not sure how many posts I can wring out of that before we’re down to what I’m getting on my exercise walks now. We’ll see.
Posted by Matt on 2020-04-25 10:54:17Z GMT
not much to say. just letting things marinate. Haven’t been sleeping terribly well, what with the lockdown and the pandemic. Not getting out of the house is hard when that’s a main coping mechanism. I totally get it, I understand the reasons; doesn’t make it any easier. I’ve been going on a couple walks a week, as a sort of minimum viable exercise. I’m going to have to branch out soon, or start taking the bike instead; the photos on the route I’ve been taking are getting a little stale. Or maybe it’s the lack of sleep.
Anyway, these photos are from the last day of our road trip home. A milk run from Needles to Oakland, about 8 hours according to google maps, which is about what I remember. There was snow crossing the first set of mountains, which was pretty wild, as they’re usually pretty hot and barren. Right time of year for a freak storm, but it’d passed a couple days ahead of us. Then the surrealist masterpiece, the 5, most of the day. We were still driving after dark, coming over the coast range on 680, I think.
Posted by Matt on 2020-04-22 05:48:07Z GMT