driftwood 2023

For some reason, I decided to do a sort of cleanse this year for driftwood; I only took my “pool toy” (a nikonos V underwater camera rated to 5 atmospheres of pressure), a film rangefinder, and my little Ricoh GR. Owing to the film and different (some might say chaotic) camera assortment, all of these are out of order. Or, at best, in vibes only order.

This year was a bit of an expansion; we had maybe 15 people at peak? 20? There is no census at driftwood. It was, as usual, a few days on the water with just music and good people.

Posted on 2024-02-10T05:46:48Z GMT

driftwood 2022: the lost roll

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

sun and bass again (2023)

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

a little jaunt in Rome

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

2024, here we go

somewhat inauspicious start to the year today, I’m typing without my left index finger because it’s got some kind of infection, the antibiotics taking their sweet time to take it out. hopefully I’ll be back up to full strength soon. I have a heck of a backlog here (as always). I started writing a year in review of last year of just the places I travelled to and lost steam by the time I got to June. I probably am just going to give up on that since posts about last year as a whole are no longer timely. this has never been a news blog, despite my aspirations and what my highschool journalism teacher drummed into me.

I realized looking at these photos though, which are from roughly October, that I’m missing some stuff from Sardinia and Porto. I need to chase though down. I probably have them edited (initial selects in photo mechanic) and just forgot the final step of dragging them into lightroom.

My current workflow is a little convoluted, mostly because lightroom is slow and bad at organizing photos en masse and the other tool I use, Photo Mechanic Pro, is not a developing tool. So I do an ‘ingest’ step with Photo Mechanic, and that’s when I usually do a round of initial selects. just page through the photos in the loupe view and hit 3 (number on the keyboard, marks the ‘star rating’ in the EXIF) on anything that I think has potential. Then I can filter the light table view by star rating and select the ones that I’ve just marked. Then I drag those into lightroom (select all, drag to the lightroom icon) and in LR I can do the exposure, color adjustment, and dodging and burning.

Of course, I have ADHD, every step in the pipeline there is prone to me walking away and not coming back for some months. Shooting is a constant, but other than that I offload from my SD cards as I can remember to. Used to be an every day ritual, now it’s once every other week. I just don’t shoot as much.

Anyway. this was supposed to be just a quick post, drop some photos and go to bed.

Posted on 2024-01-03T08:00:39Z GMT