Sunday, October 11, 2009

Culmination

I realize it has been a while since my last post. It has been a hectic several months full of ups and downs. And this is why. This short video documents the culmination of my last three and a half years of education. After this, who knows what will happen . . .

Video

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Final Countdown

Okay, now I have that song in my head. As well as images of G.O.B. and his dance to the song from "Arrested Development." Ah, yes. So much fun.

At any rate, that is hardly the point of my blog.

I have been having trouble as of late finding the motivation to work on my final document, to shoot the remaining images that are milling around in my brain, and to continue down this path to my final destination - that of graduating with a terminal degree.

For some reason, this weekends class lit a fire under me. The class itself was brief, but we got some very important information that we have all been waiting for and needing for a long time. We now know when the shows will hang, who will be hanging when, and what the final criteria are for finishing out the program. I will be hanging with some phenomenal photographers at the end of September, with an official gallery opening on the first Thursday of October. Two and a half months away. This is it, people. This is what it is really all about.

My goal with my document is to have it completed one month prior to my hanging. (At least the first draft for my committee to review.) This means that I have one and a half months to get my literature review done, written, and learned from so that I can take more images and write the bulk of my document about my work, my show, and my journey.

This is exciting. I was very jumpy and giggly all day. I was talking too quickly. I was smiling too broadly. Everything comes down to this. Everything. The last three years. My sacrifices, triumphs, failures, obstacles, ups, and downs have all lead to this. We are nearing the end of the journey and preparing for the launch into the post-academic phase. I am excited for the first time in months, possibly years. I feel accomplished. I feel alive. I feel ready.

Also, I want to write a Manifesto.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hello World!

I have now officially been published in a real, live magazine.

Lifelong goal, accomplished.

You can read the entire article, and see the images, here.

YAY!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Recognize the Wins

I just found out that I will be published in the PIEA journal, the first and only (to my knowledge), peer reviewed journal about photography.

It is easier sometimes to recognize when everything is going wrong rather than when something goes right. I am not an optimist, so when things do pan out well I usually write them off or underplay them. But I am trying to change my outlook. I am trying to be a better proponent of myself.

This is a win. Getting an article published in Rangefinder is also a win. I still have a lot of things that I have done that have not gone anywhere, not received note, merit, or award, but now I have two wins. So all of the effort I have put forward hasn't been for nothing, hasn't been a waste. My networking, my hard work, my attention to my writing has paid off. In one of these two cases, that will be literal.

I think it is important to list the wins. I think it is important to understand that progress has been made in order to continue to make progress, to continue to take steps. Being in an artistic field requires that you find a sort of self motivation to keep moving. Right now I am high on life, but in a week or a month I will be questioning things again. But having this, remembering this, cherishing this is perhaps where the fuel for the self motivation comes from. I am just glad that I can see it now. I hope to continue to see the wins and allow the losses to exist for their reasons without assuming I should quit and die. (Dramatic, I know, but that's me.)

Recognize the wins, my friends. It may be the only way to keep moving forward in this artistic life.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Food for Thought

I keep bouncing back and forth regarding what it is I should do with the project. This weekend the class spent an incredible amount of time looking at and talking about my work and the direction of my final show. The main question that I wanted help in answering was what to do about Ren. I know I already wrote him an obituary, but there are a lot of reasons why I think having Ren is important.

- I think his presence makes the work more universal and applicable to a greater audience.
- I think the balance of the two without the benefit of compromise makes an important statement.
- I think it brings up different gender questions, like forcing the viewer to reflect on how we, as a society, view vanity in women versus men; why we feel narcissism is more a female trait or if we even do; why we expect certain airs to be put on by women; and why men in some of these situations seem acceptable and not out of the ordinary when with women they are bizarre and out of place.

But, there are also some reasons that I agree with my committee that the project would be more successful without Ren.

- The images of Rin are more consistently produced and successful.
- A show about narcissism that contains only one individual would be more likely to be read as narcissism by the audience.
- I have a full show of Rin already and only four images that I could put on Ren's side.
- People that I respect are suggesting that I get rid of Ren and I have had a weird feeling about this portion of the project for a while.
- Also, I don't care what people think about the gender issues. I can't get away from what people bring to the work on their own, I can only put forth my concept and my work and try to make the strongest, most complete argument I can.

So, like I said before, I am torn. This weekend a good portion of the class voted to keep Ren, one student that I highly respect voted to oust him, and the others remained undecided and silent. Ultimately I realize that the decision is mine, but I am not sure what to do. The way that I had visualized the show has been altered once again. I saw it as a mantle in a standard living room with half of the space dedicated to Rin and half to Ren with an image demonstrating the lack of compromise hanging in the middle. Now, I don't know what to do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Resurrected

Yay! The momentarily homeless article has found a home at Rangefinder. Publication to follow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

And Another One Bites the Dust

One of the elements of this graduate program is the opportunity to do Independent Studies of the student's design. I collaborated with a group of students for one on Grant Writing and came up with a grant proposal that I was really pleased with. I didn't get the grant, but I felt good about the process.

This session I decided to work with one of our instructors, a prolifically published photographer/writer named Glenn Rand, on an Independent Study about article writing and publication. The first article created out of this was a former essay turned interest piece that I sent off to a peer reviewed journal. I never heard back.

The second was an article I did based on several lectures and an interview that I had with Joyce Tenneson. The article was to be published by a European photography magazine that, as of yesterday, has gone out of business. The issue was supposed to go to press tomorrow. It was a cover story. It is now dead. So the sure thing publication that has been written, edited, polished, submitted, and accompanied by nine of her images is sucking dust six feet under and desperately seeking resurrection.

This repeating cycle of almost getting there and then falling off a cliff is getting old.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Winding Down, Winding Up

I have no idea who actually reads this, if anyone, mostly because of the lack of commentary. (Peanut Butter and JQ, you are in the clear for this one.) Others tell me that they do, and some even comment about things in person, but in a way part of the point of creating this blog was different than my logic for creating my four other blogs. (Yes, I have four other blogs. No, you may not have their addresses.) Part of my intention was to create a substitute feedback system for my MFA colleagues before I lose, and hopefully after, that intellectual sand box. I'm not sure what this has turned into aside from yet another web journal of yet another individual who thinks that the world wants to hear what they say. I don't, by the way, I just find it helpful to me to think and post and work through my issues in a public forum. I just wish, at times, that the forum had some interaction back with me.

It is like teaching in some senses. You put out information, hope to inspire conversation, and end up staring at a room full of blank faces in silence. Only in this case I don't even know if anyone is in the room at all, so I feel like I am doing all of that with the lights off. I can almost feel my anxiety growing as the seconds tick off on the loud clock that is inevitably at the back of the room.

So, if this venture doesn't pan out (though I am thinking of starting something else to share ideas with those minds from this program that desire further, lasting communication) I am forced to wonder what happens next?

In one of our classes this weekend we were discussing what the function of your MFA body of work should be. Our professor put it succinctly when he stated that our show should be the best work that we have ever done in our lives and, in five or ten years, should be identifiable as immature work in the grand scheme of our careers. His intention with telling us this, I believe, is that many of us are treating this work, and our writing about this work, as if it is the last body of work we will ever do. And this, he thinks, is short-sighted and crazy. This is supposed to be the beginning.

And yet, despite that insight and, in its strange way, encouragement, I can't get over the fact that this absolutely feels like the end. I told my mother on the phone last night that I don't believe I will ever do anything photographic after this body of work and that I don't know what will happen when this ends because it does feel like the end. Where are we supposed to go from here?

At this stage of the game most of the students are pawing at the gate, ready for this program, these classes, the stress, the anxiety to be over. I am one of them. But when the gate actually swings wide, I imagine myself looking out at the great blue yonder and freezing, paralyzed. Not so much with fear of the real world as with a sheer inability to move forward. I don't even know what the next step is supposed to be, so how can I move my legs in that direction? What direction?

Of course there are also the people who have, in many ways, already started the next stage. They have real jobs associated with the education they are sacrificing so much for. They are photo editors, staff photographers, freelance photojournalists, adjunct faculty, or just straight up photographers. They are doing it. Which makes the gate, and the great blue yonder, that much more terrifying for me. Don't get me wrong, I have been applying to jobs, meeting with photographers, trying my hand at networking, building up my resume, and yet nothing has panned out. I am 0 for 312 at this point. It is difficult to think about being 0 for 313. There is a lot of confusion, depression, doubt, fear, anger, and loss associated with being 0 for 312. That next step, whatever it is (God help me I have no idea), is getting harder to take. And there is this mentality associated with artists that is mind numbing - that of persisting until you break. (Break, here, being either "get a break" or just plain die.)

"Just keep putting yourself out there." "Just try to find that niche where you belong."

Just meet one more person, open one more door, find one more window, apply to one more contest, grant, job, apprenticeship, internship, traveling vocational lecture series opening. . . I suppose the irony of an education winding down is that, in reality, all the anxiety of "the real world" starts to ramp up. Those loans are going to be due. That financial aid is going to run out. Everyone expects you to do something with that degree. But the what of that doing is relatively loosely defined.

And the thing the depresses me most of all is the thought that what I really love, what I have always really loved, is the exchange of ideas. That is why I love school, always have. I was the freak that couldn't wait for summer break to be over. I wanted to learn. I wanted to get back in the saddle and have a defined set of criteria that I could use to prove myself out amongst my peers. I have been tangibly aware of how much I am going to miss a class when it is over. American History with Mr. Dunbar my Junior year in high school. Anthropology, Classical Mythology, and the History of Film at Purdue. Physics for Majors with Professor Grabowski my Freshmen year. Photo 102 with Clark at Brooks. 103 with Bradshaw. Seminar with Eng, Visual Communication with Kallan, and now, while I am still in it, Studio 6 with Bradley. What I don't know is how to take that sense of academic, collegial interaction and apply it in "reality."

What I think is that I need to be in academia, but I am not certain that I am really qualified. But I don't know how to become qualified without abandoning the things that make me happy and being commercial or editorial or not even a photographer at all until I maybe have worked up the possibility of getting a foot in some door, somewhere. And yet all the doors that I have tried have been locked tight. All of the contests that I apply to, all of the job applications I send out, the grant applications, even the three articles have ended up nowhere. It is simultaneously frustrating, demoralizing, and terrifying. A 3.99 GPA and being a good student and wanting to be around creative minds doesn't appear to count for anything outside of being in the classroom. So that leaves me where, exactly?

Worth the Effort

One of my instructors here at Brooks, a brilliant and entirely entertaining Communications instructor, has a little saying that he shared yesterday during my committee meeting.

"Do you know what the difference between a good writer and a great writer is? A good writer can write a brilliant passage with witty commentary, enlightening dialogue, and magnificent flow. A great writer can do all of that, realize that it doesn't fit, and cut it."

He animatedly started pantomiming his impression of F. Scott Fitzgerald rampaging through one of his manuscripts, pen in hand, slashing all the paragraphs that didn't contribute to the final, clean story.

The reason that he brought up the tale was that my committee, as a group, have decided that Ren is no longer a necessary component of the story. It was worth exploring, possibly necessary, but doesn't fit with the same kind of intensity and focus of Rin. Ren doesn't make Rin's story any better. And when you come down to it, this is Rin's story. The individual narcissist in a sea of proliferating narcissism.

My initial reaction was, "No! We can't abandon him, I know what I want my final show to look like! I know where the images go! I have been shooting to that end!" But, in reality, I haven't. I have been struggling with putting together images of Ren and in turn neglecting ideas for Rin. Because I wanted balance. I wanted the same number of images for Ren and Rin. The same balanced proportion between the two. But I have four images of Ren now and seventeen of Rin. I have one more idea for him, four for her. And it is easier for me to continue growing and expanding and refining with her. And I think part of the reason for that is how much I hate her. I don't hate him. I know that Ren, like Rin, is not really the model but a concept. But with Ren I see the model. With Rin I see everything that I hate about the world, about myself. Which makes it easier for me to make more images of Rin. She has all the qualities I loathe as well as all the qualities I envy. She is self-centered, oblivious, lacking empathy, expecting praise, and wears the costume of what she wants to be. Those elements I hate. But I also made her happy, somehow successful, and, yes, naive. In some ways I do envy those traits. This blog in many ways has been a log of my manic depressive tendencies, but also to my intellectual pursuits. Maybe ignorance really is bliss. And yet it is not a bliss that I, as the evolved and conscientious person that I am, can ever be comfortable with. I do, despite everything, prefer being thoughtful.

At any rate, after much discussion with my committee, with my husband, and with myself, Ren has been laid to rest.

Ren Hachaturi
March 5, 2009 - May 18, 2009
R.I.P.




Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm Assuming His Name Wasn't Thomas

Did the little engine that could have a name? One of my former students encouraged me the other day (or merely commented on my facebook update...I choose encouraged) and mistakenly quoted Thomas the Train in reference to the little engine, but it got me thinking. Did he/she/it have a name?

The reason it comes back to me today is that I could seriously use some motivation right now. The whole concept of the little engine is that it finds self-motivation and makes it over the hill. My motivation level is low. If it were blood pressure I would be brain damaged. I am just finding it harder and harder to make this work. It isn't so much that I don't believe in its potential, but it is more negative and, I worry, arrogant than I wish it were. Who am I to judge? As discussed in a previous blog, I also suffer from a lot of the ailments that I admonish, and I greatly dislike the era of post production we are in that requires unattainable standards of beauty.

And yet I not only am making a relatively judgemental commentary, but I am also expounding the use of extreme post production to achieve this plasticity and naive affect in every shot. This goes against what I really think we should be doing with the media (I'm more of a "Campaign for Real Beauty" type of girl) and also gives me a nauseating amount of self-portrait retouching to do that demonstrates how many flaws I have - the deepening wrinkles on my forehead, my too large pores, my asymmetrical eyes, my crows feet, my yellow teeth. It is discouraging at best.

But I have also created a final layout that I think could work to make the commentary valid and personal for the viewing audience. A layout that requires more images. Lots more images. And I don't have a ton of time to get them all done. So, motivation is key.

So we return to Thomas or his cousin or friend or brother/sister. Although it would be nice if the story demonstrated where he found his unexpected and triumphant self-motivation. That would be a better story. That would help me now. Merely telling me that Train X has this motivation doesn't assist me in the "just keep chugging" department.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Phenomena

There are some curious new phenomena I have been seeing in the world that seem directly related to my final project. I am a little concerned, actually. I am not certain if these help or hurt my point and my show. I will certainly be able to use this for the final document, but I am not sure what the statement really is in relation to where we are, what we are doing, and how advertising is starting to use the same mechanism that I am using. Thoughts?

This popped up on my Yahoo account:


And I saw this one on TV earlier this week: Gillette Commercial.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Meet Ren

After a recent class and committee meeting one weekend, I realized that too many of my images were "domestically gender themed." (I don't know why I put that in quotes seeing as how no one specifically said that, but that is the consensus.) The suggestions about how I could counter this in the photography ranged from dressing up as a man version of Ren to only showing Ren in traditionally male roles. The odd part about each of those suggestions is that I think the gender issue becomes more at issue because it would appear as though I was only concerned with showing inequalities with gender.

Another suggestion though, one that I had been mulling over but wasn't sure of, was to introduce a second character. The reason for this being that he could actually be male and he could drive home that this project is not about women's issues, but American issues. Especially if the two characters suffer from some of the same mallady's, which would be narcissism, vacuousness, disinterest, entitlement, etc. (Basically, the two roles would make the intended sentiments stronger while downplaying the gender issues.)

When I came up with Rin, part of who she was evolved out of my fascination with Japanese culture. This fascination doesn't really come into play in the work itself, only in the original myth of Rin, which at this point has sort of been abandoned. However, I named her Rin because I did a search on the most popular girl names in Japan, and Rin was among them. So, when I created her counterpart, I did the same search for boys. The result was Ren.

Honestly, I think Rin and Ren ultimately says exactly what I want to say with this project. It would be like saying Jack and Jill, but using Rin and Ren makes them want to be something that they aren't even more. These people are not real on any level. The entirity of their existence is in the costume of success and contentment, at any cost. And so, Ren was born.



Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Carl Sagan

When I was in high school we watched a video narrated by Carl Sagan. At one point he was talking about the make up of life and he said something that ended in the phrase "Billions and billions of atoms." If you know Carl Sagan, you know how distinctive his voice and delivery are, so you can understand that why, fifteen years later, I still remember it with proper inflection and aggressive Bs (said properly, there should be some spitting.)

This just came to me as I looked over the image of Rin in a previous post. She is starting to multiply and it doesn't seem long before there will be billions and billions of her.

Shiver.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Web of Mediocrity

There is an inherent hypocrisy in my work. Maybe the same is true for all art and artists, hence the perpetuation of despair. For, you see, I am not immune to the woes and vices that I see in America. I suffer from them as much as anyone. But I hope that the realization of these traits in myself is a sort of healing process, a way out of the muck and mire of transgressions against myself and others.

I am self-centered. I often think about myself first and others second, if at all. It isn't something that I am proud of. It is a sad truth, one that I feel is perhaps the greatest crime we suffer in a nation of me-firsters. Perhaps I feel that way because it is one of the things that I hate most about myself, that I fear most when considering being married, having kids. I don't feel as though I am good material to be a partner or a role model. One of my instructors at Brooks once suggested that I partner with a classmate of mine and make a business of our photography together. It was actually a wonderful idea. I have a keen sense for the business side of things and he is an amazing photographer, but I knew it wasn't something that I could ever do. Even when it was suggested, my hackles raised and I started to think about what would happen if I had to do all of the paperwork and administration while he was off doing what I wanted - while he was off being a photographer. As it turns out, he is a wonderful business man as well and is already quite successful without me while I am not even managing to get my work out there at all. If my hackles had stayed put, I might have been able to see the potential of the opportunity rather than how it could have done me harm.

A lot of this comes from a lifetime of working for something and being taken advantage of often and without remorse. My friend would never do that. He is a wonderful guy. But others have, and that has driven me to a place where it is difficult for me to trust people, difficult to take that leap of faith. And all of this has manifested in a self-protective shell that started out as caution and grew into a tangled bramble of narcissism. I am aware of it, but it is hard to break, hard to put someone else before myself, wholly and without a second thought.

Because of this trait I loathe Rin even more. Not just because she is a narcissist, that was by design, but because no matter how you slice it, the images are of me. A whole lot of images of me. Me, me, me. I hate the project for that reason. I don't mind so much the thought of the images on the wall, but very much mind that I don't mind. Does that even make sense? I want to shudder at the thought of having that much of my characature on the wall, but there is a tiny part of me that is gloating, a part that is excited to get to put its best foot forward - no matter how false that foot may be.

I am also lazy. I have told people this and they laugh outright. Go ahead, you would be in good company. But it is true, and no, my definition of lazy isn't different from yours. Let me give you some examples. Two jobs ago, back in the corporate sphere, I was rising to the top of my division because I was so effective. What no one seemed to realize is that I spent 90% of my time fooling around and only about 10% working. But when I would work, I was extremely, exceptionally, flawlessly effective. My mind works in a funny way that allows me to see the details and the big picture of a project all at one time. Because of that I can see the outline of a report (or essay, or letter, or article) in my head before I write a word. I understand where I am going and can craft an intelligent, coherent, and focused written piece that fits the needs of the moment in less than an hour. When I was working in that sphere (as a technical writer at times) I never wrote a second draft. Not once. The same is true for highschool and college papers.

My second example still makes me ashamed today, and I often use this particular story as a self-motivator to try and prevent making the same mistakes with what little time I have left. I never really applied myself in school. I was perfectly content to be average. When my parents figured that out, they enrolled me in a private school where the average bar was much higher, and I was perfectly content to be average on the higher scale. This phenomena shifted drastically my freshman year in college because I suddenly decided that I had to be the best. There was no other option. I wanted to be top of my class, top of every class. I needed straight A's, needed to get attention, and wanted to be recognized as magnificent. It was this need (and not the work ethic I preach about) that drove me. But then something happened that I did not expect. I wasn't the smartest person there. I wasn't capable of wrapping my mind around everything. I couldn't keep up with a few of my peers. That is when I gave up. If I couldn't have it all, what the hell did it matter? I dropped out of the Physics department (I was third in my class at the time) and shifted to a very poor film program in an underfunded liberal arts department at an engineering school. Even though it would have been very little effort on my part, I no longer got straight A's. I no longer yearned to be . . . well, anything at all. I did the least amount of effort possible and was still shocked when I didn't graduate with honors. (I had a 3.75, the cutoff for honors was 3.76.)

I promised myself that I would never let that happen again. I swore I would not squander another education, and I was true to myself at Brooks. I was true for the undergraduate program. I reshot every assignment that I didn't pass, even some that I felt I shouldn't have passed or that I didn't understand in the way I wanted to. I was the best student. I was not the best photographer. Again I ran into that fear of failure. A fear so pervasive in my life that I almost gave up completely. I switched into the MFA program because I felt that the stakes weren't as high. I could be a good student, which I was and am, without the commercial pressure. I could pursue my fine art degree without having to justify why I didn't have an advertising plan or hadn't sent out promos or why my work was subpar. The MFA was my way of not having to work at being a commercial photographer, which is what I really wanted but couldn't manage. Sometimes I still kick myself for it. The logic is that I will have a terminal degree - one of the many items on my "to do before I die" list - and that somehow that piece of paper will get me everything that I want with the least amount of effort.

Luckily for me, the MFA turned out to be something that I needed more than I realized and has been a growth process and a learning experience that I wouldn't trade for the world. But I will probably never be a commercial photographer. Some of those dreams are lost, just like graduating Magna Cum Laude or being an astronaught.

The trouble is that what I want more than anything in the world is to live up to my potential. If I would work at even 50% of my capability I would be so much more than what I am now, but instead I see myself falling into a life of mediocrity. It is my greatest fear, worse than failure or spiders or death, I fear being just like everybody else. Another cog in the machine. Another person who gave up on their dreams and accepted that no one ever gets what they want out of life.

I am not trying to be melodramatic here. These vices are the ones that I am specifically working against in myself as well as portraying in the work to try and snap other people out of their trapped existences. I want everyone to truly desire to do their best in life. I want everyone to want to do good, to think outside their own sphere and reach out to a world in desperate need of attention.

I am trying to act my way into thinking differently. I am trying to put others first, trying to celebrate others' successes earnestly, trying to be supportive to my friends, trying to lead by example and work as hard as I can no matter the outcome. Try and try again. Fail and learn, then try some more. I don't want to be Rin. I don't want to only be making a comment on my own failings. I want to work beyond them, beyond the web of mediocrity that I have created around myself and push back to dreaming - horrible, painful, scathing, wonderful dreaming. I think a great part of the problem, all these problems and vices, comes from a pervasive mentality that either dreams can't come true (so why bother?) or dreams should come true (so why try?)

I have no idea how any of these issues are going to work themselves out. I have no idea if the work is going to be successful. I just know that not dreaming, that losing hope, is the darkest, most desolate place someone can be. I want to be able to get those dreams back. I want to believe in something again. Rin is the darkest manifestation of me not believing, of my cynical (albeit playful) view on how we have ceased as a nation, as individuals. I want to be better than that. Bigger. Maybe Rin is really a reminder to me as well. A prod in the direction of remembering what innocent dreaming really felt like. And maybe, with her help, I can have faith in that again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Evolving the Unchanging

Rin is a tricky subject. Tricky because I am certain now of what I am saying with her but having much more difficulty actually convincing others of that message with the images alone. There are certain things that read - Stepford Wives, narcissism, plasticity - but the others don't - over consumption, entitlement, uselessness. It is the latter three that I am trying to push, that I want to demonstrate. As a culture I think we need to understand these vices and move away from them. We need to see what we have become, what we are turning our children into, and stop it, change it, fix it. And Rin is my way of holding up an ugly mirror to hopefully offend people just enough that they realize they hate the imagery because it reveals something nasty about themselves.

Of course then the question becomes how do you visualize entitlement? But not just the elite classes entitlement, but this pervasive entitlement that has overtaken the millenial generation? The belief that showing up to class alone means getting an A. The feeling of betrayal when something doesn't go their way, when they don't get the medal or the trophy.

And how do you demonstrate uselessness? Over consumption? I think I can manage the latter here, but how can I show everything in a limited amount of linear feet on a wall of a gallery? It's madness, I tell you. How can I evolve Rin when the greatest power that she has is that she never changes at all? Somehow the things around her must evolve and tell the story while she still remains vacant-eyed and clueless. At least the more I think about it the less I feel I am turning into her. She would never worry herself over...anything.

Here are the latest in the bunch. I am working with moving away from the "Stepford Wife" look, so some of these probably won't make the cut since they are more domestic types of tasks. The initial thought was to create images of things that she wouldn't be able to do while still looking perfect, like cleaning the house, but it seems to have read more as a gender issue. So I am moving away from that and introducing some new tactics.

Rin with cookies that she bought because she cannot cook.

This one I think is going to be a reshoot, even though it is one of my favorites in the whole series so far. I will post the new one if and when I reshoot.

Perfect cleaning supplies, unused, of course, perfect nails, perfect makeup, even perfect "working" hair. But, unfortuantely, she leans towards domestic. I see that and understand, but I also kind of like this one.

Perfect with the flu. This one is a favorite of some people. I think it reads plasticity. That is one of the topics, for certain, but I think it only reads plasticity. I am not sure if this is going to be in the show or not.

This was attempt #1 to move away from the thought of Rin as a housewife. Here, she is an executive, but hopefully in context it will start to seem like she is "mastering" way too many things. I am hoping with lots of these images side by side she will start to seem impossible, and then insulting. Because no one can be a CEO, an Olympian, a surgeon...etc. Lots of lifestyles and jobs that take a lifetime to master. That's the new direction.

I have also been sort of frustrated recently by certain activities that are in vogue but no one wants to really learn how to do them. There is a huge fad to be totally cute on the mountain without ever really understanding how to ski or snowboard. The last few times that we went out there were people who I swear stayed in the lodge the whole time just to look pretty. This goes for men and women, mind you. Having the latest outfit is more important that learning a new trick, or learning the sport at all. It seems that the inevitable Village at the base of every ski hill is more important to a lot of people than the hill itself. Even though the hill is the reason the Village exists. This is the sort of entitlement that drives me crazy. The thought that you are owed an ability, a degree, a reward, just because you go someplace. And the associated pouting that seems to accompany the people that don't ever get it.

This one is the first of the over consumptions. It is really pegged at the people who have four coffee breaks every day (notice the time) and always get the tripple grande carmel machiolatte extravaganza with extra whipped cream and cinnamon. I am alergic to coffee, so I have always found this phenomena absurd. Most other people in my class/life don't understand this to be over consumption at all. One even lovingly sheltered her coffee from me when I showed her the image. As a side note, whipped cream with cinnamon is tasty tasty! (Yes, I did consume this. Ironic, I know.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Explorative

I think it is a strange, yet metaphorically telling, phenomena that we believe as a culture in things like exploratory surgery. We don't know what's wrong with you, but we are going to cut you open, look around, hope that we find something, and attempt to fix you. All of this could potentially make you worse, will undoubtedly be painful, and promises no results.

This is where I am in my artistic process. I have no choice at this point, either from a pragmatic or an artistic perspective, but to press on and keep trying to produce. This body of work is painful for me, has moments that are both caustic and liberating, and in the end has no defined affect. This may be a great and necessary catharsis that will ultimately lead to the revelation that I have been waiting for my whole life, and it may just leave me with fresh and large scars and a body of work that is simultaneously eerie and perky. (For the record, I do not desire to be either.)

But the other remarkable thing about this process is that a support system sometimes erects itself beneath your flailing limbs before you manage to tip over and fall. In the past several days alone I have been pointedly told that I am a worthwhile human being, given links to lectures on shifting perspective, shown presentations about painful yet beneficial regeneration, and been reminded that I am a photographer and that is my chosen form of expression.

The only trouble is that I am both surgeon and patient. Both curious and expectant, in control and vulnerable. But at least I can see all the encouraging glances from the waiting room - the crossed arms, the stoic nods, the nail biting, the steaming coffee - all from a group of people who care about me more than they care about what I am doing. My health and well being are paramount above my product, and the support is there whether I soar or stumble. It doesn't actually make the process easier, but it does make surviving it more plausible.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Soulless

Happy Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hmmm

Well, the committee has spoken. Rin has won out.

I still hate her. The only difference is that now I have to figure out why.

Which means spending lots and lots of time with her.

Will the irony never cease?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What Really is the Purpose?

I am starting to wonder what the real purpose of an MFA program is. To one degree, it should be a sandbox, a place where you can try something new, expose it to your colleagues, get feedback and critiques, and grow - all without judgment. Criticism, sure, but not judgment. On the other hand, it is a limited time frame endeavor that ultimately asks a lot of the student in terms of graduation requirements and deadlines.

It seems to me that these two concepts are at odds with each other. How can you be expected to play without consequence when a very real consequence of inaction is looming in the very near future, nine months down the road?

I misspoke in class yesterday and started an uproar. What I said was that Rin was a project that I could complete, which is why it was worth doing. What I really meant with that, though, was that it is a clean concept that I think has the potential to make much larger statements that I can explore, write about, engage with, and complete. And yes, completion is a huge part of that. What I didn't mean to imply is "What the hell, I may as well do something..."

Oh boy. That is not in any way, shape, or form what I meant, but I understand the outcry. It is difficult to go through a process such as this and a million times more difficult to realize that the thing you really want to say, that thing that is burrowed deep in your subconscious, or boring its way into your marrow, is not something that you can get out on a deadline.

It isn't that I intend to stop pursuing all of these black demons, this murder of chaos and light, but instead that I am starting to feel the pressure that a project of that nature is a "personal time" endeavor. It doesn't make sense now. Not to me, not to anyone. It might not for years, decades. Unfortunately, I don't have years and decades and a focused concept is required in the next two weeks, sooooo....

I have my first meeting with my committee today. In some ways I think my honest approach to this reality isn't helping my cause. The cause being actually graduating with a project that I don't hate. Hate and want to burn. But, lying to myself or those who are guiding me is not my style. I hate lying. It is the ugliest thing about humanity and too often justified. So, I might be screwing myself over, but the honest to God truth of the matter is, I need a f@&king concept. Take it or leave it, I can't keep flitting around with no focus.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Back on Track

Okay, I suppose it is time that I started this up again.

First things first, my committee has finally been assembled. Hallelujah. That was a stress that I was not bearing well. There were so many uncertainties in my life that I needed some resolution and, thankfully, I at least found some here. So The Three have been determined and will now begin in the process of aiding my progression. No choice in the matter, sorry.

Second off, my progression is a thing of enigmatic ebbs and flows. Where last week I was shooting 100 birds for no particular reason other than it was loosely suggested, to this week's decision that my project should go in one of two directions, I have been torn in many directions. Now I am starting to find peace. I would be hypocritical to not admit some element of serendipity in all of this, and just plain rude not to admit that three of my classmates in a united effort drove me to one of the ideas. Herded might be more accurate. With whips and prods.

I am, of course, talking about Rin. Ah, Rin. She is a beautiful, crazy creation that I greatly fear says a lot more about me than I would like. Because I very specifically have characterized her as that which I am not, which is an impossible characterization. She is the things I hate most, so she is the dark side to my Demeter, the yang to my yin, most assuredly the truths that I wish would remain hidden. Damn her. And yet she is also a very clean concept. So clean, so raw that she has become an elegant solution to what ails me. She could very easily be a project.

The additional idea is an evolution of something I haven't shown you. I should, but there is a sense that I need a little more discretion with this one. Just for the time being. I have been so eager to share for so long, so eager for validation and approval, that I have unintentionally bastardized my process. For, more than anything, I am a private and introspective person. It is something I need to stew on a little more, germinate and bring to the surface before I share it with anyone, let alone the blogoshpere lurking behind every post.

Fear not, my loyal readers. I will let you in on all the secrets in good time. For in some ways I am only realized when my work is seen by someone other than myself.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Then Again, Maybe Not

Okay, give me a second.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Clarity of Purpose

I have been talking with a lot of people recently about where my project should go, how to get back on track, and what I need to do to complete my MFA. I know, small stuff, right? The strange thing (or perhaps entirely appropriate) is that I have been getting a lot of the same advice.

Two very important people to me said different things that ultimately lead me to a joint conclusion.

The first told me to think smaller.
The second told me to be more clear.

What this ultimately leads to is a realization that what my work needs more than anything is a clear concept. A single-sentence, driven, tight, comprehensible concept. I am thinking smaller in the sense that I am not trying to tackle the world on statement and image making, and more clear in that the information I am trying to convey will be distilled into something sharp and poignant. I hope. That is the goal.

Of course, I am still working on what that concept is, but at least now I feel as though I have direction to lead me to a place where I can really start to make solid, definitive progress. Hey, don't mock. It is more than I have had for the past four months. Something, anything, is a step in the right direction at this point. I don't want the blank canvas anymore. I want to paint.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Does That Make Me NOT a Photographer?

I have been feeling a greater and greater need these days to make artifacts. Not just simple photographs, but things that are unique, individual, solitary items. A lot of what I want to make involves some sort of photography, but not all of it. There are a lot of things that I want to make that have nothing to do with photography. It is starting to concern me from a perspective of getting an MFA in photography. And there is something else that is bothering me, too. One of the elements of photography, one of its driving principles is the concept of reproducibility. One image printed thousands of times over again that makes a tangible, visual impact. That is what a photograph is. Digital media just make that a more pronounced and immediate phenomena, but it has been that way since the advent of collodian wet plate photography. A glass negative that you can make a positive image from, as many times as you like. My images, my artifacts, are not true to the medium in that regard. They are completely unique, more so even than a hand crafted print by Ansel Adams in that there are several stages of creation, several steps to ultimately craft something different, something new, something that can only be found in one time and place, in a tangible form.

It started a while ago, even at the beginning of this project, where six negatives would be sandwiched together, printed, and then a contact print made. That many steps make the likelihood of direct duplication more remote. Not impossible, but less likely. But what I am doing now, what I am making in my kitchen (quite literally) cannot even be called images. They contain images, but they make no statement about the medium, nothing in them screams "This woman is a photographer!" But I am not certain if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Yes it's true that there is a part of me that would rather not be labeled, a part that would exhibit sculpture next to drawing next to photograph, a part that I suppose would be labeled "artist" but I also admit a fierce loyalty to the medium, to that place where I first engaged my creativity.

In some senses I am worried about this new direction because it provides, yet again, more uncertainty than clarity. I need a little clarity right now. But the alternative seems loathsome as well. The alternative seems to be doing a project of Rin or tiny little shots of real ravens or even self portraits, but all of those seem like easy steps. They seem like giving up.

I have a successful photographer friend right now that I keep watching with some amount of jealousy. He is one of my dearest friends from back in the undergraduate program. He has come into his own as a commercial photographer with style and grace. His work is phenomenal, and it is 100% his. There is never any question of which image on the board was crafted from his quirky perspective. Getty now sells his images. The reason I look at him with some questioning is that he and I were always the top of the class. We were side by side in our advancement. Admittedly in two totally different veins, but we were growing together into commercial photographers. When I split from him and the others and shifted into the MFA two things started to happen: 1) he continued to grow and excel in a viable commercial sphere, 2) I started to get further and further from that categorization. Now he is going to run off to New York and take over the world, and it seems that I a doomed to live in a self-created obscurity. Sometimes I kick myself because I left the program, soul's ambition be damned. (Major problem here would be that the aforementioned soul's ambition has been so massively elusive as to cause general cardiac and pulmonary issues.) And now it seems that I am damning even photography in my work. There is hardly any of it left. And what is there are the last of my Polaroids, soon to be as dried up as my photographic ambition.

So what does all of this mean? Does this make me not a photographer?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Photo LA

Photo LA was awesome. Mostly because I was introduced to five photographer's work that I did not know that I really like and because I got to meet, talk to, and get my picture taken with Joel-Peter Witkin. I love him. I will blog more about this later because I think the experience was an important one, but I wanted to at least make a statement about it to some degree because I am still giddy about meeting Witkin. I love him.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Beginnings

I have been stunted in my artistic growth for several months now. It is actually difficult for me to admit this here, as putting those words in print forces me to admit it to myself as well. I have been blaming my artistic monsters, the program administrators, my greatest supporters, and even my highly admired instructors. Anyone and everyone but me. That is not to say that there haven't been issues in some of the other areas of my life, there certainly have, but a lot of the anger and frustration (with one notable exception) has been in regards to my lack of progress. Hence the previous post. I have been terrified of not being able to finish to the detriment of not even being able to take any steps forward.

I met with my friend Kara the other day when she stopped by on her fantastic journey for lunch, conversation, and a moment of rest and she and I discussed the concept of the black hole that I am so terrified of stepping into. I remarked that it is an emptiness that I do not understand or know how to approach, and she replied "Hmm, isn't it more of a blank canvas?" Alas, that would be where her optimism meets my pessimism, but she is absolutely right. The difference between viewing the future as a crushing darkness is wholly different, and much more stifling, that viewing it as a canvas of opportunity for the artist who seeks to express their ideas.

So, this year I am trying to instead focus on the blank canvas and begin to find ways of filling it up. It doesn't matter if the first few blotches are messy, inaccurate, or off course so long as they are on the canvas. The black hole had a way of sucking out the good in everything. New ideas were thrashed, the cruel words of some were given more weight that the supportive words of others, and the very act of taking a photograph was labeled useless, stupid, and wasteful. Without a specific goal in mind, without a task that I am trying to accomplish, I have found it difficult to take pictures. The glory of playing around was lost to me.

When I went home for Christmas I played around quite a bit because I was given a Canon G10. It has the air of playfulness compared to my more bulky and professional equipment. It allowed me to explore, to create, to play without retribution or condemnation (usually from myself) and it allowed me to at least start shooting again. Snapshots, true, but shots none-the-less. It was perhaps not the greatest break through, but coming out of the dark, any spark of light is welcome.

The artistic vein recently came back due to two other gifts. The first was a copy of Damien Jurado's album Caught in the Trees on vinyl. I have been listening to it incessantly. It is full of pain and hope and recognition. It is a particularly fitting album for me right now, on both literal and metaphoric levels, title included, and I am thankful for it. (Both to my husband for purchasing the vinyl and allowing me to use his record player and to the friend who introduced me to Damien in the first place on the last day of class.) The second was a first edition printing of The Boyhood Photos of J.-H. Lartigue. The images are stunning artifacts of frivolity and a carefree attitude in a time long since past. They are also some of the most artistic and beautiful images I have ever been exposed to. But part of the beauty of them is that Jacques was merely having fun with his camera. His eye for composition and penchant for exploration make the images timeless and unique, but the act of taking images for him was not a chore. I needed to be reminded of that in a delicate and visual manner. Lartigue was the perfect conduit.

What resulted of the combination of a change in perspective, a moving and lyrical album, and a reminder of joy was apparently the opening of a chasm of creativity and inspiration. I have had my hands thick in different media for the past week. I am seeking out the best combination of materials and methods to create something new. New for me certainly, but possibly new for the world. A different way to look at photographs, a different way to look at my subjects, a different way to look at myself. I have no idea where this is going, if anywhere, but it has been so long since I have even started that I am holding onto the present moment and continuing to put one foot in front of the next despite the obstacles and drawbacks that I encounter because I am regaining my faith in the process. I am not certain if this is a good or bad time to regain the faith, as I am heading back into structured coursework in two days, but I can't really worry about that now. All I can do is focus on what is in front of me, which, at the moment, is something new and exciting. If it works, fantastic. If it doesn't, then something else will. The only thing to do now is continue to create, continue to push, continue, continue, continue. This year is going to be vastly different than any other year before. This is where the New Beginning really starts.