Wednesday, May 20, 2009


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