Thursday, September 10, 2015

It's Because of the Students

I recently came across this piece I wrote a while back for a colleague of mine.  He has written several books and one of them was on Teaching Photography.  He asked me and some other compatriots of mine to write a brief piece about teaching and I wrote this one.

That class was an amazing class.  Several of the students in that class have gone on to do amazing things - winning competitions, getting published, starting up their own businesses in San Francisco and New York.  It was truly an inspiration class.  And they're rare.

I had one like that last semester, as well, and it was so amazing I am still regularly emailing several of the students about their work, their inspirations, and flat out asking them questions to help me make my classes stronger.  This is why I do what I do.  For them.  And as I start a new semester I am looking forward to having these types of classes again, though I have no idea how or when I will be that lucky.  I had an amazing workshop class at UCSD Extension a few weekends ago, and I have some really great students in my Palomar PHO120 class.  I just met my MiraCosta class yesterday and so far I'm really excited.  Nothing is certain, of course, but I'm hopeful they will be great classes.

But I also recognize that the type of class I had last semester - the type that literally brought me to tears of joy, where we exchanged gifts of remembrance, and I think made a lasting impact on each others lives - those are a rare gift.  Not to be squandered or forgotten or expected.  I'm just exceptionally thankful that I recognized how great both of these classes were when I had them.  I inhaled the energy from those moments of true collaborative inspiration each time they happened and I am able to keep pushing and keep expanding my curriculum and my teaching and my goals because of them.

It's always because of the students.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tintype Artifacts

So, if I were to create a bucket list just for my photography, this would have been on it.  Learn how to make a Tintype and do it.  Throughout my photographic career I have gotten really good at theory and less good at practice.  Yes, that is how I scratched a name for myself - the theory of photographic practices as written in articles and books - and I do actually love the theory, but I love the creation of photography even more.  That is something I have sort of forgotten recently.

Once you start teaching and keeping active with writing and raising kids, short cuts start sounding really good.  So, I have been playing around in my digital photographic world, seeing if my Silver Efex Pro can actually make an image reminiscent of my favorite Tri-X film, or trying to fake those exposed negative edges as an image frame.

But a couple of important things happened to me in the last year that have brought me back to the thing I love most about photography, and that is the artifact.  I LOVE the artifact.  I am a woman who still owns too many mismatched bookshelves full of photography tomes, and thanks to my gig working as the book reviewer for Photographer's Forum, I have a LOT of those books.  From Steiglitz to Seligar and everything in between.  My favorite amongst them all is an early edition Jacques Henri Lartigue where the images are actually held in with photo corners.  LOVE!

But I digress.  I love the artifact because I have photographs from my ancestors.  I have actual relics with handwritten notes about people and places.  The digital realm, while tons of fun (don't get me wrong) doesn't produce those artifacts.  Most live in the ether.  Instagram (to which I am a new inductee) and Flickr and my digital archive have excellent information and no tangible incarnation.

So I have been working with the tangible.  I have started a new 4x5 film project called "The Impermanence Project."  I have pulled out old 35mm rolls from my fridge and started shooting and developing them.  I have created artifacts.  So when I was given the opportunity to create something new, something from my bucket list, I couldn't say no.

Rizzhel Javier, who is quite possibly the most interesting, talented, humble, and amazing woman I have gotten to know recently, started this project to bring Tintypes to art walks and traveling workshops.  Again, LOVE!  So I attended one (the first time as a student in a long time.)  As the first volunteer to have her tintype made as part of the evening's festivities, I was rewarded with this beauty:

I hung out with one of my besties - the lovely and talented Marianne Blessing - and towards the end of the night, Rizz, fellow educator and lover of all things photographic, allowed me to use her process to make my own.  So this is the first tintype that I have ever made:

Yes, it isn't coated perfectly, but that's because it wasn't coated perfectly!  Not because I faked in in Photoshop.  Not because I found an old tintype at a flea market and stole the edges to make an image of Marianne.  Nope.  This is flawed, uneven, poorly focused, and has a whopping fingerprint on it because all of those things happened.  This is history.  And I'm hoping it is just the beginning.