Gone Home: the return to photography

Circumstance has returned me to a favored pursuit. I spent the last few months producing graphic art pieces for a 2D design foundations class at RISD, which had me stretching my creative limbs in the realms of pencil, paper, glue, and paint. The basics of design, other than practice, in the form of line, shape, space, color, pattern, repetition, and perspective were familiar strangers, and have since become intimate friends.

My cousin’s college graduation, and the prospect of a new commercial project, have returned me to the loving arms of photography. In the process I’ve developed a new (and psychologically more efficient) method of organizing my photography, and have extended my autodidact explorations into the open source software Darktable and studio lighting.

I’ve been playing with color editing and WB correction. Additionally I spent a significant quantity of time figuring out how to edit my little logo in Inkscape so that it would have the right kind of transparency when transformed into a watermark (as well as how to save a vector graphic into the right directory using the Terminal so as to be able to access the file in Darktable).

Much of the fun has just been in having a camera in my hands again. I said to Eric after our photoshoot, that really, all photographers have a fetishistic streak in them.

The photographer enjoys the simulated power of aesthetic creation. To take a photograph is to reproduce reality (badly) and to convey the aesthetic quality of a moment–I do not believe that the photographer has any real claim to the beauty of a photograph. Photographs can be either effective, affective, or forgettable. The power of the photographer is in that aspect. Though perhaps that is the entirety of what all artists can lay claim to. Words are beyond the individual command of one person, but placement is everything, in language.

In a roundabout way, I’m picking a fight with the concept that photographs are “made” rather than “taken”. The act of depressing the button that fires the shutter and the light captured in the split second is recorded–that is a process of taking a piece of reality and keeping it for yourself. That is the moment when someone’s soul is stolen–captured along with the light inside the camera. When you enter the developing room, or perhaps the editing software suite, when you begin cutting out bits of reality, adjusting the colors and contrast and the depths of reality, that is when you might begin to “make” a photograph.

I am not, however, a student of photography. I am a student of journalism. My approach to reproducing reality, to laying claim to the experience of the world, is to denounce ownership. My personal expectations are that should I have done my job well, the product looks like the world itself: recognizable, strange, complex, illuminated, and indistinct.

I also need to remember the most important rule of photography in the rest of my life: you can never capture the whole thing. The art of photography is the art of framing. It is pulling the audience along and standing them in a particular spot, and showing them something specific.

Providence Graffiti : a collection

(Originally completed on July 22, 2014. Retroactively published on September 1, 2016.)

It’s been six months since I started making an effort to share and catalogue the graffiti I see around Providence. Going through and actually figuring out what I’ve photographed since last December shows exactly how selective the process of sharing it can be. Some of them, I’ve photographed and posted elsewhere, some I’ve photographed and it’s sitting unlabeled and, for all purposes, forgotten, on a hard drive or SD card. But this is what I’ve posted to social media. This is the stuff that was striking enough, odd enough, and, in a way, carelessly enough catalogued to make it onto Instagram.

I only post to Instagram from my phone, I do my best to geotag everything that is worth a visit by someone else, for which street art, whether in spray paint, sticker or other format, definitely qualifies. Geotagging also helps create a physical record (to the best of my phone’s feeble GPS capabilities) of where this art work resides or as is often the case, once resided.

Invoke the home of the Elder God Cthulu . #rlyeh great tag, dude. #lovecraft #providence #graffiti

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Rlyeh: the home where Cthulu sleeps. The absolute ingenuity of this tag in Providence has made me happy absolutely every single time I’ve seen it. I’m, over all, not super fond of tagging as a practice because it feels juvenile to write the same thing 15 times on the same block (we get it. you were here. even though we don’t know who you are). But this one set me off to document our Providence street art in greater detail.

Still my favorite #pvd #graffiti . Yay #ants !

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This ant did not start it’s life on a sticker: I first saw it as a paste on poster or as a stencil spray painted on the ground (I’m having trouble remembering exactly which one). It also did not just stick to one part of the city, I saw it on the East Side and near the Gano St. highway exit. Probably 2 years ago.

I guess rathet than wasting your time on social networking… #pvd #wildlife #graffiti

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I liked the combination of the little girl carrying the weapon and “IRL Facebook is boring” — although they are not technically the same sticker, they appear to be a pair. This instance is from Wickenden street, but they also appear up on Waterman, and a free paper box that got pulled from the streets and sits next to the door of the building housing Motif has “IRL Facebook is Boring” on it as well.

Untamable #pvd #streetart #stickers #paste

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I am particularly fond of the art on this one. I wish the artist would make more of an appearance, but I might also have missed them by a little bit, since it could come from any manner of quarter of college student, and they could have been transitioning either to or from Providence. It’s gorgeous and a break from a lot of the more sarcastic, ironic, or otherwise knowing stuff we get (as is befitting of street commentary).

Back in the #pvd enjoying our excellent wild street animals. #graffiti #stickers #keepmoving

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This is one of those instances where this is one of the records of something that no longer exits. This sticker went the way of the pay phone it was attached to. It suffered a rather ignominious death, and eventually disappeared from next to the Hope & Doyle RIPTA stop, outside the Y. The art itself remains pretty inscrutable, all the same.

Tiny robot sticker #pvd #stickers #graffiti

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I feel like this sticker is a lazy-man’s tag. But it also fits into a carefully defined slot that exists in the Providence sticker scene: advertising. The guerilla advertising movement is alive and well, with stickers appearing on the fronts and backs of all kinds of signs to raise awareness for everything from food trucks, to bands, to restaurants and cafes, or even people’s personal brands: touting their website so you can check out their cool design abilities.

More PVD robots. #providence #pvd #robot #graffiti #stickers #latergram

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big robot sticker

College town? College town. #graffiti #marxism #pvd #providence

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My mother firmly believes that this is not a misspelling of “Engels” as in “Fridrick Engels”

Learned how to draw something new? #hiya #providence #pvd #graffiti #streetart

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hiya

@serpentgod

All babies are suicidal. #abortion #politics #babies #graffiti #wordonthestreet

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politics on the street

My favorite East Side graffitum. A useful reminder too. #graffiti #PVD #providence #now

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now!

Bunny!!! #pvd #graffiti #providence #stickers

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rabbit!!!

Weird graffitums on South Main. #graffiti #selenagomez #providence #PVD

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selena gomez

The Cardinal Sin (Photography)

There is one rule of photography: don’t photograph your friends for their professional plans or endeavors as a favor.

There are reasons for this: if you’re doing professional work, you are a professional, and should be treated like one (paid). Work is really only professional if it is couched in professionalism, otherwise, it’s probably a hobby. If you don’t ask to be paid now, you won’t be asked how much it costs in the future.

There’s another reason why you shouldn’t do professional work for people in a non-professional capacity: your real life will come back like a howling demon, and your friend will be left hanging while you deal with stuff that actually pays the bills, or keeps you in coffee, or ensures you can buy peanut-butter cups at Trader Joe’s.

I visited a friend earlier this year who is starting up an online business, and was trying to figure out a way to get photos. I volunteered when I visited her, mostly because I was interested in trying my hand at some portraiture, a more creative endeavor than the grind of photojournalism. This was two days before I went back to school.
Now, she’s taken to hounding me via text message about her photos, while I’ve been trying to juggle my reading, organizing the anchoring schedule for the radio station (which has been a nightmare and a half on it’s own), building a routine, and running from meeting to meeting, before, after, and between my classes.

Last night, I went to bed early because I had my first migraine in two weeks, and it laid me out like a blow to the skull. This was after it smacked me across the face during a recruitment meeting, and scrambled my words until I was making a fool out of myself for every person who came over to talk to us.

The problem with unpaid work, on the consumer end, is that you aren’t getting a professional job. Because the “professional” part of the job, isn’t the act, it’s carrying it through. The professional part of any work is the deadline. And really, when someone offers to take your picture, it’s because it’s something they’re interested in doing and it’s much more likely that you’re doing them a favor. Not the other way around.

But I’ve got to get those pictures up on the internet, where she can get to them, now. There’s no point in proving that one is capable of being completely unprofessional. It might give people the wrong idea.

Graffiti, Photography, & Writing about Art.

Second in a series.

I still haven’t solved the problem of how to present graffiti. But I’m trying my hand at the first step: collecting all my data in one place.

At the moment, my formal organizational system is in the form of “sets” on Flickr. I made a collection that contains all the sets I’ve made of my ever-expanding collection of photos of graffiti. I still need to get some of the pictures I’ve taken on my phone around both Providence and Amherst/Boston, and marshal them into order. But for now, you have a curated collection of street art from Athens (Summer and Winter of ’09, then Summer ’12 and ’13), London, and a small one from Montreal.

But the predominant struggle here is one of How to Write About Art. Continue reading “Graffiti, Photography, & Writing about Art.”