Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Fifty

In that weird period of nothingness between Christmas and New Years I went bush. And took photos.

Partly cos there's this series I'm working on. But mainly cos I couldn't cope with the fact that I would have shot less the fifty rolls of film last year.

It is kinda strange but even though I was studying and one would have thought photographing more than usual, I only shot 23 rolls of film for my studies total. Plus a couple of thousand digital images, about half of which were in the studio.

Anyway, my trip into the bush was very exciting. Being the good ex-Boy Scout I am, I was completely unprepared. Mainly cos I was going somewhere for which I was adequately prepared, but then minutes from that location I decided to go somewhere else. Somewhere I hadn't been for many years.

So my imagined pleasant two hour stroll became (according to the signage) a five hour trek. And me with little water, no food, no map, and no real idea of where I was going. Pish. Who needs that crap?!

I looked at the map at the trail entrance and picked my route based on track names - "that sounds like it will be strenuous so we'll do that first". Trick for idiots, GW maps at trail entrance's lack contour marks, and sometimes track names lie.

So a pleasant stroll through bush, up hill, a bit of down hill, across a couple of creeks, and eventually you come out in a river valley. Quite an easy walk, take a few photos along the way. Don't mind the odd spit of rain as it's a warm enough day. At the river, time for a wee break. Take some more photos. Think it would be a nice time for a little snack. Oh well.

Then you head off, back the way you just came, then hang a right to do the loop. It's a little climb up to the ridgeline.

Only the little climb becomes another little climb almost as soon as you've finished the previous little climb. And that little climb becomes another little climb almost as soon as you've finished the previous little climb. And that little climb becomes another little climb almost as soon as you've finished the previous little climb. etc. etc. etc.

Stop to take photos. Mainly cos I'm knackered, now really wishing I had some food. And more water. And fitter legs. I carry on. And stop and rest and puff away and really, truly wish I had some food and more water.

And this goes on for what seems like forever, and then I notice the flora changing. And the track becomes less steep. And soon I can see sky. And I thank god (generically and metaphorically) cos it means that it should be pretty much downhill from now on.

And I wander along and think to myself, "as much as that climb nearly killed me, I'm glad I'm here now and not when I headed out under blue sky".

And I finally get back to the car after getting bored with the downhill track, check the time and discover that even with all photo and rest breaks, physical exhaustion etc. the five hour trek only took four and a half hours.

It's strangely disappointing. Still I made it out alive. Finished a second roll of film. And looked forward to some treats from the nearest dairy - an unhealthy late lunch masquerading as dinner entrée.

But most importantly the two rolls of film shot that day meant that I reached my fifty roll target and I could end the year in peace.

Friday, 29 January 2010

The Best

I took this photo latish last year.

On getting the film back from the lab I decided that this was the best photo I had taken all year.

Possibly I was suffering a crisis of confidence or something?!

Or maybe I do really just suck?!!

Anyway, today I saw this thing Harvey Benge posted a while ago. Harvey got Paul Graham and Rineke Dijkstra over to take this year's AUT St Paul Street workshop. I didn't go cos, amongst other things, I'm old and hermitic (or hermetic, either works for me). I've never been that taken by Graham's photography, or Dijkstra's for that matter, but this writing of Paul's is great. Gonna find me some more of his thoughts I think.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the feeling that that was the best photo I took last year lasted about the length of time it took to walk home from the lab.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Favourite

Of the many thousands of photos I have taken over the last 15 years or so, this is one of my favourite. Ever.

Not because it's a great photo - though I do love that it is lit entirely by fire and moonlight.

But because it evoke memories of a great night on a great trip in a great place with great company.

It was choice.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Genius

Because my life isn't all photography, here's a rant about something else entirely.

Some folk at the BBC clearly have a love of the word 'genius' - a word bandied around far too often these days too describe people/things far from deserving.

A couple of years ago they did a programme called "The Genius of Photography". I can't remember Gerry Badger's argument, but I can't remember being swayed by it. But then this is the guy who wrote in praise of these photos so he has gone down in my estimation.

I've just finished watching "The Genius of Charles Darwin" presented by Richard Dawkins. I could say it was in preparation for Dawkins's forthcoming arrival in Wellington but well I was watching it cos I'm interested in stuff like that.

My guess is that it was a politer, (slightly) less polemic, (maybe) more focussed version of his "The God Delusion", but not having read that book I can't say for sure. It is certainly a good programme in which he explains Darwin's theory of the origin of species by means of natural selection (or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life), and how these ideas have been corrupted by other people in order to push their own agenda whether it's social darwinism, eugenics, creation theory, or what have you.

But interestingly, I think Dawkins was far too intent on proving (as with TGD) that those who believe in God are misguided, than actually demonstrating the 'truth' of Darwin's work. Consequently we get him using methods of creationism/intelligent design proponents, whereby he tells us what the evidence is or shows, without actually presenting the 'evidence' in any way which would allow us to a) weigh up it's value, b) make sense of it.

So we twice get Dawkins at one of Craig Venter's lab in the US, telling us that these guys have shown categorically through DNA sequencing that all species on Earth can be shown to be related, yet he never presents any of the data (statistical or otherwise) to back up this claim - not even the oft cited human-chimp comparison. That is not the way to change people's views.

Equally when one of the ID lobby says that nobody has seen evolution so you have no right to claim it exists, Dawkins argument is that I haven't seen Napoleon yet I'm able to accept his existence. My argument would have been, "well did you see God create the Universe and every (living) thing in it?" But then I've always been a simpleton.

I do think it's funny that we live in a time where some folk feel the need to deny things based primarily on belief rather than knowledge, and especially Biblical Literalism, when those who hold this view see no reason to literally believe any other book - religious text or not. The Bible was written in the same way as every other book on this planet and yet for some it has an authority they don't afford any other volume, not even other volumes concerning the same God. But then I guess logic and rationality aren't strong arguments to use on them.

Within science there are two main battles at the moment - evolution and climate change. Generally the deniers are people without the any training in the area they are now claiming expertise. That's not necessarily a bad thing - after all Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel Prizes, worked in areas outside of those he trained in - but when those people can not, or do not, understand the data, or often deliberately misrepresent the data, then I feel that they should not be taken as seriously as many do take them.

Here we have our own denier of practically everything. Having read enough of his stuff to get really, really infuriated, I've noticed that his argument, like many of his ilk, is based on "this is where their argument falls down, therefore my proposition must be correct". He offers nothing to back up his argument. He ignores where his proposition falls down (because, using his logic, it would make the opposing proposition correct). He doesn't allow that just because some information is missing or in conflict that the larger hypothesis can still be correct. Nor does he even explain why it is an us-versus-them debate, and that there is potential for a third, as yet unknown, explanation.

A few weeks ago, this film finally made it's way (briefly) to NZ. Even before I read the rebuttals from Scientific American I had read enough to know that I would sit in the movie theatre and get angrier and angrier and that I didn't need to hand over $15 for the privilege. Complete and utter misrepresentation. Yes, Michael Moore does the same thing, but I believe that the misrepresentation here is a lot more dangerous. At least Moore's misrepresentation is generally to liven up the story, and/or simplify his argument (one could argue artistic license), not to knowingly tell out and out lies.

I'm also intrigued that these great debates only seem to happen around issues of science. There don't seem to be the same debates around history for example. Certainly within academia there is debate and disagreement, but these issues only rarely seem to involve people outside of the field, and generally those with wildly differing views are presented by the media as being nutjobs rather than being afforded equal time the way those who disagree with what is overwhelmingly believed within (and without of) the scientific community do.

But then, that's why the scientific community has set up groups like the Science Media Centre. And the fabulous Royal Society are doing their best to "promote excellence in science and technology".

So what's the upshot of all this ranting? I'm really looking forward to seeing Richard Dawkins in a few weeks (hoping my ticket is in the mail).

And Simon Schama. And maybe Neil Gaiman. And Dean Wareham.

Anyway, next up on my viewing list is "Martin Scorsese presents The Blues" which will no doubt probably be less rant inducing.

And, as it's vaguely related, I've just been listening to a chat with two wonderful men of science - George Gibbs and Hamish Campbell - in which they discuss their "competing theories of separation and isolation". Yes, scientists are known to disagree on things, but, Mr. Wishart, that doesn't mean that you are right. Ever!

Oh and the two photos mean absolutely nothing, but are there cos I thought they made a nice duo, and you may wish to relate them to the text should you so desire, but mainly I would hate for you to feel cheated.

So they're there just for you. Cos you're special.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The Disembodied

One head, one shoulder.

Two torsos.

Oh look, he does have a head too.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Things

The things people will (with any luck) pay photographers to photograph.

Tea towels?! Of vague historic value.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Mystery

I while back, in the early days of this blog, I made the claim (some may say brag) that "even though I've got probably over 10,000 shots in my personal archive I can probably recall shooting 75% of them, have vague recollections of maybe 20% of them, and no recall whatsoever of the rest".

That number currently stands at 16582 (scanned and in Lightroom, and I still have 300+ films to scan), and I think I was being extremely generous with my percentages there. Bearing in mind that we have a sample of over 16000, I feel I would need to change the figures to 78%, 22%, and 0% respectively.

In all the scanning I have been doing lately I have only come across one photo which I can't remember taking, and which I doesn't even make sense in relation to what else I was shooting at the time (which is what the 22% largely refers to really), on the same roll of film.

I scanned that shot today. I like it. That's it up the top there.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Foodie

One of the really good things about the Advanced Diploma in Photography (at least when I did it) was that there was a focus on commercial photography and as such we had assignments which required us to do all sorts of photography, things we would most likely have never done ourselves.

One of the things we had to do was food photography. And I've just scanned the crap I took back in the day.

We had to do a cover shot for a magazine.

I invented a magazine called "grub", subtitle 'hearty food for beefy blokes' (or something like that). It was a bit of a pisstake. So was the cover image.

One thing we weren't told however was that the vast majority of food photography is done using natural light not studio lights - at least these days anyway. I got marks off for my horribly wilted parsley.

Regardless, the day of the shoot I was a lot more excited about another concept I came up with the night before. Sadly, a week earlier we had to do a proposal which we weren't allowed to change. I took the photos anyway.

That top shot is still about the best thing I've ever done in a studio.

One of the really good things about the Advanced Diploma in Photography (at least when I did it) was that we actually had commercial/professional working photographers as tutors - people who had real world experience in editorial or portrait or studio.

This shot was for a different part of the same assignment. As I was setting it up the tutor starting throwing ideas at me like how I could put up a light here and make a gobo to replicated window light/shadow, and have another light here acting as light leeching through an ajar door and .....

And I stood there going "um ... this is like only my second time in the studio and I'm not really comfortable with doing this shot simply, let alone complicating up the way you're suggesting".

Suffice to say I have done complicated up shots with that same photographer, and numerous others, since.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Firsts

Here are a selection of images from the first film I developed all by myself.

And here's a copy of the first negative I ever turned into a real photograph all by myself.

They were all shot at the beginning of 2000 on the second day of my first photography course.

We went on a day trip to shoot two rolls of film, then went back to school, developed them, and selected a print to make.

The above image was selected for me to print by one of the teaching staff. He liked the different textures.

Interestingly, at the end of this year I decided that I might start a series (ironically) referencing postmodern photography about photography. The series would consist of mildly abstract black and white photos emphasising contrast in light, textures, etc. Kinda like a heap of them photos up there.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Modular

While tidying the office recently I also came across a bunch of (ancient) polaroids from 2001.

Near the end of the (academic) year I decided I needed an author pic for the book I was producing.

So I asked one of my fellow students if she would oblige me.

We/I decided on polaroid as the book was all black and white doco and I thought a small bit of colour at the back of the book would be a nice touch.

So I bought a pack of film and we headed around town looking for suitable locations.

I've still got that shirt (and those glasses).

The shirt came from London and has been to pretty much every part of this country with me.

It hasn't always seen the country, but it has been there. I like that shirt.

I've still got those shoes too.

Mainly cos I can't bring myself to throw them out. They were great shoes.

That's a nice shot.

This was the one we/I went with in the end. It's nice, but probably wouldn't be my pick today.

Good focus on this one. Really arty. In a good way.

And this is one I took myself a year or so later. On one of those Fujiroid things.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Manufacturer

The past couple of days I've been manufacturing. Manufacturing art storage cases. It's very exciting. Although the design and construction is still being developed and refined.

That's a green base, with it's yellow lid (covered in gaffer). Against the wall you can see a red/blue version. So awesome.

The yellow/green is the ultra-prototype so I'm using it for less valuable things - like posters. The red/blue version will be used for photos. It all means a lot less tubes containing random stuff lying all around the place. Very exciting.

They are (hopefully) reasonably archival, and (possibly) suitable for travel - though they do need to be kept flat to protect the work. I'm not quite at the production stage, but getting there. Happy to take orders.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Folk

Alongside doing a trillion other things today (okay, maybe that's an exaggeration), I've been kinda tidying the office (long overdue). And I came across the above photos.

Many years ago I was up at a friend's house (when he still lived in this fair city) and he decided that we would each photograph the other. It may have been a test shoot for something or other (I can't really remember as it was many years ago).

Anyway, the above photos were made using a 4x5 camera (or it may have been an 8x10 camera with a 4x5 reducing back - I can't really remember as it was many years ago). The negatives, once developed, were contact printed together to create the above image.

One could suggest it says many things about the relationship of the two people in the image one could if one so wished.