Sunday, June 28, 2009

A.D. Coleman's New Blog

The first photo criticism collection I ever dug into was the book Light Readings: A Photography Critic's Writings, 1968-1978, written by A.D. Coleman. It was found at the Schenectady Public Library in the photography section. I bring that up to show how accepted and authoritative this book had become by the mid eighties. This book touched on the deep issues of photography but was still accessible to a newcomer with an 11th grade education, thus it really became the defining voice for me at the time.


When I was putting together Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews I felt I needed to have an intelligent voice on photography contribute to the book in an attempt to steer the readers in the direction I wanted the book to be considered. I wanted smart people to appreciate the intelligence I thought the project had. The publishers and I thought of Mr. Coleman immediately. I was thrilled when he accepted and and wrote the afterword, titled Like A Loving Machine. Robotic Sex in the New Century.


Coleman embraced web communication early on, starting the site Nearby Cafe in 1995 and now has created the blog Photocritic International. Visit often, dig into his archives in Nearby Cafe and see it all evolve on the new Photocritic International blog.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Vertical Journey



Robots Are Real / Smithsonian:

Four of my favorite photographs from the recent story for Molly Roberts at Smithsonian Magazine. The story was all shot at the Machine Perception Laboratory at UCSD in San Diego, CA.

We had lots of day light balanced Kino Flo's out there with us, but the fav shots were all lit by Mother Nature.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Echolilia Interview / 100 Eyes



Back in April 100 Eyes published a portfolio of images from the Echolilia project and included this thoughtful interview by curator Andy Levin. Levin conducted the interview in bits and pieces over the course of May...I'd answer via email and blackberry while on the road. The interview led to some great feedback and a few invitations for future engagements....always a good thing with a new project. It was just Father's Day, the interview touches on parenthood, thus I'm taking this time to re-run it below.


Q: Timothy, you describe “Echolilia” as a collaboration with your son, Elijah. Can you tell me more about that?

A: Around the time Elijah turn 5 we started making photographs together. I’d kind of initiate it with some direction, he’d do something that seemed unexpected…something I’d never have been able to think of…we’d look at the images together on the digital camera and try to refine them…try to improve them, try to take them in other directions. The idea of turning the creative control over to a child, while I operated the camera, allowed me to make images that seemed to have this sense of discovery to me. There was also alot going on at the time with Elijah…behavior things that we couldn’t make sense of.

Q: Can you tell me a little more about him?

A: For sure. He was always a kid who went to the beat of his own drummer….had a fascination with doors, mechanical gears, things that had a repeating ritual involved with them. After the project was begun we had him tested and he was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. It came as a surprise…he’s not what we think of as traditionally autistic. He is a real communicator, but I think these days the spectrum encompasses alot of things. My wife and I still don’t know if we really agree with the diagnosis some days. But I do feel that the question….the search to understand what makes him tick, combined with his unique way of being in the world has fueled the project and given it it’s shape and structure.

Q: It sounds as though this was your way of playing together? Was that part of the relationship here? How specific was he about the way in which he wanted to be photographed?

A: I wouldn’t use the word play, it sounds too passive. A friend of mine would look at the work and could tell which images were being led by Elijah, it’s hard to get a kid to do anything he doesn’t want to do…like brush his teeth, for instance. The shoots last ten minutes at the most, but its ten minutes of hyper focus on his part. Sometimes I lead, sometimes he leads. And now it seems like we’ve learned what each other would want out of a shot…so its a collective brain a bit. I think he knows that we need to make these images, to figure something out. A friend asked me why Eli was doing all of this stuff with me and I didn’t really have an answer beyond him intuitively understanding that there is something serious going on here, we aren’t just goofing around. I think he knows that we need to make these images, to like…figure something out.

Q: Is communication an issue? What are Elijah’s verbal skills like?

A: No…this is a normal seeming kid who has a grand vocabulary and goes to public school and gets good grades…but he is different.

Q: So is the work autobiographical or fantasy, or a combination of both? Are these images about your son, or something else?

A: I guess I ask myself that question a lot. I always thought that the project had this element of role playing in it. My wife looks at the images and has always said that it looks like I’m trying to exert some type of control in the photos that I don’t have in real life…so I’m having us act it out for the camera.For me the work is about a relationship, and I always think of a relationship having three components: him, myself, and then all that is shared…the shared intangible. With the project I always saw the photographs as what we did together, the scans as my voice, looking objectively at the documents, and then the thing we get when we look at all of the stuff together is the channel, the tone that defines the project…the echolilia thing. There are feelings that go along with your relationships with your kids: powerlessness, idealism, and just these moments when those you are raising just seem so alien…so foreign. And moments of transendent beauty as well. In doing a series about a relationship, I didn’t want to short change it, or dumb it down. I wanted it to have the complexity of emotions, the range, and try to touch on the emotions we don’t have the words for yet.

Q: The image of Elijah in the plastic tub, how did that happen?

A: Around the time I did that shot I had been shooting Eli doing curious things with his body but the locations of the shots were just not thought out…its like I’d shoot him where he happened to be. I showed the work to a photo friend and she essentially said that I’d need to try to find locations that were more…intentional, more able to look metaphorical. It made sense. I had been noticing the light coming thru that window at that time of day and we had an empty large plastic toy container in the room. I think my wife had an appointment that afternoon, cuz I recall I picked up both kids from school, but had my camera and tripod out, hoping to make some photographs. We came home and ate lunch. I asked him if he wanted to make some photographs in the plastic container in the sunshine. He thought it looked interesting and stood in it and then we just tried different things: standing, hiding beneath it, sitting up in it. We then realized that it could contain him lengthwise if he curled up a bit. He got in that pose, clothed. We looked at it and I suggested he take off his clothes so it would look like he was like in an egg, and was about to hatch out. He took off his clothes and got in and started aligning his body in ways that looked like the final shot. ” Move a foot…lift your chin…now close your eyes…ok, this looks real nice. Come out and see what it looks like. ” We’d look at the images on the back of the camera, he’d see what it looked like, and try again. At some point we got it and ended. We didn’t try other ideas then, just moved on to other non photographic things. I think his younger brother was in the room trying to watch a video….so it was chaos, but we got it. And then, the nudity: I really think of these images trying to be archetypal , I want the feral child to be there. I don’t want to see a logo, a style, a t shirt with a ninja turtle on it. And then he’s in his school uniform alot, so it helps the idea of this looking like the child in someones brain or memory. Ahh…thats the goal.

Q: Over how long a period of time were these images made and where is this project headed?

A: We started midway thru his fifth year and now he is seven. The project is still going, we are still shooting, but I am trying to pause at this point and try to assemble the work into a book form with some text. Oh, I guess I should add that I’m pausing on the project to kind of evaluate it, see if the scans and photo idea works together, and try to come up with text that gives him a voice in the project. I’m using the format of a book to give it shape. Its more for the growth of the project than an attempt to get a publishing deal or something.

Q: You have a keen knowledge of the history of photography. How do you think your work fits in with that of other photographers who have done work with their family?

A: Emmet Gowin had shot his family in a series of photographs that always had this sense of intimacy that I never could understand or replicate until I had kids myself. It just had this sense of .hauntedness that made it seem like a childhood memory. I can’t replicate that, but there is some quality of memory I’m trying to tap into…like my own childhood memories. Elijah looks like me, so that may be fueling this all as well. Currently, I gotta say I respect the anxiety and sense of anxiousness in the family work of Tierney Gearon. In her work you can see the intimacy, but its wrapped up in this modern day angst, anxiety, mixed emotions that are honest. Its like anti- romantic, and it seems to give the complexities of the role of the parent its due. I mean, that’s what I see in the work, but maybe I’m projecting what I want to see. I want my project to tap into that anxiety, parent/child anxiety…and I think it does…but it needs to be more universal as well. These projects need to try to speak to everyone, not just people with kids. Gowin and Gearon hit that sweet spot for sure.

Thanks Timothy and good luck!

Andy Levin / April 2009 / 100eyes.org

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Images discovered in Hubert's Freaks





Here is the catalog of the photographs that were discovered in the story Hubert's Freaks by Gregory Gibson ( see below ) . They aren't great but they certainly are Arbus, in an earlier incarnation. Click on the shot below to make larger. Enjoy.
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Monday, June 22, 2009

CameraPhoneAGraphs


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I walk down the main drag of the town I grew up in with my two kids. I open the door to the only remaining photography store in the area. There at the counter is the guy I knew from another store...he sold me film when I lived here and I had a job close by...aged 16-19. The guy was friendly to this stranger's questions, just like he always was kind in the past:


Hey....I know you. You used to work at Berns Camera, correct?

That's right.

Wow...how old are you? I always thought you were so much older than me.

I'm 46.

Oh...so you worked there when you were like 20?

Yeah, I started there when I was 19. I moved over here a year before they closed.

Wow, great to see you again.

So it is my birthday, I'm in my home town. I'm showing my kids the town that made such an impression on me when I was growing up. I show them every year, take them to the same places, walk them down the same streets. I try but I can never really explain the role this town plays in my life and my photography. My first influential teacher was there and the town was my first real subject matter. For me, it seems like photography as I know it was invented in Schenectady, N.Y.
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Even now, trying to write it at the keyboard, I can't come up with the right words.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hubert's Freaks




I bought the book Hubert's Freaks by author Gregory Gibson last week before leaving town. I'm loving it.

Here is what the publisher says it is about:

This is the story of Bob Langmuir, a brilliant but troubled rare-book dealer whose headlong pursuit of an archive from a 1960s Times Square freak show leads to the discovery of a trove of hitherto unknown photographs by the great American genius Diane Arbus. The find is so exciting that Bob commences an affair with Arbus, even though she's been dead for 35 years. When he is released from the intensive treatment area of the Behavioral Health Evaluation unit, Bob determines to redeem himself and the Arbus archive by finding a home for it in New York's high-end art world.


So far, the story brings us into the brain of Bob Langmuir, someone whom the reader has never heard of. It brings this curious and still pretty common guy to life. The author uses his situation as a way for all of us to address the push and pull that goes on in the creative/ambition lobes of our own brain. It runs a parallel story line that illustrates the power the work of Diane Arbus holds and the odd psychic connections people have had with her work over the years since her death.


I'm in the middle of the book and really couldn't wait to bust something up on the blog. If you identify with any of the things wrestled with on this blog, you'd most likely be attached to this book. More later, when I finish it...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Last Day Of





The eventful week is done. School ended on Thursday. We made the above shot on the last day of school. The blog will be quiet as family vacation takes over.

The Gods and Goddesses of photography smiled on me this week, beginning with a call from a photo editor. She had an interesting story and an inspired idea as to why she wanted me on a project. The magazine had a concept for the shoot and the subject had nixed it. In the wake of that, the p.e. and I spoke and just really decided to trust our instincts...trust the force that is out there and it will lead us to understand how to tell the story with humanity and humor. The p.e. surrendered, I surrendered, and we just went into it without a script. We did our homework but showed up with only a pencil.

Sz and I flew out to Seattle to put together this story. Sometimes it is us against each other--we have different ideas as to what will make the shot work. Sometimes it is us against the photograph...neither of us can find the solution. Sometimes there is harmony and we find the photographs easily....they are all layed out before us to come and receive them. This day was a struggle: we needed both brains working to figure this out. I get stressed out worrying about the big picture where she is able to note the details that can tell the story. I respect the battle ...it is conflict and chaos for a while, too many ideas and options and voices, but then it kind of slides into this palatable shape and form. When it starts to take shape is when it feels like...."oh...we are really working today...and after all this messy stuff I think we may have it."

When we finally met the trio of people we were to photograph, the heavy lifting had been done. The actual picture making was effortless. The hours before the button was pushed was where all the work was.

I'm not sure what, but there is a lesson in there somewhere.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jon Lucca of Artist Untied



Jon Lucca of Artist Untied during a lecture at The Apple Store, SF. A friend snapped a shot while he was discussing "After School Special" done by Shannon Amos and myself.



Sunday, June 7, 2009

Why Are You Always Shooting Your Kid Laying On The Ground?
























In this Echolilia project I've done a bunch of shots recently where my son is laying out on the ground and I'm staring down at him. In these shots his body seems heavy and weighty and his arms and legs seem to stretch throughout the frame...he just seems to have this mass. Some of the shots seem elegant...like the one with the chalk on the sidewalk, and then others seem to be trying to have this shock value, trying to emulate a feeling like you are just witnessing an accident of some sort. Then this one on the front lawn, it might be trying to be dreamy a little, but still carry this feeling of " there is a body out of place, what do we do now?".


Like all projects, you run into patterns and ideas you are trying to work your way thru or perfect in the arc of the project...and for the past few months this has been one of them. Last year it seemed like he was smaller and we were always shooting this fetal-position-body-curled-up thing...it appeared a few times without planning it. The other night I was going thru some old books and I found this favorite book of mine that I got in 2005 titled "Drugs Are Nice" by Lisa Carver. The cover...there it was, that was the image that I've been trying to copy or emulate I think...right there on the cover. I remember loving that image when I saw it originally, years before the book was out. It looked so simple but so startling: Carver, in the street, probably in harsh afternoon light, laying down...maybe tragically, maybe peacefully...it is so hard to tell. Her legs...there is a small cut, some blood, but some soothing shaving cream as well. Is it a joke? It is real? No answer, but probably both. All apologies to the photographer Peter Norrman, but in my head, I imagine Carver told the photographer exactly what she wanted to do and he just did it. Looking at Norrman's site, it seems like it was more of a collaboration...he has alot of work in this vein. The subject was the performer, the photographer the document maker, and here is the end result. I'm sure this image was floating around in my brain for years...what it looked like and what effect it had on the viewer. It just took all of this time to bubble up to the surface.

Holographic Bear


Clone Trooper Stick with Holographic Bear, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Nurse Took The Photograph


















The skin of by back is stiched together with tape and thread.

I turn around but can't see it.

I ask the nurse to take a photograph with my phone.

This is the shot she took.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It Was Supposed To Be Funny
















Nothing like laughing in the face of Mother Nature, huh?
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These are the portraits we put together, now out in this month's DISCOVER magazine for the Conference On Climate Change, held at The Exploratorium, in SF, CA. Great team work with photo editor Rebecca Horne and stylist Shannon Amos.
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Monday, June 1, 2009

My Kid Took My Picture



















And then when he was done photographing me with his new pencil on my forehead, I photographed him on the front lawn looking at a flower up close.