Wrapping Up 2012 – Part Two

"Final M3 Selfie"  -  Fargo, ND

“Final M3 Selfie” – Fargo, ND

Where did we leave off?

Oh yes, when we last saw our hero he was leaving Fargo, North Dakota, and setting off for a summer job unlike many others. He had been to England and Portugal, and had finished the academic semester in Fargo. Now, back to the action…

Summer Job

This project grew out of my summer spent with the US Air Force. As a reservist, I report for duty one weekend every month and an additional 15 days each year. This summer, due to a shortage on the base, I was tasked for an additional 100 days over the summer months, and I planned to create a body of work representing the time spent there, documenting the daily comings and goings. Using a compact film camera, I shot roll after roll of film as I worked and traveled throughout the country.

“Summer Job” – Minneapolis, MN

“Preparation” – Denver, CO

“Red Light” – Provo, UT

“Cold Weather Issue” – Minneapolis, MN

If you are interested in more of the project that I worked on over the summer, or to see the complete selection of images and the book that was created, you can do that here. The project was something different for me, and helped me to learn about creating, starting, finishing, and editing a project. The photographs, in their finished form, tell a story that many people do not see and do not have access to. Photographically, it was a great learning experience for me.

Twin Cities

Following my time in Fargo, ND, and the summer spent working with the Air Force, I moved back to the Twin Cities. I spent time with family, back in what I consider to be my hometown, doing the things that I enjoy here.

“Transaction” – Minneapolis, MN

“Watching” – Minneapolis, MN

Enjoying life, and relishing the little visual moments that I came across…I realized that it’s the little things that sometimes make good images.

“Family” – Minneapolis, MN

“Topless” – Saint Paul, MN

Anna Maria Island

The small island on the Gulf coast of Florida has been a destination for my family for decades. This year, I brought my recently-acquired Hasselblad to see if I could force myself out of my comfort zone and shot portraits, and used the square format, to see what I could come up with.

“Hannah” – Anna Maria Island, FL

I learned that despite varying format and equipment, I still see the world in a certain way. As a result, I take a certain kind of images. This was reassuring to know, as it tells me that I am–slowly, but surely–developing a personal style of photography. Or maybe the style has always been there, just under the surface; now I know how to tap into it and I am more finely attuned to recognizing it.

“Approaching Storm” – Anna Maria Island, FL

“Untitled” (from the project Floridians) – Anna Maria Island, FL

The annual tradition, in which my family descends upon a small resort for the last week in July in the scorching Florida sun, returned for it’s (for me) fifth successive year. My family has been going the same week, to the same resort far longer. It wasn’t until this year that I began to see the place in a new light, visually. A new project–which I am tentatively calling Flordians–began to take shape, though this project is far from finished. It may not even be fully conceptualized at this point, but the seed is germinating in my mind at this point, and I’m interested to see where it goes in the future.

Saint Paul Cathedral

The second major project I finished in 2012 was my long-term project dealing with the Cathedral of Saint Paul. Named for the saint, and not the city in which it resides, the cathedral was an inspiration to me when I needed some last year, when I started shooting it. Not initially intended to be a long-term photographic project, it evolved organically as I continued going back time after time to make images of it, and in it.

“From Above” – Saint Paul, MN

“Directed” – Saint Paul, MN

“Holy Cards” – Saint Paul, MN

To see the full set of images I selected, go here.

Final Word

And so, the annual review is done. I recapped some of the best, and some of my favorite, images of the year. They didn’t all make the cut, since I decided to organize this not strictly along the basis of single interesting images, but rather thematically.

“Self-Portrait” – Anna Maria Island, FL

After re-reading much of this post it appears rambling, and without direction; it is being pulled in many different directions, going many places (both physically and artistically), and unsure of its purpose at times. Perhaps that sums up the year more than anything I could say. This was very much a year in flux for me, unsettled and in transition. It was also rich and rewarding, stimulating and invigorating.

To follow that theme, here are a few of my favorite other images that I didn’t group thematically for one reason or another.

“Window Light” – Lisbon, Portugal

“The Eye” – Saint Paul, MN

“Lake” – Grand Marais, MN

So that’s it. My grand review of the year 2012.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Questions, comments, and critiques are always welcome around here, so take the time to place one in the comment field below.

White

“White” – Stillwater, MN

Perhaps it’s a tad hyperbolic to say that there is a “magic” to film, but…sometimes, there is. I love little accidents like this, and while one can attempt to recreate things with “faux analog” or “faux vintage” with various digital filters for your camera phone, it’s not the same. It’s fake.

Of course, I love film for much more than that.

I’ve been stopped and asked about my MP, which I carry just about everywhere with me, three times this week. People ask me if it’s a Leica, and I say yes. The next question is always: “is it digital?” They are almost always shocked when I say it’s an MP, and I shoot film with it. Then they ask me how old it is, and I say less than 10 years (made in 2004)–and they are really shocked. I show them the film advance lever and the back of the camera (holy crap, no screen!) and they are pleased.

One older guy told me why he abandoned film for digital. He explained that he enjoys the ease of digital and the number of shots he can take, saying that he had shot 1200+ images at a play he photographed the previous week, and was able to quickly put 250 of them on his website. I did not debate the merits of uploading 250 shots of an event, or why in the world one would need to do so, but that’s not my business. If it works for some people, then great.

Another guy stopped me to ask about my camera and then inquired why I would be wandering around Saint Paul with a Leica. When I explained that I take me camera everywhere and that I ¬†take photographs of things I see that interest me on the streets. I simply document things around me with a camera. He didn’t seem to understand, but mentioned that he had always wanted a Leica. Although he also mentioned that he doesn’t really make any photographs. The camera as a collector’s item; the Leica as a luxury accessory.

So, the camera as a conversation-starter?

Is that all part of the magic of film? Would the reactions and conversations have been different if it had been a digital Leica? Or if I had had just another DSLR around my neck? Or if I had been shooting with my cell phone? I think the latter two would not have even warranted a second look, let alone a driven a stranger to approach me and ask me about what I was carrying. The film M is unique enough to start a conversation–but it’s also a luxury fetish object, let’s be honest. But that is a train of thought for another article entirely.

For now, I think there is enough love left for film out there. It drives people to download silly digital filters with which to ruin their digital images in search of creating something more. Film is about a visual aesthetic. But it’s also about creating something that has more to it. The IMPOSSIBLE Project has shown that there is a lust for film. Companies like Ilford are alive and well, despite Kodak’s troubles (and their apparent attempt to kill their own products) and Fuji’s disinterest in analog photography (they are in the business of selling their digital offerings, after all). Analog cameras are seeing a bit of a renaissance, and so is film. The lomography thing is going strong as well!

But nothing keeps film alive like going out and buying a brick of it. If you’re worried about the health of film, go out and buy a bunch. Shoot the hell out of it and then buy more.

And if you see me out with my MP, say hello.

Film Project Challenge

“Me & M3” – Fargo, ND

As the end of this year’s challenge approaches, I feel that it is time to reflect on it and attempt to analyze how it has gone, and try to determine if it has been productive. ¬†First, for anyone who wasn’t following the blog when I started, or who has forgotten, I set out with the loose idea of documenting my 30th year of life (starting on my 29th birthday in January 2012, running to my 30th birthday in January 2013) with a roll of film per week. ¬†The idea was that I’d continue to shoot digital and film together, and use whatever camera or format of film I felt like. ¬†I would then post regular updates on the project, but with no set guidelines on when, or how many.

  1. Why did I decide to embark on this project? ¬†Well, honestly, because I had gotten away from film a bit. ¬†I shot film for several years since being introduced through a film class I took during my last semester as an undergraduate, but got away from it and shot more and more digital images until I realized that in late 2011, I was 100% digital and hadn’t shot film in a few months at least. ¬†I got a great deal on a film rangefinder on Craigslist and picked it up; I won’t detail the specifics on my journey with particular cameras, since I recently posted on that (read it here). ¬†The aim then, was to use this equipment and get back to shooting analog photography, which I greatly enjoy. ¬†In fact, I think I enjoy it a good deal more than digital, but we’ll get to that later.
  2. Was the project enjoyable?  Yes, very much so.  I got back to shooting film, which I find incredibly enjoyable, and I got back to using analog cameras, which, for the most part, I also find very satisfying.  Looking at film images is nice for the results, the process is fun, and I enjoy the greater degree of challenge (as I see it) with shooting film over shooting digital images.
  3. What were the challenges? ¬†Well, there were a few. ¬†First, the immediate cost of shooting film makes it seem more expensive (though it actually isn’t in reality); there is a cost in buying, processing, and scanning film. ¬†I did have some problems with equipment that I picked up to use that needed repairing, CLA, or required me to learn how to use it properly to get consistently good results. ¬†It took me a while to figure out a scanning/processing workflow, but I finally did settle on one that works for me. ¬†The goal of the project was to shoot a roll a week, and I think I did that, but due to my not sending exposed films out often, I lost track of what was shot when, and the posts on the project in particular lost momentum and organization.
  4. Was it a success? ¬†Well, that depends. ¬†Over the course of the year, the project morphed–which was entirely reasonable, considering that it started with incredibly loose guidelines, and had no clear aim other than shooting film for the sake of it. ¬†I didn’t have a clearly-defined set of rules or guidelines, and that is what ultimately made the project feel less like a project and more like…well, I’m not sure what it felt like. ¬†I guess it just felt like I was shooting more film. ¬†So I guess that is a success. ¬†I experimented with a variety of films, formats, cameras, and lenses. ¬†At the end of the day, it was fun.

When I look back at the images and posts from the year, I notice that the project started to develop along with my own interests in photography.  I stopped posting updates on the project, and sets of images that I had taken recently.  When I look at the early updates I did on the project, it felt like the images were thrown together, having nothing in common with each other beside the fact that they had been shot by me, on film.  The lack of clear direction for the project stifled my progress I think.  For future projects, this is good to keep in mind.

As I said earlier, I found that I like analog shooting more than digital. ¬†Part of that is the cameras that I hold in my hand, which I find to be far more enjoyable than their digital counterparts (with few exceptions: the Fuji X100 is close for me). ¬†I also enjoy waiting for my images–it helps me to detach myself emotionally from the images I have made and allows me to evaluate them more objectively and to be more critical of my own work. ¬†Ultimately, having someone you trust give you honest critique is invaluable in your growth as a photographer and artist.

I have learned a lot from this project, and from using fully manual cameras. ¬†I have learned to instinctively judge light, and calculate exposure before even lifting the viewfinder to my eye; as I walk around, I can generally guess within a stop what the light is of my subject. ¬†This saves time, meaning that when the camera comes up to my face, I’m ready to shoot and can capture action much fast. ¬†Manually focusing has also become much faster for me, and autofocus is no longer a crutch or a hindrance for me that I have to overcome in order to use analog cameras. ¬†I now feel at home equally with manual and automatic cameras, and have even come to prefer manually setting focus and exposure for most situations. ¬†I have also found that I prefer a rangefinder camera (or in the case of the Fuji X100, and “rangefinder-style camera”) over the more ubiquitous SLR. ¬†In fact, my lovely D700 gathers dust now through no fault of its own; I simply don’t enjoy using a digital SLR at all anymore. ¬†The act of using it is not at all enjoyable, and if it were my only camera I would surely shoot fewer images.

As I approach the end of this project, where do we go from here? ¬†I have a few ideas for projects for the upcoming year. ¬†I have been gathering ideas and chewing on them a little, and as the end draws closer, I will move ahead with one. ¬†Stay tuned for that, and if you have any ideas or feedback on this post, I’d love to hear it.

As always, if you like my blog, feel free to check out my website for more of my images.

Happy Birthday!

“Smile” – Minneapolis, MN

I want to take this opportunity to wish my wonderful, beautiful wife a happy birthday!

Yes, I realize that it was actually not that long ago that I was gushing about her in another post on my blog. That’s life.

I won’t divulge how old young she actually is…that would not be polite. She is younger than me, however, so anything bad I say about her age will just come back to bite me. “People in glass houses,” and all that.

There haven’t been many posts lately, but I just sent in about 30 rolls of film to be processed and scanned so more is on the way!

-Trevor

Fargo Archive

“One Stop” – Fargo, ND

I was going through some old shots today and stumbled on a quick set I thought I’d post. These are from Fargo, North Dakota this past winter, and all shot with my MInolta CL, which I no longer own. That was my first rangefinder camera, and started me on the path that I am now, to a certain extent. It was a nice camera, but more of a starter-camera or a backup camera than one’s only camera; the meters are notorious for going out and are now impossible to repair as three decades of repairs have depleted the supply of parts. It’s very small, and well designed for the most part, save for the bizarre film-loading process which I didn’t like. Other than that, it was a fine camera. I’m glad it was my first!

Family Mealtime – Fargo, ND

Weather, and other things, have been keeping me busy lately and posts have suffered. I have been shooting, but I have a bag of about 30 rolls of film that needs to be sent out at some point so that I’ll have something new to post. Until then, keep checking back for more on the blog!

I’d also love to hear some thoughts on the new look of the blog–do you like the layout? Is it better or worse than the old layout–and why? Thanks for your input and feedback!

“Lunch” – Fargo, ND

 

Spam!

Denver, CO – August 2012

So many of you probably got a message from my blog about how doing surveys has earned my a certain amount of money. If anyone is new to the Internet, they may not understand; the rest of you will (most likely) have known this is SPAM.

Apparently my account was hacked, and a whole bunch of others too. I started getting messages from people about the post they got from my account, and when I checked my email, I had gotten 8-10 others from some of my favorite photo blogs that I follow. WordPress.com, to their credit, noticed and suspended my account and reset my password until I logged back in, proved who I was, and changed my password.

I wish that this kind of thing didn’t happen, and I’m not really even sure what spammers get out of this anymore (everyone knows what it is and nobody clicks anymore, do they?). It’s like the Nigerian-prince emails about how if you just send along a little money you’ll be reimbursed with millions in a few days. Oh well, that’s life online I suppose.

I am alive and well, and the blog will carry on. Sorry for the spam and I hope it didn’t convince you to un-follow me. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again.

-Trevor

Summer in the Cities: Glass

“Faces” – Saint Paul, MN

After a break the other day to celebrate my wedding anniversary with my beautiful wife, I’m back to posting more shots from the summer in the Twin Cities. Hope the loyal readers didn’t mind the brief sidestep, but what must be done must be done.

Back to the business at hand…

I have mentioned before about how much I enjoy shooting through windows. I’m not entirely sure why all the time, but I know that it does seem to give some depth to images, with reflections. Of course, it can be overused and get cliche (like any photographic tool/style) but I like it. The technique was quite frequent in my shots from my last trip to England (December 2011-January 2012), and I spoke about it then at greater length in some of those old posts. I honestly don’t have the energy to dig those up and link to them right now, but let’s be honest–you wouldn’t read them anyway ūüėČ

“Karate” – Saint Paul, MN

Back to the point I touched on in the last paragraph: I’m not always sure why I photograph what I do. As you may or may not know, I have no formal training as a photographer. It’s a hobby (which has made me a little money here and there) that I have invested a sizable amount of time and energy into over the years. I carry my camera basically everywhere, and when I see something, I shoot it. It’s that simple.

As a result, I have struggled at times when I am forced to think of poses or to manufacture a shot somehow. My style is more organic, I think. Perhaps that makes me less of a photographer, but I’m not sure. Really amazing portrait photographers have a gift to get to know their subject, and to create a scene that reflects the person they are putting on film. I really respect that–it’s not easy.

“Cafe” – Saint Paul, MN

 

I tend to think of my style as more documentary, and one of the reasons I have really fallen for street photography. It suits not only that sense of image-making that I have, but also speaks to my personality which tends to be more quiet, reserved, and in the background (that wasn’t always the case–when I was younger I was quite outgoing and the “life of the party”, as it were, and I’m almost the polar opposite of that today; I’m not sure why). With candid/street photography, I can do my own thing, and not interact with my subjects. I can melt into the background, watching and observing, and recording moments of life that happen around me. This is where I find my peace.

Shooting in the streets is a great feeling. Walking around, and being able to focus on nothing but those around me and what they are doing…I love it. Most people are so busy with themselves and their day, and what they are doing, that they don’t stop to look around and notice anything else. I was, and am still at times, the same way–we all are. Life is busy and there is always a myriad things to be doing or thinking about. When I have my camera and allow myself the time to think of nothing else, there is some clarity for me. As I’ve said before, I don’t do photography because I see the world around me, I see the world around me because of photography.

I don’t always know why I make photographs of the things that I do. They don’t always come off, either. For whatever reason, I feel possessed to capture a certain thing at a certain moment. That’s just me.

“Coffee News” – Saint Paul, MN

The great photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson, for example, was more interested in painting than photography. He referred to his camera as his “mechanical paintbrush”. He consistently stressed his disinterest with photography throughout the years, and one of my favorite quotes of his speaks to this. “Photography is nothing,” he said. “It is life that interests me.”

As one of the founding fathers of street photography, and photojournalism as a profession, this is quite the sentiment. In the early 1970’s, when he was in his early 60’s, he gave up photography and would never return to it again for the final 30+ years of his life. Truly, he wasn’t into photography for the sake of photography. Additionally, as the antidote to many modern photographers’ obsession with photographic gear, he famously used one camera and one lens for virtually all of his career.

Those are both things that modern photographers could aspire to more often, myself included. I’ll keep trying for sure.

If you like my work, check out my website for more of it! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below on today’s post, or other musings you might have.

Cheers,

Trevor