Skate Park in Healdsburg, CA a couple of weeks ago.
I have returned from Santa Rosa, California and have had one of those couple of weeks where I was scrambling to fit stuff in. We had a reception at 555 Gallery that was wonderful, I also went to a lecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design (GSD) on Tuesday by the author Christopher Benfey and then out to dinner with GSD faculty and Chris afterwards. Chris and I are co-teaching a two week workshop this spring in late May at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. Before the reception at 555 Gallery I also went to Peter Vanderwaker's gallery talk at Gallery NAGA on Newbury Street in Boston. Peter is one of the real heavyweights in architectural photography these days and makes great pictures to hang on your wall too. In this show he included prints from work he shot in the 80's and 90's while the Big Dig was under construction. Finally, there is some big stuff going on to do with the PRC (Photographic Resource center) that I can't write about just yet.
At any rate, I also managed to get started on what will turn out to be a large amount of work printed of the pictures I made in California.
I want to show you some of these but first speak about how we get our work done. My life is sometimes quite full. I always say that "life intrudes" and it does. We have commitments, deadlines, many others in our lives that are important and crucial to us. You may have family, work, bills, errands, places to go, people to see….. and on and on in a blur of activity and conversations and requirements. So how do you carve away enough time and mental freedom to make your work? You get your shit together, is what you do. You get organized. You make it so you can pull a print quicker with better results and get whole bodies of work out amongst all this other "noise" in your life. Face it, you will practically never have long expanses of days free from distractions to make your work. And let's be honest, you don't want that.
Step number one is figure out a place where you can work. If you work digitally is your computer and printer at the top of the stairs with your kids running by? Is it an email computer, a family computer used for paying bills, signing permission forms for your kid's school, printing out directions from Google Maps, researching when was Thomas Harding president and for scanning your dog's paws? Not good.
Make yourself a space, make it work with a computer and printer that is for your making pictures and make sure it isn't for much else. Dedicate your resources and commit to a real printer, not a small inkjet that will print snapshots at 8 x 10 inches. Invest in the necessary software to complete your tasks and commit to learning it as thoroughly as necessary to know how to use it. These days, as a minimum, it is Photoshop in some form and Lightroom or Aperture. And then, get in a groove. This means get the sizing thing figured out, stock in enough paper and ink so you have backups that mean you don't run out in the middle of printing a group of pictures. Get your files set in Aperture or Lightroom by date and so that you can find your past and present work. Don't know how to do all that? Get some help and be willing to pay for it. Commit. You either are or are not an active practicing passionate photographer and/or artist or you are not. Period. Whew! That sounded like a rant, didn't it?
Then, move it up a notch. Set yourself a goal and then work towards that goal. It could be a show, a competition, a portfolio review, a group getting together to look at prints, a friend coming to visit who hasn't seen your work in a while, a café that has exhibition space and shows you can submit to, a gallery, a museum, and so on.
Finalize the work, make the prints the best you possibly can in an appropriate size (not 8 by 10) and put them, sequenced, into a real portfolio. Include a title page if you like. Include an artist statement. Show them around, to everyone you can think of. Get feedback and responses to your work. Share your excitement with the work with others and see if they are excited by it too. They're not? Why not? They are? Then use that to show it to others and move up the ladder. Ladder? What ladder? The hierarchy from bookstore owner who shows three prints a month behind the cash register in the store to the photography curator at the MET. Once they are done, think of them as done. Why? So you can clear the decks and move on to the next one. Yes, you can change them later but if you can't put one project behind you, you can't move on to the next one. Think about that. Get one done before doing another, and so on. Project after project. Yes, quantity (tell me about it!) but quality at the highest of possible levels you can make them at that time. Project after project.
That's how it works.