A few years ago I interned for a non-profit called the Joy of Giving Something and their mission is to advance the arts in education, specifically photography. They have contests for high school students with various prizes. They also instituted the Forward Thinking Museum, which is a virtual museum for photography. The stakes are higher here for amateur and professional photographers. If you win their quarterly contest you get your own virtual solo-exhibit and $1000. The annual winners are awarded the JGS Artist Awards in the amount of $5000. So if you think your work represents the current state of the world and how it can be transformed check out the Forward Thinking Museum and enter, the next deadline is December 31, 2013. Even if your work doesn’t fall into this realm check out the website for some excellent photographs and SPREAD THE WORD!
I’m drawn to photograph urban decay and industrial areas. Places that most people consider ugly I find to be endlessly beautiful. You can feel the history radiating from these sites. They’ve been abandoned, no longer considered productive and left to be reclaimed by the surrounding nature. These places are forgotten and often times will eventually be leveled and replaced by a new building that looks as uninspiring as all other contemporary structures. When I see areas like this I don’t see wasted space I see a missed opportunity for people to keep their history alive and I have to record what is left.
Richard Renaldi is a photographer who is currently working on a project in New York called “Touching Strangers”. He sets up his massive large format camera on a street in the city and plucks two or three complete strangers out of the crowd. But the final photographs don’t portray strangers. Renaldi is able to craft an image that looks as if the people in the photo have known each other for years. Renaldi’s goal is to get people to drop their barriers, at least for a few moments.
In the art world photography doesn’t hold the same respect as painting or sculpture. I’ve had professors who’ve made this opinion obvious. People who pride themselves on having extensive knowledge of art history and the skills involved with “real” art completely disregard photography. But we don’t talk about all mediums in the same way, there are different skills, and elements, and styles. So why can’t photography be added to the conversation? A phrase you often hear is a person has “a good eye”. It could be an eye for painting, or drawing, or film making, or photography. Because everyone sees the world differently, especially artists and this is expressed in their art. Photography isn’t just snap shots, there’s thinking and planning and effort. The subject matter and materials are taken into consideration to achieve the desired effect. It isn’t the same as more widely accepted arts it just requires a different eye and thorough knowledge of the medium.
Recently I was interning for a company called Pblcty. They would send me out to specific events and I would take pictures of the “important” people. It was a good experience in the sense that I learned I never want to do anything like this ever again. The second thing I learned is that the entertainment and promotional business is insane. It’s no wonder that people like Alec Baldwin end up trying to punch out “photographers”.
I was always the youngest, the shortest, and the one with the least sophisticated equipment. Being the new kid on the block I basically tried to get the shots I needed without getting in the way of the professionals. Everyone else ran around, clicking like mad, and constantly yelling at the subject to “look right”, “look left”, “give us an over the shoulder”. Mean while the person is trying to keep from going blind for the rest of the night from the slew of flashes hitting them from every possible direction. The photographers are doing this for a living and they need to get a good picture but to literally be on top of each other to fire off shot after shot of a person that we already have a million pictures of is a bit excessive. There isn’t much art in a job like this. Everyone is holding down the shutter button hoping a shot or two comes out decent.
The last event I did was a nightclub opening downtown. It was a bit more complicated because the venue was literally still under construction. There were guys running in and out with masks and dust bellowing out of the sub-level entrance. They managed to wrap up only an hour behind schedule. The next four hours consisted of a severe amount of standing and waiting. Being one of the first people there I earned myself a spot in the front. I found out later in the evening that the older professional behind me wasn’t too happy about this. In between celebrities arrivals she took it upon herself to inform me that I should 1) get more expensive equipment 2) be careful because “other photographers” might get mad that an intern has a spot in the front. Nonplussed, did it look like I was going to give up my spot? Did she really think I couldn’t tell the difference between my equipment and hers? So my assignment wasn’t as important as her? Really? It was during this baffling encounter I realized that what I was doing symbolized everything I hate about digital photography. So the next day I quit.
Being in a darkroom is like entering a unique domain. There’s a specific system. Time moves significantly slower so that when you get back to the outside world you’ve easily lost hours. The smell is a mix of the chemicals required to make your images appear, developer, stop bath, and fixer. Considering the toxicity it’s not something one should get too used to but for me it’s become a comforting aroma. The light is a low amber color because of the light sensitivity of the photographic paper. The need for near darkness adds to the calming affects of the process. It’s not a difficult procedure to learn however the cost of the materials makes you vary weary of mistakes. After you’ve exposed your paper to the desired image and placed it in the first tray of chemicals, you watch as the picture slowly reveals itself. It’s interesting to watch beginners do this for the first time the look on their face is usually one of awe. Digital provides instant gratification but film makes you wait to see if you’ve obtained the desired results. When you have to spend more time and effort adjusting the many components there’s a greater sense of satisfaction when it finally turns out perfect.