My news reader just switched the color of this journal from its normal, stately, blue to brown, the color of sloth, reserved for indolent writers and lapsed bloggers. This is its way of suggesting that maybe I should unsubscribe from myself because of my inexhaustible idleness. But I have a defense, the defense of work-shy bloggers everywhere—I've been busy. Also, in the past few years I've noticed that the longer one leaves a journal, the more important the next post seems (only to the writer, of course). Left long enough you begin to feel that if your next post can't go toe-to-toe with Henry James, you might as well not write at all. So I'm quietly slipping this post in to break my torpor and reset the Henry James clock so I can once again fill these pages with their customary frivolity.
Here's what's been going on:
In January I head down to Santa Monica at the invitation of Photo L.A. to give a presentation for their Emerging Focus Expo on CGI and it's relationship to photography. The presentation was loosely based on last year's post Photographers You're Being Replaced By Software. The most interesting aspect of this for me was the conversations I had during the research leading up to the presentation with people at CGI houses and photographers who use CGI extensively.
In the post last year I may have understated how prevalent CGI is in advertising photography—it's everywhere and it's good enough that you often won't notice it. But I also probably misrepresented the effects it is having on photographers—the economics are more complicated. I spoke with a few photographers who have embraced it and are doing well. One car photographer I spoke to explained the economics as it applies to location car photography. Shooting high-end car photography on location is outrageously expensive and difficult: you need to transport the car, hire extensive equipment and crew to light the car properly, close roads, obtain permits, hire drivers, etc. Advertisers don't have the budgets to do this very often. But if you can shoot the location by itself and drop a CGI car into the scene in post, suddenly it's much more affordable. Without the car to deal with, a photographer can be more flexible, travel with a smaller team, and require significantly less gear. For a photographer with the ability to understand the requirements of both the advertiser and the CGI house, this translates to more work, not less because clients can afford to shoot more often. I found several other stories like this, all a little bit different, but with the same theme: times are changing and more than ever you need to be agile and engaged to remain relevant.
The presentation was also an excuse to spend more time exploring the philosophical and semantic issues around photography and CGI. I still recommend Kendall Walton's excellent papers from Critical Inquiry. If you feel that despite CGI's realism, a photograph is still somehow different than a perfect rendering, these papers provide a useful framework to understand the issue.
In February I joined the board as President of our local chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP Alaska). I am very excited about this. On a national level, ASMP is extremely important for individual photographers. Photographers don't have unions, often work with little contact with their peers, and have historically been guarded about their businesses practices. This is a poor stance from which to negotiate with large corporations like stock agencies and publishers. ASMP is large enough to positively influence policy and practices, educate people coming into the industry, and advocate for the individual photographer. But it requires grassroots support from local chapters. Without a strong and active membership, an organization like ASMP can't thrive and we all suffer. It's more important than ever for us as photographers to advocate for our industry. If you've been thinking about joining or becoming involved, now is a good time. Here's a good place to start: Why Join ASMP.
The Bedroom Window
I live in a 100-year old log house that still has old, single-paned sash windows. The windows are not great for energy efficiency, but they are interesting because they tend to take on the character of the weather outside, which in Alaska can be unique. Toward the end of last fall, I started shooting casual photos of them, mostly with my iPhone. It's one of those little projects that you don't think much about, and certainly wouldn't expect anyone else to care about—really the epitome of a personal project. I started a Tumblr blog called An Alaska Window so I could see them all in one place with the hope that it would encourage me to think of this as a typology rather than individual images. Somehow it's been getting a lot of attention: My Modern Met, PetaPixel, Trend Hunter, The Rayograph, Manzárd Cafe (in Hungarian). The internet is a weird place.
Website Galleries Retooled
Re-editing the galleries on this website has been on the to-do list for a while. It's one of the easiest things to put off. Over the last couple weeks I forced myself to sit down and do some editing with the goal of adding project-based galleries to more effectively show the kind of work I like to do. There's only so much you can show in a portfolio based on single images. If you're interested in taking a look, head over to the home page. Adding these required completely rewriting the html/css for the menus and home page, so if something isn't working, please let me know.