Seeing as how my musicians portrait project is on hiatus, I’m releasing my new photobook, #abandoned, a collection of urbex and abandoned photography from the past few years, all taken on my iPhone.
Better to ship something than nothing, right?
#abandoned is a simple 8″ square softcover book that includes 30 images of abandoned houses, factories, and farms – mainly in south central Michigan.
Although I’ve largely retired from urbex photography, I felt like I had a few more projects in me. One of them was to make a photobook of all my urbex adventures, but keep it to mobile photography. I’ve made plenty of photos using my “big” camera, but my iPhone is always with me, even when my DSLR isn’t. The photos are all of high enough quality to make a modest book. On Instagram, I’ve had a few people ask me to make something like #abandoned, so here it is.
My style, such as it is, comes in large part from my explorations in abandoned properties. There came a point where I was both shooting urbex locations and developing my creative voice. I feel like a lot of these photos come from that combination of recklessness and light chasing, and are a good representation of the kind of work I do now.
August in Michigan means hot days, cooler mornings, and a slow dive into autumn.
For me, it’s always the seasonal transitions that are the most fun to photograph. Summer is nice, sure, but the end of summer always holds something special.
Same for when spring (my favorite) comes, and the fog rolls in as the snow melts. Or when winter starts frosting the yet-to-fall leaves.
This time of year is always hard for me emotionally, for some reason. I don’t know if it’s because Winter Is Coming™, or the days are shortening, or what. But I get to feeling down. The last few years, I’ve tried to work my way out of the funk with a few photo projects and writing more.
It was stuck at 33% for weeks, then it creeped up to a high of 48%, and never got over that half-way hump.
I knew, going into it, that it was a long shot. My first rumblings of failure came when I had to explain to people, again and again, that they weren’t making a donation. No money was being exchanged up front. It was a pledge. People didn’t get Kickstarter.
The second rumbling came when a lot of the people I thought would support the project didn’t. After being stuck at 33% for so long, I knew my chances of reaching a fully-funded Kickstarter campaign were slim.
The truth is, my heart wasn’t totally into the idea of the Kickstarter. It was more of an experiment, to see if I could do it; to see if something like this could be possible in my small Midwestern city. Jackson wasn’t ready for Kickstarter. Plus the idea of constantly sending out updates and pleas for pledges is not me – I’m the anti marketing guy. It’s hard enough to get people to support your project, but to ask them to make pledges to support your project? Blah.
But it’s all okay. I’m fine, and I let Sunday’s project deadline go by with a whimper.
A lot of things are slowing down for me. Call it a phase, but I’m barely getting this musicians project started. I’m barely blogging. I’m barely making photos. It’s one of those seasons in life right now.
I knew it would be an uphill battle, and a constant stream of “make a pledge” messages and outreach. It’s not my style, but it needs to happen for the project to be successful.
Logistically, I have portrait sessions lined up next week that I’m pretty excited about. Things are moving along slowly, but they’re moving along. The studio is getting used. That’s the important part.
Next week I’m on vacation (spending time with my wife, above, and the kiddos during the holiday break), so not much happening around here. But please consider backing the project on Kickstarter and help me get over that 50% goal hump.
A week ago, I kicked off the project at my studio open house. But this project has been in the works for almost a year now. I’ve thought and thought about it for so long, and now it’s a real thing in the world that I’m working on.
It involves capturing local Jackson, Michigan musicians on black and white medium format film through the summer. I’ll capture our conversations, make portraits, and share the creative love in my hometown.
Why Kickstarter? There are film costs, and the studio space to rent, and photographic prints to produce. It’s also a way to preorder prints or the book when it’s released this holiday season. Really, it’s a way to support creative endeavors like these community portrait projects.
Tomorrow night I’m hosting a studio open house in downtown Jackson.
It’s partly to kick off my next portrait project, partly to test out the new space, and partly as a big “thank you” to folks around town who have supported my projects. Plus I have a few people whose portrait I’ve wanted to make for a while now. So, bonus.
The Grind is the selecting your location, choosing which equipment to bring, selecting a film stock, lining up subjects, finding an open slot in your schedule, making time to send/respond to emails, editing the photos when you’re finished with the shoot, picking your favorite picture to present to the world, sending a select few to the subject, backing up your Lightroom library…
But that’s what “photography” means – it’s the photographs, and it’s the Grind to get them made.
Lately, it’s the Grind that has me feeling overwhelmed. If I can pick away at it, bit by bit, I do okay. Otherwise, I feel like I’m swimming in “photography.”
Better learn to love the Grind if you really want to accomplish that project.
I’ll admit that getting going with new creative projects has been a challenge lately. With the move, and the new baby, it’s been hard to think and plan about doing a big new thing.
“Inspiration,” as most people understand it, doesn’t help. I don’t need to look at other photo projects, or read quotes from famous artists. None of that will help me take a step forward. It’s not how I’m wired. Inspiration, for me, is just a bunch of ideas.
But this morning, on the drive into work, I felt a spark as I was listening to Bill and Jeffery on On Taking Pictures. It wasn’t anything concrete, or the subject matter, or even their mood. I think it was just listening to two people talk about art and creativity that made me feel better about my situation. That little creative fire inside me that’s been so weak the past few months got a little brighter. I can’t explain exactly how it lit back up, but I guess it doesn’t matter.
What I need is a kick in the butt from time to time, not inspiration.
All of my photographs during the year just “happened”. Nothing was planned in advance. I was able to capture them just because I brought my camera with me everywhere, every single day. And sometimes, because I felt brave enough to ask a complete stranger for their portrait, and I didn’t get chased away.
Planned versus unplanned. Project versus un-project.
This idea of the 365 project keeps coming up, because I’m starting to see it as a worthwhile challenge to any creative person. “Discipline and constant work at the whetstones upon which the dull knife of talent is honed,” says Stephen King. Keeping at something, day after day, is intrinsically rewarding.
But what about a planned project versus a project like Patience’s? Bill Wadman, for instance, is doing 365 portraits this year. It’s a project with a set of restrictions: pictures of people, with Wadman’s new-ish medium format camera. There’s a schedule to set and people to line up. There’s structure.
Patience’s project – “capture real moments and make memories, to tell about the good and the bad times” – is a rambling, take-it-as-you-get-it 365 project. He takes the world, day to day, exactly as it is, and lets chaos and randomness dictate his project. Apart from one camera, one lens, one film, there’s very little structure.
My preference? One of each, which is my goal this year.