House Hunting

House Hunting

Since early autumn, my family has been house shopping.

Part of house shopping is seeing many, many kinds of houses, in all shapes, and in all kinds of conditions. Strolling through some of these houses, you see some very interesting things – in fact, there may be no deeper view into American culture and eccentricities than someone’s home.

I’m also paying attention to light. In our current home, the light is great – very airy and open. In our next house, I want to make sure it’ll photograph well. As I see neat lighting situations in these houses, I’m capturing those.

So I’m making it a project: #lawrencehousehunt on Instagram. Follow along, and see all the…interesting things we see.

Photographer Interview: Darrell Vannostran

Darrell Vannostran is a photographer and videographer based in Oklahoma City, OK. I follow Darrell on Instagram (@thecontinue) and enjoy his mix of abandoned and derelict locations with beautiful landscapes.

Where are you and what do you do?

I’m a photojournalist, videographer, and photographer based in Oklahoma City. I sword fight in my free time.

How did you get started in photography?

I’ve enjoyed taking photos since I was a little kid. My first camera was a Polaroid OneStep Close-Up, and I mostly used it to take pictures of my television and my dog. When I got into middle school my mother bought an SLR and signed me up for a photography class at the local vo-tech, where I learned to develop black and white film. I eventually took an introductory photography class in college, but I became much more interested in video production. In the last few years I’ve picked up photography again and realized how much I’ve missed still photography.

What do you like about your photography?

I have a lot of trouble remembering things, especially the photos I take, so when I get around to editing I’m constantly surprised at the images I’ve captured. Occasionally it’ll bring back memories and emotions, and sometimes I have no recollection of having ever seen what I’m looking at. Now I focus on making photos that are impossible for me to forget. I love it when I’m able to make a photograph that feels as if it has texture to it.

You do a great mix of decay and beautiful landscapes. What kinds of themes do you explore with your work?

I’m in love with the fact that nothing lasts forever yet something can have a lifespan much greater than my own. I like to think of my photos as mugshots of spaces or objects, without people, that have lost their purpose or have been left alone giving them a sense of isolation or emptiness to them, wether it’s an abandoned warehouse or an open field. This is that object at a single moment in its life and what you see are the details that I think define it.

I also love windows. They have so much character that it’s impossible to ignore them.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

I’m constantly looking for new places and adventures to be had. I love road trips, and I’m hoping to go on several this year. You never know what you’ll find out on the road.

Learn more about Darrell’s work on his website, and follow him on Instagram.

Book Review: ‘The Revenge of Analog,’ by David Sax

Central Camera - Chicago, IL

The physical world is what it is: messy, random, and tactile. The digital world, even at its best VR-helmeted incarnation, is a mere simulation.

A lot of the world is waking up to that fact. Even Silicon Valley, in all its ones and zeroes, realizes the value of IRL play, meditation, and good food.

This was one of the parting messages in David Sax’s book, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter. The book was a reading assignment from CJ Chilvers (read his review), and is a piece of non fiction that, along with Sound City, has helped me think more about physical things and why I value them.

The crux of Sax’s research: the culture and media that digital left behind, or revolutionized, (film photography, record albums, paper) are coming back as more than fads. People are writing notes in Moleskines, reading actual books, and opening up new vinyl pressing plants. Business owners are successfully expanding their book store empire. And yes, even Silicon Valley is finding physical things worth exploring.

A lot of people, for a lot of years, have said, “Print is dead.” Or, “no one reads magazines anymore.” Film photography is obsolete, and a hassle. A paper-free office is the goal. At my art museum job, in a very literate college town, I’ve even questioned the value of print media and products.

What Sax found, though, is that the very people we thought were abandoning the real world — young people — are actually the ones buying vinyl records and asking for paper textbooks at school. That’s comforting, for those of us that value analog media. It means the world isn’t as upside down as we had feared (although Sax neglected to talk to newspaper publishers – he mostly sticks to sunny stories of success).

Speaking of young people: Sax’s chapter on education was especially eye-opening. Digital tools in the classroom (think electronic whiteboards, tablets, video lessons, etc.) are an overhyped lie, Sax found, with no real metrics to show their much-bragged-about value. Digital is no savior. Those of us who work in higher education heard about the MOOC for a few years as this great college disruptor. But as Sax shows, only about 10 percent of online class takers ever finish the lesson, and many more people find a relationship with a real live teacher more worthwhile.

Amen! Think about the online photography video versus a one-on-one workshop with a photographer whose work you appreciate. If you want to pick up clone stamping, a Photoshop video can certainly teach you how in a few minutes. But to get real valuable advice on how to shape your artistic vision, nothing beats spending actual time with an actual person. Analog education matters more.

The findings in The Revenge of Analog pop up in the news with regularity. We get more and more news about classic film stocks coming back. Some of my favorite bands now release vinyl albums along with digital downloads. Just the other day I received a new magazine coming out of Detroit, asking for my advertising dollars. Look all around, and we feel analog’s return in our bones.

The truth is, for many of us, analog never left. No revenge was needed. I still read my books pulped page by pulped page, I still have two magazines arriving in my mailbox every month, and I write in actual notebooks with an actual pen. And don’t get me started on music.

Structured in case studies around companies that are giving analog a go, Sax’s book makes the point that analog can be a thriving business for a lot of people, even if it’s outside the majority. Good enough is good enough, and there’s still money to be made on the weirdos and normals alike.


Photographer Interviews, Year Two

Jackson, Michigan

Last year I did a series of photographer interviews as a fun winter project. It was a great way to chat with photographers whose work I enjoy, and to learn about some photographers who I’ve followed on social media, or connected with through On Taking Pictures.

Let’s do it again!

I have a list of people I’m going to reach out to, but if you follow the work I do, and you’re a photographer with good work to share, I’d love to feature your stuff.

Easiest way? Send me a note!

On 365 Photography Projects

Come Follow Me

I spent a good time of the holiday break absorbing Rebecca Lily’s 365 project, from start to finish. I’ve mentioned Lily’s project here before, but I keep coming back to it because I love her journal-style posts, her photos, and her voice. And I admire the project.

It has me thinking about 365 projects in general. Many photographers attempt them, and many never finish. Some say don’t bother.

Reading Lily’s project blog got me thinking: could I do my own 365 project?

In a way, keeping a daily blog is a sort of 365 day project. Except for weekends, I post a photo (or two) per day on my Flickr.

The difference is, a 365 project is daily – make a photo every day, post a photo every day, even on weekends. It’s the combination of discipline and routine, along with any lessons learned along the way, that make a 365 project worthwhile.

Or not. Toward the end of Lily’s project, you feel her struggling to see the thing through. Is a mundane photograph worth the daily post? How do you handle the ebb and flow of the project, from the highs to the lows? What’s to stop you from giving up partway through?

Thinking about this kind of project, I voice these questions as I look at my own fears. I don’t think the daily photo making would be the tough part, although it would still be a challenge. It’s more like, what would be my goal in establishing a 365 project? Would I post every day? How?

This is the kind of planning and goal setting I feel would make for a successful project.

A tip from Lily, halfway through her project:

A 365 project is by far the best recommendation I could ever give a photographer who is struggling with finding their own style or voice. It’s like taking an intensive college course that’s normally a semester long, in 6 weeks. It’s perhaps five years’ worth (or more) of photography condensed into 1 year.

Maybe I should’ve started a project two years ago.

Renting Space

Studio Space

As I plan for my next portrait project, the idea of renting a studio space keeps popping up. Wouldn’t it be nice to have my own dedicated creative space, instead of relying on environmental portraits at other people’s studios or homes?

So I started shopping around, and asking friends and colleagues about potential studios.

The kicker is the set of conditions I’ve set on myself: strong window light, with an east or west-facing window, semi-centrally located in Jackson (for easy access), plenty of wiggle room for materials, and convenient availability to fit my work and family schedule. I’ve seen a few places around town that fit the bill, but another complication is that I’ll only need the space for a month or two. If I rent, I’m not sure how many landlords would be up for a 60 day lease.

But we’ll see. I’m starting to make phone calls and get my bearings. It’s a whole new world.