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.
It started with such promise. But as the months passed, more and more projects started to slip. My musicians portrait project fizzled, and I found myself picking up my camera less and less.
Just today, I turned in the keys to my studio. I paid for the whole month of August and only accomplished one portrait shoot. I held on to it a month longer than I should have. Guilt made me keep it – you paid for this great space, don’t give it up! – until I couldn’t logically justify the expense.
After a while, I had to tell myself to stop feeling guilty, and accept this new-found funk for what it is: a down period.
Plenty of creative people go through it, and there’s tons of ways to deal with it. My own method has been to recognize it, accept it (grudgingly), and hope things get better.
The sticky part is thinking back on previous years where I was productive. I look back through my Lightroom catalog and Flickr albums and yearn for those creative periods. I was shooting every season, every day, every situation. I was making documentaries and exploring my community and learning about other artists. From 2012 until this spring, I feel like I was on fire with photography.
At the start of the summer, I tried to power through this down period I felt coming on. I started my musicians project with half a heart, but after a while I couldn’t ignore my creative block. I tried really hard, too.
With this blog, I wanted to make it a daily thing for at least a year, and then try posting a few times a week after that. My strategy worked decently well for a while, but now I feel like I have nothing to say about the larger world of photography. I’ve turned inward, sharing and documenting what’s going on around me, with little thought to best practices or experiments in picture making. These days, it’s mostly just picture sharing.
Could it be that I was so steeped in photography that I got burned out? That doesn’t explain my desire for more productive times.
Several things happened in the spring that I can point to and say, “Maybe that was it.” We moved into a new home, into a new community, had a new baby. I was a year into my new job, hitting my stride. My commute wasn’t what it used to be. All of these were big life-changing circumstances. Did they affect my photographic output? Or was it something else?
Time will tell. I’ll let the autumn come and try to capture the season and its changes, and use the cold months to think about this funk.
My hope is that, on the other end, I’ll come up with a recipe for whatever the opposite of feeling like a failure is.
This was it – the last big adventure of the summer, saved until the end.
The trick was lining up our northern Michigan vacation with the grandparents’ schedules. One pair in Mackinaw City for a few days, and the other in Petoskey for the second half. Help with adventures, babysitting, and overnights. With three kids, taking one to spend time with the grandparents relieves a bit of the strain.
Not that this was stressful. No, northern Michigan moves at a vacation pace. Water, and sky, and enough green and blue to make both of our major state university fans happy.
This close to Lake Michigan, and this close to all those forests – it’s a proper goodbye to nice weather, and water, and wilderness for a while. We even said goodbye to the trout sunning themselves at an honest-to-goodness fish hatchery, complete with a bald eagle waiting, and watching, in the canopy above.
It’s what’s so great about living in our state. A few hours in every direction and you’re next to a giant freshwater lake and enough nature to forget that it’ll all be buried in snow and ice in a few months.
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.
We all knew, years in advance, that this day was coming. Our attention spans are short, so we only really started preparing – with the glasses and the filters and our lunch plans – earlier this summer.
So we took the kids, the grandparents, our fellow students, our co-workers, and we all went outside for a bit this afternoon. Novelty glasses in hand, we looked up, and we saw our sky change.
We watched young and old, rich and poor, conservative and liberal, natural born and immigrant go out into the fading sunlight and watch and wonder. See how the light changes? See how the shadows shift their shape? See that funny cardboard contraption the astronomy students are wearing on their heads?
See how everyone, regardless of background, came outside and shared an experience?
Astronomers have our solar system down pat. They know where the sun and moon and Earth will be in relation to each other from now until Rapture. Barring an unexpected astroid, the future is predictable, thanks to models and observation.
We Americans think we know better. Sure, we show up at an appointed time expecting a celestial show. But when it does happen, we don’t think that makes the scientific method any more reliable. We question and we “fake news” everything, still, even when the heavens dance around us, as predicted.
We rarely get the larger message – in plain view there in the sky, in front of our own filtered eyes – just as we rarely think about eclipses a decade down the road.
We don’t have to “believe” in the eclipse; it happens with or without us. We don’t get that message, either.