Thursday, January 28, 2010

RIP Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn has been a very influential person in my life. He was one of the few people that I would fan out over if I got the opportunity to meet him. Mr. Zinn passed away yesterday at the age of 87.

I first read A People's History when I was 18 and was in love. It is the book that whenever I travel I bring it with me to open up to a random page and read. I have been reading and rereading that book for 12 years now. If you have never read it I suggest you do. Last time I was in California a teenage girl saw I was reading A People's History, and asked me if I liked the book. I told her I did and asked her if she had read it. She responded in a manner typical of someone who wants to tell you something that you don't already know. She had no idea that I have read the book cover to cover at least 5 times in the last decade. She then proceeded to tell me that the book is "super biased". I responded by asking her what book isn't biased. She thought for a second to come up with a solid answer, "THE BIBLE". I laughed uncomfortably realizing I didn't want to get into this kind of conversation and told her I was going to get back to reading.

The whole point of A People's History is that it is biased, but so is every history book that has ever been read. Do you really think rich white men have done 99% of everything worth mentioning? Do you really think those in power are the ones that have brought about real change in our society? Hell no, change flows from the bottom up, always has, and always will.

Here are a few Howard Zinn quotes.

"Historically, the most terrible things - war, genocide, and slavery - have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience."

"I wonder how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own."

“Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.”

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

RIP to the People's Historian 1922-2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union

Fucked, but at least we have big iPhones now. Maybe people will have bigger conversations about how amazing their bigger iPhones are. iPad??? its called a Newton 2.0. Does anyone remember Macintosh Newton Message Pad? I am the first to admit that Mac shit is pretty damn amazing, but I could really give a shit about the iPad. Maybe it is too futuristic for me and I am suck in the past.

Needle in the Hay

This is my all time favorite movie scene. Pure cinematic genius at its best. The edits, the colors, the acting, and the music all amazing. I want to make something this good one day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Joel Peter Witkin

One of my favorites, I think he started his professional career out as a war photographer in Vietnam. I like the narrative quality in Mr. Witkin's images. Some of his images make me feel like he is remaking what has already been made (classical paintings), but with his own unique take on the subject. You can tell when photographers have something going on in their heads, and I think Joel Peter Witkin has something going on.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Automatic means bad."

Zeb Andrews is a photo man if there ever was a photo man. I always enjoy seeing the images he creates and the words he writes. The guy is a flickr celebrity for god sakes. He and Blue Moon (where he works) is a great resource to all the photographers of Portland. If you have never been to Blue Moon Camera and Machine I suggest you get in your car and go there right now. Here is his advice on how to be become a better photographer. I stole his words and this image of his from his flickr, and i hope he doesn't sue.

------I have answered this question more times that I can remember, in e-mails, over the counter at Blue Moon Camera, in high school and college classrooms, out in the field, etc. Each time that I answer it, my answer tends to evolve a little, so here is the latest evolution:

Be patient. Of all the traits a photographer should endeavor to possess, patience is the most important. Getting better at photography is like getting better at anything else; it takes time, practice and patience.

Forget talent. Talent, or the lack of it, is often used as an excuse for good and poor photography. Dedication, passion, and persistence trump talent every day of the week. I would take one passionate photographer for a dozen talented photographers any time.

Every photographer, no matter how good they are now, at one time had to start at the beginning. We all did. None of us started out making exceptional images. We all started out stumbling and feeling our way around, in varying degrees of confusion. All those mistakes you are embarrassed about making? Chances are I have made every one of them at least ten times over.

Make mistakes. And don't be afraid to. You learn more from your mistakes I think than your successes. Everything you do with a camera, should be teaching you how to do it better, regardless of the immediate results you get that day. Experiment, fail, learn, experiment some more.

The more you put in, the more you will get out. If you are going out one weekend a month to take photos, you will get better, but at a much slower rate. If you are going out everyday you will get better much more quickly. Now, not all of us have the opportunity to work with photography everyday. Some of us can only manage a weekend a month. That is fine, just try not to get too discouraged when you do not think you are growing as a photographer. It will happen, it may just take a bit longer.

Carry your camera everywhere. Never leave home without a camera. Ever. The best way to guarantee you will see a photo you really want to take is to not have a camera with you. It does not do much good sitting at home. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere, no matter how mundane the trip seems to be.

Shoot for yourself. Peer response is certainly important and can teach you a lot about your own photography, and you should definitely share your pictures with others every chance you get, but ultimately take photos for yourself, in your own way. You are your most important critic. If you are not happy with the images you are taking, it does not matter how popular they are. And don't make apologies for your photography. Some people will love it. Some will not. Some will think it completely pointless. That is fine, as long as you like it.

Shoot film. A lot of photographers getting into photography these days are "growing up" on strictly digital diets. Digital can do a lot, but it is a far from everything. Pick up a film camera to complement your digital camera. Film teaches different habits and styles from digital. It is like trying to build a house using only a screwdiver and not a hammer. It can be done, but you are missing out on a lot of other ways to create images. And what film has to teach, can very readily apply to digital photography too.

Shoot digital. If you are only into film photography, pick up a cheap digital camera. The quickness and readily available nature of the feedback they can give you can be a valuable learning tool. If you are limiting yourself to just film, you are missing a huge portion of the photographic spectrum.

Expose yourself to lots of other photography. Flickr is a good start, but it is a small pond in a much larger landscape. Hit up your local library and check out as many books as you can carry and go through them. Go to openings at museums and galleries. Attend artist lectures. Go to a workshop or two or attend a class at a local community college, not just for the instruction but the exposure to other photographers. Arrange photo outings with peers. The more photography you are exposed to, the wider the range of perspectives you will learn to see the world with.

A photographer is a photographer, no matter where they are. There are always pictures to be taken, everywhere. It is a photographer's task to see them. A good photographer realizes this, even if they cannot always see the pictures to be taken, they still try to.

Learn the rules to break them. There are a ton of rules in photography and they can be an excellent framework around which to improve your skills. Learn them thoroughly and how to use them. But, again, be careful for that very framework that has helped build you up can eventually become a cage that restricts you. Those that hold too tightly to the rules tend to see their creativity suffer.

Don't get too hung up on not knowing the technicals. Technical knowledge will come quickly, especially with practice. At first things like Depth of Field, aperture, resolution, aspect ratio, color temperature, exposure, shadows, highlights, zone V, reciprocity failure, visible spectrum, focal length, shutter speed can all seem confusing. Start slowly, and start simply, and put the these technical terms into practice as you learn them. But don't worry too much about knowing them because you will learn them quickly. I remember when I first picked up a camera I had no concept of what in the hell an aperture was. I just knew I had to rotate that ring on the lens until my meter needle pointed to the middle. That was how I began. Now years later this is all reflexive knowledge. You will get there too, probably within a few months. So don't stress out too much right now if you don't understand some of these technical terms. Find somebody helpful to explain them, get a good book, or go out and experiment. Or do all three.

Shoot manually. My boss often jokes that "Automatic means bad". He has a point. Turn all your auto functions on your camera to manual, especially focus and exposure. Taking photos this way will be more cumbersome and you will make more mistakes. But you will learn at a much quicker rate, and eventually you will understand how to use these features better than the automatic modes of your camera can. You are smarter than your camera, so try not to let the automatic features become a crutch, they will impair how quickly you understand what each shutter speed does, what each aperture does, how to learn to focus, etc. Keep as much control over your photography as possible.

Make scrapbooks. Routinely take your favorite photos and put them together into small scrapbooks. It is like keeping a visual journal of your progress. I did this for the first few years of photography and I noticed two big influences this had on my opinions of my own photography. First, when I got discouraged I could get out my latest albums and flip through them and see a collection of what were then my favorite photos, and I could see the cream of the crop. I could see how in fact I actually was making great images that I really liked. These scrapbooks helped remind me that I really was making progress. Second, I could go back to my earliest scrapbooks and see just how "awful" those photos that I had once thought were my best really were. I generally got a good chuckle out of this remembering how proud I was of those collections and how many people I showed them to, and then I would go back and flip through them and see, in contrast, just how much better I had become, but more importantly it kept me humble because it reminded me that there are times where we think our photos are much better than they may be, because we are so personally invested in them. This humble reminder of my beginnings was probably the biggest influence of these albums. So do not throw away or replace your old albums if you do this. If you use Flickr for this purpose, don't delete your old photos. They have a lot to teach you when you come back a few years later with a more experienced eye.

Have fun. For today, the last and most important piece of advice I have to offer. If you enjoy what you do, the rest of this will come quite naturally. This ties in with what I said about being passionate about your photography. Just go out and have fun and love what you do. In comparison very little else is nearly as important.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

like of the day

I have loved Dr. Bronner's soap for many moons, but I must admit in the past I was not as faithful as I could have been. That has all changed. I will never, as long as I live buy another brand of soap. I just watched the Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox documentary and I must say the people who are behind the product are mind blowingly awesome. Seriously Dr. Bronner and his son Ralph are some good goats. Check out the movie, and buy the soap, and remember

Monday, January 18, 2010


My New Years resolution this year was to close my accounts @ Bank of America. Tomorrow I am closing them up and moving my money over to a local credit union. I'm pretty sure B of A will not miss my tiny pile of money, but that is not the point. I 100% do not want any of my money going to these "too big to fail" CEO's bonuses, or going into credit default swaps. If you are a customer of a "too big to fail" bank then you are willfully supporting their shady practices. It is all about being part of the solution, not the problem. Rather than sit around and bitch about the problems with those that govern us, we all can be responsible individually for what we support with our money, votes, and time. Change has always come from the bottom up, never from the top down.

So if you are reading this and you have your money in a "too big to fail" bank move your money to a local credit union, or don't. I am not writing this to tell others what to do, but if you choose to bank with the "too big to fails" you are casting your vote of support to the greedy people and practices that have cause the financial mess we are in. As someone who lives in 2 different states for parts of the year, and travels a lot I know it is way easier to bank with a large bank that has branches everywhere. I hope you care more about your local community then you enjoy ease of banking at a bank with tons of branches.

"Each time a man stands for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." - Robert F. Kennedy

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

my likes of the week in no particular order

Jim Thiebaud is a solid fucking human. I got to meet hang out with Jim over Christmas break, and the man lived up to his reputation of being a genuine good natured guy who has done a ton of amazing work for skateboarding. I am lucky to be able to call Jim my friend.
I am a fan of all things Molina, but this one grew on me slowly. I finally get it. I think Magnolia Electric Co. is more appealing in the rain.
Smith Eliot is a cool Portland photo lady. Check her stuff out here.

Dan Drehobl Krooked boards are fucking amazing. Seriously the best shape I have ever skated. 8.125 x 31.06. I like wide boards, but it is pretty hard to find one that isn't super long. If you are short like me and like widerish boards this is for you. this board changed my outlook on life.