Change is often a good thing, especially for creative types who need fresh inspiration and perspective. In this case – thanks to the fabulous Susanne Friedrich – I’m taking this blog I’ve started and incorporating it into my new redesigned website.
I haven’t quite figured out how to add the ‘subscribe’ button yet to the new blog, but will tweet anytime I have a new post.
The other change is a shift from the film focus of Entre Chien et Loup to a focus on photography in general. I’m absolutely NOT abandoning film – it’s still my main passion – but I finally decided to take a walk down the digital path and am a proud owner of a Nikon D7000. Most of what I post though will be film photos. Come visit my new blog: http://www.mcshanphotog.com/blog/
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Downtown Oakland – Part 1: Street Art Edition
A few weeks ago I joined a great group of people for a walk through downtown Oakland in search of inspiring subject matter. The overcast day meant some very gray light, but it didn’t ruin anyone’s enthusiasm…and the rain held off. Thanks to Valerie for leading the charge – and to victoria, pete, martin, gene and dave for photographic camaraderie.
All photos shot with Nikon F-100, T-Max 400.
And if anyone knows who the artist is from the last two photos, let me know….
This blog has been quiet for awhile…and for good reason. I’ve recently made a huge life change by moving from Los Angeles, CA to Oakland, CA (in the San Francisco Bay Area) for a new job. For the past 6 weeks or so instead of thinking about photography and the creative process I have been consumed with packing, moving and unpacking. Now that I’m mostly settled I’m looking forward to taking my cameras out and exploring the area.
It’s not my first time up here – I’ve moved back to a place that has many memories for me because I went to college nearby (awhile ago). It was during college that I really embraced photography by taking more classes and even doing my first professional job photographing bands at the New Music Seminar in NYC one summer. It’s funny to look at those contact sheets because I can truly see those first steps I was taking in using my camera and focusing on those subjects that made me want to photograph in the first place.
Change is good…and my new adventure has just begun.
Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking. – W. B. Yeats
I recently saw a post from a fellow photog I follow on twitter who was agonizing over his lack of inspiration and loss of interest in photography in general. As any creative person knows…we all have been there. Winter, in particular, is a tough season for many people. Though even when I lived in a place that had a proper winter I always got a bit energized. Perhaps it’s due to growing up in a city without real seasons, but anytime there was snow or ice I was out there in my layers with my camera.
Now that Spring is upon us I wanted to share some of the things I try to do when I’m feeling uninspired:
1) Take a walk/Do some yoga (basically move myself). Besides, it’s much better to take a walk with camera in hand then drive and look around (and end up in an accident).
2) Stop and really look around. Most of us drive on autopilot, but when you’re at a stop sign/stop light take a look around, and if necessary drive back to something you might have thought interesting previously. We have so much stuff in our heads most of the time that we often fail to notice the simplest things around us.
3) Meditate/Quiet time. Really…taking maybe a few minutes to sit and be quiet does wonders to clear the head and bring focus. I’ve struggled with developing a meditation practice but now that I have one I definitely see and feel the difference.
4) Take an online/offline class or workshop. Last summer I joined an online group of photographers for a Flickr ‘August Break‘ challenge which forced me to get out, shoot and share. More recently I’ve signed up for Susannah Conway’s Unravelling online course, which starts next week. I can’t wait.
5) Go to an art gallery or museum. If you can’t find something to inspire you there…
6) Look at a favorite art book or magazine. If you need to, then go to your local bookstore and browse if you’re bored/not inspired with what you have at home.
7) Go on to Flickr and give comments and praise to other photographers’ work. There’s that warm and fuzzy feeling about letting someone else know how much you really like their images.
I’m sure there are others. In the event that the above and your own ideas aren’t working for you then maybe you do need to take a break, so don’t beat yourself up over it. Use this time away from being creative to focus on other areas of your life. Know that when you least expect it, inspiration will find you. Hopefully you’ll have a camera nearby…
I know I’ve written before how I find it difficult to find creative inspiration for my photography here in LA. I think it’s because there isn’t that sense of history I love and adore – everything (and everybody) is constantly in a state of reinvention. (And I can say this as a native who has also lived elsewhere.) One of my favorite areas though is a neighborhood that is constantly reinventing itself – in a wonderfully creative way. I recently took my camera down to the ‘arts district’ of downtown and started to explore a total treasure trove of artistic expression between street art, murals and works in progress. I feel like every time I come down here there’s something new to see and photograph. Shot with my Nikon F100, Velvia 50.
In one of those moments when I was in the midst of trying to reorganize my photography stuff (again) I came across some photos I had totally forgotten about. It’s always fun to look back at earlier work to see 1) what I was interested in photographing and 2) what kind of photographer I was. In this case I took these photos in 1994 on a girls weekend camping trip I took with two friends on Assateague Island (off the eastern coast of Maryland and Virginia). We had purposely chosen to camp on the beach side – as opposed to the bay side – so we could open our eyes and see this when we woke up. I know I took these with my beloved old Konica T-3, no idea what kind of film (though definitely color negative).
At the recent PhotoLA show last month I found myself talking to a gallery director about some Bill Brandt photos he had on display. I mentioned that I had seen a wonderful exhibition a few years back at the Gallery of Photography in Dublin of an Irish photographer who had also done documentary photography work in the same vein in Dublin, but for the life of me I could not remember his name. Leave it to a bit of idle time on my hands – and some web surfing – and I did indeed rediscover the work of Fergus Bourke. In his show at the Gallery of Photography there was a nice overview of his images that capture a slice of Irish life that (in many cases) really doesn’t exist anymore. I think this was particularly fascinating to me seeing I was in Ireland that trip at the height of Celtic Tiger-dom – you look at a photograph like The Bottle Throwers and it seems like that was indeed a very long time ago. (And how did he get that close to those boys anyway to take the photo?)
In addition to his images of city life he did a fair amount of black and white nature/landscape images in the west of Ireland, often capturing that gorgeous light and dramatic flair of clouds on the brink of stormy weather. In those photos we are definitely kindred spirits.
View images from his show at the Gallery of Photography, Dublin here: http://galleryofphotography.ie/exhibitions/bourke2.html
If you’re not familiar with Fergus Bourke’s work he’s definitely worth checking out.
I started this blog as a forum for and about film photography – and will continue to do so – but this week I have been thinking quite a bit about purchasing a digital SLR. The fact is, if you want to do commercial work you have to have a digital SLR…though if you ask any commercial photographer they will tell you they use film for any/all of their artistic work. As I was mulling over again the idea of going down the digital path I found this article entitled: Advantages of a Holga Toy Camera over Modern Digital Cameras.
Being the owner of a Holga I was definitely curious to read and what struck me was this: In the age of instant gratification where a bad photo is instantly deleted from the memory card, the main draw of a Holga is the anticipation in not knowing what you’ll get. The way the pictures turn out would always be a package of surprises.
That could be said of any film camera. What we’ve lost in this shift to digital is ‘the journey.’ Some of my best work was made when I traveled to someplace and did nothing but photography – I had the luxury of time to look and think before I snapped a photo. Even now I’ll explore areas in Los Angeles at various times of day before I commit to capturing the moment. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to waste film or maybe it’s also because the journey should mean just as much as the end result. I’ve shot many rolls of film before and only gotten a few photos I loved – was that a waste of time or money? No. It was still a learning experience. When I see people using their digital cameras and looking at the back of their camera every time they’ve shot a photo I feel like they are missing something. While I contemplate whether that will be me one day I share a photo from a place I’ve spent a lot of time exploring and photographing (and have mentioned in a previous post): Burrishoole Friary.
I hope to get back there again later this year – with both my film and digital cameras!