Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book Sale

Blurb is having a book sale through November 30. Enter the code BIGTEN at checkout, and you'll receive $10 off the cost of a book. In case you're interested, my book Damaged is available there.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Google Image Telephone

A few days ago, there was an interesting post on B, a really great photo blog you should all be reading. It was about using Google's image search to play a game of Telephone (you know, that game where you whisper a phrase into someone's ear, they repeat it to someone else, and so on, to see how the phrase gets changed). On Google image search, you can upload a photo, and it finds images it 'thinks' are similar.
I tried with a couple of my photos. This one first:

Of the 'similar' images it returned, here are the three I found most interesting:

The top one was my favorite, so I fed that one to Google, and picked my two favorite results:

Again, the first one was my favorite, so I did one more round. Here's my favorite from round three:

The Google search engine is obviously picking up on the red/orange tones in the original photo and using that to match images. I decided to try a black and white photo:

And picked these three as my favorite matches:

The top one was my favorite, so like with the color photos,  I fed that one to Google, and picked my two favorite results:

One more round, using the first of those two photos, and my favorite is:

I learned two things from this. One, Google image search relies on color of images to find matches. Two,  B&W photos on the internet are cooler than color ones.
I do like the randomness in the matches, and how these unrelated images work together. Ultimately, however, it's a fun diversion, but not much more than that. It does give me some ideas. I want to convince some other artist friends to play along with something that could be fun. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wish You Were There

I'm going to be having an exhibition in the atrium showcases of the Fine and Performing Arts Center at Moraine Valley Community College. Titled Wish You Were There, it consiste of prints of vintage tourist postcards paired with Google street view images of the same location. The exhibit dates are Oct. 17-Nov. 10.  Click on the link above for more info.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Faculty Exhibition

It's that time again-the annual faculty exhibition at the school where I teach. The exhibition is in the DeCaprio Gallery at Moraine Valley Community College. The show will be up Sept. 19-Oct. 13. The opening reception is this Thursday, Sept. 19, from 2:00:4:00.

I have three pieces in the show this year, all collages. I've posted two of them on this blog before. Here they are again:

Here's the third one:

These collages are part of a larger body of work which explores  pareidolia.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Photography Is Not A Crime!

I shot this photo in May, 2010 near Chinatown in Chicago. I’m posting it now because I returned to this location today to shoot a few photos, and was briefly detained by Metra police (Metra is the Chicago commuter rail network).  This area sits just north of 18th St. at Wentworth St.  There is a gravel, one lane drive leading uphill to a clearing with great views of the city. Most of this area is about to be developed as part of Ping Tom Park, a lovely park on the edge of Chinatown. For now, the gravel drive is used as overflow parking for Chinatown, which can get busy, especially on the weekend.

That’s why I was there. I had gone to Chinatown for lunch and to pick up a few groceries. It was busy, usual for Sunday, and I ended up parking in this area. After lunch and shopping, my plan was to shoot a few photos with my toy cameras. 

I had barely started when I noticed what looked like a police officer a couple of hundred feet away, waving me over. I figured he might have a couple of questions, because cameras seem to make everyone paranoid these days. He motioned me over to his police car, parked across some railroad tracks on what was obviously Metra’s property. He was yelling right from the start. I tried explaining that I was just shooting a few photos, but he kept interrupting, saying I was trespassing. I had read, just last night, an ACLU brief about photographer’s rights (again, everyone with a camera is apparently suspect), and thought I knew what to say. But, trying to say anything seemed to infuriate this cop, and, yelling loudly, he threatened to arrest me if I said another word. He made me drop my photo bag, produce my ID, and place my hands on the police car. He frisked me, and called in my ID. All this time, he was being as condescending as possible, insinuating that I shouldn’t be so far from home (Chicago’s Chinatown is about 20 minutes from my house) and refusing to answer my questions. 

When my ID came back clean, he softened a bit, and seemed to realize he had been way too aggressive, but still pawed through my camera bag without my permission and kept going on about the “post 9/11 world”. He finally let me go “with a warning”, but I’ve been angry and troubled by it since. 

Here’s a screenshot from Google Earth (click on it to see a much larger version). I was standing at about position A, waiting for the sun to come out from behind a cloud so I could shoot the old iron train bridge, B, framed by the branches of the trees. The cop was at position C when he called and waved me over, and we met at his car, D (there’s a car in the Google Earth shot-the Metra Police must park there regularly). I don’t know if I was trespassing or not, to be honest. The area I shaded in blue is the approximate boundary of land owned by the Chicago Park District that is slated for development. I may have been within the Park District property, or I may not have been. Ultimately, that’s unimportant. If someone is photographing on private property, they must cease shooting photos and vacate the property if asked. That’s the law. The law does not state that police have the right to search your belongings and frisk you for trespassing. They can ask you to leave. 

I understand the need for security, but I also know that the law is very clear on the fact that it is perfectly legal to photograph infrastructure and buildings, even private property, from public spaces (the Google Earth screenshot above is proof that photos of a location are irrelevant to a potential terrorist, as better views can be found online). If you are on private property, the law is what I described above. I feel that the officer went beyond his legal rights, and as a result violated my rights. I just don’t know what to do about it. I know that a lot of people have had much worse treatment at the hands of the police (and Homeland Security) for photographing things. This is a big enough issue that Googling “photographer's rights” turns up thousands of hits (including one from me that I posted in June, 2008). What happened to me today was stressful and upsetting, but ultimately such a small event that I doubt anyone would care, even if the cop was out of line. So, do I report it, or let it go? I haven’t decided.

Today, my Facebook status read “Remembering the day Americans started giving up their freedoms and rights in order to cultivate a false sense of security.” Yes, the cop was right about one thing. We certainly are living in the post 9/11 world. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

More Postcard Collages

Here are a few more of the postcard collages I've been working on over the past few months. 

I like this first one quite a bit, even though it's obviously influenced by Ed Ruscha's censor paintings (there seem to be few of those online so this one will have to do).

This one was an experiment. I was picking at a postcard with an Xacto knife, and realized I could peel off the glossy surface of a postcard and leave the paper backing intact. Once I did that, however, I didn't know what else to do with it, so it sat around in my studio for a few weeks before I added random bits of text and called it good enough. The last bit of text might be an apt assessment. 

A little random, maybe, but not bad.

I like this one. There's something about wallpaper that I find interesting, I've used it in work for years.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Postcard Collages

My several month infatuation with making collages has manifested itself in various ways.  Recently, I've been making small collages on old postcards. I collect tacky postcards, which I describe as postcards that are kitschy, ugly, in bad taste, or boring. Over the past few months, I've bought large lots of old postcards on Ebay, hoping to find both tacky cards, and some specific types of cards for another project I'm working on (more on that in a future post).

When I buy stacks of unseen postcards online, I tend to end up with a bunch that just aren't boring or tacky enough, or that won't work for my other project. These had been accumulating in my studio for a while, so I decided to start making collages on them.

The first few I made were all from a stack of postcards originally bought at a now defunct Chinese-themed amusement park in Florida. I was envisioning a series of Chinese postcard collages, but that idea ran out of steam pretty quickly, as I acquired more cards, and started developing other ideas and interests.

The collages you're viewing here are all made on the Chinese postcards, and were completed between April and June of this year. I'll post some more recent ones soon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Yes, It's More Collages!

Here's a few more of the collages I've been working on this summer. I love this first one, I threw it together in about ten minutes right before bed a few weeks ago, and think it turned out good.

I've explored these themes a lot in the past, but the simplicity of this collage is new. 

This collage was made pretty spontaneously. The smoky or cloudy photo with the hand cut out was about to go into the recycling when I realized it looked interesting. From that thought to finished collage was about five minutes.

Mmmmmmm, this ones's ok, I guess.  It sat unglued for several weeks in my studio while I decided whether or not it needed something else added, but every time I tried it looked bad, so I finally called it done and glued the figures down to the photo. The figures were leftover from an illustration in an old schoolbook. I needed the background for this collage. I shot the photo behind the figures in Amsterdam in 2007.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Summer Of Collage

This has apparently been the summer of collage for me. The majority of my studio work this summer has been spent making some sort of collage.  Here are a few more recent ones.

These are all a month or so old. Between traveling and preparing for the upcoming fall semester, my studio production has slowed down. I'm getting the itch to work on collages again, however, so I may be posting more here soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Summer is here, I'm not teaching, and have more time to devote to the studio. I've been making collages (among other things). Here are some recent ones. The first two were actually made while school was still in session. I really love the one at the top of this post.

I don't love this one so much, but I don't hate it, either.

This one was actually made after school let out, and several weeks after the ones above. I like this one quite a bit.

Another one I love! This one was made about a week ago. It reminds me of one of my favorite record covers, for The Buzzcocks' Orgasm Addict single (which is the best (and funniest) punk single ever made, IMHO). 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My First Book

I've just published a book on It's a book of photographs I made back when I was a student, trying a technique on a roll of film and having it come out completely wrong. The images turned out to be pretty interesting, despite the errors. I posted a few images from this project here about a year and a half ago. Follow that link to read more detail about what I was attempting to do with that film.

I'm excited about this book, It's something I've been planning for quite a while. I've got ideas for several more books as well.

Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

First Light

These are my first attempts at lumen printing, made yesterday afternoon.  I heard about lumen printing for the first time only a couple of months ago, and after seeing some really nice examples online, I know I would be trying it as soon as I finished school (and had a sunny day, which has turned out to be kind of rare this year).

Lumen printing couldn't be easier. Basically, you are treating regular photo paper as if it were printing-out paper. You take any photo paper (old, expired paper seems to work the best), lay objects on it (online sources claim that leaves and other plant material give the best results), cover it with glass, and let it sit in direct sunlight for a long time. These photos were exposed for about 50 minutes. I used Kodak Panalure paper that is at least 13 years old for these prints.

After exposure, the prints aren't developed normally (which would likely turn them solid black), but are fixed. The reading I did online suggested using highly diluted fix, so I made my fix half strength. Online sources also suggested toning before fixing. The only toner I had in my studio was an ancient bottle of selenium toner, so I mixed that up and threw the prints in for a few minutes.

I like the results, for the most part. Some lumen prints can have interesting shades of pink, purple and blue, but that is dependent on the type of paper and toner used. The deep brown/black tones I have here are more common. There are many variations to this process, and I hope to explore some of them over the summer. One thing I'm really excited about is what's seen in this last image. I had a couple of enlarged transparency negatives from a failed gum bichromate print in my darkroom, so I threw them onto a sheet of Panalure and made a lumen print, just to see what would happen. The results are much better than I expected, and I'm looking forward to trying a lumen print from a transparency negative made just for that purpose.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Still More New Collages (Part IV)

I've been working quite a bit more slowly on collages lately, but I am still making them. I'm also busy trying to maintain focus while finishing out the school year, and am doing a little shooting for some other projects I have in mind.

I had high hopes for the first collage in this post, but it just didn't turn out as well as I'd have liked. The red one I like much better.

This one's my most recent one, completed just a couple of days ago.