Here are some photos I shot in Blue Island, IL last June. I had been wanting to shoot a city on a rainy night for a while, but never had the opportunity-my ambition level, how busy I was, and weather conditions never seemed to sync. One day last June, thunderstorms rolled in right as evening was approaching. I live fairly close to Blue Island, which is a suburb just south of Chicago, and was done teaching for the summer, so I had both time and energy. So, I took advantage of all that and went for a shoot. I was there for maybe an hour and a half. It rained, sometimes stormed, and then stopped raining and began to dry as I was shooting. I got some good shots, and some bad ones, pretty typical for a photo shoot. I also got soaked, but it was a warm summer night, and I actually enjoyed that. Here are some of my favorite photos form that night.
Here's some pieces form a collage series I'm currently working on. I really, really hate writing (and reading) artist's statements, so instead of that, I'll try to give a brief discussion of these that avoids all the artspeak.
A few months ago, I bought a set of language development flash cards at a thrift store. I've always liked bland, documentary photos, and the grainy B&W shots of mundane objects on these cards appealed to me. They sat in my studio for a while, then I got inspired, and started making these.
I'm pulling inspiration from several places: The photos reminded me a little of new wave/punk era record cover design, particularly old Throbbing Gristle single sleeves (click here for an example), and they became a big influence on these. Early 20th century European graphic design and collage is another influence (Gustav Klutsis, El Lissitzky, etc.). Another big influence is contemporary Japanese graphic design. I've been looking at a couple of blogs recently that feature a lot of this work, and I'm fascinated at how it seems to subvert the basic design rules while simultaneously adhering to them. This inspiration led me to put intentionally irritating elements into these pieces, like the clashing op art background elements.
The text is a combination of English and Japanese, taken from old magazines. As I've discussed previously, I use text in collages fairly often, but usually as a graphic element. Text in a collage too often becomes a caption, and it's the visuals that should carry the message. I'm using Japanese and English for the visual variety, and as a nod to Japanese graphic design as an influence. The red and white is a slight nod to the De Stijl Dutch art movement.
Scissor Man was the first one of these I made, and while I was making it, the XTC song of the same name became my earworm, and the provisional title. Televesion Man came next, so of course, the Talking Heads song became an earworm. I toyed for a bit with only making collages that could be titled with song titles ending in 'man' (Telephone Man is a song I remember from childhood, but it's not really a song I liked), but quickly gave that up, as it proved to be too limiting. I couldn't think of good titles, however (always an issue with me), so while thinking about the provisional 'man' titles, remembered Barney Bubbles' great cover for Elvis Costello's Get Happy album, in particular the inner sleeve. This got me thinking about the sometwhat out of favor and vaguely sexist but still employed use of the word 'man' when referring to humanity, and I knew I had my titles.
I've made over a dozen of these so far, and will keep going until I run out of cards or ideas, whichever comes first. You can see enlarged prints of two of these collages at the Moraine Vally Faculty Exhibition, which opens next week.
Here's a digital collage I made on my iPad a couple of months ago. This was made using Snapseed, Fragment and Procreate, the three apps I use the most when working in the iPad.
The lizard figure in the foreground is part of a collage I made back in the 80's as part of a postcard project. You can read more about that project and my reworking of those old pieces here and here.
Some recent collages, made over the past couple of months. These are smaller than I often work when making collage, they are all 5 X 7". I got on this 5X7 kick a couple of months ago. This size seems to work well when making collages that aren't overly busy, something I usually aspire to.
I very rarely use text in collages. That wasn't always the case, when I first started making collages they tended to be full of text. At some point, however, I realized that the imagery in a collage should constitute the primary content. Relying on text too often results in the text being a caption which reduces the potential impact of the visual elements.
I use text fairly often in collages, but I use it as a graphic element, rendering it illegible. You can see examples of that here and here, and in a bunch of other pieces I've posted to this blog over the past couple of years. I do use legible text on rare occasions, but it's something I approach very carefully. If it starts feeling like a caption, the text goes.
Here are some very recent examples of collages with legible text. All three were done within about a fifteen minute time span a couple of weeks ago. I was feeling uninspired in the studio, edging on bored, and without thinking through what I was doing, grabbed a book with text and no images from my studio overstuffed with materials to cut up, cut out a page at random, and started slicing out fragments of text. The one at the top of this post was done first, the text is on a laser print of a photo I shot. The two below were made from pages taken from a couple of art books I had just bought at an estate sale.
Tantrum, collage on paper, 2017
Oh, it Hurts, collage on paper, 2017
I'm liking all of these. While it's not a permanent shift in direction for me, these were fun and satisfying to make, and I'll likely do some more at some point.
While I'm on the subject of text in collage, I must recommend the work of Brandon Downing. I discovered his book Lake Antiquity at Powell's Books in Portland a few years ago. and had to have it. If you're at all interested in the use of text in collage, buy his book.
Here are some recent experiments in iPhoneography. I was very interested in iPhoneography a few years ago, when I purchased my first iPad. After playing with it for a few months, however, I gradually drifted away from woking with it. I had a few reasons for doing so: I tend to be somewhat process-oriented when I work, and prefer making things by hand as opposed to using auto adjustments; many photo apps only save low-resolution images, which renders them useless for anything but looking at on a screen; and I just moved on to other creative interests. This summer, however, I've returned to iPhoneography. This was also due to several things. I updated my aging iPad to a new iPad pro, and wanted to work with the new pressure sensitive screen and the Apple Pencil. Also, Phoneography is being taken more seriously, and many apps now allow for full resolution images and even working with RAW files. Thirdly, I found something I wanted to try that allows me to work on images by hand. I've been making work with the iPad Pro for about a month now, Here are some examples of what I've done.
Post production is a necessary part of working in digital Photography, akin to darkroom work in film Photography. Just as in darkroom work, there isn't a right or wrong way to process any photo. It's more a question of finding what works and how you want the photo to look. I've been experimenting with creative and nonstandard photo adjustments for a while now. I'm basically going beyond what I would normally do when post processing a photo, trying various visual effects, etc. It varies from photo to photo. Sometimes, the manipulations are pretty minor. Other times, there is a lot of manipulation, even if the end result may be somewhat subtle. I've also made a few which are heavily manipulated (and look like it), and some that are pretty close to (but not quite) collage.
Here are a couple recently adjusted photos. The one in the middle has the most adjustment, it was kind of a crappy photo to start, but I liked it, and wanted to see if I could do something to make it work. The top and bottom ones were shot a few days ago, when an unexpected snowstorm hit Chicago.
Lenscratch is a really great photo blog. Every year, they have an open call for people to submit their favorite photo of the year.
They just published this year's exhibition. I have a photo there, it's in the middle of page four. Take a look at all the entries, there's a lot of great work in a wide variety of subjects and styles.