Pulling the Ejection Lever

So I think I'm going to toss out the old trash and go with a newish idea.  I've been focused on ideas of unhappiness, resentment, dissatisfaction with where I am and where I think I should be, but I think that is going against one of the biggest pieces of advice I so often give to others.  I preach that one should vent and move on, leave the bad behind and embrace the rest.  Don't harp on things; don't dwell on the negative. 

I spent the last couple weeks since my last critique not thinking about this project at all, rather I threw myself into aesthetically pleasing, commercial silliness and enjoyed the hell out of it.  Then when I turned my attention back to this project, I couldn't find the will to move on it.  Everything was more interesting, every distracting more promising.  That should have been a big flashing sign to me that this project wasn't going anywhere...at least not at this point in my life.  I need the escape that comes with walking away from the crap in my life.  So why not look at that as a project?

I had a great childhood.  There were issues (we were poor, parents divorced, string of random boyfriends through the years, family fights etc) but by and large I had it pretty decent because of certain family members that made it their job to see it was so.  Primarily this was my grandma and I think a part why I'm in this mindset is spending the holidays with her.  Well, spending the holidays with what's left of her.  She's on her last days and a series of seizures and strokes have taken the woman who raised me away except for brief glimpses.  But she was the one who introduced me to fantasy novels and took me to my first fan convention.  She was the one who took me to the ren faire and encouraged me to get into science.  She didn't play video games but she loved watching me play them.  Most of the touchstones of who I think of myself as come from her.

So I'm going to embrace that childhood silliness and build scenes that are fun and fantastical.  No overarching, world-saving message, just to embrace the good where you can find it and make it if you can't.  The first quick versions of this are being done in photoshop for expediency and deadlines, but I want to use photos I've taken and will take to provide backdrops and build these scenes in real space, then photograph them. 

Where I'm going is an evolution of where I've been, so I'm not totally pulling the ejection lever.  It's just taking a new step along a very widely spaced path.



So here's the issue I keep running into.  How do I hit something from an angle that's not so head on as to make people get it and leave, but not so esoteric as to confuse my viewers.  On one hand, I won't be there to inform the viewers about my work beyond a small written statement (if it's read at all) so my work needs to be understood from looking at it.  On the other hand, if you look at something and just *get* it, what's to keep your interest?

So I'm looking at my life through the moral lens of old stories, tales & such.  Here's my first attempt:

So this actually manages to represent BOTH problems at once.  These images are both far too direct and didactic because they're just a representation of a moment from the tales, but the stories they are referencing are too obscure and so the viewer likely isn't familiar with them.  This ends up being doubly frustrating.  

So the next iteration of this is to try and create scenes from my life and incorporate elements from stories that are familiar enough to lend the symbolism  without directly being the focus of the shot.  

The first idea I have for this (and the issue here for each of these critiques is going to be my amazingly small number of photos that I have to put on the wall compared to my colleagues, but everyone will just need to get over that) is to represent a scene from my past.  I know I said that, but I'm not exactly ready to go into that specific memory in detail yet in text.  The shot will be in a car shot from the back seat.  The touch screen on the console will have a call from my wife showing on the screen with my sitting in the driver seat and reaching to hit the decline call button.  I want to incorporate a few symbols from the applicable story such as a charm hanging from the mirror or something, but just so that it's an element of the photo rather than a focal point.

I might be overthinking all of this, but that's supposedly what this whole process is about, getting lost, making bad turns, running into dead ends and finding new ways forward.  It's frustrating but it's what I have to work with.

Two weeks and an inch

It's been two weeks since I last posted and it's Halloween night.  I'm sitting in the photo lab drafting sketches of ideas for shots I haven't yet taken.  Every step forward seems to come with a stumble back.  I need to get out of my head and just DO.  This turned out to be incredibly hard for the last week as I was suddenly without transportation due to being involved in a crash that left my poor car being towed away to be resuscitated a week later.  Due to this I was suddenly arriving at my destination hours and hours before I was scheduled to as I was being driven by my wife's schedule combined with my own, resulting in some very long and unproductive days.

But I have an idea about how to move forward and I'm taking the first steps of that tonight.  Here's to that one frustrating inch.

Capstone Ideas

Senior capstone is going to be the death of me.  I need to have a full body of work developed and ready to show by April.  This doesn't seem like a lot but the process to get there is going to be quite the trip. 

So what am I thinking about?  Right now I'm very interested in composite and tableau style photography.  Until recently my efforts in this direction haven't been very skillful but it's an area I'm actively practicing and learning about.  There are some amazing artists that I've become obsessed with, especially .  The way he manages to visualize things that existed only in his dreams and imagination prior to making is just impressive.  The way he processes the reality he captures photographically into these amazing composite artworks and each shot has a story that the viewer can discover.

But the question is: what do I have to say?  I've been keeping things at arms length for a long time in my work because looking at myself isn't pretty and I like making pretty things.  I enjoy getting Ooohs and Aaahhs from the crowd but when I look at who is doing the oohing and aaahing I see that they're not necessarily the artists that I want to look at my work and approve.  So the surface level aesthetic work needs to be discarded in favor of something that has a meaning.  I'm not a very political person and I have a tendency to resist being told what my work should be about which is why my military focused sets have a very cold and impersonal feel to them.  To me, that was a very impersonal part of my life.  I don't see that as being part of my personality.  It's something I did, not something I became.  Being a navy air traffic controller was no different to me than being a waiter, working at a fast food place or being a cheesemonger.  They were jobs that I worked and then went back to my life of being me. 

Looking back at my life, however, I start to see things that upset me. I feel that, at each crossroad in my life I made a choice that I wanted to lead me to Point A and yet somehow I'm over here at Point C.  I can see others who tripped and fell into success, those who were born into success and other things, but I look at my life and worry that I've misstepped but I can't tell where.

So right now I'm looking at anger, frustration and mediocrity.  The fight to raise myself above the level of my birth and family and the failure to do so.  The phrase I was offered was the Failure of a Man.  what it means to be a failed man and just how common yet isolating that is.

Another surreal photographer writes about her work in terms of self portrait as expression and healing.  She uses her work as therapy to work out her inner demons, though those are my words.  I think that's the direction I want to go right now, forcing myself to look at the kinds of things that I normally look away from.  One of my great defense mechanisms since I was a child is to turn away from a hard truth into a more inviting escapist fantasy.  When I was young it was books and games, now it's shrugging, laughing it off and turning to something more ideal.  

But the big issue here is: how do I show this in a still photography?

An intro to posting

Fair warning: these blog posts will not be pretty, will likely not be entirely coherent or informational.  They will be a window into what I'm working on, what I'm thinking, in progress work and who I'm looking at.