Sunday, March 11, 2018

Advice from Alex Soth

I came across this article in Format magazine nearly 2 years ago, but I had it buried until now. It's some quick "no nonsense" advice from Alec Soth:

Film or digital?

Alec Soth: Use whatever tools that best suit the project.

Social media: For personal updates or professional work?

Use social media if you feel like it, but not out of a sense of obligation.

Travel: A good way to start new projects?

Travel can be a way to avoid distraction and heighten engagement, but it can also be a crutch.

What’s the best way to approach strangers to take their portrait?

As Wegee said, ‘If you want to be a professional, you can’t be a Nice Nelly.’

Should photographers have a diverse body of work—portraits, landscapes and still lives—or just stick to one thing?

Having limitations is essential, just don’t box yourself into a corner.

Your project with writer Brad Zellar, The LBM Dispatch is a secondary outlet for your work. Would you recommend other photographers to start a project like this?

One of the things I like about photography is that you can have dozens of outlets: books, magazines, galleries, websites, etc. It’s a good exercise to maintain ownership of some of these outlets, but I would find it extremely limiting to put all of my eggs in my own basket.

Part of The LBM Dispatch is collaborating with Zellar. What’s the benefit of building a creative partnership?

Photography seems like a solitary art form, but all art eventually requires some form of dialog and collaboration. Building strong relationships makes your work better.

What’s the differences between presenting work in mediums: books, exhibitions, magazines, etc.

Everything changes by virtue of the context in which it is seen. I see my role as a photographer as not just making pictures, but as engaging with the contextual relationship of their distribution.

Do you plan and research your ideas before starting a project?

I think of planning my work similarly to planning for a road trip. I like to know that there are hotels and restaurants where I’m going, but I don’t like to book too many reservations in advance. I want to feel free to wander around the outline.

Do you have any lasting advice for staying creative, inspired, focused and productive?

Never stop working. When things get tough, try to remember the first time you got excited about making stuff.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Camera Quilt

If you're a quilter and into photography, check out this free pattern:

Monday, February 12, 2018

Favorite Week of Class

Last week was possibly my favorite week in any Photo I class: I call it my "nerdy week."

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Making the Leap"

From Grant Snider:

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Student Feedback

Yesterday, I looked at my class evaluations from last semester at Hamline University. I thought it had been a good semester, and the feedback backed that up: there were positive comments everywhere. This one was the best final note a student made:

I can confidently say that Steve was one of the best professors I've ever had at Hamline University. He was very talented at explaining esoteric ideas. He was respectful to everyone, fair, and hilariously sarcastic which kept everyone engaged with the material. He was also incredibly passionate, creative, interesting, and dorky, all good qualities of an influential professor.

I'm happy to see "hilariously sarcastic" and "interesting and dorky" in my evaluation...

Saturday, December 23, 2017

DMA "Open Studios" Event

The Studio Arts and Digital Media Arts departments at Hamline University recently had their "Open Studios" event. It was just after my finals time at Hamline, so I finished critique, went to get my 3-year-old, and then the 2 of us came back to check out the work. Here are a few photos that I snapped (as I was chasing around my toddler, so there's not many, and they were all quick [AKA: not well composed]):

Map of the corner of campus where the different classrooms/studios/galleries were located.

A wall of Studio C. There was a LOT more work throughout this space.

Some 2D work.

A corner of my classroom with 35 different photos running in a slide show on the screen,
and web design and DMA games on the computers.

Some design posters in the hallway.

More design work.

My little guy checking out work in the main gallery.

More in the main gallery.

Back in my classroom to close out the night.

We were there early, so there weren't many people yet. There was a good-sized crowd outside of the main gallery where there was an interactive piece being set up. Thanks to everyone who showed up, and nice job students! See you in the spring semester!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Speaking at Career Day at White Bear Lake High School

Earlier today, I was asked to speak to a few students at a "career day" at White Bear Lake High School. There were maybe 50-70 other people there to speak about their careers (including Kare11 anchor Tim McNiff). I spoke mainly about being a professor (that's what most of them wanted to hear about), but also a bit about being a photographer.

I just realized that I made nearly this exact same photo two years ago.

I Instagrammed this photo thanking Julie for inviting me back to speak.

I might as well share a bit about what I told them here. After hitting on 8 points that the school wanted us all to talk about (like general work activities, helpful high school courses, skills and abilities, wages, etc), I ended with some of the points below...

My big takeaway for them at the end of my presentations was to that they either need to become THEE most educated in a very specific field, or (more likely) become well rounded and have lots of blanket knowledge in their field. I shared this example: "You could have your Masters and Doctorate on 15th century ceramics from the Ming Dynasty, but it might help to have a general 'Art History' minor or even 'Chinese history' minor. Don’t be TOO specific. Specificity might get you 1 perfect class every few semesters, but being well rounded will get you other classes where you can actually make a living." I told them how nearly half of the 70+ classes I've taught were actually Color Theory or 2D Design classes. I shared a story about a friend who wanted to teach ONLY film photography classes (so that's all she learned), and now she's taught maybe 3 courses in the same time that I've taught 70. There's a lesson in there.

On the photography side, I said I was by NO MEANS a great photographer, but I had tips to share. I stressed the idea of "making your own luck." I wasn't able to share this story today, but in grad school, I was the first to hang my MFA exhibition once the gallery had been prepped. It just so happened that the head of the Photography Dept at the University of Minnesota walked through the gallery just after I hung my work. He recognized my name as I had just recently applied to their "adjunct pool," and he enjoyed seeing my work in person. He told me a few years later that seeing my work up helped get me that job (and I ended up lecturing there for 6 years straight).

Related to that, I shared a story of winning the Golden Light Award and the "Social Document" category over 10 years ago. A senior photo editor from the New York Times Magazine was the juror for that, and because she saw my work, she called me a few months later asking if I could shoot a cover story for them. Umm, YES. And since then, I've completed 4 more projects for them. Had I not kept entering contests and submitting to galleries, I wouldn't have had my work in front of that photo editor, and I never would have done these 5 projects for the Times.

I CAN picture my life without having done those projects for the Times, but I CANNOT picture my life without the 6 years I taught at the University of Minnesota. Those courses really helped set the groundwork for my teacher career.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Grandma's Garage

I snapped this photo of some old dust pans, some hangers, and a nasty drywall stain in my Grandma's garage this past weekend while we were celebrating Thanksgiving:

The dust pan on the left is so old that the telephone number for the Easton Farmer's Elevator is 6. That's it. Just 6.

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