Saturday, December 30, 2006


This weekend, I’ve been working on cleaning the room known as “the guestroom / Steve’s storage room / Steph’s room.” I stumbled across my resume and artist’s statement that placed my work in it’s first official show - it was a show in a small gallery in Northfield, MN. My “Achievements/Awards” section of my resume consisted of these 5 things:

• a gallery showing (which was not a juried show; anyone who submitted work got in)
• teaching (voluntarily) an art class in my old middle school
• an academic scholarship
• being a Sunday School teacher
• being inducted into the National Honor Society

AND, to top it all off, my 8th grade teacher was listed as a reference at the bottom.

Good times.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Divine Intervention??

This morning, I posted how I was questioning the way I divide my time - wondering if I was spending too much time teaching and too little time making photos. Well, on my way home from a spinning class (yes, I’ve been known to go to spinning classes now and then) I caught the tail end of a story on Minnesota Public Radio about National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg. I don’t really care for his work, but I always like to hear from photographers regarding their opinions on the current state of photography as well as their random photographic stories. Even though I’m not a fan, I think we have a lot in common: we both photograph Minnesota (albeit much differently), we both could be more articulate about our work.... well, maybe that’s all.

Anyway, fate stepped in after I had been listening for just a few minutes. Jim was talking about the changing scene of working as a photographer for National Geographic (a very different world from the one that I work in, but there were still connections). I listened to what he said while parked outside my house, and then ran inside to write it down immediately:

“Just take pictures for fun, folks. Don’t try to make a living at it. Trust me. Trust me.”

Now I’m not saying that I’m throwing in the towel. I’m not done making photos. I’m still going to play this balancing act of teaching and shooting. I’m just as confused as I was a week ago. But the interview and the words that were spoken felt timed too perfectly, as if someone wanted me to hear them. Interesting...

Random Thoughts of Late December

If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been making much work lately. Well.... I haven’t been making any work lately. I’ve been sending work out, applying to contests, etc, but I haven’t picked up a camera in a serious manner since my residency in Red Wing.

And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Spring semester I’m signed up to teach 5 DIFFERENT classes. It will help with the hope of a new home for Sarah and I in the next few months, but it won’t help my photo life. Or my sanity.

Don’t get me wrong - I really like teaching. I initially went to graduate school with the intent of teaching afterward. But now I feel like I’m not doing my photography career justice. I feel like if I could devote more time to making and promoting photos, I could go somewhere with my work instead of using my work as a way to get teaching jobs. But spending much more time on my photo career could be a pretty big gamble, and for how open-minded I am, I’m still a realist. And the realistic part of me says “Don’t squander your time away making pretty pictures.” I don’t know.

Speaking of making lots of work, check out Alec Soth’s photo blog. And, go get his (fairly) new book, Niagara. His work is great, and he’s simply a superb fella.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

December 9th: Anderson Center and CVA

The Anderson Center in Red Wing is having a one-day "art blowout" this Saturday, December 9th. I have 5 new photos from my Red Wing series in the show. Stop by and see them if you can; I’ll be there during the first part of the event. Here is what’s said about the event on the Anderson Center’s Website:

"December 9: Holiday Celebration of the Arts, 12 p.m. - 7 p.m. Highlighting the work of over 55 artists, writers and musicians. Open studios, music, art and book sales, demonstrations, food and refreshments. Unique holiday gift buying ideas!"

If you’ve ever driven from the Cities down Hwy 61 to Red Wing, you’ve been right past the A.C. and probably never noticed it. It’s on your left and has this big tower:

The same afternoon, Saturday December 9th, The College of Visual Arts in St. Paul is having its First Annual Holiday Art Sale. It is held at the CVA gallery in the Crocus Hill neighborhood of St. Paul. Here’s what CVA says about it on their website:

You Are Cordially Invited
to the
First Annual CVA
Cash and Carry
Holiday Art Sale and Silent Auction
Saturday, December 9, 2006
From 2 to 6 p.m.

CVA Gallery
173 Western Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102

Silent Auction Concludes at 5:30 p.m.
Proceeds benefit the CVA scholarship fund
and CVA gallery programming.

In the CVA sale, everything $200 and under is priced for immediate sale. Anything over $200 will be put on the silent auction. I currently have 2 framed pieces in that sale that are VERY REASONABLELY PRICED! (One for sale and one in the silent auction.) I may be putting a few more pieces that are not framed into the show as well, but it’ll be a busy week and I’m not sure I’ll have time. Anyway, in you have time, PLEASE stop by CVA and support the school and it’s students. Tell a friend! It should be a great event. I hope to be there from about 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. if you want to stop and say hi.

Oh, and lastly, MCAD had their MASSIVE Art Sale this past weekend. They sold $166,000 worth of art work in the first evening! All of that was sold in only a 3 hour time period! They had a good day on Saturday as well and ended up selling a total of around $233,000 of art. Amazing. The CVA sale is not nearly on the same scale as the MCAD sale, but it will still be packed with great art ready for your walls!

Friday, December 01, 2006

How We Learn

We Learn...

• 10% of what we read
• 20% of what we hear
• 30% of what we see
• 50% of what we both hear and see
• 70% of what is discussed with each other
• 80% of what we experience personally
• 95% of what we TEACH to someone else

-William Glasser

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Since the NY Times article was published, I’ve been hearing from old friends, new acquaintances, and complete strangers. The response has been very warm. I just want to send out a big "THANK YOU" to everyone who has taken the time to send a little note or to inquire about my work. It’s always great to hear from anyone. Thanks for the notes.

Also, here are a few new places my work appears online:

The New York Times Magazine
You need to be a member and login to see past articles.

Golden Light Award Winner Gallery

CVA Faculty Highlight

MCAD Alumni News
Photo Program Gives Alum Its Top Award

Award Leads to 'NY Times' Photo Shoot

Kevin Sisemore’s Photo Blog
Random appearance on a strangers blog.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It’s Officially Official...

At 9:33 a.m. this morning, the Fed-Ex man arrived with 10 copies of the NY Times Magazine that will be out tomorrow. My image was on the cover. I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw it, and now I can say that I have seen it.

Go out and purchase your own copy tomorrow (Nov 19), but to hold you for the next 12 hours, here’s a small version of the cover and the table of contents page (the places that my 2 images appear):

We’ll see what happens next. I have no idea. This is virgin territory for me. Maybe it will be the start of an uphill career; maybe it will be the start of my dive into the gutter. Only time will tell.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

New York Times Cover THIS WEEKEND!

I received an e-mail from someone at the NY Times this morning asking for my address so she could ship me some copies of the Magazine this weekend. I was confused. My story wasn’t coming out until the first part of December, right? Well I guess not. It’ll be out this Sunday, November 19th. I found out 4 days before my story was going to be pushed back that it wasn’t coming out when expected, and now I’m finding out 4 days before it hits news stands that it has been moved up a few weeks. That’s the way it works I guess.

My photo will be on the cover, and I’ll have another photo that is inside on the Table of Contents page. They didn’t use any of my photos along with the story. I was assured again and again that it was not because the photos were subpar. The reason (and I hope I’m not giving away any NY Times secrets) was that we only photographed one family, but the story talks about many families, and the Times didn’t want to only use images from 1 family along with the story. At least that’s what I was told. I was told it would all make sense when I see the magazine this weekend. We’ll see.

So, bottom line, go purchase a copy of the New York Times this weekend because my photo will be on the cover!

Check back in the next few weeks for stories about how all this goes down.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Am I Insane?

A few months ago, I agreed to teach 4 classes next semester. I was offered another class at the U of M, but I couldn’t because it overlapped with a class that I already had on the books. Last week, John Marshall asked if I could teach a Photo I class at CVA. I’ve wanted to get into the photo dept at CVA, so I simply could not say no.

But that means this spring I’ll be teaching 5 classes. And they are 5 DIFFERENT classes! Media I and Media II at MCAD, and Color Theory, 2D/Digital Design, and Photo I at CVA.

AND I’ll be training for my first Ironman Triathlon.

Holy crap. I need to spend all of winter break working on projects, lectures, and syllabi. I’ll try to make photos this spring, but I will probably take most of the semester off from shooting (unless it’s triathlon related - you KNOW I’ll be turning my training into some sort of photo project!).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Headed Home, Sitting in LaGuardia

I grabbed a town car to get a ride to the airport. I was worried about the NY City Marathon holding things up, but we made it in plenty of time. On the ride, I mostly looked out the window and took in as much of NY as I could in the final minutes of my stay. I looked forward and paid attention to the road twice, which was not a good idea either time. Both times, I nearly saw death.

The first time, I saw the driver of my car try to burn past a nice family of 5 as they were trying to merge onto the freeway that we were on. He just got by them quickly, almost pushing them off the road, and then he cut over into the left lane, just barely in front of another vehicle. I thought we were going to send that family to their grave.

The second time I looked forward, we were driving through a construction zone. I immediately saw those signs with flashing numbers that tell you how fast you’re going. This one read:

Speed limit: 30. Your speed: 69.

Ohhh crap. Time to stop paying attention again. What I don’t know can’t hurt me, right? Check the seatbelt...good.

And I thought driving in the Twin Cities was nuts. It’ll be good to be home.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Day 3 in NY at the PhotoPlus Expo

Today started with a bang. Literally.

I had another great night sleep, but I woke up with stomach pains from all the food I ingested yesterday. Somehow, the mix of an omelet, Chinese food by the pound, 4 Dunkin Donuts (Four? What the hell was I thinking?!), pizza, and a sandwich from the Hello Deli did not sit well with my lower intestine. You know what they say: What goes in, must come out.

Well, I got over it and headed to the Expo. I got to the photo expo too early, so I walked through the marathon expo that was happening in the other half of the convention center. Now I was picking up free running crap to pile on top of my free photo crap. But the good thing was I was handed 3 Snickers Marathon bars from one booth. One of those made a good breakfast that sat well with my stomach. They’re like Power Bars with that slight hog-feed-like taste. For some reason, I’ve always enjoyed that taste. Maybe it’s that it brings me back to my good-ole, farm-raised days. Now, I’ve never tried pig feed, so don’t even ask. Dog food: yes. Cat food: sure. But you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

I also had time to pick up a New York Post and did my first ever Sudoku puzzle.

After temporarily leaving the Expo, I grabbed a quick pretzel on the street. The bottom was rock hard, so I only nibbled off the top.

OK, back on track. I headed back to the convention center and had a portfolio review by Suzanne Sease , which was very helpful. Thanks Suzanne. Then I was able to meet photographer Colin Finlay who had been part of a roundtable discussion that I attended on Thursday. I attended a few more small lectures and talked to a few more people/vendors. The expo closed late afternoon, and I walked back home. I had time to quickly sprint to the International Center of Photography near Times Square. (Note: have you ever tried to sprint down 7th Street toward Times Square on a Saturday evening? CRAZINESS!) The woman at the desk thought I was a student, so what the hey - I saved 2 bucks.

After that, I found some advertising space for sale in Times Square (look to the right side of the image):

This space cost me $37,000
for 19 seconds of publicity

So I leave NY tomorrow early afternoon. My stay has been nice and productive, and I’m ready to head back to the Cities. However, I need to cross the marathon route by taxi tomorrow, and I’m afraid that it will take FOREVER. We’ll see. Thanks NY City.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Day 2 in NY at the PhotoPlus Expo

Had a solid night sleep last night, and it was HARD to get up. My feet are beat!

This morning on the way to the Expo, I stopped at B&H. Yes, THE B&H. It’s like a Mecca for any photographer.

It was how I envision Heaven.

I arrived at the Expo early, and met a few vendors. I also was able to meet Elizabeth Greenburg, the director of the Maine Photographic Workshops. We had communicated over e-mail before, so it was nice to put a face to her name. I went to a Photoshop lecture, and then to a roundtable discussion about the images of 9/11.

Adobe Lectures

I ran back to my hotel room, but before that I stopped by a buffet where you pay by the pound. Delicious.

There’s sesame noodles and
peanut chicken under the rice. Yummers.

I walked up through Times Square and stopped in on the New York Times. I wanted to meet Kathy Ryan, the senior photo editor who awarded me the GLA a few months ago, but she wasn’t in. But Joanna Milter, who I worked with when I shot the Gay Fathering story for them, was there and she was kind enough to give me a quick tour of the Times photo department (it’s 6 cubicles in a corner - real glamorous). She introduced me to many of the other photo editors and photographer Justine Kurland who was shooting a story for them. Thanks Joanna.

One more important New York stop to make: Rupert Jee at the Hello Deli.

He’s just as awkward in person as he is on Letterman. But him and his wife are really sweet, and they make a mean Shaffer sandwich:

After filling up, I headed back to the Expo for a lecture by Martin Parr. I never pictured him to look so normal:

I had some extra time, so I walked to the Empire State Building and had a look from the top.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day 1 in NY at the PhotoPlus Expo

I’m safely in New York, staying just kiddy-corner from Madison Square Garden. Today was great! I listened to a few small presentations at the Expo capped off by a round table discussion on Photography and Social Change. This Expo is much different than the Portfolio Reviews at Review Santa Fe. In New Mexico, I was able to meet and talk with other photographers much easier than here. But I expected that. PhotoPlus is more about seeing new products and attending lectures and workshops.

Before the roundtable discussion, I thought I saw Joel Meyerowitz walking in the convention center. I stalked him for a while - all the way out onto the street. He was talking with a young woman the entire time, and I was trying not to butt in. I finally was able to get a word in, and it turns out that it was Joel. He was a nice man. He took one of my postcards (the first one I gave out in NY!) and he had some nice comments about the image. We talked for a few seconds about working for the Times.

Earlier in the day, I hit a few tourist attractions on a quick walking tour: Madison Square Garden, Penn Station, and Times Square. I now have photos of Times Square that look just like anyone else’s photos of Times Square. I also ate at Virgil’s BBQ (which was GREAT) and had a big slice of pizza at La Bella Stella on my way back to my room tonight.

My plate after a huge burger jumped into my belly.
Notice the "napkin" is really a towel.

Time to sleep...sore, sore legs.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

14 Hours to My NY Flight

EARLY tomorrow morning, Sarah will be dropping me off at the airport. I'll be on my way to the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City. Two bits of bad news though:

1. The NY Times Magazine cover was put off until Dec 3 (see last post). If it hadn't been put off, it would have been the current cover image while I was out in NY, and that would have been a spectacular thing to discuss with other photographers.

2. I just found out earlier today that the show that was to highlight the Golden Light Awards at PhotoPlus is ALSO being delayed a month or 2. Now, my work that won the GLA won't be up at PhotoPlus. Even less to talk about with the photographers at the expo...

Well, whatcha gonna do. I'm still going to make the most of it and hopefully make some good connections and meet some great people. Bon Voyage.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cover Story for the Times: I've Been Bumped

It’s going to happen, just a little bit later. And it’s all because the war in Iraq...

This is how I feel about the war and the current presidential administration:

So full of rage

If you’ve been reading anything on my blog over the past 2 months, if you've talked to me in person in the past 2 months, or if you’ve stepped foot in CVA (my undergrad school) which has been over-hyping this for promotional purposes, you know that I’ve been doing some work for a cover story for The New York Times Magazine. It was supposed to be printed and on shelves this weekend, 3 days from now.

I just found out (literally minutes ago) that the Gay Fathering story that I made photos for is going to be postponed until December 3rd. The Times is doing something quick about the war in Iraq. Great...yet ANOTHER reason to be against the whole situation over there. So this means I have another 5 weeks to be nervous about how these photos will look (and if it will even run). Crap.

I know things like this can happen, and it's just the way it goes. I've told Sarah all along that I won't believe my photo is on the cover until I SEE my photo on the cover.

So I'll direct all my rage at Bush.

Directing rage....

...directing rage....

Done. Good.

p.s. I'm really not that angry of a guy. I'm pretty laid back and friendly. But please, someone, do something about that guy in the White House.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Anatomy of a New York Times Magazine Cover Photo

The following is a rough timeline of events leading up to the photoshoot for a cover story for The New York Times Magazine. They are just random notes on events that took place that led up to the publication.


• August 16, Wednesday: First Contact: Photo editor leaves me a message, phone tag ensues, e-mails back and forth between editor and myself.

What? You want me to shoot the cover? Well...OK...Are you kidding me?!?...

• August 17, Thursday: Phone tag with the photo editor, many e-mails back and forth.

• August 18, Friday: Set up first shoot with the photo editor for the next day. Many e-mails regarding the details of the shoot.

• August 19, Saturday: First Photoshoot: Left residency to drive to a NW suburb of the Cities to photograph for 5 hours at a BBQ get together. Made many photos and earned the trust of the families involved. Drove back to the residency, downloaded, and evaluated images.

• August 20, Sunday: E-mailed the photo editor and the writer.

• August 24, Thursday: Photo editor wants a CD of the images sent tomorrow. Prepared a CD of images and web photo gallery with a note. Sent the photo editor an e-mail.

• August 25, Friday: Sent a CD through Fed-Ex to the photo editor, sent an e-mail.

• August 29, Tuesday: Received an e-mail from the photo editor requesting an EDITED CD, not simply all the images. Spent 4 hours editing images down to a select few, and then prepared another CD with images and web photo gallery.

• August 30, Wednesday: Sent the new CD through Fed-Ex to the photo editor.

• September 4, Monday: Prepared JPEGs to send to the writer so he could have a few visuals to write about.

• September 5, Tuesday: Sent a handful of JPEGs to the writer via e-mail.

• September 19, Tuesday: Spoke on the phone with the photo editor for a long time. She will be flying in for the shoot being the turn-around time is going to be so quick. Received many e-mails from the photo editor of previous cover images from the Times Magazine that had multiple people on them. Wrote her back later in the day.

• September 21, Thursday: Made many phone calls to the members of the family involved in the shoot to try to line up the date for the shoot and a quick scouting shoot. No luck; no calls returned.

• September 22, Friday: Many e-mails between the photo editor and myself regarding contacting everyone. Talked to one person regarding the upcoming shoot that he will be part of.

• September 27, Wednesday: Spoke with the photo editor on the phone to discuss details of the photoshoot. Made contact with everyone by phone involved in the shoot and set up times to scout their homes.

• September 28, Thursday: Scouting Photos: E-mailed the photo editor to keep her up to date. Met at 2 of the homes in the afternoon to take test shots for potential locations for the cover shoot.

• September 29, Friday: More Scouting: Scouted and photographed at the last home in the morning. Made test photos of more possible locations. Edited all test photos and resized them to send via e-mail. Started to look at equipment that is needed to rent for the shoot.

• September 30, Saturday: E-mailed many test shots to the photo editor of the different possible locations. Wrote much about my input and what I thought would and wouldn’t work.

• October 2, Monday: Received a long e-mail from the photo editor with her input on what to shoot and when. Wrote her a long e-mail back with my response and many of my own questions. Lined up a photo assistant for the upcoming shoot. Looked at equipment to rent.

• October 3, Tuesday: Stopped at West Photo to reserve equipment needed for the shoot. E-mailed rough timeline of the upcoming photoshoot to the photo editor.

• October 4, Wednesday: Called everyone involved in the shoot to give them details. Left messages and asked them to get back to me. Talked with everyone by the end of the day. Talked more with the photo assistant.

• October 5, Thursday: Cleaned out car to prepare for photoshoot (I’ll be driving the photo editor to the shoot, and my car is a sty). Shot 2 rolls of film, had them processed, and picked them up - as a test for my camera backs. Played phone tag with the photo editor. Finally talked with her for a few minutes about photoshoot details (what the families should wear, where to eat, what time to pick her up, etc). Complied large list of items needed for the shoot. Met with the photo assistant for an hour and a half to talk about details for the shoot.

• October 6, Friday: The Day the Sh*t Hit the Fan: Lined up Sunday morning snacks for the family. Wrote directions for the photo assistant. Received a frantic phone call from the photo editor because one member of the family that we are making photos of needs to leave the shoot WAY too early. Picked up extra photo-related equipment at the College of Visual Arts and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Bought some items at the Art Cellar art store. Picked up rental equipment at West Photo and purchased everything else that I needed there as well. Stressed over if the shoot is going to happen or not. Talked twice more with the photo editor. Called my photo assistant to inform him of a possible early start for the photoshoot in order to accommodate the person who has to leave early. Whatever happens, he’s on board - thank God! The photo editor called again with final details: we’ll be starting an hour and a half earlier than planned, but all is OK. Everyone will be there. Worked out details to pick up the photo editor from her hotel on Sunday morning. Called the photo assistant to let him know of the change. All systems go!

Holy shit, time for some sleep.

• October 7, Saturday: Played with the strobes to familiarize myself with them (they’re Dynalites - super easy), and tested my cameras with the strobes. Inspected all the rental equipment to make sure everything works. Set almost everything up and took everything down. Called to confirm everything with the photo editor and my photo assistant. Double-checked what time the bakery and coffee shop open in the morning in order to get goodies for the family in the shoot. Made goodies list. Loaded my car with everything, saving room for the photo editor. Slept (not well).

• October 8, Sunday: The Cover Shoot: Alarm at 5:45 am. Finished packing the car. Picked up rolls, scones, muffins, juice (apple and orange), bottled water, and napkins at Kowalski’s. Got a large “thing” of coffee at Caribou for everyone. Picked up the photo editor from her hotel around 7:40 am. Drove to the first location. Pulled up to the house, and the photo assistant pulled in right behind us. Got settled and made photos. Fought with the sun, but I won. Moved on to the second location. Set up lights, etc. Made more photos. Packed everything up. Total time on location: 4 hours, 45 minutes - not too shabby. Took the photo editor to the airport. Talked about what she needed me to have on the invoice. Returned some equipment to MCAD. Dropped off film at ProColor. Wrote up invoice to send to the Times.

• October 9, Monday: Returned the C-Stands to CVA. Returned the rental equipment to West. Picked up the processed film at ProColor. Cut and sleeved the negatives. Printed 2 sets of contact sheets (one for me, one for the photo editor). Went to Fed-Ex Kinkos to Fed Ex the contact sheets overnight to New York. E-mailed "thank you’s" to the photo editor and the photo assistant.

• October 10, Tuesday: Finalized invoice for the Times (or so I thought). E-mailed photo assistant again. Received 2 urgent phone calls from the photo editor. She needs high-res scans FTPed to her in the next day. Received instructions via e-mail for what images to scan and how to log in to their server. Found time to start making scans for the photo editor (although not feeling well). Scanned and fixed up 4 files and sent them along. E-mailed and called the photo editor to let her know. She e-mailed me back; everything looks fine. Scanned 7 more files, fixed them up, and FTPed them. E-mailed the photo editor the list of file names and a couple of questions.

• October 11, Wednesday: E-mailed the photo editor a few questions.

• October 12, Thursday: Called the photo editor to talk about when to send the match prints. Copied scanned files to portable hard drive. Received match print order and amounts for invoice. Printed 7 match print at the CVA digital lab. Altered 2 of the files, saved them in order to FTP them again. Got the prints packaged and ready to Fed Ex tomorrow morning.

• October 13, Friday: Fed Ex-ed the prints early in the morning. FTPed the 2 files that I altered for printing. E-mailed the photo editor.

Over the hill - coast down the other side.

• October 19, Thursday: E-mailed a few random questions to the photo editor. Received a reply and was given the final amounts for a few things on the invoice.

• October 21, Saturday: Finished up the invoice. Made copies of receipts and got everything in a mailer to send to the Times.

• October 23, Monday: Mailed the invoice and receipts to the photo editor.

• October 24, Tuesday: E-mailed the photo editor to let her know to expect the invoice.

• October 29, Sunday: Magazine In Print: The cover should be on newsstands (I say “should” because this is in the future, and I won’t believe it until I see it).

I may update this with actual events once it’s printed. We’ll see what will happen now...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Need a Photo Assistant? Here, Take Mine! He’s Super!

I need to thank my photo assistant for the New York Times Magazine photo shoot, Graham Simpson. He was a great assistant and super with the kids involved in the shoot. In fact, when we were all getting ready to go, the littlest boy came running over to Graham for a hug and a kiss. Everyone in the room gave out a hearty “Aawwwww!”

Here’s the man of the hour in an early exposure/lighting test at the second location on Sunday:

Lookin good in your velcro shoes, as usual

Thanks for all your help Graham. The check is in the mail. Seriously, it is.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Who Says Training for Triathlons Take Away From My Photo Career?

Yesterday, I had no free time. I was running like a madman. I went straight from my first class, to West Photo, to ProColor, to MCAD so I could cut, sleeve, and print contact sheets, then to the U of M for class, and finally to Fed Ex so I could ship the contact sheets to NY. Between each stop, I was literally running from location to location. I had heavy items in tow (laptop, neg boxes, Chipotle burritos), but I could easily sprint to and from all of my stops without breaking into a heavy sweat.

Hooray triathlons - making me a better photographer!

Monday, October 09, 2006

New York Time Magazine Cover Shoot

Yesterday was the big day. I woke up at 5:45 am after not falling asleep until about 3:30 am (a GREAT nights sleep before such a big shoot). My mind was racing all night with lighting possibilities, troubleshooting things that could go wrong before they went wrong, and random nervous tics. I had breakfast, packed the car, and drove to Kowalski’s to get morning snacks for the family in the shoot. After a quick stop at Caribou to pick up coffee for the family, I drove to downtown St. Paul to pick up the photo editor from the St. Paul Hotel. It was great to finally put a face to the voice and the e-mails. She was personable and easy to talk with. I thought someone in her position could be a bit pretentious, but she was super.

We arrived at the first location, and my photo assistant pulled up right behind us. We all introduced ourselves to the family with breakfast goodies in tow. I had met everyone before, but the assistant didn’t know anyone, and the photo editor had just talked to everyone on the phone and had never met them in person. Everyone seemed in good spirits, so we got set to take the first photos in the backyard.

Everything went OK at the first shoot. We had some issues with the littlest guy (a cute three year old) who didn’t want to always be in front of the camera, but we were all patient and worked at his speed. The photo editor helped keep everyone happy during the whole day, which was very helpful. We fought with the sun in every other shot, but everything came out.

I burned through 6 or 7 rolls, and we were ready to more on. We had the cover shot. It was in those few rolls. I was thinking about this later, and I realized that it should have been more of a turning point - knowing that I had the photo for the cover in the bag. But I just kept pluggin along. I knew that if I banked on the thought that I knew I had to cover photo, that would be my excuse for anything else that happened later in the day:

Oh, that light doesn’t look perfect? Well, that’s OK - I’ve already got the cover shot.

The kids won’t cooperate? That’s fine. We can stop. I have the cover shot already.

I didn’t want to say those words. I didn’t want to fall into that trap.

The photo editor and I hopped in my car and drove to the second location. The photo assistant and I set up lights, ran some tests with my digital camera, and got ready for the second run. We started making photos with the new "TV trick" (see previous post) and all seemed to be going well.

Then my heart jumped into my throat, and I actually choked.

My camera back was set in the horizontal position - the position that I always use in my work, but NOT the position that I was supposed to be using for the vertical cover of the magazine. This was one of the potential issues that kept me up the night before the shoot. I was always used to using that horizontal position. So when we started shooting at the second location, my camera was set back to its standard horizontal position, and I didn’t even give it a second thought. I reshot the last roll that I had just shot incorrectly. I thought I had covered my tracks, but shortly after, I was questioning how long the back had been set like that.

It kept me awake yet another night.

Well, today I picked up the film and I think everything is going to be OK. No one’s head was chopped off by the horizontal back, although it’s tighter than I’d like it to be at the top of the frame. We’ll see what the photo editor tells me tomorrow. I sent her contact sheets today, and I hope to hear from her shortly.

Time for bed. More later...

Photoshoot for the NY Times: How to Keep a Toddler Happy

There will be more coming shortly about the photographs that I shot for the New York Times, but for now, I need to share a BRILLIANT idea with all of you. I’m sure this has been done before, but I’m just pretty excited (and proud) about it right now. Yesterday at the photoshoot, one of the boys in the family that I was photographing was 3 years old. He didn’t care to cooperate in front of the camera. The parents were great and very patient, but he was usually quite fussy.

When we moved to the second location, the 2 boys (the toddler and his 7 year old brother) started watching The Lion King in the other room. That kept both of the boys very content while my photo assistant and I were setting up the lights, making test shots, etc. I told the parents, "You know, if there was a TV under the camera, I bet we could hold his attention for a LONG time." I was mostly joking, but someone jumped in: "Well, there’s an extra TV in the basement, and I have another VCR somewhere..."

So we made it happen. This is what the family saw when they were sitting on the couch looking into the camera:

Yes, that’s Scar and young Simba on TV

When everyone was set and I was ready to snap the shutter, my photo assistant would shake a jar of Skittles (right next to my ear, unfortunately) in order to get the little guy to glace upward.


Gotcha. Next shot.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Upcoming Trip to PhotoPlus in NY

Just over 2 weeks ago, I booked a room, bought my plane tickets, and registered for my trip to the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City. It’s spendy, but I just found out that a faculty support grant that I wrote at CVA is going to help me out with about 70% of my costs! I was VERY happy to learn that!

So I’ll be out in NY from November 2 through 5. I’ll be staying in midtown Manhattan and walking to the convention each day. It should be a good (and productive) time.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Postcard Photo

The verdict is in. And I’m going (slightly) against the thoughts of the majority. Here’s the final tally (including the votes that I received by e-mail):

Clydesdales at Wal-Mart: 12
Red Wing Princess: 10
Amtrak Cousins: 8
Mennonite Sisters: 3
Marina Girl: 3
and a few older, random photos that received 1 vote each.

You told me to go with the Clydesdales. I’ve given it a lot of thought and weighed the options back and forth, and I’ve decided that I’m going with the Red Wing Princess photo for the postcard. I’m not saying all the feedback was unimportant, because I REALLY did appreciate all the notes that I received. I just had to make the call myself. I think the photo that I chose is more representative of my work as a whole than the Clydesdales. I couldn’t justify putting the horse on 500 postcards, even though I love the image. Simple as that.

Thank you to everyone who gave me their opinion. Within the month, I can send you a flashy, new postcard!

And on a completely separate note, my money is on Melrose, A.J., or CariDee to take home the title of America’s Next Top Model. The season premiere was last night. But I only saw the first of the 2 episodes. This is my early prediction. Stay tuned to see just how little I know about the fashion/modeling industry.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Postcard Image Vote

I have a gift certificate from Modern Postcards for 500 postcards of one image. The back of the postcard would have my contact info, including the title of the photo, etc. I want to get some postcards printed soon, and I want to use an image from my stay at the Anderson Center in Red Wing. I have an idea of what I’d like to use, but I want to get some feedback. Please look over the following images and post a comment with your vote. Thanks a bundle!

Cousins Waiting for the Amtrak
to go to the American Girl Doll Factory

Clydesdales at Wal-Mart

Mennonite Sisters at a Picnic

Red Wing Princess on the Patio

Marina Girl on the Phone

Back to Teaching Life

The fall semester is well underway. I teach a Digital Photo course at the University of Minnesota, a Media I class at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and a 2D/Digital Design class at the College of Visual Arts. I was supposed to teach a Digital Photo class through the Continuing Studies office at MCAD that was going to start today, but I was told on Monday that not enough people had signed up. That was alright though, because I was getting a little too overbooked. I’m pretty excited about all my classes right now. Let’s hope that excitement lasts a while.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Residency: Last Day and Back Home

I woke up early on the 31st, and went to the Tannery (making leather). I met the president, Buck Foot, and he gave me a personal tour as I made photos. I’m not sure I was able to make anything spectacular.

I packed my car, turned in my keys, and checked out the Anderson Center. As I went up to my room for the last time to check for anything I may have left behind, I walked through the door smiling. I couldn’t really help it. I looked around while smiling. I walked down the steps and out the front door while smiling. I had a great time there, and I had met some great people.

When I left Red Wing for St. Paul, I headed straight for home. I dropped off my expensive camera equipment, took my bike off the car rack, and went into Minneapolis for a meeting with the other Photo Professors at the University of Minnesota. I was right back in the swing of things. It seemed as if I had forgotten about the photos that I had made in Red Wing; I was right back in teacher mode. I couldn’t forget about these photos and their stories, so I knew I needed to start getting them on paper (or in a computer). So I had Sarah drive my car on our way back from her brothers’ football game last night, and I typed for 2 hours. If I met you in Red Wing, and you think I may be writing about our meeting, you can contact me and I’ll send you my version of events.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Residency: Final Thoughts

It’s my last night here at the Anderson Center, and I feel I need to write about it. I’m not compelled to say anything extraordinary, I just feel like I’m supposed to elaborate on my thoughts at this point.

I’m ready to go home, but not ready to leave.

I’m not ready to leave because there is more work to be made; more photos that I need to have. I came here for a project, and I’m not sure that the project is fully realized yet. I’m not sure it exists in the form that I had hoped it would. I’m not ready to leave Debbie’s cooking. Six pm every night, something incredible is sitting on the table. I’m not ready to leave the power of this room. There is a creative energy surging through this building. I can feel this house breathe at night.

I’m not ready to have to go back to “fitting in” time to make photos. Here, I’ve been able to crawl out of bed, grab my gear, and come back when I’m done (or hungry). I’ve been able to talk with the people A LOT more than I usually can. (Side note: I've realized that the stories that are shared with me before, during, and after I make someone’s photo may be important to the work, so I’m trying to remember everyone and what we talked about so I don’t forget. At my presentation last night, a few people commented afterward that they really like the stories I had to tell with each photo, and that they’re not used to photographers giving that much background on each image. They liked it. I’ve been thinking about it for about 4 days now, and I’ve decided I need to get these stories on paper. I tend to forget the details. It’s all just details.)

I’m ready to go home because I’ve worked myself numb. I don’t stop looking for photos or talking with people in town. The other residents comment on how they never see me because I’m always out shooting - never around home resting. I haven’t been sleeping nearly as much as I should be. My calves are burning. My big toe on my right foot is screwed up. My right shoulder is constantly sore to the touch from carrying around that damn camera bag. The skin around my fingernails is raw from going in and out of my pocket for my car keys all the time. I’m ready to feel my bed again; to smell Sarah sleeping next to me.

What’s left to say? It’s been an incredible stay, but my time is up. I have the photos that I have. 1956 to this point. It’ll be well over 2000 after my shoot early tomorrow morning. I’ll spend a few weeks (months) contemplating them, moving them around, adding, subtracting, changing the story around until, hopefully, I can make them communicate something. That “something” is yet to be determined. It will be a thought-filled night tonight, I’m sure. Thanks for being a part of this.

Residency Day 13, 14, and 15

Some portraits from day 13:

Grandma and the girls
headed down to Lake Pepin

Dredging the main channel


On Tuesday, day 14, I had to zip back to the Cities to teach Media I at MCAD. And then I zipped back to Red Wing for a artists lecture at ArtReach. Thanks for the photo Sanjna:

I tried to make some photos before the class at MCAD and after the presentation at ArtReach, but it just wasn’t working. Therefore, no photos were made on day 14. Ouch.

Day 15:

Gumballs at the barber shop

M. D. at Bev’s Cafe

M. D. headed home

Brothers/co-owners in a new bar
that opens tomorrow

Restacking sweet corn

Tomorrow, I have one big shoot lined up, and then I need to pack up and get to a meeting at the U of M. My time here has nearly come to a close.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Residency Day 12

Back at the Blue Moon Café. It’s a bit drizzly outside, but I’m about ready to head out. I had to stop here for the wireless so I could send my syllabus to Katherine and Lynda at MCAD and CVA, respectively.

I didn’t shoot much at all yesterday - I sequestered myself in my room at the Anderson Center for the majority of the day to work on preparing for class starting this week and next week. But I thought I’d take a moment and show you some work from Sunday:

Face-painting clown

Face-painting clown

Dunk tank

Priest with Bingo cards

Sunday evening at the River

I’m still really excited about the Miss Red Wing and Red Wing Princess photoshoot from this past weekend! I think I have something there (check the post before this one).

Tomorrow, I start teaching FND Media 1 at MCAD. I’ll take off for the Cities in the late morning, teach the first class, book it back to Red Wing, and give a presentation of my work at ArtReach. It’s the start of fall - back in the saddle again...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Residency Day 9, 10, and 11

I’m sitting at the Blue Moon Café in Red Wing on a cool, breezy Saturday night. It’s warm in here. I’m sitting with Sanjna, a resident filmmaker/writer from New York staying with me at the Anderson Center. We have our 2 Macs taking up all the space on this little table. There are 3 sixty year old men standing in the corner performing yet another cover of “Folsom Prison Blues.” The café is filled with trinkets and knick-knacks of all sorts: wooden chickens, antique pottery, men with white beards, and stained glass windows. It couldn’t be more perfect. I actually have goose bumps right now due to my current state of bliss. Life is good.

I feel like I’ve had a little photographic success lately. I’ve been more prolific. More is better, right? Although Thursday I was rained out. It poured and stormed starting in the afternoon. My room started leaking at 2 am. I went to the kitchen to get a pan to catch the water and slept the rest of the night with a pillow over my head to kill the sounds of the dripping. Still, I can’t complain. The Anderson Center is a place of magic.

Last night, Sarah came up to spend the night. She went on a 61 mile bike ride today as I was making photos, and then we went on a 5 mile run once she was back. It was nice to see her, even just for a few hours.

Well, enough small talk, I’ll give you what you came here for. Here’s some new work:

Mulching the new grass seed

Waiting to board the Amtrak for Chicago
to visit the American Girl doll factory

Marina girl

Red Wing Stoneware closing time

Purple wall and speaker

Red Wing Princess on the patio

Miss Red Wing

Miss Red Wing getting ready to
start college in 4 days

p.s. The local old men playing honky-tonk just started a song with “I’m an old cowpoke. I don’t use no soap.”


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Residency Day 6, 7, and 8

It’s been a few days. I’ve had a few highs and lows. Where to begin...

Monday, day 6, I started really having trouble with the work I’d been creating (actually, I've been having issues with it for quite a bit now, but it's been in the forefront of my thoughts lately). It’s the same work from grad school. Nothing’s changed. I’m not taking any more risks. I’m getting to a comfortable location (physically and mentally [and maybe spiritually]) and I make my photos there. In that safe place. Nothing new. Everything old and boring. I’m trying to open myself up while I’m here, but this is not an undertaking for this residency. I need to make risky, inventive photos while I’m here, and once I leave I need to start dealing with my working process. It’s not in a respectable place for my work to be. It’s stale.

That being said, here are a few photos from the last few days. This is risky for me to be doing during this residency, because I always need time to fully process these images and decide what is working and what is just dribble. Putting these up days, sometimes hours, after shooting them is tough for me. It’s bearing my soul to all of you.

Waiting for the fish to bite

Smoking at the produce stand

Whacking weeds on a hill

Lifeguard on break

Lifeguard on break

Waterpark by the Mississippi (in the background)

Penny-farthing enthusiast

Clydesdales at Wal-Mart
(it sounds strange because it IS strange)

Red Wing potter

That’s been the last few days for me. I’ve been well. How are you? How are the kids?

p.s. I think the “Quakers” from the Day 5 post were actually Mennonites. I want to write them to ask.

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