Defining Success

May was a rough month for my ego.

At the Frieze art fair I came across a couple of photographs that were ringers for work I’d been making and showing over a decade ago. The same weekend, an article in the NY Times pointed out a show of works based on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. An optimist might have seen the affirmative glass half full perspective of my work being on the mark of contemporary art zeitgeist. My ego saw the glass half empty perspective of others getting attention for work either years behind my own or less good. (I realize the egotism inherent in even writing the last sentence. Leave it.)

Another recent NY Times article told the story of Leo Bates, an artist who felt similar stings back in the 70′s and reacted by renouncing the art world and retreating to a storefront in Park Slope to continue painting in private until his death a few years ago. That takes some incredible will power. I’ve always said that my interest is primarily in making my own photographs for myself and a small network of friends, family and close associates. The article on Bates in combination with the sting of seeing others getting attention for work similar to my own has renewed my thinking about how I define success and what I want to do with photography.

This is perhaps why the blog’s been quiet lately: I’m turning things over in my mind. (And my impression that no one actually reads the damn thing might play into the quiet, too–what’s the point of howling into the wilderness?)

There’ll probably be a couple of posts in the not too distant future about these thoughts, some recent commissioned shoots and a few other tidbits.

With that, I’ll leave you with a recent photograph from onthego.photos that has nothing to do with any of the above:

Clouds at night

The Swap

Stuart Pilkington has put together a new project: The Swap. I contributed a portrait of Todd Forsgren who contributed one of me. The page to see our pair is here.

To MFA or Not to MFA

I’ve had this discussion with a number of folks, and the arguments for one side or the other never seem to get any less compelling. Seems this topic is of as much interest to writers as photographers.

The key question any aspiring photographer (or writer) ought to be asking is “What are my goals or my vision of success?” More specific answers are more useful. This kind of question helps to clarify what benefits an advanced degree might bring, what might be provided by simple workshops or of simply working for years in the field.

A couple of cool images at Phillips

The auction house Phillips is having auctions of photography this evening and tomorrow. I popped into their galleries to check out the photographs that are headed for the auction block. There were a couple of images that stood out for me:

1. Nobuyoshi Araki’s A/FILM 6×7, 2007 was mightily impressive. I could have spent the entire half an hour I spent at Phillips looking at just this one piece. I didn’t because I didn’t want to seem like a lecherous lout leering at all the naked ladies. There were plenty of naked ladies, but also lots of more mundane images. The plethora of 6×7 transparencies mounted between two sheets of glass was at once big while also intimate. The entire piece held space as a sculptural object while the small images pulled one in close to examine each. And there were naked ladies.

2. Richard Avedon’s Audrey Hepburn, New York, January, 1967 was unexpected and weird. Particularly with the maquette accompanying the finished print, it was far more interesting to see than “The Family”, which is also up for sale.

3. Catherin Opie’s Untitled #8 from Freeway, 1994 was probably the only small print from a contemporary photographer. The only other small prints were Helen Levitt’s and, in their way, Araki’s transparencies. Most prints were in the range of big to gargantuan. The soft curves of the overpass, small scale and pretty tones of the platinum printing process made for a really beautiful piece. It was also one of the few pieces I though, “Now this I could see in my home…”

Correct Type

This is a great resource with lots of practical typographic information.

To keep this post in line with photography, here’s some type in a photograph:

Orange letters, red letters, blue wall; laundromat

make it blue

The NYLMA held a panel on Visual Differentiation yesterday that was very well attended. Andy Edelstein moderated the panel, which comprised Janet Odgis (Odgis + Co), Fred Loessel (Debevoise & Plimpton) and Gerben Hooykaas (JP Morgan Chase). The panel started off with a rather hilarious look at how blue is so prevalent in legal marketing; it seems to be everyone’s color scheme. This is not differentiation. From this intro point, Andy took the panelists through a host of topics including typography, visuals (photography and illustration) and color palettes. All in all, it was a highly informative conversation.

Quick takeaway: think twice before you make it blue.

#NYLMA #VisualDifferentiation #NYC #LegalMarketing

Random note: Potterton Books

This morning I was early for a meeting. Very early. I circled the block a couple of times before deciding I’d just kill time sitting with a cup of coffee at the coffee shop where the meeting was going to be. Upon entering the building, my eyes locked onto the word “books.” Yea! A bookstore. Problem solved.

On the 4th floor of 200 Lexington Avenue is the recently relocated New York City outpost of UK bookseller Potterton Books. Focused on design, decoration and architecture, the shop is a glass cube surrounded by other glass cubes filled with furniture, lighting and decorative design. It is 180 degrees from the building in the photograph of the original North Yorkshire shop. In operation, it is very British: Organization is loose. Pricing is often unmarked. There is no computerized catalogue. It’s a bit incongruous, a charming old-fashioned shop in the very modern space.

There is a small selection of photography books. I wanted the copy of Mrs. David Bailey, but $175 was a little too much for an impulse purchase. They also have what appears to be a new copy of Diane Keaton’s Mr. Salesman from Twin Palms Publishers also caught my eye, though it was unpriced. And the owner wasn’t there and there’s no computerized price list and so I can’t buy it. Supposedly they’ll text me the price when the owner gets in, but they’re not sure if she’ll be in before noon when I need to head to my next meeting…

So, it’s a charming bookshop but a frustrating one.

Update: Robert, the chatty and knowledgable sales person, got back to me shortly before noon to let me know the price. I was able to get back upstairs to pick up the book and pay via an old fashioned chunk-chunk credit card machine. Awesome.