Week 10.

November 7, 2011

1.  Stephen Marc discussed public art using his own work as examples of ways to make photographic works that benefit the community, can be produced large scale, and gave tips to help us make winning proposals. Stephen emphasized that a large body of work can take years to produce, and may never be complete. With his Transatlantic Railroad project, the final product was a published book–but complete pieces (digital montages) can be submitted for public art proposals, sold separately, etc. The act of going out and making work–interacting with many people in many cities, if done with the right attitude, will open up new opportunities in the future.

Stephen’s working process is very interesting to me. The use of digital montage to selectively take aspects of images and piece them together in a particular context is quite appealing to me. He combines photographs he took of people, photographs of historical photographs, photographs of historical documents, and photographs of historical places. All of these elements are tactfully compiled to compare and contrast the present and the past, and to bring awareness to local histories all over the country. Though I do not plan on traveling the country to photograph with his intensity, it is the use of digital technology to seamlessly layer these elements that I hope to incorporate into my working practice.

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2.  When I was a child, my mom was the designated family photographer. My dad has a history of utterly destroying cameras, either by dropping them on concrete or in rivers. He also has been to known to use trash cans as the foreground for mountains (in spite of this, I actually find his pictures compelling, and he has since developed his use of composition via cell phone photography). We had professional pictures done a couple of times I remember, but the majority of photos from my childhood were school pictures and pictures taken for special events (holidays, birthdays, visiting Grandma, vacation, the first and last days of school, concerts/plays, etc.) I am not sure what kind of camera my mom used, but it was a some kind of simple point and shoot color film camera. We didn’t do much photo sharing, but she would have several copies of her favorites made so she could send one to grandma, put one on the fridge, frame one for dad’s office, etc.

There are fewer photographs of my dad as a kid than my mom–at least that I have seen. My dad had a large family, and lived in a small town in New Mexico. I don’t think there was much of a tradition of family photography in his family, at least in comparison to my mom’s family. My mom’s aunt and uncle never had kids, and he had this beautiful 16mm camera that he would use to document the nieces and nephews and his travels. He got into still photography too, and I think that the family was used to being photographed, and continued documenting events and random moments themselves.

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3.  My mom went to college for interior design, and took a lot of art and design classes. She was the main picture-taker of the family. Sometimes she would dress me and my sisters up so that she could take a nice picture that she would give to my dad for his birthday. Or she would photograph us (the kids) in front of a building or mountain or wherever it was we had traveled to on a road trip, or when we moved she would take pictures of the house. Her main concern seemed to be the tasteful documentation of special moments, events, milestones. By the time I got my first digital camera, way back when, I became the designated family photographer (because I was always taking pictures anyway. The problem was, I was usually too distracted by everything else around me to take pictures of my actual loved ones! This has sort of changed, in that I deliberately photograph my family so I don’t miss out on my opportunities).

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4.  My old family photos bring me back to times that I hardly remember, and to memories that I cherish. Since most of our family photos were during high points, the good times or when we were emerging from a transition (moving), looking at them brings positive feelings. It’s when I began photographing my own experiences that I remember more details about the situation that sometimes include negative memories. For example, times I took pictures and family members had been arguing, and even though they are smiling like all is well, I remember what happened outside of the frame.

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5.  Now, I am the primary photographer in my family. Sometimes this is a lot of pressure, and it is super inconvenient that my family lives all over the country. However, when we get together I always take pictures of everyone, and usually hand off the camera for a group shot. My middle sister takes a lot more pictures now, since she got married and was missing out on family photographs she got a camera. Her pictures resemble my moms in that they are usually taken to document special events, when everyone’s dressed up, or travel. We don’t use film for family photography now, and cell phones are actually really important for our documentations of experience. We send each other pictures via email, and sometimes I give my family photo cds (my photos take up a lot more space than emails allow). Now some photos end up on facebook, but we don’t post everything (except my sister, I think she posts almost everything from a particular event). We definitely take a LOT more pictures than ever, since digital pictures are nearly free to share via internet, and you don’t feel quite so bad when the pictures don’t turn out well. There is less risk, less cost, and good quality digital photos have never been cheaper to produce.

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