Maggie’s Many Moods in Black and White

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I recently switched from PC to Mac and that means several days of transferring data and setting up new Lightroom libraries with Adobe Creative Cloud. The upshot of the new libraries is I’ve been looking through my archive and finding gems, particularly these ones of my daughter Maggie.  The 5K resolution on the Macbook Pro- and it’s blazing speed compared to my Samsung ultrabook- make it a pure pleasure to work on things, knocking these out with perhaps 10 seconds of editing time each. untitled (130 of 162)

Maggie will be 7 in 2015 and it’s getting to the point where I’m getting a nice narrative of her life through facial expressions and adventures.  This week she figured out how to bicycle without training wheels, and got a ridiculous amount of Frozen and Minecraft merch from Santa.
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One thing my daughter seems to really get is that the best subjects are acting during their portrait.  She just happens to be a “ham” of an actress.  Many of the models I have shot recently haven’t tried to express any emotion whatsoever, not even in a “heroin chic” style fashion shoot, and it’s very frustrating because the images come across as lifeless.

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If you enjoy any of this work I encourage you to like it and share it!  For more photoworks goodness peruse my Etsy shop, follow on tumblr and twitter and instagram, and rummage around on my full site.

DMP Statistics for 2014

I’m always interested in the economics of the working creative person, what works and what doesn’t.  This is a “year in review” of my experience as a working artist/ photographer/ educator.

Teaching:

This was the bread and butter for me.  I added mixed media workshops at a local art store to the schedule, and did a lot of private lessons that were very fruitful.  If you learn a skill while making art pieces, it’s easier to make money teaching that skill to others than selling the actual art.  And let’s say you sell that art- that may be a one time transaction.  Teaching the skill is a limitless transaction.  I’m excited to teach in 2 new venues next year, the Chandler Senior Center and the Shemer Art Center in central Phoenix.

Etsy:

I made 75% of what I made last year on the site, yet the views were way higher and the number of orders were roughly the same.  I can only attribute this to the way Etsy changed their policies and now allow mass produced items like watches on their site.

Of the keywords people search for to find me/ buy work on Etsy, “Futurama”, “fetish photography” “polaroid” “instax” and “viewmaster” are consistently at the top.

Social Media:

My Instagram and Tumblr are around the 2500 level, which is only notable because people often judge you by the surface number of your audience as opposed to actual engagement.  IG works as a super simple launching platform for posts to other media, which means you spend less time elsewhere.  As an indie creator I have to care about building an audience as much as I care about making stuff for the audience of one (myself).

With Tumblr, I’ve become disengaged.  The demographics for Tumblr is largely teenagers.  Posts only go viral if they feature a particular model (mostly Mosh or Sierra McKenzie) or another curated blog picks it up.  Since I can’t make a career out of repeatedly shooting the same model over and over, I’ve made a big effort to have my non-model work get seen on those curated blogs.

Facebook has flatlined for me since they changed the way their posts are seen, i.e. you have to pay for it to be seen.  Twitter, I suppose I use it like an afterthought- tweeting everything when the button shows up.

My music social media Soundcloud is a very tough one to get numbers growing on, same with Youtube, Vimeo and Behance.  Wordpress (this blog) is also painfully slow, though I seem to be improving all the time.

WordPress does have great statistics:  people like when I write about new gear or particular models – Anastasia Arteyeva, Glass Olive and Sierra McKenzie are searched a lot.  The “inspriation” posts are good attention getters because instead of talking about little old me, I’m talking about Queen or Dave McKean or Futurama.

It’s worth having all the social media going because they all cater to different audiences, but they can feed into each other (instagram posts to fb, twitter and tumblr, youtube and vimeo host the music videos and tutorials that go on behance and play the soundcloud tracks etc.).  It feels like an out-of-control octopus at times but that’s the way it is in 2014.

Photoshoots:

I decided early on to not seek out craigslist-type shoots and focus on making the art photography that interested me.  To put it business-like, I did not want to dilute my “brand.”  As a result I only did a handful of family shoots in November, otherwise it was all art and travel photography.

I did around 20 model shoots and I got something out of each one, though I found myself working with a lot less experienced models and don’t want to repeat that again.  When you have limited time and resources there’s no point in making dull stuff.

An unusual set of events this year involved the “fallout” of the shoots.

1 model complained I posted an “aggressive” photo of her

1 model did a nude bodypaint shoot and was still cleaning up when her mother arrived and walked into the bathroom.  I wasn’t around when that happened but I did have a good laugh when I heard.

1 model had me retract her working name from all work and foreswore future art modeling due to threats from her family.  Another model had a similar thing, where her model name was something she branded her music with and she had to deal with a stalker.

1 model altered a photo I gave her for posting on social media.

In 2015 I’m going to experiment with shooting agency models and continue working with the freelancers I already know and love working with, but it’s pretty unlikely I’ll do any more model mayhem-type stuff.

Exhibits:

There was a group show in LA at the start of the year and exhibits locally at the Tempe Library and AZ Opera.  The Tempe Library led to some good press naming me one of Phoenix’s top creatives.

Galleries:

I joined the Mesa Arts Center Co-op and have been finding my feet as to what work actually belongs in this particular gallery store and how best to present it.  One of the issues that has come up a lot is that much of my photography is over the line for public display- not enough G rated material.  To this end I’ve had to create a lot of images printed and framed that are either brand new/ specific for the gallery or older but never got placed on canvas.  This is a more recent development so I don’t have much in the way of statistics, only when I sit at the gallery I see the kind of people who come in and hear their comments.  Definitely the kind of people who are interested in pretty things and not irony/ quirky/ “edgy” things.

2014 Photoworks-in-Review

2014 was a very good year for me.  It was the second year of not having a day job, and many of the bugs that occurred in 2013- like not having enough workshops scheduled, or having months with no work and no art sales at all- were more or less taken care of.

Photography-wise:

I did around 25 model shoots, same as the previous year, and most of them were piled into particular trips.

Two weeks were spent in my wife’s home country of Macedonia, where I was able to actually do the immersive cultural-type photography when one has money to travel and can speak the language.

I’ve been fortunate to be exhibiting as a solo arist or with just one other photographer rather than buried deep in group shows.  Photos were exhibited at the Tempe Library for 4 months, a downtown Phoenix gallery Capture 12 and currently at the Arizona Opera.

Stylistically I did a ton of mixed media photography, particularly the xerox transfer style which evolved into a series called “Sketches.”

Virtually all of my gear has been replaced and upgraded- from the Fuji X-E1 I bought last December to the Fuji X-T1, to a set of portable monolights and lots of grip gear for video, portable LED lights and a Macbook Pro.

I’ve even been able to get some of my older photo work properly printed and exhibited for the first time- in particular, my Western Zen series taken at Japanese and Chinese gardens around 2008.

Video also became a huge part of my output.  I’d been hampered by my war horse Nikon D700 having no video function, but the Fujis sorted me out and I made dozens of music videos, tutorials, and video art pieces which have been littering my youtube and vimeo channels.

I did attend my first creative conventions as an exhibitor in Kansas City and Phoenix, though those weren’t particularly successful, I feel like it’s part of the growing process and I’m proud to have done those things.

and in other creative avenues…

For once I released an Artificial Human album through Amazon and iTunes, which turns out to be surprisingly easy. (AH is my electronic music project that I’ve plowed away at for 15 years).  Many of those songs were the basis for the music videos which I’ve been filming.

I made something in the neighborhood of 100 ceramic masks.

Inspiration + Influence: Dan Winters

Note: this was originally written in 2010 on my previous blog.  I still love Dan’s stuff though!

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image by Dan Winters

 

As I venture into portraiture I am looking at some of the big modern names in that field– Dan Winters is one of the most accomplished portrait photographers around.  In a recent interview on the Candid Frame, he talked about his history and of working with basically no real setup and no assistant, doing whatever he could to cut costs, and also how portraiture was the one avenue of expressive photography that would pay the bills and be creatively satisfying.  It’s the kind of stuff I need to hear these days.  I think stylistically, some of the images on his site where 2 vertical 4×5 images are paired to make a standard horizontal image seem like something I may try as I burn through the rest of my 4×5 film.  Dan is an illustrator as well as a photographer and I really appreciate the dual skillset that I hope to blend in my own art.

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image by Dan Winters

 

Keeping it simple in B+W with Sierra + Briana

Most of my favorite photographers are black and white portrait guys- Sebastio Salgado, Ralph Eugene Meatyard and Richard Avedon being the first 3 that leap to mind.  I definitely gravitate towards b+w portraits in the fall and winter months.  Where I grew up in Nebraska, you’d have weeks of gray skies that sucked all hope out of the universe; in the Phoenix metro where I live, you merely have cold that seems at odds with how bright and clear the sky is.  I still feel gray in these seasons.Sierra vogue

The image above was shot early October 2014 with my frequent collaborator Sierra McKenzie in Seattle.  It was all natural light, a 35mm Fujinon lens (50mm equivalent on a DSLR) on the Fuji X-E1 before I upgraded to the X-T1.

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This image was done with my Nikon D700 in February 2013 with model Briana Rambo.  It has similar qualities as the Sierra image.

There’s a lot I like about this image and the one below (and believe me, I don’t like everything I shoot or bring to completion) and it’s worth breaking it down.

Simplicity- it’s one subject and no clutter to the background, just patterns within the foliage/ wall to support the subject.

Tonality- there are a wide range of tones with each element- hair, skin, eyes, leaves, jacket- defined separately

Emotion- the model isn’t blank or fake.

Makeup/ hair- all done by Sierra in her photo, which is superb, but it also helps keep a shoot feeling low-key.  I’ve done shoots recently where someone on set expected instant publication or other great things, and it doesn’t work like that, so the smaller I can keep a crew the better.  The Briana shoot utilized a wig but makeup was done by Briana.

Timelessness- I think it’s hard to place when and where these were taken.  One could say bangs like these are reminiscent of the 1950s and 60s, but I’ve met so many modern people with that hairstyle it seems like it could be any time.

If you enjoy any of this work I encourage you to like it and share it!  For more photoworks goodness peruse my Etsy shop, follow on tumblr and twitter and instagram, and rummage around on my full site.

How to use watermarks in Adobe Lightroom

Another in my series of short but sweet Adobe Lightroom tutorials- this time, about adding watermarks (both text and graphics watermarks) to your images during export.  This topic is one of the most common ones I’m asked about during my workshops and it’s super easy to do, but many photographers don’t take advantage of watermarks.

If you enjoy any of this work I encourage you to like it and share it!  For more photoworks goodness peruse my Etsy shop, follow on tumblr and twitter and instagram, and rummage around on my full site.

Inspiration + Influence: Wil Wheaton

One of the first names that comes to mind when I think “famous bloggers” is actor Wil Wheaton, who came to prominence in Star Trek:TNG as Wesley Crusher alongside films like Stand By Me and The Secret of NIHM.  The main reason I’m blogging right now in 2014 is because in 2003 I met Wil at a convention and asked him about how one gets started blogging.  It’s comical now that I felt like I had to ask someone how to start a blog, but remember, this was 2003- just the dawn of the blog era, and it seemed a bit mysterious and techy then.  Wil referred me to Blogger and I kept a photo blog going there until around 2010, at which point it felt kind of old timey compared to the new-fangled Internet 2.0 or whatever they called it when FB and Tumblr and all the rest took over.

Wil is still an influence though.  He has a recurring audience who came to him on the back of his paid projects, but stuck around for his insights, humor, and personality.  In other words, he gets to be Wil Wheaton all the time and the audience loves him for it.  Very few people enjoy such freedom.  Someone like Kim Kardashian is rich and famous but also hated and constantly stalked by paparazzi.  If Mel Gibson were himself all the time, he’d lose what audience remains for him.  Wil still works, acts, does voice overs, still writes and creates- and has his own audience without corporations sponsoring everything- and still gets his privacy and normal home family life.  It’s basically the dream of the independant creative in 2014.