Curse of the "LIKE" - 10 on 10 - July 2015

How good (or bad) are we at photography, and what's the best way to cast that evaluation?  Something I KNOW every one of us has thought about, gotten upset about, doubted ourselves about, doubted someone else about, and the list goes on and on.

But before you read this piece that came to me over my morning coffee 30 minutes ago, here's the other folks (including a handful of new ones) that I do this here thing with every month.

Anne Almasy

Anya Elise Photography

Amy Straka Photography

CLB Creative 

Courtney Z Photography

Lisa Hibbert

Pogo Photo

Shaw Photography

Twinty Photography

In the roughly ~12 years since I first picked up a camera, I can honestly say that I've only captured a handful of GREAT photos.  Most of which probably seem great to me for reasons other than just what's in the picture.  Anytime we start to feel like we're getting pretty good at this whole photography thing, 5 minutes on a website like 500px or even Instagram can quickly provide you with a reality check of some things we could probably improve upon.  On the flip side of that, it can get pretty frustrating when you see the most generic fucking ocean photo off the Santa Monica Pier you've ever seen that after 5 minutes has 300+ "likes" and countless comments about how "beautiful" it is.  Meanwhile your truly captivating (and rarely experienced) sunrise photo of a prestine volcanic lake that took days of hiking and a night or two of camping in 20 degree weather is struggling to hit 50 (usually more like 20) after months of being posted.  Example:

I have intentionally blurred out the name of the photographer here who actually happens to be a fairly good friend of mine and who also happens to be an amazing photographer and who would probably be pissed to see me say that this photo is generic and thoughtless, but hey, it's true.  The question in point here is, "Do we judge ourselves based on scenarios like this?".  Of course we could get all scientific about it with some simple math (admittedly, I have) and figure out the average ratio of "likes" I get to how many followers I have and say on average I am getting 20% of my followers attention where as this artist is only getting 5% of her followers attention, blah, blah.  There's actually an app that will do that for you (It's called CrowdFire), haha.

I'll be the first to say it,  this is fucking stupid, right?  Did I not put the right hashtags, did my photo just suck but for some weird reason I thought it was good, am I not reaching the right audience?  The answer here is that the work isn't most important here, social media IS the ART.  This ISN'T ALWAYS true and there are always exceptions but the world we live in doesn't give a shit about quality work, only the game surrounding the work, the path in which your work takes to get to its audience.  Should I try to be less of a photographer but an expert at the art of playing social media in order to get the right amount of "likes" to give me the validation I need to think my photo is good?  Probably not.  I've been lucky enough to have my photos re-shared on accounts that have the audience my photos are seeking where they have gotten thousands of likes while only getting 15 on my own account and for better or worse, I have thought about it enough to realize that there is a formula for "likes" and maybe one day I'll care enough to actually apply that formula or I'll just stop using social media as the bar for my own personal validation.

In conclusion, I make photos for me, to document my experiences so I can be taken back to those moments at a later time.  They are memories that sometimes I even get to hold or hang on my wall mostly due to experimental printmaking that I learned after being inspired by the great Bonny Lhotka and having expanded this into a tangible experience is something only a small percentage of modern photographers do.  Sure, when we put our work out there and it's something that is important to us, we want people to like it because it's human nature to seek validation from our peers and loved ones.

The question remains, is it a healthy practice to compare ourselves to others?  I think it is because without doing so, we aren't pushing ourselves to be better.  A blind man could look at the photo on the right and immediately recognize the level of thought and work that went into capturing it was far beyond the snapshot on the left.

We have to be realists and put our energy towards things that are constructive for us as artists and sitting around asking a question that you already know the answer to because of "likes" is definitely not constructive.

Oh yeah, I have some photos to share!  I went on an amazing 4 day backcountry camping trip all on my own to Santa Rosa Island, a remote island that is part of Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Southern California.  It is completely cutoff from civilization, devices, likes, and all the other shit that distracts us from appreciating this beautiful planet we inhabit.  You have to pack everything in and everything out, there are no trashcans, no fires, barely any freshwater, and no way off the island other than the boat that dropped you off and said "See you in 4 days".  The thing that really blew my mind about this place was how much the weather, light, and atmosphere could change throughout the day and how fast it could change.  It also really depended on what part of the island you were on.  The wind blew at least 40 mph the entire time.  Also evident in the insanely diverse geology and the erosion that it all shows from thousands/millions of years of being exposed to the elements.

Thanks for reading my bullshit about how much bullshit "likes" are.  Hope you enjoyed the photos!

Public Shaming - 10 on 10 - June 2015

Keeping this one short and sweet.  TAR+FEATHER put on a fun event last weekend and here's a few snaps from it.  Live music, art, and community was the general theme.

Here are my other 10 on 10 buddies:

CLB Creative

Courtney Z Photography

Shaw Photography

Anya Elise Photography

Twinty Photography

Brittany Conner Photography

 

Change - 10 on 10 - May 2015

Before the jump into my philosophical spillage, here's the other talented artists I do this thing with every month!

Brittany Conner Photography

Twinty Photography

CLB Creative

Shaw Photography

Courtney Z Photography

Anya Elise Photography

For this months 10 on 10 I'm going to talk about life, and how all of ours are different and what we all want out of this one life we have is different.

Some people gravitate as quickly and smoothly as possible on settling into a routine, something they can rely on and depend on, a security, something they can be certain will always be there. 

For me it's different, I'm a realist, and my reality is that anybody who relies on certainty is bound to be setup for disappointment all in the simple fact that the only absolute certainty we have in life is that one day it will end and everything we experience between now and then is all we will have to look back on and answer the question of whether or not we lived it to the fullest.  The conflict and questions I constantly ask is how do I want to invest such valuable and limited time and what is most important to me as an individual, an artist, not what's important to everyone else.

As a bit of a control freak, surprisingly I love to rock the boat and regularly inflict change in what I am doing or where I am going in life, whether it be on a creative or personal level, I easily (maybe too easily) become dissatisfied with things that eventually seem stale or old to me and this "thing", this drive I have lurking inside of me has lead to a point where yesterday, I delivered what has hopefully become the last freelance project I will ever do working for somebody else.

I've hit a point where my success as a senior visual effects artist, specifically a Nuke Compositor, has become a crutch for me to lean on both financially and systematically to continue on a path that really has no end.  Although this has completely enabled me to do all the other things I love in life like travel, (see, photograph, film, experience) music, adventure, etc...., it was lacking life in and of itself.  I needed something new, something fresh, something adventurous, something questionable, something challenging, something unknown.

This led to the birth of TAR+FEATHER, a production company and collective of all things art and music that I have started with two very talented directors, Jared Varava and Carlton Sugarman.  Along with this has come a fair amount of sacrifice in the foundation I have spent the last 6 years building for myself, although an extension of this base it is kinda like starting over to move forward, not a new concept for me but still a weird one.  Pushing off into the unknown is always a bit scary and unnerving.  One sacrifice accompanying this new venture is a new home, leaving probably the most beautiful home and location I've ever lived in Topanga Canyon to move back to the city, the heart of Los Angeles and existence of the creative community we intend to thrive with.

It is bittersweet, for sure.  Exhausted after over a month of struggling to find a new house in Northeast LA (Echo Park, Silverlake, Highland Park) among the extremely competitive market where it is almost impossible to find something you like without having 20 other people who have found it as well and want it just as bad as you do.  The perfect place came along and everything fell right into place as it needed to for me to get the house, which also came with an extremely sweet and thoughtful landlady which was very important to me.  It basically had everything I was looking for at about 25% less than I've been paying the last 3 years.  After telling my friend the story, she sent me this quote which I found quite fitting to all of the change I have brought upon myself:

"And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -- Paulo Coelho

It's these moments of clarity and comfort within the unknown that reassure me the decisions I've made are the right ones even amongst the occasional doubt or lack of confidence in them.

ABOUT THE PHOTOS:

Ceschi Ramos is one of my favorite artists and songwriters but his stage presence and ability to bring energy to a room of usually die hard fans, is almost second to none.  These photos are quite fitting to the theme of "change" for the fact that he writes a lot about change in society and humanity as well as a lot about personal perseverance through the struggles of change and the ability to push past it to reach new heights.  As you'll see in one of the photos, he has a completely normal hand with 3 fingers and a thumb, hence the name of his label FAKE FOUR INC. and just one of the presumable challenges he has faced in his own life, which probably even pushed him at one point to make it to where he is today.  He didn't get here by taking the safe route, I guarantee you that much!