Thursday, April 30, 2009

This Is A Test.

Here's to hoping this little guy works.

Prepare yourselves. Music will now be a greater part of Sociology and Jumper Cables.
The song has no higher meaning in the context of this blog other than it being rather amazing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Shark Sandwich

Q: Why is MediaStorm so damn hard to use?

A: First, go to a casino. Walk around a bit, maybe play some slots, maybe play some poker, maybe not gamble at all. Then, at the end of the night, get to the door nearest to where you parked your car without circling the casino again at least once. Chances are, you won't be able to do it, unless you have an incredible sense of direction. I realize I just compared a website to a casino. In the same way, MediaStorm puts its own little Vegas syndrome on us in order to keep its grips on us for as long as it can. First, we are bombarded with no less than five stories on the same page, activated by simply hovering our mouse over the boxes in which the stories reside. The menu is hidden from view until you realize that clicking the menu button will provide you with a whole host of options. Following the inevitable clickery that occurs after your discovery, you are either brought to a page with a video and a brief description or a page of text that bombards you with further information. All the while, you're wondering, "Where can I get off this ride?" and "When will I have enough information to be satisfied?" It's almost a tease, really.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Vocal Processors are the New Vocoders.

Every now and then, there's something that completely disarms us. There's always that heady subject that we're convinced is going to end our world as we know it, then somebody comes along and reminds us that we're all fools. In 1992, Dr. Dre released the landmark album, titled "The Chronic", which remains today one of the best selling albums of all time. Dr. Dre and his former group, NWA, are known for being the penultimate gangsta rap group, known for their accounts of the gangsta lifestyle. Though none of them ever had a criminal record beyond basic moving violations, they were considered the most dangerous rap group in America.

Then, one day, a white guy from North Carolina decides to make a cover of the Dr. Dre song "Bitches Ain't Shit", which was one of the finest examples of the gangsta rap style. The cover retains all of the elements of the original song, including all of the the derogatory terms toward women and the gratuitous use of swear words, but also adds guitar choruses, chord organs, lives drums, live bass, etc. The Ben Folds cover takes all the venom out of the original Dr. Dre track and puts in its place legitimate musical production. I will contest that the Ben Folds cover is one of the most brilliant covers I have ever heard. I figured I would share it with you.

Ben Folds - Bitches Ain't Shit (Live)

Many would consider this cover satire and I would agree with them. Some of my favorite photography has involved social commentary in the same way this song does. It reminds us not too take things too seriously. It also reminds us that the taste-makers aren't always the best authority on what art is and should be. There was a time when this song was in vogue. Seventeen years later, it just seems absurd.

I once saw a band play a cover of the song "Gay Bar" by the Electric Six as their final song, before pack their gear up. The cover was pretty good, I'll admit. Then, the next band came to the stage and pointed to the other band and said, "Now we're going to play a proper cover." The first song they played was "Gay Bar", which was better than the previous band's attempt by a long shot. Sometimes, we need to inform others that their attempts are lackluster and unimaginative. Ben Folds informed Dr. Dre that "Bitches Ain't Shit" was exactly that, lackluster and unimaginative and sought to make a better version of the song than had been previously available.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Today, I met with the Hennepin County Sheriff and State Farm to put an end to all the drama surrounding my cameras being stolen. After eleven months, it feels so good to have some kind of closure. For a long time, I was constantly reminded of that Memorial Day weekend and I could never find a way to not be sad about it. When I was cleaning out my car almost a month ago to finally sell it, I had to vacuum up the glass that had been broken out. Something about the vacuum running and all the glass reminded me of driving home that night to an empty house with no power. If you've ever driven on the highway in the middle of the night with all the windows down and no radio, it almost seems deafening.

When the cart was wheeled into the room with my old camera bag on it, it was like all those memories faded and I couldn't even remember why I was sad anymore. It was explained to me that my cameras were likely bartered for drugs. That was actually how they were found. The house that they were found in had been raided in an effort to take down one of Minneapolis' most prominent drug dealers. They were found in the attic, safe and sound.

The insurance adjuster didn't know how to handle the situation, because apparently this was the first time camera equipment had ever been recovered while he had been working in the insurance industry. He allowed me to buy back whatever I wanted at a 75% discount. There's something a bit sickening about buying your camera gear back, but I was so happy to be reunited with them that I really couldn't care less. Today, I am happy instead of feeling like there's an eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room reminding me all the time of that night.

They had found more that just my camera and all I could think about the other people that were going to be blessed with their camera gear again and wonder what those things meant to them. And I would think, "They won't have to despair any longer, they've been found."

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Blissful Beach Scene

Today, I went to Shelter Studios to interview local photographer, Chris Sheehan. Besides having sweet digs (located at 2112 Broadway in Northeast), he also has a lot of insight and experience to share with photographers that are just starting out in the industry. After the interview, he gave me a tour of his studio, which is pretty sweet. If only we all could have our own coved walls and gigantic scrims. Overall, it was a really great experience and I think I was able to gain a greater understanding of what it takes to survive in this industry. Yay, photography!

I've also been shopping around for new camera insurance as I am not particularly satisfied with my current coverage and after the shenanigans they pulled in the last week, they aren't inspiring a whole lot of trust. The only thing that would make this situation worse is if they spontaneously decided to cancel my policy. Unfortunately, the array of insurance options available in the United States is less than inspiring. Maybe I'll move to the UK, just so I can be treated with respect when I file a claim. I'd even settle for a claim handler that actually does their job.

I couldn't find any of the other videos that I really wanted to show off, but don't let that diminish the important of this one. It's fairly basic, but I sure do love my psychology experiments. This video was made by filming the reactions of couples while listening to the song that is featured. It is, in large part, why I decided to attempt the Lovebirds series to begin with, which is a series that investigates what it means to be in a relationship.

Bright Eyes - First Day of My Life

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Keep The Car Running."

In the final manifesto made by the Refused when they broke up, they noted that it was more effective to spread the policy of "The Refused Party Program" if the band lived on as five solo projects instead of one project containing five members. Admittedly, I am not a five person band, but the common denominator is that I have been focusing on one project at a time when, really, I should be working on somewhere around five at a time. The problem, I've found, is that when I do one project at a time, each project gains a new, more evolved set of guidelines, which makes for a stark contrast in the treatment of the imagery. This is not mean I am looking for homogeny throughout my imagery. That is certainly not the case. What I am looking for is a way to let all of my ideas grow with me. If I continue this tedious work of doing one thing at a time, I'll have a lot of time on my hands. The simple fact of it is, I won't have the resources (not of the monetary variety) to continue one project all the time. What I will have, however, is enough resources to continue at least one of the five projects all the time. Hopefully, this will prove to be a good idea.

Also, while writing, or, more precisely, rewriting, this post, I was informed by the Hennepin County Sheriff that the cameras that were stolen from me nearly a year ago were recovered in a police raid last week. The insurance company claims that all items recovered from the raid, including items they refuse to pay out for, are theirs to keep. I was less than amused when the Sheriff told me this and told him to not hand anything off to the insurance company until I speak to the insurance adjusters involved face to face. I'm scheduled to meet with the Sheriff and the insurance company on Monday to put an end to this saga. Now all I have to do is reorganize the pile of papers, now more than an inch thick, to wage one last battle against the insurance company. Wish me luck.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Turn Those Clapping Hands into Angry Balled Fists

In response to "Teaching Photography: Notes Assembled"
Is there a place for zoom lenses in photography, or are they a crutch?
I have a bias against zoom lenses, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that I believe prime lenses are more than adequate in any shooting situation. Zoom lenses are clunky, not particularly sharp, and they're slow. Slow, not only in terms of their maximum aperture, but also in the way that it takes longer for a person to frame up a shot. I have two perfectly functioning legs, which offer adequate zooming functions. As a result of only owning prime lenses, I have been able to act more instinctively with my cameras, which has allowed me to focus on other aspects photograph. Will prime lenses make you an award-winning photographer? No, not by a long shot. It will, however, give you one less thing to worry about. Simplicity is bliss, buy prime lenses.

In response to an interview of Stephen Shore by Tim Davis
Has the rise of print-on-demand services like Blurb diminished the value of the photo book?
Not long ago, it became very cheap to record a broadcast quality album within your own home. This allowed bands that were truly talented to produce and sell their own music. This has led to a very healthy underground music scene throughout the country and has given way to independent labels such as No Idea!, Plan-It-X, Afternoon Records, etc. Unfortunately, it also made it possible for talentless musicians to produce and sell a lot of bad music. The rise of print-on-demand services presents the same problems for photographers. On one hand, it allows talented photographers to make books without having to appeal to publishers like Aperture or Phaidon, which offers photographers a way to spread their creative seed across the land. On the other, it poisons the well with a lot of lackluster art. Which is more important?

Do you agree that photography is a problem-solving device?

We humans are skeptical of just about anything we can't see. Photography has, in many ways, made it possible to create a fairly undeniable way of recording visual information. Of course, we trust that everything depicted in the photographed is as it was when it was recorded and not altered in any way. As a result, anything we see in Time magazine, we interpret as truth, because we trust the photography, but more than that, the integrity of the magazine. So when we see photographs of atrocities thousands of miles away from us plastered across the front page, we have a hard time denying the existence of such things. Photographs also add a level of realism that words cannot properly convey. In this way, photographs are also more efficient. We can learn more in a second of staring at photograph than we can reading the whole article accompanying it. A single photograph can put people in a frenzy and before you know it, people are demanding something (the something is generally not specified or well thought out) be done. In a roundabout way, I do believe that photographs can be problem-solving devices as long as you have somebody competent at the helm.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I Don't Want Solidarity if it Means Holding Hands With You.

What part does honesty play in our photography? Not honesty in terms of representation, but honesty in terms of emotional reactions. How willing are you connect with your subjects? I can understand apprehension, because, after all, we have to be tough guys and gals and don't really like to "put ourselves out there", or are uncomfortable with the idea. Do we honestly expect to produce the same results as somebody who is really willing to empathize with their subjects? I know that a lot of the shoots that I thought were the most fun were the same shoots where I really got close to my subjects, both in proximity and emotionally.

I posted this video to go along with this text, because I have determined that songs by Tom Gabel are some of the most emotionally packed and passion-filled songs I have ever heard. They transcend the gap between simply singing the lyrics and putting yourself in the same emotional state as the lyrics while singing them. As a result, there is a sense of honesty and vulnerability that is transmitted through the music. As a photographer, I can appreciate this kind of honesty. It skirts the edge of being over the top emotionally and simply telling the truth. Then again, sometimes the truth is emotional.

Tom Gabel - Harsh Realms

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Give Me a Box of Your Finest Chardonnay."

This song and video, among others has been influential to the way I think about art, in general. The simplicity of it is nothing new. There have been plenty of bands that have consisted only of a drummer and a bassist. The interesting thing is the sound created when the two meet. The sound created by the bass is not as a result of pedals, synthesizers, or other circuit magic. The sound actually comes from the intentional misuse of the amplifier. In the same way, we, as photographers, cross-process film, shoot with expired Polaroids, make double exposures, etc. as part of our creative process. This is also as a result of the intentional misuse of our equipment. The relatively "avant-garde" nature of the creation of the music and the creation of our images can sometimes be off-putting, but the results are no less valuable, if only for the purposes of experimentation.

Death From Above 1979 - Romantic Rights