Two Girls in Dresses on HP5

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Want to know a secret? I hate photography. I read the absolute minimum required to function each camera and film that I buy. I hate reviews. I hate specs. I hate numbers. I hate metering. I hate directions. I hate manuals. I am, in essence, an anti-technical photographer averse to the learning process. Which is why I am consistently drawn to point and shoots like the Polaroid SX-70, Holga 120N and Canon Sure Shot.

For me, emotion is principle. Composition is principle. Being able to press click at the decisive moment is what draws me back to photography over other mediums. Tuned into my sixth sense, I rest. This is my therapy and sauna and self-care package. Where I sleep; my bed. I applaud every person and personoid out there who thrives on the camera-as-machine model, who can perfectly calibrate their instrument to catch the wings of a hummingbird. But to inhabit that process makes my skin crawl. I have one aim alone and it’s an emotional one. To capture the Thing and keep it.


I recently heard a designer say of his work, “I like the shittiness” in regard to skipping some Photoshop smoothing process that designers know about. I thought yes! We Like Shittiness Club. This roll was horribly overexposed (I forget what I did since I never write things down nor actually learn) but that ended up lending a nice nostalgic grain to them. This roll is split between walking around the grounds of our neighborhood, candid shots at home and some seated portraiture. I am drawn to untouched nature. I am experimenting with how to document our daily lives on film (likely a few rolls of HP5 on Canon Sure Shot a month?). And I’m always inspired by a formal sitting, where the subject is a contributor. Since I haven’t shot that way in a long time, I decided to try it out again.

My sweet big girl. She was excited to do this. Afterward she “took my photo” after I had already emptied the roll. “Now close your eyes,” she instructed me like I had done to her. This girl is aptly named — Vivian, full of life. Participation is her strength. We had fun making these.

Eleanor “shh”ing Eeyore. I know you’re not supposed to have a favorite child, but at this point it’s out of my hands. I truly adore this baby/girl in an unrelenting way. Perhaps because she is still nursing. Perhaps because she may be my last baby. Perhaps because 18 months — 2 years is a golden age of blossoming of words and identity and wearing “packpacks” and sunglasses.

I shot this roll on the Canon Elan that my mom got me at a garage sale for $10. It does the job. I was experimenting to see if I’d like to leave the world of SLR forever, and I think the answer is yes. Although after scanning I often think, “shoot. I wish I had more control here.” I never wish for the process while shooting. Point then shoot is the most intuitive possible format for me; everything else feels bulky and makes me feel like a paparazzi (mamrazzi? which is worse?) while out. These are self-scanned. Woot woot!

Can we all raise our hands in hallelujah for HP5? There’s something about this film. I think it feels a lot like the photos in my dad’s photo box, especially when contrast is low. It gives me what I’m looking for: memory felt.

A with love

Cozette On Holga

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Holga, Holga... sweet, sweet Holga. With the level of love I have for these images Holga will be the name of my third child.

I became intruiged by Holga after perusing galleries on Flickr. But just like with most films and cameras that spark an interest, I see forms that compel me, but rarely the content to match. That was how I got started on SX-70 - seeing flowers and adult portraits and thinking, "photographs of children would be incredible in this form." So also with Holga.

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For those new to this camera, it's plastic. It feels like a cloud in your hand. It makes you feel like nothing can possibly be happening when you press the shutter. Which is a loud tink before you manually advance the film. It has less heft than a disposable, if you can picture it. It's called a toy camera for a reason. 

Have you seen that documentary about rock 'n roll with The Edge, Jack White and Jimmy Page? The Edge is the technician; equivalent in photographer terms to the gear-head with eight lenses for photographing the bald eagle that passes over an obscure rock formation 80 miles from his house once a year. It's about the detail. He is master of form. Jimmy Page is the soulful one. Like a traditional, old-school film shooter, he feels the ins and outs in his bones. He understands the blacks and whites, dodging and burning. He is the old dog. And then there's Jack.

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Jack shares a bit about his background (coming from of a family of 10 kids) and how thrift and ingenuity were central to his self-described low-income background in Detroit. It formed in him a passion for sound made on completely elemental objects. Remember making a guitar from string and a tissue box in kindergarten? He's that dude. And as a photographer Jack White would be using old brownies (he probably does), box cameras, and definitely, absolutely a Holga.

Although it does have a few manual controls, its a point and shoot. You the artist are dependent entirely on your eye, your heart and your skill to produce a photograph. There are crude, wonderful symbols atop the lens of one person, three people, a group and a mountain. Hard to mess up. As a maker, I absolutely thrive in these conditions. I love constraint. I love the nausea (yes nausea) of shooting film, especially knowing I only have 12 frames (or 10 in this case, because I accidentally overwound it at the start). 

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I once read in an Instagram post from a mother, "I am proud of how we are raising our kids." The thought was straightforward and beautiful. Pride in her work. I have tried to live in such a way where I can say that phrase to myself at the end of the night. Like life, it waxes, it wanes. I have found the same to be true with my work. But I am aiming for that goal, to be able to say: I am proud of the work I made. I feel that way with this roll, and for that I am grateful.

I took a different approach with this set. I asked a friend if I could photograph her daughter and paid her in flowers and gummy snacks. I made a shot list, half of physical starting points (like hands up or hugging yourself) and half of emotional states (small in a big world, light and shadow). Working this way draws out an entirely different skill set than I ever developed with digital. Of course the great benefit of digital is being able to click away, being highly responsive to your environment almost as though you're shooting video. A blessing and a curse.

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With film I have a different workflow. I intend. The work is not documentary, it is not reactive. It is composed. A specific end is sought. One of my husband and my's favorite movies is Ratatouille (we love animation, okay?) in which the antagonist (a food critic) says, "If I don't love it, I don't swallow." Not only is that a good modus operandi in life generally but is also my filmic philosophy. If the composition is not perfect, I do not press the shutter. Naturally, this causes quality to rise.

I remember watching an interview with well-known wedding photographer Jonas Peterson in which the interviewer asked him, "So what do you shoot for fun?" He replied with a smile, "weddings." I loved that answer! I saw the clip during a time when I was still shooting families on digital, clawing for a justification to keep going when I found it grating at best. I would soon realize that it was because shooting families gave me access to the thing I love to photograph: children.

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During this shoot there was a moment when I saw the light coming through my subject's hair. How can I describe the feeling? If panic were a good thing. Not bliss, not inspiration. A must-move-fast elation. An electricity, a happy panic. Photographing children on film is what gives me this delight. I have been thinking about why. Because of the juxtaposition I think; the innocence of childhood with the grit of film. Their great potential and great vulnerability. And film's tactile, worldly roots. A visual diary of curse and promise.

Do you shoot Holga? As a new convert, I am on fire for it and will try to convince you if you don't. That is, if you like dream-like imagery. If you connect with imperfection, distortion and filmic vignetting. And if you use photography as a portal, not to another world but to the world we know most intimately: feeling. 

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A with love

This Desert I Call Home

When I moved to Cave Creek from New Jersey (The Garden State) in seventh grade, I remember heading east on Carefree Highway and hearing my mom say, "This is it!" When I squinted I could see houses dotted in the basin of brown mountains. Some huge, imposing mansions halfway up and near the tops. No stores. No trees as I understood the term. I had never seen a saguaro before. 

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I hated the landscape for a good long while. The smell of creosote after rain (which I now love) made my sister and I gag. It took time to acclimate to the heat. To wear the right thing. To drink the right amount of water. To not walk, not take your bike, but definitely drive during five months out of the year. Elias showed me the washes.

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Although I lived in a development, many of my friends lived on dirt roads through thickets of mesquite and palo verde and prickly pear and jumping cholla and the usual suspects. Some of the houses were model homes - unique but sterile. But some captivated me, like the adobe homes in Mexico would do years later. I came to love the chalky, porous feel of saltillo tile on my feet. The sound of a car crunching rocks on the dry gravel. The small ranches erected in the 50s - when there was TRULY nothing here - that's the kind of house Elias lived in.

His dad was the mayor of Cave Creek when I knew him. That shouldn't conjure what normally comes to mind. Vince (I was to call him this, not Mr. Francia) was a passionate conservationist; noticeably, intimidatingly, warmly smart like his son, my friend. He smoked. He wore dated glasses. He had a wife named Amelia. They didn't have a dishwasher. I loved that house and the desert around it. It taught me how to feel cozy here; how when the sharp and harsh flora grew untamed, it could encompass a property with its arms. 

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Cut through the desert landscape are a series of washes. Before moving here I didn't know what that meant. Jagged, v-shaped tunnels with no top zig-zagging everywhere, everywhere. And when the rains came they would fill with fast water. But for the rest of the year I found home in them. I would sit in them and write in my journal. Smoke cigarettes stolen from my friend's mom. Burn poems about lovers. When I got older, we would hang out there was a crew and smoke weed. No phones to distract us from that most meaningful pursuit. And when a runner or someone walking their dog would show up in the distance, we'd run. Can you visualize it? It's a long ditch.

Somewhere in those ditches and on the roof of Elias's house (where I meditated for the first time - something my blue collar family would have laughed at) I fell for this inhospitable place. It doesn't welcome you like grass; you can't sit or lie down comfortably here. It's a sojourners beauty. Best interacted with by hiking. By ascending to mountain tops and looking at the rolling mountains like waves. So much housing, perfectly gridded streets. But in the desert - silence. Peace. Quiet, perservering life.

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Vince worked to preserve this place - Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. I have hiked here as a teen cleansing myself from the battery and yelling of an alcoholic house. And it worked. Step, step, step. I have photographed here during college, using filters and modeling and having no bills but rent, food, gas and a cell phone. And now I bring my babies here to play in the creek when - against all possible odds - it sometimes fills with warm rainwater.

As I experiment further with film, I am learning how to match form and content according to my voice. When I have shot black and white 35mm of children, I have sometimes found myself wishing it were color. Polaroids befit pretty much any setting, but I try to use them strictly for artful ends instead of family documentation. There's something slightly sacrilegious to me seeing regular family happenings (like eating an ice cream cone) on SX-70. But if that same cone were being eaten in miraculous light - the $2.25 photo is miraculously justified. I tend to favor digital, consumer films and instax for memory-keeping.

These photographs were shot on Tri-X 400 using the $10 Canon Elan my mom got me from a garage sale, with the considerably more expensive Canon 24-105 L lens. The polaroids were shot on my beloved SX-70, who never fails to transform the quotidian into instantly drippy, meaningful memory. My intent is to shoot each readily-available 35mm film and as much rare, experimental and expired stock I can get my no-spare-money-for-extensive-film-hobby-but-somehow-I-press-on hands. Although people, portraits and the human story are my main photographic material, the urge to explore place is equally as strong. This is the desert I call home.

With love
A

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More Disposable Please

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CAMERA: ILFORD XP2 SUPER SINGLE USE

FILM: XP2 (C-41 PROCESS!)

Hi world. When I made up my rough, scribbled stuff-to-try syllabus for 35mm, disposable was at the top of the list. Come to think of it, a disposable was my first camera (which I loved, dearly). But when I took this one out of the package and felt it's non-weight and plastic-y advance wheel I was a little underwhelmed. So very used to the heft and commandeering metal of my vintage cameras I made a pretty quick tactile judgement against this instrument. Sorry friend. When I got scans back I repented.

The distortion, the grain, the marks that say "this was a physical object. A long coiled strip of reflective brown film." The more film I shoot, the less precious I am about pressing the shutter which feels delightfully transgressive. This will be an object forever? So what? I'm graduating from that shaky chihuahua who shot my first roll like I was on a desert island. With a gun pointed to my head. Take your pick of high-pressure your-life-and-the-lives-of-those-you-love-depend-on-this tropes. That was me. 

Shooting while mothering. Kind of like pushing two opposing magnets together, but I am learning to relax. To have Matt to take the stroller and run (pictured) and walk off by myself to breathe in some silence from which to See. Because I had underestimated this tiny plastic box, I shot half for family documentation and half for lowercase a art. Seeing now what it's capable of, I have dreams of laughter close up and faces pressed together with eyes closed. Not much different than my usual dreams, actually! But picturing them on this crackly film has more of these cameras in my Amazon cart.

Allow me an ode to this youngest of mine, whose climbing onto rocks then screaming out for help tops twenty times in a row on a good day. She doesn't yet have full grasp of our family rule, "only climb up if you can get down" so there she hovers over the rocky lava of the desert, pitiful, screeching and adorable. She has truly come into her own will this month, and hiking by herself gives her intense satisfaction. She walks ahead, looking back to confirm that it's okay. Go forth, Eleanor!

What I like about this film/body setup is the way it captures the harsh Arizona sun. It's still uncharacteristically cool for March right now (perfect this-is-why-I-live-here-80-degrees) but this BW captures the heat of the day. The cloudlessness we live under (a metaphor for life buried in there no?).

I'm still in that honeymoon stage with 35mm where I just like to see how something looks photographed. Cactus? Yes. Mountain? Hell yes. I haven't yet settled into that comfort and familiarity where I need to exert more effort to be satisfied. But it's coming. The light was high and harsh for these, and expectations low. Perhaps that was what felt actually experimental about this roll. Just shooting. Just hiking. We went on another hike recently and I got Most Ansel about my landscapes. I wanted them to sing. Not so for these. Just pictures. But film, film! You elevate the casual into something more. Verdict: more disposable please.

A with love

Portra, Motherhood & Fields of Light

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CAMERA: CANON ELAN

LENS: 24-105 L

FILM: PORTRA 400 RATED AT 200

 

As a mother I'm often told, "You've got your hands full!" At the grocery store, at the park. If I dare to venture to a small, quiet place that is not the library (note to self: never do this). And it's true. Full hands are occupied; I can't carry other things. Full hands are tired from a load. Awkward in life when the hands are needed - using a foot or an elbow instead. Vision obstructed by the fullness. Peering over what I carry while walking. You've got your hands full! A platitude that can even come off as an insult at times, but at it's best captures a beautiful reality. The opposite of loneliness. Like hands full of money, hands full of love letters. Hands full of film! I'm busy, I'm tired, I can't focus well; but I carry a burden of tremendous value.

Do you photograph well when traveling with your children? We booked an Airbnb in Flagstaff for our anniversary (eight years!) but the girls got sick. Like, no other human should deal with their snot at this stage type of sick. So we packed up their pea coats and brought them along, happy for the change of plans. Photographing them at home is easy; each of us in our familiar space and routine. But while traveling I find it difficult to enter either space with fullness - photographing and mothering. I find the modes totally opposed; mothering as an active, talkative, entertaining, need-meeting mode. And photographing as a silent, open, receptive and importantly solitary mode. As a remedy I take my camera out during specific intervals in which my husband has full command of the girls and their needs. It helps.

For this experiment I shot Portra 400 at one shutter speed (1/125) wide open, hoping again for an easier method than external metering. I rated this roll at 200. Approaching my kids space to take a reading is something I cannot get used to, having shot polaroid and digital for so long. The good news - it worked! The light was tremendous at this particular moment. Diffused by pines and brightly reflecting off the grass. Using one shutter speed enabled me to just shoot - focusing on composition and emotion more than mechanics.

This was Vivian's first time touching snow. Can you remember? I grew up with it in New York so I have a gamut of memories: numb fingers and toes, how it immediately turned to brown slosh, lumpy but respectable snowmen, the first snowfall blanketing the houses on my street. Watching it go by street lamps like a swarm of gnats in one direction. But then and now, how it looks was my favorite part. Vivian was thrilled to embody the things we've read about and watched over the years. Throwing snowballs, bravely making a snow angel and hearing it crunch beneath her feet.

These photographs were made in the swirl of chaos that is two little girls, colds notwithstanding. Whining and falling and running in opposite directions and my bag stuffed with other cameras being too heavy. Throwing a snowball directly at my lens (kid!) and needing noses wiped. Overall I'm pleased with how they turned out! It's hard to go wrong in dappled forest light. These pictures were taken on the Canon Elan that my mom got me at a garage sale for $10. 35mm continues to dazzle me with it's handling of light. The forced waiting of film is good for my body, brain and creativity. Waiting for the moment of intrigue, the leap, the laugh, the pinecone found.

These last few images mean so much to me since I have so few photographs of myself with the girls in comparison to the droves of them alone. I am cherishing this season we're in, especially since Eleanor dropped to one nap and we can actually leave the house for longer than a few hours. We have a new dynamic, the three of us. Not mama and Vivian and baby but now Mama and her girls. They play, they talk, Vivian feeds Eleanor cheerio by cheerio and says, "good job, little duckling." Being their mama can threaten to disintegrate my identity at times... it pushes to me to the limit of my physical endurance and then gives the final enthusiastic shove off the cliff. But I am getting used to it. To the tumbling and stretching; the painful yet fruitful work of nurturing these tiny image bearers to fruition.

Aperture Priority + Portra 400

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Hello light lovers,

Let's talk about metering. The prospect of having to use a handheld meter kept me from shooting 35mm for a long time. Because the heart of my work is children in genuine motion I avoid interrupting them too much. But after this roll I can say that along with many aspects of shooting film, I get the results back and realize it's worth the cons, inconvenience and cost. Changing my shooting method feels intimidating, but I'm trying to lean into the discomfort and will do another roll soon metering all the way through. Photographers with more experience (bless you all, every last one) tell me that metering by the book is a season, and once you have experience you can usually guess based on your stored knowledge of lighting conditions and favored aperatures. Fingers crossed!

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Although I've already shot a test roll of Portra 400, shooting it on aperture priority at golden hour was on my list of experiments. This setup was on my list because I hoped (wished) it would enable me to leave the meter at home. But really, I just needed to confirm that a less invasive metering method wasn't a workable option. I know it's limitations in the digital world but want to try it out anyway. It performed as expected: okay but generally unreliable with a tendency to underexpose. I rated this roll at 200.

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Thoughts on this roll: I'm learning how film acts when pointed into the sun. I'm learning to yield to perfection as with polaroid — how to press the shutter only when all elements align: story, light, composition. But when the consequence comes a week later (or two if black and white) instead of right away, I notice my heart gets a little unruly. I grasp — I see magic in my viewfinder and I panic. The digital trigger pace creeps back in. And I'm left with about 30% satisfaction with the roll. I'd prefer arond 99%. 

Although that high of a yield is unrealistic, I enjoy striving after it. The stringent, unrealistic self-discipline of art-making. God knows I rarely apply such a standard in my life! But having a tiny curated room where I can arrange every stick of furniture as I see fit and be as manic as I please... that's satisfying. Maybe a psychological maladaptation to a fallen world (a blogpost for another day, I have maladaptations galore) but satisfying nonetheless. And a close confidante throughout my life. I heard in the trailer for Annie Leibovitz's new Master Class, "Don't be afraid to get obsessed." Don't mind if I do. 

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Thanks for reading, dear hearts. Where are you in your film journey? Seasoned vet? Scaredy cat? I'm smack dab in the middle of those two I think. Bringing 15 years of both experience and baggage to each roll. We get addicted to this feeling, don't we. The feeling of being a beginner. The pursuit, however mind-bending the learning curve. The voice inside keeps singing it's silent song and our fingers must put it to form. Film is the landing place for all of my deepest stories; I get a roll back and think how wondrous it is that there's this opera going on inside my head, with dramatic ups and down, and all I have to do to let it out is press a button.

How To Get Started With Super 8 Film

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Welcome to your simplified guide to shooting Super 8 film. Like most quests, my film journey has had intense highs, low lows and the slow and steady grind between them. Of these highs is the connection film gives me to my senses, the amazing artists I've met so far, and the thrill of seeing my creative intent actualize before my eyes. The chiefest of the lows is the disorganized, frustrating process of getting information known as the learning curve

Part of me has to own that I am averse to the learning process in general. My photographic approach is rather neanderthal: me press button, me make magic now! The process of learning on the internet is disorganized: photographers, blogs, forums. Consider steering clear of the latter if you struggle with anger management, have little patience in general, hail from New York, are a millennial or are all of the above (me).

So! Here is the condensed version of how I got started with Super 8, intended to enable you to start shooting right away leaving the research phase as optional. Although my knowledge of this medium deepens as I go, I like to stay on a need-to-know basis. I learn by doing. You too?

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Step 1. Buy this camera

Two options: invest in a new one like this one or this one. Pros: completely guaranteed to work and will not need servicing. Stellar quality. Cons: price! Or:

Buy an old one from this list. I got mine (Canon 518 Auto Zoom) for $40 on Craigslist. You will likely need to have it serviced although many still work well. I sent mine to  Marvin at Photo Center in LA. I believe I spent $90 on service and about $40 on shipping. 

Step 2. Buy this film kit

I found two main labs that sell and process Super 8 film, both in California. One had a stellar website: Pro8mm. That's the one I went with and have never looked back. They babied me in the beginning and answered all of my questions, bless them. Bonus: self-addressed stamped envelopes, people. Buy their Film Kit from their website or on Amazon, which includes everything you need: film cartridge, process, scan to cloud, return envelope and shipment of your negatives.

Step 3. Shoot and send

Note to self of the past: don't overthink the film kits. Use Bright Sun in bright sun, use Color in good light indoors or soft light outdoors, and Low Light in low light. It really is that easy! I only use auto exposure and tend to shoot in 5 second clips. Once you're done filming, send it to the lab and you'll get a link within a weekish. 

There you have it, the blog post I wish I had come across in the beginning. See a few examples of my work below and feel free to reach out with questions. Creating Super 8 films for families (mine and yours) is a passion I love to share. It captures the feeling, warmth and intimacy of family like no other film. I call it the medium of memory. Blessings to you on your journey and may the learning curve ever-bend in your favor. 

My First Roll of Tri-X 400

Black and white!

Welcome to my first roll of Tri-X 400, shot at box speed with the Canon AE-1. This is likely the last time I will use this beauty of a camera because manual focus + electric little kids don't mix well. My major takeaway from this roll is how my art is dependent on auto-focus and even developed because of it. Being able to capture true motion without premeditation (on my part or my subjects) is my joy. I simply can't get my act together with a rangefinder. And I find the whole process a cumbersome step. Hashtag millennial? Hashtag sue me?

You can also sue me for wishing most of these were in color. While I passionately love the tones of SX-70 monochrome, these made me feel a pang of regret that they were shot on BW. I have found pangs of regret to come with the territory of film. Not only regret but a paper trail of your errors to boot. I believe this to be a good thing creatively. A deterrent and a motivator. To keep seeking after quality, to choose film and press the shutter with extreme care. Experimenting teaches me to be less precious. To shoot, to try, to know by doing. 

My First Roll of Portra 400

It seems only yesterday I used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light.

If you cut me I could shine.

—Billy Collins

 

When you have golden light pouring into a window it barely matters what camera or film you're using. So I credit the sun with the magic of these. And the whispy, untamed hair of these sisters. My first roll of Portra 400, shot on aperture priority. Because the light was strong I could focus on composition with these. Wouldn't it be lovely if that were always the case? 

Welcome to Syllabus

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Remember college? Sweet, sweet structured assignments. I turn 30 in two weeks, which means I've been out of my small, online Creative Writing program for five years. Before that I went to a community school where the world's most nurturing creatives are hiding out, pouring their lives into individual students like me. From 18 till graduation I had a creative impetus other than melancholy and drive; I had a syllabus. 

After the births of Vivian and Eleanor, I had a choice to make. Not whether I would stay an artist at heart, but whether I would stay a functioning artist. A producer. Most of that thinking shut off for the first 18 months of their lives, but right around the time when they dropped to one nap (praise Jehovah on high) the thoughts returned. The subtle knocking at the door. The tugging at my skirt. I have called my creative work my third baby. 

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Jokingly, I often say this baby is dextrous and naughty and dangerously climbs out of their crib at inopportune times. "Get back, baby!" I say. I'm not afraid to whack this baby with a newspaper (I have never had a newspaper in the house, but I really should given this scenario). But this baby is relentless; I've never actually considered giving it up or locking it away. But I have wondered how it will fare as I nurture myself and my true babes; how atrophied it will become under my neglect as I toss it a few crumbs here and there.

Pleasant, right? Enter Syllabus. I posted in Stories recently about how to practically juggle art-making and full-time mothering time-wise. I see no philosophical conflict with the two callings, but a fiercely divided clock. Child-care and adjustment of expectations topped the list of suggestions, and I need both in my life pronto. But the one that appears clearest in my mind's eye is this: work ethic and time management. Wah wah. 

Since having children I've realized how solitary my life till marriage was. As a girl I spent hours in the backyard by myself (gathering rain samples in film canisters and feeling scientific af). As a teen I was absolutely glued to my walkman (hey now) then iPad then computer. I drowned out the emotional rev-screech-crash-fire-rescue of my alcoholic household with music and visual art. I papered my walls with posters and locked the door. I made collages and drawings and wrote for hours every single day. As a result, being alone, making, is my homeostatic state.

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You're anticipating the conflict, right? A deeply held desire to be home with my girls, feeding their bodies and souls each day. But then, the house. The life that needs propped up on stilts and refuses to walk on it's own. The question slowly getting clearer: how much art can Cinderella make in a day? Week? Month? Year? I'll tell you! A good amount provided she is willing to work harder than she has before. I have had to change.

I haven't figured it out. I often stay up way too late to the detriment of the next day. My husband (who knows exactly who and how I am) sometimes comes home and I simultaneously run out the door after inspiration or under emotional collapse, leaving a trail of unfinished business and no dinner plan behind me. I am reading Mary Oliver's Upstream right now where she details (and justifies - woop woop!) the phenomena. Creating isn't all muse and inspiration and voodoo, but for the most part this child is a bad baby; this child does not obey the rules.

Despite my martyrdom, I tend to give baby the side-smile. Her tirades take me from the quotidian and tether me to painters and writers and photograph makers before me. Slowly I am seeing how I can function well in both worlds. Emphasis on slowly, okay? 

Back to college. Assignments! Deadlines! Those great motivators of humankind. In that effort (and as a way to psychologically return to the collegiate landscape though I'm currently not student or teacher) I have created the Syllabus series. As much as I'd like to make this a public service, with delightful offerings for the creative mind, I'm starting in seed form. Small (small, doable) assignments for myself. Challenges to say: you have a window, use it. 

Assignment 01: CREATE PHOTOGRAPHS THAT MAKE ME FEEL WITHOUT FILM

 Taken with 5Dii, edited with VSCO + Lomograph app

Taken with 5Dii, edited with VSCO + Lomograph app

Dear God, this "tampeen!" She loves it not only because it is a giant bouncy surface, but because this is what certifiable big girls do. No matter how many times she falls belly-first (the more the better from her perspective) the experience is one of mastery for her. "I'm doing it!" says that little grin.

My first assignment was inspired by being out of film on an overcast day. Welp, no use picking up a camera today! Wrong. I rely heavily on film + light to tell the story I am forever chasing, so I posed it as a challenge to capture photographs without those tools. What's left? Emotion, action, story, composition, edit. So I gathered the digital tools I have lying around (5Dii + iPhone) and set out to see if my voice could find it's way. 

No matter how much I try to reign in the clicking with digital, it's simply a fact: I have unlimited attempts. I find this unavoidably degrades my creative process; that nervous energy and consequence of pressing the shutter with film makes the cream rise to the top of my work. Second to aesthetics, the confines of the shooting experience is my reason for shooting film. You have to get it right. The sixth sense awakens fully, and you are forced to See.

IMG_5967 2.JPG

Proposal to end world hunger: gather all the apples that children have taken three bites of out of and reuse. After taking these photos and running them through the mill of post, I remembered the bottomless pit of digital editing. How no matter what you do there is still a glossy, grainless surface that covers your photos in saran wrap. After seeing some trending (I could be months behind on this - or years - lightyears) photos on IG edited to look like VHS tapes and disposable cameras (PSA: shooting with a real disposable is magic, spend the $15 and ditch the lie that it's inconvenient) I decided to look it up in the app store. 

When I saw the Lomograph app I was intrigued by the name (no association) the examples and the price (free!). It adds distortion and light leaks that don't look half bad in my opinion. Although the truth of film (book title!?) ever-calls to me and I basically can't be forced to pick up a digital camera these days, the app added an emotional layer to these photographs that I consider non-negotiable in my work. I wouldn't have shared them without it.

  SOOC vs Lomograph app

SOOC vs Lomograph app

Is this a strong photograph because it was edited to look like film? No. It brings us back - to childhood and to Eden, my creative aims - and we not only see but feel. Recall. The emotional brain responds. When I wanted to take better pictures, film was the answer. Film don't lie. Your actions are recorded in chemical form. But a good picture is a good picture, and taking good pictures is what matters to me, what sets my heart ablaze.

In this assignment, I got two portfolio-worthy images using a system I've completely outgrown (5dii + great glass + VSCO) and my phone. The experience was one of force; you must try harder, take more steps than usual to arrive at the same end. But because of my digital process, the waste is abundant. There are only five that struck me of about 100 (this says more about me than it does about digital) and two that I find heart-worthy. Strong. In a typical school that would come out to an F, but this is the millennial school of shooting-while-protecting-Eleanor-from-swinging-girls-and-trampolines-with-no-nets, so I hereby give myself a participation award. 

What about you? Do you give yourself assignments? What should my next assignment be? Film shooters, could you create images that stop your heart with digital? Mamas, what's the secret to nurturing creative and domestic life? Here's my take, copied from a recent Instagram post:

I am comforted by the idea that a creative life only requires doing to qualify. I see, I intend to act and then (eventually) I do. I observe the form I’ve made and react. This feedback loop supplies a quiet dignity amidst practical life; not requiring validation in any form (cough likes cough). I am devoted to the practice, so I create. In this doing I live a creative life. Using this measure (devotion) has been transformative for my work. Stated simply: just make, every single day.

A with love