Big Al – Conversation

Alec Soth photographed in San Antonio , Texas by Panos Skoulidas , April 6, 2011


On Apr 6, 2011, at 3:04 PM, David Alan Harvey wrote: 

many thanks for the transcribe anna…pictures? d


On 4/6/11 2:49 PM, anna maria barry-jester wrote:

Here you go…
There seems to be a little missing in the middle of the interview…I think a sentence cut off between clips you sent me…you should be able to fill it in very easily from the original file….I noted in bold where I think something is missing below.

Here’s the transcript of the Soth interview….this is unedited…this is a FOR REAL CONVERSATION

DAH – Alec Soth Interview

Nat sound (ringing)

DAH: Let me start with the most recent thing that I found out about, and that is Big Al’s printing. The thing that’s always fascinated me about you, other than your photography which of course is how I knew you in the beginning, is your versatility. I mean I knew your work only with Mississippi of course, Sleeping by the Mississippi, before having met you in person. And then very quickly you became a very popular blog person and you’re involved in a lot of stuff- soft industries as I like to call it. And then we’ve got Big Al’s printing. Tell me about this multiplicity of ventures for you, besides your photography.

ALEC SOTH: Well first of all, I mean, I’m talking to you from Minnesota, and I have this sort of midwestern sensibility in which I think everything is always going to come to an end, and I’m gonna fail. And I feel a need for job security. So the most secure thing has been diversifying everything so I don’t have all my eggs in one basket. So that’s where Big Al’s comes in. But I’ll tell you what led up to that is that I was in Alex Majoli’s place in Italy, and he’s got this set up where he’s got a studio, and then there’s this Chesura lab, which is this group of people that use his equipment, but have their own little printing operation as well as all sorts of other stuff that they do. And I thought that was really fantastic, and so I came back home, and I thought, this has always been an issue, where we have all of this stuff, all of this equipment, um, but it just sits there a lot of the time when I’m not using it, so it just seemed like it makes sense. I mean, the people who work for me use it, but why not have them expand that and let other people, charge other people to use it, you know, make a little bit of money. But also there’s this one guy, his name’s Eric, who wanted to do some work with me or whatever, so he can run that thing, it’s not really my business, I’m not that involved with it, a little bit involved with it, but it just made sense. But I’m not like Mr. entrepreneur, you know.

DAH : Well, you’ve definitely diversified, and of course I’m going to copy you on every single thing. Of course I’ve hated every minute of copying you.

ALEC: But that’s what it is, I’m copying Alex. (laughter)

DAH: I know, I know, he’s got an empire there. But it’s a very interesting model for all of us. So you’re main person I guess who was your printer for your shows ended up sort of creating his business through Big Al’s operation.

ALEC: …A little bit, we had a printer that worked up to a certain size, and then we had to outsource a bigger size. and so, at a certain point, it’s just like “I’m going to buy that printer, it doesn’t make any more sense.” But if i’m going to buy the printer we might as well use it, you know, that kind of stuff.
But the thing is, it was being exposed to Majoli’s way of doing things, which isn’t for me, I mean, I’m not gonna have…it’s like a commune out there. You know, they’re all sleeping in rooms above the studio, I don’t want to do that. I just want to pool our resources. I mean, that’s what it’s about, and when you talk about Magnum, that’s what it’s about. It’s pooling resources.

DAH: Right, is that the modus operandi for Little Brown Mushroom as well, is that the same kind of thing?

ALEC: That’s a little bit different. I mean, Little Brown Mushroom is about having fun. So, and, Big Al’s is, well, who knows what it is, it’s about we’ve got some equipment lets use it. Little Brown Mushroom is about having fun, and making cool things. And it’s not about the art world, it’s not about getting caught up in that, it’s not about trying to make money, and if it makes money fine, if not that’s ok, you know, I just want to break even ideally. But it’s about that spirit of when you’re a teenager and you’re just making stuff because you love it. It’s just remembering that feeling you know. When you get caught up in the professionalism of everything, you can forget about it.

DAH: Oh yeah, it ruins everything, right?

ALEC: Well, it’s a danger, and that’s what I would say about the blog. You know, I started the blog as a retreat from the art world, as a place to just talk about issues, and then all of a sudden it turned into another business, and so I dropped it. Little Brown Mushroom hasn’t yet, it’s still, it’s like we’re just having a lot of fun with it.

DAH: Yeah, it looks like it. Yeah, it’s great. Who did the design work, did you do that or did you have a designer do that?

ALEC: It started off, I mean, I don’t know anything about design. You know, I don’t know cmyk from… I’m an RGB, photoshop, that’s all I know. But I wanted to make little things, so I just started making little zines. you know, the kind of thing where you go to Kinkos, you know, staple-bound little things. And then one thing led to another and I met a designer named Hans Sieger, who lives in Wisconsin, and uh, it all kind of came together in my head. Little Golden Books was something I was interested in, do you remember those children books? They were published out of Wisconsin, and it just felt like something that was meant to be. And so here’s this really cool designer, who happens to live there, you know, he does most of his work in New York, really high end, but he lives in Wisconsin. And here’s Little Golden Books, and merging these ideas. And he works unpaid, he just works just for the fun of it too, he’s just into it, and so we collaborate on it, we print it in Wisconsin which is great. It’s a little cottage industry.

DAH: Yeah, well, that really is cool. That’s interesting. You say that you’re, that this was one of the things, Big Al’s, and then just your mentality in general is kind of a midwestern job security thing, which you know, I understand that. And the other thing is just to have fun and a little bit of an escape from the art world. On the other hand, you’ve busted your ass to make it in the art world. So is it just because…you don’t really want to escape the art world do you? I mean, isn’t that your mainstay?

ALEC: Yeah, that’s how i make a living. Um, it’s not that I want to escape the art world, but I have to keep it fresh, and it’s kind of like, uh, to use a music analogy, it’s like. Ok. Maybe I’m not playing arenas now, but I’m playing big venues. And sometimes you have to just go down to the club, and just play, and play some new stuff for a real audience. That’s what I mean, it’s just like keeping it fresh, you know, and also keeping the experimentalism alive so that you can try things. So maybe you can screw up at the little club with 30 people, it’s not that big of a deal.

DAH: Yeah, everybody loves the garage band. The garage band stage of anybody’s career is THE stage.

ALEC: Absolutely, right. Its just keeping some of that alive is all.

DAH: I understand that completely. That’s a pretty good analogy.

ALEC: You know, I want to play arenas, I mean, don’t get me wrong I want the big audience still, I just want to keep it fresh.

DAH: Now, you’re in the art world, you’re selling prints, you played the arenas so to speak. At the same time, you’re doing some editorial work. That certainly isn’t for the money, that editorial work. So is that just part of the fun thing? Or keeping yourself fresh? Or where does that come in? That’s more of the, why would you be in Magnum in the first place since you’re so successful in the art world?

ALEC: (audio missing between clips???) one iota. And if you think about what that collective artist could be, it’s gigantic. The thing is, I started big al’s last week, and I email some people or whatever and it goes around the little blogosphere. But I ask Magnum to put it on their facebook, and to do a tweet about it, and that’s a lot of people. And, we can access just a much larger audience as a group.

DAH: So distribution is still important, it’s just a different kind of distribution. It’s a twitter, facebook fanclub thing. Plus we bring our own audiences in there too.

ALEC: Yeah, absolutely. And bringing our own audiences into that is something that we haven’t really done, or figured out how to do. Um, but we’re working towards it.

DAH: Yeah, well, that’s what you and I are supposed to do. We’re on the committee. I’m a little bit out of the loop. I saw the note from Jonas this morning, but it’s the first time I’ve heard from him, so. There are a lot of reasons for that. I do wish we were a little more coordinated with those kinds of ideas and thinking, cause I think that if we actually really did get you and jonas and chris and I in the same room, even for a short time, we might be able to come up with a bunch of good ideas that could push us forward. Unfortunately we don’t really have the mechanism for that because we’re all out in different places all the time. That’s the bad part about Magnum. The good part is that when we’re together there’s magic often times. But then we go off in separate directions, it’s very hard for us to stay coordinated.

ALEC: For me, I mean, and I talked about this, I don’t know what’s
(rambling about what part of this conversation will be used)

ALEC: This is a real taboo, but it’s something I wanted to talk about…it’s the club element of it. And I hate the word club, but, I think it’s a significant part of what it is for people. You have this brand, you’re attached to this thing, and these other people, and I think so much of the business stuff, which actually doesn’t work, just gets in the way of all that.

ALEC: The retreat was really successful. And it was like, wow.

DAH: Well, I can see, I mean I couldn’t even be there but I was all over that psychologically from the very beginning because I thought, if I can have the Magnum crowd down here like where I’m sitting right now. I mean, I’ve got dunes, I’ve got water, and I’ve got a great front porch. I’ll just show you (sounds of david picking up computer and walking away). This is where I want to hang out with you guys. I’d like to invite a bunch of you down here, you know (sound of creeky screen door opening), and uh sit on my porch right, and look out at the sand dunes over there.
(sound too faint to hear). I would love it if you guys were sitting down here by the fire, and it would be a great meeting of the minds. The truth is that when I do meet Magnum photographers, like one on one, and on assignment, we really do have a lot of good stuff in common, and I’m sure you found that out on the retreat.

ALEC: The business stuff comes out of it too. I mean, like I said, just going to Majoli’s place, suddenly Al’s opens up 3 weeks later just from that experience. And it’s that kind of pooling of resources, which we don’t even have time for, and that’s how the retreat came about is my frustration that the AGM (??), at least for the younger generation, cause we used to not have to be involved, and now we have to be involved, and it’s just ruined it, where we don’t get to hang out.

DAH: It’s a slug, you never get to go out and just have a beer, and somehow you don’t even end up talking about the business stuff. You end up getting into spreadsheets instead of the business, and there’s a difference. Now listen, I know you have to go, and I think we probably have enough…
…wait, but I have to show you my window, just to see where you don’t want to visit. Let’s see if we can get the exposure right (laughing).

ALEC: I have this feeling that Magnum’s just going to turn into BURN.

DAH; No! I don’t mean…

ALEC: No, I mean it in a good way.

DAH: No, to be honest with you, what I really really want to do is probably quit burn in June, or have it evolve into something else, or have somebody else run it or,

ALEC: I know what you mean, but it’s just that the spirit of it, it’s just like funding Paolo’s thing..No, but it’s just like, that’s the kind of energy that we so badly need.

DAH: I know it, but the thing is what I don’t want to do, and I’m sure that you of all people can totally appreciate this, I don’t want to get so involved in minutia and local politics that it just burns up all of the energy. There’s x amount of stuff that we’ve all gotta do in our lives, we’ve all gotta pay taxes, you need to get your kids off to school, you need to fix the garage door. We’ve already got lots of stuff. And I can’t take on a whole other thing with Magnum beyond a certain point. Anyway, many thanks amigo..

Postcards from America

Little Brown Mushroom

Big Al’s

Alec Soth


423 Responses to “Big Al – Conversation”

  • a civilian-mass audience

    “… it’s just like keeping it fresh, you know, and also keeping the experimentalism alive so that you can try things…”

    “… I’ve got dunes, I’ve got water, and I’ve got a great front porch.”

    don’t we all love them?

  • Damnit, Jeff Hladun!

    I saw the picture and thought “Gunslinger!” Saw Panos as the photog and thought two gunslingers.

    I was going to make a witty comment to that effect, but then you beat me to the draw and shot me off my feet.

    Enjoyed the interview. 98.99999 percent of the time, I feel all alone as a photographer – which is fine in some ways – and that is why I have enjoyed burn so much – besides the chance to look at so much excellent new photography – it’s given me a connection to so many other serious photographers – even if only a loose connection, because I simply cannot engage to the degree and depth that so many of you do.

    Still – I enjoy the connection and now I am connected not only to Alec’s but his ideas. I don’t know if I am clever enough or organized to also copy them, but I will ponder them, anyway.

    I don’t know how it can keep going as it has without David directly at the helm. But I completely believe him when he says it is time for him to go. I have been amazed at the degree to which he has connected with all those who post here, has helped them… even me.

    I don’t know how you do it, David.

    But thank you.

    May June be the start of good new things for you.

  • ..”I feel all alone as a photographer – which is fine in some ways – and that is why I have enjoyed burn so much ”

    yes bill.. one of my first posts on road trips, when i first emigrated to norway, was to that effect..

  • Narelle Autio is indeed a fine photographer.

  • Narelle has some stunnig work. From what I’ve heard, yes, Trent does make his living from street photography. I’ve yet to figure out how exactly, though. I’d buy his prints if I could afford them – I love his work.

    A Burn without DAH will be a very different Burn indeed. I don’t know if that will be a good thing or a bad one (not meant in any disparaging way – just that without that clear ‘leadership’ the group may evolve into something else). Do you think it’s time for Burn? Or just the right time for yourself? Either way, props for taking that decision, but I can’t help feeling the timing may be off for one of the two.

    And I got compared to Q?!? WTF?!? as I believe da yoof say. I’m flattered, haha.

    Yet more long days and nights ahead of me – I’m stoked I got my site up and out there, and I’ll be tweaking that as I go (and as Drupal 7 gets more updated plug-ins added and kinks worked out). But I have two projects for this summer, and I’m looking rather worriedly at how to finance them. One is in London, which is a trek from Liverpool on limited funds, so I’m gonna have to pull all my resources and Q-ness in arranging sofas to sleep on and the cheapest train/coach tickets, too. It’s a long-term project, and I suspect I’ll need to be able to sell some initial images as a story to newspapers to finance future stages of it. Gah! The other sees me flitting between Liverpool and Manchester all summer. I’m hoping to get a little funding behind me there, but it’s all about keeping on top of things. Fingers crossed! (Damn, now I can’t press the shutter properly…)

  • MEGABUS framers.. (sara?)..
    megabus and hostels.. or sofas.. or sleeping rough in russel square :o)
    love the kingfisher sign photo on clicking through to yer wickr page..
    made me miss home..


    on money..

    it’s a mystical and divine force, when the world turns and the universe provides and income for a photographer to do-what-they-want.

    really, a quite lovely and privileged position, where monday morning is looked forward to, the phone could ring any time with any request and 15 or 16 hour days blend seamlessly into life – it does not feel like work.

    ..and then, some days, it feels a bit like being a big-issue seller..
    please buy..
    please buy..
    please pay..

  • `cheers David, I’m trying to avoid sleeping rough, so I’m drawing up a list of people I know in London – starting with friends and close colleagues, working down to people I haven’t seen since my uni days. The idea being, each time I go down for 1/2 week-1 week, but only ever crash with one person for 2-3 nights or so. Try not to overstay my welcome! That’s the bit I’m thinking may be problematic – just arranging it all.

  • Something to share with you guys. A mate linked me to this guy late last night. Junku. He’s Japanese and this is his work on the Tsunami.


    both of you , by coincidence, have large projects in mind…good…love it…please just bear with me this week, because i will not get to either of you…for me to really think about your work, i will need to really pay attention and this week my mind is totally immersed in the Blues…one of the wonderful things that has come out of this community is the time many of us have spent in mulling over projects…

    many of you watched right here as Dark Light of This Nothing by Erica McDonald was born in this comment section…as was Falling Into Place by Patricia Lay Dorsey and Death in Venice by Panos Skoulidas and Brigitte and Bernard by Audrey Bardou and Fighters by Eric Espinosa and Blues, Booze and BBQ by Michael Loyd Young and i cannot remember them all without looking…i hope that our collaborations will meet a similar fate…something done…on the table…essay…book…exhibit…whatever….

    so getting involved closely with serious committed photographers is what i do in addition to yet in concert with my own work…i did that long before Burn and i will do it long after….what i want to do is not waste any time and get right to the heart of projects where i can really make a difference…right now i am going to try, i said try, to make a book out of only one week of shooting by 20 photographers…i will be a challenge…it could fail…but we will all learn something just trying …and surely it will be some kind of testament, some kind of document for this fast disappearing heart of the Blues country…

    so i will take this very very seriously as i do your work submitted to Burn , or if i take you on as someone i can mentor …many photographers need no mentoring and just need a showcase…obviously i try to provide that as well…and some need funding, and we do our best here to make that happen too…point is , please be patient and i will take the time to respond to you both properly…

    after all, this is a family of sorts i would say…somehow, here on the net, where most of us have never met in person, we got something going….a big high five to whatever that is and why it is…let’s not think about it too much, and just go live our passions and dreams…seems like a good way to start thinking about the day no matter what realities may jump in the way….

    last night i was having the time of my life with a few students in a juke joint in Clarksdale, Mississippi….not Rio….not a war….not Marrakesh….only a couple of pool tables, a bar, a Blues combo on stage and about 15 people dancing….not crowded…not empty…just right….we could move….for an hour or so we did a kind of ballet around the whole bit…everybody shooting, getting into the beat, getting into what was coming our way…class does not even start until tomorrow….never mind…we are rockin…gonna do this book…JUKE….

    point is, i was taking pictures last night as if i had just discovered photography…a new toy…seems like that to me….do not want to analyze it too much, but feels lucky….to have that feeling after all this time…in any case, if i can do anything to impart that spirit, that feeling to a few others , then my job as mentor is complete…

    so patience please…i will not forget you…

    cheers, david

  • I can just feel my eye-teeth growing listening to David recount last nights fun :))

  • a civilian-mass audience

    “…point is, i was taking pictures last night as if i had just discovered photography…”

    “that’s the kind of energy that we so badly need.”

    FROSTRFROG,FRAMERS…ALL…he will not forget you…
    ok..on a serious note …
    let’s focus now…
    so many projects up in the air…
    so much fun

    we are indeed lucky…you can’t find often that kind of souls wandering around in the universe…

    P.S…I have a sofa…and I can do British accent too:)!!
    LOVE back to you …

  • point is, i was taking pictures last night as if i had just discovered photography…a new toy…

    Ha, I had the exact same experience. I haven’t been showing any walking around photos for awhile, mostly because I haven’t been walking around very much, which is unfortunate because winter is normally when I’m most active. Been doing a lot of work on projects though, so it’s not been a total waste, but I try real hard not to show any of that serious stuff. Anyway, more like a normal person this year, spring rolled around and I started getting out again, so if anyone’s interested, here’s some photos.

  • DAH – understood, no worries. :-) Still want to see some of those Blues pics tho, once they’ve been edited and the workshop/adventure is over. ;-) And knowing I can ask you the questions I did, even just having that helps me to get closer to a point where I can answer them for myself, which surely has to be the long-term goal, right? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it all when you find a quiet moment, or a 25th hour in the day.

    CIVI – don’t make that offer! I might well take you up on it!

    Right, I’m off to pack – leaving Derby this afternoon to head back to the ‘pool for a little while. The To Do list is drawn up, and I’m looking forward to the next trip… ;-P

  • So, Bob, how do you make it?

    Civi, the granola bars were wonderful; I dont know about the vodka, but it went pretty quickly, so those who drink the stuff must have liked it.

    And the Yankees beat the Red Sox; all is as it should be.

    Has anyone seen the new documentary about Bill Cunningham yet? I doubt it will show its face in this neck of the woods and so I’m wondering if I ought to risk the judgement of the Lord and go down unto Sodom and Gomorrah, although I’m not sure what would be Gomorrah’s stand-in; I dont think the Lord has anything in particular against Jersey City, after all; and see the flick there. I just don’t know if I want to spend $30 just to get there and back, and then another fifteen [or whatever it costs nowadays-the last movie I saw in the city was Camelot back in 67] to see a movie that I’m not going to like. So I am soliciting opinions here, folks.

  • i was taking pictures last night as if i had just discovered photography….in any case, if i can do anything to impart that spirit, that feeling to a few others , then my job as mentor is complete…

    NO way Jose, that we’re gonna let you go off that easy on us, David. You must be dreamin’…. ;-))))

  • :) In three hours and fifteen minutes time it will be Monday round here…

  • Damn I forgot the earth is round;)
    Have a great week Paul, Europe.. It’s not all bout America .. I know.. We are too self centered over here I’m afraid.. Herve is right :)

  • MW…

    I find many times photos grow on me…don’t get them or don’t like them the first time I view them. Sort of happened with your images…Must admit I have problems in accepting walking around photos…I’ve done a lot and usually come away empty handed or despondent…I’ve over the years realized I’m the worst street photographer in the world, it’s a type of photography I struggle with, a mix of apprehension approaching strangers and some bad experiences have left me wary of walking around photos. I personally need a theme to work around and if possible without strangers. I marvel at Framers Intent bus images there is no way I could get away with these photos, physically I’m not the most inconspicuous person so I don’t even attempt to try that out either.

  • I even bet someplace it is already sure some insist it is.. ;))

  • Eva…

    Yes! Right now in Sydney Australia it’s 5:00am Monday morning :)

  • Well Paul, I use the term “walking around photos” pretty loosely — certainly not synonymous with “street photography.” Mostly means some combination of “not project related” and “interesting but probably not gonna hang on anyone’s wall.” But anyway, is it really so wrong to do singles?

    Funny story related to a few of those pics some of you will probably find interesting. The thing where I took them was apparently full of young, very wealthy people — I actually overheard more than one conversation about how their trust funds worked. Anyway, as I was standing in the Martini line, the smell of weed wafted through the room. The young man behind me asked “what’s that smell?” The girl he was with looked at him, like duh, and said it was weed (don’t remember the current slang she used). He said he’s never smelled any weed that smelled like that before. She, apparently not one of the trust fund kiddies, said it was like what her father and his friends smoked, that it was different from normal, that they grew it out in a field or something. The look on his face said ewwww. Wanting to be helpful, I told them that it’s normally referred to as “Mexican.”

    And as you can imagine, every other camera in the joint was a Canon 5D with an L lens, most of them zoom telephotos.

  • Panos.. you in NY?? (Paul ;) )

  • Panos…

    Thanks! I do my very best everyday to make every single day brilliant one way or another…you never know if it will be the last…
    Sorry for being so gloomy but that is the usual way people who at a very young age (I was eight) had the nasty experience of standing face to face with death… Every second counts so everyday is a victory and a party.

  • Mw…

    No nothing wrong with singles at all!! I’ve got to get out of this automatic way of reviewing photos as if there was thread going through them like an essay…I’ve always done this, I’m always looking for meanings and symbolism when a damn photo can just be damn good photo and that’s it.

  • Reading my two last posts I think I’ve just got to stop being so passionate and slow that all consuming desire over everything…it sure wears my wife out, but I’ve always been like this…in fact it’s great for teaching tends to inspire teenagers or freaks them out. :))))

  • David Bowen…
    Yes what? :))

  • no…im still in texas flying in two days back to the land of Courtney Love & the “Red Hot Chili Peppers”;)

  • a civilian-mass audience

    FRAMERS…I don’t do offers…I do exchanges! You play guitar ,I sing:)

    EVA is right…it’s Monday,bloody Mary Monday

    MW…nice to see …a darker side of you!

    AKAKY…give us an update…

    PAUL…don’t change…we like you …and since you cheated death once, you can do it again!
    “Every second counts so everyday is a victory and a party.”

    and as HERVE says…”You must be dreamin”!!!

    Safe travels MY BURNIANS…oime…we do love to travel!!!

    BIG AL is rocking…JUKE will be born in few days…
    What not to Love!!!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    PAUL…YES, from DAVIDB means YES…IMO:)))))))))))
    or maybe
    “I do my very best everyday to make every single day brilliant one way or another…you never know if it will be the last…”

    Yes…ouzo on me and granola bars on AKAKY!

  • yes to what civilian says.. civilian knows..
    it was intended under the first post – above the one it came out under.

    yes indeed.

  • am feeling dangerous..
    too much scanning.. too much editing.. too much time to think..
    one final slurp of single malt to tackle, and so another weekend draws to a close.

    there’s no high without a comedown.. yet the high has been so commonplace as to shift the balance..
    screw-up.. walnut..

    one more grey hair..
    vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv b vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv b
    that damn strip of plastic.. frozen slices of what my memory says once moved..
    two more grey hairs..
    vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv b vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv b

    2 months down.. too many to go.

    night all.

  • I just wrote this, in an email to a friend, about my website. The latter part, I realised right after typing, may edge towards what DAH feels about Burn, and/or what others have felt at certain points of their photographic wandering. So I thought I’d humbly share it here…

    If anything, I personally think it’s the street photography series on the site that contains the weakest images. And I am amazed by some of the comments I’ve received about the whole thing. Mostly the positive stuff. It’s a little bewildering. But the website building/maintaining/developing process is both a sobering one and a focussing one – it was necessary, to clear the path for where I walk next.

    CIVI – deal! Damn, that means also bringing my guitar on one of my London trips. Will have to think carefully about what I pack… ;-P

    Re shooting singles – I happen to think that’s great. I started off doing that, and I’d be more inclined to stick with it were it not for the fact that I am pretty much alone locally in terms of doing photography in a serious way. I don’t know many people I can discuss projects or development with, so working on projects helps me to stay focussed and stay critical. Partly, e.g. with some bits of the bus series, it comes in out-shooting myself the next time I go out. Other times it’s in how images can work together – I’m still very much learning that (and I love checking the essays on Burn in part for this reason). I suspect shooting singles is something I’ll return to doing more of as I grow and develop more. Particularly if I develop anything akin to having a “style” – right now, my single feel utterly disparate, and there isn’t so much feedback available from it, either personally or from others.

    PAUL – *FI blushes* Thank you. I shoot with a Nikon D40X, so it isn’t exactly done covertly. When I began, I felt nervous, and I got lots of bad shots and quite a lot of angry glares afterwards. The more I did it, the more comfortable I became. And the more obvious I became with it. And the less people seemed to notice. If it helps at all, the whole thing got kicked off with image 12 from here – I’d got on the bus and they sat opposite me, a couple, looking just like that. The impulse overtook any hesitation (it was the last bus home, I couldn’t afford a cab, and I made the image knowing if they kicked off I’d either have to walk home, placate them, or deal with aggro for a 30 minute bus journey). My camera was still set to the lower light outside settings and it was totally blown out. I realised as a I pressed the shutter. But they didn’t react at all. So I reset my camera, did a couple of test shots against the floor, then took another image. The one you see on the site. I swear, in all that time, they didn’t flinch, move, change expression, nothing. I was so amazed they hadn’t reacted to me that I almost felt I should point out to them what I’d just done. The image pulled at me and made me want o investigate the space but also, working the project, I realised just how easily people slip into their own worlds and don’t notice you if you seem comfortable, relaxed, and confident about what you’re doing. I think it’s when you look weak, or shady, or like you’re crossing a line – that’s when people think you’re crossing a line and step in on you for it. Mostly.

    Anyway, I hope that last ramble helps some.I don’t quite know how or why I work the way I do; it just feels right for that work. The project I’ve spoken to DAH about is different – a lot more ambitious and not least because it breaks with that anonymity. The group I’ll be photographing will know that I’m there photographing, and there to photograph them. That feels a little bit daunting. It’s a line I didn’t quite cross with my jazz photos and I feel the series is weaker for it. I know those guys well, and they knew I was shooting, but it’s all at gigs, where they are performing. It’s only in a couple of images that I feel I really grab at something that transcends being “a gig photo”, but I didn’t know how to start interacting with them socially and shoot it also. A strange one – we’re all friends, but we don’t really see each other outside of the gigs. The awkward thing would have been in sharing that non-gig space, as friends but also as photographer-photographed, when we never really shared that space as friends beforehand.

    I better shut up now, if I continue like this, I’ll be stealing Bob Black’s position as the Montaigne of Burn. ;-)

  • DAH – This is what so amazes me about you – that you can be wrapped in such an intense project as your blues/class book and still take the time to make meaningful response. I sent the “preliminary” book when I did only because I had just finished that phase of it. I doubt that I will be able to advance it any further until October or November, so even when you get back, there is no pressure. Take your time – and don’t waste any further time with wetransfer – I am resending it on CD. I am just grateful that you are willing to look at it all.

    I just wish I could be there taking part right now.

  • “am feeling dangerous..”

  • For anyone remotely interested, I’ve updated the slideshow and added music (warning, I couldn’t figure out how to control the volume, so you might have to turn it down real quick like).

    And since I’ve gone this far, might as well throw in a plug for Harvey. Every single one of these photos is a strobe shot on manual, the result of what I learned from David’s strobe class. Even if you’re horrified and thinks it sucks big time, the fact is that it looks like I wanted it to look, which is what I got out of that class. Before my strobe work was just a series of guesses. Now I have near total control. Thanks again, David.

  • A teensy bit loud, irrc (been a while since I listened to full vol music on my laptop and no time to cross-ref it properly) but not excessively.

    Strobe has me jealous – this is something I must learn this year! First step, actually buying a strobe! ;-P But what I would give to be able to go on one of DAH’s lighting workshops. Here’s to hoping he find himself in Blighty with a week or so to spare and can organise a class for us.

  • To submit, or not submit?

  • Michael Webster:

    I enjoyed your “walking around” quite a bit. That tends to be most of my photography… I recognize that fellow with the purple tie from the series “Oddities”. I don’t remember the network (TLC, maybe?), but I watched a marathon of episodes will laid up with acute bronchitis in late December. I rember that he made an exploded skull and located a stuffed sloth for a collector. Please forgive me that I don’t remember more details, but I was running a fever of over 103 degrees F that day. Speaking of oddities, my daughter and I went fishing yesterday, and our only catches were a hunk of petrified wood (that I found) and rib bone (I think from a coyote, that she found).


    As Civi said, don’t ever change. I don’t think that passion can be ever be taught, or cultivated. You either have it, or you don’t. Don’t apologize for it, or put out the flame. I’m sure that your wife saw it in you when she met you.

  • MW: sorry for the typos ;-)

  • Framer
    Likin’ your bus stuff a lot.

  • tom..

    no idea what you refer to, still though – SUBMIT..

    .. is easy enough.. keep it simple – one light is no more expensive than another.. it travels in straight lines.. find a technique that means it compliments rather than interferes with what you’re trying to do..

    simplify life and life becomes simpler.. it’s just having your own sunshine to command.

  • tom is looking great ..
    great base of talent..

  • Tom, submit! What do you gain in not doing so?

    Ok, off to court.. yikes.. nice day all, and good sleep :)

  • ”Desire, ask, believe, recieve.”
    Stella Terrill Mann

  • a civilian-mass audience

    JOHNG…they might need your inspiration:)

    according to KURT’S photos in the FB area(photos from the workshop)…I don’t know if the JUKE baby will come out BUT I know for sure …
    there is a circle of friends,
    beer on their hands,
    fire in the middle…

    and there is no other way…SUBMIT:)!!

  • a civilian-mass audience

    beer in…hmmm…what happened to proofread,oime?

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