Don't Be Afraid To Kill Your Children

Mothers. They're fierce when it comes to protecting their offspring. I have seen videos of women free their pinned down kid by lifting a small car off the ground and the last thing you want to cross on any hike is a mountain lion, especially if she's being trailed by her litter. Artists are also quite protective of their work. Maybe far too protective.

I have lost count as to the many unintended arguments I've had online when a photographer post their work and ask for some critique. I get it. I too can get defensive when I feel someone unfairly criticizes my work, but through the years, I've learned to grow a thicker skin. We are creators and our works are our children, so we will always be ready to defend should the need arise, but sometimes we may put a little too much pride into something that wasn't all that great to begin with.

Case in point:

I took this photo at the Venice Beach Skate Park in March of 2015, but I'm just got around to develop this roll last week and am finally seeing the photos for the first time today. For the most part I really like this image. It's an action shot. The boy fills the frame and I really dig the angle and stance of his body. That being said, there's a head growing out of the boy's left shoulder.

Most of the time, things like that are real sticklers for me, including this instance. Whenever I see photos that would be considered good to most people, I end up seeing something awkward in the photo (and sometimes pointing it out which I may need to stop doing). "Oh, that's a nice engagement photo, but there's a palm tree growing out of the groom's head."

Last year, I saw a documentary series of photographers called Contacts which detailed some of the artistic approaches photographers used with respect to their work via contact sheets. In the episode I saw, Helmut Newton said something profound that has stuck with me since. 

"Personally I always say you have to sacrifice your own children. An ugly photo shouldn't be protected."

That really speaks volumes. Newton would go on to say that he felt that "young people often protect their children far too much," and Newton has a very good point. Artists have great pride in their work, but sometimes that pride can cloud their vision and stop them from seeing their work objectively, me included.

Since hearing Newton say that, I've been ready to kill (read: not publish in my website) a photo if I see something in that photo bothers me and photographers should take that same approach. Now, obviously I noticed the head growing from the kid's shoulder, but is it that big of a deal to kill the photo?

With the example of a palm tree growing out of the groom's head in a photo, that can be easily fixed during the actual shoot by either the photographer move a couple steps to the left or right and reframe the photo, or have the subjects move and then frame the photo. This photo is different. It's a street photograph. I didn't have any control with the subject and the moment is gone the moment I depressed the shutter button on my camera. There is no way I will experience this moment ever again. I take challenge as a virtue to keep this photo, amongst the other good qualities of the photo. Still, he's got a head growing out of his shoulder.

I could do a bit of photoshopping and totally remove the head (and subsequent legs of the person behind the main subject), but I'm no Steve McCurry.

Other than this entry, I probably won't publish this photograph in my website, but if we're going to put our works out there for the world to see, we really should put our best work out there. And we should be ready for any sort of criticism of our work from people.

 

The longevity of film (Sorry I've been away)

It's weird how you can get caught up with a number of things that happen in your life that you forget to do simple things, like maintaining the blog section of your website and remembering that you do have a blog section of your website.  

So I've been busy to say the least. Since my last entry, I have ended my time at Pierce College and its Media Arts Department and it's been an honor and worthwhile experience that I will always treasure. In my time there I have held many positions such as staff photographer, writer, photo editor of the newspaper, multimedia editor, managing editor of the magazine and being its Editor-in-Chief. And to think that I went into their program on a whim, didn't expect to stay long, and gave them three years of my life. I recommend the program to anyone interested in journalism. It's one of the best in Southern California and it has opened up possibilities for me. 

I figure it was time to set my sights on the job market and I've picked up a gig working for the County Board of Supervisors in their photo unit earlier this year. It's not a photography job, the county has four photographers for their needs and I'm responsible for printing out the photos that the Supervisors of the different districts requests. 

It's a pretty chill gig and I get to work with film chemicals and I'm always up for film and chemistry! 

I've also been working on a few projects as of late. Won't go into details as they're still being worked on, but I'm pretty active. 

With that out of the way, I'm working on a special project for the county which is outside of my regular printing obligations. Parks and Rec (not the show...) has requested our unit to go through the photo archives and digitize the negatives that deal with their government body and I love going back in time and look at historical photographs that are decades old and I've seen a good share of pretty interesting frames. Some negatives are from the 1900s! 

I'm not sure why the negatives haven't been digitized already. For whatever reason, and I wouldn't be surprised whatever it may be due to the bureaucracy that comes with government, I'm doing it. 

 

This photo was slugged "Gold Discovery" and was dated 1970. Not sure if gold was actually discovered or some sort of reenactment activity, but interesting nonetheless.  

This photo was slugged "Gold Discovery" and was dated 1970. Not sure if gold was actually discovered or some sort of reenactment activity, but interesting nonetheless.  

The image above is one of the negative frames that I've scanned for P&R and it's from an interesting set of negatives. The series is slugged "Placerita: Gold Discovery" and I'm not sure what the story is on these images. I don't really think gold was discovered since it was taken in 1970 and it could very well be some sort of hands on reenactment given the clothes the people are wearing in the images.  

Before this work project, I have never handled negatives that were older than a decade and this negative is almost 50 years old. Of course I used gloves to handle the negatives so I wouldn't get any oils on it and damage the frame, but even though I'm not surprised at how well the image has maintained through the years, I kind of am.  

That's to say that any film that's stored in a dark, humid friendly area, will probably still be around well after we are gone, the idea that old tech can outlast us and transcend human time is pretty cool! The jury (read: me) is still out on digital. Hell, the messages we recorded on the Voyager probes are encoded to gold records and it is said that those will last billions of years from what I've read.  

I don't know when I'll complete this project. P&R has a long list and I've barely scratched the surface. In the meantime, I'll continue to work on my personal projects and update this blog on a more regular basis.  

The photos on my website are updated more regularly than my blog is, but follow me on Instagram, as I update that account almost daily.