Hurn & Jay’s ‘Selecting a Subject’ was a really helpful read for me. I struggle with finding realistic story ideas and sometimes understanding my identity as a photographer. Some of the points made in the article will help me in the future.
Hurn and Jay begin the conversation about having a genuine interest in photography. Most people own some form of a camera these days (cell phone, iPod) and anyone can be interested in photography. For example, interest in owning a nice camera or interest in working in a darkroom, but the interest alone is not what makes a good photographer. Hurn describes photography as “a tool for expressing or transmitting a passion in something else. It is not the end result” (29). What makes this tool useful is having something to say, a story to tell, which segways into selecting a good subject. An interest in a good subject is at the core of photography and crucial for success.
In the article they discuss coming up with ideas and how to figure out what is possible and what is genuine. One of those things is to write down ideas as they come to you. I can’t even count how many times I have thought of a potential story idea or subject, thought I committed it to memory, only to find I forgot what it was. If I can be better about writing down my ideas I think I will have less of a hard time. At the same time those ideas that I think of randomly are things that I am genuinely interested in, and for anything be a successful story I need to be interested. Even if it is something I never could have imagined myself doing, I should find something that draws me to it. A forced subject will not result in as successful of a story because you are already dismissed from it, it’s just another thing to check off your list. This is an attitude and mentality I need to remember when brainstorming ideas and selecting subjects.
I’ve continued to enjoy Lamott’s writing in Bird by Bird. The chapters we read for today, School Lunches and Polaroids also hit home in the world of subject and story generation. In School Lunches she shows how you can dive so deep into a subject if you sit on it long enough, and to me it was quite hilarious what she came up with. The good and the bad of school lunches, what was cool to be seen with and what was totally off limits…it was great. In Polaroids, she came full circle with the idea that just like a polaroid, with a story you shouldn’t watch it develop (impatiently) and just wait to see how it turns out. If you go in with an idea too formulated you might miss out on what else there is to see.
For the editing exercise Rachel and I worked together to edit down another photographer’s take of 500 or so pictures to 6-8 to tell the story we saw within the photos. We both thought it was important to show the father’s love for his daughter and his drive for her getting her involved in beauty competitions, even though she is still young. It was difficult because we didn’t know the whole story and there were elements missing that I felt were crucial to the story. There weren’t many pictures of the mother, and maybe that was on purpose, but I struggled deciding how important she was in the story. What came through is how much the father is involved in his daughter’s pageants and the relationship they have through that. Overall, the edit we made reflects that story and in the end, I added a portrait of her as the cover photo of the story because I thought it was necessary to see her alone, and with the tiara and trophy makes it relevant still to the pageant. Having the trophy in her mouth also shows her adolescence.
In the introduction and first four chapters of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird we are introduced to Lamott as a writer and teacher with a lot of things to say about writing, the process and life in general. Her writing style is simple and straightforward, yet she says things and provides experiences of her own that really hit home for me as a photojournalist and student. Though she mainly talks about her experiences and struggles as a writer, the feelings as a photojournalist are very similar. I am the first to admit that I struggle generating realistic ideas for stories and taking it to heart when things don’t go right. Lamott shares that sentiment when she says, “…telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be about as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat. Some lose faith. Their sense of self and story shatters and crumbles to the ground” (3). Again she describes that feeling of failure when she says, “you may find yourself consumed with a free-floating shame, and a hopelessness about your work, and the realization that you will have to throw out everything you’ve done so far and start from scratch…And then the miracle happens. The sun comes up again” (8-9). Lamott hints that there is always another route to take even when things seem to be so miserable that you can’t go on with your project. The experiences and sentiments she writes about hit so close to home for me and that is what I love about this book.
The chapter on perfectionism was another I found really interesting. Photojournalism is a very competitive field and to be successful, you need to create work that is worthy, just like any field. With that pressure of being great comes perfectionism. You can’t be sloppy to be great. According to Lamott, you can be as sloppy as you want before you produce the final product, because that is all that others will see. This is something I need to remember as well. Even if I have a really bad day shooting, no one has to know or see those photos. Lamott emphasizes this idea at the end of the chapter when she says, “What people somehow (inadvertently I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here — and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing” (32), or in my case, photographing or seeing.
The title and mantra of the book, “taking it bird by bird,” is a great way to look at your own work and how it just takes patience to get where you want to be. It is so easy for us as photographers and journalists to get wrapped up in the instantaneous society we live in where we have short deadlines and we’re constantly moving from one project to the next. This idea rings very true for this Capstone class where we are given time to think, generate and develop ideas that will take more time than we are usually allowed. I know that I get wrapped up in my failures very easily, making it harder for me to produce something that I am capable of. I think as I continue to read this book I will find more inspiration and insight as long as I just take it bird by bird.
Motel Families by Melissa Lyttle
Melissa Lyttle’s story Motel Families for the Tampa Bay Times is an example of an inspiring picture story and topic. Though it is paired with a text story, the photos alone touch on the issue of families living in hotels and gives insight into what it is like to call a hotel home. In this story in particular the living conditions are less than ideal, the kids are around criminal activity, but life goes on. It is an issue I have known about, but have never seen it portrayed the way Lyttle does at a hotel that houses 27 families with kids in Florida.
This is an example of the type of story I would like to tell. Maybe not hotel families alone, but a family living and growing up in an unconventional setting. Having a permanent home is something that can easily be taken for granted and after seeing Lyttle’s story, I want to find my own way to tell a story about the hardships of having a place to call home.
A few weeks ago I photographed my first wedding, and it was a blast. Here are just a few of my favorites from the day and night. More to come.
Last week while enterprising for the Missourian I went to a Family Fun Fest in Flat Branch Park. It was supposed to be a Teen Fest, but with attractions like balloon animals, face painting, bounce houses and more, I understood why there were more younger kids than teens. Regardless, it made for a fun, cute, and very colorful shoot.
This was such a great weekend, and to top it off my roommates and I baked a cake for our friend Katie’s 21st birthday. It may have been a boxed cake mix but we homemade the buttercream icing and it was just divine. And you can’t forget the neon food coloring we used, too. Best invention ever. This mini shoot was another reminder of why I love my 50 mm f/1.4.
Cosby wants some. I don’t blame him.
Instead of embarking on a wild beach trip for spring break, I spent most of the week in Columbia relaxing and enjoying a rarely quiet college town. There was no waiting at any restaurants (even Flat Branch!) and open parking meters everywhere. I was almost getting used to it, but all of a sudden it’s the Sunday before classes start up again and students are trickling back into town. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted! The break also gave me some time to get my photo life back in order, and to enjoy some photo time just for fun. I began shooting my Boone Life at Goatsbeard Farms in Harrisburg, Mo., home of the Muno’s and their goats. They make fresh goat cheese and practice sustainable methods in the production, so in time that story will be out. It’s also convinced me I want a pet kid goat. They are SO. Stinkin. Cute. I’m having a hard time not posting any photos yet.
My dad and brother also came down from Minnesota for a short visit and we explored the beauty of the nature around the outskirts of Columbia on the Devil’s Ice Box trail and the Pinnacles. Over the week the weather went from pretty crappy to beautiful, now let’s hope spring is here to stay!
Nick and Dustin exploring the cave
Dustin and Dad
Attempting a game of frisbee from way up high
Last week I was given an amazing opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. with two basketball reporters to photograph the Mizzou men’s basketball team in the second and (potential) third rounds of the NCAA tournament. The only basketball I had shot before this was men’s and women’s in Mizzou Arena and high school teams here and there, so this was huge for me! I was extremely nervous but it turned out to be just fine. I owe a lot of it to the ethernet port I came across that I could transmit my images with. One photographer paid for the spot but never showed up, lucky me! Mizzou did not make it to the next round but despite the loss, I had a great time doing something completely different. Photos from the trip overall will be in my next post. Here’s a little of what I shot at the game:
For my Staff Photojournalism class we were supposed to create a 30-second video to practice working with video and editing in Final Cut. I thought it would be fun to do a video with some progression and after some brainstorming, I figured building Legos would be visually interesting and just plain fun. I’ve only worked with video a number of times so this practice was really nice and Final Cut is becoming a close friend of mine (that is, after watching lots of tutorials on YouTube, some set to music from the Little Mermaid). So, here it is! Enjoy.