LESSONS LEARNED // CONCEPT IS KEY.
2017 IS FINALLY OVER.
AND I COULDN'T BE HAPPIER.
I won't bore you with all of the nonsense that made 2017 one of my least favorite years, but I will bore you one particular re-occurring lesson learned year after year, and project after project. The lesson which has helped me get rolling on my upcoming year of nothing but book work.
CØNCEPT IS KEY.
If you would have told me in 2011 that the mind numbing classroom lectures about conceptual thinking would actually be teaching me one of the key components to my future career I would've slapped you with a leather glove and bid you good day. BUT if there's one thing that has REALLY stuck with me over the last couple years shooting, failing, assisting, etc. it's that great concepts almost always produce great work.
OKAY TRAVIS COOL BUT WHAT EXACTLY IS A CONCEPT IN RELATION TO PHOTOGRAPHIC WORK?
That's a good question, and I'm sure depending on who you ask you might get a few different answers, my answer goes a little something like this:
Concepts give an image [or images] purpose.
That might seem vague (and it is) but at the end of the day a concept will almost always answer the question "why?"
I had a hell of a time learning this the hard way as I barely weaseled my way through art school, and it took me until my Senior year to grasp the idea of creating a body of work from a single idea. This is because for the previous years I had heard other students talk about their work with such thorough explanations and passion that I was insanely intimidated. As far as I knew- my mind didn't work that way, or so I thought. Up until this point I had felt very forced to go and create images and give full explanations on why I made them and what they meant to me. However- I had no idea what I was making, or why.
THIS IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM.
In my head, explaining the concept of an image was ONLY those crazy deeper meanings such as the use of blues in your subjects wardrobe relating back to the color of your grandmother's robe, or the subtle hint of the "expired" sign read through the glass of the parking meter foreshadowing the life of the elderly man wasting away on the nearby bench. I didn't understand that "concept" was just a fancy word used to describe the purpose of your image. If I had to deliver some sort of constructive criticism to art programs today it would be a relevant explanation on the importance of concepts in creative work. Don't get me wrong- from what I can remember of my schooling this was a VERY important aspect of the curriculum, and was highly spoken about, but just not in the ways that someone like me (a shithead) could thoroughly understand. Now, I understand that most, if not all of that has to do with my awful learning abilities and the fact that I wasn't a fully developed human who truly believed in what I was doing, but thats a story for another time.
ACTUALLY, NO IT'S NOT.
If I'm being totally truthful with you, I didn't understand what it took to make things that ACTUALLY meant something to me until I lost my dad and started putting things of his/for him on my arm [almost two years after graduating art school] The thought of representing someone so important to me put on serious pressure to make sure the pieces I chose were done right and clearly thought out. Which is why I'm not even half done with that arm a little over three years later.
THE REASON I'M TELLING YOU THIS:
I want you to understand that this doesn't happen overnight. It's taken me four years after graduating college to fully understand and implement concept, not to mention just understand who I actually am as a human and what it is that I genuinely want to do with my life. I'm hoping that through all of my babbling you might find something to relate to and bring into your own journey, whatever that may be.
I'll also throw in that I've heard several shooters, producers, art directors, designers, etc. mention that at a certain point with technical ability the best images come from a good concept, so there's that.
SOAPBOX: At this point I'm hoping that you're understanding the importance of genuinely caring about the work you create. If you don't, why should anyone else?
BY THE WAY:
I'm absolutely not any kind of expert on this topic, or any other topics really- I'm just hoping that the kids who are like I was in school/life stumble upon these posts so they can save themselves a few years of miserable failure and frustration by using them as an inspirational resource to get a head start on reaching the goals they have for themselves.
These posts are aimed at my past self.
answering the 8,646 times I asked myself if it's all worth it.
don't you ever fucking stop.
OKAY. ENOUGH OF THAT-
ON TO THE RECENT WORK / LEARNINGS.
As previously mentioned: 2018 is the year of the portfolio, and if all goes according to plan will produce my absolute best work to date. Along with making strong work comes a laundry list of things such as slowing down, focusing on composition, set aesthetic, styling, etc. which I already know is going to kick my ass, but I am so damn excited to get things movin' and groovin'
Last week I jumped the gun with a quick little set in studio to get my mind back in work mode after the holiday break. I came across a few glasses that my dad bought somewhere around 40 years ago that had an olde english "C" on the front of them, I knew I wanted to use them and the sentimental value they hold was that little extra umph I had been looking to add to this set. My original idea for this quick little jammer was just a glass of whiskey on a found wood set, but quickly turned into a makers workshop who has stopped the repair of a timer to enjoy a nice neat pour o'whiskley. He works hard, he deserves it.
GEAR USED |
1X CANON 5DMKIII
2X PAUL C. BUFF EINSTEIN (MODEL LAMPS)
1X 12' ROPE LIGHT
1X 10 DEGREE GRID
1X 40 DEGREE GRID
1X SPEEDOTRON 202VF (MODEL LAMP)
CAPTURE ONE PRO
I ran to the antique store and started looking for things that stood out. I can't necessarily recommend this technique for getting props because not only did it take forever, everything in the 3 story warehouse stood out. My first trip resulted in a couple of old tools, a doorknob, and a metal flag holder. I wasn't in love with what I had so I slept on it and returned to the store in the morning to come across a perfect old glass bottle, as well as the timer. I WAS READY. As I prepared myself for this shoot, I remembered the most genius advice my mom had given me a few days prior. A piece of advice that she heard during her time in the TV biz back in the day.
"JUST KISS IT."
[I'd remember this if I were you]
With these brilliant words in the back of my head I sought out to do just that. I decided to keep everything nice and worn, and not overthink things like dirt and fingerprints. We're looking into a makers workshop after-all, and judging by the pieces on the table this easily could have been 75-100 years ago. Before dishwashers were automated, and timers were fixed with new batteries.
To add a little extra somethin' somethin' I took a piece of the plastic wrap that held the rope lighting together and taped it over a part of the lens. Right away I fell in love with the voyeuristic "looking through" almost "tilt-shifty" feel it created. The wrinkles in the plastic also caught light nicely and made for interesting foreground bokeh, a look I've been trying to nail for quite some time now.
I did my best to not force anything about these images and just kind of shot what I saw as I walked around the set. Since composition is something I want to improve greatly on I tried putting the camera in different places such as the maker's eye level, elbow level, wrist level, etc. and trying to really just put the camera in places that camera's don't typically hangout in. I'm excited to push this idea further as the year progresses- check back in around May or so to see how I'm doing with that, haha!
This time around I wanted to focus more on the actual set itself rather than the final images. I've never really composed a full "scene" if you will for my personal work, and by doing so it created the concept for the shoot. I'm pretty interested in this idea of make first think later- that might be another thing you check back with around May or so, haha!
With all of that being said this shoot was a great first step [of many] to building what I'm hoping to call my absolute best work. There should be plenty of lessons learned this year, stay tuned people! I can't even begin to tell you how hyped I am about this shit.
CHEERZ TO MY MOM BECAUSE I WOULDN'T HAVE CONSIDERED LIFE AS A CREATIVE WITHOUT HER PUSH.
THANKS MA, LOVE YOU.