Six photobooks

There were a lot of really good photobooks released in 2020 and there are many that I have not yet had the chance to see. I only picked up six this past year and not all of them are 2020 releases. I’ll share a few thoughts on these in order of book size, smallest to largest since that’s how they’re stacked in front of me.

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2020 Books

For those that are impatient, here’s the list:

Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport

The Making of a Manager, Julie Zuho

Boom Town, Sam Anderson

How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell

The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion

Twenty Minutes in Manhattan, Michael Sorkin

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion

Play It As It Lays, Joan Didion

The Story of More, Hope Jahren

Superlife, Darien Olien

Range, David Epstein – in progress

How to be an Antiracist – Ibram X Kendi – in progress

One book per month was my goal and I’ve come close to meeting that. It wasn’t the pandemic that had me reading more this year. I decided at the end of 2019 that I wanted to get back to reading more frequently and happened across a list of books Alex JD Smith posted on his IG story around this time last year. I figured something from that list would be a good starting point so asked for a few recommendations. The first 4 on my 2020 list above are all from his 2019 list.

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A year away

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Sometime late in 2018 I realized, thanks to Screentime statistics on my iPhone, that I had been spending a lot of time on Instagram. An embarrasing amount of hours scrolling with an occasional post, likely when I needed some minor phtographic validation. None of this was bringing me much fulfillment and I decided to step away. My last post in 2018 was December 2nd. 49 likes, one comment.

I moved the Instagram app into a folder and off the home screen of my phone. For several months in 2019 I did not open it at all. Eventually in late summer I opened the app again, viewing in very small doses, wondering if I had missed anything of importance. Mostly some scrolling of my feed and some time with Stories. What I was immediately struck by was the incredible number of advertisements between posts by people I followed. It was easy to decide I did not miss that at all. Stories were fun but they had lost some allure as well.

That’s how things went until late in the year when I found myself scrolling too much again. Maybe it’s some of the downtime at the end of a year and during the holidays that brought this on. At one point I got the “You’re All Caught Up” notification and I knew it was time again to dial it back.

I had hoped when I stepped away from Instagram a year ago that it lead to a serious uptick in my photography. I had goals of completing photobooks, doing more projects, meeting more phtotgraphers in real life. In reality I did complete a couple of books which was very satisfying. However I probably took fewer photos in 2019 than I have in many years and I didn’t expand my interaction with other photographers much at all so the results were mixed at best. Still, whatever else I filled my time with in place of endless feed scrolling surely was better for me.

What I think I’ve come to is that Instagram wasn’t my only problem. It was a lack of clear photographic goals and then the discepline to make time for them. When I made time to complete photo books, I did. When I made time to go out and make photos, I did.

Building on that, I am going to try and be more deliberate and intentional about making time for photography in 2020. I have already identified a handful of events that I will focus on and hope to build from that. Does any of that include Instagram again? Only time will tell.

24 Hour Project Recap – 2018

The 24 Hour Project is a bit of a bucket list adventure. Once you’ve done it, it’s reasonable to question if you’d do it again, subject yourself to the sleep deprivation again, walk as far again, struggle as much again. For me, the answer was yes. Fortunately my partner in crime from last year, Jake Rhode, was up for it again too.

Our goal was to not follow the exact path we took last year. We sort of succeeded at that. Many different stops, some repeat locations, mostly dictated by the constraints of early spring outdoor activity in Milwaukee, WI. Ok, here’s the play-by-play:

Jake and I started the project at midnight with a short walk in Bay View to get our first photo and then stopped in at Sugar Maple. I remember when Sugar Maple was newly opened and they served soup in addition to beer. Always liked that and still miss the soup option to this day. It was not particularly full this night and I did not see a good photo opportunity there so we headed to Burnhearts. I got photo two and three there covering the 1-2am and 2-3am hours.

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2:10am

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3:25am

From there we headed to Ma Fischer’s for some food. This is one of just a handful of places open 24hrs in Milwaukee and the options got slim after we left. It was of course very dark but also unseasonably cold. I remember seeing “feels like 7 degrees” on my phone. I grabbed a photo of a dedicated individual in the gym at 4:29am and some people waiting in the Amtrak station at 5:43am. Like last year, these were a couple of the toughest hours of the entire project. I could see the sky begin to lighten as we left the Amtrak station and that gave me a boost.

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6:32am

From there followed several uninspired hours where I produced a number of uninspired photographs. All 24 photos form the project are in the gallery here but none were worth putting into this recap. By noon, I needed something to change and fortunately it did.

The entire afternoon I felt good about what I was getting and much happier with my choices when deciding what photo to upload each hour.

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12:54pm

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2:48pm

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3:34pm

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4:32pm

After spending several hours downtown and at the Milwaukee Art Museum, we decided to head to Brady Street. The light was really good and Brady Street did not disappoint. Lots of people out and I struck up a conversation with this guy in a bright red hat. He was carrying a camera as well and said he was just getting into photography. I asked him to step forward into the light and got his portrait.

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5:25pm

In our effort to keep moving, we decided to head back downtown. We walked quite a bit but nothing good presented itself. Eventually we ended up on Old World Third Street where thankfully there were a lot of people. That took care of the 6-7pm hour and we went back to Brady Street. Time was running out and we could not find a parking spot. I was about to stop in the street and let Jake out with my camera so he could get a shot for the hour for both us when I finally found a spot to park. With 10min to go, we hit the street and I made my favorite photo of the project with just 5 minutes to spare.

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6:50pm

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7:55pm

From there we decided to hit up Von Trier from 8-9 and a buddy of mine met us out. He got us an Uber to Wolski’s for the 9-10 hour. We finished the night in the Lincoln Warehouse where Jake and Simon had their photo studio. We had a fantastic cocktail and an excellent local beer at Enlightened Brewing Company to close out the project.

Will I do it again next year? I like to think I will. Jake and Simon and Rob are hard at work to open Vennture Brew Co very soon and running that business may make it tough for Jake. I would be open to traveling south and documenting Chicago in 2019. There have been a few participants there the past few years so maybe I’ll connect with some Chicago locals. Either way, I’ve got plenty of time before I have to make that decision.

For anyone wondering: Fuji X100T, Classic Chrome film simulation, Snapseed for editing. Jake shot with a Fuji XT-1, a mix of black and white as well as color, and I think he was using Filmborn to edit. My 2017 recap is here.

 

Prints and small run zines

It is still very much winter here in Wisconsin and while I have been taking photos over the past few months, much of it is on film and yet to be developed. I figured it might be a good time to stretch my writing muscles again and share a few prints and zines I have received from three photographers I follow on Instagram.

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First up are some prints and a zine from Nick Mayo, @nickexposed. I got the 4×6 prints from Nick last fall. These are very nicely made on a matte paper so luxurious that the blacks can’t be described other than velvety. I’ve had these in their plastic sleeve and need to get them placed about the house for viewing. My favorite of the bunch is shown in the top photo. Influenced by Winogrand, no doubt. Nick is an enthusiastic supporter of the film photographer community and has amassed a nice following on his YouTube channel as well.

Just this week I got his zine, Sketches of Light. The design is similar to a small Field Notes book. Until I read his notes on the last page, I had forgotten that these photos were taken with his iPhone. A bit of a departure for someone who shoots film so often but for him like many, our phone is now the way everyday images are captured and it is with us nearly all the time. These photos are a collection of the shapes, textures and geometries of light Nick sees. I quite like it and the size works great for what I think he intended. It would be easy to stuff this in a camera bag to share with someone or to get inspiration from. A few favorite images are below.

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Next is the first zine from Ryan Niall Miller, @ryanniallmiller. I initially met Ryan through a Milwaukee photographer meet up via Instagram in 2016. Since then our paths haven’t crossed much other than a lunch meeting last spring to talk shop and get few prints from the film shooters meet up in Chicago he attended. Ryan is very positive and supportive of the photo community.

Late last year he released his first zine titled Long Overdue. It is a short collection of storefront photos shot at night in his hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin. A pair of images that stood out to me are in the photo below. Ryan is always open to and looking for feedback and we messaged back and forth a bit about the project. It’s a great first effort and he was able to do it inexpensively while still putting out something of nice quality. I am looking forward to his next one.

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Cellblock is a bigger zine from Josh Sinn, @cadillacranchdressing. This is a collection of photos taken over a years time in Baltimore, MD. I believe I first heard about Josh when he was interviewed on Matt Day’s podcast, The Shoot. Josh is an avid film shooter and seems to be rarely without his Leica. Like Nick and Ryan, he is an active member of the Instagram community and although he shoots film regularly, the images in Cellblock are all taken with his iPhone.

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Paging through Cellblock, I was struck by the very documentary feel of the photos. It’s easy to feel like I know something intimate about the year these photos cover in a way that words alone would not convey. There are photos from his home, from the streets, from the clubs, and of family, friends and strangers.

Throughout the book I found the sequencing really delightful. Below are some facing pages where I think the pair of photos work together particularly well.

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There you have it, prints and three zines. All are sold out as far as I know but give these three photographers a follow on Instagram and get to know more of their work.

May warm weather and sunny skies arrive soon…