406 N. Harrison St.

November 25, 2020 – 406 N. Harrison St, Port Washington, WI

A couple of weeks ago I listened to Episode 27 of the Eyeball podcast featuring Noah Kalina. Overall it was a really enojyable 73 minutes and if you’re reading this, you probably like photography and I recomend you listen to it. One thing Noah spoke about was the interestingness of a photograph. I’ll paraphrase here: He said when a photograph is just made, it is super interesting because it is new. Then it drops in intrestingness over the next 6-8 years before starting to become interesting again and in 10, 15 or 20 years it will be super. Time is what makes a lot of things interesting. You just need to be patient and hold on.

I immediately connected with this concept and thought back to several photos I’d made in the past that have taken on new meaning as of late. I’ve always considered myself to be a sucker for nostalgia and that maybe what it really is all about is letting time pass, allowing something that is common or everyday to become less so.

Yesterday evening I was about town doing a bit of scouting for a small photo project I’ve been ruminating on for a while. Shortly before I headed home, I noticed that a house I had photographed in the fall appeared to be either doing a large remodel or was in the process of being torn down. I headed up the hill to get a closer look and quickly found that it was a full teardown in process. I was immediately struck by two feelings. Oddly, one was a twinge of sadness since I found the existing house had a nice bit of charm. The other was how quickly and without notice things change, even things that haven’t measurably changed in years or longer. In this case, it didn’t take 8, 10, or 20 years. The photo I’d made only 118 days prior that I hadn’t thought much of since had suddenly become interesting to me again.

If I had known that the house was slated to be torn down when I made the photo in November, I don’t know that I’d find it as interesting now that the space has changed. I’m willing to be proven wrong on that point of course. I also think this situation is a bit of an exception to the concept Noah shared in the podcast. I really do believe he is right that given several years, lots of photos take on a new life and meaning. Great reminder in this time when photography can be consumed instantly, to slow down and let things marinate a bit.

March 23, 2021 – 406 N. Harrison St, Port Washington, WI

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.

Continue reading “Six photobooks”

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.

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…

Mechanical Simplicity

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I’ve owned a handful of both film and digital cameras over the years. The two film cameras I still own that I’ve used the most are a Canonet QL-17 GIII and a Nikon S3.

Often called a poor man’s Leica, the Canonet is quite simple. It has a quiet leaf shutter and this version has a fast 40mm f1.7 fixed lens. You can use the surprisingly accurate meter (requires a battery) and shoot in shutter priority, or shoot manual. The focus throw is short and has an easy to use tab. I really like this camera and it has never let me down.

The Nikon S3 is fully mechanical (no meter), accepts a variety of lenses and is a noticeable step up in build quality over the Canonet. The S3 I have is a very early version. Serial numbers started at 6300000 and mine is 6300041. It has a quiet cloth shutter and a wonderful precision mechanical feel overall. The film advance is weighty and smooth. The focus throw is long, favoring accuracy over speed. The full size finder has fixed frame lines at 35, 50 and 105 and I have lenses for each.

Unlike the relentless upgrade cycle with digital cameras, the only functional upgrades these cameras have is the film. That means, my relationship with the camera itself stays strong and using them is a familiar, almost second nature exercise.

I hadn’t shot with either camera much at all for nearly two years. In the late summer of last year, I lost interest in my dslr, purchased several rolls of film and put the Canonet and Nikon back to use. I quickly realized how much I had missed using these cameras. What I really enjoyed was their mechanical simplicity. Aperture, shutter speed and focus. That’s it. No worrying about focus mode, metering mode, VR, ISO, RAW, focus point, bracketing, etc.

The simplicity has helped me enjoy the act of photographing much more again and I hadn’t realized how much I missed it. When I used to shoot only film, I was envious of my friends with digital cameras that gave them incredible amounts of adjustability and customization and immediate access to their images. Having spent a few years shooting digitally myself, I have a new appreciation for simplicity in my photography.

Digital won’t go away though. While my dslr continues to sit and gather dust, I did buy a new digital camera late last year. I believe that I can find simplicity it it too if I remember to not let the complexity get in my way. Time will tell.

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* originally published on Medium, January 2016

Update two years later: While I’ve certainly used the “new” digital camera I bought back then (Fuji X100T), I’ve continued to use and enjoy these two film cameras as well as a Mamiya 645m kit that I was lucky enough to be given by a friend. I’m also taking time to let some rolls sit before developing them. I’ll get that going soon enough.

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