No Hollow Wave

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I’d like to begin 2019 differently—to shake the cobwebs, kickstart the brain...actually, maybe to start with a clean slate.

About two years ago—despite everything I’d promised myself—I got it in my head to launch a new music venture. Well, a band to be more precise: as in real people, in a room, playing and rehearsing, eventually hitting the stage together in some form or another. I’d been recording ideas on my own—mostly inspired by a return to my very early alternative roots and various experimentations with iOS vintage synths—but I wanted the input and synergy of live performances.

I named this tentative project Horse Machine

At some point I called my old band mates and we jammed a few times over the span of a couple of months. It felt amazing. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out: the sound wasn’t gelling, busy schedules made it hard to find rehearsal times, even harder to commit. So we called it quits fairly early on. By the time we did however, I knew I was already in too deep. I went on writing new material, recording drafts that slowly turned into full blown songs...that slowly became an album...which I’m releasing today: No Hollow Wave.

Yes, it’s quaint. I know the album is dead: it became a relic the moment we were able to purchase individual songs and create our own personalized playlists, wreaking havoc on order and mood. I don’t care. To me an album is like a poem or a portfolio—chosen objects interlinked and meant to be absorbed as a whole, flowing from one to the next. I still love listening to an album that was meant to be experienced this way, from start to finish. I don’t know that I’ve succeeded here but I’ve certainly tried.

Now you might be thinking “what the...? Is this the right blog? I come here for photography damnit!”...well, there’s actually a photography angle—at least in the project’s backstory.

METHOD

First off there’s a PDF booklet that’s a little along the lines of These Kings, These Subterraneans— a mix of pictures, words and drawings. But I also did something I’d never done before when it came time to write the lyrics to these songs: I picked photographs as starting points. Not my own work mind you but images I loved, some well-known and some randomly compiled in my ongoing inspiration journal. Images that somehow felt like the right fit to the music. I’d simply look at a chosen photograph and write whatever story or impressions came to mind, without analysis or overthinking, mixing in my own thoughts throughout. It was freeing but also weirdly revelatory...in a surrealist, automatic writing kind of way.

And if you look closely, you may also spot a hidden word easter egg. ‘Nuff said.

GEEKY STUFF 

Some geek nitty gritty in you’re interested: songs were recorded and mixed in Logic Pro X on an iMac. For the first time however, the iPad became an important part of the musical process as well—it was used to run several virtual synths (Moog Model 15 and Korg Odyssey most notably). I also dusted off my (VERY) old “physical” Roland JX-3P but sadly, it died on me along the way; I replaced it with the company’s new incarnation, the boutique JX-03 external unit. 

All images were shot with various Fujifilm cameras (obviously) and re-processed for the booklet in Affinity Photo. Drawings were created with Procreate and the Apple Pencil 2. The booklet was designed in Pages...again, all of the above on the new iPad Pro. Btw: that whole debate about the iPad being a real computer? Guess where I stand on that one*?

PRICING

A few quick words about “value”: the album is a free download. But the concept of not paying for creative work is something I’ve struggled with lately: just before the holidays for instance, Squarespace integrated Unsplash as part of its package, essentially providing images for free to anyone on the platform. After having built their business on photographers and visual artists, this felt like backstabbing the very folks who were here from day one, AND who also depend on image making for a living—it didn’t go unnoticed. My friend Morten wrote them a letter asking for a free website…who needs money, right? Anyway, I wanted to write about this but time got in the way.

 

The thing is, I have friends who similarly earn their living writing and recording music. When I decided a few years ago to offer my entire catalog for free, I didn’t reflect on the move all that much—I was simply fed up with the business, no longer expecting anything out of it and finally free of contractual obligations. I didn’t depend on the revenu and just wanted to share the work…which, in light of this latest controversy, feels a lot like my own personal Unsplash: I do this for fun! It isn’t my job! I don’t mind giving it away!

So I’ve decided to at least frame the music content as freeware from now on, by introducing THE APPRECIATION BUTTON—a give what you want IF you want sort of vaguely karmic concept. The music is still free but at least this underlines the fact that yes, creative work does involve time and sweat and tears, just like anything else; that in spite of the illusion of immediacy we get from downloading a file in seconds over broadband, or reading an article on our phone, it doesn’t all magically appear out of thin air and it is valuable. I hope this won’t come across as some sort of guilt inducing thing—because that’s really not the goal. Please just take it as a way to show support or appreciation for the work, if you’re so inclined. There’s no obligation and no minimum either.

Alrighty...the album page is here if you care to hear what this sounds like.
All the best for this new one folks: I hope 2019 brings great things and very little drama. Now back to photography in 3-2… :)

*It’s fantastic. It’s my main machine. It also desperately needs FULL read/write external drive support. It’s ridiculous to have a USB-C machine this powerful and not be able to access files on a plugged in drive.

 
THE APPRECIATION BUTTON

1EYE, ROAMING: Introducing BOOKS II & III

1EYE, ROAMING was never meant to become a series. Released in 2013, the book was a return to the very first images I had shot with a Fujifilm X-series camera—the original X100—during a trip through France. It represented a sea change and a new, simpler way of seeing for me: one camera, one lens...one focal length.

But it also became a method of traveling and shooting from which I’ve never wavered. So when I began to imagine a framework for new books, it eventually dawned on me that I had one already: 1EYE, ROAMING had set the stage. Different cities, different eye—same concept and approach.

Today I’m introducing Books II and III: Venice & Rome and In Tokyo. Both have been in the works for quite some time, enough that I could’ve staggered their release. But at this point—despite the geographic distances—they felt complementary to me.

With Book II we find ourselves in Italy during the fall of 2014, exploring the streets of two famous cities with an X100S. In Book III we’re in Japan, during my six-day visit to Tokyo in January 2016—this time with an X-Pro2 and the XF 35mm f/2 lens, switching from a 35mm to a 50mm POV.

The tone of these new chapters is slightly different, less verbose, less of a diary than Book I. But they follow in the footsteps of the original by also including brief “technical” addendums—a look at processing and an essay in Book II; annotated contact sheets in Book III.

Both eBooks can be purchased individually but I’ve also created a double-pack—which adds a bit of a discount. You can learn more about the new books in the Publications section. It feels good to finally release these...like turning a page. I do hope you’ll find something worthwhile, should you decide to add them to your collection.

No holiday wishes yet...I should be back one last time before the week is over :)


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Introducing: The Process

PROCESS: a sustained phenomenon or one marked by gradual changes through a series of states;

For quite a few years now, I've tried to strike a balance on this blog between technical, personal and visual. It's not always easy—at times I veer too much towards one or the other, depending on how I feel, what I'm going through, shooting at the time etc. But to be honest I've often rebelled, internally, against the how-to side of it. Why? Well, for one I get tired of purely technical pursuits. I get tired of how without why. I'm also afraid of repeating what's already been said by photographers I respect, and to whom I have nothing, zero, nada to add—David Hobby, Joe McNally, Zack Arias...seriously, all the bases have been superbly covered already. If I'm to contribute anything serious, it would need to at least provide a different angle.

I've been promising a book on post-processing for what seems like ages. Questions about this subject come up over and over again, either through comments or via email and I'm always happy to help when I can spare the time. I totally understand the interest around this topic and consider it an integral and very serious part of the photographic workflow. But I've pushed back writing about this due, mostly, to lack of enthusiasm. My own enthusiasm that is. Again, it comes down to finding the proper approach. Last year I finally decided to start working on it... and instead found myself derailed, diving head first into what became These Kings. These Subterraneans—hell of a different ride. I've known—deep down—that a few people were probably disappointed when I released that project, expecting something else entirely.

But as some of you know (thank you btw) TKTS became more than a photo book: music's part of it, and some of the texts are essentially philosophical ramblings on the art of photography, experiences... So I had an "epiphany" regarding the next project: forget processing. Instead, why not talk about the entire process? Philosophy, mechanics, subject, narrative, clarity sliders and focal lengths. All of it. Yes, post-processing as well but as part of something much, much larger that would tie it all together. That got me excited. And given the breadth of the topic, a book didn't really make much sense anymore either—I wanted something open-ended and revisable, something I could add to and modify as a sort of living entity. Like...oh I don't know...a website? Hmm...

Long story short: no more waiting. Today I'm launching The Process, an ongoing series that I'll be publishing through this very blog, dealing with everything mentioned above. Because photography isn't just pixels— it’s an art form, a craft, a science. It's a method of experiencing what surrounds us, making sense of it in a way that also happens to prolong its consciousness. It's a pursuit that has to be about emotion just as much as sharpness. It needs the how while also begging for the why in order to avoid becoming an empty shell. 

The work-in-progress nature of this project means its organization will likely always be in a state of flux. For now, the index is divided between Techniques and Thoughts—rudimentary "chapters" that I've populated with a few relevant posts written over the years. You’ll also find the first article written specifically for The Process: A Film Curve. And to be clear: the new index is there simply as an additional way to browse and gather articles in one place. As you can already see, all articles will still be part of the regular content. This wasn’t obvious at first. I could’ve segregated the entire series to a separate blog—in fact I almost did that—but in the end, keeping these posts together with the rest of the site felt like a logical extension of the core concept: that all of it is one and the same, that everything feeds everything else. 

That The Process is ongoing, holistic and universal. 

The Temporary Collective | Brussels 2016

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I haven’t talked about it much but I’m leaving for Belgium and Germany on September 17th. I’ll be driving down to Photokina for the first few days of the event, then back to my buddy Bert Stephani’s place until the 28th. No speaking engagements this year but I'm shooting an essay for the December issue of Photo Life magazine and I'm very much looking forward to catching up with a whole lot of comrades.

While I'm in Europe, Bert and I will also be hosting the first official KAGE workshop: The Temporary Collective—a full-day event focusing on visual storytelling, to be held in Brussels on September 26th. We'll be discussing subject, methodology, engagement and storyboarding, with each participant expected to produce an essay that will appear in an upcoming issue of KAGE. We're keeping the group small (6 seats max) to provide a more hands-on and personalized experience. Limited X-series gear will be available to test as well.

It's on a Monday. I know...scheduling issues forced us to choose that date. But if you're interested and available we're running an early bird special until September 9th and we'd love to see you. All you need is a camera, some sort of image editing device for the processing/editing portion of the workshop and a good pair of shoes. More info here.

Btw: Fujifilm has now released its full Photokina schedule and it's jam-packed with great speakers. I'll be checking a bunch of these out while I'm there so if you're around be sure to come and say hello.

Disturbances

These are tests for a project I have in mind that may or may not come to life. We’ll see. In each case I’m using some sort of element to disrupt the frame and create a form of distance. I thought it might be interesting to post, so here goes. Breakdown below each image/set. All shot with the X-Pro2 and XF 35mm f/1.4 R...I'm back to this one like crazy these days. 

Reflections from a pink glass table. Both images shot at our local ice cream parlour. Obviously reversed since I was sitting across from the kids.

Using my iPhone as a reflective surface. The phone is below the lens and acts as a mirror.

Eyeglasses. Classic trick. Just shooting through those damn glasses I hate so much. Last two images below: in-camera double exposures.