A little something to brighten your (work) day.

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Photo taken at Van Dusen botanical garden in Vancouver, B.C. Lights everywhere! A must-see during Christmas season! ©tomokojoy

During university, I often used the library’s public computers to edit and design my work. When I did, the first thing I did was to change the desktop background. It not only gave me a sense of making the space my own but also of making a space that was peaceful in the midst of the busyness and stress that filled the rest of the computer screen. These days, on my own PC, I choose both playful and peaceful works as desktop backgrounds. Here are a couple go-to’s that have worked for me the last couple years:

National Geographic Photo of the Day: a daily go-to for inspiration! You can download many of the photos as desktop wallpapers. If you’re looking for something that will bring you some calm, choose scenic photos that have lots of green in them.

Smashing Magazine Calendars: a monthly go-to for inspiration! Artists from around the world create desktop wallpapers for anyone to download for free. Many theme their work based on the seasonal connotations of the months. You can choose to download the wallpapers with or without calendars. You can also download them in various resolutions. Additional tip: I’ve used some repetitive design work as wallpapers in my email accounts […because how many of us are a bit allergic to email and could use some cheering up (and cheering on) in this area?]. 😉

I want to create (meaningful) art.

“Art loses all meaning when placed in a room where it has a price, but no value.” – Unknown (originally seen quoted on HONY)

This is an ethically evaluative photo (intended to be, anyway). Here, I wanted to expose the unrealistic expectations many people have about male bodies. The media is largely responsible for creating these unrealistic standards, and are therefore responsible for "undo-ing" them. However, I believe that--to a certain extent--individuals can choose to let or not let these unrealistic standards impact their lives. So here, I wanted to portray a young man who is unaffected by these expectations and who lives contentedly despite the continuous bombardment of media ideals.

This is intended to be an ethically evaluative photo. Here, I wanted to expose the unrealistic expectations many people have about male bodies. The media is largely responsible for creating these unrealistic standards, and are therefore responsible for “undo-ing” them. However, I believe that—to a certain extent—individuals can choose to let or not let these unrealistic standards impact their lives. So here, I wanted to portray a young man who is unaffected by these expectations and who lives contentedly despite the continuous bombardment of media ideals.

Terry Barrett, who is currently a professor at the University of North Texas, is author of the well-known book Criticizing Photographs. In this book, he explores techniques for thoughtful photographic critique. I found an article he wrote called “Teaching about Photography: Types of Art,” in which he explains some of the content in his book. By “types of art,” he is referring to the six exhaustive categories of photography that he has come up with. He says that photography teachers can utilize these six categories to create an assignment in which the purpose would “not be to make a good or beautiful photograph, but to use the camera and darkroom to express something significant about what they are photographing.” The six categories include:

1. Descriptive Photos: All photos are descriptive, but as a category of photography, this type of photography is taken for the sole purpose of describing (example: company I.D. cards).

2. Explanatory: This type of photography seeks to help one understand how objects or living things work (example: Edweard Muybridge’s photo series of birds flying; photographed for scientific study).

3. Interpretive: This type of photography is “fictive, poetic and metaphoric, usually using actors, models, or situations directed by the photographer” (example: Jerry Uelsmann’s multiply-exposed style featuring subjects such as hamburgers in the sky and angels emerging from crevassed rocks).

4. Ethically Evaluative: This type of photography judges society in some way (example: Minamata disease documentation in Japan by photographers Eugene and Aileen Smith brought international attention and intervention of chemical pollution).

5. Aesthetically Evaluative: This type of photography can often present subjects as “inherently beautiful and worthy of aesthetic attention,” but can also point out the aesthetically displeasing nature of subjects (example: Ansel Adams’ landscape work demonstrates the aesthetically pleasing quality of nature).

6. Theoretical: This type of photography provides criticism of visual art–art about art or photography about photography. I think conceptual photographer Uta Barth presents some great examples.

*If you are interested in learning more about Barrett’s ideas in Criticizing Photographs, check out the book itself or read a post by a photographer named Hugh (who is working on a fantastic photo project that you should check out), who has created a mind map of Barrett’s ideas: “Criticizing Photographs — Terry Barrett (1999).”

Bibliography:

Barrett, Terry. “Teaching About Photography: Types of Photographs.” Journal of Art Education, Volume 39, Number 5, September 1986, pages 41-44.

Maisie Crow’s Photojournalism

Maisie Crow is a dedicated photojournalist who unmasks the insecurities and messyness of life. And she does it…

REALLY WELL.

I was in a photojournalism class in college when I saw one of Crow’s videos for the first time. It was a video project, called Hungry, featuring a father with a boy who has Prader-Willi Syndrome. (And two and a half years later, I still remember the video.) Crow has also worked on a photo project, called Love Me, portraying the struggles of an adolescent growing up in poverty. And currently, she’s working on a project called The Last Clinic, featuring what may be the last abortion clinic in all of Mississippi.

Photojournalism is exceptionally good at helping us taste the bitterness of reality. You don’t have to dig too far to find nitty-gritty stories of soldiers who suffer from PTSD, stories of those people in that country or in that state who have lost their child via murder or war, stories of people who have no home, stories of people who face ten times more sighs and tears in the day ahead than most of us do when we get up in the morning.

Well, most of us are simply curious about the mysteries and unusual circumstances that life on earth brings. And so these stories intrigue us. But if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us would admit that these stories sting, too… Because these people are not only living in the darkness of their story at the momentthey’re facing three-hundred-and-sixty-five days of darkness over and over and over and over for however long they live; this is their long-term, every day reality.

So that leads us to one of the most admirable (and sobering) qualities about photojournalism, which is that you can be a total stranger, yet see, and feel in your gut, the hopelessness and despair of another human being.

And I think this is the sort of photojournalism that Maisie Crow is really good at.

Kevin, 33.

During my senior year of high school, I came across Kevin Carter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of a starving Sudanese girl shadowed by a vulture. The visual impact that this photo had on me was powerful, to say the least. This photo largely influenced my decision to pursue photojournalism in college.

But this is a bittersweet subject, because Kevin Carter, at the age of 33, committed suicide shortly after taking this photo. As far as journalism goes, no one has been able to confirm—for a fact—that Carter took his life because of the consequences surrounding this Pulitzer Prize-winning photo. My personal theory is that he took his own life because he was so so burdened and so so overwhelmed by all of the suffering he had seen throughout his journalistic career.

You see, Carter, a white man, lived in South Africa in the 80’s. And he not only lived there during those times, he was actively involved in documenting anti-apartheid protests, which led to his arrest several times.He was part of “The Bang Bang Club,” a group of four white friends who strove to use their photography to show the world the disturbing reality of apartheid.2 He also spent time in southern Sudan photographing the civil war and famine that he knew needed to be exposed to the world.2 And that’s where he took his famous photo of the girl and the vulture.

In addition to all this mind-numbing suffering that Carter documented, in 1993 he witnessed the death of Ken Oosterbroek, one of his “Bang Bang” friends, when he was shot while photographing a gun battle in Thokoza, Johanessburg.1

So my guess is that there is much, much more behind his suicide than we can guess. And while his death is—in many ways—a mystery, and while it is important to understand the weight of his personal suffering and suicide, it is also important to recognize his irreplaceable contribution to society and the tenacity that drove him to expose the suffering and evil of his day. But yeah, let’s be honest here… I can’t help but feel more of the “bitter” part rather than the “sweet” part.

Today would have been his birthday.

Notes:

     1. Keller, Bill. “Kevin Carter, a Pulitzer Winner For Sudan Photo, Is Dead.” New York Times, 29 July 1994. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.

     2. Kevin Carter Film: Synopsis.” Director: Dan Krauss. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.

I’m organizing and managing my photos.

[Many of my thoughts start on paper.]

I’m currently in the process of organizing my photos from the last several years in a way that uses the space on my hard drives most effectively. I don’t have money to buy a new external hard drive any time I want to and I don’t need to keep all of the RAW file photos that I’ve ever taken. This task requires a lot of prioritizing as well as well-considered deleting. As you read through this post, keep in mind that I just graduated from university with an emphasis in visual journalism (therefore I still have a lot of photos to sort through from classes I’ve taken) and that I am currently not working in the field of photography (if I were I would invest in a lot more disc space). My point is that there are a lot of factors to be considered before figuring out your best way of managing photos. So if you’re reading this post to get step-by-step guidance, I would advise you to think carefully about your own circumstances and factors before jumping in.

Background: My computer has a 500GB internal hard drive. Other than that space, I have one 500GB external hard drive and one 250GB external hard drive. I use the 250GB one to back up non-photo files (like old schoolwork) and use the 500GB one to store my photo files. 1TB hard drives are extremely affordable now,  but at this point I don’t feel comfortable enough to put 1TB-worth of files all in one place just in case something happens to it; I would rather pay a little more for two 500GB drives.

That said, the following are steps I’m taking to organize my photos:

1. Organize by date.
On my 500GB drive, the first layer of folders you see are mostly years: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, etc. The subfolders within these folders are labeled by year, month, and then date, so that the proper order (by date) is kept all the time. If you put the date before the month, you will end up with the 25th of January, February, March, etc grouped together. And in case you’re wondering, I put the year (abbreviated “13” for “2013”) so that I can handle my own errors well. For example, if I accidentally put a folder called “13_08_22Sherlock-Night” into the “2012 Photos”  folder, I can quickly look through the folder and spot which one has the wrong year at the front. So, yes, my folders end up looking something like this:

13_01_24High-School-Reunion

I actually have been using spaces between the words up until now, but a photo prof last semester mentioned that en dashes or underscores are better for the sake of the possibility of ever uploading them online. If I remember correctly, spaces in photo file names/folders can interfere with html language.

After all this, you can then choose to mass label each image file. If you own Adobe Bridge or Lightroom, there are easy methods to mass label images.,They can come out looking something like:

13_01_24High-School-Reunion_0001
13_01_24High-School-Reunion_0002

13_01_24High-School-Reunion_0228

I, personally, will probably never bother to do this, but this level of organization may help you find photos even more easily than if they were labeled “IMG_0101” or something.

2. Use disc space efficiently for gigantic RAW files by prioritizing and then deleting.

There are a lot of photos that I’ve taken on outings with family or with friends that I’ve shot RAW or shot with settings that allow me to shoot as both JPEG and RAW at the same time. A lot of those will never make it into the portfolio that I’ll post on my site here or show potential employers. I do edit a lot of them and post them on Facebook, however. So generally what I will be doing is keeping all the photos I’ve edited (and exported as JPEGs) and also the RAWs of those photos if they exist (sometimes I’ve resorted to just shooting in JPEG when casual shooting). And then I will delete the rest of the photos.

3. Keep a double copy of all portfolio photos (edited and RAW).

By the end of this madness, I’ll have a copy of my portfiolio photos in both my internal hard drive (this makes it easily accessible if I want to upload any of them online at random times) and on my 500GB external drive.

4. Don’t procrastinate organizing photos after shooting.

My senior year in university was extremely busy. So in many ways I had no choice but to push this photo organization task to the bottom of my list of priorities. *Sidenote: I am notorious among my friends for not posting photos on Facebook until months later. For example, this summer I finally posted photos I took back in October. 😉* However, as much as possible, I will try to maintain photo organization. It can really turn into a nightmare later especially if you don’t transfer four 8GB-memory-cards-worth of photos onto a hard drive until you’re about to go shoot an event… *YUP, this happens.*

That’s all for now! I will be updating this post as I figure out newer, better ways of organizing. Please feel free to offer other tips and suggestions in the comments section!

Less is More: Specialized Photography is Successful Photography

Several weeks ago I read the article “‘Everyone is A Photographer’: Specialize or Perish” by Alex Igacio. Well, this specialization business is turning out to be a really difficult step to take.

IMG_0272In the journalism program at the university I attended the last four years, over and over we were told and trained to become multi-skilled journalists for a number of reasons. One, that’s the only way to get hired by companies and organizations these days in the field of journalism. Two, you can figure out what you might want to pursue most. Jack-of-all-trades is the best way to approach the field.

There is a lot of truth in this sort of reasoning. News/media is centered around getting the most (and best) information out to the public as efficiently–both cost-wise and time-wise (time is money anyway)–as possible. Story-telling is most complete with print, visuals, and audio. So when you can have one person complete the job of multiple persons, companies/organizations don’t have to hire so many people. And it opens up various career paths for you–you can become a photographer or a videographer or a weatherman or a ________.

So my department was right. But! I didn’t figure out until it was too late what it took to get to that place, that it is not satisfactory to spread yourself out, never to refine one skill towards its greatest potential. Pause and ask yourself: would I respect someone as a musician who calls himself a musician if he is only as good as a beginner on five different instruments and isn’t fully adequate on any one instrument? In my opinion, this person would not be considered reliable as a musician. Instead, I respect musicians as musicians when they work themselves hard to understand music theory and history, when they spend countless hours honing just one part of their musical piece, when they take the time to practice the same instrument each day with hopes of maturing even on days when they feel like they never want to touch the instrument again.

And I think this respect/admiration/trust happens the same way for professionals in all kinds of fields including, of course, photography. Sure, I would respect a professional if he or she has refined multiple skill-sets. But this isn’t realistic for me or (I’m guessing) for many others, too.

Throughout college, I dabbled in public relations, photography, graphic design, and video. But now it’s time to specialize. Throughout college, I diversified my photo portfolio so that I had sample shots for sports action, concerts, conferences, portraits, scenery. But now it’s time to specialize. Spreading myself out was good in some ways and I’ll never know what it would have been like for me to really refine just one skill throughout college. But I can’t relive my college years anymore, so as I move forward, I know it’s time to specialize.

To be honest, this is a relief! I am often overwhelmed by how much there is to learn about… everything! I enjoy learning, but without attainable goals, learning becomes unnecessarily intimidating and stimulates little motivation.

So, people. In this instance, less is more. For me, it’s time to specialize.

This. Is. Colossal.

Blog friends, I made a beautiful discovery today!! Tadaaaa!!
→ http://www.thisiscolossal.com/ ←

I have spent an hour or two today exploring some of the phenomenal artwork posted on this site. If you are looking for inspiration, you will likely find it here or on the artists’ personal websites. My top pick for today was a piece by Bela Borsodi. Check it (and the process it took to get to it) out!!

“A Single Photograph Looks Like Four Separate Images”