Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

They Only Want You When You’re Seventeen

April 30, 2008

Birthday shenanigans were pretty intense. Fuzzy days and nights with lots of work that need be done. But even with all the stress from school I still managed to keep up with it all. And now the year is coming to a close…

Last week I hung my work for an afternoon to be juried for the “big fucking deal” scholarship. I did not win, but it was still nice to just have my work up and looked at. The following day I had to bring my work back to the same place and hang it for the Junior Photography Show. I find that the work I hung is kind of boring, but it is smart, so I will not beat myself up over it. Saturday is the opening and we have arranged to share an open bar with the Crafts show which is happening on the floor below our show. (Well, our show is more or less on the balcony of their show.) I am hoping that I can sell some work, I could use some extra money, but I do not know just how marketable my photos in the show are.

This is the last week of actual classes, followed by exam week, and then critique week. And I have a couple of projects that are in progress, and one that needs to be completed start-to-finish. But I know I will get it all done.

This summer is bound to be interesting. New people in my life, new opportunities. Actually, let me elaborate on the latter. So I wrote some e-mails to a number of photographers regarding internship options over the summer. I waited two, maybe three weeks and still had no responses. My summer plans changed to moving to Rochester, NY for the summer to spend it with my brother. Then I got one response. From an artist here in Philly. He was my first choice and he said he has all these things that he could use help on. Changed my summer yet again. The following day I recieved another response from an artist in New York City. He said he did not need much help and that he tends to work alone and slowly, but I was more than welcome to come lend a hand whenever. I e-mailed him back saying that I was taking the internship here in Philly, but to let me know whenever he needs any help and I would gladly go up and help him out.

I figure this may be totally overwhelming, but I could use a busy summer with a lot of learning from actual photographers. They both are really conceptually driven, so I am bound to learn a ridiculous amount of who-knows-what. The one here in Philly is actually a gay artist as well, so working with him should be another way to learn more and more about myself along with the community.

All in all, I am psyched. And Ladytron was way wrong… twenty-one is more fun.


Try to keep up

April 15, 2008

Everything in the past couple of weeks has been overwhelming.

School has gone from a feeling of “I got this, I can handle this,” to “Holy shit, I’m fucked. I’m fucked!” about once a day, everyday. And in the midst of drowning, a dingy comes and there is a glimpse of hope. Last Tuesday I got pulled out of my class to talk to a teacher that I did not know. She told me that of the entire junior photo class that I was one of the three selected to receive this scholarship. The way it works is that you get a 50% discount for attending these summer workshops at Peter’s Valley Craft Center in New Jersey. I was floored. The teachers selected me for some reason. I know my work is pretty good, but I feel like this semester I have struggled so much and have nothing really good to show for it. But hey, they see something in me and I will be damned to not take them up on every opportunity they allow me.

By Thursday I had fallen back into my stressed out, crazed state of mind that comes with when I feel like I am not being productive enough. I went to class where we were having a guest speaker come and demo for us some really neat alternative printing processes. I was the first student there, so I got to meet the artist and talk to him for a bit on a personal level (always a good thing, networking). So class begun and I was floored. He is an amazing digital printer (the one thing that I feel I am really weak at). I remembered where he was based out of and realized that he would be a great internship for the summer–with him personally or with his studio/gallery. I made sure to leave with his contact information and e-mailed him over the weekend. Now we just have to wait.

But while he was demoing, I got pulled aside again and handed an envelope that read “Urgent” in bright red letters in that really lovely stamp text. I started freaking out. I thought it had to do with some paper I found on the Lost and Found rack and took since I saw it sitting there for almost a week (hey, that shit is expensive, and if everyone is just going to walk by it, I will at least put it to good use). I opened the envelope. It read, “I am pleased to inform you…” blah blah blah. Another scholarship opportunity. This one, even more exclusive than the other. During our break I asked my teacher (who happens to be my advisor as well) what it was all about. She said, “Is that the Alexander? Yeah. Yeah… that’s a big fucking deal, Steven.” Only two people get selected from every department from the school and then there is a jury to look at our work and ONE person from the entire school gets this award. But you receive it after you graduate. Amazing.

But the issue with all of that is that the deadlines are all next week. That means I have to make final prints, mat them, frame them, and hang them for jurying. I also have to make a digital portfolio for another grant for this Friday. And hang my work elsewhere the day after the jurying for the Junior Photo Show… Too much! But I will get by.

But. Thursday is my 21st birthday… My brother is coming from Rochester, NY for it and I still have to manage to get all this real-life stuff done. “I got this, I can handle this.”

They talk of a return to nature, I wonder where they went

March 26, 2008

I really enjoy the springtime. I used to be a winter child, but since living in the city I cannot say that winter is something I look forward to. Especially this year, there was no snow whatsoever. I grew up in Maine, snow is something you learn to love. But here, with global warming and a generally messed up ecosystem, we feel short of any snow this season. But spring is here. And with it, the rut that I have been in concerning my photography has really lifted.

Something about the last few months really kept me away from getting excited about my work. I guess it probably has a lot to do with being in a relationship that was not necessarily what I needed to be in. But with that freedom, and the shift in the weather, and shooting for a project and actually enjoying the shooting and being excited about printing… it is as if my whole outlook on Photography has gone back to where it used to be. It was the motivation I needed.

In my “Critical Issues in Photography” class last night, we were talking about landscape photography and how different people use it. The instructor asked who shoots landscapes and one hand went up. Then a couple people called me out on shooting landscapes (I just do not like to pigeon-hole myself since I do not really have a niche yet). We got into a discussion about how landscapes are more of a personal experience than something to talk about. The professor asked for an example. I said, “Well let me put it this way. I have seen this whole country. I may not have been there, but I know what it looks like and I know what’s there.”

I have been taking myself back to nature when it comes to my work. But I have other projects to work on as well. But it really impresses me when I can look at the theme of my portraits and fit them into the various themes in my landscapes or other work. Maybe I have a niche; I just have to figure out what it is.

Proper practices… paying off

February 27, 2008

Monday was another serious series of ups and downs. We’ll start with the downs.

In the morning, the very-recent ex decided that we should be talking again. We got heated, it ended up in the same place though. We just cannot be friends right now. He wants me to not date (not that I am trying right now anyways), but I told him that I probably will when I am ready. But none of it will be serious… I am not ready for another serious relationship. Not for a while, at least. So I was upset, he kept putting words in my mouth, so I cut him off and went out to do things that I needed to do before class.

Upon arrival of my first class, I remember that we were supposed to have ideas for our presentations all figured out for that day. I not only did not have an idea, but I did not have a partner either. I think fast, “What photographer works with end-time themes?” Nothing. I got nothing. Another photo nerd gave me the idea of David LaChapelle and his body of work revolving around the end of time. Check. Now, who to work with? I look around the room, scanning for people I know. She will work with him. Him with him. Her with him. Class beings, still no idea. Then, he walks into the room. His beautiful eyes, unique looks (which means he is typically kind of homely, but attractive in his own way), talented photographer, the object of my desires. Straight (I know, right? Always happens to me). I ask him, he is stoked for not having to work alone and agrees. (We are both kind of loners… but it is by choice.) Check, that issue is taken care of.

On to my next class, Workshop. I knew I had to leave early for a scholarship benefit, but I developed my film and showed the contact sheets to my instructor. I hated them; I knew I was going to redo the whole project with a new idea. He hated them, told me I was right and sent me on my way.

I arrive at the Scholarship Reception and immediately look out for where they hung my work. …They only hung two of the four pieces I gave them. And two of the photos were supposed to be hung together… but only one was up. Whatever, there was “limited space,” so I did not make a scene. I found that a bunch of my friends also received scholarships, so it was not going to be that awkward of a time. The whole point of the reception is to meet the people that funded your scholarship. My contributor had passed a few years back (which I found out after I looked and looked and looked for her) and she did not have any benefactors coming to represent her. I was livid. I loathe missing classes, and I missed four hours of class to not meet my supporter. At the end of the night we were told to take our stuff, so I headed up to the small space where our work was and I stopped to talk to a friend on my way out. That is when it all happened…

This guy, late twenties/early thirties approaches me. He addressed me by name, “I am assuming this is your work,” pointing at my photo. I said yes, still in shock. He then told me he had been looking for me all night, that he really loved the piece, but he could tell that there was more to the story. We talked for maybe thirty minutes, back and forth about the school, the program, what my goals are, etc, etc. I am horrible with names, so naturally I have no idea who he is. But I do know that he graduated from my school in 2000, and is currently a curator somewhere. (I wish I did not get so nervous when talking to people and could remember very important details like that.) I did not exchange any contact information with him (stupid! So stupid!) but I am going to try to find out who he is and get in touch with him and thank him for his words.

Not meeting with the people who support me really bummed me out, put a damper on the whole evening; but meeting someone who genuinely enjoys my work and process really made it all worth it. I just put it up; there was no caption with it, just a single photo with a label. And it generated something in him. It made him think. That, that is what I want from a career in photography. And now I feel like there really is a possibility of it all happening for me.

No reward for proper practices

February 12, 2008

I take a lot of things very seriously. School is one of them. If I did not care so much about school, I would not bother spending almost 30-grand a year for my education that really will not pay off until God knows when. That is the thing with going to art school; there are no promises of a job when you are done. That is one of those questions that you have to answer all the time. Almost every time you meet someone new and they ask what you do… “Oh photography. That’s interesting, but what are you doing to do when you’re done with school?” I really wish people would not make me think about that. It is too much.

But I digress from my original intent of writing just now. So I am a serious student. I do all my work, I do it well. I apply myself to all aspects of my education, trying to soak up as much as I possibly can from the people around me. Working in a ‘creative field’ is just like playing a sport in my eyes. Actually, everything can be compared to a sport… In school, we are all working to better ourselves, but in perspective, we really are just trying to be better than the person next to us.

I did not originally come to school for Photography. I came for Graphic Design… but that did not work out. I ended up in photo by taking an elective class and really found it all to be so interesting. Something about it drew me in, and by what I come up with now, I can see that it was the right decision. Everyone else in the program had a camera since real early in their lives and knows so much about the equipment and established photographers. All I know about photographers is what I learned in Photo History… but that does not really help in the aspect of contemporary photo.

Sorry, let me get back to the point. I am a serious student. Always working on something or another. I always do the homework, be it shooting, editing, reading, writing… anything. I just have a guilty conscience if I do not do it. Like I let the instructor down. But really, doing the homework just prepares you for class or creates a stronger understanding of what was taught. In my Studio class (photographic studio lighting, etc) I was getting picked on. Normally I am okay with it; being the school geek that does all the work, always right, because I am a perfectionist (which is more of a curse at times). But today it was not just the students picking on me it was the teacher too. He was annoyed that I knew all the answers to his questions. He was bothered that I knew how to light these “tricky” subjects. Everyone just looks at me like I am a know-it-all… but really, it is just because I did the reading. I looked through the assigned chapters and learned before class… like we were told to do…

Last week in this same class, I was getting bored and sleepy in class. As I was falling asleep, he woke me up and my first reaction was “I know the answer.” And I did. Why? Because, as we were assigned, I read. But what is the point of doing the homework if we just go over it all, word-for-word in class? I am wasting my time, both outside and inside of class. And there does not seem to be a reward for this… just criticism.

And for this class in general, I am quite bored. I feel like we could just breeze through these first eight weeks of assignments in maybe four, and then do more creative projects. But he insists on slowing it way down. And he tells us to get creative with the assignments. But how do you get creative with, “Light a box on a seamless white background so three sides are shown, and each side has a different tonal value.” Not only was that exactly what we did in class, but there really is not any room for creativity. I am just finding it real hard to sit in a class with a bunch of slackers and have to suffer through class because of it.