Wednesday, January 28, 2009

cover songs: Justin James Reed sings Moonrise

© Justin James Reed, Coeur d' Alene, Idaho, 2004

© Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico 1941

Awfully handsome. Both. Thanks Justin.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The List

Each term in my intro digi classes, I force each student to draw a number out of a hat, and then give them an hour of class time to research the photographer that corresponds to the number on "the list." From that research, they're expected to give a 5 minute presentation basically covering the time frame of the work and the big ideas & images. I also schedule an additional 5 minutes for me to correct, add, blab, etc.
So basically we cram 170 years of photography into about 4 hours.

Each time I do this though, I can't decide on the list itself. In some cases, a photographer makes it on simply because their contribution must be noted. In some cases, because their work uses some important element that I feel like I should talk about and can't really think of anyone better. So, I guess I'm asking for input/advice/argument. Unless someone changes my mind in the next 6 hours, the list, this time around anyway, is going to be:

Niepce vs. Daguerre
Timothy O'Sullivan
August Sander
Lewis Hine?
Paul Strand?
F-64 (Adams, Weston, Cunningham)
Man Ray
FSA (Evans, Lange)
The Family of Man
Robert Frank's The Americans
John Szarkowski's Mirrors and Windows
Eggleston's Guide
New Topographics
Richard Avedon's In the American West
Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills
Gregory Crewdson
Maggie Taylor
Sherrie Levine and/or Richard Prince
Jeff Wall
Jason Salavon?

Who am I missing? Who am I including who I should let go of?

Also, keep in mind the academic context: community college, 4th week of class in an intro digi class.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cover Songs: Brian Widdis

Many thanks to Brian for being generous enough to send us a photograph that he'd made years ago, inspired by Ralph Eugene Meatyard's "no focus" pictures. Brian writes, "At the time, I justified it by claiming that since it was for a band and the style suited their music, that it was a legitimate choice. Fair enough, I suppose, but not something I would feel comfortable with today."

© Ralph Eugene Meatyard

© Brian Widdis

And a great post on Brian's blog from last Valentine's day to accompany it.

If you ask me, you're both just kind of honoring extra terrestrials:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

cover songs

Years ago, while still in grad school, I had the good fortune to have my work reviewed by John Gossage. Moments before my scheduled session, painfully aware of the incomplete and foggy state of my work at the time, I mentioned to my good friend Mericle, that I really didn't want to have him even look at my work, but I just wanted to sit and hear him dispense wisdom. I didn't really want counseling, or advice even, I just wanted inspiration. I wanted a sermon.

Fortunately, for me, that's almost exactly what happened. At one point, fairly early on in the process, Gossage stopped at this photograph and said "You've got to get rid of that one. It's too much like the Stephen Shore picture. You know the one."

mine. forgive the color/sloppiness. This is the only one I could find and it's not worth the time today.

He was right. It was like the Stephen Shore photograph, but that was intentional. At the time, I felt like it was an allusion; a tip of the hat, a nod to a respected forefather, the recognition of my own life intersecting with that of the photographs that had inspired me or some such thing, but when Gossage came across it, he seemed to read it simply as some poor schmuck copying Stephen Shore. It left me feeling sheepish, as if I'd been caught trying to get away with something. Luckily, that photo led Gossage to some Stephen Shore story which led to some sort of Bill Eggleston-with-drink-in-hand-in-the-back-of-the-car story which led to some Bob Adams story, etc. and fortunately, we both just kind of ignored the work that I'd spread out before him and I soaked up his tales as if I were drinking beer in an Elk's Lodge.

Since that time, I've made the occasional photographic nod to other images, but never anything that sticks or seems to be anything more significant than blog fodder. Even so, I'm still really excited about the idea of "covering" other photographs, the way that musicians do. But of course, I guess the trick is that your work is good enough that it's got a voice of its own first (in hindsight, that was my problem with Gossage), but also that the original is recognizable enough that it's properly acknowledged & respected. Of course, you also need to be playing for the right audience too.

I don't know if there's anyone still out there, but if so, please, send in your "cover song" photographs or others that you're aware of. I know Aperture used to have a section devoted to this sort of thing: was it "Photo Echos" maybe? Something like that. How many of you have done a version of Eggleston's red ceiling /light bulb, or maybe even an Ansel Adam's Yosemite or some such thing?

Sunday, January 4, 2009