Menu Close

Category: About Photography (page 1 of 4)

Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto For Growth

The other day as I was clicking through Tumblr, a network I am finding increasingly strange, I happened upon an image with three points labeled “Incomplete Manifesto for Growth”. After following the tumble trail to its absolute origin, I found this: Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. Man, I love shit like this.

Originally written in 1998 by designer Bruce Mau, the list outlines his design process. But, more importantly, I think the little snippets of advice and guidance can inform any creative process, from writing to design to filmmaking to music. Whatever it is you’re struggling with creatively can benefit from some alternative perspective. You may not always take the advice, but if it causes you to think differently about the problem you’re trying to solve, then it was helpful. As I said yesterday, creativity is problem solving, and anything that helps you solve a problem is good.

And this list is filled with all sorts of good lits bits. If I were forced to pick my favorite five, they would be these.

2. Forget about good.
Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

3. Process is more important than outcome.
When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.

9. Begin anywhere.
John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

11. Harvest ideas.
Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.

32. Listen carefully.
Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.

40. Avoid fields.
Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.

I know, I know. That was six. I tried not to post the whole list. Get over it.

Check out the remainder of the 43 points here: Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.

Number 15 on the list, Ask Stupid Questions, reminds me a lot of Leonardo’s to-do list from the post yesterday. “Ask Benedetto Portinari by what means they go on ice in Flanders”?? That is a stupid ass question. Maybe I’m not asking stupid enough questions.

Creative Projects-September: Dance Dance Dance, or, Barcelona-Vale! Vale!

September was a super strong creative month for me with not one but two dance videos (projects 10 & 11) and what I consider to be a nice return to my photo habit (project 12). You’ve seen the work and, I hope, enjoyed it as well.

The videos were fun little exercises in cranking out projects, the one we did in my apartment especially. The first video really needed to be put out quickly since it was a topical joke on that insipid video that Lanvin put out. So, it was. The edit only took a little while and the grade even less time. Of course, I was not happy with the first color correct, so I did it again the next day at work. The After Effects work to comp the problematic scenes was probably what took the longest, but, still, everything considered, the video was shot Thursday night and posted to the grand old interwebs Friday evening.

The Rubirosa video was slightly more involved on Sarah’s part since it required wrangling the staff of the restaurant, but my contribution was about the same as the prior video. Edit over a couple sittings, tweak this, tweak that, animate a face under a pizza, edit the music, make everything beautiful, and done. Luckily it was very well received by both staff and press, being blogged all over NY’s various foodie blogs. Pretty bad ass.

I might have also included the Ruby Kobo video in this list, but I took money for that so it doesn’t count according to the guidelines I established for this year’s theme. Regardless, I like how that came out too. Nice little video.

As I’ve mentioned before, the photos from Barcelona were the first set of photos I’ve posted to The Black Laser since July of 2010. I’ve taken a few photos in the interim, but nothing worth sharing, nothing I cared about. Honestly, I felt like I was done with photos and considered selling my photo equipment a few times. It would bring me a considerable sum as I’ve invested quite a few dollars into the habit over the years. But, I am glad I haven’t taken that plunge. I’ve just felt no inspiration to take photos, nothing has been popping out at me screaming “CAPTURE ME!!” I almost didn’t even take the camera to Spain since I wanted to pack lightly. Fortunately, I went with the old, “Fuck it, why not?” and took my stuff. I am glad I did and would have bitterly regretted not having my equipment in some of the places we went—Monserrat especially.

Looking back over the photos I took, and then comparing them to older photos, it is very clear to me that my eye is incredibly consistent, but that my technique and taste are getting better and better. Even with my year hiatus, I came back to the process of capturing images with a cleared mind than I remember ever having before. Indeed, I was much more critical of the photos I was taking as I was taking them than I ever remember being. Perhaps the break is exactly what I needed because I am definitely pleased with the quality of the selects. I wish I had taken more photos, but I guess I’ll just have to go back.

And how has the process of slowing my roll gone? Quite well in September, in fact. Besides some wedding-induced over indulgence, September has been quite a moderate month for me. I’ve been very deliberately eating better, too. I am now below 200 pounds for the first time in years and years. Encouraging!

While were were vacationing in Europe (mad bougie, I know), I was talking to JJ about how I really want to get back into shape, but how I just fucking loathe running. He suggested Crossfit which he said would kick my ass. I told him that needed my ass kicked. When i got back to the States (mad bougie phrase), I looked up classes in NY. I found a place close to work, but was intimidated by the cost. When I mention that to JJ, he was like, “Dude, that’s 3 nights of drinking. Shut up,” and I was all, “Yeah, duh. Ok,” and signed up. Though technically in October, I took a free intro class on Saturday and holy shit it kicked my ass. I gave me two things. 1) The clear knowledge that I am magnificently out of shape. 2) The desire not to have my ass kicked again. 7 minutes into the 10 minute workout I was seeing stars. My thighs still kill and it’s Monday. Amazing.

The intro course starts 10/17 and runs for three weeks. I will have more to say about it in my October recap, certainly, so look forward to that.

Let’s also talk for a moment about the amortization of expenses as they relate to drinks. I’ve written here on The Black Laser about how I amortize photographic expenditures, that is, a photo must be taken for every dollar spent on gear with that piece of gear. It’s sensible and it works. However, I’ve also found that a useful way for me to think about spending on things in my life is to measure it against what I would spend at the bar. “Oh jeez, 5 dollars for whatever thingie that would probably be really helpful?” 1 beer. “100 bucks for x, y, or z thing?” 1 Saturday out. “300 bucks for the intro to Crossfit course and two weeks of classes afterwards that will put me on the path to being more healthy?” 3 Saturdays out. Money I wouldn’t even think for a second about spending at the bar becomes incredibly difficult to spend in real life on other things that would be much more beneficial to me than a night of drinking that I might not even remember.

How stupid is that? Really stupid. But, the truth is that it is a useful hack that I’ve been using on myself for a long time. And it works.

Ok, lots of words about September. Hopefully October is just as productive. Oh yeah, 100% on the projects. WHAT WHAT!? Awesome. Everything from here on out is in the triple digit percentages. Healthy. I like it.

Buy some photos from my brother. I command it.

I’ve written about my brother Charlie before here numerous times. Well, he recently started an Etsy store where he’s selling some prints of photos he’s been taking around San Francisco. Go give him some money. The prints are very reasonably priced and he’s a good man.

I particularly like this one:

Cha, do you hear that? I like THAT one. You have my mailing address.

Here’s the link to his Etsy shop: Charlie Dillingham on Etsy.

Announcing JosephDillingham.com! YAY!

I very very rarely talk about what I do for a living here. Most of my work-talk is concerned with the things I’m doing for myself, i.e., writing, photos, music, films, &c. &c. Well, I’ve been talking about it and thinking about it for a long time, but I’ve finally gotten something put up at JosephDillingham.com, which is a huge relief because it makes the business cards I got a year and a half ago valid now. Fun! Click the image below to check it out.

Right now it only has my editorial reel on it, but I’ve built it so that I can later add sections for my other creative work. I hope to one day have photos, music, and writing on there as well as editorial. Maybe a director’s reel? Who knows! The possibilities are limitless. Getting this up is a huge weight off my head. I’ve been stressing out about it for a while and I am glad to have it done.

Also, if you are my friend and you have a professional site that I haven’t included in my “Friends” section, hit me up with a link and I’ll gladly add you. I like pimping my friends out. It’s good business.

The Theme for 2011

After the unmitigated disaster that was my Theme for 2010, it’s time to reevaluate the way I intend to approach 2011. But first, let’s explore what I set out to do for 2010 and where I think everything went wrong because, without exaggeration, everything went wrong.

The thing you’ll notice first when looking over at the tally for the year in the right hand column is that I accomplished basically nothing of what I intended at this time last year. My grand plans to write something substantial every single month AND make three music videos fell right through the floor. Whose fault is that? Mine, of course. But, the other question is am I upset about it? Nope. Not at all.

Where was all the work? It was there, but not in the places I intended. 2010 was a very busy year for me professionally and with other personal projects. As it turned out, I engaged in a ton of projects through the year.

What the hell did I spend all year doing? Well, I cut a film, 6 other videos, a bunch of commercials, I took the whole summer off, I moved out of my old apartment and adjusted to life as a single man, I traveled around the country, I reconnected with old friends, I made new friends, I made music, I partied way too much, and who knows what else. The bottom line is that I was busy busy busy and I enjoyed (almost) every moment of it.

So, I didn’t get the things done I wanted to get done this year, but in the face of a major shift in my life, I was able to accomplish a number of other things. I feel good about how 2010 turned out overall and have no complaints. Sure, in retrospect I could have slowed my roll a little bit and gotten more done, but I needed to get it out of my system too. I also think that the important part about the theme is not that I make something specific, but that I make something no matter what it is. The idea is to be creatively active, engaged, making things.

The theme for 2011 will be…

The Year of 12 Projects (and Slowing My Roll)

What does this entail? Simple. For each month of the year I will do something creative that requires more than one sitting. It’s not going to be one-per-month to allow for me to do 2 at once or skip a month if needed, but as there are 12 months in the year, so will I walk into 2012 with 12 projects finished. What the scope or nature of these projects will be I cannot say. The only requirement is that they are creative. It could be anything. Right off the bat, I am thinking of redesigning The Black Laser, getting josephdillingham.com up and running, a short story set in OUTER SPACE!!!!, some music, a music video for my friend Mandy, and whatever the hell else my brain comes up with. Make make make.

The other half of the theme is to slow my roll. If you don’t understand what I mean, it can be boiled down to two words: party less. I’ve gone a little nuts this year and it’s taking its toll on me. It’s been the default mode for me this year. When I don’t have anything to do, I go out. Bad news. I need to figure out ways to entertain myself that don’t end with an empty wallet and a scarred liver. Common sense, I think. Besides, I have some trips planned for later this year and it would be nice to be able to afford them.

There it is. Look out for posts tagged “The Year of 12 Projects”. When the first one is done, I will make a new box on the right. Or I won’t. Wouldn’t you like to know?!?!

Things that inspire me.

While browsing the Apedogs the other day, I came across a thread where folks were filling out these influence maps. I thought it was pretty cool so I did my own. See if you can identify all my sources. I almost definitely could fill out an entirely different second one of these.

After thinking about it a little bit more, I realized that I failed the Bechdel Test SO HARD. Terrible! It doesn’t change what my influences are, but it sure makes me look like a misogynist. Oops!

If you want to do your own, download the PSD here.

And, if you head over to Apedogs, check out the speed paint thread. Amaaaaaaaaaazing.

Arian’s “Atmospheres” featured in Juxtapoz Magazine Online

I’m sure you all remember the ink drop videos I posted a while back. Well, just a few days ago the mastermind behind the project, Arian Camilleri, was featured in Juxtapoz magazine. Pretty cool bit of press, I think. Here’s what they say about the project.

Arian Camilleri is a Brooklyn based photographer who aims to address and explore the concepts of creation and infinity in his photographs. Expanding and collapsing in an almost infinitely hypnotic manner, his new series is mesmerizing.

The fluid seems to rush towards you, then almost off the page; the unknown substances are perplexing and exciting. This is free movement captured.

The ethereal quality of these images could land one’s mind anywhere from underwater to a landscape horizon, and even outer space. Like cloud formations in the sky, the choice and destination is ever-changing, left to the viewer to decide.

You can check out the whole article here: Infinite Collapse as Explored by Arian Camilleri

Here’s Arian’s fine art site: Arian Camilleri

Click the link. Check the site.

A Bunch of Things I Want but Absolutely Do Not Need, a Bunch of Things I Probably Should Get but Don’t Feel like Dealing With, and a Bunch of Things I Need.

I am a man of few wants and fewer needs. I am low maintenance and easy to clean up after (which is nice because I’m the one cleaning up after myself). I do not typically spend a bunch of money on random things or things that have limited potential usefulness. I always prefer to purchase things that are useful and creative and inspiring, but the problem is that when I look at this sort of purchase I’m a “spend the money once and get the right thing” sort of dude rather than the “I’ll get the inexpensive thing now and upgrade later” sort of dude. This is a double edged sword in that the things I want are awesome and will work well and last, but they are costly. Sometimes embarrassingly costly. What can I say? I have expensive taste.

Ironically this post comes at a time when I am in the worst financial shape since I lost my job last summer. After taking most of the summer off, traveling, playing way too much, not working a minute, visiting with friends, concerts, drinks, dinners, bottles of wine on the river, tacos, and whatever the hell else, my poor bank account is left ravaged and my credit cards are left swollen, bloated, corpulent things demanding my blood and tears. I have just enough cash for rent, which is nice, but I won’t be playing for a few weeks until I get paid again.

Thank Jesus for work. Oy.

But when I do have some reserves again, there are a few things I want, a few things I should deal with but can’t be hassled, and a smaller list of things I absolutely need.

Let’s start are the most ridiculous shall we?

• Leica M7

If you follow me on Twitter or if you are a fan of mine on Facebook (why are you not doing both????), then you’ll know that yesterday I posted a link to an eBay auction for a used Leica M7 in excellent condition with the box. The photo above was stolen shamelessly from the auction.

The question was asked why I needed another camera body. Indeed, why did I need a used 35mm film camera body sans lens that eventually sold for 1681.00 +16.00 shipping? I reply that to ask the question is to display an essential lack of understanding of the issue at hand. I look at it as concerning two things: quality and simplicity. As you know from reading my photography posts, I’ve been shifting toward a prime-lens-only style of shooting over the last couple of years. Again, simplicity and quality. Prime lenses allow me greater image quality while being simpler and not getting in the way of me getting the shot. My trio of 28mm, 50mm, and 85mm primes cover 98% of the shooting I do. I have (and rarely use) a bunch of other lenses, but the three mentioned are my go to guys all the time.

Can I not achieve good quality with a regular camera? Probably, yes. Must I use a film-based, Leica rangefinder? No, I don’t, but where’s the fun in that? The advantage of a film Leica over, say, my current Canon 5D II, is that the Leica, properly cared for, will never stop working. Eventually the 5D II will be superseded by the next cool ass thing that comes out and that by the next and so on and so on. But with the Leica, as film technology advances, all you have to do is buy new rolls. Done and done. And, no, film’s not going anywhere, people.

Another thing you probably don’t realize about the photos I’ve posted for you is the sheer amount of monkeying around that goes on between capture and output. I shoot everything as RAW files and process every single photo on my computer before you ever see them. With a lot of photos it can become a serious amount of time we’re talking about just to get the photos to a place where I am happy with how they look. Of course, I enjoy this process, but it’s also distracting in the same way that zoom lenses are distracting: too much noodling, not enough decision making. I can change anything and everything as long as I exposed the photo appropriately. There’s no point at which the photo is finished. I can tweak and tweak and tweak until my brain explodes. That is a hindrance. It slows me down. I could shoot JPEG like a fool, but that’s stupid. Never.

Film provides proven, unerring quality, but with most of the salient decisions already baked into the negative. Yeah, sure, I could scan the neg with a drum scanner and tweak in Photoshop or whatever until I’m blue in the face, but that’s not my intent. If I want to do that sort of shooting, I’ll use the 5DII. What I want from the Leica is simplicity but quality and enough control to make it do what I think it should. Sure, I could use some shitty little digicam (more on that later) and it would be simple, but the photos would be of poor quality. Inferior. I could carry around a view camera and achieve startling quality, but that’s not simple at all. I’m going to extremes here, but you get my point.

Of less importance, but still part of my decision making, the Leica is inconspicuous. If you were some shlub on the street and you saw a dude wandering around with his Leica around his neck, you probably wouldn’t identify it as a surprisingly pricey camera. (Note to thieves: find the Leica M9, those go for like 9 grand) You can point it at people in the street and because it’s not much larger than your average point and shoot, people won’t be put off by you pointing a lens in their direction. Conversely, if I’m wandering around with my 5D II and giant, white 70-200 f/2.8, people notice. You can’t point that thing at anyone without them noticing. It’s like pointing a huge, white, glass and metal hard-on at someone: obvious.

Nevertheless, the next time I have 4500 bucks to spend on a Leica and 50mm f/2 combo, I’m going to. It just doesn’t make a whole mess of sense at this point. The good thing is, if I ever want to sell it down the road, I should be able to sell it for about what I paid. Killer.

Price: $1600-2500 (body only)

• Fujifilm FinePix X100

Oh god, what, another camera? For serious? Another rangefinder, this one digital, with a fixed focal length 35mm equivalent non-interchangeable lens?

Yes. For serious. Hear me out.

I’m not usually excited about product announcements during tradeshows. They’re often just updates of last year’s myriad consumer-grade, multicolor piece of shit models or they’re middling updates of last year’s low-end DSLRs or they’re significant upgrades to camera systems in which I’ve not invested or they’re some ludicrously expensive medium-format niche drool-worthy piece of kit. None of those things are my usual purchase areas. But recently I’ve been thinking about picking up a pocketable camera to take out with me so that Michael and I can continue to create Yeah Du’s.

And then they announced this little guy, supposedly available early next year. It features an APS-C sized sensor (awesome for a small camera) and a fixed-focal length lens. You read that right. Not a zoom in sight here. And who needs one? Distractions! So I’m considering this thing seriously next year when it comes out and I’ve been able to read the reviews. Of course, it will cost me about 3 or 4 times what some piece of shit Point & Shoot would, but you pay for goodness. And I bet it shoots RAW. God, I hate JPEGs.

Price: $1000 (estimated)

• The full printed version of the Oxford English Dictionary

Does anyone besides maybe a library actually need a 20-volume version of the dictionary comprising of some 21,768 pages? Of course I do. Don’t be silly. Don’t forget the 3 volumes of additions since the main version was printed.

English is a dynamic and interesting language. Constantly changing, evolving, picking up pieces from other places, and discarding parts it no longer needs, it has become a vibrant tapestry of history and human culture. The OED doesn’t just define words. It also explores their etymologies, which, for a great big word dork like me, is exciting as fuck. I bet no one has ever described a dictionary as exciting as fuck before. You saw it here.

I would love to have this mammoth stack of books just sitting around my house. Relative volume to me Brooklyn apartment be damned.

Price: 995.00 (main edition) + 215.00 (additions) = 1210.00

• A new laptop

I was going to put this in the above section because it is going to end up being so expensive, but it’s actually more appropriate here. My current laptop, a late-2006 MacBook Pro, is showing its age. I’ve replaced basically everything on it: the screen, the hard drive, the ram, the optical drive. It’s been carried all over the place for years. It’s been dropped out of the back of a car resulting in screen and case damage, the latter of which I ended up bending back out with pliers. It’s funky, it’s dirty, the screen has dark patches. It’s been well used.

But none of these are compelling reasons to replace the thing. The only reason this is a “probably should get” and not a “want” is that I really do use it for work all the time and the poor little guy just isn’t up to the task of editing high quality, high definition material. It kicked ass when all I had to throw at it was standard def NTSC. But throw some 1080p/24 ProRes HQ shit at it and it explodes. This summer when I was in California I spent some time finishing up the Atmospheres videos for Arian. On my computer at home, they were handled with ease, but on the road on this laptop things quickly spiraled into darkness. Every time I made a tweak, I’d have to re-render. Each render took over an hour. Little things that would have taken me an hour or two in my apartment took me over 18 on my mom’s kitchen table. That’s just not ok. If I use the thing for work, it needs to be able perform up to the task.

Then there’s the issue of the photos. This guy used to handle my old 20D files with zest and flair, but when I got my 5D II and this was still my main computer, I started to see that it was getting long in the tooth. It chokes on those 5D II raws. Just chokes. That’s not work, but it’s a drag. Not compelling, but it adds to my reasons to replace it.

And I think I might go 17″ this time. I’ve always thought it was too big to carry around, but I don’t carry mine around that much anymore. Typically when working somewhere, I bring it on the first day and leave it there until I’m done. So the added weight of the 17″ won’t be a huge factor. Besides, I’m a big enough sort of dude, so fuck it, right? I also like the greater screen real estate and that it was an ExpressCard slot.

Price: $2599.00

• Bicycle

Remember all my blah blah blahing about how I wanted to get a bicycle earlier this summer? About how I was going to ride it around Brooklyn and overcome my fear of getting brained on the sidewalk after being sideswiped by a bus? Well, I am still utterly bike-less. Dumb, right? I even have space in my building’s backyard to store it safely. Yet I am unable just to pull the trigger and get one. Come on, Joe. Just do it.

Price: ~$150-250

• Coffee table

A few months ago I moved into this apartment and furnished it partially with the things I felt most important: sofa, kitchen table, kitchen island, tv stand, bed frame. Some things we neglected, or, rather, were low priority so I felt I could wait on them. That was April. It’s now nearly October and I’ve not purchased any of them. One of the things I most need is a coffee table. I’d like one that is not too expensive, solid, between 48 and 60 inches long, and about 18 inches deep. It is surprisingly hard to find nice, skinny, inexpensive tables like that. I’ve seen some on the street but with the bed bug epidemic going around New York City, you need to be cautious when pulling in sidewalk furniture.

The picture I used above for illustrative purposes is actually pretty nice and quite close to what I’m looking for, but that one is 1200 bucks and way too many dollars. I saw one last week that was the right size and 117 bucks, but the top was made of this awful crushed pottery shit inlaid in cement or something. It would have been very uncomfortable to rest bare feet on. Close, but no dice. I mean, it doesn’t have to be SUPER cheap. I’m willing to spend up to 300~350 bucks if the table is fucking amazing. I’m not a cheap ass here, but my standards are also not very low.

The search continues. One day I’ll find the right one. One day when I have more than 10 dollars left in my pocket until the check that I’ve been waiting for since late August arrives in the mail.

Price: ≤ $350

• End tables/bedside table

See above. It would be nice to have a couple of these. You can never have too many places to put down your beer or remote or book or socks or keys or pencils or knives or really just another surface to collect dust.

Price: ≤ $50~75 ea.

• Lamps

Because overhead lighting is a drag, but so is sitting in the dark. I’ve been using a combo of overhead light from the other room, sunlight (when available), and lamp on the floor to light my house. It’s not ideal. Yet, I don’t want to just plunk down on any old cheap shit, tacky lamps. I want nice lamps that don’t look like they’re going to fall apart. I need a mix of floor lamps and table lamps, but I’ve just not yet found anything I wanted to spend money on.

For 6 months.

There’ve been a lot of dark ass nights in my place.

Price: who knows?!

• More pants

I’ve purchased pants twice in the last two years. The first time the lady at the store busted my balls for buying 34″ x 34″s because she said they were too long for me. But when I got the 34″ x 32″s home and washed them—KAPOW!—they became too short. But I liked the pants so much that I bought a few more pairs online at the correct size.

This summer, not needing a bunch of slightly too short pants, I turned them into shorts. Now it doesn’t matter that the original length was not satisfactory because the offending parts of the pants have been removed. But, it also means that I am down half my pants. With autumn setting in and winter coming, my “new” shorts, comfortable as they are, will no longer be appropriate clothing.

Luckily, I already know the kind of pants I want. If something works, why mess with success? These are easily the best pants I’ve ever owned and the only ones whose pockets don’t rip. I hate ripped pockets. The worst.

Now I just need to plunk down the cash and have some sent to me, but I’m lagging. Low priority, I guess.

Price: $40/pair

• A convenient mix of oxygen and nitrogen

Breathing is awesome.

• Something to eat

It doesn’t even have to be particularly good or fancy, just something that will satisfying my nutritional needs.

• Water

It’s good and good for you. You have to replenish the internal ocean.

• Shelter

Being rained and snowed on while trying to sleep is not a good recipe for staying alive.

• Sleep

Because it’s fucking weird when you’re no longer able to tell dreams from reality and you start to lose your mind.