I’m a bit late to the party about writing up a blog post about this, but back in August of this year I debuted a project that I had been working on since February of 2015, and planning ever since I wrote up my last blog entry, you know, the one from almost two years ago. Well, for once I have an excuse for the gap in my posts, and here it is! The project is called Creative Combustion, and it features 18 artists who are either from, or located in, Minneapolis. The exhibition was hosted by Gamut Gallery and its wonderful staff, who documented the opening night in a facebook album. There is a print edition which is available for purchase from Blurb and a web version where you can view all of the essays and photos for free on Medium, both links are below. If you’re curious about what this all is, read on for full project information.
What we might know about an artist’s work, regardless of the medium, often stems from our own perception of that work as a viewer. With prior knowledge of the artist’s intent, we can skew our perception to match closer to that of the artist’s vision. We bring in our own meaning to a piece, drawing from our own ideas, opinions, and life experiences. We also draw in the message that the artist had intended for their viewers to think about and create for ourselves a story behind the artwork and why it is — or isn’t — something that we relate to. However, while each viewer is entitled to his or her own perception of art, how often has an in-depth look at what makes that artist tick, what drives them to create their works, been examined? Responses to the question “What inspires you?” are met with only a short discussion, leaving the person asking with only an interpretation of a response. As a result, the artist’s original vision becomes foggy to the recipient and the true source of the work is left behind and unexplained, despite its key role for the artist.
Among the ever-rapidly growing list of creative individuals in and from Minnesota, there are those with a truly spectacular view on their craft and their motivation behind it. They have shown that innovation is not a concept that they take lightly. They take their work very seriously, never faltering or giving up in their craft. Their work stands on its own, projecting the skill and confidence of its creator. These are the individuals that I began to seek out over a year ago when this project began, hoping not only to discuss their work but to discuss their creative spark, and the ingredients that come together to light it in an event that I call creative combustion.
Like a translator tasked with creating books in different languages, the task that I had placed upon myself was to interpret the artists’ thoughts and ideas and put them into my own words and photographs, going from the language of thought to the language of tangible written and visual narrative. However, my intent was not only to interpret their thoughts, but experience them. If an artist mentioned a location, I traveled there with them or met them there, or if the spark was lit by an idea or a thing, we would make sure it was present in the room before proceeding with our conversation. I wanted to understand the psychology behind their responses by experiencing the spark firsthand and capture it in photographs and words, eventually showcasing the process of creative combustion itself.
Over a year later, I, as well as a few others who have helped me in this journey and have been key contributors to the project, have had the privilege of meeting with a sample of artists from a large variety of creative fields. Painters, musicians, gallery curators, master brewers, and aerial performers are a small sampling of the types of individuals who are featured in this book, each with a unique story to tell about their work and their creative spark. It is thanks to their tireless work ethic, ability to innovate, and unique sensibilities that Minnesota is seen as a state full of creativity. Without them and their generous donation of their time and thoughts, this book, these words, and these photographs would not exist today.
This past December I took some time off and went to Colorado for ten days. I went to visit a few friends and take some time to myself to do some exploring, hiking, and beer drinking. I traveled fairly light, I managed to take everything I needed in two carry-on sized bags. Gear was especially light, I only had my cell phone and my Voigtlander with a few rolls of Tri-X with me, it was all I wanted to carry. No DSLRs, just the basics. I ended up taking a lot of photos of breweries, nature, and spaces I thought were interesting. The photos below tell a brief story of the trip. As always these are straight scans, the most I did with them was a bit of exposure corrections and cleaning up of scratches, nothing more. All photos made with my Voigtlander Bessa R3A, Nokton 40mm f/1.4 SC, Tri-X shot at box speed and developed in Diafine.
I made some new friends at Great Divide, The two in the foreground were a married couple from Texas on a beer tour of Colorado. We got to talking and decided to go to some of our favorite places as a group.
While not a native Colorado brewery, Epic Brewing was our next stop. It was only 8 blocks away and it seemed like the logical thing to do. After a few other watering holes I decided to take a day to myself and go to the mountains. I spent the following day in Frisco mostly hiking around and talking to a glass blower.
You could participate if you wanted to, he was very generous with letting people heat and mold the final product.
A few more shots of watering holes and breweries. I especially love getting photos of the workers in these places, seeing how things are made is one of my favorite things to be able to witness.
I did my part and visited some art museums, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Spending time to dissect paintings and photographs is important.
I couchsurfed for the second half of my trip. I stayed in a house in Five Points with some very musical and creative individuals. I enjoyed staying there and talking about music and learning from others. This was their living room.
Five Points is one of the most culturally interesting places in Denver, it’s a historical representation of all of the change that the city has seen throughout its existence. I could try to write an article about it but there are so many already written, and I’m not much of a writer anyway.
The Butcher Block Cafe was incredible. A diner after my own heart.
All in all, I was able to mentally and physically stretch, relax, and enjoy myself while I was in Colorado. Sometimes having all of that space to yourself is what you need the most.
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. Given my track record it’s clear that I can’t keep a regular blog, I don’t know if I should be attributing this to my laziness to write or to my otherwise busy schedule. Either way, I’ve decided to finally put up some photos I took when I was in Barcelona and surrounding parts of Spain. Before I get into that, though, I’d like to say thank you to the nice folks over at Photojojo for featuring my post on creating solargraphs, I’m glad people are interested in doing them, and that something I wrote was helpful. Usually I’m on the receiving end of the how-to’s so this is quite flattering.
Now onto the good stuff. All photos were taken with a Voigtlander Bessa R3A and a Nokton 40mm f/1.4 lens. Various films were used, mostly Tri-X and Neopan 400 if memory serves. All films were shot at a variety of speeds ranging from ISO 640 to ISO 1600 and developed in Diafine.
That’s about everything I’ve managed to scan so far, when I have access to a film scanner again I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. This is only a snippet of what I saw and experienced while in Europe, but these are some of my favorite moments from the trip.
Hope everyone had a happy holidays and will have a terrific New Year.
It’s amazing what you can find on rolls of shot film that you’ve left lying around and forgotten about, if you do that sort of thing from time to time. My developer recently starting changing color from a nice crystal clear to an ugly, deep yellow. I needed to test out my developer before using it any more, especially since I had four rolls I wanted to go through in one day. I rummaged through to see if I had any old film lying around, I found an old roll of Ilford Delta 400 that I shot about a year ago and never got around to developing, I completely forgot what was on the roll. Since I had no clue what was on it I thought it would work out nicely for a test roll. I process the roll and find this gem on it, a one year old frame processed with year and a half old chemistry, sometimes I love my luck :)
After over a month long hiatus on scanning, I decided it was time that I got down to business. I scanned in most of the images that I liked from my Seattle trip, but i’ve got more on the way, which will be in another posting here when I get around to doing that.
Seattle was an excellent week long adventure full of shooting, and with my then new voigtlander bessa r3a and nokton 40mm f/1.4 SC, no less. I shot with mostly Neopan 400, Tri-X and Fujicolor Pro 400H (NPH 400 for those of you who remember that). The 400H performed nicely, it’s an excellent substitute to Kodak’s PortraVC, which is only sold in packs of 5 now if you don’t order online, which was why I went with the fuji. I only wanted a few color rolls, not an entire box. I had concerns about this film simply because I didn’t know it’s capabilities, but it performed like a champ. Neopan 400 was also relatively new for me at the time, I’d only been shooting it for a few weeks beforehand, but I was pleased with the initial results. the SC lens combined with a film that’s already claimed to scan nicely definitely didn’t dissappoint in that area.
On to the actual visit. I spent a lot of my rolls on Pike’s Place Market alone, it’s hard not to over there. The market itself takes up a vast space and sells a huge variety of things from food to handmade leather goods, to magician’s supplies. Figuring out how to capture the spirit of this place when walking around takes some work, despite the endless photo opportunities.
One particularly popular area of the market was a certain booth that sold a variety of seafood. These guys loved to entertain, they would toss fish around from place to place, and were just very energetic people in general.
EDIT: A reader kindly reminded me about this fact, none of the people working in the booths are the actual farmers of the food, but simply resellers. It’s a sad fact that it’s rare to catch a glimpse of the actual makers of the products, but the place is still very photogenic.
I managed to catch them during some downtime, which seemed like their relaxation period. No presentations going on, no tossing of fish, no nothing. Just a moment of silence for the booth that seemed to show a side of the workers that one normally wouldn’t see. Don’t let the quiet side fool you, however. These guys are just as energetic off duty as they are on duty.
While the booth was at full capacity again, I walked around back to avoid the crowds, and saw a few of them who were off duty, they were just as vibrant and charismatic in the back as they would’ve been up front. Talk about seeing immediate duality in the same place from one image to another.
There are a lot of people with cameras at Pike’s Place, and I mean a lot. It seemed like one in three people was armed with a DSLR and a huge lens, being out there with my Bessa made me feel different from the pack. In fact, only one person even recognized my camera as a rangefinder, and could even name what kind it was. She works in one of the fruits and veggies booths, and knows her stuff on film cameras.
She’s the one on the left in the above image, and saw me moments after I took this photo of her and her coworker. She asked me how I liked the Bessa and the lens I was using. From there we started talking rangefinders a bit, she told me about how her boyfriend is a Leica fiend, hunts for all the best deals on Leica gear. Another woman then joined in on our conversation.
She had a light leak problem and wanted to know what she could do about it. The woman at the booth suggested that she bring it in and she could have a look at it and fix it for her, I thought that was nice of her to do. Two complete strangers, and they’re completely trustworthy of each other. Forget Minnesota Nice, Seattle Nice dominates over that here, no doubt about it.
The other goods that the market sells are equally interesting to visit, the handmade leather booth especially. I spent some time looking at belts and whatnot, and just doing the usual looking around.
The bags were a nice touch, asking to be used in a photo. I didn’t hear what these two were talking about, though. Mystery conversation, mystery people. I went back to looking around at the goods at the booth. Several days later I came back with my color film and reshot the person at the booth actually working on a belt.
Other non-food booths also offered some interesting moments, just watching people picking out stuff, trying things on, etc is an interesting process. You kind of see yourself doing the same thing, so they’re like a mirror image of you.
This woman as looking at some jewelry, and my actual intent wasn’t to take a photo of her. I was framing the overall scene, but then she turned in my direction and I decided that was a better shot. I love street photography for that reason, you never know what’s gonna happen. Also, being able to see it constantly thanks to lack of finder blackout while shooting is even nicer.
Kids were present in the booths also, just doing their own thing. A lot of them were playing with the actual merchandise or just making funny faces at passersby.
This one was tearing up some paper, and enjoying it. He took to that paper with a vengeance, I guess he must have gotten a cut from it. This was near the same booth as the woman above, I think just one booth down, actually.
All of the non-food items being sold are fun to see, some of those things you can’t buy in the usual places. Antique shops, maybe, but not anywhere else. There were some Asian style clothing areas to buy things like kimonos and other types of clothes as well as shoes. Antique stores dominated the lower level of the place, especially the memorabilia stores. Those are always a big hit, people like collecting old things. Says the guy with the film camera and record player.
Just outside one of the memorabilia shops, this one happened to be selling old signs. Signs with things like old advertisements on them, signs from old boxes that had fruit in them that had the logo of the fruit company, road signs, etc. Something somebody might put up on their wall or add to their old stuff collection. I don’t know. I can’t spend more than 20 minutes in those places before I feel like I’m looking at the same thing over and over again. Some people though, they can spend forever in those places. I just move on, like I said I can’t stay in those places for a long time.
What’s a trip to Pike’s Place without visiting the very original Starbucks? Not much lost, actually, at least in my opinion. Sure, the place looks nice but the building is ridiculously crowded, maybe I should’ve visited when people weren’t as present to appreciate it more, but in the middle of the day, man it’s not worth waiting around that place for coffee.
The entrance looked like this almost the entire time, I wish I could says sans photographer in the way but there was always someone there, right in the doorway, with a camera. I decided to keep my distance, mostly to avoid being trampled though. This woman’s purple shirt (or whatever you would call it) stood out. A lot. In a sea of greens purple tends to do that, especially when it’s right in front of you.
The Starbucks had some musicians playing nearby, pretty common sight around Pike’s Place, they’re everywhere. They’re playing all kinds of music, from traditional to jazz, there was plenty to be heard as well as seen.
This one was sitting right by the popular fish tossing booth, doing his thing. The woman in the background is completely unnecessary, I wish I would’ve known she was coming, I guess I should work on my seeing-through-pillar abilities.
Back to foodstuffs, the fruits and veggies booth looked amazing, I had to go back and reshoot them in color. It didn’t seem right to leave it at black and white, which was my reasoning for using color film in the first place for Pike’s Place.
Immediately outside of the market there are some noteworthy places I found as well. There was a tea shop in which you could taste as many different varieties and blends as you wanted. The woman there just kept serving until you said you had enough. It’s a nice little shop, a great break from the hustle and bustle of the market.
She was in the middle of getting a blueberry and herb mix together, while telling me something about it’s subtle qualities. She really knows her tea, and knows how to sell it. I almost ended up buying a bag of leaves for myself but decided not to, I had a lot to do that day.
I found a few more places near the market where I visited, one of them even had a tiny arcade/entertainment area complete with a merry-go-round. I stood in there for a while, got bored and took this:
Nicollet Mall has to be one of the most dynamic streets in the center of Minneapolis, throughout any given week the street undergoes vast changes from event to event that takes place there. Every Thursday is the Farmer’s Market, news crews like to film there, protests happen, and the outdoor cafes and bars attract different crowds of people at different times of the day. I’ve been shooting this street for over a year now and have captured a lot of it’s personalities, but since I work downtown during the summer I get to see a side of Nicollet Mall that I haven’t seen before, at least not very often or regularly as I do now: Corporate lunch breaks. Around noon, when I take my own lunch break the street is teeming with corporate figures dressed up in business casual and/or suits who are sitting outside, walking about, checking their blackberries (a million of these things come out at this time), or there are even those who i’ve caught doing some photography of their own. Nicollet Mall is indeed a changeling, a street with multiple personalities that one can capture still frames from over and over again, in many styles of photography.
This was taken on a particularly quiet day outside, it was raining slightly which would explain the lack of people, the faint of heart don’t go outside when it rains, or maybe that’s just business types with nice clothes on. Others though, just need that smoke break. I particularly like her choice of location for her break, the mannequien behind her mimics her pose nicely, or is it the other way around?
I noticed quite a few differences between the groups of people at the tables here, I won’t give away what I saw though. See if you can find them for yourself, a nice little visual exercise for you morning blog readers. I personally fit into that category, at work as soon as my laptop comes out I check all of my live bookmarks, the mornings at work can be quite slow so why not?
I love the Barnes and Noble on Nicollet for this exact reason. I can go in there with my camera, sit down and just observe. There aren’t many cafes where you can do that comfortably anymore, I sure as hell know Starbucks doesn’t like it. I’ve never been ushered out of a cafe yet, but you just get that feeling sometimes about those places. Something about protection of it’s customers or something, as if i’m gonna kill them by taking their photo or something, I don’t know. Anyway, this man was so engrossed in this pile of papers he was going through, it looked like he brought his entire mailbox with him to the cafe and decided to read every unopened letter he had received in the past few weeks. He didn’t notice me sitting at the table next to him, he just kept reading all of his mail, he was in his own little world.
Pre-focusing kicks ass, especially when you’re trying to get away from taking photos exclusively at eye level. I had the camera in my hand here and was looking for an opening in the crowd that tends to roam Nicollet Mall during lunch, and got one. I didn’t actually check my screen (yes, this was with my digital, gotta show my 50mm f/1.8 some love on occasion) until an hour later, found this gem on my card. Once again, pre-focusing kicks ass.
Taken shortly after the shot above, I stopped to pre-focus slightly farther away than before since I wanted a bit more in the scene. I left the camera in my hands again, this time held slightly higher than before. The look my camera got from her is pretty typical. Most people don’t say anything about it though, there’s Minnesota Nice for you.
I love the different ethnic groups of people that congregate at the Farmer’s Market every week. It makes Nicollet Mall look slightly foreign, which is a nice change from the business “daily grind” persona it usually has on most of my lunch hours. The Farmer’s Market always makes the street seem almost NYC-esque as well, it manages about twice the usual traffic during the time I’m out there as well, which is especially nice for me, I’m not approached nearly as much. This group of people was squeezing fruit and talking amongst themselves trying to find the best bargain.
A conversation on one side, and a guy staring at me on the other. He didn’t see me until I was actually framing this shot, once again he did nothing about it, just chilled next to the ad on the wall and drank his coffee. Who drinks coffee when it’s 80 degrees and sunny anyway? While wearing a suit no less, I don’t get that. All these people come out into the sun, with hot coffee. Why not get at least an iced coffee or something cold?
Another hip shot, this time quite literally from the hip. I was walking by one of the outside sections of a semi-fancy restaurant that gets frequented during this time for obvious reasons. his drink, whatever it is, looked good at the time, I was thirsty, and wanted some. I have some mystery hands in there too, go ahead and make up a story about who it is if you’d like.
I usually like to see my subject’s faces before taking their photo, I feel like even though i’m not talking to them I’m at least interacting with them, even if it’s indirect most of the time. A face can tell a lot about a person. What they’re feeling, where they’ve been, etc. and I like to get that from people before I compose and shoot, so I get at least the tiniest sense of who they are, or could be. This woman was different though, I probably stood in the spot I was standing here for about ten or so minutes, looking in her direction on and off. I took this shot about three minutes into my slow domination of my space, but hoped for a better one, thinking she would turn around. She never did. She looked at the clothing that was for sale outside next to the market, and walked away with her back turned to me.
I never got to see her face.
I left this one in color, I rather like it that way. Saw this guy standing about 10 feet away from me smoking. It’s not really a remarkable shot, but I felt like taking it, and when I looked at it it came out so nicely that I decided to keep it. I made it this blog’s header, even. Other than that I don’t have much to say for this shot, just a guy smoking.
Nicollet Mall, please continue to be this way forever.