Creative Combustion: Now Available


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.

Links to Creative Combustion

Print edition

Web edition

Press Release

City Pages Mpls Article

About This Project

***This description is taken from the book***

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.


Two Images

A couple of frames I took while biking around Minneapolis one Friday night recently. I didn’t set any goals for myself other than to take some photos. Biking around the cities can be liberating, not worrying about having to park, much less pay for it, gives you a new sense of freedom of movement. All of a sudden I can move from Northeast to Downtown to Uptown without paying cash. The drawback? None, unless you hate the feeling of wind in your face when you’re going across the Hennepin Avenue bridge. The freedom of biking paired with the unpredictability of what you will find in the cities whilst carrying a camera is exciting, and makes one feel alive.

Going down.
Going down.

Even if it all seems a bit blurry by the end of the night.


Old, Old, Old…

Walking back to work from lunchIt’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 :)

A Year’s Worth Of Updates, pt. 2

This is the second of two posts that will attempt to summarize my work from the past year that I can show, aka my freelance work. This set is all photojournalism from a show called Face Forward: Humanity Through Art. I became the staff photographer for this organization, which is working to raise $11,000 to build a school in India. More info can be found at the following links:

Anyway, on to the photos! This first set is from the model call for Face Forward, the process in which the designers decided which people would be modeling their clothes, etc.

Waiting for their turn, the potential models stood outside the main room and made chit chat, or watched the people ahead of them give it what they’ve got on the mock runway.

The potential models giving their information to the designers so they can find out if they made the cut.

The “model” look, seeing this was pretty common during the model call.

Posing, posing, and more posing. You could tell that some people had modeled before when they had their turn.

More behind the scenes with the potentials.

The final photo from the model call that I will show here, next up are photos from the show itself. The show happened at First Avenue, the perfect venue for such an event. The event featured musicians, the models from above, spoken word artists, and dance companies.

Several of the models were used a few times for different outfits, and a few times the designer walked out with the models, as in the last photo (rightmost in the photo). Once the fashion show was over, it was on to spoken word, music and dance.

That about sums it up for the second update, hopefully I didn’t bombard too many people with a ton of photos, and again, this is old news to some, but I thought I’d update this end of the numerous amount of pages that I maintain, so those of you who only see this end, hope you enjoyed it!

Almost A Year’s Worth Of Updates pt. 1

It’s a been a long time since I’ve written here, and I apologize for that. College and work tend to take over my life when they’re in full swing leaving no time for me to write about recent shoots. As a result, I’ll try to sum up a year’s worth of work, hopefully it won’t end up being too long. Most of my work in the past year has dealt with studio shoots, on location shooting and photojournalism, so it’s all been entirely digital due to the work being for somebody else more than for myself. I’ll start with the studio work. Over the winter I did several studio shoots for people with various needs such as portfolios and applications, I used the same studio I had for the Lights, Camera, Interaction! post a while back. Some of these photos might be old news to some, especially those who follow my facebook, but nevertheless a few stragglers haven’t checked on everything I have there ;) Due to me having a lot of photos to add, this is gonna be the first part of a two part series, so the posts aren’t so long.

Studio Shoot 1

This was before we actually drove over to the studio, we did some on location shooting. This is my favorite photo from the on location set.

The photos were for an application to NYU for dance, so I thought we should incorporate some dance elements into the photos, such as this one.

Fun with mirrors, surprisingly a lot more fun than I had thought was possible in a studio.

More dance theme like photos, I couldn’t get over the staring at the shoe photos. I think I have more of these than any other type of photo from this shoot.

Sitting on a stool, pondering life I think. Lots of pondering goes on during studio shoots, with the looking away and all. Oh, and if you’re wondering, she ended up getting into NYU in the end, glad that I contributed to that outcome :)

This shoot was also for a portfolio, a modeling portfolio if I remember right. I had a lot of fun with this one, she was a great person to work with, and since the shoot we’ve become better friends.

I wonder what she’s looking at over there, seems mildly amusing…hmm

I had a fun light setup for this series of shots, black umbrella with a 300w continuous light camera left and slightly behind me. I liked the results for that setup a lot, some of my favorite shots came from this series.

Same light setup as the shot before it, the umbrella was working really well for these.

This was for an album/acting/modeling portfolio, wish I had a ringflash for this one, but alas my equipment is limited. Hopefully soon I’ll be incorporating a ringflash into similar shoots.

Rockin’ the fedora, probably my favorite shot from the entire shoot.

More fedora action, still love it.

Playing around with clothing ideas, a lot of that happened during this shoot.

More shooting for an application, another dance application I believe. Again, I tried to get some “safe” shots and then went for some more creative ones.

I love the shadows here, they make a nice mysterious look.

A conventional “safe” photo for application use, you never know what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to applications to artistic institutions. Finding the borders between being the same and standing out, or just being too outlandish takes some practice.

Similar to the shot above, but with a black backdrop.

That’s it for this portion of updates, the next section will feature all photojournalism, get ready!

Lights, Camera, Interaction!

It’s been a little while since I updated the blog, lately I’ve been busy with work, and in one case, not work. I took a week long trip to Seattle with my cameras and spent the entire week shooting and relaxing. To make a long story short, it was a much needed vacation. I’ve developed all of the rolls from the trip but I have yet to scan anything, so there will be an update on that later once I get around to the scanning process and actually have everything up on my computer.

In the meantime, I’ve spent my time doing photography of a very different sort from what I usually do. For the past month or so I had been planning out a studio shoot to capture dancer movement, and other similar ideas to that theme. Given that studio photography is almost the polar opposite of my typical style of street and journalism for work, my working style changed considerably. I knew that I had to actually plan this one out in advance, figure out lights, find a model then coordinate with her as far as outfits go and the actual timing for the shoot, etc. I actually found myself having a lot of fun doing all of this, getting involved in that kind of planning is easy, and I found myself easily spending hours at a time some nights planning and talking with fellow photographers about my options.

Luckily enough for me, all of the planning and coordinating fell into place seamlessly, which gave me more time to work out the fun part of the shoot: lighting and other such details. I began my quest for good lighting inspiration in two forum threads I came across: One Light Setups and New One Light Setups. I also did some searches over on deviantART to find what I wanted. I ended up settling on two main light setups, shown here:

Lighting setup 1
Lighting setup 1

Lighting setup 2
Lighting setup 2

The distances shown aren’t 100% accurate, but you get the idea. The lights can be moved farther from or closer to the subject as desired, the files are only for reference purposes. On a sidenote, the file used is very, very handy for creating lighting mockups such as the ones above. No more drawing things out on paper or however you do it, the link to the file can be found here. Take note that I did not make this file.

The first setup is as simple as can be: a 100ow halogen bulb with a softbox and a dimmer camera right and a foamcore reflector camera left. Simple, yet very effective. The second setup is 2x300w halogen lights/barndoors on either side and a 500w hairlight overhead.

Outfit 1, lighting setup 1
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1

The next step was to find a model. I decided to ask a friend instead of having to deal with a professional model for multiple reasons. The model I chose to work with is a friend from college, and is very comfortable in front of a camera. She’s very respectful of equipment and willing to help with the actual studio setup prior to shooting. I would’ve been happy to set everything up myself and don’t like to burden others, especially when that other person is your model, but she ended up helping substantially and sped up the whole process of setting up taking down equipment. Multiple times throughout the shoot when things needed to be moved around she would ask how she can help out, or when a problem arose she contributed ideas as to it’s solution. She has a very positive and energetic personality, and never once complained about a single thing. Overall, she’s simply a joy to work with.

Throughout the month I touched base with her on any new ideas I had developed so there would be no surprises come the day of the shoot. Any clothing ideas, any light setups, etc. I made sure she knew about. In retrospect, I should have everything planned out so I can simply send one large chunk of info instead of sending it in pieces over time, that will be remedied in the future.

Outfit 2, lighting setup 1
Outfit 2, lighting setup 1

Once everything was set into motion, studio rented, model found and ideas flowing, the next step simply was to wait until the day of the shoot. Come the day of the shoot, we arrived at the studio at around 1pm or so. The first thing I noticed: no boom. Well, shit. There goes one setup I had planned out. But wait! Not so fast, turns out the owner of the studio runs a mini hardware storage in there as well. We found all sorts of things like PVC piping and steel rods, clamps etc. that were available to us at our disposal that were hidden away in a closet. Once I confirmed that I can indeed play around with the parts in the closet, I decided to deal with the second light setup later and start shooting right away. I put up  the first setup, she changed into her outfit, we got some dance music going and began working.

Outfit 3, lighting setup 2
Outfit 3, lighting setup 2

We spent quite a bit of time with the first setup, I knew that simple was effective, but I didn’t know how effective that could be until I started using it. The possibilities with one light are seemingly endless, and I wanted to make as much use of that as I could. Two of the three outfits we ended up using were shot with the one light setup, the last outfit was done entirely with the three light setup.

Outfit 3, lighting setup 2
Outfit 3, lighting setup 2

When the time came to change setups, the improvisation with the found parts in the closet began. We found a steel rod that spanned just as wide as the seamless background was and two extra light stands that rose up to 13 feet. Rod + stands = solution. We started working on clamping the rod and taping up the clamps to the stands so they would hold their position, making sure not to forget to hang the light from the rod by it’s handle before taping down everything. Due to the decrease in height that I would’ve been using, the 500w was out of the question. I tried it out anyway, and as I expected the light from above was far too strong. I swapped out the 500w with a 300w light that’s identical to the barndoors that are placed from either side in setup 2. After some test shots, I picked what worked and once again we got down to shooting.

Outfit 1, lighting setup 1
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1

The improvised overhead light worked out very well, leaving us pleased with our work. While I didn’t get exactly what I was looking for from it, I feel that if I were to set it up again I could get more out of it, and more consistent results. Given the physical space of the studio and the time frame we had to work with it, the three light setup definitely didn’t disappoint, and some beautiful photos came out of it. It’s a setup willing to work with more, and hopefully will be once I have time to spend in a studio again.

Outfit 3, lighting setup 2
Outfit 3, lighting setup 2

Overall, a month’s preparation for one short day in the studio culminated into some great photos, and of course some great times in general, the interaction between a photographer and his subject is something one must experience for him/herself, and if there’s anything I have learned about this stretching of my boundaries, is that even though two styles of photography may be polar opposites as to how they are done, but when there is a person involved as subject, the connection made between the two people to capture the moment is priceless, and that’s what I loved the most about the entire process.

A few more shots from the session:

Outfit 2, lighting setup 1
Outfit 2, lighting setup 1
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1
Outfit 3, lighting setup 2
Outfit 3, lighting setup 2
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1

More photos can be found on my Flickr and DeviantART pages.

Camera equipment used:

  • Nikon D60 (Sadly, I couldn’t borrow the D700 from work so I used my own body)
  • AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
  • AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED (borrowed from work)
  • AF Zoom-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D IF-ED (older, heavier version, borrowed from work)
  • Voigtlander Bessa R3A
  • Nokton Classic 40mm f/1.4 SC

The Bessa setup was an experiment as well. Not exactly a studio camera but I thought why the hell not? The rolls from the Bessa have yet to be developed, but I hope to have that fixed soon. I used Tri-X exposed at multiple speeds and it will be developed in Diafine.

Minneapolis Nights

It’s always interesting to see how a city changes throughout the day. Different people come out, different places become popular while other streets become deserted, at least that’s how it is around here in Minneapolis from personal observation. Well, I take the people part back, some of the people are the same, but are just “dressed to impress” on weekends ;) A city is a living, breathing creature that seems to have a mind of it’s own, trying to understand an entire city is probably impossible to do without getting at the little nuances of it. Experiencing each street, each streetside store, cafe, etc. and really letting the place sink in, and only then will you begin to understand it, I don’t think you can ever fully understand any place, at least not in words. With images probably, with words no. I feel like every time I’m out with my camera I’m not only creating artwork but I’m also documenting my increasing understanding of how Minneapolis works, what makes it tick. With that in mind, a lot of these next shots were taken in the same place, the warehouse district to be exact, at a certain time frame: 11pm to about 1am. I’ve been out at night in that place before, but never with a camera. Being a bystander really changes your perspective on what you think you know about a place, you take the passenger seat as opposed to the driver’s seat in the journey, it was an interesting outing.

All photos taken with a Pentax ME Super, 50mm f/1.7, Tri-X EI 1600 and developed in Diafine.

This shot is my favorite from the night, by far. It’s amazing that amongst all of what goes in the warehouse district this split second happened, right in front of me. I mean, what are the odds? It’s weird to think about photographs that way, the odds of that exact frame being right in front of you at that exact time. Everything was right on here, which surprised nobody more than myself because I don’t even remember taking this, and when that happens it usually means nothing good came out. The Tri-X and Diafine comination really shines here too.


Some guys decided to dick around when the saw my camera, whatever. It happens, but moments like the one happening directly to their left aren’t as easy to come across in that area at night.

Double Take

She was probably bar hopping, and then decided to look back where she came from, I think she was looking at me. I don’t remember any more, but the shot seems to suggest that she was.

Close to Far

A “geometric” moment no doubt, one of those things you stumble across when just standing around a place looking about.

Bar Guys

Walked past these guys a few times, they asked my friend and I to take their picture both times I think, this was right before that happened. They were having some drunken conversation beforehand, saw us and just had to capture themselves on camera, as a lot of drunks oh so love to do.

Light Rail Conversation

Another geometric moment, this was happening across the street from a few bars. The light rail is one of my favorite subjects to photograph because of the constant crowd change going on. It’s like a street corner, but much larger.