Tag Archives: Do


My teaching internship formally wraps up on Wednesday, but we start individual final critiques tonight.  Each student will be meeting with Helen and me to go over their progress for the semester and to receive final grades on their projects.  I believe the meetings are twenty minutes each.  I’m interested to hear from each of the students, and to find out what they think their successes have been this semester.

My project is also wrapping up.  This week, I am working on printing the images for my final critique.  I will have 7 prints that are 44″x44″ when everything is said and done.  I’ve chosen an Epson Ultrasmooth Fine Art Paper as the surface.  My full-size test print showed a few areas I needed to work on, so I have been working in the interim to remedy the minor issues.  I really like the paper quality and it takes the images pretty well, it just needed a little nudge here and there to get the best tonal range out of the paper.  The largest prints I’ve made before this time (if you don’t count the 2’x6′ transparency from last semester) were 24×36, so this is new territory for me, presentation-wise.  I find that I don’t mind the large size, but you definitely need to match size to image.  It works well for these, but probably not for everything.  The big thing I am figuring out at the moment is print order.  I have 7 images, and I am very locked in to the placement of the first, middle, and last images, but that leaves 4 that are up in the air.  I’m alright with seeing the images together and then deciding, but I’d really rather have a plan of action and then change from there if needed.



Knowing the Unknowable, Touching the Untouchable

It seems like this semester is just whizzing by!  My project has undergone another transformation, and I just wanted to give a little update before I have critique on Wednesday.  I’m using a very similar working methodology to my original, but the concept has shifted.  As I started to review and edit my images, some patterns started emerging.  The ones that were most intriguing to me occurred in the images shot using the dogs.  We inhabit the same space, but I was struck by the fact that the dogs seemed to be pulling back the curtain on the “real” world as I experience it, and exposing the sublime (in the sense that Kant defines it, in terms of greatness, inimitability, and boundlessness).  The images have a frenetic and spiritual quality to them, and, at least in myself, provoke a strong emotional response.  I am currently doing paper sample tests using the sample packs I picked up at SPE, and in critique on Wednesday I hope to get some input on paper type and size.  The Hahnemuhle William Turner is still the paper to beat, but I have some beautiful samples that could be equally strong and, bottom line, a little more affordable.  Image

Projects, Internships, and Conferences, Oh My!

Life has a funny way of kicking you in the teeth sometimes… of course it would be the only time I’ve ever used my dogs in a project that they both have severe medical problems (for one of them, this is the first time he’s ever had more than an ear infection).  Theo, the black Cocker, has been walking a severe limp since Christmas.  We’d been to the vet, gone thru a course of anti-inflammatory/pain meds, and been told that it would heal up on its own.  Fast forward to Thursday, when we went back to the vet, and Friday, when Theo got x-rays taken of his leg, and we’re now scheduled for a $1000 surgical repair of a cruciate ligament rupture and a few months of recovery (no playtime, no exercise, no stairs).  The surgery is scheduled for mid-late March, during my Spring Break.  Bottom line, I’m not sure what this means for my project at the moment.  I guess more to come on that soon.

As for my teaching internship, it is still going well.  I actually got to teach a small segment of the class on Wednesday, on paper selection and digital printing.  Class went well, but Helen and I were both a little baffled that half the class was absent without giving any indication to us about missing class.  Not sure if there’s something going around, or if everyone just took a “mental health day,” but either way it was frustrating.  It was also awkward teaching to a half-empty room, when we already have a pretty small class.

The bright spot in this post is that I am gearing up for the Society for Photographic Education conference next week in Baltimore.  Not only am I excited for artist and industry talks, but I will also get to visit with my undergrad advisor/dear friend Cara Wade, as well as a few other friends and relatives that live in or around Baltimore.


The Nature of Art Concerning The Art of Nature

Salutations!  I am fresh from a meeting with my mentor, John Fergus-Jean, and preparing for a critique of my work on Wednesday.  John and I have been focusing less on looking at images, more on the theory, history, and psychology behind what I am creating this semester.  My images include my dogs and myself, largely unedited (discounting a shift from color to black and white, and some minor exposure adjustments), shot from three different view points; the human view (carefully composed, focused, sharp, etc.), the canine view (much wider angle, unconcerned with focus, holistic), and a third omniscient viewer (looking down upon us from a non-human or canine vantage point, uncropped, indiscriminate).  What my images are communicating about is human projection upon animals (on both man and beast, we don’t discriminate who/what we project onto) of human emotions, motivations, and needs.  Studies have proven that dogs cannot feel shame, as they do not possess morality, but we still project onto them that they are “ashamed” when they get caught doing something we have trained them not to, or, worse yet, when they surpass our expectations and do something we never even thought to train them not to do.  We have a strange tendency, as humans, to want to make everything speak in our voice, both literally and figuratively; pet owners speak for their pets (out loud) all the time, and project human tendencies onto them.  This exploration is turning into a humorous book (words and pictures) that uses photographs from all three viewpoints to examine this tendency, and hopefully highlight its absurdity and egocentrism.  In addition to reading a lot of books on the nature and psychology of communication with dogs, I am also reading Post-Colonialist theory, Gender and Feminist theory, and the politics of communication and the gaze.

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Life With Dogs

This semester’s project is starting to come together.  I’ve had my first meeting with my mentor, John Fergus-Jean and I’ve also been shooting this weekend.  The project, in a nutshell: I am exploring the performative nature of the dog-owner relationship.  We always say things like, “when I go home, I can just shut down,” or, “I can really be myself at home,” or, “I don’t have to meet other people’s expectations when I’m at home.”  The truth is, for dog owners, you do continue to perform when you go home.  Your dog(s) read your behavior and use it as a cue for their actions.  They, in turn, are constantly performing for you.  Through training, you’ve taught them that their natural instincts, to be a fairly wild animal, are bad, and that they will only receive treats and affection if they act with the behavior modifications you have taught them.  A lot of their behavior is dependent upon yours, so they are constantly monitoring you for cues, and you are constantly keeping an eye on them, to make sure they don’t step outside the codes you have created for them.

For the project, I am incorporating 3 different perspectives: my own, my dogs’, and a third observational viewpoint that is more impartial.  I will shoot my perspective with a digital slr camera, the dogs will have a Go-Pro attached to their collars when they are “shooting,” and the third perspective is being provided by my laptop, which has been rigged to shoot via a surveillance app whenever it “sees” movement.  The third perspective will shoot when I am home and also when the dogs are home alone, and then dogs and I will shoot intermittently.

Some images from this weekend.  Unedited except for making a few black and white.  Not sure whether I will go with color or black and white for my perspective…

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Victory Dance

I had a mentor meeting with Helen Hoffelt on Monday, probably our second-to-last for the semester, and it was a really great meeting.  We both are confident that I am where I need to be in the completion of the project to be ready for our end of semester show December 13.  When I met with Tracy Longley-Cook last week, we talked about what my project was born out of, and how that experience influenced the work.  This especially shows in the use of rectangles and the elongated rectangles of each piece, which mirror the experience of traveling long distances in a car through these vast landscapes.  The whole landscape becomes this elongated rectangular blur, punctuated by individual clear rectangles, framed by the car window.  Helen and I also talked about the fact that this project is largely about the disconnect between us and nature, illustrated by an exploration of the way we view landscape, and that car travel is really one of the most easily understood methods of disconnect.  When you think about it, it’s very surreal to travel through these vast landscapes, which are often hot or cold, in the perfectly controlled temperature box that is the automobile.  Bizarre.

We made a small list of things I should try to accomplish by my critique tomorrow, and then for the end of semester show.  It was all very doable, but we agreed that I will be finishing right on time, not early.  Still to come in the next day or two is a trip to the hardware store to get T pins and spacers of some sort (probably several sorts) so that I can work on figuring out the distance from the wall for my pieces.  In the next few weeks, I will be doing a density test print on the transparency to determine the opacity needed for each section of image, so that I can print my final prints to look right in our gallery space.  I am also supposed to talk to Molly and Michael about lighting options in the gallery so that I can give my pieces the most dimensionality possible.  Very excited.   As for next semester, I have already conceived an idea, discussed it with John Fergus-Jean, who I am asking to be my mentor for the project, and secured a teaching internship with Helen.  I am very much looking forward to the teaching methods component of next semester and learning from classroom experience.

Studio Visit with Tracy Longley-Cook

On Thursday, I had a studio visit (my first!) with Tracy Longley-Cook.  Before our studio visit, she gave a great talk about her work, particularly focusing on the way it has evolved over time and her emphasis on the objectness of photography.  Seeing as my theme this semester has really become landscape as object/photo as object, she couldn’t have been a more perfect person to meet with!  I came in early that morning to get my studio in order and get some work set up for Tracy and I to talk about, and I ended up having a major breakthrough in my work, which was just a complete gift in its timing.

I have been struggling to figure out what goes behind each image, because they have seemed somehow incomplete to me.  Too literal, perhaps, or not object-y enough?  I have started playing with putting 2 of my constructed landscapes on transparency together, and spacing them a little way from the wall.  I am very pleased with the result, but I have only been able to print one of my new or redone images, so I have been using the prints I already had.  I think I will be even more pleased when I am using the finalized images, because I’ve ironed out some kinks.  I meet with my mentor today, after getting to have a Q&A and lunch with Miranda July (!) and I look forward to hearing what Helen thinks.  I am fairly certain she will be as excited as I am.