Tag Archives: Think


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.



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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Musings on Attachment Theory

I’m spending my morning monitoring the photo lab and reading about attachment theory, homology, and imprinting, as a backbone for this semester’s work.  A lot of the readings I’ve been exploring (before today as well as today’s offerings) address the kind of relationship between companion animals (dogs) and their humans as dependent on dominance.  The theory seems to be that level of dominance in the dog owner’s personality proportionally affects the level of affection shared between human and canine; more dominant human, the more the relationship takes the form of disciplinarian and trainee, whereas humans that do not seek dominance have a warmer and more affectionate bond with their pets.  Animal personality also plays a role in the relationship, and personality seems to be linked to breed/type and also some other as-yet-undetermined factor.  Much of the debate seems to go back to the classic nature v. nurture.

The breed of my dogs makes an interesting case study for this: Cocker Spaniels, as a breed, are thought to possess these qualities: intelligence, restraint, sociability, trainability, and a sweet disposition.  They are people-pleasers who do not enjoy being alone, like regular exercise, and have a tendency to get nervous with unfamiliar noises or rough handling.  Of course, this is what books and kennel clubs say about the breed; owners tend to talk more about the mischievous quality of Cockers, and their pathological need for attention.  There’s even a phenomenon referred to as the Cocker Cough or Cocker Limp that refers to the breed feigning illness and injury in order to receive attention.

In actuality, my dogs possess measures of all these qualities, but expressed in very different ways.  I tease about being the “Mother Ship” because the dogs don’t enjoy leaving my side.  Even when we are in a wide open field at the dog park, they maintain a close distance and constantly check over their shoulders to see if I am around.  They are sociable with people, but rarely other dogs, and they both adore the company of outdoor (barn) cats.  Theo, who I have had since a puppy, is timid, demanding, and does not enjoying playing with his toys unless a human is involved in the game; he likes to cuddle, has a strong instinct to be in a den (usually under a chair or the bed), and he uses his intelligence to manipulate people and animals.  In fact, he often scratches at the door to be let out, only to walk back inside after Bruce runs out and grab a toy, asking to play with me and me only.  He also likes to be laughed at, as he’s learned to equate this with good humor, affection, and treats (in the forms of belly rubs and rawhide).  Bruce, on the other hand, is a rescue dog with a history of abuse.  He is fiercely protective of me and extremely loyal (whereas Theo sells his affection for treats and petting), is very possessive of toys (he hoards them in piles and then lays on them), and is not timid about forcibly shoving Theo out of the way (and sometimes off the bed or couch) when he wants affection.  Bruce isn’t as manipulative, but he is definitely crafty; it took me months to figure out how he was able to get fruit out of the bowl on the high counter without breaking the bowl, especially since he isn’t tall enough to see over the counter when he stands on hind legs.  These definitely seem like unique personalities, and not all bred-in qualities to me.

And So It Begins!

Today marks the first official day of the semester, and, as I did not post over our holiday break, I thought I would give a few updates.  Today I start my teaching internship with Helen Hoffelt’s Photo II class.  I’m very excited to help out in any way I can, and we are meeting before class starts to discuss how I might be of assistance.  Although I have done some teaching in the past (in the form of workshops and a TAship in my MA), I am looking forward to getting back into the classroom and working with someone who has a totally different style than professors I have previously worked with.

I am currently writing my project proposal for this semester (coming to this blog by the end of the week) and I have already begun my mentoring relationship with John Fergus-Jean.  He tasked me with reading Proust Was a Neuroscientist over break (sadly, I’m only halfway through, due to a sidetrack to reread Leaves of Grass and also trying to chisel my way through A Natural History of the Senses), but I recently finished a chapter on Escoffier and Ikeda, two pioneers in the way we eat.  This chapter comes at a timely moment for me, as I have just started to eat red meat after a 10+ year hiatus.  The chapter talked a lot about the Japanese concept of umami and its relation to protein.  I’ve been a bit lost in my thoughts lately, particularly revolving around taste and perception.  Before I retried beef, I told my mother that I had no recollection of the taste, but, having not liked red meat when I stopped eating it, my sense of what it tasted like was a bit dirty and with a strong, iron taste.  Interesting to then taste and come up with a new perception and new taste memory, which, of course, devolves into thoughts about the formation of memory itself, and the formation of taste preference.  Certainly I will be kept on my toes this semester!

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.

Technology for an Artistic Troglodyte

We have been tasked, in our Digital Culture class, to use a technology we have learned in class to implement some kind of project relating to our artwork or somehow furthering our art.  While I don’t typically think of myself as a luddite, this class has made me view myself as an artistic luddite.  Every technology presented to us makes me oooh and ahhhh and then say some variant on, “That’s so cool!  I won’t ever use it, though.”  While I do not think my attitude towards this has been the best, I do think that it is somewhat valid in relation to my current project.  I cannot think of a valid way to attach any of these technologies to my work.  I can think of ways to incorporate them, for sure, but none of them seem to further my message with the project… THEN IT STRUCK ME.  Why not do something that I might use for next semester’s project?

The one thing we explored in class that I seem to keep looking up and interacting with in my downtime is gifs.  Some people are making amazing art with gifs.  AMAZING WORK.  Photographers have spawned a new kind of gif called a Cinemagraph.  Cinemagraphs are a still photo with subtle movement.  For instance, a portrait might be completely still except for a bit of hair blowing in the wind, or an image of birthday candles being blown out might be still except for the flames moving/extinguishing.  For my project, I would like to do a series of cinema graphs, maybe 5-7, as a jumping off point for next semester and a learning experience for this type of moving image.

We are also meant to suggest a project for one of our classmates.  I think Dalong’s images could be really cool with the addition of augmented reality.  We talked in his last critique about his project marrying fashion and traditional Chinese stories.  I think it would be very interesting if he could somehow take “regular” high fashion images and transform them with Aurasma to show more of the story elements.  That way he could merge commercial photography with fine art, reality with fantasy, and product with narrative.