I had a most productive afternoon with Joe Aguirre and Emilio Banuelos today at the JapanTown Studio. We went through my print portfolio (about 120 shots now) and did an edit, another edit, another edit and got down to about 10 shots. After digesting this flow for a few minutes, Emilio did another flow, even better. At the end we laid out 3 potential projects that may emerge over time. Joe was spot on as usual with pairing shots together.
Some notes to myself from the conversation:
1. My basic photos skills are fine: understanding exposure, composition, light/dark/shadows. etc.
2. For the next level of work, continue to let go of the snapshots and postcards.
3. Photos are like notes in a song, words in a story. Each one is key, but how you put the flow together tells the story, sings the song.
4. Emilio was sharp on pointing out that many of my ++ photos all look the same: rule of thirds, strong geometric lines, one person, same horizon, same point of view. This is actually a good thing as it shows consistency, but it is like using the same adjective over and over again in one sentence or paragraph. Joe suggested a slight camera tilt to help change this POV.
5. Keeping shooting, keep printing, let the projects evolve. Work on content, but with intention of what is missing.
6. But ask myself, what other parts of the story do I want to tell? Currently my work has a strong female and loneliness vibe, is there something else as an artist I want to share in these stories. More shots with 2+ people, etc.
7. There were some specific suggestions for my trip next week to Japan: Take the dozen prints that stand out and review them on the plane. Touch, hold, build muscle memory on how these shots feel. Write up a card on each shot with some details but also my feelings and emotions around the photo. Acknowledge the type of shot and then start thinking about what is missing for the flow.
8. Specifically I can start shooting with more emotion and feel, OK to drop rule of thirds for every photo. Bring more people into the shot. Look for that small gesture as I try layered shots. Track the gesture, take multiple exposures, see what happens.
9. Get three shots for each set up: big, close and REAL close.
10. Tilt camera just slightly for new POV and new horizon views.
11. Continue to shoot film as it slows the process down and also let's you think more (or less!).
12. Check my shots to make sure they all don't look alike, i.e. no additional umbrella shots needed!
13. No trite, gimmicks, postcards or snapshots. Need emotional connection.
14. I really need to start shooting in town, maybe starting another project?
15. Joe also made a good point how it takes a team effort to pull together, edit and publish a book. Who is on my team?
Over all a great afternoon together. We also discussed the SJ Southbay art community and opportunities to collaborate. A good photo day, actually more than I can process in one sitting!
Joe has been a killer mentor, highly recommended as I look forward to publishing this work.
Pro tip: I enjoy shooting alone but it makes sense to involve a team in the selection/publication process.