I’ve often heard the expression, “jack of all trades, master of none”. The idea behind this phrase is obvious enough: if I spend my time doing a little bit of everything, I may end up being versatile, but I will never, ever be truly great at any one thing. And if I want to be a great painter, I’d better drop the camera, the audio gear, the camping, the website work, the writing, the wood work, the electronics, and everything else, and just paint.
I’ve been told that if I make a business card, I should only put ‘painter’, and leave out the “photo, video, sound” part. If I make a website for my paintings, I should avoid even mentioning that I also do photography. If I really want to pursue photography, then I should make up a fake name and make a new website for just my photography. I shouldn’t let people know that I like to do more than just one thing. I shouldn’t get distracted by doing more than one thing.
But, is this really good advice to follow? Does a wide focus spread across many fields eliminate the possibility of truly mastering any one of them, or does the knowledge gained in one discipline inform the decisions made in another?
Continue reading Jack of All Trades, Master of None?
As someone who is primarily a painter, some aspects of photography can be quite frustrating. In March of 2010, I had an idea for a photo shoot: take a bunch of multi-coloured LEDs, throw them around a snow covered forest, and take a bunch of pictures. The coloured light should bounce off the snow and create some interesting effects. This sounded like a cool idea.
The only problem was that I had this idea in March, after the winter snow had melted. I had to wait for winter to come again before I could try out this idea. When I’m painting, the time of year doesn’t matter so much. Winter scenes in summer, summer scenes in winter; if I can imagine it, I can paint it. This isn’t the case with photography. Photography is all about patience. I had to wait for nature to play along before I could try out this idea.
Two nights ago, I finally had my chance to head out on this photo shoot.
Brad had recently picked up a new camera, so I thought this could be a good opportunity for a ‘Brad vs. Kyle’ thing, introducing some friendly competition into the shoot.
Continue reading Painting with Light
In my last post, I mentioned that I picked up a new lens.
I tried to tone-down my giddy excitement in that last post. I will be letting it all out in this post.
My 18-70mm 3.5-4.5G DX was sharp enough, it was fast enough, it was almost even enough; but damn! 50mm 1.8D prime, you make me so happy!
This is the most inexpensive lens Nikon makes. It is not a cheap lens. It is an inexpensive lens. It doesnâ€™t cost very much, but it takes fantastic pictures.
It opens wide, all the way up to f/1.8, which is about 2 and a half stops better than any of my other lenses. The shallow depth of field this allows has given me a whole new world to explore.
Continue reading New Lens!
If you like overly broad assumptions, than these next few paragraphs are for you:
There are two types of photographers: those who like to take pictures, and those who obsess over gear.
Some head out early in the morning, venture to remote locations during stormy weather, and wait there, hoping to capture something breathtaking. The others stay at home, count pixels, take pictures of charts, zoom up close and look for flaws in the gear.
(I’m leaving out the third kind: people who downloaded some nifty app for the iphone that automatically filters their images into something cool.)
The photographers who go out and take great images can look down on the gear-porn junkies; they buy all this expensive gear, and never use it to make images worth looking at. The technically minded gear-porn junkies look down at the photographers for buying gear that is 2% less sharp around the edges at certain f-stops while zoomed in all the way, when a better alternative is only two pay-cheques more expensive. And everyone looks down on the iphone photographers, because no one seems to notice that good images are all that matters.
I’m not really a photographer, so I guess I’m safe from being stuck in one of these groups I’ve just invented, but I can certainly understand the appeal of being obsessed with gear. Its objective. It’s easy. Taking a good image is hard. Powerful images have a certain quality that can’t be quantified. In the discussion over what makes an image worth looking at, aesthetics are lost in translation.
Continue reading Photographing My Own Art (New Lens!)
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2010 is coming up in less than a week now, and it’s getting harder for me to contain my excitement.
If you haven’t been to the Take a Picture video page, you might have missed the two promo videos Brad and I have released for the Take a Picture project. Not to worry, I’m not going to send you on an internet scavenger hunt. I have included both of the videos with this post!
Continue reading Take a Picture: Promo
In the last entry in the “Photographing Art” series, Don’t Bother With Image Protection, I covered some reasons why I think that allowing images of art work to be freely shared isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some people want to photograph art, or download images of art, and for artists dealing with one-of-a-kind images, like painters, the benefits of this infringement can outweigh the risks.
The last entry was rather one-sided, however. Freely allowing copies isn’t going to be beneficial in all situations. If you are in the selling reproductions business, file sharing has the potential to eat away at sales. I can sympathize with this. I have made money licensing images for prints myself. As a struggling artist, I know that every source of income, no matter how small it might seem, is very significant.
How many image makers are in the business of selling reproductions? Photographers certainly are, but I believe that it is important for artists to decide on the main focus of their practice: are they about selling originals, or selling reproductions.
If you are in the business of selling reproductions, this series is probably not for you. If you are more interested in selling originals, please come with me as I take you through the weird world of infinite goods.
Continue reading Do You Sell Originals, or Reproductions?
Lately, I’ve been hearing a growing number of complaints from professional photographers about the introduction of pro-sumer grade digital SLR cameras. Pro-sumer is that fuzzy patch between consumer-grade toy and professional-grade tool. These days, professional level photography tools are accessible to a non-professional audience. I don’t have to take out a loan to purchase professional-level equipment these days. I don’t have to spend years learning all the technical processes involved in making my expensive tools work. It’s all within my reach.
When accessible high-quality tools meet up with the awesome power of online aggregates and search, the micro-stock photo industry almost seems inevitable. This also means that the idea of professional photography as a profitable career is put into jeopardy. There may no longer be a need for as many photographers as there once were.
Here is one idea that although not a pleasant one, is one that I believe must be considered: maybe photography as a profession is just an accident of history. The window between photography being possible and photography being easy allowed the profession to exist, and that window is now coming to a close.
Continue reading Professional Photography: Accident of History?
In the last entry, I introduced you to the reason for my recent focus on taking pictures of art: My next art project is about this very topic. These are the ideas that have been dominating my thoughts lately. It’s what I’ve been thinking about; it’s what I’ve been talking about; therefore, it’s what I’ve been writing about.
When I’m working on something, I like to completely immerse myself in ideas surrounding the topic I’m dealing with in the artwork. I usually start with a very clear and focused thought that I want to develop. I work out the basics, and create a rough sketch or guide to work with. That rough plan must be very flexible, because I find that the ideas I develop throughout production are far more interesting than the initial thought that started the whole thing. I’ve got to anticipate some unexpected turns on my journey to completion. Countless little choices pop up during the process of actually making a finished piece, and I believe that having the right ideas floating around in my head can inform the decisions that I make, and the result is a much stronger finished product.
Well, that’s the idea at least.
The final paragraph of the last entry listed some of the points I wish to raise with “Take a Picture”, but I didn’t actually talk about how I was approaching those issues.
In this entry, I will break down that final paragraph, and expand on each of those points.
Continue reading Expanding on ‘Take a Picture’
From reading my entries so far, it may seem that I have a one-track mind: my only interest is photographing art. There is a reason for this singular focus up to this point. Over the past several months, I have been working on a project that is specifically about photographing art. The issues of art, photography, copyright, digital technologies, and social media have been dominating my thoughts and conversations for a very long time now. It seems only natural that those ideas would spill into this blog as well.
This project has grown out of my interest in free culture. This interest began with an angry museum guard yelling at me for taking some pictures. It grew as I began teaching myself some basic computer programming, where I quickly discovered how wonderful it is to have access to a body of free knowledge, ideas, and materials. Working with electronics, and having a constant need for datasheets and schematics only strengthened this opinion. But, it was Windows Vista that finally provided me with that final push to fully embrace the world of open source. What I found was a world where just about any small tool was freely available with just a few keystrokes (provided I could get the damn wireless connection to work) As a user, the benefits of this mindset, this ecosystem of permissive sharing is very appealing. But I’m not just a content consumer, I’m also an artist; I am a content creator. It’s only fair that as a producer, I should try to pass on the same benefits that I enjoy as a consumer.
The art world that I learned about back in art school was one that prides itself on being part of the cultural avant garde. My experience in the art business leaves me thinking that the culture surrounding free software is several decades ahead of the culture surrounding the arts.
The prohibition of museum photography is something that I believe turns art from a shared cultural artifact into a private commodity. This restriction turns a painting into an object where permission must be sought to do what comes naturally to myself and many of my peers: taking pictures of the cool things we see, and sharing the details online. Realizing that these private commodities live in publicly-funded museums only adds insult to injury. I can’t photograph what I paid for? The objects that are said to represent culture are locked out of the shared attitudes and practices that actually characterize our culture.
I am interested in culture, not commodities. Preventing images from being shared removes them from our shared cultural experience. To quote Cory Doctorow, “It’s not culture if you’re not allowed to talk about it.” Sending pictures back and forth and posting them online is how my generation talks about things.
Continue reading Take a Picture
Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about reproductions of art, and why art can’t be photographed in many museums and galleries.
In part 1, I covered my teenage conspiracy theories about the prohibition of photography, while in part 2, I talked about learning the real reasons during my time in University. Then I switched gears for a bit and talked about image protection, listing some examples of bad ideas and good ideas.
In this entry, I will talk about the issue from a different angle. I will be asking something that should have been considered long before any time is spent on content protection schemes. That question is “Do painters even need to worry about infringement?”
I know, it sounds crazy. You might be thinking, “Kyle, I know you embrace the open source movement, free culture, the creative commons and all that, but this is our livelihood you’re talking about. Give it away! Are you mad?”
As artists, we own the rights to images we make; surely we must protect them, right?
Absolutely, we should protect our work, but I don’t believe that a blanket “All Rights Reserved!” model is necessarily the best approach for a painter to take.
Continue reading Don’t Bother with Image Protection