Friday, July 30, 2010

Elaine Interview (Totally Like Me)

I've only been following Elaine at Totally Like Me for about a year and she's one of my favorite photobloggers. Mostly because she always comments back. Kidding, I really like her approach, where I do a minimal amount of processing because I'm lazy, she turns ordinary every day photographs into art with her mad post production skills. She agreed to reveal all her darkest secrets in an interview, so behold the following.

How did you first get into photography? Who gave you your first camera, or did you purchase it yourself? Was it film or digital?

When I was in highschool, my friend Cindy and I got kicked out of "Marketing" for sliding record albums under the locked store door out into the hall and getting caught. I figured the next easiest course to take would be photography. I had no interest in it when I started, my first camera I'm ashamed to say was an "accidently donated" Canon AE-1, so I don't know who gave it to me! It was film. :)

What made you decide to start a photoblog? How long have you been photoblogging? What frustrates you most about photoblogging?

I kept trying to start a photoblog for about six or seven years, it was a comedy of errors, I even purchased movable type and paid somebody to design a photoblog for me, because there just wasn't much out there at the time. That site ended up getting hacked and BLOG MOXIE, the bogus designers who made the photoblog for me wouldn't fix it unless I paid them $300 per hour for their trouble. I highly do not recommend BLOG MOXIE. Can I say that here? [Of course you can, we like justified anger - Ed.]

Eventually I settled on a gallery, which is a very lonely existence and wasn't inspiring me to take pictures. The story is much longer than this but to keep it short I was writing a meme called Thursday 13, and I called it 13 reasons NOT to start a photoblog, and my friend Sherri from Pearweed read it and introduced me to Pixelpost and taught me how to launch a photoblog, that was probably 3 years ago, maybe only 2, I don't know, and I've changed hosts several times since Pixelpost... But I owe Sherri alot. I wouldn't have a photoblog at all without her, because believe me I had given up in disgust.

What frustrates me most? Commenting! I couldn't sit there for two hours a day commenting to everyone on my favorites list and others who had commented to me, not without much back pain, now I rely on the kindness of people who will comment first, so that I can comment back thoughout the day. I love getting a good comment though!

Do you try to stick to an overarching theme, or is your photoblog more of a visual journal?

My photoblog I would have to say is a journal, it is an attempt to make the mundane reality of my life into prettiness... I don't get out much, no sweeping landscapes for me, nope, it's my husband and dog, sleeping on the couch that inspires me... Do i take pictures of things OTHER than my husband and dog? I can't think of any at the moment because I haven't slept in nearly two days!

Do you enjoy the computer/technical aspect of photoblogging, or is it a source of irritation?

I do believe that processing photos is my favourite part! Whenever I'm down, in a mood, I will go process some photos and inevitably feel a gentle happiness creep up on me... I'm not a very good photographer, so I think processing is my only hope of creating what I see in my heart, when I look at my dog or husband sleeping :)

What other internet related photography projects have you participated in?

So many I can't count, and no none of them are still live except the last version of in Wordpress is still there, but it has the same photos as the current version. Recall the comedy of errors I spoke of above, we're talking MANY errors.

What is the best photograph you never took? What is the best photograph by another photographer you wish you had taken?

I have a picture on my wall of a seagull in flight, I was panning to catch it in the middle of my frame, and I did catch it in the middle of my frame but it's head is in the shadow of a pier, so you might not be able to tell right off what the picture is, but to me, it's the best picture I never took.

I could not choose between my favorite photographers, Tammy Warren, Sharon Wish, Marcie Scudder, you... Though I do have a picture by Marcie as my desktop just because it captured my heart and won't let go. First Kiss by Marcie Scudder.

What is the most interesting story about one of your favorite photographs?

I was walking into a store and there was a heroin addict slumped over, cross legged, completely passed out. I told the store owner she should call someone, but after I walked out and got into my car, I quickly pulled my camera up and snapped a shot. I felt so dirty doing it. But I felt somehow it had to be done. It turned out to be one of my best photos in that photojournalistic kind of way, but I can't really look at it for long because it is comprehensively depressing!

Many of your photographs are post processed quite elaborately. Tell us about you come up with ideas - do you have a vision in mind when you begin, or is the final image more of an improvisation?

I know I know, hehe, lately, for the last 6 months or so, I have been trying not to process so much because somebody insulted me about it. I deleted the comment because I don't accept anything negative on my blog, but deleting it out of my mind was a different matter. I stopped using such chunky textures and such, but in the end I just replaced it with blur and "that 70's look"... I process therefore I am :) I usually have a vision before I start processing, but also am often quite surprised by my end result.

Enough about your photography, tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm a smitten Christian, I adore my husband, I used to be a total physics freak, I've seen beauty in many aspects of life.

Favorite guilty pleasure?

A bottle of Bailey's, but now I have quit drinking, quit smoking, I'm very Mary Poppins, "practically perfect in every way" :)

Favorite brand of pasta?

I love the chicken mushroom linguini at Boston Pizza, but don't get out for dinner often because it's not in da budget!

What is your favorite thing to do when not photographing?

I love to get a pet project in my head and research it for months, whether it's buying a bed, or a camera, lately for the past few months I have been researching how to make money online, I'm about to start a business that I'm very excited about, I could tell you about it, but I would have to kill you.

Have you had any formal training in photography? If so, what did you find most useful? If not, what advice do you have for others making their own way?

Yes, I took that three year photography course in high school, it was a vocational school and I was supposed to make a career out of photography, but instead stayed in school and got my university entrance courses and went on to become a computer programmer instead. The thing that I found most useful about the course was the fact that I took so many pictures over the three years that I started seeing the world through a photographer's eyes, I could frame something in my mind and tell if it would make a good photograph. I have mostly lost that ability from taking so many years off from the art, but to this day I very rarely crop a photograph, the frame I shot is like giving birth to a baby, you don't cut bits off later. That was a very weird thing to say...

What advice do I have? You've got two choices, interesting subject matter, or interesting processing, you choose.

Do you enjoy the community aspect of photoblogging? Give a shout out to some of your favorite photobloggers and briefly tell us what you like most about their work (i.e. what keeps you coming back).

I very much enjoy the community aspect, even if my sore back doesn't. To me a picture is not a picture until I can get a witness. The old if the tree falls in the forest and nobody is there type deal... Google Reader ate my list of photographers and it's blank now, you are one of my faves, the blue sky and brick gets me every time, very sexy lol...

Marcie Scudder - She has got to be one of the luckiest photographers in the world for catching the perfect split second in a shot, and her processing is consistently lovely, misty and moody, but in a good way...

Pearweed - Sherri is a classical artistic photographer, inspired by the world around her she gives the gift of inspiration in return for a visit to her page...

Bluechameleon - Sharon wish makes me wish I could be her, mostly because in my film days all I shot was black and white and i would have killed to be able to make my pictures look like hers, but I think that's only possible in the digital age. Sharon is a combination of all things good about a photographer.

While Standing Still - Tammy is a magical person, I love her and her magic shows up in her art, she is the most amazing woman I know...

Roamin - I actually don't visit his page often because his work makes me so sad that I can't do that, that's how good he is, I can't look!

A Picture A Day Keeps The Doctor Away - Walter is just brilliant in every way, witty and wild, with one of the best eyes for a story.

Hobokollektiv - I love his photography because even when he's not taking pictures of the open road, I feel lonely but still feel the wind in my hair when I look at his pictures, they are sad and satisfying at the same time. They fill my heart.

What's next for you and your photoblog? Can we expect more pictures of your husband and dog? Do you have any shows planned?

You can expect many many more pictures of my husband and dog, I'm actually very inspired by their love for each other and get up out of my chair many times a day to take a shot of them "bonding"... And NO my husband isn't always SLEEPING, he just shuts his eyes when I approach with my camera, he's a bit camera shy, but is very supportive of my art... I've had people suggest I do shows but man I don't GET THAT, haha, my pictures are so boring. I think people comment out of pity :)


Monday, July 26, 2010

random buildings @downtown pittsburgh (nikon d70)

On the way back to Atlanta from Jamestown, I stopped in Pittsburgh for a few days. While my primary objectives were to catch a Pittsburgh Pirates game in their new ballpark and a Penguins game at the Igloo, I found time to take a few photographs as well.

After checking in to my hotel, I busted out the camera gear and took a little stroll around downtown. One of the first things I found was this Death Star looking AT&T Building. Next, while wandering downtown, I noticed a crazy chef tucked in behind a few buildings.

Atlanta firmly believes historic preservation is best done with a wrecking ball and bulldozer. Therefore, the city's historic train stations are long gone. Whenever I'm in other places, I make it a point to go looking for the original train stations. One reason they fascinate me is railroads were the original big money ballers, which is reflected in elaborate station architecture. In Pittsburgh, I found the Pennsylvania Union Station, which has been converted to luxury apartments.

I enjoyed my time in Pittsburgh. A highlight was the abundance of excellent Italian food. Bravo Franco and Villa Reale are two fantastic Italian restaurants. I also appreciated the multiple quality drinking establishments available near my hotel, especially Ale House in Market Square. I highly recommend a visit to the PGH, if you have the means.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Abhinav Jain Interview (A Coup D'etat Of The Status Quo)

A few years ago, I got the bright idea to interview a few prominent photographers in the photoblogging scene. Unfortunately, things happen a little slower here in the Dirty South and this interview with Abhinav Jain has been sitting in my inbox for a couple of years.

Abhinav Jain has been photoblogging since 2004 and I've been following his work since early 2005. I've enjoyed his impressive six year run and he continues to update A Coup D'etat Of The Status Quo. Without further ado, the interview:

How did you first get into photography? Who gave you your first camera, or did you purchase it yourself? Was it film or digital?

I sort of abruptly stumbled into photography in November 2004. Just prior to that month, I had come across a few photoblogs that greatly excited me. Here were regular people producing incredible works of art, and that too on an almost daily basis! I had been painting since I was a child; but with a camera in my hand, I was a mere snapshot shooter who never looked beyond the auto setting on the dial. These photoblogs helped something click in my head, and I truly saw and understood photography for the first time.

The first camera that I really treated as an expressive tool was a Canon Pro1 (digital) that I purchased at the end of 2004. Using it for the first time reminded me of the same energy and excitement I had felt with my first real set of watercolors.

What made you decide to start a photoblog? What inspired your comeback after the recent hiatus?

Starting in a completely new medium, it's important to have some form of a sketchpad and some level of guidance. I started my photoblog to fulfill both those roles. I was free to experiment as I saw fit, and I got regular feedback/advice from other photographers.

Coming back to photoblogging was always a question of 'when', not 'if'. I missed having a creative outlet during the time I was away from it, and finally just reached a breaking point where I needed to return.

Do you try to stick to an overarching theme, or is your photoblog more of a visual journal?

While I do often try to capture a sense of living in New York City, my only real theme is personal artistic growth. I want to be able to look through my photos and see my style, technique, and work evolve as a whole. I don't mind flipping back and seeing some photos that are absolutely horrible (and there are many), or that deviate wildly from the general New York subject matter. After almost four years, it's still a sketchpad and a work in progress.

Do you enjoy the computer/technical aspect of photoblogging, or is it a source of frustration?

My background is in Computer Science and I thoroughly enjoy the technical aspects. I add new posts through command-line FTP and SQL statements, rather than through a web form. I wrote the first version of my photoblog completely from scratch (in Java), just because I thought it would be fun. I later switched to the Pixelpost platform because it was a lot easier to maintain, but I still like to customize their PHP code wherever I can. It's all about maintaining right brain/left brain equilibrium.

What other internet related photography projects have you participated in?

I was very honored to be featured in the Sept 2005 issue of Photoblogs Magazine [now defunct - ed.] - it gave me a chance to expand on a specific topic near and dear to me. I also participate in Photo Friday regularly, and have had a couple of "noteworthies" there.


What is the best photograph you never took? What is the best photograph by another photographer you wish you had taken?

There was a young couple alone on the promenade near the Brooklyn Bridge a couple of years ago. With the sunset and sweeping bridge in the background, it was quite dramatic. I would have loved to get that photograph.

There are countless images by other photographers that I wish I could claim as my own. At the professional level, Steve McCurry's famous portrait of Sharbat Gula (the "Afghan Girl") remains the gold standard of portraiture for me. At the photoblogger level, an image that comes to mind is "double take", by Dave Martinidez of "new york moments". I probably passed that same giant billboard several times without ever seeing the clever photo that Dave saw in it.


What is the most interesting story about one of your favorite photographs?

One of my personal favorites is All Clear. New York City had just recently opened up access to Governor's Island and after a very rainy week, Yuri and I finally went on a beautiful Saturday morning. The ferry ride over was fantastic and I was very excited about making some photos using an SLR camera for the first time. Of course, the minute we set foot on the island, all hell broke loose in the sky and we were suddenly in the middle of a torrential downpour. We took refuge in an old fort, but I thought I'd lost my beautiful sunny day and the chance to learn to use my new camera.

But these clouds were moving extremely quickly, and about 10 minutes later, we could actually see the storm's edge. I ran towards the water and started shooting furiously - the beautiful cloud edge broke up and was gone in less than 10 seconds. I was new to controlling exposure compensation or metering on this camera and the idea of RAW images was totally foreign to me. The result was an image that may not be technically perfect, but definitely showed me that sometimes it's best to just shoot on instinct and not overthink a scene.

You live in New York City, which presents a plethora of opportunities for photography, have you ever experienced analysis paralysis (e.g. trying to decide between so many photographs that you end up taking none)?. If so, tell us about the situation.

This ties back into that lesson I learned from shooting the All Clear photo. Hesitation will often cost you a great photo, and you simply cannot afford to over-analyze in street photography. That's not to say you shouldn't think about what you're doing, but you just need to think and decide really really quickly. New York City is a visual flood, but my subjects have typically jumped right out at me. Even in cases where there are a lot of potential images, one will usually excite me more than the others, and that is the one I place all my bets on.

Enough about your photography, tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Bombay and moved to New York at the age of ten, which was quite a transition. I love spending time with my friends and family, even if (or maybe especially if) we're not doing anything particularly exciting. Rollerblading through Central Park in the fall is one of my favorite activities. I used to paint quite a bit, but not so much recently. I have a short attention span and like to foray into many different pursuits, some of which stick and many which don't.

Favorite guilty pleasure?

I can think of quite a few, but the one I'll share is reading comic books late at night while munching on spicy snack foods.

What is your favorite thing to do when not photographing?

I love traveling and soaking in the feel of a completely foreign place and culture. All the better if it involves some kind of outdoor activity.

Have you had any formal training in photography? If so, what did you find most useful? If not, what advice do you have for others making their own way?

The closest thing I've had to formal training was reading the manual that came with my Rebel XT. Some people do well with structured learning, but I am one that definitely does not.

The biggest piece of advice I would give to other self-learners would be to shoot as much as you can and as often as you can, while experimenting as much as possible. Read up on and really understand the basic principles of photography; and then go shoot as much as possible while applying those principles. Digital frames are free and you can experiment to your heart's content. No one is judging you poorly for seeing what happens when you shoot with a tungsten white balance under fluorescent lighting.

Resist the urge to fall into "equipment envy". If your photographs are not coming out well, focus your efforts on what you are doing wrong. Don't just run out and get more expensive equipment.

Do you enjoy the community aspect of photoblogging? Give a shout out to some of your favorite photobloggers and briefly tell us what you like most about their work (e.g. what keeps you coming back).

The community aspect is one of the things that got me hooked in the first place. Fellow photobloggers provide inspiration, guidance, and sometimes a chance to share the knowledge I have acquired. Some of the sites I visit often:

  • Dawn Armfield, of Inchoate: I consider Inchoate to be almost a sister site to "coup d'etat" in a way. Dawn and I both started photoblogging at around the same time, and have traded a lot of constructive and honest criticism on our images since then. I see Dawn experimenting and constantly refining her technique in much the same way I try to do. [Sadly, Dawn is no longer photoblogging at that site - ed.]
  • Jeff Kirlin, of The Thing of The Moment: I think of Jeff as the photoblog clown, but I mean that in the best possible way. I can always count on being entertained with a visit to his site, even if I'm just poking fun at his photos. The strange thing though is that as soon as the carnival folk come to town, Kirlin's photo skills multiply a hundred-fold. I love the passion and honesty with which he shoots his "carnies" series.
  • Dave Martinidez, of Dave Martinidez Photography: Dave's photos of NYC are terrific. The quality and mood of his work is incredibly consistent, and his sense of exposure is brilliant. Truly one of very few people I know that treat B/W well.
  • Hanneke Meier and Elvi: Hanneke and Elvi have both moved on from photoblogging into full-fledged (and absolutely stunning) professional work. But I still like to browse their portfolios every once in a while, looking for inspiration. Even with heavy processing and studio work, there is a very appealing rawness about their work.

What's next for you and your photoblog?

At any given point, I have about a half-dozen different ideas swirling about in my head for new projects. Once in a while, something actually comes of it, but I never know what that will be or when. But I do know that I'll keep trying to evolve, and that "coup d'etat" is going to continue being my sketchpad.