Studio Log

process work, writing, inspiration, and studio documentation. 

Currently Absorbing

For the month of August, Melina and I have to move out of our studio in the Yale Union building. They bring a group of Japanese residents in for a program called End of Summer. As such, I'll be spending the month not actively making physical work (aside from the ever present Fragments.) But doing a lot more reading, writing, and listening. 

I've set up a little desk in our garage, Steele's studio, and am trying to get out here as much as possible to write and write and write. It's been a long time since I've written anything real, and my brain feels clumsy, like my fingers are swollen and they can't type what they mean. But even so, there's so much stillness sitting at this desk under the window, looking out onto the garden. 

But really why I'm here is to record two recent pieces of writing/thinking that I've digested today. 

The first is the most recent episode of the podcast Dear Sugars, with Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. This episode was on Creative Dreams, and there were so many good nuggets of wisdom, but I particularly liked this train of thought from their guest George Saunders, on taking a practical day job to support his family. 

So maybe as a way of gaming myself I said "Ok, look, if you're a writer you should be able to find material even here, everywhere." Since these are human beings gathered together, this must be percolating into my artistic machinery, therefore it's not a waste.

This is sometime I wrestle with all the time. The need to pay rent, while also wanting to take my time in the studio seriously. I may never get to a point where that side of things is supporting me, so learning to be okay with a day job is something I'm going to have to do. It was so nice to hear these issues grappled with honestly and openly.  

The second is a piece of writing that Crystal Moody linked to in her weekly newsletter, Agnes Martin Finds The Light That Gets Lost. Written by Larissa Pham for The Paris Review, it's an essay about art that makes you feel something real and true about the world. About chasing that feeling. And also, about Agnes Martin, whose work I adore. 

When my traveling companion asked where I wanted to go, I always pointed at the bluest mountains. I wanted to be inside that heartbreaking lapis-lazuli blue, not stuck down here with the mortals among gray-green sage bushes and dusty-red ground; I wanted to be both there in the place and able to behold its beauty at the same time. I wanted to feel the way I feel standing in front of an Agnes Martin painting, where if you stand back you see one thing and if you get close you see another, and all it takes is leaning forward to fall into the details of how it’s made and what it says.

Please go read the full essay. Reading it felt a little bit like falling into the open sky for me, a big 360° inhale. 

Thoughts on Fragments | Tim Walker

Thinking about this bit of writing from a book I got for Christmas—The Photographer's Playbook, which is a fantastic thick book full of assignments and ideas. This one in particular is written by Tim Walker. I'll leave the full text below, but this is the excerpt that has been stuck in my head, "Anything you ever put in front of your camera you have to love. Truly. Madly. Deeply. Whether it's a person, a flower, a dog, or the muddy tire of a tractor, you have to be mad for it. Absolutely in love with it. Whatever anybody says you have to know in your heart that it's beautiful." 

This idea has been the driving force behind the Fragment series. I'm collecting these words, images, objects, scraps. Scraps of information, little bits of nothing. They're broken things, pieces of a story, they're unfinished, uncertain. They're insignificant, full of longing, vague little ghosts. And I love all of them. 

I'm about a third of the way through this year of Fragments. And so far what's it's teaching me is that I love the parts of a whole better than a complete finished narrative. It's teaching me that things are beautiful when they're broken, forgotten, abandoned. And of course it's teaching me that by collecting these things, by saving them, they become something to be memorized, idolized. Something to hold onto. 



I think photography responds well to the word play. Having a playful attitude to what you take a picture of is a good, positive approach to many photographic projects. Play suggests a lightness of touch. Even if you've labored over an images it should still look easy. 

But that's just my love of a joyful picture. You can always tell in a picture when the photographer and subject have enjoyed the photographic playing. Of course not every worthy photography subject can be approached with play and joy. And that which can't be approached playfully should be approached with love. Actually, I believe universally that photography can only be approached with love. This is the fail-safe guide. 

When I was a photographic assistant to Richard Avedon he had "only photograph what you love" written on a scrap of paper pinned to his wall. It took me a while to really understand how deeply this rule can apply to photography. In the end, photography is only good if it's true. And I think a photographer's truth is born from their love of their subject. 

Anything you ever put in front of you camera you have to love. Truly. Madly. Deeply. Whether it's a person, a flower, a dog, or the muddy tire of a tractor, you have to be mad for it. Absolutely in love with it. Whatever anybody says you have to know in your heart that it's beautiful. 

Before I make a picture of value to me, I ask myself, "Do I love this?" I analyze my love for the subject, and that study of why I love what I'm about to photograph gives me a grip on my day.