Monday, September 1, 2014

Clay Lipsky’s Five Favorite: Photos of Artistic Growth

1. When I first got into photography I shot anything and everything, but was always interested in capturing those magic moments when subject and environment came together at just the right instance. This photo was taken early one morning in the south of France. I was jet lagged, wandering about and saw this man starting to get in the water. I had to run in order to get the desired alignment and only captured one image like this. For me it’s an example of that desired synergy of vision and timing, but looking at it later the photo also spoke to me conceptually as the idea of man versus world. The idea of how mankind effects/ is affected by and navigates the world around us. It is this theme that would ultimately come to be the underlying root of my art as I progressed to become a more conceptual photographer.

2. Initially I was apprehensive about shooting people and found the rural abandon of the desert a stimulating landscape to explore and sharpen my skills. Luckily I live in Los Angeles, not far for the Mojave desert, a vast expanse littered with artifacts and oddities. This photograph represents an evolution of my approach where after years of exploration I was now motivated to create consistent bodies of work, in this case a typology of desert views. The series “Landescapes” documents the thumbprint of man on the natural landscape and hints at stories of broken dreams and the desire to flee urban trappings. By this time my photography had also begun to evolve technically, in this case incorporating the use of flash in order to balance interior & exterior exposure values. The end effect for me was a somewhat surreal perspective where all was in focus and the outside world hung like a painting on sagging walls. I soon realized that my choice of camera and technique were equally important as the subject in order to form a particular style that elevated the image and the overall feeling.

3. As I grew more experienced so did my curiosity about other photographic mediums. Since I never formally studied photography, I began to put myself through the paces by exploring the pros and cons of various types of cameras and films. Shooting Polaroids enabled me to achieve vastly different looks while also embracing the imperfections and happy accidents of film. My work had always employed symbolism but using this format helped create more painterly looks that enabled my new-found focus of creating fictional narratives. In my series “Fading Light” I enjoyed the resulting surreal, poetic images so much that I wondered if I was really a photographer or just a lazy painter. I still enjoy shooting Polaroids for the simplicity of the process and their unexpected results. It provides a nice alternative to digital, where once the photo is taken there is no more processing to be done. Additionally, the lack of manual camera functions taught me that sometimes it’s best to give up control and see what happens.

4. This image was taken along the surreal shores of the Salton Sea, a man made lake in Southern California that used to be a thriving resort area but has now succumbed to the slow decay of time. I came across the scene while shooting images for “Seaside” a self published photo book. I had been to this location before, but this was a new and temporary addition (that is gone now). It reminds me of how truth can be stranger than fiction, the world is constantly in flux and it pays to perpetually explore. This was shot on a vintage Hasselblad film camera which provides impeccable quality, but I was nervous that the image might not come out because of accidents that can happen in camera, with exposure, transit or developing. Everything worked out but from that point on I always brought a digital camera with me "just in case" something went wrong, especially with scenes as surreal as this.

5. The final image comes as a result of a cultural exchange I did in Cuba and a series entitled “Havana Noir.” Documentary street photography was a new endeavor for me, but like many others I was inspired by the unique surroundings and was curious to explore this classic realm of photography. Armed only with a camera, some poor high school Spanish and comfortable shoes I wandered deep into the streets of Havana. I stumbled across this scene that was so rife with culture and community I knew I had to make something of it. Once I befriended the father figure of the group with my broken, but sincere, Spanish I was able to take mix of journalistic and environmental portraits. It was in this situation where I realized my new passion for photography had enabled me to evolve as an artist and a person, drawing me out of my comfort zone into situations I could never imagine. This type of work in still not my focus, but continually reminds me of the magic of Cuba and its people as well as the universal power of photography to inform, entertain, empower and enable cross cultural connections.

Clay Lipsky is a fine art photographer based in Los Angeles, California. His photos have been exhibited in various shows including those at the Annenberg Space for Photography, MOPLA and The Impossible Project Spaces in NYC & Warsaw, Poland. Clay has also been published internationally in print and online, most notably with Esquire Russia, Wired Italia, Libération (France), Yahoo! Germany, Fraction, Square, Diffusion, F-Stop, PH and Shots Magazines. He had his own "Ten" series through Jennifer Schwartz Gallery and North Light Press will be publishing an edition of his photos through their 11+1 book series. Additionally, Clay is also an avid self-publisher with several titles that exhibit as part of the Indie Photobook Library.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Rafael Soldi's Five Favorite: Apps that have changed the way I work for good

Today on Light Leaked, we start a new series of post in which photographers share their Five Favorites of a photography related subject. To begin, Rafael Soldi shares his five favorite phone apps that have made him a more productive and inspired photographer.

It's no secret that between smart phones, apps, and the internet our modes of working have changed dramatically. Sometimes I feel less and less grounded in reality and I try to force myself to do things the "old way"—I love making phone calls, handwriting notes, and leaving voice mails, for example. But there are a few apps, websites, and online services that have in fact changed the way I work, for the better! Let me start by saying that while I am not old-school per se, and I am connected and fairly savvy with technology, my technical know-how is still very limited compared to some of the things I hear my fellow photographer friends talk about (I think I finally figured out how to use my DSLR!).

So, on to the list. These are my 5 favorite apps that changed the way I work for good:

Considering most photographers today are on Instagram, it's very easy to underestimate its power and take it for granted. Some people are very against it, I'm very for it—and here's why. Before Instagram I wasn't making pictures every day, now I am. Before Instagram I wasn't looking at images every day (at least at this rate), let alone "curating" an ever-changing feed of images that make my brain happy and inspired. I haven't really seen a change in my fine art work due my Instagram influences, but I have seen in me a renewed interest in exploring image-making, meeting other photographers, trying new things, and stopping more often to appreciate the beauty the world a little longer. I appreciate once again the magic of photography to bring fragments of permanence to a world in motion. Instagram is my visual journal. You may ask, are there other ways of doing this exact same thing without subscribing to Instagram and its terms of service? yes, probably. Do those other ways work for me? No. I've learned one thing: If something works for me, I stick to it.

Accounting. Record keeping. Invoicing. Expense reporting. Taxes. Financial Planning. BO-RING, I know! When I decided that this would be the year to get my ish together, I met with a CPA and did lots of research on accounting softwares. I was looking for something that was efficient, affordable, and user-friendly for a dude who loves accounting as little as me. Freshbooks came to the rescue and changed my life!  Well, here's the thing... now I truly do love doing all of these things, and I log into Freshbooks almost daily—I've never been so organized in my life. 

Freshbooks allows me to create and send invoices, receive payments (manually or online), craft and send estimates, log expenses, track my time, manage projects, pull reports, project my income, and hundreds of other things. They also have a blog with amazing resources. Some of my favorite dorky things about this software: 

- I can use it both on my computer and on my iPhone. 

- It has all kinds of reports, including one that pulls all the info you need to prepare your taxes at the click of a button, which, if you've kept good records, is a life saver! 

- Possibly one of my favorite features is the expense recording tool. Every time I spend money on anything (film, framing, dinner with a client, museum membership, camera repair, software subscription, my internet, etc) I just upload a photo/file of the receipt and log in the expense. You can assign it a category, note the vendor, and bill it to a client if applicable. This means I don't have to keep any paper receipts and everything exists on the cloud. 

- For a design freak like me, I turned down many other perfectly suitable softwares simply because I found them to be ugly; Freshbooks gets the job done and is lovely to look at at the same time—at $20/month it's worth every penny! (<-- Hint: you can expense that!) 

Most people already have a Dropbox account or something similar, whether it is Google Drive or something else. The concept shouldn't be foreign but it has become such a big part of my daily work that I have to mention it. Dropbox allows you to store files on the cloud, so you can access them wherever you are. I use Dropbox primarily for three things:

- To store a permanent folder (which I call 'professional practice') that contains all of the documents related to my practice, some things I access almost daily and others not so much, but they are all important to keep handy. Here I find my C.V., my bio, headshot, grant applications, mailing lists, contracts, track my editions, consignment agreements, model releases, portfolio samples and frequently requested jpegs, among other things. I also keep a W9 PDF handy with my signature on it that I can just send so I can get paid quickly!

- To store files for clients. If I do a shoot for a client, I can put my final edit in a zipped folder on my Dropbox and just email them a link to download it. Later I delete the folder to make room. It doesn't get more seamless than that!

- To store files I am currently working on. I also do graphic design for some clients and often work on both my desktop at home or my laptop, depending on where I am that day. So if I am working on an inDesign document, I keep the file, any images I might use, fonts, text, and other assets on my Dropbox until I'm done with the project.

Nowadays whenever you ask anyone how they've been, chances are they will respond with some version of 'super busy!' Everybody is busy. Truth is, with endless procrastination opportunities at our fingertips, we are all very busy procrastinating, me being the leader of this movement. I have to be very diligent with the systems I set in place for myself, which has turned me into an obsessive list maker. I write down everything I have to do--even the littlest things--and if I accomplish something not on the list I write it down anyways and cross it off. I need to visualize my progress. 

While feeling very behind at work one day I discovered Todoist, a handy to-do app that can live on your desktop, iPhone, and even your gmail inbox. Whatever you access most often. I simply use it to keep a running list with me at all times and crossing it off as I go. The app is a lot more powerful than that, depending on your needs. You can assign tasks colors and categories, priority status, flags, and separate them into folders and projects. I'm not using it to it's fullest potential, but it works for me.

Travel: Tripit and Uber/Zipcar

A. Tripit
Lately I've been managing a lot of travel for work. Tripit by Concur has been amazing! Every time I book a plane ticket, bus ticket, hotel room, or Airbnb and the confirmation e-mail reaches my inbox, Tripit recognizes it as travel arrangements and immediately pulls all the information from those e-mails and sends them to the app on my phone. When I log into the app I see in an organized list all of my upcoming trips. When I tap on each trip I see every detail I could possibly need, from confirmation numbers and departure times, to what kind of plane I'll be flying in and my seat assignment. 

What I like about it is that it presents all your information for your trips in an extremely organized fashion, and once again, it's easy on the eyes. If I have booked a trip that involves flights, hotels, ground transport, and other details, it takes all of it and feeds it into a visual chronological itinerary with all the details a tap away. You can even check into your flights directly from Tripit and share all your flight details with friends (i.e. shoot an e-mail to whoever is picking you up from the airport with all the details).

B. Uber/Zipcar
Most people already know about Uber, and though it might not relate directly to my work as a photographer, Uber has gotten me out of many sticky situations without breaking the wallet. I do not have a car, and I live in a densely populated city with not-so-great public transport—it gets me places but it's not ideal if you are carrying equipment or framed work, obviously. So being able to request a car directly from my iPhone with one tap, and have it show up at my door 2-5 minutes later is amazing! If I am planning on running a bunch of errands or need to transport something bigger, then Zipcar is usually my choice. Unlike Uber, which is taxi service, Zipcar allows you to rent cars of all sizes/prices by the hour.

One of my favorite things about both services is that there is no transaction involved, I get in and I get out, and I receive a receipt via e-mail (which I quickly screen grab and log into Freshbooks as an expense!). So for a car-less soul in a city littered with Uber cars and Zipcars, I am a fan!

Rafael Soldi is a Peruvian­-born, Seattle-­based photographer and independent curator. He holds a BFA in Photography & Curatorial Studies from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Soldi has helped curate exhibitions at Farmani Gallery, Wilgus Gallery, MICA, Silver Eye Center for Photography, and Photographic Center Northwest, where he is the Marketing Director. Soldi’s photographs have been exhibited and published internationally at the Frye Art Museum, American University Museum, Griffin Museum of Photography, Greg Kucera Gallery, Connersmith, Emory University, PCNW, Vertice Galeria, and G. Gibson Gallery among others. He is a 2012 Magenta Foundation Flash Forward Award Winner, 2014 Puffin Foundation grant recipient, and his work is in the permanent collections of the Tacoma Art Museum, Frye Art Museum, and the King County Public Art Collection, among others.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Two Year Anniversary: Camera Giveaway Winner!

Image by: David Gardner, End of Day. Valley of Fire. NV

Thank you everyone for all the kind words you commented, emailed, texted, and generally sent our way about enjoying Light Leaked these last two years! After conducting a random generator selection the winner of the Bilora Bella 66 camera (with camera case) and two rolls of Kodak Tri-X 120 film is David Gardner!

Thank you all for entering, and a big thank you to Denton Camera Exchange for sponsoring this awesome give way.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Two Year Anniversary: Camera Giveaway

Hey Readers! 

It's Light Leaked's two year anniversary! To begin a tradition started last year, we will be doing a giveaway to thank you for being a part of this growing community of artists! Light Leaked has been a important part of our lives this year, and we really appreciate all the people we have met, and the dialogue that has been created through this journal. This year we will be giving away a vintage Bilora Bella 66 camera (with camera case) and two rolls of Kodak Tri-X 120 film (sponsored by Denton Camera Exchange*). 

Giveaway will run until August 15th, 2014 and a winner will be announced on August 18th, 2014.

How to enter: 

1. Like Light Leaked on Facebook
2. Like or comment on the original post on Light Leaked's Facebook page about this giveaway
3. or comment on the original post on 
4. A winner will be chosen at random and announced on August 18th 

Thank you for a great year,

Ashley and Sheryl

*Thank you Denton Camera Exchange, for sponsoring this giveaway! Denton Camera Exchange is a camera store based on Denton, TX that supplies new, used, and antique cameras, lenses, and film development.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Rachel Boillot

Rachel Boillot (b. 1987) grew up in New York and Singapore. Her undergraduate coursework was completed at Tufts University and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts. She spent the following two years working as a photographic archivist for the Boston Housing Authority. Before returning to graduate school, she taught photography at My Life, My Choice, helping victims of sexual exploitation tell their own stories.

Rachel graduated from Duke University’s MFA|EDA program this past May. Post Script was her thesis work. The project is available as a limited edition photobook and also marked her first solo exhibition at the Cassilhaus Gallery. 

All of Rachel’s photographic work explores the American home and socio-cultural landscape. Other projects have looked at her own home, foreclosed homes, public housing developments, and former mining boomtowns.

As the recipient of a post-graduate fellowship, she will continue to photograph in North Carolina and Tennessee this upcoming year.

Post Script 

In 2011, the United States Postal Service announced 3,653 rural post offices would close. A disproportionate number of the condemned are located in the South. Several thousand locations have since been added to this list of erasure as the Postal Service struggles to cement its foothold in an increasingly digitized world. The fate of the rural post office remains unclear. 

Growing up in America, I scarcely thought about the post office. Its ubiquity in the American landscape rendered it nearly invisible to me. In Post Script, I explore how the post office embodies the identity of place.

The post office serves as town center in rural communities. Often acting as a town’s sole address, this location embodies the numerical identity of place. Without its presence in the landscape, a ZIP code is lost. Yet residents remain anchored in place. In spite of post office departure or a vanished code, the home stands. Attachment to land lingers, rooted deeper than digits. 

I was initially intrigued by the dilemma of the Postal Service because of the parallel to my own field. Like the letter, the analog photograph seems threatened at present. Though photography flourishes, the transition from analog to digital has rendered aspects of my own practice obsolete—even entirely extinct. As remains of the analog world coexist with the emergent digital technology, this moment of change begs consideration.

Upon reflection, I realized the similarity between photographs and letters. From the moment the envelope is sealed, or the shutter clicked, both objects bring messages from the past. As the object arrives, it brings this past into our presence, whispering across distance. As each takes flight, the sender relinquishes all control. Their very message relies upon the grasping interpretations of a recipient. Both are full of gaps, filled with mystery and the struggle to communicate across time and space.

This is a work about post offices. It is also a work about place—in this case, many different places in the rural South—but more importantly, the very notion of place. How we name it and if we can claim it. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Christine Shank

Christine Shank is an artist working predominantly in photography. She has exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States since 1998 and her artwork is in the Harry Ransom Center and the William Benton Museum of Art as well as several private collections. Shank has been an artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony, Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and the SIM Residency in Reykjavik Iceland. A selection of her “Interiors” series was published in 2008 through Booksmart Studios in a limited edition monograph titled She Quietly Considers. Shank has received funding through The Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, New York Foundation for the Art’s Strategic Opportunities Stipend and The Midwest Center for Photography.

Christine Shank has a BFA in photography from Miami University of Ohio and a MFA from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. She currently lives in Rochester, New York where she is an Assistant Professor and the Director of the MFA program in Imaging Arts at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Ashley Kauschinger: Your series, our first year together, has a great variety of imagery. What is your thought process behind this decision and how do you still create a cohesive series? 

Christine Shank:
 Yes there are a variety of different types of images within the series. My ongoing project, our first year together, consists of images that seem unrelated but are bound together by their treatment and tone. There are images that hint at and reference one another while intentionally remaining enigmatic. There are images containing a trace of reference to other images within the series, like an icicle appears in one image and just the watermark from the icicle is in another one; the outline of scissors sun bleached into butcher paper that makes up a different image, nail holes in a wallpaper, blood stained tissues, all these images reference one another and contain a very ordinary type of everyday violence. I am interested in the way that images work together and against one another and how they suggest a very benign sort of disturbance. The sequencing pushes at the differences between the singular images to avoid the implication of any one specific narrative while the wide variety hopefully works to move the viewer through the whole body of work.

Within this series I have been really interested in pushing at what is thought of as a series of photographs. There are images that are highly constructed, to photographs where the only intervention is that I made a picture. Typically the subject matter, the locations, materials, photographic techniques, or methodology will be what binds together a series but with these images what holds them in relationship to on another is the quiet and often very subtle connection between them. This is what creates the tone I believe holds the images in conversation with one another. These images construct the moments in between points of significance, the way much of life is experienced in the middle of contemplation, conflict, and wonderment.

AK: What role does narrative play in your work?

The way I think about and engage narrative in my artwork has greatly changed over the years. When I was working on the Interiors Series (2004-2009) I was very interested in constructing a story to be contained within the frame of one image. That story was told through the scenes I built and the image’s title.

In my current body of work I am most interested in creating a sequences of images that a narrative cannot be easily drawn out of, so it’s the opposite of how I was once working. With this work I am most excited by the restraint needed to make suggestions without pointing to a direct narrative structure or creating a narrative arc. I am not interested in creating a singular narrative or even an explicit narrative. I hope for a feeling to emerge and a relationship between the images to be recognized and that the person viewing the work finds something in the combinations they can relate to. I know this is a tall order considering the speed at which most people consume images these days, especially online with Tumblrs, for instance, or in overwhelming hyper experiences like art fairs.

The title of the series, our first year together, is intentionally vague and creates more questions than answers. In fact I have been developing the series over many years—from 2009 – 2014. But I think the title matches the softness and suggestive moments within the photograph while creating a time period in which to consider the images. A few years ago I had a review with curator Roy Fulkerson and he said, “don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there,” which is a quote from Miles Davis and it fits how I am thinking about what emerges from our first year together.

AK: What influence does literature and poetry bring to your photographic work?

I feel connections between photography and literature. What I draw the most inspiration from is what I read and what I experience in my day-to-day life. I recently read Rage of Poseidon by Anders Nilsen, Mumbai, New York, Scranton by Tamara Shopsin, Path by Rebecca Solnit & Elin Hansdottir and Can’t and Won’t: Stories by Lydia Davis. For different, and some overlapping, reasons these books are really inspirational to me right now. Jeffery McDaniel is my favorite poet and has been for a number of years. I always go back to his poems and always feel something stir in me when I read them. Diane Ackerman, Annie Dillard, Malcolm Gladwell are also writers that I am inspired by and always enjoy reading. The way they can create a story about the fragility of being human while also examining nature, society, economy, and exploring their own curiosity through stories is wondrous to me.

My husband has recently been reading books on the origins of the essay and the conversations we’ve had as a result have caused me to think about sequencing images in a very different way and inspiring me to sketch new images to create in the studio.

AK: Take us through what a day of creating art is like for you. What environment do you create for yourself?

I really prefer being alone when I’m working. I figured out pretty early on that socializing and making art don’t fit together for me; even when I’m just scanning negatives I prefer isolation. Over the years I have had really wonderful studio assistants but I have never been able to really make my work with anyone else around. I like it to be quiet, no phone, no internet, sometimes no music. My studio is a very private place where I can play, make messes, make mistakes, consider things and walk away from something leaving it right where it is knowing that it will be there when I return. I have a phrase taped to the back of my studio door – expect nothing– which is what I strive for when working. Holding that in mind keeps me open to surprises. I am a very organized person when I teach and I try to be tidy in my home and office space at work, but in the studio I am none of those things. In the last decade I have had 5 different studio spaces and the ones that worked best for me were those where I left home to go to the studio. Even just a mile away is enough for me to separate myself from the other responsibilities of my life and to enter the working space of the studio. In recent years I have started to do residencies and in those months or weeks away I am the incredible productive. There is something really uncomfortable and helpful to me in the window of time where everything is new, uneasy and unsettling, I feel a heightened sense of awareness and am very sensitive and productive in that time.

AK: You graduated with an MFA from Texas Woman's University 10 years ago. What advice do you have for photographers navigating the world after graduate school?

I think post-graduate school you have to really be honest with yourself about what your priorities are and what is most important to you. I believe you have to figure out what you enjoy doing and how you want to spend your time. During graduate school, time is really devoted to your growth and experimentation as an artist and students have to work within the requirements of a specific program. Other than the program’s guidelines it’s really about you and your work. When you are done with school you have to get really clear with yourself about what you want and what you are willing to do to have what you want in your life because no one is holding you accountable for anything anymore.

I chose the path of teaching as a way to make a living and support my art. I’ve been really fortunate and I started teaching full-time directly after grad school. This has worked out well for me and I have been fortunate to work in supportive universities with colleagues who have helped me grow as an educator and artist. I have friends who have chosen other avenues and I talk to my students about the variety of jobs and careers that may be a good fit for their lives post grad school. I think it’s important to remember no path is easy and no choice is wrong, you have to figure out what works for you.

Also I think the quote in my studio I mentioned earlier is good advice in it’s many interpretations: expect nothing.