It has been quite an interesting past two months. I’m off the road for a bit, will be back on it soon, but let’s recap recent events…
In March, I set out on the 2016 #mmwYOtour, a speaking tour I’ve done for two years now for the Maine Media Workshops. Last year, I spoke to ten high schools through New England and the Mid-Atlantic about the Young Artist (YO) program that I teach in every summer at MMW. There are a wide variety of workshops available for high school students, ranging from filmmaking to the darkroom, alt pro to digital and more. For my part, I’m teaching Advanced Young Digital Photographers and Young Studio + Advertising Photographers. To promote this upcoming season of YO workshops, I decided to do the new speaking tour through Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
The trip started in West Palm Beach. For a fun personal tidbit, upon arriving to the region a day before my talk, I stayed with my father’s friend from back in the Vietnam War. They haven’t actually seen each other in about thirty years, but it was pretty incredible to meet someone I’ve heard of for years, get to check out parachuting photos from the war, and finally get to interact with this social circle that has always been part of my life but never in person until now. Also, he and his wife’s next door neighbor was Vanilla Ice. No, I didn’t get to meet him. I’ll just sing “Ice Ice Baby” at the next karaoke event (but that’s what I do anyway).
The first school I visited was Dreyfoos School of the Arts. When I was originally planning out this trip and where I should stop, I inquired to former YO students where I should visit. Two students’ responses led to actual visits. One was from Victor Paytun, who was in the Scholastic Portfolio course last summer in Maine. This was his high school. It was a great kickoff location. Their media classroom was something really special, where they dove into a variety of formats. They did photography, animation, video, motion graphics, everything. Fantastic stuff. I spoke to two classes, and gave them what would be a fairly consistent talk across all of the schools I visited. The presentation consisted of an artist talk overview, collaborative work made within the classes, presentation of YO student work, and also information about signing up for one of the many workshops available and opportunities to do so. I also showed them a variety of videos made either as part of or in support of the workshops we have going on, such as this video:
Time to kick off a new #mmwYOtour! Over the next two weeks, I’ll be visiting a range of high school classrooms to chat about imagemaking and discuss the Young Artist (YO) program. At the Maine Media Workshops, there are a variety of one and two-week workshops offered specifically for high school students. Ranging from digital photography, filmmaking, alternative processes, and screenwriting, to darkroom, portfolio development, and even game design, this program is a crazy-energetic, high octane opportunity for students coming from all over the world.
To put this road trip into context, last year I did this tour across the Mid-Atlantic and New England region. This year, I’m starting at the southeastern tip of the country and making my way up across the everglades and into the mountains. I’ll be dropping by the following locations, many of which are high schools from YO alumni.
3/7 – Dreyfoos School of the Arts, West Palm Beach, FL
3/8 – The Geneva School, Winter Park, FL
3/10 – Episcopal School of Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FL
3/11 – Amos P. Godby High School, Tallahassee, FL Continue reading ›
In 2012, while eating at a random Chinese restaurant in Toronto, I ordered a glass of milk with my food. For me, nothing was uncommon about this occurrence. I had been doing it for years. The looks of confusion upon delivering my request were also not uncommon to me. But what was uncommon, was the bubble tea cup the milk was brought out in, complete with those gigantic straws. It was such a unique moment for my milk ordering ways, I decided to take a quick photo of the glass of milk with my iPhone. No biggie. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it would start a tradition of photographing my milk ordered in public and sharing these photos online. I’ve been #MilkingIt for three years now.
But let’s back up a bit. What’s the story of milk? Not the entire story of its history. Just its history with me. Like most, my initial journey was due to being born a mammal, which involved drinking milk to become a healthy toddler. But as I continued to grow, I switched from my species’ milk to another, and never stopped consuming it. I guess most mammals don’t do that, not even the majority of my own species.
For a conservative estimate, I consume about a gallon of milk every 2–3 days. Whole milk. The red label option. For the Canadians out there, that would be the 3.25% variety. Delicious stuff. It never occurred to me that most people taper their milk consumption as they grow older, or that they avoid milk when paired with certain foods. Or that a condition such as lactose intolerance could actually be such a thing. A cruel, cruel thing. I just really enjoyed drinking milk and found it to be the best drink choice with practically any type of food.
As an adult, I’ve found more than a few moments where I have to justify why I continue to drink milk. “Because it’s delicious?” is my standard response. Because it is. Throughout these years, I’ve had co-workers warn me of the dangers of colon cancer, or that I was contributing to future calcium deposits in my body, or that I was wrecking my digestive system. Even in “Snatch,” one of my favorite movies of all time, they dedicated an entire scene of the film to educating the “Turkish” character about his milk consumption throughout the film. Continue reading ›
That is a good summary for the second half of the #mmwYOtour! In the last post, I summarized the first week that took me from Cleveland to Amherst while speaking at high schools each day about photography and the Young Artist program at Maine Media Workshops. It was good to catch up for a little bit that weekend, but on Monday morning, I was back on the road!
My first stop was Williston Northampton High School, in Massachusetts. I didn’t know anyone at the school, but the photography teacher, Edward Hing, reached out to me about stopping by while on the trip. Turns out, Edward has been in quite a few workshops in Maine. This past summer, he was in Susan Bloom’s digital collage course. Back in 2008 during my first summer at Maine Media Workshops, I worked as a teaching assistant. Susan’s workshop was one of the courses I assisted. It’s a fun, connected world.
Alex Bilodeau, who co-teaches a course with me in Maine, dropped by to also say a few words to the first class I met with. It was awesome to get to bounce comments back and forth. The courses at Williston were a variety, ranging from filmmaking to photography to an anything goes art course. The classroom was sort of like a cave within a general student center. Outside the doors was a convenience store and lounge area. In many ways, the school felt like a small liberal arts college.
Once I concluded the talks and grabbed lunch with Edward, the drive to Falmouth, Massachusetts was only supposed to be a couple hours. That stretched into 6 or 7, because Rhode Island happened. My GPS was directing me around Rhode Island for the quickest route to southern Massachusetts, but while on the Interstate I saw a turnoff option for Providence. On a whim, I decided to take it. Until that day, my only experience in Rhode Island was a quick drive (ironically, another detour) a few years ago into the edge of the border so I could step out and check the state off the list. But with this new opportunity to venture in, I decided to go for it. My girlfriend went to the University of Rhode Island. Nearly everyone I hang out with in Burlington went to URI. Half are from Rhode Island. With so many connections, I felt like it was my duty to venture in. Continue reading ›
It’s been a wild week! I’m almost halfway into my road trip tour of high schools across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. To recap what I’m doing, each day I’ve stopped at a new school to chat with different classes about photography, discuss the Maine Media Workshop’s Young Artist (YO) program, and when classes are long enough, I hold a small demo or software tutorial. It’s been great!
On Monday, everything kicked off at Laurel School, an all-girl private high school just outside of Cleveland. When I was originally making plans for this trip and lining up places to visit, I asked my former YO students where I should go. Almost instantly, I heard back from Sophie Schwartz who told me I had to visit her old high school in Cleveland. Sophie was a student in the very first YO course I ever taught, and a couple years later, was also responsible for telling me there should be a class at Maine Media devoted to just the fun side projects we normally do in our “free time” in workshops. Laughing, she said the class could be called “Making Shit with Andy.” Awesomely enough, a week later I found myself making a teaser video and the next year, teaching a course in Maine called “Making (___), with Andy and Alex.” Alex Bilodeau, a filmmaking YO instructor, co-taught it with me. So by finding myself in Cleveland, I was once again at the start of a good idea thanks to Sophie!
8 AM at Laurel, I kicked off the tour with the entire Freshman/Sophomore/Junior student body by leading their morning address with a talk to introduce myself, discuss my work and photography philosophies, and dive into student work created in different YO courses. I remember when I walked up to the microphone after being announced, I confessed to the crowd that it was my first time to ever speak at an all-girl school, and with over 200 students looking back at me, it was just a bit intimidating! Continue reading ›
At this moment, I’m sitting at a desk in Cleveland. Monday will launch a series of photography and video discussions I’ll be doing with high schools across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. This is a road trip in conjunction with Maine Media Workshops (MMW) and their Young Artist (YO) program. For over the next two weeks, I’ll be dropping into schools to speak to classes about my projects, the industry and MMW course options, and sharing YO student work from a variety of workshops I’ve been involved with.
In a previous essay on process, the main focus was the desire to transform an environment into a stage for the camera. The majority of time, this is what I prefer. However, sometimes this can’t be done.
I’ve been photographing Sophie and Ellie for years. Their dad, Karl, was the head of the architecture program at LA Tech. Back in 2007, he saw the portraits I was making of faculty and students around campus so he and his wife, Shannon, asked if I could do the same for their twin daughters. At the time, the girls were about 3-4 years old. The portraits were a lot of fun to make, so we decided to keep it up every year. Eventually, we also started incorporating a fictional photo every year. All total, I think I’ve made about 8 portraits and almost the same number of narratives.
This past summer, a few days before I started a three-day road trip from Louisiana to the Maine Media Workshops, we were able to schedule a time to meet up and make photos. The portraits went great. We also wanted to squeeze in a fictional setup but there were a few problems. First, the photo was meant to be inspired by Christmas with a wintery scene. This was June in Louisiana. Second, I imagined the story happening while being surrounded by a vast, mountainous landscape. Louisiana is flat. Lastly, it was getting dark so none of that mattered anyway.Continue reading ›
Process is an interesting idea that can be interpreted a number of ways. I know some people place it as either the primary focus of the work, or it’s downplayed to focus on the concept. I’ve always hovered somewhere in the middle. For me, the very origin of an idea, a concept, rests within process. Concept informs process. Process informs concept. The two are always stepping on each other’s toes. I never stop thinking about the idea during any stage of process, but I also try to not have it dialed in during any early stage, either.
I’m often writing. I have stacks and stacks of short story snippets crammed in binders. These often are the beginnings to a new image. My goal is to never photograph that story, but instead use it as my starting point. When I teach workshops on storytelling and location lighting, I always begin with a dry erase marker and an empty board for a full imagination. I lead classes in creative writing exercises before we ever talk about camera mechanics. We blast through word trees and spontaneous responses until we begin to make connections for a possible scenario. That rough idea will serve as a vague blueprint for the final image. The primary mindset is the story we’ll be telling… but in either my personal work or during workshops, I never want to know the full story. Just a brief glimpse.
The image I’m discussing in this writing was made in Winnipeg during the summer of 2013. I was on a cross-continent road trip making photographs with actors/models across 8,000+ miles of America and Canada. I stopped in a new city every two days or so to tell a new story. In Winnipeg, the awesome Emily Wood, originally from London, hosted me at her apartment and was the actress in the photo. She’s also a writer and a singer/musician. The fantastic Tim Redford, also a singer and musician, assisted on the shoot.Continue reading ›
I like to make fiction. To me, this means the content within the frame exists in its own imagined “universe.” There’s a story embedded into the details, full of characters and situations that ideally are independent of the other story: the real life decisions and processes that were utilized for the fictional stage to exist. For the latter, I consider it to be the story behind the story.
This photograph is titled “If You Want To Talk.” When creating titles for images in the 9months project, I had a loose set of rules. A title couldn’t be longer than five words, it could not contain a first person perspective, and it should prolong the image. With the third rule, by that I mean the title should not answer the question in the photograph. My goal when creating these frames of fiction is to create a moment that does not provide solutions. More questions, yes, but I’m not terribly interested in using photography as a problem solver. Due to this, it felt crazy to let titles be important enough to solve the story. This was the first project where I put real energy into creating titles that weren’t simply sequential numbers, so I wanted to make sure they contributed to forwarding the discussion.
A side effect in 9months is that every reference to an individual is in second person perspective. I wanted all of the small details in the project to feel like they were addressing a specific person. Personally, I had an ideal person in mind, but the format was vague enough to not be a barrier for others to step in and let them form a uniquely personal connection.
So the title addresses an impending conversation, presumably with one individual to another. But what specifically does someone want to talk about? Why can’t they talk? What does this even mean? The truth is, there’s a duality of stories taking place. In the world of fiction for me, the who is someone from a previous relationship. But in the story behind the story, this phrase originated years ago from a man on an Amtrak during an overnight train ride to Chicago.Continue reading ›