Jorg Colberg, the man behind the photo blog Conscientious, has now started publishing books. Check out his first publication Conversations With Photographers available here. It’s Volume 1 so looking forward to more. It’s only eight bucks so get yours soon.
1. Give us a brief bio of T. Reilly Hodgson and tell us what the T stands for.
I was born in 1987 in the suburbs of Toronto. I’ve gone to school at Emily Carr University in Vancouver for fine arts/ printmaking and OCAD University in Toronto for photography. The T is for Thomas but I don’t use that name.
2. How did your fine art schooling affect your work? Would you recommend that route to someone else wanting to become a fine art photographer?
I think art school has taught me to try to slow down and be a bit more patient with my work, which has been a good thing. Otherwise, I’m still on the fence about it. I’ve gone to and left two of the more esteemed art schools in the country for two different programs and found that neither of them really left me feeling very satisfied. If you’re talented and truly passionate about your craft I don’t think its essential. You’ve really got to want to be there considering the amount of money it costs to go and right now I’m getting more done out of University than I was when I was stuck in classes writing papers.
3. Your photographs seem to be about your personal world. How do you classify yourself as a photographer (documentary, art) or do you?
My majority of my photos are candid shots from my every day type of life, its true, though I’m not sure exactly if I could classify myself like that at this point. There’s an element of documentary in a large amount of my work but there’s a lot more to it than that for me. I do want to make pictures that are artful, that’s for sure, but I’m also interested in the way that memory works. I use photos to express something in the same way I might use a drawing or painting to express something, but at the same time, I know that if I end up with kids in 20 years these photos are going to be how they learn about me, the same way I learned about my family pouring through boxes of their old photos. That’s a pretty fucked up thing to think about. I can’t do that with a drawing. I’ve got to one-up shots of building the CN railway west across Canada, guarding the King in England, commanding tanks in WWII, and racing horses in the 50s and 60s. Its all the same story.
4. Can you describe what you’re trying to do/show when you photograph?
What I am trying to do when I photograph can change when my subjects change, but to be honest, it’s a sort of selfish pursuit.
5. You’ve created a number of zines featuring your work. What appeals to you as a photographer about these small magazines? How do you create them?
Zines are a really nice and inexpensive way for me to share my photographs with other people, friends, magazines, curators, art directors, etc. I like self publishing because of the total freedom I have with my work. Since I shoot film the few dollars I make from them also helps pay for that. How I go about making a zine depends on what the project is, but I try to do as much of the work myself as possible. I do all of the design and layouts myself, either print them at home or a local print shop, and get into a studio wherever I can if there is any extra silkscreen or letterpress work involved.
6. You were recently involved in a group show in Toronto, what was that experience like? Were you involved in organizing it?
I assume you’re talking about the Born Into This exhibition. I had a really great time doing that show! The people from The Cheaper Show and Scion gave me a grant to curate an exhibition with my good friend Dimitri Karakostas. We put together work by some of our favorite photographer and artist pals from Toronto as well as pieces by people with ties to the city who we really admire. It all came together pretty nicely and we opened to a full house, I think everyone was happy about how it turned out except the gallery’s landlord. We painted the walls with a pesticide sprayer.
7. On your blog(s) you often feature other zines sent to you. Can you talk about the photo zine community, or at least how you are involved in it?
I got into zines when I was in the 6th grade. I was aware of punk rock and skateboard fanzines through going to local shows, but I was really captured by the stuff I could get through the mail. I was ecstatic about graffiti when I was a kid, and even though the internet was around, at that point everything was all message board based so if you wanted to see anything really cool you’d try to hook up picure and zine trades with people in other cities. Especially living in the suburbs, they were the only way into those subcultures. Youtube didn’t exist, Banksy didn’t exist, and Nike wasn’t paying writers for logos yet. Now days everyone is connected and it seems like everyone is a “photographer” and everyone has a zine. I post zines on my blogs both to help my friends’ sell their stuff and also to share some of the things that are printed in limited runs. Thousands of people can look at a zine online even if the 50 physical copies of it have sold out.
8. You also seem to use Flickr a great deal and many of your online links lead to other photographers’ Flickr pages. Some photographers seem to dislike Flickr but you embrace it, why?
I think a lot of photographers don’t like flickr because they’re afraid someone is going to steal their work. The reality is that 98% of what is on Flickr is garbage, some of my work included, and the chances of someone being able to profit off of your tiny 72dpi image is slim. You are not a master, people probably don’t even want to look at your pictures, let alone steal them. All that said, Flickr and sites like it are a tool and there is a very large audience there if you know how to use them. I’ve been published a few times based on the fact that someone saw the pictures on my flickr account and got in touch. The pros outweigh the cons, if you ask me. People take the internet too seriously.
9. What will you be photographing next?
One of my teenage friends got a poisonous snake recently, so probably something with him. I just watched a video about those pastors in the states who handle rattlesnakes because they think that the power of god protects them, that kind of stuff is ridiculous.
10. You seem, at the very least, ambivalent about life in the suburbs. How does that show up in your work?
I think that’s a good word for it. On one hand, I’m living at my parents’ nice house in a safe neighborhood with a nice dog and we get along and that’s all great, but on the other hand I’m stuck in a town that’s designed so that nothing interesting ever happens. There’s nothing much to do if you’re young and don’t play sports and so you end up with huge groups of kids who just want to drink and deal drugs and vandalize and steal cars. I grew up hanging out around the train tracks and going to shows with skate punks, so I guess I got the best of both worlds. There’s a really fine line between youthful rebellion, suburban excess and kids on the edge of nihilism and I think that’s what I am interested in.
11. Do you think you may move from producing zines to producing larger books?
I’m definitely interested in doing books in the future. It’s something I’ve always thought about, I’m just waiting for the right project to fall into my lap at the same time as the budget to make it happen.
12. Finally the big question, where do you hope your photography will take you?
Out of my parents’ house.
You can check out more of T. Reilly Hodgson’s work here.
1: You came to photography as career fairly recently. What made you or how did you come to make that decision to become a photographer?
I started photographing in college actually, which was 15 years ago. We had a very small darkroom in the architecture school where I was studying and I was lucky enough to be able to work one-on-one with an architectural photographer, who taught me quite a bit in a short amount of time.
I’ve been committed to building portfolios of work for about 6 years. It started after seeing a retrospective of Harry Callahan’s work at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. I knew, when I saw his prints, that I wanted to dedicate myself to being able to print and photograph at the high standard that he was. From there, I started taking intensive workshops and reading whatever I could find to hone my technical abilities.
2: How would you describe your photography?
I would describe it as stories that build slowly, where one image leads to the next and an understanding comes at the end, when some conclusion is made. I tend to work from the inside out, using photography as a way to communicate what my fears are, what my hopes are, what I long for.
3: You use film, why?
I use film for two reasons. The first is because it gives me the best quality files to be able to print from. I have not experienced a digital camera that can give me the range of light that film can. The second is habit. I have my process down, I’m comfortable with it, it’s what works for me.
4. How do you print, digitally or traditional wet darkroom and why?
I print digitally because I have the most control that way over my prints. I used to be a darkroom printer and I’ve also tried platinum, but I like, for example, to be able to control localized contrast and sharpening, both of which are problematic in traditional wet darkroom printing.
5: You’ve created two books of your photography. Self published photo books are extremely popular right now but yours are different in that they are very high quality. Most photographers are printing lower quality/priced volumes. Why did you decide to go a higher end project?
I decided to make handmade books filled with original prints because I haven’t found a print on demand option that can produce the level of printing that I like to present my work. Print on demand books are also quite expensive to produce, not that much less than what it costs to produce my handmade books. I think they are perfect for many photographers, it’s just not the kind of presentation I’m interested in for my work.
6: What were some of the challenges you faced in producing your books?
The downside to producing handmade books is the amount of effort, time and upfront costs associated. There are more options to consider, what paper, what binding, what edition size that go into the process. Hand-printing an edition of 60 books with 39 images in the book is a huge undertaking, and I’ve learned, as I’ve gone through it, how to get better at managing my time, but it’s still a huge process.
7: You’ve had numerous gallery exhibitions of your work. How do you see the difference between the ‘gallery’ of a book and images hung on a wall?
The biggest difference is the ability for the artist to control the viewing experience more. Usually, with images hung on a wall, people move to look at images that interest them, they can skip images, or move out of the order the artist intends. With a book, beyond just controlling that viewing experience, you can go beyond just the sense of sight and incorporate touch, sound, text, and other means of telling your story more carefully as well. In addition, a book is a personal experience, it is something usually done alone, and is portable also.
8. You live in Portland, Oregon which does have a reputation as an artist friendly city. Would you agree? What is the attraction for a photographer?
It’s definitely an artist friendly city. There is a large artist population, not just limited to photographers. There are large printmaking, book arts, and graphic arts communities as well. The attraction is to be surrounded by other photographers that are working artists, not just hobbyists, and to also have galleries importing good works to show as well. The point is keep pushing forward, and part of that is being exposed to other good work.
9: You’ve photographed in Nova Scotia and are currently doing work on Salt Spring Island. What;s the attraction of Canada?
There wasn’t an attraction to Canada per se, although Canadians do seem more open to me freely trespassing on their property! I went to both places because they looked like beautiful places to go and photograph, not because they were in Canada. I should say that Canadians have treated me wonderfully, and I’d like to do more work there.
10. You have a site, Photo Radio, where you offer sound only interviews with photographers. In these days of YouTube, why radio rather than video?
I don’t know the first thing about video. And frankly, it seems pretty intimidating to me. I’m not sure what you would get from video that you can’t get from audio. I also prefer stripping away the visual at times and just focusing on someone’s words and thoughts, I think it puts everyone on a level playing field.
11. You offer workshops in marketing yourself as an artist. What is the attraction for you of teaching a workshop?
The attraction is being able to share what I have learned in the hopes that the information or experiences that I have will be useful to others. There are so many aspects to being a successful artist, I have always been as open as I can in sharing what knowledge I have with others, I would hope for more of that actually from the entire community.
12. What are your top three tips for anyone wanting to become a fine art photographer?
I only get three? I can’t do less than four!
1- Hone your craft. If you don’t have the foundation to craft good photographs and prints, you’re going to be leaping way ahead of yourself and eventually, you’ll have to come back, so might as well learn to take good pictures and make beautiful prints from the start.
2- Make connections. The biggest part of gaining an audience for your work is through making connections with anyone associated in fine art photographer, whether that be other artists, or curators, or even writers. You never know how someone can help you or your career, so talk to lots and lots of people.
3- Develop a thick skin. There is so much rejection involved with trying to get your work out there, that if you’re sensitive, it will be a problem. I have been rejected so many times I’ve stopped counting, and even though I know it could have very little to do with me or my work, it’s still tough to swallow sometimes.
4- Give back. No matter how much or how little success you experience, you should always try to give back to the community, to nurture younger photographer, to educate, and to encourage sharing, acts that benefit us all.
Lauren Henkin’s site is HERE.
Documentary photographer, and rising art star (check out the 12 page spread in the Fall 2010 edition of Canadian Art magazine) Donald Weber has a new book INTERROGATIONS coming out in the fall of 2011. Published by Schilt Publishing, features more of Weber’s images from Eastern Europe.
The following, from the release for the book, explains Weber’s work:
‘Interrogations is the result of his personal quest to uncover the hidden meaning of the bloody 20th Century. In dialogue with writer Larry Frolick – whose own ancestors had been decimated in the final months of WW II – Weber insistently and provocatively addresses his questions both to the living survivors and to the ghosts of the State’s innumerable victims, resurrecting their final hours by taking their point of view, and performing a kind of incantatory meditation over their private encounters with Power.
The policemen, working girls, thugs, dissidents and hustlers who inhabit these pages are all orphans of a secret History; the outlines of our collective fate takes shape in Weber’s epic work, expanding our awareness of what it means to be an actor in today’s dark opera.
Weber will be selling a number of collector’s editions to help support the publication of the book. Buying at Bronze edition at $200 will get you a 8×10 signed print and a signed specially packaged edition of the book. The Gold Edition, at $1000, gets you the choice of one of five 30×40 prints (each an edition of 3 Artist’s Proofs) plus the signed packaged book.
You can get more information and order the special editions here.
I think of myself as a documentary photographer. Photography is a wonderful medium for harvesting up stories from the stuff of daily life.
2) You have a brand new book out entitled Last Call published by Rocky Mountain Books. What is the book about?
LAST CALL tells the story of the final years of Calgary’s notorious East Village, a feral little precinct situated smack behind Calgary’s cobalt blue city hall. The East Village was best known for its shabby hotels, the St Louis, King Edward and Cecil that formed an un-holy trinity and an affront to Calgary’s Mayor and many members of city council.
You went to the East Village if you needed a cheap room or you wanted to deal for booze, drugs or sex. Some nights you went in hopes of a long shot paying off.
Like the night a guy sitting at one of the back tables in The St Louis suggesting to his beer soaked buddy, a rumpled local TV news reporter that he might want to consider a
run for civic politics
Through heavy lidded eyes the reporter turned the idea over in his head.
3) How long did you work on that project? What were some of the challenges in creating the images.
I spent the years of 2004 – 2009 photographing in the East Village. The biggest challenge in this kind of work is winning the trust and respect of the people you wish to photograph. You have to earn it. That takes time.
4) You’ve photographed prairie towns for a long time, in fact you seem to have two separate bodies of work that focus on the subject. You’ve photographed disappearing towns, remnant of towns or even towns that no longer exist and the black white images while beautiful have a somber, at times sad feel to them. At the same time you’ve been photographing small town architecture in colour which seem to be perhaps more upbeat. Can you talk about these two projects and how they fit together?
The choice of black and white vs. colour is a matter of intuition, judgment and experience. Which one will be capable of conveying the subject most powerfully? Colour is closer to reality, capable of a kind of exquisite transcription. Black and white is more distanced from reality, more abstract, capable of a kind of poetry. The rich, allusive subject matter of these disappearing places calls out for both.
5) Your work in a number of your projects (Calgary’s East Village, Prairie towns, People of the Blood) has recorded, if not way of life, a least a slice of life that has vanished and/or changed dramatically. Do you feel drawn to this type of story or were you just interested in the subject and it all changed around you.
I have a powerful attraction to the sharpness and poignancy of endings. Life is so often about endings, about losing things….photography is about keeping them….for just a bit longer.
6) In contrast to your more recent projects one of your early documentaries, focusing on the Hutterites , featured a subject ( a conservative religious sect that clings to the past in many ways) that didn’t change. Can you talk about that?
A girlfriend once said to me, “You have an infinite appetite for inspiration.” She was right. Time with the Hutterites was filled with stories and lessons, most of them unspoken. You can learn a lot about courage, compassion and commitment from the Hutterite people. The fundamentals don’t really change much on a Hutterite Colony. That’s what make a day there so dear.
7) You exhibit your work as fine art on a regular basis and your style is most often referred to as documentary. Do you think there is any distinction between fine art and documentary photography?
Names like “Fine Art” and “Documentary” can be convenient ways to categorize photography but just exactly where would you put Eugene Atget, or William Eggleston, or Lee Friedlander, or Diane Arbus or August Sander? Their work can be said to have grown out of the Documentary tradition but it surely transcends that tradition and it stands as some of the most enduring and important art of the twentieth century. Photography is like a great river. It’s most powerful current is the documentary current.
8) Most photographers have routines when they work on a project. What are some of yours?
I like to photograph where it’s quiet, when there’s not much going on. That often means getting up early or staying out until the light’s all gone. I like to travel light, usually one camera with one lens. I like to hang out. I like to go back to the same place over and over again. I like to watch for the little changes.
9) You have exhibited a lot and have had numerous books published. Which is the greater challenge, getting a book published or arranging exhibitions?
I just try to do justice to the reality of the things that I photograph and care about. When I’ve completed a project I try to bring the work to the attention of curators and publishers. I’m very grateful for the support and encouragement I’ve received in recent years. Traditional book publishing is facing some challenges right now but you might also consider this a golden age in book publishing. The breadth and quality of work available now is extraordinary. The hard part isn’t getting the work published or exhibited. The hard part is creating work that deserves to be published or exhibited. Good work will always find an audience.
10) You teach some photography classes, what’s the attraction of teaching for you?
Energy, passion, commitment and decency are things that students can bring into the classroom. It doesn’t happen all the time. But when it does, it feels pretty good to be around.
Looking for another idea for Christmas presents, check out all the self published photobooks from the Self Publish Be Happy shop.
If you’re looking for a non-photo related stocking stuffer, how about something as truly Canadian as a toque or tuque, however you like to spell it. These toques though aren’t for keeping your head warm, they’re for keeping your beer cold. Check out The Drink Toque here.
One last suggestion, if you can’t afford an original print from Magnum’s Australian photographer Trent Parke, you can certainly afford a poster created from one of his photographs, available for $10 from Little Brown Mushroom Books.
A very positive offshoot of the boom in the interest in photo books is that we’re not only seeing more professionally published volumes but we have so many independent publications available.
One of my daily stops on the internet trail is The Independent Photo Book site put together by Jorg Colberg and Hester Keijser which posts about books and zines published by photographers and/or very small presses.
One of the attractions of these books is their low cost. Granted the books may be tiny and some are produced in a very basic fashion but that’s part of their charm. It’s also easier to take a chance on a photographer’s work when you’re only handing over a few dollars.
The other day I checked in on Alexandre Lemire/Wolf Peterson’s Photo-Documentation from The Field site and I saw he had a new publication out called Motorcycle Grim Robes. I’ve bought a couple of Lemire’s zines before but this is a small (16 page) book or at least has heavier covers. I immediately hopped over to PayPal to purchase the publication.
This book intrigued me not only because I like Lemire’s work but because the photographs are of motorcycles draped in protective covers.
I’ve been working on a project myself which I’ve just been calling Wrapped with is a series of images of vehicles of all sorts wrapped in protective covers. I find that vehicles draped in fabric make interesting and ambiguous images.. Lemire seems to find it makes the vehicles more mysterious and threatening. I think it’s interesting to compare image from series that focus on same subjects.
Here are a couple of photos from my series.
One series of books that I’ve been ordering and enjoying are those produced by Adam Murray and Robert Parkinson, the two English photographers behind Preston Is My Paris. I really like their idea that you need to take your inspiration from wherever it is you live. Each book is different in style and design and they all have little touches that really make them unique, like the see through sleeve on Your Negatives or wrap around band on I am… Their newest book is the one shown first, You could be in London, You could be in Vegas, But you’re in Brierfield. It’s funny but so true for most of us. You can order their books through their publishing site here. They are sold out right now but will have more publications coming. Just so you know, Preston is in Lancashire, north of Manchester ( I admit, I googled it) An article on the pair and their projects here.
UPDATE ______They have a new book out Tokyo, check their site and see photo below.
The LA Times has a story about a show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art that focuses on Robert Frank’s book “The Americans”. This is the story from the San Francisco Chronicle. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the book.