Category Archives: Photography

Now Available…

Part of figuring out my studio practice has been figuring out how what I make will interact with the world. Am I going to just make stuff and hide it with all of the other stuff I’m hoarding in my attic? Or in the heart of the labyrinth that is my external hard drive? If I do share it will it only be online? Or through a gallery show I submit the work too? Or a pop shop I run at the end of my driveway when the placement of Jupiter in relation to Saturn’s second moon feels the most pleasing? All of this thinking about what to do with the stuff I want to make is stopping me from making stuff and making the stuff I have already made feel like a weight around my foot slowing me down… Inspired by a story shared through the Artist Residency in Motherhood community (YAY COMMUNITY!!) I realized that I need to stop thinking so much, make a decision, execute it, and move on.

So I did.

I would like to make my work available to the public so that is what I am going to do. So I have started by putting a few photographs in an Etsy shop if you would like to order a print of one of my photographs. As it makes sense to me, I’ll add other work. Or if someone reaches out and says “hey! I really like this photo but it’s not in your Etsy shop, can I order a print?” then I’ll add that too. I am also going to select a photograph every so often to do a limited edition of 5 large prints. The goal is to keep it simple, laid back, and not to over think it.

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Readied the Bow. The first Limited Edition Print available in my Etsy shop. 

I started getting caught up in whether or not Etsy was the right venue for what I wanted to do, if there is something better out there… but it does the job for now and if something better comes along I’ll try that. I would love to spend weeks reading about the pros and cons to every platform out there while considering whether or not this makes me a credible artist. I could spend the rest of my life trying to figure out the ‘right way’ to go about things if I’m ‘serious’ about art. But it’s just a distraction from what I’m really trying to do and that is to make art, or at least try to make art.

Make a decision, execute it, and move on.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

Stuff to check out:

-that etsy site I mentioned

And because some people are the worst:

All photographs and work is © Ren Albon. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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It’s Probably Silly But…

 

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Despite moving into our house a year ago we still have a number of boxes yet to be unpacked. Most of those boxes are filled with books, including a lot of books that I still haven’t read. Shelving to hold our library is in the planning stages but until that project is done they wait in boxes.  Looking for the next book to read requires a bit of a hunt, in my latest dig I was happy to find Instant: The Story of Polaroid sitting on the top of one of the boxes. I had received the book as a gift right before we packed up our library 2 years ago.

The book itself feels and looks like something made by Polaroid. I was surprised to find it was published in 2012 despite it’s 70s aesthetic. I usually just fold over the corner to mark my place but couldn’t bring myself to bend the stiff pages. The author, Christopher Bonanos, clearly dove deep into the history of the iconic company and it’s creator Edwin Land when doing research for this book. Yet he was able to use all the nuances and side stories to support the over arching theme without forcing in tangents that are interesting side bits but do nothing for the main point.  It’s an approachable and easy read while still explaining some pretty complex ideas. Bonanos style of writing holds on to the complexity of Land’s inventions while keeping it comprehensible.

The story of Polaroid is familiar, one that repeats itself in many American success stories. A quirky young man with an unique mind and passion for inventing changes the world with their way of thinking and creates a multi-billion dollar business in the process. I was surprised to find that Polaroid got it’s start trying to solve car headlight glare using polarized lenses. That they were already a well established company inventing technology for the war when Land came up with the idea of the instant photo. An invention that without argument changed the field of photography and American culture. Even more surprising was fine art photographer Ansel Adams’ involvement from the beginning.

 

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Ansel Adams, Window, Bear Valley, California 1973, polaroid type 55

Curious about how this new technology would shape the field of photography Ansel Adams asked to be a field tester for the cameras and film Land designed. He sent back detailed notes to Land to be used as part of their research. He would also show up in person to talk with the inventors about ways he thought things could be improved upon or just to see what they were working on. This story within the story stood out to me in a way those types of stories always do. My insecurities about following where my own curiosity leads causes stories of others seemingly fearless pursuit to make an awe inspiring impression.

 

All of us have our own story involving a polaroid. Mine involves spending hours as a kid arranging my stuffed animal collection into various poses in order to take their portrait with my polaroid camera. I remember dragging a rocking chair into my room to make the photos look more professional. The instant polariod made my pretending seem more real. I was left with a tangible product of my imagination. Sadly those stuffed animal portraits are lost but I do have some of the polaroids I took when I was a kid. They were photos I took without my current set of self conscious baggage. I wanted to take a photo of my brother drinking his pepsi so I did without wondering what my brother thought, or what anyone else in the room thought, or what I would do with the photo once I took it, and what the photo said to the viewer, or why it is important to capture that moment, or any of the other existential bullshit lines of questioning I hide behind. I wanted to take a photo of my brother, so I did. I wasn’t worried about whether or not it was good or if someone else would think it was silly. I just did it.

As I get ready to dive back into the studio I hope to take the ways I was inspired by Instant and the childlike pursual of art of my younger self with me.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

If you feel inspired to pick up a copy of Instant: The Story of Polaroid check out your local bookstore first!

Stuff You Should Check Out:

The Impossible Project is keeping the Polaroid film alive having bought the last polaroid film factory right before is was shut down. Not only do they sell film but they recently released a new instant photo camera.

– This great article from New York Film Academy about some of the most famous artists that used Polaroid in their work.

– And from Polariod’s website where they announced the latest camera, Snap Touch, in September. A digital camera that can print instantly.

 

 

 

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I’m Not that Bold…

Earlier this week I caught the faint whisper that Mary Ellen Mark had passed away.

I was first exposed to her work through her documentary Street Wise. I had just moved to Philadelphia from Seattle, WA where her documentary took place. Although filmed 25years before I arrived in Seattle, the landscape was still familiar. I had just been introduced to the work of Diane Arbus and Dorothea Lange, these women who had created these relationships through the lens of their camera to give those that were being overlooked a voice. Watching the documentary, I was overwhelmed by Mark’s ability to tell this story without glamorizing the life of Tiny or Rat. She didn’t make me feel sorry for them either, somehow she found that middle road that so many struggle to find when dealing with this type of subject matter. I left the class and walked straight to the library to pour over her photography, in awe of the way she put herself and her camera unashamedly into this world that was not her own in order to capture it. Along with Arbus and Lange, the subject knows they are being photographed. Many of Mark’s shots imply that she was bent down, leaning in, engaging with the subject to photograph them. I wish I could be that bold.

You put a living, breathing, human being in front of my camera and my blood stops moving through my veins. Even if I know them, if they are willing to be photographed, or even if they asked me to photograph them the reaction is the same. My stomach tightens and my mouth goes dry as I fumble around with my suddenly foreign camera. I had to go out and shoot at least two portraits of strangers in Portland for the medium format class I was taking. It was one of the later assignments, I had made a few dozen photos already and was incredibly comfortable with the camera I was using. Then I went and tried to complete the assignment, waiting until the last possible moment to do it. I nervously stood on a busy street, trying to find the courage to stop biting the side of my thumb and wondering where I was going to find the courage to actually ask someone if I could take their picture. When I finally did it went horribly wrong. I quickly took two shots making so many mistakes you would think it was the first time I had ever attempted to photograph anything. For some their camera gives them this confidence. For me its not big enough to hide behind and instead draws to much attention when I am trying to go unseen.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

Check out…

Time Article about Mary Ellen Mark

Mary Ellen Mark Website

Diane Arbus Website

Recent article on Dorothea Lange from NPR

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Kindling for the Fire…

On Deck at Pea Patch Island. Diamond State Vintage Baseball Team 2011

This week has been an exciting one for my little studio. After a lot of consideration and months of second guessing I decide to use some of the money I generously received as a graduation gift almost a year ago to buy an Epson Film Scanner. Although nerve wracking, it was inspiring to invest in a piece of equipment that will allow more freedom in my studio.

My goal is to one day have a studio equipped to support my pursuits in various artistic mediums. With an extremely small budget for equipment and materials, my studio will continue to grow slowly. I have a pretty good idea of what I want my studio to look like and have been slowly adding pieces that are making it more of a reality. Things that allow me to continue to pursue art.

Diamond State Baseball. 2011

With a film scanner I feel more encouraged to use my collection of film cameras. Its easy to get the film developed (the next addition on the photography side of the studio will be the chemicals needed to develop my own b+w film) but well outside of my budget to have the film scanned for me. The frames aren’t always consistent on every roll of film because of the type of camera’s I am shooting with so there is the concern that the film will be cut to a standard size which could cut through the middle of one of my frames. So the rolls of film just sit. At least they did until this past week. I’m starting with scanning all the photos I took while attending my dad’s vintage baseball games. I hacked my 120N Blue Holga to use 35mm film to capture one of their games at Pea Patch Island in Delaware. Another game I took my Agfa box camera along and played with the framing options built into the 85 year old camera. I like the diversity of using the various cameras and the lack of control that I have beyond pressing the shutter and hoping for the best. I like that they force me to stop trying to take control and to just focus on what is in front of me. To finally see the fruits of those labors is exciting and rekindles the passion I have for going out and capturing the world.

This is not the start but the rekindling of something great… a fire that my insecurities and fear prevent from burning for to long.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

Check out…

Diamond State Baseball 

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New things happening…

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I updated my website, again. I had been trying to do it on my own, starting with a blank template and setting it up myself because some how I thought that would make me look more artistic. I am not a graphic designer or layout savvy and it showed. I have seen worse websites but my pride was getting in the way of presenting my work how I wanted it to be presented. So I stopped being stupid and got a template. Eventually, when I have money for such things, I will have a professional custom design my website for me. Until then a free template will have to do. And honestly, I like my website so much more now.

I also have decided to start offering photo restoration through my site. I eventually want to go back to school to get my masters in something involving history of photography with a focus on archiving and preserving. Until I start working with bigger collections I thought I would start small, helping people bring back to life their family photos.

If you have time check out the new site and let me know what you think.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

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Closet Feminist…

 

From the series Teenage Vendetta where I unknowingly explored feminist themes.

From the series Teenage Vendetta where I unknowingly explored feminist themes.

I never considered if I was a feminist or not until I was called one by a male professor. Well, he didn’t call me a feminist exactly. What happened was this, during a one on one critique in art school he was looking at my work and said, ‘Look, I get it. You have this whole feminist thing going on.”

Immediately my blood began to boil. Just because I’m a girl attending art school I am automatically doing the whole ‘feminist’ thing? Feminism had nothing to do with my work!

Or so I thought.

I was working on a series of still lifes for my advanced studio class. My idea was to show what it would look like if a girl in her mid-twenties was to take out her frustrations from the cruel reality of the world on her childhood barbies who made her believe the world was a pink safe place where dreams come true. One of the images is of three Barbie heads on spikes in a heap of Barbie parts. I was trying to reflect women’s experiences through my work, which is the most basic definition of Feminist Art and the Feminist Art Movement.

I had a feminist thing going on. Yet why did it feel so insulting to have someone identify it as that? Did it only feel insulting because it was an old white male saying it? What if it was one of my female instructors?

At the time I was doing the work I was unaware of what Feminist Art really was. I knew women burned their bras in the 70s and I knew about Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party which was explained to me as ‘a bunch of vaginas on plates that she was calling art.’ Sure, I am all for women’s equality. One of my biggest frustrations as a kid growing up was being told or treated like I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. It’s still one of my biggest frustrations. I just didn’t understand how a bunch of vagina plates were supposed to make the ‘Man’ treat women with more respect. I wrongly grouped all of Feminism in with my mis-understanding of one piece of art work.

I wasn’t alone. I can remember other female students being equally insulted by automatically being grouped in with feminist art just because, we often wrongly thought, we were women artists. Many of those female students were unaware of what they were even being associated with.   Even the famed photographer Cindy Sherman has tried to disassociate herself with the feminist art movement. Art History 101 mentions the feminist art movement in passing, as the beginning of performance art. If you really want to learn about feminist art or about any women artists in any time period you have to take a special topics class. (But that is a rant for another post.)  The more I learn about feminism on my own the more I realize many of my ideas are feminist in nature. It shouldn’t be an insult to be associated with these woman that forced the male dominated institution to take them seriously, to consider women as serious contenders in the art world. I’m not sure I would be able to dismember Barbie and photograph the doll’s head on a stake and get an ‘A’ by an old white male artist if it wasn’t for their work, if Womanhouse never happened.

Yet, I still find myself stuck in an identity crisis. I am leery of being called feminist or having my work associated with feminism because I feel like I am just being grouped there by men that don’t know what else to do with women’s art. But on the other side of things I really enjoy being married and want a lot of kids that I can stay at home with. I am hesitant to openly share how excited I am by those things because then I am not feminist enough, just another poor weak woman giving in to the male dictated role of submissive wife and child bearer. What is even more confusing is that I do not think loving wives and stay at home mother’s are weak or unable to be feminist. I could say that its just in my head but I have had to many conversations with too many people that have re-enforced that this is a very real way of thinking in our society. When I tell people that now that I have graduated college I am excited to have kids and be a mom, I am asked why I even wasted my time and money going to school. Sharing future plans my husband and I are making, the conversation’s focus is always on what I am giving up for his career.

I could follow the old adage ‘who cares what other people think, just be you.’ But if we are all honest, it matters what other people think. It matters how we are seen by our society and our peers.

Maybe I let it matter too much.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

 

Check it out:

Womanhouse

Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party

More from my Barbie Series

 

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Blah and boring…

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Oh hi there… you may not remember me, I’m Ren and I used to write posts for this blog.  I thought maybe I would clear the cobwebs and make a heartfelt promise, that I may not keep despite really wanting too, to start writing regularly.

The semester ended in a good place. The last three weeks of the semester were filled with lessons on how to improve my studio practice and what type of things I would like to be making in the studio. The studio self discovery has continued into the summer, where I have the opportunity to work in a slower and quieter pace.

One of my biggest problems is my outlook on the whole thing. I found myself making for the sole purpose of just getting the assignment done. My mindset revolved around ‘just finishing this assignment so I could move on’ but then there was another assignment, and another assignment after that. The work wasn’t exciting, just a shadow of an idea that I had, and I wasn’t excited about the work because I was already feeling the pressure of meeting the next deadline.

Now don’t start to think, “Oh, why do art schools demand so much from their students?How does burning them out prepare them for anything? No wonder that poor girl is cranky all the time” Because 85% of the weight and the pressure is all self inflicted, and I’m just naturally cranky.

I also let my ideas intimidate me.

I wont physically start working on a project until I spend an unnecessary amount of time doing ‘research’. I’ll start by looking up imagery for key words surrounding my idea, seeing what other artists have done, and editing my idea to portray what I want it to portray. All necessary to the design process but then I begin ‘researching’ whether or not I have the skill to accomplish the task, if I am willing to deal with the aftermath of not finishing on time, and buying time by claiming to be conflicted about a certain detail when in reality I am conflicted about whether the whole thing is good enough. In my un-rational mind, the longer I wait to start, the longer I postpone the impending doom and despair. When in reality my fear of making the first mark ensures that the doom and despair will come. Then in the final hour, as Im gritting my teeth and trying to get something respectable put together for the critique, I wonder why I am not good enough to make quality work.

It’s like spending the whole car ride to your kid’s little league game telling her that she is the worst batter on the team, and then you are both confused when she gets up to the plate and watches every ball go from pitchers hand to the catcher mitt without swinging once.

Oh the lies your brain tells your heart…

Then to top it all off, if something is too easy or doesn’t lead down the long and windy path of self despair and failure, I don’t believe it should be taken seriously or considered art. I took a Surrealism Drawing class this past semester where the underlying agenda to every project was to not over think anything, just create. So I made a painting, a rather large painting that involved applying paint in different ways to textured wood. It was simple, almost therapeutic in its mindlessness, and dare I say it, fun. I finished well before the deadline, happily installed it, and I don’t think I fidgeted or tried to twist my fingers off my hand once during the whole critique. People complimented me on it, and I brushed them off with comments like, “Oh that, it was just a silly project I did. It doesn’t mean anything.”

Cast Iron Halos, the silly project

Cast Iron Halos, the silly project

Instead of the experience being one of those Ah-ha moments, a realization that this is what art making should and can be about for me, I dismissed it as a little break from the seriousness of real art. Somewhere I created all of these rules for how life is supposed to work, what it means to make art. In the making of those rules I left no room for enjoying anything. There will be no fun, no enjoying, no pats on the back for a job well done. If I want to be taken seriously I need to be serious blah blah blah boring boring boring. All of these blah and boring rules were making me a blah and boring person that creates blah and boring stuff.

And I don’t want to be blah or boring.

As always, thanks for reading.

– r.n.a.

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Grouchy and Boxless…

Today I got annoyed because I have too much free time. Well I have been annoyed about it for the last few days but today was the first day I was able to identify why I have been so grouchy.

Who gets grouchy over finally having free time after months of being so busy there was rarely time to sleep? Crazy people that’s who.

I hate being annoyed so I am moving on to figuring out how to best utilize all of this free time I have graciously been given. I figured I would start with updating my blog.

Big things have been happening for me. Not only did I survive my first year at Maine College of Art but I survived my first year of marriage. Both very scary things to undertake.

I am beyond happy with my decision to transfer to MECA. The classes I have taken and the people I have met there has changed how I look at my future as an artist. I took an Intro to Metalsmithing class that was so hard this last semester at Maine College of Art that despite all of the effort I put in to it I only managed a C+ for my final grade. This was a huge hit to my pride. In my mind, there is pass or fail. If you pass you get an ‘A’ if you fail you get a ‘B’.  I realize that way of thinking makes zero sense but nothing I do really makes sense.  Looking back it is funny because I worked harder in that class then I worked in any of the classes I received an ‘A’ in. Not only was it a humbling experience but I now know, without a doubt, that I will never be a metalsmith. I have a huge amount of respect for anyone in that line of work. It is exhausting and so meticulous I do not know how a degree in Metalsmithing does not come with a life time supply of Prozac.

I think every one, especially artists, should take a class in something completely foreign to them. It changes your perspective.

My Intro to Woodworking class changed my perspective so much I am now pursuing a degree in Woodworking and Furniture Design. I literally made my self sick trying to make this decision (another one of those things I do that make no sense.) One week of excessive worrying over whether or not the world would end if I changed my major equalled one week of being stuck in bed with the flu.

The lesson I learned from that winner was that no one cares what my major is, not even me. Regardless of what my fancy certificate says from my fancy art school, I am going to pursue all different art mediums and utilize the ones that I feel best convey the ideas swimming in my head. For me it makes very little sense to isolate myself inside of one medium. I do not want to master one medium, I want to master art. I do not want to be identified as a Photographer or Woodworker but as an Artist. I am tired of trying to fit into neatly labeled boxes that clearly states who I am and what type of art I will produce. It does not work for me. It makes me cranky and takes all the fun out of art. I tried to fit into the Fine Art Photographer box and a year later I wanted to throw my camera off a bridge.

It’s taken me another year of trying to find the box I fit into for me to realize boxes in general are stupid, but I am extremely bull-headed and it takes a while for me to catch on. Hopefully I can stand by my anti-box stance and finally just focus on making art that I enjoy.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

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I’m in a Show…

 

The two pieces of mine chosen for the show…

 

If you are in Miami and able to check it out, let me know! Being in Maine I’m unable to attend but would love to know how the show turned out.

As always thanks for reading,

-r.n.a.

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How To Cure a Jaded Photographer…

Last Wednesday after uploading my weekly post to WordPress I headed to my alternative process class forgetting something very important. That was the day we had a guest photographer coming to show us a demo of wet plate collodion. It was exactly the type of motivational 4 hours this jaded photographer needed.

We met the amazing Michael Kolster on the roof of a parking garage where he had his darkroom and camera set up for us. A teacher himself, he quickly put all of us nervous students at ease by encouraging us to walk around and look inside of his mobile darkroom. The more I talked with this guy the more I was impressed with his easy laid back approach to life and passion for photography.

Getting everything ready to start making prints.

Everything is set up inside the mobile darkroom which Michael built himself.

Michael Kolster has only been doing collodion for five months.  He started in June and was now giving us a demo on the process. I was impressed, especially since collodion is a very mysterious civil war era of photography that in the minds of many is only reserved for the masters of photography who know how to access the extensive training that must be required for one to be able to make ambrotypes. With the words, “I started about four or five months ago,” he destroyed the shroud of holiness and made collodion accessible to us all. You could see the looks of ‘I could so see myself doing this’ spread on to every student’s face.

The plate that was just exposed is dropped into the fixer bath.

It is awesome to watch the image cloud up and slowly reveal itself.

The image is completely fixed and ready for the final water bath.

While on the roof of the parking garage we were able to watch Michael make three successful images. Despite the dropping temperatures and the failing light it all worked out. He answered all our questions and had no hesitation in telling us about the times things went terribly wrong and what he was doing to make tweeks and adjustments to his process. We helped him break down his equipment and were both shocked and excited when we found out he was heading back to the school with us to talk more.

It is crazy to think that all of this stuff has to be taken to the site where the photographer wants to take a photo. Not shown in this image is the camera and tripod.

He talked a little bit more about his collodion but mostly about his Daily Post project. Everyday for the last 10years he has posted a photo on http://dailypost.bowdoin.edu/. The photos are a full range and don’t really have a consistency other then the fact that they show a quick second of Michael’s life. Some images show something as simple as what he ate that day and others show part of a series he is working on or finished that day. Talking about some of the challenges he faced with this project, he spoke on the challenges we all face as photographers and even as young adults in the world of facebook. How much of our private life do we give to the public? He made another comment about how surprised he is that friends all over the country think they know what is going on with his life because of the photos he puts on the site. Usually, they are way off from the truth.

I think what I was impressed with most is that all this guy had to do was walk us through the making of one image, thank us for having him, and then leave. Instead he walked us through three images (each image takes about 30 minutes to make), answered a steady stream of questions, did a slide show presentation, showed us some of the ambrotypes he has made over the summer, and then hung around till everyone had a chance to ask all of the questions they could think of. He spent about 5 hours at the school, plus he had three hours minimum of preparing for the day and about three hours of work for him when he got home. All of that just so he could share his awesome new way of making photographs with us. Its hard to argue it gets any more passionate then that.

Probably the coolest class photo that I have ever been apart of.

“Only thing stopping you from doing it is your inability to imagine it.” – Michael Kolster

-r.n.a.

Michael Kolster

Dailypost

Wet Plate Collodion 

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