Left Bank Books

I spent the day Wednesday shooting a project that have been in the concept stage for a while with some limited success. I created a series of images which work really well for me, but I think I’m not quite there yet. In any case, I felt good about the day’s work. When I have a good day shooting I usually end up wanting to go for a drink somewheres, and bask in the feelings of accomplishment and productivity. Since I don’t have many friends yet and it’s too damn hot to go anywhere outside, I headed up the block to Left Bank Books instead. I’d been meaning to go since we moved in and it seemed like the time was right.

Left Bank Books in downtown St. Louis is a small bookstore, the second of two locations in the area. The flagship store opened in the Central West End in 1969 and they have been the go-to independent bookstore in St. Louis since. They are big on community, much like many of the arts folks that I’ve come across in Saint Louis, which is one of the things that I’m starting to love about this city. From their website:

We work hard and sacrifice much to keep this place going because we love it as much as you do. Many of us are writers, performers, and artists and personally appreciate the importance of a store like Left Bank, not only to the cultural health of a community, but to the health of its creative people, too! Many of us are involved in other community organizations as volunteers and activists. Issues like peace, racial justice, civil rights, urban sustainability, education, animal rights, and support for the arts are some of the areas in which Left Bankers are involved.

Left Bank Books strives to be a good neighbor and, like many locally-owned businesses, gives back to its community. Besides reinvesting three times more of our revenue locally than non-local chain stores reinvest, we also give a lot of organic support to grass roots and non-profit organizations through donations of gift certificates, percent of sales, bookfairs and even free event programming.

For the store owners and workers alike, working at Left Bank Books has been more like preserving a community trust than running a business. And while we know that being business-like is extremely important, we also know that earning and keeping that community trust is both our most fervent desire and greatest reward.

I found their inventory to be very small, but wisely curated, at least in the sections that I paid close attention to, mainly art, design, and of course photography. I found the limited selection to be liberating, and I was able to pay attention more easily to each title than being overwhelmed by several hundred titles in each section. My only concern is that now I’ve seen and examined everything in their photography section, and unless they regularly rotate content there won’t be much more there for me to check out. That said, there were a number of photography books that I wanted to buy but being on a limited budget I stuck to a history of the Met and a couple of photography magazines. That should keep me busy for a while. And I’ll definitely be going back. I’ll have to check out the West End Location as well …

The Creative Process is Usually Not Pretty

Photo by Mattox

Agatha Christie’s creative process was insane:

Her less-than-refined writerly day began with finding her notebook, which surely she’d left right there. Then, having found a notebook (not the one she’d used yesterday), and staring in stunned amazement at the illegible chicken scratchings therein, she would finally settle down to jab at elusive characters and oil creaky plots.

The contents of the notebooks are as multi-dimensional as their Escher-like structure. They include fully worked-out scenes, historical background, lists of character names, rough maps of imaginary places, stage settings, an idle rebus (the numeral three, a crossed-out eye, and a mouse), and plot ideas that will be recognizable to any Christie fan: “Poirot asks to go down to country—finds a house and various fantastic details,” “Saves her life several times,” “Inquire enquire—both in same letter.” What’s more, in between ominous scraps like “Stabbed through eye with hatpin” and “influenza depression virus—Stolen? Cabinet Minister?” are grocery lists: “Newspapers, toilet paper, salt, pepper …” There was no clean line between Christie’s work life and her family life. She created household ledgers, and scribbled notes to self. (“All away weekend—can we go Thursday Nan.”) Even Christie’s second husband, the archeologist Sir Max Mallowan, used her notebooks. He jotted down calculations. Christie’s daughter Rosalind practiced penmanship, and the whole family kept track of their bridge scores alongside notes like, “Possibilities of poison … cyanide in strawberry … coniine—in capsule?”

Crazy, but she got the job done. There’s a lesson there me’thinks when I try to control my creativity into easily documented and file managed processes…

Read the full article here.
Via Kottke

Will iPad Format Dictate Editorial Photography?

I just watched a really interesting video about Bonnier and BERG’s Mag+ release of Popular Mechanics (see video below). I played with an iPad on the day it came out and loved it. Now that we are starting to see content it is really exciting to think about a resurgence of design making a comeback to editorial content as print magazines numbers continue to drop.

The really interesting thing that I took away from the video is the part that comes around the three minute mark where they talk about how Apple is very concerned that content be presented in the same way no matter what orientation the viewer holds the iPad (horizontal or vertical). The video shows how when you flip the iPad around, the top, bottom and sides are cropped depending on the orientation, forming a square “safe zone” for content in the middle which won’t change at all.

The larger for photography issue then, is that a photograph used to fill the space will need to take those crops into account when shooting for a project that will end up on the iPad. A portrait image will also need to work as a landscape image and vice versa.

Now. Given the relative resolution of our digital cameras and backs these days, it wouldn’t be a big deal to shoot wide and crop down as needed. However, I find this to be a terribly difficult way to work. I have to make a concerted effort to allow for cropping when I’m shooting editorial because my natural inclination is to simply compose the shot as I see it, not as I see it plus a few inches for bleeds.

I shoot exclusively 35mm at the moment and I’m really starting to get frustrated with the frame proportions. I’ve been wanting to break into medium format for a while, and I’m thinking that given the direction that editorial work is going, perhaps now is a good time to start expanding my repertoire.

Mag+ live with Popular Science+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

Must See: At Close Range with National Geographic and Joel Sartore

I shot a corporate event at Madison Square Garden tonight and then came home and watched At Close Range with National Geographic and immediately felt like my work was boring as hell. This is a must see for any photographer, whether you shoot nature or not. It is a brief but interesting view of life as a photog for National Geographic. Photographer Joel Sartore doesn’t pull any punches either; the biggest takeaway is that to get that photo that no one else has you need to be out there in the mud or under the horse’s hooves, or surrounded by wolves who want to eat you (literally) to get that shot. He says that his job is not glamorous – in fact it is usually uncomfortable and potentially deadly. I love the fact that part of his “gear room” includes a large collection of highly toxic and chemical bug sprays and balms.

At Close Range is available on Netflix both as a DVD and streaming.

Visual Acoustics

There is a new documentary about architectural photographer Julius Schulman. It looks really good. I may have to actually go see it in the theater. I’m always fascinated to watch and read things about other photographers. Living in my bubble of corporate photography, it’s helpful to get outside of that box for a while and see what the rest of the world is doing (or in this case, what has already been done).

Nature Photogs Have All the Fun

Nature photographers generally get to see things up close that most people only get to see on Blue Planet or one of the other epic nature shows on TV. Not only that, but they get to photograph all kinds of rare and interesting wildlife. And if they’re lucky, that wildlife will try to mate with them.