Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

November 12, 2018

10 years of photo book inspirations

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Guide to Self-Publishing an Indie Artist Book, 2017 copyright Douglas Stockdale

As many of you know, in addition to writing this photo-blog in which I discuss my photographic projects and other odds and ends, I am also the Editor of The PhotoBook Journal. I started The PhotoBook Journal (TPBJ) shortly after starting this blog back in 2008 when I noticed that there was an extremely strong response to the book reviews of the photobooks in my personal collection. At that time there was really only one other photobook review site by Jeffery Ladd, which he has since ceased contributing to. So now 10 years have passed and we just passed the 500th photobook review! That’s a big Wowzer!!

Meantime, I have continued to acquire more photobooks in my collection, as well as receive donations (aka submissions) for consideration, photobooks that either I could not afford or not sure I would acquire. I realized that one aspect that I could provide with TPBJ is to review a broad and diverse range of International photobooks to expand the potential creative consideration for artists, photographers and collectors.

In turn this diversity of books has also inspired my photographic and photobook practice. I will also admit that writing the TPBJ has forced me to think a little clearer about the intent of a photographic project. Likewise I think the editorial responsibilities have drastically improve my writing skills; no longer an engineer writing a cut and dried specification or technical report, but now thinking of how to create an informative and inspirational narrative. Wow. I think my high school English teacher would be stunned by the transformation.

Likewise, I have been able to hold some of the most inspirational and brilliantly designed and printed photobooks that have published over the past 10 years. I also think that we have also helped to launch a few photobook artist careers, as the only prerequisite for consideration on TPBJ is a well thought out and executed photobook project. Thus many, many photobooks that personally inspire me for my own book practice; the books in my collection set the bar pretty high as well as provide some very creative alternatives. This led to Ciociaria being published by Edizioni Punctum (still available), and my three self-published limited edition artist books; Pine Lake (sold out), Bluewater Shore (just a few left) and this year, Middle Ground (still available).

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Middle Ground, published 2018, copyright Douglas Stockdale

Which in turn has lead to my photobook design workshops and subsequently to mentoring other artists, photographers, and publishers as to how to move their personal or business practices forward. Such as the photobook by Christine Kaplan, On My Walk, that I provided the book design and editing which she self-published this summer. The workshops and mentoring led to the publication last year of Guide to Self-publishing an Indie Artist Book last year & which is still available ($19.95 USD plus postage; message me if you would like a copy of this or the others doug@douglasstockdale.com)

All in all, the last 10 years has been an inspirational and wonderful ride; thanks for supporting me on this interesting artistic journey!

Cheers,

Doug

November 1, 2018

Book workshop with Medium Festival of Photography

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Guide book dummy, 2017 copyright Douglas Stockdale

I am very excited to announce that I will be providing my Photo Book Design Workshop in conjunction with the Medium Festival of Photography next March 16 and 17th, 2019. This two day workshop will take place in San Diego at the Lafayette Hotel & Swim Club. A great location to be in March.

You can register now at: https://www.mediumsandiego.org/developing-a-creative-photo-book/

This two-day Workshop is an opportunity for artists and photographers currently working on or planning to start a project that will result in a book publication. Whether you plan to make book submissions to a publisher or self-publish your artist book, this workshop is meant to help you create a book that meets your vision.

The goal of this workshop is to discuss each photographer’s vision, mission and objectives for the publication of a photographic project and then to gain an understanding of how these conceptual aspects translate into a book object. Fundamental to the book development process is learning aspects of the editing, sequencing of the body of photographs and in the context of a book design to shape and narrate a story. The purpose of this workshop is to provide photographers with the building blocks to move from a complex unorganized mass of images into a refined edit and subsequently sequence to create a pre-visualization of their book concept.

I hope you can join me for a fun and intense two days learning the basics of book development and how this will help you move your project forward. Likewise, the editing and sequencing methodology you will learn is equally applicable to creating a strong review portfolio or organizing a gallery submission.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Cheers!

 

October 31, 2018

Artist stress

Filed under: Art, Photography, Projects/Series, Trabuco Flats Mystery — Tags: — Doug Stockdale @ 11:59 pm

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Buckwheat, Trabuco Flats 2018 copyright Douglas Stockdale

As an artist, sometimes a little stress can be a good thing once in a while, but constant stress can be a killer, in more ways than one.

Recently I contributed a few photogaphs to Tara Wary’s Too Tired for Sunshine project on Instagram. I had reviewed her book of the same title for The PhotoBook Journal and during the process of writing the review and discussing the book and her project, I realized that my Memory Pods project might be of interest to Tara. My project is investigating the loss of memory as the loss of a person’s individuality, as in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease during that long memory loss process, the individual affected has sever boughs of depression.

In the process of working with Tara, I think I increased my own self awareness, such that recently when certain unplanned events occurred (computer and printer going sideways), I found myself getting tired, listless and unable to get artistically engaged. With that I also felt overwhelmed by little things, stuff that did not bother me before. I have realized that I was probably stressed out. That was a bit of surprise as I am aware of the effects of stress and do my best to avoid these kind of conditions.

The good news; stress is mostly self-induced. We do it to ourselves. Which means if you realize you are stressed out, you can also do something about it. You need to change some things. You are the right person to get rid of your own stress. It can be done.

Now I also know that in certain kinds of situations stress might be helpful to get the adrenalin pumping, such as a dangerous event suddenly occurring. I also know some artist who state that they thrive in stressful conditions and do their best work, such as under a must-do-deadline. I also note that these same artist become procrastinators in order to create stressful events, to get the adrenalin really pumping, then wonder why when something unplanned goes wrong and they do miss a deadline, why they should be held accountable. A problem that they created.

Now I am not a doctor, but I have come to understand that long term stress can have some pretty detrimental effects; as noted above regarding tiredness in conjunction with sleeplessness, anxiety, listlessness, unable to focus, get engaged or make decisions. Long term stress is also associate with heart disease and other cardiopulmonary disorders, e.g. high blood pressure. Not good and needs to be avoided.

I also know that being an artist can be a stressful as working career and perhaps a bit more for those who are self-employed and depend on the sale of their art to make a living. If you are not a celebrated photographer or painter with a constant high demand for your creative endeavors, you just don’t know when the next exhibition or print sale will occur.

And then when some trusted equipment suddenly breaks down or goes sideways that can be a set-back as I recently found out. A computer just completly stops working due to a mother-board failure after 10 years with a loss of some photographic files. Shortly thereafter a 13 year old wide-format printer has printing issues and locks up. Then find that that the new computer and old printer seem to have color-management issues; what you see is not what you get as a print. Close, but not close enough. All of these equipment and process things can be overcome with time and money, then what if you have the time but not the money? Then more time is then needed while the money is saved up meanwhile you have placed yourself under a project deadline of some sort or the other.

These are the kind of things that can create stress and honestly, these are the kinds of things related to life and living. Crap will happen and sometimes a lot of crap can happen. My issues are extremely mild compared to those whose homes were blown away by a hurricane, or burnt to a crisp in a fire-storm.

Thus one thing that I have recently learned to controlling stress; keep things in perspective. Current events might not be as bad as you think these are. Related to this: count your blessings. Give yourself credit for the things you have accomplished and still able to do. Don’t sell yourself short.

The corollary to the one just above; don’t compare yourself to others. Especially highly successful artist whom you think have everything that you want. They have their issues too, just different ones.

One thing I did regularly and then stopped for awhile, but I am back at again; make a daily to-do list of few things that need to get accomplished. It’s an old project management tool; focus on the meaningful few things and not get distracted by the multitude of time-wasting tasks (time on IG or Facebook). Prioritize the few things that need to be completed and then reward yourself with some of the (fun) time-wasting things like spending time on IG looking at everyone else’s photos. Completing the few things that are really needed provides a nice sense of accomplishment. This process provides me with creative focus and helps decision making, it essentially gets me back in gear and for me, almost entirely eliminates stress.

What I don’t complete on my to-do list today I then put on the top of tomorrow’s to-do list. I have found that this is also a secret to getting a good nights rest; I don’t find myself thinking about what-I-need-to-do-tomorrow in the middle of the night if I already acknowledge what I need to do tomorrow. Since I get things done on my to-do list, knowing its on tomorrow’s list provides confidence that I will get’r done.

Related to this; Focus on the things I (you) can control, not about the things I (you) can’t control. I can make a gallery submission, but I can’t control if the gallery likes my work or wants to exhibit or sell it. So I can focus on making a really good submission, which is what I can control.

Money; the all time stressor for most individuals and couples, not just artist. If you are like me, an artist that collectors are not beating down the doors to buy my prints, cash-flow can become an issue. So make sure that money does become a stress point; get a day -job or second job and budget what you’re spending so that you don’t go into debt. Case in point, when my old computer gave up the ghost, I took a small loan to purchase a 27″ iMac. But while I was still paying off the iMac, my 17″ printer started having issues. I was fortunate to find a temporary printer fix and now I’m living one day at a time for my printing needs until I pay off the iMac and save for a new printer. Not the ideal solution but one that works and I don’t stress out over it financially. This too will pass.

I think setting short, mid-term and long-term goals is helpful, but I understand much better now that if you don’t make some adjustments to those expectations when circumstances change, this can create some real stress. I think I knew this before, but when the recents events occurred with my computer and printer, I loss sight of the fact that my goals are just that, goals. Thus my goal to (self)/publish my project Trabuco Flats next Spring is not a terminal end point. Nothing hangs in the balance except for my expectations; thus when crap happens; time to change expectations. So maybe Trabuco Flats is published in 2020 instead. So what? Perhaps in the meantime I make some gallery submissions and get some other exposure for this project. That gives me time to sort out the printer color-management issues, perhaps upgrade the printer as well as more time to edit and sequence this body of work. No stress.

Last; get some exercise! Try to take an hour walk every other day; get out of the house, let the sun shine on you or go out and watch the leaves turn golden. Do something other than sit on your butt in front of this computer. So as you read this, then Stop! Stand up and walk to the apposite side of the house/studio for a short stroll and come back in 5 minutes.

Okay, now move on to your next thing.

Cheers!

October 27, 2018

The path to Trabuco Flats

Filed under: Path to Somewhere, Projects/Series, Trabuco Flats Mystery — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 12:03 am

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Untitled, Trabuco Flats 2018 copyright Douglas Stockdale

Although I am spending more time with working on “straight” photographs for my Trabuco Flats project I continue to experimental/play with some of the images. Not entirely giving up on how I might incorporate some of these abstract images into this project, but exactly how I do it is not something that I need to decide today.

The earlier feedback I received about these images related to a more purist issue with the non-traditional sky, something pretty evident in the photograph of this post. My take is rather than consider this landscape image from an emotional viewpoint, that all of the various marks and lines in the sky as representing angst and discord, the viewers were reacting from a traditional viewpoint that this did not look like a classic landscape. I will admit that this landscape image is non-traditional.

Thus as an experiment, I made some modification to the landscape that I subsequently published a few days ago, here. I modified the sky by cleaning up some of the radical marks and lines, still an overall abstract landscape, perhaps with what one would call the sky’s tonality was more homogenized and perhaps leaning into appealing like something more traditional.

All of the feedback is fine and interesting to consider. Nevertheless, what do I think of these potential changes to my images? As an artist I am creating somewhat radical landscape photographs that does not meet the norms. So the question is; do the changes being suggested improve my photographs or do the changes being suggested attempt to make my photographs conform to their expectations of what is acceptable?

I suspect that part of this conservative image advice is due to my audience; they do not experiment with images that often and for the most part chase the modernist landscapes imagery of Ansel Adams. I have shown some of this work to a group of abstract painters/artist, and they encouraged me to push the effects I am using even further. Such as bury the photographs I made for a couple of weeks out in the field and see what results.

And yes, I am also sensitive and aware of the comments that I need to be sure that I am not leaning on some image app trickery as a crutch to making “good” images.

So more experimentation as I play with my options.

Cheers!

October 25, 2018

Trabuco Flats – noir landscape – take two

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Untitled, Trabuco Flats, 2018 copyright Douglas Stockdale

While working on my project Trabuco Flats, I have been doing a lot of experimenting with how I process the image. Such as this landscape photograph above, I posted an earlier color version that I had really tweaked the contents. In my last post on this project, I had also posted a black & white photograph that I had really played around with in an attempt to push the boundaries of what might be possible while still keeping within the scope of this project as I had conceptualized.

The underlying reason for this prior experimental/play series of images was a take on the idea that a mysterious narrative might work best with mysterious photographs. And I could modify the crap out of the image to make these appear really, really strange. All the while I did realize that even straight photographs, such as this one, could have some surreal qualities without any visual manipulations.

So it feels to me that I have successfully pushed my aesthetic boundaries for this project and perhaps time to pull back. Not that I could push the boundaries even farther, as I have just began to experiment with these photographs if you look at some of the wild artist projects of others such as incorporating multiple images, collage, painting the image, sanding the surface to name but a few. One could really, really destroy the basic concepts of what constitues a photograph.

To question what is a photograph is really not my goal for this project. I am interested in creating a mysterious narrative and just coming around to accepting the fact that I do not need to add anything to a photograph to make it more mysterious and surreal than it already is. That said, one aspect I think I still need to evaluate is whether the narrative works better with black & white images or color images, or maybe even a mash-up of the two.

As to this image; it is a landscape, inclusive of a dirt road that meanders up a small hill, with what appears as some structures hiding at the edges, while being ambiguous as to where it located exactly, (urban or rural, southwest America or midwest America) why is it there (what purpose does it serve) and who might use it? Are the long shadows foretelling of something ominous as these slightly overlap this road? Thus I think that this photograph, as it is, could create a slight sense of mystery. nice.

Fun stuff!

Cheers

 

October 22, 2018

Trabuco Flats – mystery noir?

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Mysterious Circumstance site 9, Trabuco Flats, 2018 copyright Douglas Stockdale

Another aspect of experimental/play with my Trabuco Flats project is creating a pure black and white version, that would of course be my noir (dark) version. Why not? Or maybe a slight color tint to a black & white?

So this long weekend while attending the John Divola presentation at the Medium Festival in San Diego, in between events I was experimenting with a black & white conversion of some of my earlier images. I am not sure how, or even IF, these black & white images will work within this project, but one of the fun aspects of my development process is to allow myself to play with these images.

There is no getting around that these are darker images, both literally and symbolically. Perhaps a bit moodier than my color versions while not any less surreal. I will admit that I have really been fighting with myself in going full black and white on this project, as I was fully expecting to stay in a full color mode. Even as I write this, I have another idea to try out, above, so it should be interesting to see what results as I further play around.

I just need to be careful that I don’t spend so much time playing around that I don’t actually complete this project. One aspect that should get me back on track is having my medium size printer working again. As I mentioned earlier, I had not realized how important a really good printer is to me and my artistic process. I also have a lead on a slightly newer version of this Epson printer, so that might be a slight change over the next month or so.

Meanwhile I want to develop and print a small portfolio of five of these black & white images at 16 x 20″ to evaluate. Then probably set these prints aside to study while working on other aspects of this project.

A new wrinkle is that I have started writing an outline (storyboard) to create a short story about this project. Sort of a concurrent process and maybe my finial visual project will be determined by my written narrative (or my narrative will follow my visual version). Interesting that I needed to quickly sketch out the entire storyboard in oder to figure out how to flesh out the details of my narrative, another kind of pre-visualization; where was my story line going??

Cheers!

Note: I updated this cover image later in the day for two reasons; first, somehow I screwed up saving the initial image and I was unable to rescue it, so I had to start over from scratch. Second, I was then able to incorporate my idea to include the original color image as a base image to create a slight color tint to the black & white image. I think it’s pretty subtle, so I need to study this effect for a little bit. Perhaps a bit of the best of both worlds.

October 19, 2018

More feedback on Trabuco Flats project

Filed under: Projects/Series, Trabuco Flats Mystery — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:49 pm

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Landscape study, Trabuco Flats, copyright 2018 Douglas Stockdale

Last night I received a little more feedback that was a bit varied from my earlier showing, also a slight change in the participants. Since my printer was down due to a lack of ink, the only image I had for discussion was the Trabuco Flats landscape that I posted earlier this week. Lot more of a mixed reaction, nevertheless positive and supportive of my project intent.

Going into these print reviews I already know that my Trabuco Flats landscape images are way, way outside the norm of most of these modern rural landscape photographers. Nevertheless, it is a good opportunity to obtain a sense as to how these images read. There are also a few who do experiment with their image content.

I have modified this image above slightly to see how it might look taking some of their comments into consideration. I think that they would prefer a very straight image, but at the moment, I am still into my experiment/play mode for this project.

I also understand that modifying the images as I have is also outside most of the greater photographic “norm”. So always a risk that that these will not be well accepted, but at this point, I still want to investigate these images in the spirit of experimental/play.

What are your thoughts?

Cheers,

Doug

October 18, 2018

Evidence tape at Trabuco Flats

Filed under: Projects/Series, Trabuco Flats Mystery — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:39 pm

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study, Mystery on Trabuco Flats 2018 copyright Douglas Stockdale

One of the aspects of this Mystery that I am exploring are the various alternatives to utilize in how I narrate this story. In one respect, this photograph is also a mash-up of the real and my imagination that results in something that might described as surreal.

The image above is a case in point; I had been contemplating the use of some “crime” tape in conjunction with some of the suspicious circumstances I had found earlier. I did one set of visual studies using a measuring tape to simulate the collection of evidence, but those images are still in evaluation.

Meanwhile during one of my daily walks I came across a small construction site that somebody had used some Caution tape to mark off part of the area. In the process they had utilized one of the adjacent trees as part of their boundary. The randomness of how it was wrapped around the tree appeared to resemble something abstract. One aspect that appealed to me is that it did not look as though I needed to make any modifications to the way the tape was used or how it was lying on the tree. Nice! Initially when I saw this arrangement the sky was still overcast, but on the return trip there was some breaking light that provided an interesting highlights within the composition, which is the image above. Extra Nice!

I quickly made a series of photographs intending to immediately come back with another camera to take advantage of this man-made urban still-life, but life intervened. It was a couple of days before I could return. The site was similar in appearance but not quite the same. Nevertheless, I could now visualize how this element might be something I include in my investigation.

When the new ink arrives for my printer next Monday, this will one of the images I want to print at 16 x 20″ to see how it holds up. This appears that it has some interesting potential. Meanwhile, I will be looking for a roll of yellow tape and it might be interesting to see what’s available on the web.

Cheers!

October 17, 2018

Landscape of Trabuco Flats

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series, Trabuco Flats Mystery — Tags: , , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 6:37 pm

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Untitled, Trabuco Flats 2018 copyright Douglas Stockdale

From time to time I am going to feature the evolving landscape of Trabuco Flats as I develop this book project. For most of my landscape photographs I pay close attention to any horizon lines as it seems that my photographs have a tendency to dip down just a tiny bit on the left side. I have been photographing like this for years, even when I know I might do it and try to pay close attention to the composition in the view-finder. It happens.

So when you see a slightly tipsy image like this you can bet I was trying to photograph a road that is meandering up a hill, which is indeed the case. I think the dirt road does provide sufficient visual clues in addition to the downward slope of the hill. FYI, I have always been uncomfortable with these kinds of photos which could imply that I did not get the composition right. This time I am feeling pretty good about this image.

I also notice that my broader landscape images like this one seem to do better on my social media like Instagram and Facebook that some of my tighter studies, such as my nasty Sacred datura flower that I just posted on here. Which could mean that the folks who follow me really enjoy my landscapes much better than the other stuff, or perhaps my other stuff just sucks.

Epson 4800 printer update:

For those who also have been following my Epson 4800 printer issue, it appears that I may have solved the printing issue due in large part to my friends at the Photo Exchange and Barry, a technical printer sales guy at Samy’s Camera in Santa Ana. Appears that the printing issue appears to be related to some declining paper suction that was not holding the printing paper near the print head nozzles at the end of the printing process. The paper was too heavy for the suction to hold the paper in place, thus falling away from the print head. Since the 4800 does not have an adjustment to increase the suction (one can decrease the suction), the fix was a slight delay in the Paper Feed Adjustment setting. The following two prints after making this adjustment unloaded a bunch of old ink crap on my prints, but subsequently the entire image was printed. Amazing what might accumulate over 13 years!

Equally nice is that I have a working fine art printer again, as my budget was very limited for the next few months to purchase a replacement printer. Yea!

While getting the printer working again, I also ran out of the Light Black ink. Oh well, but once the replacement ink arrives, I am back in the art business again.

Cheers!

 

 

October 15, 2018

Mystery on Trabuco Flats – Sacred datura – a dangerous flower & plant

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Sacred datura, Mystery on Trabuco Flats, 2018 copyright Douglas Stockdale

For my project Mystery on Trabuco Flats, as well as another project Gardening for Ordnance, I have been photographing a local wild weed that blooms during the summer. The small vine-like bushes with their white flowers make for an interesting visual contrast in the wild park area; a bit of local beauty among the other not so pretty weeds and wild grass. I had assumed that this was another of the many none native plants that arrived in conjunction with the local urban sprawl.

For the Mystery on Trabuco Flats project I thought that this white flower appeared quite similar to a white Lilly that is sometime found in conjunction with funerals. Thus these flowers might create another metaphoric layer to this project, especially if the flower(s) was not in perfect condition but bug eaten, decaying and falling apart.

When a friend asked me if it was the Scared datura that I was photographing I did a quick check (as you might guess, I am NOT a botanist) to confirm that it indeed was the Scared datura (species: Datura wrighti) I was photographing. The morbid surprise was to find out that this is a poisonous perennial plant and ornamental flower native to the southwestern North America. Yikes!

Serendipitously I have been actually photographing something quite dangerous. This plant does not yell Danger, Danger! (Unlike the rattlesnake a few weeks ago). So this potential metaphoric flower appears to have more of a darker potential than I had ever envisioned. Very pretty, but also deadly. cool!

I suspect that photographs of this flower will also be a pretty subtle inclusion in my story, as I am assuming that very few are aware of the danger that this flower and plant present (as I understand, not to be eaten, not even a tiny little bit). Especially when I consider that I had no idea of its exsistance; never hearing of this flower and plant before. Which is unlike the various warnings for poison oak, the close relative to poison ivy, which is common to this southwestern region as well. In retrospect poison oak will make a bad intensely itchy rash, but I don’t think it will kill you. sigh.

At one point I thought that these strange flowers were actually too pretty for my dark story, but now very happy I persisted in this visual investigation. You never can tell what strange twists just might occur. wonderful!

And I was thinking that I might pick a few of these flowers to place into or adjacent to some of my suspicious sites. Yikes!! Now very happy I did not touch these flowers or plants.

So for my visual narrative will these flowers be potential clues to solve the mystery?

Cheers!

Doug

 

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