the [__________] adventures of erin*carly

Picture Story: On being inspired

9 years, 9 months ago classwork, photography, writing 0

First up. Bird by bird.

My book has 19 flags in four colors hanging out the side. We’re only four chapters in.

Each one of those flags marks a place where Anne Lamott wrote something so perfectly about the creative process – well, in her words, the writing process. But take out the word “writing” and put in “photograph” and we’ve got a manifesto, folks. Even in just the introduction, from her admission to seeing your name in print to the desires of her students to get published, but not necessarily to write, she’s nailed it on the head. All I could think about was my first day of class in Fundamentals, thinking, “Why am I in this class? I already HAVE experience. Can’t I move on and shoot for the paper already?” (Yes, I thought this. David Rees humbled me by the end of that first week.)

And I find it quite fitting that I’m so full of words and love for this book that it took me quite a while to sit here and actually write about it. All these words are just flying around my brain, trying to process everything that she writes about and I can’t quite make sense of it all. I bookmarked all those pages to try and remember pieces, but I think the most resonant idea that I can take away so far is that to write well – or in our case, to take good photographs – is to practice. To start small. Like our one day story project. Something simple to get us into the rhythm of making photographs that tell a story, so that by the time we’re faced with the final project, we’re already feeling the groove.

She likens the process to musicians. “What’s real is that if you do your scales every day, if you slowly try harder and harder pieces, if you listen to great musicians play music you love, you’ll get better.” (p.14) If we take photographs every day, if we try for more and more complex storytelling, and look at some amazing photographers’ work because we can’t get enough, we’ll all get better at telling the stories we need to tell.

And she tells us flat out – there will be shitty first drafts. We need those rough edits and first day’s takes to know where we are in a story and where we need to go. In order to kill our puppies, we need to have a brood to kill first. (For those of you who don’t understand that phrase, it has nothing to do with real killing. It’s more about editing out your most loved photograph because it doesn’t help the story along.) No photographer goes out on assignment and comes back with an entire take of portfolio quality images. It takes a first edit, and a second edit, and many times three or more edits to really discover the beauty in the full take.

The final chapter we were to read was on perfectionism. She writes, “Perfectionism means that you try to not leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived.” (p. 28) I need to learn to embrace this idea that a little bit of mess can be a very good thing. I can get so nitpicky, so anal, so . . . perfect-obsessed about assignments and photographs and stories and portfolios and websites .and ohh, yeah. I need this. “… we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here – and by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.”

And photographing.

Next. Langton.

I have to laugh here. The book on photojournalism makes me want to gouge my eyes out, and the book on writing has me dreaming about adventures. Not that Langton writes anything truly dull or incorrect, but that he’s writing about everything we hear, day in and day out, at a journalism school. Real people don’t talk about photojournalism like this. Yes, we talk at length about the importance – or the existence – of objectivity and symbolism in photographs, but outside of these walls, it’s just not so academic. He brings up some great points for discussion, how money drives the business while passion drives people, how editing can change the context and content of a story wildly, and how photographs can become icons and symbols out of context. I just wish it didn’t sound like a dissertation.

(Oh wait. I think it was one.)

And finally … the podcast.

Short, sweet and right to the point. Talent can only get you so far. You gotta put in the effort behind it to be really great. And when you start to reach that point, or at least understand it and work towards it, you’ll be noticed. Or we hope so. Do we put in enough hours in our program to get us on our way to really thinking about what we do and why we do it? What makes it good, and what makes it suck? Have we really devoted our lives to our craft, or are we coasting by on so-so grades and so-so effort?

But as we’ve seen on so many bad photographer’s websites – there needs to be a baseline of talent. That’s what will make you stand out among the crowd of time-investing enthusiasts. That little spark of brilliance we all know and see in each other every day.

There’s no place like home…

9 years, 9 months ago blogging, photography, travels 0

day211 :: year four

I could use some ruby slippers right about now. And a conch shell to put sound to this image.

Also, if anyone invents a story idea detector, please let me know.

EPJ: Index page

9 years, 9 months ago blogging, classwork 0

This is the second class that will hijack my blog this semester. Please keep in mind that this is a technical class and we have certain requirements with the assignments. They may not be the most beautiful yet – it’s just practice for us to learn the details of HTML, CSS, Flash, etc.


Here’s the link to my first assignment, the index.html page, written in basic HTML.


Picture Story: Successes, and perhaps a failure.

9 years, 9 months ago classwork, photography, writing 0

It’s that time of year again – my blog will be hijacked for not one, but two classes this semester. I considered not using this blog for class, but then I thought that it might spark some interesting inspiration or conversation from readers. (If there are any readers.)

My first assignment for Picture Story (or capstone, as the undergrads call it) is to list some picture stories that I’ve seen that either work or don’t work, things that inspire and influence, and write a little about each.

1. The first I thought of immediately was by a colleague in DC, Amanda Lucidon. (No, not Amanda Lucier, the MU grad.) It’s a picture story of a deaf dancer. How much harder can you get in illustrating the non-visual concept? While I feel like the story could probably go for a tighter edit, I think the point is brought across to show that yeah, she’s different – deaf – but she still does everything that any normal ten-year old would do. Being able to tell a non-visual story (or a one-photo literal story as in this case) is an incredible talent. Perhaps someday I’ll give it a try.


2. I’m sure everyone will link to this story by Maisie Crow. It won (did it really win, or was it just a contender?) for CPOY, and it deserves all the attention the story has received since publication. It’s simple, beautiful, and so moving. Every time I look at the images, I want to cry. I can feel the love and loss in every frame. Somewhere, there’s an article about her experience photographing this story. It’s worth a read. This story also inspires me to try and find a touching, personal story someday. I mean, really personal. In depth. Caring. Illuminating life. It’s a lofty goal, but I’ll get there eventually.

http://www.maisiecrow.com/gallery.html?gallery=A LIFE ALONE

3. So, for my third story I wanted to find something that did well in a contest, but if I were a judge, I would have voted it out. I came across this one from CPOY 59 by a guy named Denis Rochefort from RIT. The story won an award of excellence. While I really like the opening frame, it just seems like a collection of photographs taken on a night out. It seems like there’s possibility for a great story in a club that’s drug and alcohol free, where kids can just be kids. But for me, there’s something missing. I’m interested to see what others think in class.



9 years, 9 months ago grad school, photography 0

day218 :: year four

Before classes start, an incoming freshmen tradition is to participate in the Tiger Walk. The band, Marching Mizzou, plays. The deans of the school speak. The basketball coach riles everyone up with a rousing “MIZ!” And with a countdown, the kids sprint up over the little hill, through the columns, and finish at department tables set up with banners and piles of Tiger Stripe ice cream set up in front of Jesse Hall.

It’s supposed to signify the entrance into Mizzou and the start of their college careers.

In four years, these kids will be slowly sauntering away from Jesse Hall, up over the hill and through the columns, not running but barely able to inch forward and start their lives as graduates.

Tradition is huge at Mizzou. Some may call it lame, but for most – it’s just a way of life here.

Welcome, class of 2014.

Aaaaand, we’re back!

9 years, 9 months ago blogging 1

day203 :: year four

After a long recovery period from the latest site hack, I’m finally …

Wait, website hack, you ask? Didn’t you just have one of those in January?

Yes. Two site hacks in six months. This one was a doozie – supposedly Palestinian hackers. Everything was lost. My backups were too old. But thanks to Google reader and web archives, I was able to re-build (okay, Scott was able to re-build) about 90% of the content. Only a little bit was wonky, and was easily fixed.

So, I’m back. And I’ve got a spiffy new website.

Lesson of the day?

Back everything up, often.

The president, in black and white.

9 years, 10 months ago Uncategorized 0






On Thursday, July 8, 2010, I had the pleasure of covering President Barack Obama’s speech to employees of Smith Electric Vehicles and special guests, including Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, in Kansas City, Mo. My good friend Joel Kowsky started the whole chain reaction that got him, me, and my other good friend Kristen DiFate credentials to produce a multimedia piece of the event for the Columbia Missourian.

Watch the video here.

So true.

9 years, 11 months ago Uncategorized 0

day198 ::  year two

This fortune came exactly eight days after I found out that I would be attending the 60th Missouri Photo Workshop in St. James, Missouri. August 1, 2008. Little did I know how it would manifest.

I came across it looking back through my photostream and project365. Funny how much things have changed since this fortune. I’d say it was pretty accurate.

Life is good.

My decisive moment.

9 years, 11 months ago Uncategorized 0

day168 :: year four

Scott and I went to St. Louis to see some fireworks and hang out with my Bestest Friend in the Entire Universe™, Becky, and her boyfriend Mark. Our original plan was to get off the train at the arch. However, we were running late and got off at the wrong stop.

That was one of those perfect mistakes. I think this may be one of my most favorite photographs I’ve taken this summer.

originally posted on the staff class blog.

The rodeo.

9 years, 11 months ago Uncategorized 0

Day one.
day152 :: year four

Day two.
day153 :: year four

Day three.
day154 :: year four

These are my selects for my project365 from all three days I spent at the Missouri High School Rodeo State Championships. The first night, I came in to finish up for Jonathan when he had to leave for the newsroom. It was HOT. The second day was actually on my shift, and it was even HOTTER. And dirtier. And longer. The third night, Scott and I went back for the finals. Thankfully, the weather cooled off a bit and it was a nice night. Before coming to Mizzou, I would never have pictured myself spending three days at a rodeo.

What an experience, covering an event like this. I’ve never seen a rodeo before, let alone hang out with horses standing pretty much on top of you everywhere. I had only touched a horse once, at the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival this past October. I got dirty, climbed fences, watched cowboys get trampled, got almost underneath horses and leaned over the tops of holding pens to get a better angle praying the camera wouldn’t slip out of my hand. (The strap was wrapped around my wrist quite a few times, but still.) Standing in the shower before bed on Friday night, all I could think was, “Who is this person I’ve become?”

Moments like this, my friends, is what we live for.

Originally posted to the staff class blog.