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Published: Of House and Home

7 years, 4 months ago classwork, grad school, multimedia, projects 0

Being sick for five days really puts a damper on sharing awesome things here. On Thursday last week, my story with Sheila Durnil, “Of House and Home,” was published on Vox magazine’s website as part of a larger feature on foreclosure.

http://www.voxmagazine.com/stories/2011/02/10/house-and-home/

It may not have been a large part of the feature, but it got out there. And if even just one person sees this issue and realizes they can save their home before it’s too late, then our objective has been fulfilled.

It’s not just a house. It’s a home.

Picture Story: Of House and Home

7 years, 6 months ago classwork, grad school, multimedia, projects 1

This is the audio and picture version of my final project story titled:
Of House and Home: Sheila Durnil’s journey through heartache and hope.

Please pardon the toning on the images at the moment – Final Cut Express decided to ignore the hours of toning I spent earlier to make the photos look perfect. I’ll be revising this file once I figure out how to correct the color.

Picture Story: High School Heeler, revised.

7 years, 6 months ago classwork, grad school, photography, projects 0

You’re not seeing double. I’m reposting this with a slight re-edit of the images for class. I haven’t looked at this story in a while, and I do think that this edit is a bit stronger. (And who can resist a neon-yellow horse cake? Really!)

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Sophomore Tanner Brundage looks for his mother’s car on Sept. 16, 2010 outside of Jefferson City High School in Jefferson City, Mo. This was the last time his mother needed to pick him up at the end of the day, as today was his 16th birthday. Immediately after school, he took and passed his driver’s test.

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While typical high school boys are involved with the traditional team sports offered by their school, such as football or baseball, Tanner competes in team roping for Missouri High School Rodeo and cowboy mounted shooting with Show Me Mounted Shooters. He began riding horses almost four years ago, and discovered roping after some of his riding friends started lessons with Mark Jobe, a roping instructor in Jefferson City. Many of the teens who compete in Missouri High School Rodeo grew up in rodeo families, but Tanner’s family has only recently been involved. “We’re kinda the rarity,” his mother Kim said. “We’re not the only ones, but most have been doing this forever.”

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After spending the afternoon competing about six inches of mud, Tanner takes a hose to clean off the tack on his 12-year old horse, Cochise. His friend and neighbor Macy Randolph, 13, patiently waits for her turn, as her earlier attempts to gain control of the hose led to Tanner dousing her with water. While high school rodeo is not an organized team sport, many of the teens in the Jefferson City area practice together.

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Gary Kueffer, right, holds tight onto the rope around the calf’s horns while Tanner attempts to catch its heels during an open team roping session at a small family rodeo on Saturday, Sept. 11 outside of Vienna, Mo. The open event allows combined teams of varying ages, letting teenagers compete with the more seasoned adults. Tanner prefers to compete as a heeler, which he says is the more challenging position in roping. He said that according to Mark Jobe, Tanner’s instructor, “You need to be a better roper for the heels, and a better horseman for the head.”

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In honor of Tanner’s 16th birthday, his mother Kim ordered a cake made out of cupcakes to bring to roping practice on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010. “It’s supposed to be his horse,” she said about the conspicuously bright depiction of Cochise.

Picture Story: Some of my likes.

7 years, 7 months ago classwork, grad school, photography, projects 0

Some of these may make it into the final story. Some may not. But I like them for what they are.

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Picture Story: Introduction

7 years, 7 months ago classwork, photography, projects 0

day303 :: year four

Meet Sheila. She and I will be spending a lot of time together over the next few weeks as we get acquainted and I work on telling her story. It’s got all sorts of twists and turns, as every day she’s on the brink of losing her home. It’s a challenge, but I think a very worthy one. And she’s super nice, which always makes working on a project a pleasure.

I really look forward to exploring her world.

day304 :: year four

Picture Story: Reflections from a dark room

7 years, 7 months ago blogging, grad school, photography 0
[picture coming soon]

I spent much of the last week hiding in the back of a dark room watching pictures go by and listening to someone announce “Out. Out. Out. Out. Out. In. Out. Out. Out.”

Yes, it was the best week in photojournalism at the University of Missouri – CPOY judging week.

We saw thousands of images in singles, stories, portfolios and multimedia presentations get voted out of the running to be considered the best of the best, with only about 1% of entries making it through to the second round of judging. A handful made it to the finals, winning awards of excellence and the coveted gold, silver, and bronze awards.

For Picture Story class, I made sure to sit in on the picture story category and an entire day of multimedia sessions. Each has to deal with the issue of storytelling in an effective manner, either through single images or a multimedia presentation. The two categories, while quite different in presentation and final product, have very similar requirements for what constitutes a winning project.

First, they both need to have a solid story. Moving, compelling, heartbreaking, joyful, and intimate were just a few of the words used to describe the stories which ultimately won in each catetgory. A project could have beautiful images, but if there is no story to support the photographs, the judges voted it out. I saw many stories in the first round that I would have voted in just on looks, but the judges saw past that and knew the story may not live up to the visual skill.

Alternatively, even when the imagery was not quite as technically adept as the other entries, a story went on to the next round if it moved the judges. I saw this in the final Multimedia category, in which there were three very polished video-based projects from the News21 program and one individual story “The Great Wide Open” about an adopted boy and his unique family situation. The adoption story was pointed out numerous times by the judges that it did not stand up to the same polished look as the other three stories, yet it won a bronze award because of the intimacy and unique storyline presented.

The judging of the categories was quite harsh, with the panel voting many entries out within only a few images, never quite reaching the end of the photographer’s edit. In picture story, I didn’t mind it so much. It was quite obvious whether or not a story was strong because we could see all the images presented as thumbnails together. Although we didn’t get the captions for all the stories, we could see if the visual story was strong.

However, in the multimedia judging, all I wanted was to see the second round selects in their entirety before voted into an awards round. The judges only watched maybe 30 seconds of the project until they got to the final rounds. While I agree that we should not have to watch the entire project due to time constraints, I think that there were a handful of projects that were voted out just because the intro was more than five seconds. One of the projects I really wanted to see in its entirety was “Growing up Girl”, which was voted into the first round of selects, but cut before the awards of excellence round. Although I agree that the beginning was a bit cheesy or TV-esque, I really wanted to see how the photographer took their winning photo story and turned it into a multimedia piece. There was so much that I thought could be expressed with audio and video and we didn’t get to see it because the judges were so caught up with the introduction.

What does this mean for the next generation of picture stories and multimedia pieces? I’m not sure. Every year is so different, yet so similar. It’s hard to know if your work will rise above the rest, because you can’t know what the rest will look like. I think that the most rewarding part of this competition is watching the work go by and listening to the judges make their remarks about the winning (and non-winning) work.

And hopefully, I’ll be able to use this new perspective in my work for the coming year. All I want is one ‘in.’ They’re worth more than gold.

Kelly Schultz: The Triple Threat

7 years, 8 months ago classwork, photography, politics, projects 0

The FinalCut presentation of the photos and audio interview for my character on Kelly Schultz will go here shortly. It’s rendering on Vimeo.

In the meantime, here’s my favorite photo from the entire project.

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Ahha! The video is finally done. Please note – this is NOT a final but a work in progress. I do not like this presentation as completed here. The audio will be re-edited, and maybe the photos will be re-sequenced. It is only posted because it is a class requirement.

Kelly Schultz: The Triple Threat from Erin Schwartz on Vimeo.

High School Heeler

7 years, 8 months ago classwork, grad school, photography, projects, sports 1

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Sophomore Tanner Brundage looks for his mother’s car on Sept. 16, 2010 outside of Jefferson City High School in Jefferson City, Mo. This was the last time his mother needed to pick him up at the end of the day, as today was his 16th birthday. Immediately after school, he took and passed his driver’s test.

100916_HSCowboy_ECS_02_sm

While typical high school boys are involved with the traditional team sports offered by their school, such as football or baseball, Tanner competes in team roping for Missouri High School Rodeo and cowboy mounted shooting with Show Me Mounted Shooters. He began riding horses almost four years ago, and discovered roping after some of his riding friends started lessons with Mark Jobe, a roping instructor in Jefferson City. Many of the teens who compete in Missouri High School Rodeo grew up in rodeo families, but Tanner’s family has only recently been involved. “We’re kinda the rarity,” his mother Kim said. “We’re not the only ones, but most have been doing this forever.”

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Tanner waits for his best friend Spenser Epple, 15, to finish putting on his collared shirt – the only dress requirement for this particular rodeo – at a small family rodeo on Saturday, Sept. 11 outside of Vienna, Mo. The boys live across town from each other but see each other regularly in classes at school and at roping practice in Eugene, Mo. every Thursday night.

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Gary Kueffer, right, holds tight onto the rope around the calf’s horns while Tanner attempts to catch its heels  during an open team roping session at a small family rodeo on Saturday, Sept. 11 outside of Vienna, Mo. The open event allows combined teams of varying ages, letting teenagers compete with the more seasoned adults. Tanner prefers to compete as a heeler, which he says is the more challenging position in roping. He said that according to Mark Jobe, Tanner’s instructor, “You need to be a better roper for the heels, and a better horseman for the head.”

100916_HSCowboy_ECS_05_sm

After spending the afternoon competing about six inches of mud, Tanner takes a hose to clean off the tack on his 12-year old horse, Cochise. His friend and neighbor Macy Randolph, 13, patiently waits for her turn, as her earlier attempts to gain control of the hose led to Tanner dousing her with water. While high school rodeo is not an organized team sport, many of the teens in the Jefferson City area practice together.

Picture Story: On the importance of subject

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

I know I love the Bird By Bird book, so for this set of readings, I decided to go with Bill Jay and David Hurn’s chapter called Selecting a Subject first. I thought maybe I wouldn’t like it as much if I put it second like last week’s selections. Instead, in the second paragraph, I found my inspiration for the day.

“You are not a photographer because you are interested in photography. […] These interests, no matter how personally enjoyable they might be, never lead to the person becoming a photographer. The reason is that photography is only a tool, a vehicle, for expressing or transmitting a passion in something else.” (p. 29-30)

When telling one of my staff photographers about this idea, something made us stand up in the photo bubble and shout “Yes!” as though we’ve finally found someone to vindicate us in our belief that there really is something that separates us from the rest of the world with a camera.

Hurn and Jay’s advice on finding a subject also made me laugh, as I just went through that process in finding one-day story ideas to pitch. I drew up a list and then went through the next day and picked out the most interesting visually and interesting subject to me options. The two stronger ideas were of things that I’m passionate about, or have a true curiosity about.

I also loved how they describe finding a style in your photography. “A unique style, which is what we are talking about, is the by-product of visual exploration, not it’s goal. […] Ironically, by starting with self, it is missed; ignore it, and it becomes evident.” (p. 34-35) I don’t know where they came up with this stuff, but I could eat it up all day.

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In this installment of Bird by Bird, I finally saw what I was thinking since the beginning – this writer knows, and likely had met, Natalie Goldberg, the author of Writing Down the Bones. When I was a writer in college, someone recommended that book. It’s excellent in getting past your ‘writer’s block’ or ‘creative block’ or whatever ails you in writing. I see many connections between the two books. Perhaps that’s why I love this one so much.

In any case, the two chapters up for reading continue where we left off at content generating. Sometimes the story just isn’t clear yet, but we know we have a location and an event to get us started. Sometimes the main character doesn’t become apparent until we have collected almost all of our content and are nearing the end of the day. Just like the polaroid, she wrote. It all slowly comes into focus as time passes and the story – the picture – develops.

I feel like I’m going to encounter this with my one day story, which I hope will pan out into a final project as well. I have a willing subject, and an idea of what I may or want to see, but it’s just a partially developed polaroid right now. It needs some shaking and time to fully develop into a story.

These readings, as usual, make me want to get up and make pictures, to get started on shaking my polaroid.

(cue Outkast.)

Picture Story: On being inspired

7 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.