Project final: gallery installation – Advanced Photography (redux)

We had a pop-up show for one night, this was what I had printed and installed.  It’s hard to sequence them exactly linearly but the last picture gives you an idea what I had in mind.  Final sequence can be glimpsed among my exhibition photos here.

Artist Statement:

Yee-haw State – Joseph Irvin

Coming from Ohio, all I originally knew about Colorado were the stereotypes: mountains, skiing, Coors, and cowboys (this was pre-marijuana).  I was initially forced to embrace the Western aesthetic when taking a job as a Jeep tour guide around Colorado Springs, but I’ve gotten into the spirit over time, to the point where it is now a lifestyle.  Every time I go to a thrift store I’m looking for more western shirts and cowboy hats to wear on tours.  I’m paid to present a certain aspect of Colorado culture/history to visitors and new arrivals, and the boss’s mantra is “Make it like Disneyland!”  While it might not have happened quite like that in real life, we live in a postmodern settler society, where the cowboys have traded in their horses for 4x4s.  We’re driving them on old wagon trails and railroads.  A lot of my time is spent in Garden of the Gods, now the #1 visited park in the country (and it’s being loved to death).  In a state that is experiencing massive population increase and a rapidly growing tourism industry, what is it that makes Colorado unique, and what about that are we selling?  A lot of people say that they hope I never take this landscape for granted, and I didn’t…back when I moved here.  But one does get used to it over time: now it has the familiarity of Home.

Everything was printed on Ilford fiber paper at a custom size of 15×10.  I’d got my usual box of Oriental 8×10 but my photo instructor insisted I go bigger which was frustrating because I’d bought this paper months ago in preparation and now had to find something last minute.  Thankfully Cameraworks came to my rescue cutting me a deal with some 16×20 Ilford they’d had for a while.  I had less than 2 weeks before the show and had to print like mad all day everyday and still didn’t get everything finished, but enough to display at least.  I suppose that printing on 11×14 paper would have been easier to frame (I just hung everything with putty) but I had to come up with a plan fast to print as much as possible and use the entire frame.  So I cut my 16×20 paper in half, trimmed an extra inch, and made a custom taped-off template.  I had a negative holder which showed the edges of the frame so I tried as much as possible to give every print a black border, a nice differentiation to the usual white.  I think I’ve ranted before about cropping the side of a 35mm film frame when printing to a 5:4 aspect ratio, something else my photo instructor insisted on was seeing my entire frame.  Thankfully everything worked out.

Project Part 4 – Advanced Photography (redux)

(…And it’s a big one!)

We had an online critique and then for the exhibition I had to decide which images to print from this series as well as the other three critiques.  This is 11 rolls of film here, I asked my instructor to look through what I had and pick out the strongest images, so these are all the ones that work best (she said my hit ratio’s getting better).  No particular order besides chronological, except that there are several images that go together as a sequence.

The first four rolls were developed at the same time as this roll, and as the darkroom tech left out paper developer instead of film developer, they’re extremely high-contrast and difficult to print or get right in Photoshop.  Once I was on a roll I kept going and by the time the semester was over I’d shot about 150ft of Tri-X, around 30 rolls of film.  Then I shot another 20-25 rolls of film over the Summer during the height of the tourist season, and about 75 sheets of 4×5 in the Fall ’19 semester through February in the semester that technically is still in session.  By the time I get everything compiled I hope to have enough for an exhibition and a book but current events have put that on hold a bit.

Project Part 3 Outtakes – Advanced Photography (redux)

This bunch fits into two categories:

Ones I printed that we decided didn’t fit into the main themes/categories of the project, or were not as strong/have technical issues, but are still nice.

Ones my instructor had liked but I decided not to print because I’d already printed 25 images and only needed 15.

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Project Part 3 – Advanced Photography (redux)

This is when things really started to come together.  After meeting with my instructor for a one-on-one critique we were able to separate most of the pictures into three categories:

Cast of Characters

Shots from the Road

Gawkers as Spectacle

What also helped is that by this time tours had picked up a lot.  I was working more and had more opportunities for great photos.  One of the suggestions from last student critique was that I needed to ride along on other drivers’ tours and that accounted for four of the shots, in all three categories.

Project part 2 – Advanced Photography (redux)

This is when I finally got some photos that I was proud of, and that the photo class liked.  In many cases they don’t have too much to do with my final conception but there are hints here and there, just in need of refining.

The other thing is that these were taken in February and March or thereabouts and really I didn’t have much going on work-wise but it ramps up quickly after that, as it’s about to now again.

Project part 1 – Advanced Photography (redux)

Winter/Spring 2019 I retook Advanced Photography.

I was just getting the ball rolling at this stage, there weren’t too many things going on in January/February.  The most important thing was to hit the ground running.  I had to convince the class that my Cowboys & Jeeps project was worth it, but I did narrowly succeed.

The alternative was to revisit my personal project from the first time I took Adv.Photo, but I wanted something fun, and could shoot this project while working which was a big plus.  I was shooting bulk rolls of Tri-X but it hadn’t come in yet so I pulled out my old bulk roll that expired 20 years ago.

Half these pictures are the result of my instructor suggesting that I make a series of pictures of coworkers off-duty, and that didn’t go over as well with the class so I promptly dropped the idea.  Of the rest are a picture when my cousins came to visit as well as a few from Garden of the Gods’ annual bighorn sheep day.  It took some time to really home in on what this project would become but there are a few seeds in one or two of the pictures.

So what’s coming this year?

All cowboy all the time.  Or pretty near.


Some Colorado yee-haw shit

As I mentioned the last time, I’ve been basically just cleaning out old drafts that have been laying around.  Or so I thought!  I went back to look at the last six months of posts and counted ten posts with, if not completely brand-new material, at least pictures I had taken this year (this one was as new as it gets, having taken the picture mere days before posting).  But as the new year has turned over, everything I’ll be posting for the foreseeable future is now last year’s shots, old news.

I suppose that part of why I’ve held back on posting a lot of things that I shot in 2019 is that I’m forming the project as I go and I feel like retaking Adv.Photo really helped move my work (as well as technique) forward.  It’ll be a fresh start, and I will probably be making this my sole project all of this year, if not next year as well.  Our instructor had us read this piece about the Helsinki Bus Station Analogy and it really helps when conceptualizing work.  As for myself, I’m in the stage where everything I shoot feels redundant and I’m fed up with it all, but my goal is to just keep pushing forward and hoping for a breakthrough.  Though I started taking pictures as soon as I started driving Jeep tours back in 2016, I consider this photo from Summer 2017 to be the spiritual start of my project:


Tri-X in the SPII with the 1.4/50 Super-Takumar

To keep consistency I have been shooting black & white film so from October 10th on, you’re not likely to see much color Cowboys.  In 2019 I shot almost exclusively my Pentax Spotmatic SPII loaded with Tri-X (starting with the 50mm and 28mm lenses, switching exclusively to a 35mm f/2 starting in the Summer).  In the fall I started trying out automatic compact cameras that I’ve scored in thrift stores and I don’t know how successful that will end up being yet, but I’m still on the Tri-X, at least for 35mm.  When ramping up to 4×5 large format in the Fall (which will continue for the next 4-5 months I’m happy to say), I’ve been trying out a lot of things (T-Max 400 which is damned expensive, Bergger Panchro 400, Ilford HP5+, and Rollei RPX400 so far).  I still have access to a darkroom so until May 1 anyone can order black & white optical prints of my work.  Proceeds go to helping me buy more film, etc.

The end result is hopefully an exhibition, and possibly a book in a few years.  I don’t have a permanent title just yet, been going back and forth on that, but for now, I’m calling it Yee-haw State.

Bristol Brewing

I shot these at my friend’s birthday party because that’s where we were!  Bristol is the largest brewery in Colorado Springs and they operate out of the former Ivywild Elementary School.  It’s a large place housing the brewery, a restaurant, coffee shop and mini-mall.  The gymnasium is a great concert venue/theater and I’ve been to a couple film festivals there.  Ivywild is one of my top 3 recommended restaurants in Colorado Springs.  And of course some good beer there, too.

I wouldn’t say this is all there is to the brewery but it does happen to be part that’s open to the public.

Kodak Tri-X pushed to 1600 in the Pentax Spotmatic SPII with the Yellow 1.4/50 Super-Takumar.