On The Road for 40 Years with Photographer, Josef Koudelka

Listen, I have never had any hero in my life or in photography. I just travel, I look and everything influences me…. For 40 years I have been traveling. I never stay in one country more than three months. Why? Because I was interested in seeing, and if I stay longer I become blind. —Josef Koudelka

Beirut, Palestine, Spain, Ireland, Great Britain, Israel, and France as well as Romania…

I first was aware of Josef Koudelka’s photography when I saw a variety of photographs taken during the Prague Spring collapsed under Soviet oppression which finally gave way to the invasion in 1968. Koudelka was among several photographers (representing Magnum, LIFE,& BlackStar) who shot the oncoming tanks.

Student on tank, eyes crossed out, from the series Invasion, 1968. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of a private collector. © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos.
Student on tank, eyes crossed out, from the series Invasion, 1968. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of a private collector. © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos.
Prague, Negative, 1968.  Image courtesy of and © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos
Prague, Negative, 1968. Image courtesy of and © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos

Here are two links to see more of Josef Koudelka’s photos.

The Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition draws on the photographer’s extensive holdings of his own work and on recent major acquisitions by the Art Institute, including the complete surviving contents of the debut presentation of Gypsies in 1967 (22 photographs), as well as ten Invasion images printed by the photographer just weeks after the event. Also on display are early experimental and theater photographs and some of the photographer’s beautifully produced accordion books—which stretch dozens of feet when unfoldedhttp://www.artic.edu/exhibition/josef-koudelka-nationality-doubtful

• THE GETTY CENTER: Josef Koudelka | Nationality Doubtful continues through March 22 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. Information.


Death and life/re-birth

Death and rebirth/life represented by a heart
Death and life represented as a heart

The concept for my bottle project is death and life/rebirth.  It is represented by one bottle that is dark and burnt out, while the other bottle is growing/bursting out of the debris.

My concept was originally fire and water, where I had originally sketched the melted bottle being submerged in water in the other bottle.  As I melted the bottle over a candle, I began exploring how the plastic reacted to being held over the flame longer in one spot than another.  The bottle did not completely melt and shriveled up as I planned, but I thought the result was more interesting than my planned sketch.

Death and life
Death and life/rebirth close-up

Seeing the “dead” bottle made me think of fireworks and what remains after all the color has bloomed and exploded in the air. To execute this concept, I took advantage of the Christmas decorations in the stores to make the second, non-burnt bottle appear like a firecracker containing springs that were about to burst out the bottle.  Suffice to say, the firecracker bottle looked too “crafty” and as a class we agreed that the Christmas decorations were not working.

For my next iteration, I took a step back and just focused on what was working — the burnt bottle.  It was simple and had no additional adornments.  It obviously looked like death, and I began googling symbols for rebirth.  I decided that I would also keep the second bottle simple and change it structurally by having it grow out of the burnt bottle.  I cut the second bottle into strips and then twisted the strips to have more of a curling upward effect.  I stuffed these strips into the various holes within the burnt bottle.  I lightly burnt the strips to give it more of a hand blown glass feel and to smooth out the rough edges from cutting it.  After I was done, it looked plain and needed color.  I used India ink to paint the strips red.

The makings of a heart
The makings of a heart

As I was painting the bottle, the color and the feel of the bottle made me think of a heart. After I started adding paint splatters to the inside of the bottle, it started to look like it was pulsating.  I poured some ink inside of the bottle via the top, and it immediately pooled out by using one of the bigger strips as a slide.  I immediately, unconsciously referred to that strip as an artery, and I thought “That settles it.” This thing is a heart.

From the LIFE archives: The Manson Family on Trial


Michael Durham’s class visit was definitely one of my most treasured Process & Skills sessions. As a photo editor for LIFE Magazine, he shared awe-inspiring anecdotes that illustrated how LIFE used photography to both chronicle and immortalize 20th century culture and events.

I revisited LIFE’s website today and was intrigued to see that, in light of Charles Manson’s controversial wedding announcement, the publication is displaying archived photos from the Manson Family trial.

I’m grateful to the publication for sharing this history with a new generation of readers. This feature also reminds me of the staying power of strong photography and the value of photojournalism to document history in a vivid and engaging way.

John Dominis, “The Valley of Poverty” (1964)

American documentary photographer John Dominis, who recently passed away, is perhaps best known for his work with LIFE magazine. In his 1964 work titled “The Valley of Poverty”, Dominis brings attention to the fact that in the 1960s – a time when most of America had long recovered from the Great Depression of the 1920s, the people of the Appalachian region were still living through a great deal of poverty. The photo series, mostly in black and white, truly captures the dire conditions of 1960s Appalachia – may it be through the harrowing expression on the subjects’ faces or through the rural expanses of snowy countryside. Select pictures from the series can be found on LIFE.com.

PS Dominis 4

PS Dominis 5

PS Dominis 6

PS Dominis 7

Forty Portraits in Forty Years

I wanted to share the link for this striking photo essay I came across over the weekend. It just goes to show how a photo essay can be documented over a mere few days (as we have seen ourselves), or it may turn into a lengthy career-long project. Nicholas Nixon’s series will be exhibited at the MoMA, coinciding with the museum’s publication of the book “The Brown Sisters: Forty Years” in November.

Take a look: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/03/magazine/01-brown-sisters-forty-years.html?_r=0


On the left is the first photo taken in 1975, and on the right is the most recent photo taken in 2014.

Finding Inspiration

  INSPIRATIONPAGEBeing stuck is not an easy situation. But, this can change because state of emotions are temporary. Think about things you like. Maybe, start finding information on those subjects. Also, try changing up your daily routine. Step away from the cell phone screen and start looking at the signs, buildings and sights around you. This might help alleviate the lack of creativity.

Also, try putting yourself in another environment. If your apartment is dark and makes you tired. Go somewhere with light and work at a place you’ve never worked before. Don’t have a sketchbook? Use your phone or ask a friend to take a picture of the object you find pleasing.

I feel one must seek inspiration to be inspired. Technology is great and can be a helpful tool. But, looking at the everyday and unnoticed objects can be the answer as well.