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Just some of the AMAZING work that comes in through the #thehashtagofman tag on Instagram that I am curating as part of my Goldsmiths MRes Design degree.  To get involved see www.thehashtagofman.com.

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Very proud to see the project I’m curating for my Goldsmiths dissertation get some exposure on The London Design Week Festival. To read it in full click HERE.

To contribute head on over to Instagram and load images of life. lived. now. to #thehashtagofman or see more at www.thehashtagofman.com

 •••UPDATE: Some wonderful results — see you next year folks!•••

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This is a project I’m curating over at Instagram. If you’re on IG then feel free to hook up and share.

Light. It envelopes us. We live for it. So when half of the world gets a smack good lot of it in a day it’s time to put it to good use and get snappin’. @thehashtagofman is a collaborative documentary project recording life – now. It’s a people project – a community forming through mobile photography and the Internet to produce one global portrait. It’s only fitting that this year’s summer solstice becomes our Summer SOULSTICE. When that clock strikes the 21st of June we go “glocal” and capture the soul of living in 2013. Load your images up to #thehashtagofman and let’s see what this planet is shaping up to. Who are we? What are we about? What are we driven to do and become? Spread the word. Pencil in the 21st and let’s form a picture the likes we’ve never seen before.

IG @thehashtagofman
IG @tom_bolduc (photo)

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As I work towards my MRes in Design, one of my focus points is on this participatory design element called #thehashtagofman which takes place on Instagram. This study tests the influence of social media and exhibition development in the telecommunication age of the smart phone and app technology. Where it takes nothing more than the hashtagging of a photograph, can social media, and the operators behind this curatorial endeavor produce anything like Steichen’s original The Family of Man in terms of volume of submissions and degree of photography talent. If you are on Instagram and would like to contribute see here for more details.

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The Crystal shoot

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These images are weird. I mean weird by the fact that I was part of a media briefing. The guy in the middle — you may know him, he’s that fellow that directed the movie An Inconvenient Truth – Davis Guggenheim. He’s speaking to the press before he takes part in the opening of Sieman’s new hyper-environmentally friendly building The Crystal here in London. Ok so what is so weird about this then? Getting a press pass and shooting the imagery with an iPhone is weird. Publishing it through an app called Instagram as part of the media team is weird. No need for a 400mm f2.8 lens and pro DSLR, the big lights, the credentials to get me a press pass, the calls ahead to arrange, and all the other admin is weird.  Nope.. no need for that, have phone, have app, will publish and it does. That’s what’s weird because it really does work.

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#olympicswithouttickets became a hashtag for my twitter and Instagram feed as I recorded spectators attending the Hyde Park venue for a selection of Olympic sporting events. Usually I would have employed a medium format kit for such a project but recently I have become interested in examining the changing perception of photographic quality in lieu of iphoneography and the limits of its multimedia applications. This became as much a study of the properties of the camera as it was a photographic typology. 

I became inspired by the reaction to the empty seat fiasco that was plaguing the Games. Early on it became a fixation in the media – that with so many people wanting to see event after event, and not being fortunate enough to purchase a ticket through the ticket distribution scheme that was in place, the urban mythology and conspiracies that were both community and media fed were becoming a dark, dark cloud. However with the televised road events like the marathons and cycle races people saw an opportunity and spirit in themselves that turned these events around. And suddenly it felt like the Games returned to the people. Hyde Park was unique in that it provided a container – a sort of natural stadium where spectators could watch from. It had its barricades and multi-tiered security enforcements plus it provided a grand and ironic view across the Serpentine where one could see the empty seats in the ticketed stands.

After the televised Women’s Triathlon introduced the general public to this venue, over two hundred and fifty thousand spectators made their way to the park for the Men’s Triathlon and similar numbers for the Men’s and Women’s Marathon swims. Overnight it seemed a temporary real estate formed and a valued property was acquired no longer through the usual means of having a ticket or not but through how early one arrived to this park. As time drew nearer to each event and the population of the park climbed, the viewing opportunities thinned. If security hadn’t sealed it off, or it wasn’t blocked by trees, plants or water, it was quickly filled by rows of four to twenty five people deep at prime spots to “catch a view”. 

These images are group portraits at the moment a swimmer or runner was coming into view, medals were being handed out, or the national anthem of the winner played. These groups herd together in the attempt to catch what little view was available. Stretching necks, peering through bushes, climbing onto higher ground, these are portraits examining not the individual in the group but the group as individual.  We see how patterns and collections form as a result to the event , the contours of the landscape and of course an expression of our natural curiosity. But they also show the spirit of the Games, the draw and importance in baring witness. To see something, anything that was an athlete in action meant that in some way, vicariously or directly but most importantly in person, one shared in the making of a nation’s history and legacy. Witnessing something allowed not only for this connection to the Olympiad but a unification amongst the citizenry and something that seemed very positive. Not only were individuals and families earning the right to claim – “We saw the Olympics” but they changed the direction and national feeling that was brewing in the confusion of the Olympics without tickets.  

 ©karlgrupe2012

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London to Paris in 1 fpm

Having acquired the Ricoh CX4 to test its functionality and performance I took it on a workshop I was conducting in Paris. Not one who likes to waste time I concocted a small experiment on the Eurostar to test on a practical level the camera and on a more philosophical level the role of being a photographer in these clever digital times. I suspect this experiment could have been done with film, with more than one camera, missing shots as I changed backs. And of course there would be the weight and cumbersome set up – plus I’d have to pay for more than one seat in order to work effectively … but with the light compact nature of the CX4 and its functions that brought me to a medium format Mamiya-esque 6×6 aesthetic – well this was a heck of a lot easier to do. The process was simple enough – tape the camera to a fixed point on the glass of a window seat, after setting the camera to black and white and square format, and then time out 60 sec along the journey and let the camera capture what the camera captures. As the speed of the train increases and the auto settings adjust for the lighting I took what came – what was produced by time, light, location and automation. There is no photography here other than that of the automatic functionality of the camera. My role as a photographer is simply to press the shutter on the 60th second. Not looking, not adjusting to compose for one thing or another – but to let the democracy of the elements of the moment dictate an image. Below is a small sample of the images produced. There are images that are surprises, others serve as aesthetic enjoyments and finally images that I could do without but remain there, embedded in the time flow, that read like conjunctions in a sentence, providing as much an importance in their role as the story itself.

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Bird Carvings.

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Untitled September 2011

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Untitled August 2011

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Untitled August 2011

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Untitled August 2011

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Untitled August 2011

@paris

Just returned from a fabulous weekend in Paris leading a group in a street photography brief for The Mango Lab. Thanks to the groovy folks at Ricoh and the fine folks at Chiswick Camera Center , London who gave us a new CX4 compact to test drive. Being Paris I was set on using the toy camera mode with a black and white setting and the 1:1 ratio set up for that square Holga look that I love. Below are some of the results. I just couldn’t get enough of it. Very, very little adjustments have been made here in post production. I was like a kid in a candy store — great little piece of kit.

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All images copyright Karl Grupe 2011

Had the pleasure of curating and presenting the Saturday Club exhibition at The Mango Lab. The work is from a brief entitled “find”. It was a brief that had participants rummaging around the urban landscape looking for images that represented things like “foof” and “the flipside of nothing”. This may sound more playful than serious but the dialogue shared this evening was more about the visual triggered by words and phrases. The process that is set off in one’s subconscious and as a result promoted the photography that it did.

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Talking with some of the photographers from The Saturday Club at The Mango Lab.

Over and over again I have the pleasure to witness how students frame the world around them. Their dipping of the toe into the creative pool, taking chances to see how “warm” the water will be, I find both exciting and encouraging. There is really nothing to lose but maybe a moment of self esteem and maybe even expectation. The trade off is the spark of growth and understanding from taking that step and putting the work “out there” for show. In the public arena, which brings about comment verbally or physically, and the artist can hear the echo of their work.

Bravo to all the young photographers who took this brief and ran with it. Bravo for taking the chance and seeing the result. And I hope the learning that comes with this process only furthers your education and craft.

Pola Park

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Proudly Canadian.

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Watching the Olympic torch make its way across Canada on television really didn’t mean much to me. It was not until I was lucky enough to have it arrive in Winnipeg while I was visiting. My sister and I walked out of a mall and saw a line of people gathering on a snow bank along Regent Street. Immediately I knew it was the torch. We ran to the street and ahead of the celebrations. The procession had not made its way yet and it gave me time to get ready with the camera. I noticed only 50 meters away from me a small crowd gathering. It was one of the runners with his unlit torch waiting and ready for the “flame off” – where his flame would be ignited by the finishing runners torch. I ran towards him.

When I reached him I was struck by one of two things. What it means to be Canadian or what it means to be a Winnipegger. I am not sure which one it is- maybe it’s both. Living in London,UK I have become accustomed to so much security around everything grand. Even things not so grand, one always is aware there is someone watching you. It is what separates the viewer and waters down any experience. Yet here I was standing inches away from THE TORCH. The runner had no security around him. People were making friends instantly with him for a photo op. He smiled and smiled and enjoyed his short lived fame.

As the other runner approached I was asked to stand back politely by Olympic officials – not police or hired security – guys in track suits clearing the way so the flame could be lit safely. Mobile phones freezing glows capturing history as cheers wailed in the air. Chills filled me. This was an act of celebration and even liberation – for me any ways. I was included in this process. This EVENT. No wall of security nor armed guards were quelling me from it. After the torch was traded I ran with it. 400 meters to the next runner and the next exchange. Running and taking pictures on my point and shoot. No one telling me anything. No orders given to stop.  I was truly free to participate.

Walking back to my sister and brother-in-law I couldn’t believe this had happened. How much I was able to be a part of a national event. How much we at that moment were all part of a national and soon world wide event. And it was the inclusion – the trust the city had in its people to have open access to this symbolic torch which made this for me a stand out celebration. I was not only celebrating the Olympics, but also celebrating liberation. That in this dark,cold Winnipeg night a warmth was found, not from the flame of a torch, but through a trust in the citizenship of a city.

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Horizon 1

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 The flower series below is a group of photos taken on the amazing Canon G10 compact camera. I am without a doubt impressed by its abilities.

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Acceptance

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This is the second time I have seen Richard Wentworth give a talk.  So far I have not been disappointed. His approach and engagement with his audience is always so comfortable and unassuming – for anyone new to photography or learning about the art of photography I highly recommend going to a lecture of his because you can listen to an established artist sans ego. Last night at the most quirky and dare I say “fun” (?) locations in Wandsworth – The Stables, Ram Brewery in Wandsworth, he gave his presentation. When I listen to him speak I am left thinking – is it imperative that he is there to comment on his work ? dsc01672.JPGLooking at his photographs you see a childlike wonder and document of the things which he notes arrange themselves around our existence and are there as gifts for those willing to step outside our restricting visual borders. He is quick to point out that what he sees is nothing special – he creates these “shopping lists” of the world around. “is everyone who writes a shopping list a writer” he asks? The writing, the list, still serves as a narrative, a purpose, a means to an end, part of a process and an individuality. If you analyze the production and content of a shopping list you can witness the greater connections that exist – the order that builds in such a simplistic task. I am sure one could go on for hours with Wentworth dissecting the links and observations that the shopping list represents. And it is for this reason that I appreciate his discussions so much. That he translates and brings to our attention the complexities that exist just below the surface. That life has these unlimited connections even in the most domestic of situations. It is simply that we have been entertained enough to forget about our primitive nature.

It was a great beginning to the photowandsworth09 compitition which I will be one of the judges for. With a kickoff like last night I am very excited to see what sort of work comes our way.

(For those interested in “hearing” him speak here is a link to an interview he did with Anna Deseuze.)

Students in my Beginner Digital course  your assignment is HERE! Due next week – 5 images MINIMUM.

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the nature of time 6:7

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the nature of time 5:7

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the nature of time 4:7

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the nature of time 3:7

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the nature of time 2:7

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the nature of time 1:7

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Below is a contact sheet from the nature of time 1:7 . I am investigating at this point the nature of choice – selection. I created a situation where I could apply the same methodology. Whether picking a fruit of picking an image – what brings me to this choice out of a batch – what impressions? What is involved in making that decision? Do I chose for what IS.. or do I chose with the anticipation of what COULD BE?

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Sitting at my computer and reading through the New York Times, observing all the stories paying tribute to a year now passing, I – quite by accident really – came across their video section. As the one I was interested in finished – a lovely and inspiring short of 17-year old Naeelah Murray (born blind and unable to walk) found confidence and employment at Wagon Road Camp – the next one loaded about some media scrum in front of a restaurant in Harlem. Low and behold — there he was — wait for it —

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Oh thank the Lord!

Can this be the end of the digital? Graflex and a Metz. Oh sweet mama I think there may be hope —   what’s next a Polaroid Resurrection? I wonder what the boys and girls with their new D3x’s were thinking?

I just love this. Whoever you are man — you gotta fan — Spank those digi boys – show ’em how it’s done. You just gotta love the black trench and fedora. See him at work – its only a couple seconds – @ Video/ NY Times.

Winter Lament

 7:00 am. I look out the window and see a fresh layer of frost. Cold. It’s going to be cold.

I have been fascinated with the painterly scenes that nature is producing through night as of late. She has not stopped for a rest. So I felt today I would break with routine and make my way into the woods and out onto the field that overlooks Coleshill.

And in this exercise would move away from the digital camera – and instead use my old Polaroid 190 and some Fuji instant film. I love this. The tactile and sequenced operation of working – the time waiting and knowing when the work was “cooked” properly — measuring the exposure by sensing and seeing and feeling – relying on one’s own internal light meter and not some spot meter in a highly advanced camera. I enjoyed returning to the communication with light and atmosphere that one gets when needing to be sensitive to the art of creating an image when left with most minimal equipment. And with instant film running a pound per sheet — there is this focus to detail — attention to all the elements that make photography – PHOTOGRAPHY — and not just shoting and shooting and shooting in the hopes of photocopying some piece of life that arranges well within the frame and becomes a success because the numbers are there.

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return to space

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diary of a burned out car

copyright karl grupe 2008

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There are times when you wake up and feel what you are doing. If you are lucky you wake up and realise the dream is a good one. And that the living day is still something that is fun to participate in. I look at this recent photo I took while on the way to an assignment – I think I was holding a workshop – and the spirit in this photo just sums up how I feel about the chasing of dreams, the spirit of pursuing your path. I’ll just leave it here but to those who I meet in my courses or as fellow friends in this industry and making it a fulfilling lifestyle — count how lucky we are to be here.

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I decided to take the Tube back from London to Amersham yesterday. And then, without a car to shuttle me from station to home. I thought I would test out what it would be like if I had to rely on Tube and my walking “energy” to get me back. While the ride on the train in rush hour would be DREADFUL, and the walk through Amersham and onto the highway is not the quietest thing – although if there were less cars on the roads due to too high a fuel bill that would change- I did discover and opening along the road which led me onto a trail. Anxious at first about whether this was a private or a public path – I have been chased by an angry farmer before – I enter the opening into the woods and proceeded onwards. For about 200 meters there was nothing but dense forest, and the sounds of little creatures making a run for it underneath rusted leaves. Then the woods opened up and I was taken into a land silent of cars and full of music from wind and birds. The walk took an hour and along it I photographed my way. I thought – I have been stuck in rush hour traffic for longer than an hour, breathing in poisons and burning money while I stand still. But here I was on this earthy trail, the tight, hectic day of work giving way to the expanse of the landscape before me. And along the way I thought – could I do this if without a car in the future?

Anyways – I’ll let the pictures speak and I’ll step down for the moment now… while I think more about this topic.

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Sony Ericson k800i camera phone

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I apologise for the image if its looking a bit rough — a camera phone image it is and I had to shoot it on VGA mode.

Well this years BAPLA show came and went. It was in Islington Business Center, which was aptly named “The Greenhouse” for its brightly curved ceiling and warm humid air in the building. I have to say that I REALLY enjoyed myself there this year. I came away from stock photography and picture libraries feeling a great sense of community. Once you strip away the corporate image houses from the playing field you enter a world of people who seem to just really love looking and trading pictures. It seems like a nice place to be again. I am not saying the big guns have no love for imagery — I know plenty of people who have worked for them and love what they do. And Alamy was there and with their 11.65 Million images and counting — and that’s no small turkey. But there was this humility there today and that I really like. I felt hopeful — something which I haven’t for some time in this industry. It was also great to once again see catalogues and paper products dominating the display tables and not the silver coasters, known as DVD’s and CD’s, being handed out.

I do have one beef though, so bare with me. I am going to vent here. Maybe eveyone was too nice, like sweet lambs in the field not knowing a wolf was among them — but there was. Amidst all the libraries and agencies who were respecting and contibuting towards the industry with a respectable pricing margin so that everyone wins, Mr. Microstock and his crows were huddled and waiting. Booooo to you Mr. Microstock guy!! You sit there with your polished image selling for a quid or less to the photographer and you think you have it made. I have words for you. You’re a parasite, coming in at the bottom of the barrel because you think cheap is better. Trying to collapse the market with your “let’s make loads of money by profiting off the less informed or the fame starved photographer” business ethos. Of course there are winners in the the micro stock market game. But those success stories are a head fake against what is really happening within the market – especially to those new to photography or to stock. The next “stepping stone” for young photographers is a stock library where you pay to be on their site and in return for an image “sale” is a byline. See how long you stay swimming in that pool folks. Had photographers known a bit more and refused to sign up to the microstock model then it would never have existed, and we would not see the next drop in the level of earning power for the working photographer. I hope this cockroach in the industry starves to death with photographers wising up. Otherwise we are all going down with it into the garbage where it came from. But I have been in the industry long enough to witness that there are too many photographers who are taken advantage of, giving away huge profit margins for whatever reason. I am sorry folks, but I cannot understand why a photographer would be happy with a 20p sale on an image they worked so hard for. Of course if the numbers are there and you rack up 2000+ sales then the volume saves you. But if its volume you want then I guess you approach photography from a different level than I see it right now. Maybe its the same as food. You go to a restaurant and have the food cooked right there for you, or you buy the restaurant’s brand straight out of the freezer at your supermarket and cook it at home. It’s then only all in the taste.

Now that that is off my chest. Stock is still being bought through the rights protected small guy and the rights protected big guy. This made me happy. VERY HAPPY. And people are wanting to pay for it – so thank you to those clients. So to you new photographers looking to get into the market — respect yourself and find a library that will give you a fair deal and what you deserve. If we all do this Mr. Microstock guy will be like some tumor which came and went. And so tonight I go to bed thinking that, hopefully, there is still a long way for microstock to go to be a serious pain in traditional stocks side.

Over and out.

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I have been observing the amounts of Polaroid people shoot on various Polaroid host sites – like Flickr and Polanoid.net and I have been adding up some numbers. There are people with online portfolios costing easily in the region of over a thousand or more dollars or pounds. For many, these portfolios simply do nothing extra curricular but be online, self initiated exhibits.

The source of their dedicated artworks is a company which is slowly dissolving their product line despite a growing number of individuals who enjoy using it. The reason for this from my perspective is obvious — the professional world who would have in the past shot through thousands of dollars in Polaroid in month now have the laptop as their mainstay. As for most professional job use, and I am talking bread and butter work like editorial — from the 35mm Nikon with a Polaroid back to the 4×5 Polaroid processor —the film has slowly become extinct.

From Polaroid’s perspective I am sure they are watching with a keen eye as to what they should do next. Private individuals are a cottage industry and cannot, unless the numbers are incredibly significant, replace the profit margin Polaroid lost due to the digital territorial dominance in the battle of the instant image.

But when looking at this cottage industry, a Polaroid revival to say the least, I am left wondering what is the motivation behind each work. From the highly manipulated square little art works to the bleached out, hardly noticeable documenting shots of the urban vernacular, there is this movement which is willing to pay quite considerable fees and time in order to practise their own art although there is a knowledge that the film could soon disappear. There is a connection to the medium that I am curious about. I question what are peoples motivation behind it.

If you could leave me a comment as to how/when you came across Polaroid, why use it, and why it is so important to yourself I’d be much obliged.

Thank you.

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I struggle with this. I really do. I struggle with the politics of photography. And when it comes to evaluating wedding photography/ photographers I seem to have the most struggle.

I was shooting a wedding a few months ago when a car advertising photographer came up to me and said – “You know, I was supposed to be photographing this wedding. The couple are friends of mine but I just couldn’t do it…. way to stressful… I’d never shoot a wedding” …

“But you are car advertising photographer”, I said, “this should be easy for you!”

“One chance and that’s all you’ve got — too stressful for me” he said.

Ever since then I have been thinking about the value of wedding photography, and how in the past, from within the industry of photography, that to mention you shoot weddings is like the kiss of death if you wish to obtain work in other markets.

I’ve never understood this. In fact I think its arrogant to think that wedding photographers are a lesser form of photographers. In fact, wedding photography is certainly a testing ground for the ability to match creative with interpersonal skills and problem solving techniques within an extremely limited time frame that is given to you only once. There is no reshoot or second chance, no “that looked good but can we do it better just this once more”… Nope… It’s fly by the seat of your pants or die (in respect to future business) trying.

I came across an amazing photographer in the States — John Dolan — and I have to admire him for his ability to be selling himself as an advertising, art and wedding photographer while participating at the higher end market on all fronts. He is up front and celebrates his ability to accomplish all lines of work — from a Lexus ad to a private wedding. And so it should be this way. Isn’t it in the end all photography and all creative solutions made to satisfy the different demands of the client. It shows a successful photographer — not one who is not “making the grade” because he shoots weddings.

There is such a fear factor here of admission to shooting weddings in the photographer community. I see it more in the UK than in the States. And an assistant of mine says its worse in Italy. Commercial photography/ editorial photographers think wedding photographers are the crows of photography.

The truth is – as far as I can piece it together – is that photographers participating in other markets participate in wedding photography but under another name. This way they hide themselves from the “judges that be”. A web designer friend of mine told me she sees ad/ stock and magazine photographers coming to her saying “I need a wedding website but I need to have it under a different name”. While it can certainly be a business choice most do it to protect themselves from having a label placed on them and this costing them future work. Silly. Really. I mean because you lecture in photography does that make you less a photographer too?

In my opinion if your practicing photography in any form than you are a photographer and are learning and honing your skills. Balancing it in a way that you can promote a style which transcends throughout the markets you pursue is the secret. This certainly has been John Dolan’s strength and success.

Deliverence

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Walking along a path in the woods I came across a series of items which startled me. Awakened me. Their relation to the environment, the abstraction or intersection of context left me feeling slight uneasy. I often retreat into the woods for solice and release. But on this day I entered a space unsettled.  Simple items dislodged from my context. It made me recognise and consider how effective context can sway our appreciation or experience of an item or moment. How important context is to our belief, our idea of self and the surrounds of self.