Week Notes 018 — W/E 6 August 2023

portrait of artist Alice Irwin in her studio. She sat on the floor and is looking to the left of frame. There are prints in a pile on the floor to her right, as well as paintings leaning against the wall. Her long haired dachshund is laying to her left, looking at the camera
  • A mostly deskbound week with a few pleasant exceptions.
  • I’d left my VAT to the last minute, but turned it around within a day and a half. Having to sort my tax stuff four times a year is a revelation. I used to go through a year’s worth of paper receipts and bank statements in January. The ensuing Hell Week would destroy any new year enthusiasm that I’d been nuturing. Now, almost everything is digital, all business expenses go through one of two cards, and I’ve only got three months of transactions to deal with so it’s a fraction of the hassle.
  • A couple of days of post work on two separate projects. Some last minute high res to grade and retouching on a handful of pictures. This year I started to use frequency separation, rather than working on normal layers when retouching, and it’s hugely improved the quality and subtlety of my results. It feels a little clunky at first, but it’s well worth learning if you’re unhappy with your skin work.
  • I shot a studio visit with Alice Irwin at the end of the week. Alice works in multiple mediums: from large scale sculptures, to prints and drawings. I photographed her a few years ago as part of a series documenting artists at work. She’s since moved spaces (within the same studio complex) and is now working with screen printing, rather than etching. She wanted some new pictures to show her current space and process, so we spent an afternoon printmaking, shooting, and catching up.
    • We probably spent too much time chatting — a lot of the pictures weren’t usable because Alice is mid word… This is something to watch out for, especially when photographing interesting people. You’re having a great time chatting and snapping, but you need to pause and make sure that you get the pictures that you came for. That said, there’s still a reason to work this way: while you get fewer keepers, the successful pictures have a feeling of relaxed intimacy that I really like. When people aren’t used to being photographed, the experience of being ‘examined’ can make them feel uncomfortable, especially if you aren’t talking or taking pictures. I prefer to shoot and talk liberally, so that the subject gets used to the sound and presence of the camera and it begins to disappear. You get a lot of crap pictures in the process, but you create a relaxed mood that’s hard to find if you’re precious about every frame.
  • I revisited Matt Black’s American Geography this week. Recently, I’d thought about selling it, as it didn’t grab me initially, but I wanted to give it another go. It hit much harder this time and is a body of work that I want to spend more time with. There is an unrelenting austerity, bordering on grimness, that is difficult to sit with, but the dignity with which the subjects are treated elevates it beyond poverty porn. Matt depicts the subjects as individuals, not ciphers for poverty, so it doesn’t feel exploitative. And my understanding is that he spent time with them to gain their trust and learn about their stories. There’s a lot of visual variety: stark street photos, environmental portraits and minimalistic, almost abstract landscapes. The dense typologies of cigarette packets, beggars' signs, and plastic forks didn’t work for me initially, but I like how the patterns they form en masse sit with the diary page grids of text. The only thing I still struggle with, beyond the subject matter and bleakness, is the crunchy black and white grade. Sometimes it tips over into a high-contrast B&W style reminiscent of bad street photography on Flickr.
  • I noticed two potential problems with my M6 TTL — the rangefinder not quite lining up at infinity and the meter not working. I assumed that a dead battery was causing the latter, but a fresh one didn’t bring it back to life. After some back and forth with a helpful Redditor, I tried cleaning the contacts with a pencil eraser. Success! …well at least for half a day. The meter has crapped out again, and now that I’ve loaded film into the camera to check that everything else is working, I can’t fiddle with it. I’m going to finish my current roll and then see what I can do.
  • Six month catch-up with some of the couples from our pre-natal course. Nice to see everyone, especially those that we haven’t been seeing socially in the intervening time. The large skylight in the pub’s dining area was creating a lovely slice of sunlight that cut along the edge of our table, so I started to take pictures. I was extra grateful for thought that the designers of the Ricoh GRIII put into its ergonomics as I was balancing a baby on one hip and shooting with my free hand. I think that these pictures of friends and family are some of the most important that we take. As photographers, we can use our skills to cut through the chaos and clutter to crystallise a moment shared. I sometimes feel that my job contributes nothing of value to the world, and in those existential periods, I find it helpful to focus on a less grand goal: adding a little more beauty to the world and to the lives of people that I love.
black and white photo of adults and babies seated around a long table in a pub. Most of the frame is dark and only the three women sat at the far side of the table are illuminated. In the foreground a silhouetted woman is holding her baby over her head and looking up at him
  • @aleha_84’s pixel art
  • notes art — surreal and beautiful sketches made daily in the Apple Notes app.
    • See this short video for a round up of the first year and the artist’s thinking behind the project: 365 – notes art
  • Learn Music Theory in 29 minutes by Underdog Electronic Music School — one of the best breakdowns of the basics that I have watched. Oscar is a brilliant teacher who breaks down a complicated subject into easy to understand parts. I’ve been messing around on the piano again after a very long break, so it was great refresher to ideas dimly remembered.
  • TN:106 Mura Masa - Tape Notes — I enjoyed hearing Alex Crossan breakdown the concepts and production behind his album, Demon Time. I liked that I key part of his process on this project was to do things because they made him laugh or he thought they were a little stupid. I’m drawn to people who can keep the creative process fun, rather than letting it become heavy or pretentious.
  • Yuval Noah Harari: Crisis and tragedy in Israel - Part 1 on Leading. Alaister Campbell and Rory Stewart interview Harari on the pressures on Israeli democracy and ensuing unrest. Harari is incise and passionate as always.
  • Commit Mono. Neutral programming typeface. — I have been using this wonderful minimalist typeface to write this post and everything else in Drafts this week. It’s designed for coding, but it’s a joy for writing and editing too. I love its simplicity and legibility. The website is a masterclass in design clarity too. It’s been released under the SIL Open Font License 1.1 license, so it can be used freely for both commercial and non-commercial purposes. Enjoy.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts for Navigating Finder — sometimes it’s about finessing the basics… I was looking for a shortcut to do something specific but instead stumbled on this great breakdown featuring a host of shortcuts that I didn’t know. I’ve committed a bunch of them to memory but there were three stand outs for me:
    • using shift + cmd + G to activate Finder’s ‘Go’ command bar — you can search for any folder and hit enter to go direct. (I also use Alfred with custom parameters that target specific file types, so that I can search only folders or Lightroom catalogues)
    • moving files without using the mouse (or the command line): select the files you want to move -> hit cmd+ C to Copy them -> navigate to the desired destination (perhaps using the above tip) -> opt + cmd + V to move them, rather than paste them to the new location. I’ve been using this all the time since I found about about it.
    • hit shift + cmd + ? to open the Help menu, start to type the sort order you want, select it and hit enter, and get your view arranged correctly in seconds. This shortcut works in most apps, and is a great way to quickly access an action that doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut.
  • Tony Hawk: Harnessing Passion, Drive & Persistence for Lifelong Success - Huberman Lab — self-recommending
  • Aphex Twin - Windowlicker mini-doc — great video essay running through Richard David James’s musical development on the way to Windowlicker. I’ve always listened to bits and pieces of Aphex’s output, but I’ve never made the time to dig into it as a body of work. I’m remedying that at the moment and have had Drukqs, Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and Selected Ambient Works Volume II on repeat.
  • Regrets List / Things I Did Good List — lastly after reading this post, I’ve made my own ‘regrets’ and ‘things I did good’ lists in Drafts, that I add to as things occur to me. It’s interesting how quickly patterns, both positive and negative, emerge when you are paying attention. I’m interested to see if I can convert noticing these patterns into lasting improvements and so will be continuing this experiment for at least another month.
four chihuahuas wearing jackets studded with metal spikes standing on a path in Primrose Hill