PROGRESS REPORTS

DECADE PROJECT:

This week: processing 61 rolls of 120mm film from 2020. More contact sheets for Chris Verene. Also, I’m about one third of the way through processing of the film from 2019. Those images are digitized, rotated and re-sized and dumped to a drive to be sent to Mario.

All Decade Project film has been processed except for the remainder of films shot in 2019 and 2020. Long term, I’ve still got to make contact from all the color film shot in 2013 (black & white was already proofed), then I have to either proof or scan all the film shot in 2016. Everything else has been delivered. Slowly plowing through it all.

OCTOPUS:

Transcription continues. I’m working from the beginning at the moment, so I’ve completed transcribing the first 48 entries, spanning the period from August 5 to October 28, 1992. Amusing at times, embarrassing throughout.

The transcriptions of 2007 through 2011 are complete, leaving me the task of transcribing 1993 through 1998. Once that’s done, it’s a matter of combing through the odds and ends scattered here and there. Then it’s done.

Walt Mink:

The project that demands the most attention has gotten the least. But while plowing diligently through the useless transcription exercise above, I was reminded of the walt mink movie blog and lamented my decision some years ago to delete the majority of the posts I’d published (primarily) from 2003 through 2005. It’s not that I wanted those posts to be online still, but I wished I could export all that content and copy into to the Octopus Google documents. From 2003 through 2007, I almost completely stopped writing this bullshit on my laptop because I was actually working on a film. Those blog posts, were they still available, would help fill out the dead zone in the written record.

Short story: I found them. I have all those posts still. A pleasant surprise. I still need to figure out how in the living F to crack this documentary project and get over myself.

WALT MINK VIDEOS

[Click these and watch them.]

Here are a few rough, unfinished Walt Mink videos I posted years ago. John and Candice are terrific, but each of these videos has issues that make me crazy – mostly sound issues. And effects. And the super 8 footage.

I swear I’m going to get it together and figure out the documentary. And that longer Walt Mink post (or series of posts) is coming.

DECADE PROJECT

Bringing the new website up to date with updates on various projects. Here’s the latest on the Decade Project, the photography thing I began on January 1, 2012. Wait, what the Hell is it? Good question. Short version: I shoot 10 years’ worth of film pictures and I don’t look at any negatives or proofs. At the end of each year (or really – whenever I can actually make it happen), the photos are delivered to that year’s photo editor. The editor has complete discretion over how many images are selected, based upon whatever criteria the editor establishes. At the end of the ten years, a book is published comprised of the selected images. I see the images for the first time in book form, along with everyone else. More detail on the project at this page: internet weblink to other place.

On February 1, 2020 I updated my film count, which is my best estimate based on my records. There will invariably be some margin of error in the count due to anomalies like getting 38 or 39 images out of a roll of 36, or blowing half a roll, pulling a roll entirely, or forgetting something along the way. But averaging it out based on rolls shot and fairly rigorous tracking, my estimate earlier this year stood at 71,281photographs. That’s over 70k images I have not seen that have been – or will be – forked over to other people to evaluate. To judge.

I should point out here – strenuously – that I’m not a professional photographer. These are neither mind-blowing, high production studio images nor are they epic, jaw dropping “street” photographs. They’re snapshots. Landscapes. Natural light pictures. Vacation photos. Lots and lots and lots of Tri-X. They’re personal pictures, boring pictures, bad pictures – many of them, anyway. Most of them, probably. But I have good rudiments, I shoot a lot, and I get lucky. Surely lucky enough every year to cobble together a halfway decent book.

Ostensibly, it’s just my photo diary. I do not rate myself as an excellent photographer – far from it – but I do throw my weight behind the concept. I think it’s a great idea, certainly unlike anything I’d heard of someone trying. I get sick to my stomach thinking about opening my own photo book for the first time not knowing what will be inside. I’ve gauged the reactions of people who’ve heard about this idea, and I know it’s “a thing”.

I don’t know. The idea’s got some balls. It’s 2020. Anyone over 13 who can afford an iPhone and create an Instagram account can be a photographer, and get paid doing it. Everyone is a photographer. Photographs are everywhere. Everything is a photograph. Everything is a camera. Photos drive feeds more than they stop people in their tracks. In part, the decade was a reaction to the ubiquitous photographer, the democratization of the medium, and the upending of an industry. If everyone is a photographer, I won’t be. If everyone is incessantly uploading images and curating their lives and hunting for likes, I’ll… not do that. Or try not to. Social media is so god damned enticing.

Everything has a screen. Images are instantaneous. We don’t live the moment and make a photograph to relive it later, we pretend to live the moment to create the photograph. Then the photo feeds the feed, gets its likes, and vanishes. Turning life into Likes. It’s a mundane detail, but I also just hate the screen on the back of a digital camera. The mystery of an image, the joy (or despair) of finding out – later – what you got, or what you missed… for me that was the entire point. Ripping open an envelope of photographs from a couple of weeks back and howling with laughter at the stupid glossy surprises inside.

Film pictures, man! I’m old. I like them! Physical photos rolled up inside a machine. Tightly coiled in a dark can to be discovered later. Restraint. Consideration. Rationing. Calculation. I love all this shit. I just don’t feel it when you point your tiny computer at something and see it on a screen instead of with your eyes.

So – whatever. It’s the age of social media and of automated digital image making. Every instant we live is an instant photo. It’s everywhere, and it’s endless. The decade project was a response to the photographic moment in which we were living in 2012. I would forego instant gratification. I would continue to shoot film for the stupid love of it (as emulsion after emulsion was discontinued), and I would not curate myself. I would surrender all control to others and let them tell me what my photos were and, by extension, who I was and how I lived during those ten years.

The thrill of the project, for me, will be the reveal. Sharing the book with people and opening it for the first time together is the the same as opening the envelope you get back from the 24 hour lab. Our photos are ready! What’s inside?! That’s the abiding joy that keeps me shooting three quarters of the way through year 8.

The scariest part, of course, is the surrender of the images. By every measure I am permitting myself to be evaluated. Technical mistakes, bad subjects, bad decisions, embarrassing moments preserved on film. All of it’s there for an editor to pore over and think, “Jesus, what the Hell is all this crap?”

It’s a wiggly proposition to hand it all over without first pre-vetting the images. Particularly in project years edited by real photographers, I cringe. From my perspective, it’s a leap of faith to deliver the images and hope for the best, but what keeps me up at night is the thought or Michael or Daniel (who don’t know me personally) seeing the images, gauging their caliber, and immediately feeling they’d been duped into making a putz look like a photographer, forced to curate a mountain of garbage in search of a dozen lucky moments.

Anyway, this project is now enormous in scope, and it’s equal parts thrilling and terrifying.

I AM ALIVE

Various updates:

WEBSITE: My previous wesbite was hosted by Virb, which was acquired by GoDaddy who shut it down unceremoniously. Mixed reports as to whether customers were notified in advance, but I never received any email, so one day my website was simply 404. I had no backup, so: here’s a new website! With nothing on it!

DECADE PROJECT: Still photographing. The project is now nearing the end of its 8th year. Most recently, I’ve been processing and scanning film from 2019 – approximately 350 rolls of 35mm and 120mm. These images are being scanned at low resolution (max length is 512 pixels) and dumped onto a small hard drive. Once everything is on the drive, I’ll be sending it to 2019 editor Mario Klingemann who’s writing a machine learning algorithm named The Noveltist to edit the year’s images. It was a dream from the project inception to have an AI editor, and I’m happy it’s actually happening. The Decade Project will get its own post soon.

WALT MINK: To anyone wondering about the Walt Mink documentary who may have found their way to this page: the film is not dead. It deserves its own post (or series of posts) here, and I will do that soon. I recently tried to break through the inertia by doing a series of live videos on Instagram during quarantine. It was a start, at least. The first of the videos are on my profile page in a Highlight. The rest remain to be uploaded. (P.S. my Instagram is a joke, and I routinely debate deleting the account. For now, it lives on, ignored.)

JOURNAL: I began writing a journal on August 5, 1992 with the idea I’d do something with it one day. Now, almost 30 years later, it’s occurred to me that One Day has arrived. The entries from 1992 through 1998 were handwritten in multiple notebooks, so I’ve begun transcribing them into Google Docs, organized by year.

The entries for 1999 through 2007 were written on my various laptops and include other digital ”writing“ from that era (IM logs, email, blog posts I copied and pasted into the chronology, and so on). I should note that from early 2003 through late 2005 my writing all but stopped as I focused my energy on the Walt Mink project.

Beginning in 2008, I started keeping notebooks again, but this time they were small daily planners, and the entries evolved (devolved?) from rambling, discursive screeds to concise, bulleted laundry lists recounting daily events. Arbitrarily, I began the transcription with the notebooks from those years, so 2008 through 2011 are already complete.

At this stage, I have no goal other than to complete the transcription and aggregate the material constituting the journal into one place so I can finally view it in its entirety. How many entries? How many words? I don’t have any sense of its scope. I want the numbers. I want the data.

Since I generated so much visual material, too, I’ve entertained the idea of a photo book based on the journals. If there are enough images to justify the effort and the writing can be selectively edited and rewritten, maybe it’s worth doing. For the moment, completing the transcription is the goal; reading and rewriting all that ancient history has also been a therapeutic (and occasionally entertaining) exercise during Covid lockdown.

MISCELLANEOUS DEBRIS: Then there’s everything else. Heaps of letters written in high school and college, as well as other correspondence. So many thousands of negatives. Videotapes. Audio tapes. Films. What to do with all of that material that occupies physical space in my life and crowds my head.

I’ve set a deadline for myself before which I must complete this audit of the mountains of material I have generated over the years. If the effort yields one or two photo books and a documentary, it will have been worth it.