glossy 8x10 number 1

You will be a victim of style

It’s just a matter to what degree. It’s common knowledge I like to give my unsolicited opinion on any given number of topics and usually aforementioned topic is a design choice that offends me. And usually it offends me because it’s a cliche, a poorly executed technique, ill-advised type selection or instantly recognizable photoshop filter. Well okay that’s the short list of things that offend me if I’m to be truthful. Crocs, turned up polo collars, shabby chic, Ed Hardy, and sugar substitutes also offend me. Now where was I? Right style and victimizing yourself by it’s hand.

Recently a close friend sent me to http://yourlogomakesmebarf.com/ I snickered for hours. I looked at no less than than 8 pages of the blog. I was equal parts horrified and bemused. Look a lot of people even people in my life often think my job is easy-peasey, “Oh you are a designer and web person. Well that sounds FUN!” In fairness yes sometimes it is, in fact it’s a lot more fun than filing TPS reports, can’t argue that. But it’s also torture sometimes, because the job really is half psychology. And the longer a business has been in action the more bad design relationships they’ve probably been in. So I hear things all the time like, just so you know “I really hate yellow”, “at this seminar one time I heard blue makes people feel relaxed”, “I really want to use a gradient or an effect on this *insert whatever design element*”, “the last designer I worked with never communicated with me”… I could go on. So I metaphorically and sometimes in real life hold their hand, look into their eyes and say, “you can relax now you are working with me I’m going to remove this stress from your life. Leave me in charge and I promise you’ll be happy but you gotta trust me.” Okay I don’t really hold clients hands, maybe once or twice, but those folks where real basket cases. Generally in fact the hand holders were damaged goods and I had to fire them. But that’s for another day. Again I digress.

If you want to evaluate if what you have done is cliche, passe and or outright cringe inducing remember the old adage. Know who your client is and why they matter. A bomerang swoosh is probably not the right answer, also probably not the answer, sparkles, flames, drop shadows, bevels and linear gradients. The trendiest web effect, I’m looking at you glossy reflections, probably suspect. Anything published in Photoshop magazine or other “tutorial site” as “cool type effects” be very wary. All in all be wary of style, it’s often a trap. Focus on solutions, focus on usability and make sure it functions as flawlessly as possible. As a communicator by trade my motto is indeed function should precede form. Things that work they way they should are almost always by default beautiful. You aren’t going to win every battle with your art director or clients. But if you come to the table with sound logic, you’ll have a much better chance than if you say “it just looks better this way, I can’t explain it”. Next time try “The user analytics tell me the average user only has a screen 800 pixels wide and a lot of them are still using I.E. *cringe* so we really must accommodate these users if we want return visits from these folks.” And yeah use the word “folks” that’s a pro-tip makes you sound accessible and everyone thinks us designers are snobby, elitist, D-bags with overly complicated starbuck orders. Which is silly most of us drink way better coffee than that.

In any case I leave you with another find from my vintage photo treasure trove. I spent a lot of hours with the 35 mm scanner this week to illustrate my point with the fine, fine lost art of the seventies pose the groovy style is a given. I figure most of these folks were aspiring actors in L.A. But I have no names or photographer contact. Just lonely anonymous 35mm strips. They all look like pretty sweet people, but I think we can agree victims of style most of them might be. Do not do this to your work design or otherwise compatriots, you do not want Farrah hair on your design. Well unless it’s a sweet parody on a seventies exploitation flick. Then get that airbrush out, Seriously get it out.

bouffant meet seventies kitsche

glossy 8x10 number 1

bouffant meet kitsche

glossy 8x10 number 2

This is natural and not a staged photo, no really

glossy 8x10 #3

Suspicious plant to the right meet fashun

8x10 glossy #4

glossy 8x10 #5

whoa background pattern!

copyright 2010 Luther Gerlach

The temperature is nice in the shadow of giants.

Mothra Oh noes!

Mothra Oh noes!

Although I started my life as a military brat it was a short dalliance. So, although I was born off the mainland of Japan on the island of Okinawa the only marked cultural value I gleaned from my birth right are gauzy memories of Mothra and Godzilla on television. I wasn’t even two before my parents returned with me stateside. From there on out it was a youth of small towns, first in Texas and then in Missouri. Which meant by default I grew up without museums, music performances, or theater. I didn’t realize this left a chip on my shoulder until in a college photography class I expressed my frustration with a professor who’d left the New York underground creative scene (he had done the most incredible photos of Tom Waits and William Dafoe, to name a few), to shoot color photos of fields in the plain states. Flat perfectly rendered large color photos of perfectly aligned horizons often of wheat fields or field grass. I had an inexplicable loathing for this professor. In retrospect I realize it was the truest expression of the old cliche the grass is greener. That said it did not change the passion I had acquired for photography in college. I spent full days in the darkroom, often into the night, actually pretty much until the lab tech kicked me out more often than not. I never made the connect though. Although when I applied myself my execution was quite good I could not fathom with my straight laced midwestern rearing that this was at all something I could make a career from. On top of that I was in a particularly self-righteous phase where I believed creative work must be accessible for all to be truly a success. And again I saw nothing in my own work that spoke to that principal. Most of it was rather formal and executed with as much detail as I could muster across the tonal range. It certainly didn’t seem to validate anything but a passion for the craft. So I occasionally acquire a camera, always vintage now. The first was the one and only I ever bought that was show room new. I took color classes at Otis and the spark was still there and every once in while I’d make a pretty great image. Alas my life was unfocused and I spent what effort I applied on the career that paid the bills. At the time that left spare little time to commit to actually shooting. But I loved shooting LA heck I still do I love seeing this city in C-prints, silver-gelatin prints, polaroids, ambrotypes, salt prints, heck watch ya got as they’d say back home.

Through a twist of fate here and there I became good friends with the great Luther Gerlach, who humbles me with his knowledge, skill, and work always. It’s also worth mentioning he’s an awesome storyteller don’t miss out on that if you have a chance. He now possesses the largest plate camera, as far as we know, in the world. Most of you are accustomed to seeing images on paper or you might have an old photograph of a distant relative on metal say a tintype. But there was a time when photographic images were shot on glass plates.

Eastman Kodak Dry Plate box

Eastman Kodak Dry Plate box

You could even buy pre-coated glass plates in a box. Photographers would carry a full service darkroom in a wagon up through places like Yosemite with pack mules and horses. Now Luther has traded the horses and pack mules for a large diesel truck but all of the chemistry must be mixed and applied by hand and the image must be developed on site directly after shooting, conjuring up a host of potential pitfalls. To that end every image is one of a kind and an extraordinary thing to experience in person.

A few weeks ago Luther dropped in unexpectedly on a Monday with Tracy Storer of mammothcamera.com. If you are asking yourself why these folks hang out with me, I’d like to give an answer but to be honest I’m humbled every time, and frankly you’ve got me. ;-D Tracy is a rare figure in the photographic world as well. First he shoots large format polaroid The stock was indeed discontinued a few years ago. Thankfully Tracy warehoused a large cache of the material and still works with it today. But that’s only the half of the genius, Tracy also builds large format cameras. Yep he even machines the metal parts in his workshop. As you may guess this totally blows my mind with its level of awesomeitude.

Also joining us on that joyous, unexpected Monday was my gifted neighbor Eric O’Connell and my roommate Mike Allen who is an endless source of inspirational drive and talent. Oh to be so sure of your path at such a young age. I don’t have envy I have respect for that. So as I think back on those 4 bottles of wine and hours of conversation I realize I have a lot to think about, not that I ever don’t. Maybe I’m just here to connect people or maybe I will one dust off a camera in the collection and treat it with the respect it deserves. I’ll probably do it quietly for a while until I feel my heart is in it.

To end this post I am including a piece from each of the artists from that monday below. And although I’m not quite yet worthy of the honor I’m throwing in one of my own. I’m just going to make it a bit smaller to make myself feel just.

copyright 2010 Luther Gerlach

Amelie And Alchemie Luther Gerlach

Copyright 2010 Tracey Storer

Copyright 2010 Tracey Storer

untitled copyright 2010 Eric O'Connell

untitled copyright 2010 Eric O'Connell

copyright 2010 Mike Allen

copyright 2010 Mike Allen

"We're Open" Copyright 2010 Eva Crawford

"We're Open" Copyright 2010 Eva Crawford

found film

Film, love, rock and roll and a sweet ride…

found film

Tour bus?

found film

Love of VW, rock and shaggy hair.

Of all the things I pine for, and my interests are diverse to the point of hopeless distraction, shooting on film is the one. It’s the one that haunts me. It causes me guilt when I am not shooting and that’s been more often than not in the last five years. Partly because it’s painfully expensive. To soothe my under utilized photography obsession I began to acquire vintage film and images. Compared to many collectors I have a limited number of pieces. One of my greatest acquisitions though was at the Melrose trading post. A tattered cardboard box filled with negatives, photos some of which dated back to the turn of the century, several different formats and styles. It was pell mell. And I love it, love it and love it some more it’s going to show up here often because it’s that great. There is magic in these stacks. This dynamic duo is one of my favorites. If not for the minty VW, the cache of early seventies rides in the background, and the shagadelic hair on her fella (well maybe he’s just her bass player but I kinda doubt it),  I’d be nearly convinced I knew them. They remind me so much of musician friends I have in LA here, right now, in good ole 2010. And you just know that VW went on tour even if it only made it to Berkeley and back. It’s also a safe bet it made for a helluva a story. I kinda love these two even though I don’t really know them. I mean really who wouldn’t, you can tell she has sass. I really hope the album was awesome even if they missed the big label deal. Oh yes back in the day kids such things were indeed possible.

Film, love, rock and roll and a sweet ride. These images are a dream on celluloid. But isn’t it always that way…

Found Film

Found Film