Making Books | NSEW and Fading from Memory | Cameron Kline

One of the greatest privileges the Collective has afforded me are the opportunities when someone says, “hey, will you look at these photos.” Photography is such a highly personal endeavor, and to be entrusted with viewing and reporting back on these photos is a special task. It’s like having someone ask you to read their diary and then give your opinion; it’s intimidating to say the least. 

In the past few years we’ve made three books, all of which I am exceptionally proud of, and all of which have come with some hurdles. Time, distance, and opinion all play a factor when we’re creating one of these books, but probably the greatest issue we’ve faced in the past is fear. A lot of the artists we’ve worked with both inside and outside of the Collective have all voiced a common fear that their work isn’t good enough for publication. 

For a long time I harbored that same fear about my work, and quite honestly I still do at times. I’d submit to show after show, and each time I’d worry that someone was going to see my submission and judge me for it, all while knowing full well that was the purpose of the submission. I’d cringe when I hit the submit button as I uploaded files to shows from Portland, OR to Jacksonville, FL. More often than not I wouldn’t be selected and the self doubt would deepen. 

A Fear of Sharks

Recently, Ellen Goodman posted an infographic in the Collective. It showed a Venn diagram with two circles. One circle read “narcissism” while the other read “crippling self-doubt.” Where the two circles overlapped was the word “art.” 

It’s a amazing how a graphic so simple can serve such a huge truth. Creative endeavors, I feel, are more often than not hindered by the crippling self-doubt it seems we all feel. I can tell you that one of the greatest values for me in starting the Collective and working with these artists has been to see that we all face the same struggles and that at the top of the list is this trait we share globally. 

Knowing that artist’s whom I respect so greatly feel the same fear that I do has not only been a relief, it’s been empowering. One of the reasons that I am able to make the work I do today, and to do so proudly, is because I know it’s authentic. I am making the work that I want to make, and while I am still fearful that people will hate it, I know that fear is something I share with others. 

 Odds of being bitten by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million, odds of being in a plane crash: 1 in 11 million, odds of dying: well, you know. 

Odds of being bitten by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million, odds of being in a plane crash: 1 in 11 million, odds of dying: well, you know. 

I’d like to say sharks here, but my wife likes to scuba dive and therefore isn’t afraid of sharks, so my mind goes to airplanes, but I know that not everyone is scared of flying too, so I am bust. Death, I think, is something that we’re all universally fearful of, or at least avoiding, and since we all share that weight there’s a humanity in that fear. Knowing you share something so powerful with so many people takes some of the weight off.


Fading from Memory

This week I want to dedicate a post to the photographer’s who have overcome the fear and joined us in our annual book projects. All of them took a chance and submitted, and the majority were chosen for the books and had their work published. Between all of our projects we've seen literally hundreds of submissions, and these are a handful that stuck out.   


In His Image

The first work I chose to share this week is that of Travis Lovell. I can remember when I first opened his submission for our book Fading from Memory. The first words out of my mouth were a combination of “Yes” and “whoa.” You’re saying to yourself, “Cameron, that word is ‘yo’,” but I promise you it wasn’t. 

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I don’t want to say that my breath was taken away when I saw Travis’ submissions, because honestly, they're all breathtaking, but I will say that I was really excited. What worked for me about this image is that it’s such a common image, but it was presented in a way that was really unique. He’s suggesting what this image is without necessarily showing it to you all at once. His work, and this photograph in particular, were really unique among the submissions we received. All of his photographs had a vision which was clearly executed and he delivered a solid statement that read as follows:

We are created in the image of God, or so I was told.

Being raised in a small, isolated community where race, culture and ethnicity had a very homogenized definition made this idea palatable, even plausible.

Then the doors to the world opened. I discovered people whose image differed greatly from the image I had always known. This image now seen differed in all of the aforementioned categories of race, culture, and ethnicity. Not only was this difference noticed in the people I met, but also in the God whose image we were supposed to have been created from.

Why did people feel it necessary to create a likeness of their God? What did people fear if God did not look like them? What would people do if they found out that God did not think like them? When people seek God are they really just looking for themselves and for what they want to hear? If this was true then how would we recognize God if we ever to see him...or her.

We look for our reflection instead of using the idea of God as a means to reflect. The image of God began to resemble the people themselves. The world was creating God or the lack thereof in their image, not the other way around. God must be who and what we needed to hear.

I needed to reject this train of thought. If there is a God, I needed to picture a God of all people and of all creeds. There was a need to ponder the image of God abstractly and without predetermined detail or expectations. If I take my reflection and the details about who I am out of the equation, what is God to me?
— Travis Lovell

Memoria

For the same book project Urizen Freaza submitted images from his project, Memoria. Again, these were an example of a well thought out project that tied in nicely with the call for entries. We all bring our own interpretations to photographs based on our life experiences and so this pair of photos really was impactful for me. 

The medium of instant photography I think is really well served with this project for a couple of reasons. First, I think that for a number of us our first memories of photographs were Polaroids taken by our grandparents. Second, I like the idea of a medium for these that doesn’t have the archival stability that some other choices might have had; the idea that these would potentially fade over time, however cliche that may be, resonated with me in a lot of projects and particularly this one. The artist’s statement for this project read:

‘Memoria’ was born as an attempt to photographically materialize memory. Working on my own family pictures, the series is a re-exposure, re-framing, and re-lightening of those old pictures, a reinterpretation meant to turn them into actual memories.

At a non-photographic level, the series was thought to be shown with a fragrance (such as coffee, suntan oil, pop corn, baby powder, etc.) selected for each picture and placed next to it. The concept was to take advantage of the Proust effect, the high influence of smells as activators of memories. Hence increasing the reaching of the viewer and his/her reaction towards the picture. Specifically, my first approach was using the ‘scratch-and-sniff’ printing technique, based on microfragance coating ink.
— Urizen Freaza

Rust Belt Diary

Fading from Memory had a lot of really standout submissions, so many that I could easily feature them all here, but the last one that I want to feature is that of Lisa Toboz. Lisa submitted a set of fantastic self-portraits, and one of the things that I found really impressive about the work is how cinematic they feel. She is both the actress, and the director in these and she pulls it off so well. Self-portraiture is a genre that is really, really, difficult to do well, I think, and when I saw these I knew right away that it would be included in the book. Lisa’s artist’s statement read as follows:

The self-portraits in this series were taken in the rust belts of western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and rural New York; regions lost in time, yet filled with history and secrets. When words fail me, I turn to my camera, telling stories through images. While both writing and self-portraiture are solitary activities, taking photos of myself gives me the chance to climb out of my head and interact with the physical world.

My work is a visual diary of travel, memory, and personal history, as well as a way for me to explore how the human form becomes a part of an imagined or real landscape.
— Lisa Toboz

NSEW

Before I close I want to take a minute to mention a few submissions that I really enjoyed from our last edition of NSEW. The NSEW series gets such a wide range of photos and it's really fun to look through all of the submissions as they come in. The work ranges from serious documentary work, such as that of Khalik Allah, to more experimental work like the first submission I want to mention, Textures Project by Ferdie Araga.  


Textures Project

Out of all of the submissions we received for this past year Ferdie's project was truly one of a kind. It was no better than any of the others necessarily, but certainly a well thought out project that was unique in it's scope and that resulted in lovely photos. His statement read:

I started my Textures Project to learn more about double exposure portraits. My goal was to experiment with mixing portraits with different textures and to discover which of these works well. I’m holding onto a tiny bit of hope that I will (or have) create an image interesting enough to show the whole world.
— Ferdie Araga

The Final Three

These last three I want to mention because they’re three of my favorites from the book and they wound up on the same spread. First of the three is Palma Llopis’ submission. She says in her statement:

I’m from Valencia, and I grew up here. I always carry a camera with me so that I can photograph my days—the same way another person might write in a diary. I learned the development process and always shoot in analog—in different formats and with several cameras. My photographs tell stories about my world, about the people who are on my side, and my travels.
— Palma Llopis

And the thing I love about this is how the camera serves as a diary which is really what the NSEW series of books is about: showing us your corner of the world, the things your passionate about, the people in your lives, etc. . .

Laura Yurs’ submission shares the page with Palma’s and also is featured on the cover of the second volume of NSEW. I love street photography, and this is a photo that I wish I had taken. The point of view is interesting, the lines pull it all together, and I think about the loneliness in these two interactions; him in the street and this car waiting at the intersection. Her statement for the submission read as follows:

I fell in love with street photography one afternoon while sitting at a stoplight at the corner of Illinois Street and Ohio Street. That day, there was a lone gentleman holding a suitcase waiting at a bus stop while snow flurried all around him. Months later, I walked onto the Brown Line in Chicago and found the loveliest woman sitting alone in the afternoon light.

On the street, I wander and witness. I lose myself. I find myself. I return again and again, always searching. I’m drawn to street photography for the connection I feel when I’m shooting. I look for moments of humanity. I almost always notice the person first. I glimpse their facial expression or body language and it resonates with me, deeply. I wonder where they’re going and where they’ve been.
— Laura Yurs

She fell in love with street photography on a corner, at a stoplight. I’m looking at this photo of hers, and I know nothing of Chicago, having only driven through it once, at night, but, I feel like we’re back at that corner sharing a little of that love. 

Last, but not least, was Tristan Aitchison’s submission. I can tell Tristan’s photos from a mile a way, and I like that. His submissions gave us a glimpse into a part of the world that not a lot of people get to see. It’s beautiful, beautiful work, and I love it. This submission of his was filled with tones and structure and made a beautiful addition to the book. His statement for the submission read as follows:

I filled my hand luggage with two heavy, all-metal, mechanical cameras (with a combined age of 80 years) and as much black and white film as I could carry. I then hauled my cameras from Scotland to India. I spent six weeks in India— traveling from the southern end of the country to the north—taking pictures all the while to document the journey and remember all of the people I met.
— Tristan Aitchison

If you haven't yet joined us check out our call for entries for this year's edition of NSEW. Details can be found on our call for entries page. The deadline is March 11th, so hurry!

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