Waits/Corbijn ‘77-’11

OK…how many of my favourite things in this post? Tom Waits, Anton Corbijn, Jim Jarmusch, photographs, a book, music….

Tom Waits and Anton Corbijn have announced that they will be joining forces on a new photographic book (WAITS/CORBIJN ‘77-‘11). The book, however, is a collector’s edition limited to 6,600 copies and is scheduled for May 8th 2013.

This coffee table book features over 200 pages of Waits’ portraits taken by Corbijn over the past 40 years and also includes over 50 pages of the first published collection of photographs taken by Tom Waits himself. The linen bound book has introductions written by film director Jim Jarmusch, and music critic Robert Christgau.

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“Anton picks up a small black box, points it at you and all the leaves fall from the trees. The shadows now are long and scary, the house looks completely abandoned and I look like a handsome… undertaker. I love working with Anton, he’s someone with a real point of view. Believe me, I won’t go jumping off rocks wearing only a Dracula cape for just anyone,” – Tom Waits.

“It’s rare to take photographs of someone over a 30+ year period. Our work together developed totally organically and that’s a beauty in itself. We are very serious about our work but when it comes to working together, we’re like children resisting maturity. It’s liberating and a much needed legal drug.”Anton Corbijn


Waits/Corbijn ’77-‘11
Photographs by Anton Corbijn
Curiosities by Tom Waits
Texts by Jim Jarmusch and Robert Christgau
Limited edition of 6.600 w/slipcase
272 pages, 226 color and duotone plates
ISBN 978-3-8296-0555-7


I Resolve to Do Better

Here we go again with another trip around the sun completed! For all our ups and downs, we made it though 2012. Some cultures and nations, such as the Chinese, have yet to have their new year and were it not for the Julian Calendar, I would probably be in work tomorrow having just another, typical day.

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I have never been quite sure if, on New Year’s Eve, I should be celebrating reaching the end of a year or rejoicing in the possibilities of a new one. I guess they go hand in hand really.

2012 wasn’t a particular bad year for me. In fact it was pretty good by any standards! I took a holiday in the Middle East which was amazing and returned to part-time education to study photography. The pressure and work-life balance was and remains a struggle however so this won’t be the last year I’ll have a welcome Christmas break, all going well!


Image by me

I gave up making New Year’s Resolutions years ago, when I realised that anything I could hope to do, quit, enjoy [insert verb of choice] should probably be undertaken sooner rather than later.

Maybe just ‘do better’ is a good way to commence a year. With that in mind, here’s a list of things I will keep at the fore of my mind. They are not items that I have recently discovered, so much as those which I sometimes undervalue. I don’t think that a resolution list for photographers is a good thing anyway. A photographer should already be doing these kind of things.

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1. Learn how to use my gear

Surely I know how to use my equipment, from camera(s), lenses and software? Of course but to the best of my ability? Certainly my photography degree course is going to move this along at a very fast pace but so many people get bogged down in buying new gear, wanting new lenses etc. “Oh you still have that model? I have the Mark III!’

Do you? Good for you. It’s important not to get too hung up about the equipment you have. It took me a while to acknowledge that I should master what I have before getting bogged down in what I do not have or cannot afford etc.

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2. Practice Camera Skills

I’ve learned a lot in the first semester of college, even revisiting subjects which I knew already. When I look forward to moving from 35mm to digital, I always remind myself that while having a preview screen and delete button is a major advantage, taking the shot correctly in the first instance is even more advantageous.

Again, with the best equipment in the world, practiced skills outweigh them every time.

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3. Take More Photographs

I’ve actually taking less than ever since starting college. This is due to time constraints in the actual shooting but also in processing. Developing a 35mm roll of film and taking it to a contact sheet is much longer than uploading to my hard drive!

I’ve been laden down with bags every morning and evening with items for work and the darkroom so it will seem easier to only carrying a digital camera in the New Year. I might begin a 365 project somewhere online (images will be posted here I imagine, even if elsewhere). For this purpose, I won’t be too particular about what I use to shoot the photographs and even my iPhone will get some usage.

That said, I really mean taking more conscientious photographs. When I undertook my first wedding, I was probably firing off double the shots that I do or would now. ‘Spray and pray’ is exactly that and sometimes less is more. Take a photo, take it once and take it correctly.

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4. Correct Mistakes and Try New Things!

I made so many mistakes in the last few months between film processing and darkroom printing. That’s all after the mistakes I made while shooting with 35mm film!

I never properly analysed shots to date; well, not thoroughly. I would review and edit of course but it was a case of what I then needed to do in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop i.e should I dodge, burn, adjust level and curves. The one thing I didn’t do enough of, in hindsight, was to consider what happened while shooting that resulted in these necessities.

Without this analysis, it is easy to become lazy and think ‘I can correct my mistakes in Photoshop anyway’ as opposed to making sure the shot is correctly exposed, framed and focused as I click the shutter button.

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5. Learn a New Technique

People have always said to me, ‘you obviously love taking photos at live concerts’. This might be true but it’s largely down to my love of music and opportunity than the photographic genre. Bands and music artists generally love and appreciate their photos being taken, especially in a live setting where they may not have paid the photographer! It’s all useful marketing materials for them but it’s a great way of having your images distributed. I’ve had photographs that have ended up published in all kinds of places as a result but it doesn’t have to end there.

Perhaps if I was a working chef, people would notice my love of food photography. My answer has always been as above or that I haven’t had the same opportunities in other genres. This is one thing that excites me about my college degree course, that I will be exposed to many areas of photography.

I have done quite a bit of street photography but have recently been noticing how ‘in your face’ some photographers are in relation to their unknowing subjects. In many areas of the New Year, I would like to lose a little of that fear, though I would want to make it to the end of 2013 too!

Anyway, as the countdown begins, here’s to a happy, healthy New Year folks! See you on the other side!

Remembering that Old Chesnutt

Vic Chesnutt (November 12, 1964 – December 25, 2009)

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I remember hearing about the death of James Victor “Vic” Chesnutt on Christmas Day three years ago. There’s never a good time to hear this kind of news about anyone but I suppose that on Christmas Day, around loved ones, having a good time etc. it’s more poignant.

Vic was an American songwriter from Athens, Georgia (home to the likes of the B-52s,  Drive-By Truckers, and R.E.M) whose commercial success emerged six years after his debut album Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation, a tribute album of very fine mainstream artists who covered his songs. Many bands covered his music and he collaborated with many more, including Lambchop (as below) throughout his all to short career.

Injuries from a 1983 car accident left him partially paralyzed; he used a wheelchair and had limited use of his hands.

Chesnutt had a long history of struggling with depression, alcoholism and drug abuse so there were widespread, unconfirmed reports of his death being suicide. He passed away at 2.59pm on December 25, 2009, from overdosing on muscle relaxants that left him in a coma while in his hometown hospital.

“Other people write about the bling and the booty. I write about the pus and the gnats. To me, that’s beautiful.”

– Vic Chesnutt

The Day After…Some Fool’s Mess

Yesterday evening I submitted my Visual Diary and Visual Communication Project to my college lecturers. I really don’t know what they’ll think of both or whether I’ve made the grade (literally)! It’s hard to believe that the first semester is now over and with finishing my 9-5 job today, I can spend the holidays however I please!

Anyway, I’m in a celebratory mood since my evenings back to being my own until Semester Two begins in late January. There are two exams to get through between then and now and while I made plenty of mistakes in the Darkroom, I can’t afford to make too many in the exams!

I’ll have some studying to do in the New Year but until then, I’ll take it easy. There are a few photography books that I have for my course and never really got around to reading them properly so the Christmas holidays will be a good catch up time.

Some Fools Mess | Photo by me!

Here’s my own song of the day song by a band that meant a lot to me in 1991 (and still do, of course), Gallon Drunk. I think 2007 was the last time I met them when the played in Dublin.

I’m in this kind of mood and looking forward to a night out with my classmates tonight!

A Few Words from Corbijn

                                    Anton Corbijn

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I love Anton Corbijn’s photography, his video direction, his musical taste and pretty much everything else in between. I’ve posted these quotes as they provide food for thought and are as much advice as anything else.

“… yes, I’ve become a little more professional—which I don’t really want to be but I can’t help it at some point.”

“I don’t crop my images and I always shoot handheld. By doing that I build in a kind of imperfection and this helps to emphasize reality.”

“My biggest fear always is that I’ll photograph an idea rather than a person, so I try to be quite sensitive to how people are.”

“I’m a very, very basic photographer. The main strength of my pictures, I guess, is the mood and feel I get out of the people that I meet. But technically I don’t think I’m very advanced. That never interested me.”

“Photography has taken me from isolation.”

“I work using the Brian Eno school of thinking: limit your tools, focus on one thing and just make it work… You become very inventive with the restrictions you give yourself.”

Cindy of a Thousand Lives

I remember buying Don’t Try This at Home by Billy Bragg in 1991 around the time of my birthday and shortly after its September release. The Internationale, which did very little for me at the time, had been released the year before and so I was eagerly waiting for something new.

I was also excited to see that Johnny Marr co-produced it, Peter Buck and Michael Stipe featured on it and the since, sadly departed Kirsty MacColl provided additional vocals.

Cindy Sherman | Untitled Film Stills

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I felt that track 8, Cindy of a Thousand Lives was once of the weaker on the album and I can only assume that is why I never thought to examine the lyrics, or even ask who ‘Cindy’ might be. Now, immersed in my college photography course, it transpires that she is none other than Cindy Sherman. See, told you Billy was always driving me in the right direction!

When you read through the lyrics, it’s actually quite obvious, if you are familiar with Sherman’s images (which I wasn’t back in 1991 to be fair).

“Blue velvet America
Half glimpsed in the headlights between the trees
Who punctured the beauty
And invited monsters such as these
The pig faced boy, the corrupted clown
The grotesque figure who never comes into town
Something broken, something stained
Something waiting for the worms to claim
And you can never go there again
Except in nightmares
The voyeur who dares not come near
Knows excitement is merely the beginning of fear
My shadow came this morning
And left some candy in my shoe
They’re always watching me
Watching the things I do
Cindy of a thousand lives
Cindy of the Stepford Wives
I’ve looked at all the photographs
But Cindy, which one of them was you?”

The last two lines really struck a chord a couple of weeks ago when in class, we discussed the notion of self-portraiture. Sherman took a series of portraits of herself in character in the late 1970s but none of them are self-portraits according to Sherman. Others suggest that facets of her character are represented in her Untitled Film Stills series.

Sherman produced these images between 1977 and 1980 which each character seemingly playing classic movie roles. She was inspired by seeing images of semi-naked images of women for a sleazy magazine company whereby, if you were to look at just one of them, you could invent a narrative,

Cindy Sherman | Untitled Film Stills

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Sherman played the part of one actress at different stages of her career and deliberately developed the film in warm chemicals because she wanted it to look grainy and somewhat substandard. Bored with her apartment interior shots, she made lists of outdoor scenes to locate with her boyfriend often behind the camera, once she had set up a shot.

Cindy of a Thousand Lives will probably get a lot of playing now in the future since it all makes sense now! Like I said, not one of Bragg’s finer moments but personally, I like the ‘full-circle’ that it represents to me.

Here’s a video from Youtube to accompany the track, with images from Sherman’s Untitled FIlm Stills.

Reclaiming Saturday Nights

Tonight was my last Saturday night in the college darkroom and one of the last nights in general, for a while at least!

There’s been many highs and lows to put it mildly. The worst aspect of the experience was that it meant being in the college six nights a week and near full days most Saturdays and Sundays too. My legs are feeling it tonight and I won’t miss the vinegary on my clothes when I return home each evening!

In black and white terms (no pun intended), I did enjoy it, although the endless test strips and work prints won’t be missed.

I’ve had light leaks on paper; have had no paper under the enlarger when I was ‘printing’ on occasion; I’ve used the timer on the ten second setting instead of one second; printed on the wrong side of the paper; you name it, I’ve done it!

Image by me, With a Squinty Eye

Image by me, With a Squinty Eye

That said, I’ve undertaken everything successfully too, so it’s all part of the learning curve I know.

If I learned anything, and I surely have, it would be to take a correctly exposed, framed and balanced photograph and that’s half the battle. It’s all the battle really, apart from processing the film which is another potential minefield.

I’ve used exhausted chemicals (but realised at the time and was able to compensate}; I’ve put film in a chemical jug instead of a paterson tank; split film on the reels with endless other mishaps.

After that, it’s print and re-print on a loop; but I’ve made it through. Almost!

With the pressure of college deadlines and while also holding down a full time job, it’s been tough. I have no doubt I will be back in the dark again and would have no problem with that, especially if working on personal projects and at my own pace.

For the Christmas period, I am going to turn every light on in my home and remove all the red bulbs from the Christmas tree! I’ve seen the light and I like it!

Here’s an ode to my time in the darkroom!