The Candid Frame #164 - Bruce Dorn

Bruce Dorn  has enjoyed a rich and varied career as a Director, Cameraman, and Photographer, his formal training is in Design. Bruce spent four years as an Associate Professor of Design at Indiana University where he taught advanced courses in both Photography and Design.
As a Mechanical Designer, Bruce has earned acclaim as a builder of custom motorcycles and racing cars. His efforts have been featured in mainstream enthusiast magazines such as Hot Bike and Hot Rod. Insiders credit Bruce with the inspiration of the hugely popular Harley Davidson Fat Boy that appeared shortly after one of his clients, Willie G. Davidson, spent hours pouring over the details of one of Bruce’s pet projects.
Bruce who is also a Canon Explorer of Light has also designed accessories for using HDSLRs for video. Under the IDC Photo Video brand, the products are the result of his relentless pursuit of minimalist functionality. To discover more about Bruce and his work visit his website
To view Bruce's Arizona Cowgirl video references in the interview click here
Bruce Dorn recommends the work of John Fauer.

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The Danger of Knowing Too Much

Once you learn to deconstruct music
you'll never listen to it the same way again.
Photography, more than any other art form I know, is the perfect blend of technical knowledge meeting artistic expression to create visual magic. At least that's what I tell myself. The truth is less than perfect. The perfect balance is so hard to achieve with most photographers skewing too hard to one side or other of the balance point.

Here on the Candid Frame we often bemoan the fact that so much content out there is purely technical and about cameras and technique and not about photography. Photography disproportionately attracts a certain demographic; middle-aged, middle-class guys - my peeps. We have a tendency to pull the conversation towards the technical. In our defense, it has a lot to do with the way we were brought up and educated: we were pushed more towards the sciences, engineering and mathematics. We were encouraged to pull things apart and build things, to look at how things work, to be deconstructionists. Who can blame us when we apply the same philosophy to everything in the world: to people, relationships, to our art.

I noticed this early on in my own artistic endeavors. As a teenager and early twenty-something my passion in addition to partying and photography, was music. I loved listening to music and seeing bands play live so, naturally, I wanted to play in bands myself. To be in a band back then you had to be a deconstructionist. When you joined a band you'd be given a cassette tape of the band's material and you'd go away and spend a few weeks learning your part. This meant sitting with your instrument and a tape deck in your bedroom and tuning in to your part in each song, learning it by heart and playing along. It changes the way you listen to music forever. As a consumer of music you listen to music as a whole thing - you let the music wash over you and transport you. This is listening to music the way the musicians intended. As a wannabe musician you learn to pull the music apart in your head; to listen to the bass, the drums, vocal, keys and guitars all separately. You learn to tear it apart into measures of verse, chorus, intro, outro, bridge and solo and even more granular elements. You learn to find the key changes and the appropriate scales to use to build your solo from. You sit for hours listening to recordings of your heroes learning something note for note. When you have had enough of emulating others you try to build your own songs but you can never hear them like your audience can. You listen to your part and your band-mate's parts and any mistake or imperfection that you hear pulls your ear away from the whole.

When I got into video and filmmaking it was the same process. You take this thing that you love and you learn how to pull it apart into its components so that you can build it yourself. You learn too much to really enjoy your own work or the work of others anymore. There's a musicians joke that sums this up: How many guitarists does it take to screw in a light-bulb? Four. One to change the bulb and three to stand around mumbling to each other, 'I can do that better.'

There is still mystery and magic to be found in holy places.
The danger in attempting any art-form is that you will lose the magic in the experience that attracted you to that thing in the first place. It can be a high price to pay. In order to participate, you can't experience the art the same way as you audience ever again. Getting back to photography, I feel like the move to digital accelerated my understanding of the mechanics of photography so much faster than I had been able to achieve in the analog medium. Back in my film days I could get a decent exposure but I didn't understand the mechanics of exposure intimately until I moved to digital. Digital's instant feedback and the ability to experiment without additional cost made me technically a better photographer and I could now control exposure rather than just getting by but did this technical knowledge stop me from experiencing the magic of photography in the same way? Of course it is too easy to slip into nostalgia for the film days. The experience of being in a chemical darkroom and seeing an image slowly materialize before your eyes was so other-worldy and magical it captured our imaginations for a lifetime. The distance you got between exposing a frame and seeing a print was like a tiny jump back in time. In the digital darkroom everything is instantaneous and infinitely, minutely adjustable. You don't need to set hours aside to go there and the slow emergence of a print line by line inspires only impatience and frustration and not awe.

And yet I'd never go back; we can't go back. I love digital because it has made me a better photographer. I look back at my wet prints and all I see is dust and scratches and bad exposures and poor materials and mistakes. That is the price we pay for knowledge. So how can you experience the magic again? In music I can get it from forms I never learned to deconstruct: jazz, electronica and hip-hop. In film I find it in foreign movies that don't have to follow the Hollywood formula or short films or movies made for no money that don't have backers they have to answer to. In photography I find it by removing myself from the digital experience: by really spending time looking at monographs and by visiting my holy places, museums and galleries, where pictures transport you beyond the technical into the imagination and experience of the photographer.

There is no way to unknow what you know, or to turn it off. That boat has sailed. But in acknowledging your knowledge you can still find ways to experience the magic of photography. It is that magic I try to draw upon for inspiration not a newly learned technique or newly acquired piece of gear. It is so much easier for many of us to fall back on technique but, in my opinion, it is worth the effort to work harder to try to rekindle the magic that inspired you in the first place.

I'd love to hear any opinions you might have on this subject in the comments below.   

10 Photographers You Shouldn't Ignore

After Wired picked it up last year, if you're vaguely into art photography, you can't help but have read Bryan Formhals' OpEd piece '10 Oeuvres Aspiring Photographers Should Ignore'.  Wired illustrated it and renamed '10 Photographers You Should Ignore' to make it much more clickable. It is a Smart Alec piece full of truth but its insider, sardonic point of view makes it hard to stomach.

If you're only casually into photography the only names on the list you'll really know are HCB, St Ansel and Arbus. I do sympathize with what the author is trying to say. If I ask a photog about their favorite artists and they don't mention anyone outside of the holy Tri-X trifectorate or the Flickr all-stars I assume the rest of the conversation will be about gear and technique rather than photography itself. That may be just me being an art photography snob but I believe that all photographers from the enthusiast to the highest paid professional must know some basic art photography history.

The truism that if you don't know your history you're doomed to repeat it applies to photographers just as much as it is true for anyone else. In the modern world we are surrounded by photographs: billboards, advertising, the interwebs is full of photography. Some of it is good, some is bad, but, if you're a visual person, you can't help but be influenced by it. It will also leak out in your photography. The trouble with that influence is that it is second or third-hand so it is weak and diluted. You have to go back to the original source. That's the only way to know what you're really trying to emulate or the cliche's you should try to avoid. If you're a young musician and you love Green Day, and you want to start your own punk band you will just be a hollow imitation of punk if you don't go back to Green Day's own influences. You'd have to go back to The Sex Pistols and The Clash and understand why punk came about to be relevant today.

At the risk of putting words into Mr Formals' mouth it seems to me he was saying you have to know these influential photographers so that you can avoid their influence in your own work: "don’t ignore [their] work. Absorb it, absorb it all, marvel in [their] genius and grace." In most cases the authors didn't seem to be deriding the source but those that mindlessly emulate them. Whatever the intention, after I'd read the piece and stopped sniggering it did feel a little elitist and negative. In in effort to address this with a more positive list here are 10 photographers (in no particular order) who I think you ignore at your peril:

Martin Parr

It is hard to overstate Martin Parr's influence on the modern art photography scene. He literally wrote the book (actually 2) on art photography books. His best known work is luridly saturated and has been accused of looking down on his blue-color or tasteless, nouveau riche subjects but he has, over recent decades, fearlessly described a change in society towards a bland, commercial globalization of our world. His work is full of truth and an uncomfortable humor.

If you don't know where to start, start at The Last Resort and work forwards.

William Eggleston 

William Eggleston was the punk in photography. He was the first color photographer exhibitted at MoMA and it's hard to appreciate the controversy it created in its day (Ansel Adams hated it so much he wrote to the museum's board) but this work not only legitimized color work but it heralded a new snapshot aesthetic that is still hugely influential today. I know Eggleston was in the list of photographers to ignore but you do so at your peril.

If you don't know where to start, start with Eggleston's Guide and see how many album covers you spot in it's pages.

Helen Levitt

According to the negative list HCB 'narrowed the path of street photography'. If this is true Levitt walked that path and humanized it. Of course all street photography is a product of the time and place it was created and the appeal of Levitt's work is partly being transported back to another time. Contemporary street photography always seems to be fighting between the aesthetic laid out by HCB and modern subjects. Event though Levitt's work is decades old she shows that street work should be contemporary to the time you live in and doesn't need to prematurely nostalgic.

If you don't know where to start, Crosstown is just about the most perfect monograph I have come across. As it's out of print hunt it down in secondhand books stores and treasure it when you find it.

Robert Frank

Another photographer from the ignore list but if Jack Kerouac writes the forward to your book you know it is something special.  Frank was as much an influential part of the beat generation as Kerouac. His work is the equivalent of The Road and he was one of the first photographers that tried to describe who and what America was.

If you don't know where to start, start with The Americans: it can be a little underwhelming to modern eyes but let is sit a while - it is not such an influential book without a reason.

Andreas Gursky

We know the headlines: Gursky's Rhein II sold for more than 4 million dollars to become the most expensive photography ever sold. So what do deap pocketed collectors know that you don't? In a world dominated by an instant snapshot aesthetic Gursky shows that there is room for something more slow and considered. His large format process and huge prints show the power and impact that photography can have but they also show big prints have to be big for a reason not just to cover square inches. His work can seem dispassionate and deadpan but it is unrepentantly modern and relevant.

If you don't know where to start Gursky's work should be seen in the flesh not reduced down for publication. Many modern art museums display his work (MoMA, SF MoMA, Centre Pompidou, Tate Modern, etc.)

Richard Avedon

If you attempt fashion or portrait photography it is impossible to avoid the influence of Richard Avedon. Any black and white picture shot against a plain white background is going to draw comparisons. There is so much of his own personality in his portraiture that he sometimes is criticized for it but he understood the relationship between art and (that dirty word) money better than any other photographer of his day and his influence is still felt today. His pictures look so contemporary because many photographers have followed in his deceptively simple style and his influence and popularity show no sign of waning.

If you don't know where to start, start with his Magnum Opus, In The American West. It is, however, a poor substitute for seeing this show for real. If it ever tours again you must make time to see it. It shows an understanding of the use of drama and stagecraft in a gallery setting.

Jeff Wall

When thinking of a photo-conceptualist to include here I was torn between Jeff Wall and  the slightly more mainstream Gregory Crewdson. To me they represent the same idea of describing a fully formed narrative in a single image and an antidote to the misconception that modern photography is just about snapping pictures of what you encounter. Every inch of the frame is carefully considered and nothing you see there is an accident. Jeff Wall's images are carefully constructed and the results are often displayed back-lit which heightens the cinematic experience.

If you don't know where to start, Jeff Wall is another photographer who should be seen in person but he is a thinking person's photographer so his Selected Essays and Interviews are a rich source document.

Sebastiao Salgado

The sheer scope of Salgado's work is massive. His two largest projects are to be found in Migrations and Workers which contain hundreds of images describing the big picture issue in each. Salgado is concerned with world wide issues which can't easily be described in a single image. These two works can both be overwhelming which is appropriate in that the issues he depicts are overwhelmingly huge too. Yet Salgado, even at this point in his career, believes that his work can change the world. In a cynical world his images can sometimes be hard to stomach and yet his message is hopeful. 

If you don't know where to start, you have to get hold of both  Migrations and Workers and keep going back to them.

Bernd and Hilla Becher

The Bechers invented the form sometimes called typology. Their deceptively straightforward aesthetic and uniform approach to every subject lend a scientific air to their work. Subjects were generally industrial architecture with prints being arranged deliberately to demonstrate differences and similarities between subjects. Their influence is found on many documentary and conceptual photographers today and, although it can be argued that typology has been done to death, a view at the Bechers oeuvre shows the power in the form.

If you don't know where to start, any of their typologies are worth seeing: Typologies of Industrial Buildings is a good example.

Elliot Erwitt

In case we take ourselves too seriously and forget that photography should be fun, I include Elliot Erwitt here. If you think he just takes images of dogs you must revisit his work. He has a visual wit that is unmatched. His catalog is huge and he still continues to make images and exhibit his work today. In case there is a danger that we do take him too seriously he has created an alter ego,  André S. Solido,  in order to "satirise the kooky excesses of contemporary photography".

If you don't know where to start, start with Snaps.

The Candid Frame #151 - Jasmine DeFoore

Jasmine DeFoore is a photo consultant who knows first hand what busy editorial and commercial clients are looking for when it comes to finding photographers. She infuses her consulting projects with energy, enthusiasm and fresh ideas. Her approach integrates social media marketing with traditional promotional efforts and relationship building.

Jasmine launched her consulting business in 2010 and continues to be an active member of the photo community. Whether reviewing portfolios at international photo festivals, judging contests, blogging, lecturing at universities or mentoring young photographers, Jasmine keeps her love of photography at the forefront. You can find our more about Jasmine and her work by visiting her website and her blog

Jasmine DeFoore recommends the work of Allison V. Smith

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The Candid Frame #141 - Lauri Lyons

Lauri Lyons is  a photographer who's photographic range has enabled her to shoot celebrity portraits, ad campaigns and documentaries. She has worked in Africa, Australia, Brazil, Europe, Mexico and the United States. Her photographs have appeared in such publications as The London Observer, Stern, The Fader and Art Forum. She is the first Black woman to shoot the cover of Fortune magazine.
Lauri is the author of two acclaimed books; Flag:An American Story (2001) and Flag International (2008). She was the commissioned portrait photographer for the book INSPIRATION: Portraits of Black Women Changing Our World (2012).
Lauri is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the online publication Nomads Magazine. She is also a contributing writer for The Huffington Post and her essays have also appeared in The Wall Street and U.S.A You can find out more about Lauri and his work by visiting her website
Lauri Lyons  recommends the work of Ernesto Bazan.

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