Ian Shive IRIS lecture – Water & Sky: A Photographic Journey from the Arctic to the Himalaya

June 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

I must say that I love the diversity of speakers participate in the IRIS lecture series at the Annenberg. The week before last, the DP of National Geographic Magazine spoke and had tips on what the magazine looks for in a photographer. Last week, the speaker was a photographer who has been in a plethora of publications, including National Geographic. It’s still amazing to me that these speakers are there without cost to the general public.

Last week’s IRIS night lecture at the Annenberg by photographer Ian Shive continued the theme of water to go along with the current Water: Our Thirsty World print exhibit. His talk and accompanying images, entitled “Water & Sky: A Photographic Journey from the Arctic to the Himalaya” reflect the importance of water to the environment, as well as how humans interact with and use water.

The word that comes to mind is inspiring. Shive had a 9-5 desk job for ten years, and on his weekends would visit various national parks. Last year, he released a book about the national parks. Something to be said for leading a double life. Three years ago, he became a full time photographer and now travels the world so that he can share his experiences  through photography.

Something I really took away from Shive’s talk is that there are two stories to an image: 1) What the image conveys and 2) What it took to make it. He shared with his audience the latter story of his time with Search and Rescue on Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) in Alaska. His photos were absolutely breathtaking, and really spoke to me because I visited Alaska in 2003, and landed on Ruth Glacier on Mt. McKinley by way of a very small Cessna. That experience was one I will never forget for several reasons: 1) How many people get to do that, ever? 2) It was like being on a different planet, I couldn’t believe this place existed on Earth and 3) That trip further revealed to me that I have a passion for photography (even if it took a few years to reveal itself to me).

He took us from Denali to India, up the West coast, and over to the Himalayas. He spoke of natural history as his genre of photography, and shared images form a salmon run that he photographed (as in, getting in the water with salmon and nudging them around). This was the last of that salmon run, so it truly was history.

Shive’s images and story made me resolve to get out to beautiful places and actually make some pictures. It reiterated that we can read all about photography and look at other photos, but as photographers the goal is to get out there and shoot.

Thanks to the Annenberg for sharing this wonderful speaker, I look forward to seeing former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti speak next week about his photographic journey.

And thank you for stopping by!


IRIS lecture David Griffin: “Inside National Geographic Magazine”

May 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is my second week in a row of culture in Los Angeles. Who would have thought?

On Thursday evening I was lucky enough to attend yet another IRIS lecture at the Annenberg Space for Photography. This lecture featured David Griffin, the Director of Photography for National Geographic Magazine. In a word, his talk Inside National Geographic Magazine was fantastic. Now, I have been a fan of National Geographic from childhood when I would steal borrow my older brother’s subscriptions that came to the house to flip through the pictures. It is safe to say that now I appreciate the photos in the magazine a little differently. But I still borrow his magazines (shh!).

Griffin spoke honestly and openly about the things that National Geographic (NG) looks for in a photographer: talent, planning and flexibility. These things are crucial to the magazine, and the photographer needs to be able to consistently communicate a sense of place, people, action, and must have technical prowess. Consistency is the key, in that a person can have luck and snap a good picture, but as a NG photographer, one needs to have the skill to create good (NG standards here) images on a regular basis. Griffin touches on this point in the following video from February 2008, which also shows some of the images that he spoke of at the Annenberg:

TED Talk: David Griffin on how photography connects us

Griffin also spoke of the innovations in photography that NG has had in the past, from the first photo published in the magazine in the late 1800’s as just an illustration to accompany the technical article to the newest innovations that are in practice today for the photo essays. He also spoke of the innovations that the magazine is making in this digital age as print circulation declines, such as NG on the Apple iPad.

Getting a glimpse inside of this magazine’s photographic process was an amazing and inspiring experience. I truly enjoyed every moment Griffin spoke and could have easily listened to him for a few more hours.

Thank you to the Annenberg for making quality speakers available for these IRIS nights. I look forward to many more of these lectures (such as photographer Ian Shive next week).

And as always, thank you for stopping by!

David Maisel: Black Maps lecture

May 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

One of the wonderful things about living in (or near) Los Angeles is the proximity to cultural activities.

What, Los Angeles has culture? Sort of.

The Annenberg Space for Photography IRIS lecture series is a free lecture series featuring a different notable photographer each week. It amazes me that these lectures are free, given the quality of the series. It is a great experience to have these photographers share their perspective and photos.

Last Thursday, I was able to attend the lecture of David Maisel: Black Maps, a lecture that appealed to me because of the aerial photographs and because of my background in geography.

His aerial images are intriguing, focusing on the strange beauty of environmental impact as seen from 500-14,000 feet above the Earth. The images aren’t titled in a way to give a preconception of how one should feel about image, allowing the viewer to process their image on their own. The images were from some of his earlier projects (roughly 1983-2007), and althought I found something beautiful and saddening in each image, the most interesting to me was The Lake Project, which is focused on the imagery of the dying Owens River and Owens Lake on the Eastern side of the Sierras (see map below).

This area is rich in history because of the water wars that ensued when Los Angeles was starting to grow. As an Angelino, I must admit that I have forgotten about the historical aspect of how we get our water, and it was saddening to see the reminder.

What most interested me about this lecture is found in the title “Black Maps”, which refers to a poem by Mark Strand:

“Nothing will tell you where you are/Each moment is a place you’ve never been”

As Maisel pointed out, one is unable to read these images, and one would not be able to read a map that is completely black.

As a geographer and mapmaker, it was so very hard for me to wrap my head around the notion of a map being completely black. As a practical mapmaker that works in the real world, I think, “That’s a waste of ink!”. But I get his point. Looking at these images, there is not way to tell which way is North or South, East or West. Looking at these images, I could not tell where in the world (or universe) these images were being made.

I like the idea that he married geography and photography in this project, in that having a sense of geography, one has a sense of place. When I look at images of the world, I usually get some idea of where in the world they are located (urban, rural, Venice, Australia, etc.). When looking at Maisel’s images, I don’t have a sense of geography, and therefore no sense of place.

Of course as a geographer, I would have loved for him to be able to link on his website a Google map of where all of these places are located that he photographed, but that is not to be at this time.

Thanks for stopping by.

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