Creativity - survive, then create.

So I've just finished watching the first New Zealand series of 'Survivor' (spoiler - Avi won).

In case you have actually been surviving on a deserted beach for the past 15 years, you will know Survivor is a TV show where 15 or so individuals from varied backgrounds, are thrown together to live on a secluded beach on a tropical island for 30-40 days. Along with 'surviving', they also have to complete tasks and vote members of their tribe out over the period of time, so they one of the contestants can be crowned 'sole-survivor' and they win an arbitrary amount of money and have 15 mins of fame.

I could finish this blog post here (and leave you wondering what on earth has this got to do with photography) ...... but I won't.

When I studied medicine, we were taught this social concept called 'Maslows Hierarchy of Needs'. It is basically a representation of what your typical human-being needs. The bottom layers need to be created, developed and substantial, before the next tier can progress and develop, otherwise the construct just doesn't work.  (I've included a more recent adaptation of the concept to include 'wifi' - which we all know is much more important than food and shelter).

This image was nothing without Wifi

This image was nothing without Wifi

Finally, I can say the word 'creativity' - note how high up the pyramid that is, which implies that there is a whole lot of other issues far more important to 'surviving' than being creative. Now take this concept as you will, I would probably argue that some people need to be creative to find wifi (or less importantly, creative to find food and water - like the survivor contestants), but I think the concept is nice way of thinking about what our creativity needs to flourish.

Take your standard child for example (is there such a thing as a standard child?), generally, they have shelter, a safe environment, a loving family, the self esteem that comes with being a small person, and therefore they have the ability to be creative and make vehicles out of cardboard boxes, wands out of sticks or use jumpers for goal posts. 

So yeah, unless you get yourself a fast broadband wifi connection, you will never flourish as an artist ay? My internet keeps cutting out, so I will have to end this post here as .................. ////

Maslows Triangle (adapted for the infomation age)

Maslows Triangle (adapted for the infomation age)

    

Award winning photographer (part 1)

Wow, you are an award winning photographer? you must be amazing?
— Anonymous
 
07230 CPH ATEP award logo_overall-winner.png
 

What a year 2017 has been so far, I had planned to lie low, progress my medical career and get my head down and bum up to make more bodies of work. Over the past few years I've had some great success being featured by various media outlets for various reasons, this year was supposed to be a quiet one. 

As a self taught photographer, I am keen for critical feedback. Don't get me wrong, the social media 'likes' and comments mean a alot, they mean that my target audience have stopped, even if just for a millisecond, looked at my post/image and taken the trouble to press the like button, or spent a few seconds bashing out a quick comment. The worst thing that can happen to a creative soul is to produce work and there be no reaction. Is it self gratification? yes, to a certain extent it is, however, what means alot to me is when the social media comments have depth and thought behind them, for me this is a modern form of critical feedback, however, for a self taught artist without the benefit or the art school 'crit' sessions, finding their path on their own, it's not enough to just be 'liked' - I strive to realise where I sit in the quality of the other artists out there and always striving for self reflection and improvement. 

My 'quiet year' started to get a bit noisier in February/March when I was looking for ways to get constructive criticism of my work, I submitted a portfolio to Lens Culture with the promise of a critique of my work. It took a few months, but the return was very interesting and positive. The crit was written by one of their staff portfolio reviewers. 

Image 1

Image 1

Image 3

Image 3

Like a carrot dangling in front of a donkey, the Lens Culture reviewer emailed me a list of other outlets to submit my work to for further feedback, I spent an afternoon submitting my portfolio to various outfits, one of which was Capture Magazine

A few months passed by, and I started getting more frequent emails from the editor of Capture magazine asking for higher resolution images initially, then for a bit more info about myself. He told me I was in the top 10 finalists for Emerging Photographer 2017 award, you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather. When the winner of the award was announced, and I found out that I had taken out both the Portrait category and Overall winner, my vision started to go fuzzy - I couldn't really make any sense of what it meant to be to have this 'award'. The self gratifying side of me was siting back in its comfortable chair having a beer and celebrating, while my self doubting conscious was still asking "what does this mean?". For quite a few days, I struggled with the award, I was stoked, confused, proud, shocked and many other emotions - more so when I saw the quality of other category entrants. The accolade of being the 'Top Emerging Photographer for Australia 2017' was great, the materialistic gesture of a cash prize and a new camera was also welcomed, however, the real 'reward' for me was when I read the list of judges and realised their caliber - I was blown away, to think my work has potentially passed by the noses of hugely respected international photographers - I was humbled to say the very least and to be brutally honest, if I had known the list of judges looked like it did, I wouldn't have entered.

Through the passage of time, the materialistic accolades, the awards, they will fade - however, for me, what lives on to inspire me, learn, self reflect and better myself and my photography are the critique of the judging panel (see below).

Fast forward a few months, I was looking forward to a low-pressure mid-winter 'holiday' in June to Wellington, New Zealand to the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography (NZIPP) annual conference called 'Infocus' - there were some international speakers that I have huge respect for and who have had a big impact on shaping my personal style. A few months prior to the conference, serendipitously, I was contacted by a book making company in Australia called Momento Pro who asked me if I was keen to make a photobook for the 2017 NZIPP Iris Awards. My initial gut reaction was to decline, although it had been one of my lifetime ambitions to make a photography book, I didn't feel ready. What did I have to say? what content did I have?  Why would anyone be interested in my photobook? I mulled over this for a few days, there was a looming deadline for the Iris awards, I had to collect my thoughts quickly. I had a reasonable body of personal work to show, I didn't really have any messages or story to tell other than the story of the individuals I have photographed - was that enough? I was coming around to the idea of making a photobook that would serve as my personal portfolio if nothing else, and if I could put it together in the time required to enter the Iris awards I would have the privilege (or dangling carrot) of some constructive feedback from a judging panel of 4-5 judges.

Cutting a long story short, I got my 'A into G' and worked solidly over a few weeks to design, curate, edit and re-edit a photobook that left this country to be manufactured in Australia and then sent back to New Zealand to be entered into the NZIPP Iris Awards 2017 - it got there 2 hours before the deadline closed.

The day of judgment came and I was fortunate enough to have been in the crowd for the judging. There were 15 entries into this new category for the Iris awards and my book came up last but not least. Having listened to the eloquent judging panel discuss other books in the category in detail, from the photographic content, through to typeset to paper stock, I was pretty nervous but enthusiastic to hear them pick apart my effort. When it actually came to the judges comments, I struggled to hear them over the noise of my pounding heartbeat in my head, here's an abridges transcript of the comments;


The 15 entry in the book category is entitled ‘ ARTEFACT - judges please enter your scores
— Ollie (facilitator)
This for me, out of all of the books, felt the most personal to this photographer, had a sentimentality that really appealed to me, it’s a book I would pick up over and over again. I don’t tend to go in for the overuse of the type of photography it is, that shouldn’t be the most compelling feature and often it is in this technique, but in this the photography and portraits are incredibly strong. Like a high-board diver, they are trying something quite hard here and the easy things don’t look like they have been struggled with, but I’m picking the photographer has worked incredibly hard here.
— Simon (judge)
I think the portraits are fabulous, but is using a process that hasn’t transferred very well into the form of a book. I was longing to see a the actual original medium and material of the collodion process, which is a very different thing to what we are seeing on the page. To me they look like reproductions from the 19th century rather than a re-use of the process to make contemporary portraiture.
— Anne (judge)
I enjoyed the title, I felt it was appropriate to the paper stock and the presentation of the imagery, because as artefact, it shouldn’t have tried to modernise the process. I feel the photographer has made a very humble representation of these people. It’s sublime. I feel it’s complete.
— Johan (judge)
The title really dissolves me in a really nice way, it’s about the photography and these portraits. In a photobook, what we are really asking and what a book maker is asking the viewer is “what happens next?” - we are turning pages, and if we are forced to ask what happens next, then it’s a success. For me I went though every page, so for me the book is a success.
— Simon (judge) - rebuttal
OK judges, good conversation, please re-judge the book ..... we have a ‘90’ GOLD award - congratulations to the author
— Ollie (facilitator)

Artefact_AlsopP_Book1.jpg

Thankfully, the awards were live streamed and I was able to review the judges comments. Between the deafening heart beat and hearing the word 'GOLD AWARD' I didn't really know what to think - I had no basis to celebrate as I couldn't remember what was said. People asked me "how did your book entry go?" I replied sheepishly "it scored a gold". The replies were "WOW that's amazing, well done!", I replied with honest thanks, but I still didn't really know what it meant to have a book that has scored an award - was I an award winning author all of a sudden?

After I reviewed the judging comments later that night, it began to sink in that had actually done a pretty good job with my entry and I was able to reflect on the constructive criticism I had received, it was very helpful and I again, thank the panel for their excellent commentary.

I will continue the rest of this blog in a part 2 ............  

 

#carrot #donkey

A Year in Review 2016

2016 wasn't as rich in epicness as 2015 from a photographic perspective for me, however, that year will always be difficult to match. It was still a really prosperous year, I met alot of really great people and made alot of epic portraits.

 
Hamish. A portrait for Decembeard. Photo Credit Paul Alsop. 

Hamish. A portrait for Decembeard. Photo Credit Paul Alsop. 

 

The year started as 2015 left off, I was making portraits for 'DECEMBEARD' the hairy face of Bowel Cancer awareness in New Zealand. 

The plan for the beard project was to make a collection of portraits that would be exhibited in a gallery and also as a book at the end of  2016. It has certainly been a challenge getting support for this project and at the time of writing publishers suggested waiting for a few years before approaching them, so this will be an ongoing project over the next few years. Watch this space!

January saw the 6 hour round trip to Auckland and Kingsize Studios to continue making portraits for 'The Auckland Project' with Luke White.

Making portraits with Luke White for our ongoing portrait series 'The Auckland Project'. Photo Credit: Lee Howell. 

Making portraits with Luke White for our ongoing portrait series 'The Auckland Project'. Photo Credit: Lee Howell. 

Making portraits with Luke White for our ongoing portrait series ' The Auckland Project'. Photo Credit: Lee Howell. 

Making portraits with Luke White for our ongoing portrait series ' The Auckland Project'. Photo Credit: Lee Howell. 

A Wet Plate Collodion Tintype of Colin Hoy. Image Credit: Paul Alsop and Luke White

A Wet Plate Collodion Tintype of Colin Hoy. Image Credit: Paul Alsop and Luke White

For the most part of 2016 I have been working away trying to hone my skills and perfect my craft of making portraits with the Wet Plate Colloion Process. 2016 was a great year for collaborative work, in particular, I have been working with Ani Fourie, an artist from the Bay of Plenty, Ani has been a number of things to me this year, from a technical assistant, to styling and wardrobe through to an enthusiastic encyclopedia of inspiration for a number of my portraits.

Ani was the only person to witness my 'tent cam' that I constructed in my garage, a prototype for a future mammoth size camera for making photographic images. Although I haven't made a mammoth sized plate from the camera yet, I did take the opportunity to make a 10 x 12 portrait of Ani with an antique wooden and brass camera I had recently acquired. 

'Tentcam'

'Tentcam'

A mammoth sized portrait from the tent cam

A mammoth sized portrait from the tent cam

A 10 x 12 inch portrait of Ani I made the day we were checking out the tentcam. 

A 10 x 12 inch portrait of Ani I made the day we were checking out the tentcam. 

I've had the pleasure of being featured by a few publications this year;

 

Amateur Photographer - a photography magazine from the UK, published an article on my photography in their February edition. You can read the article here.

f11 - a New Zealand photography magazine. You can read the article here.  

PDN - an international photography magazine out of the USA did a piece on The Auckland Project, interviewing Luke and I. You can read the article here. 

Uno Magazine - a New Zealand Lifestyle magazine published a photo essay on my photography and some behind the scenes of a commercial shoot. You can read the article here. 

COOPH - an international online photography collective published an article on my portraits of children. You can read the article here.

 

As you will see from the Uno magazine article, this was a product of a collaboration / commercial shoot for BLUR Eyecare, who were keen to make unique bespoke portraits for their staff portraits and advertising, the results were 3 sets of 4 very different images, it was a great pleasure to work with these gyus who have an excellent ethic to their work and presentation. 

Blur Eyecare shoot BTS. Image Credit: Shawn Rolton.

Blur Eyecare shoot BTS. Image Credit: Shawn Rolton.

Blur Eyecare shoot BTS. Image Credit: Shawn Rolton.

Blur Eyecare shoot BTS. Image Credit: Shawn Rolton.

Blur Eyecare shoot BTS. Image Credit: Shawn Rolton.

Blur Eyecare shoot BTS. Image Credit: Shawn Rolton.

 

Alot of this year has been dedicated to none-photographic ventures, like raising a family, building a house, furthering my career in skin cancer medicine and trying to make sense of how Donald Trump became the President elect for the USA!

2016-04-19 21.52.41.jpg

Social media continues to grow, I've just been informed of my 9 best portraits of 2016, according to Instagram, it must have been a close call between these and more as I've made so many great portraits this year, but this here is what Instagram reckons .... 

Looking forward to 2017, I have absolutely nothing in the pipeline at the time of writing, so it's like I am staring at a blank canvass ..... head down, bum up, continue to work at my craft and keep eyes and ears open for opportunity knocking!

All the best guys, thanks for taking the time to follow my progress.

- Paul

#makeportraits a bts look - Jess

A behind the scenes look at a recent portrait with Jess.

 

There is a considerable amount of preparation that goes into making just one wet plate collodion portrait. 

My preparation starts weeks before the proposed shoot with the acquisition and manufacturing of the chemicals involved in making an image.

Once the chemistry is sorted or in progress, I turn my attention to the sitter. Based on their most current image they send to me or on their public social media images, I start to create concept or mood board for the type of image I feel will suit their face for a portrait. I will often do this via Pinterest, although I usually keep upcoming portraits locked as private, only sharing them with the sitter or my creative collaborators.  

After creating a shortlist of images, either based on my preference, the sitters preference or my creative collaborators preference, I start deconstructing the lighting, then re purposing it for my own vision.

Check out the BTS images Feel free to leave comments. 

Sitter: Jess Lowcher

Collodionist:Paul Alsop

Creative collaborator:Ani Fourie

BTS Photographer: Justin Aitken