What I did on my summer vacation.

©Casey Clough, 2015 Untitled self-portrait from “A Time and Space of My Own Design”

Or what I will do.

What I plan to do.

What I should do.

I should go re-read The War of Art (and probably Art and Fear), give myself a talking to about the ubiquity of imposter syndrome in the arts, and start collecting my rejection letters. It is time; I’ve been studying photography in an all-consuming way for almost three years. It’s time to jump.

Calls for entry

Shots Magazine

shots_127_coverShots has opened their summer call for entry. There is no theme, all work and genres welcome. The cost is free for subscribers, and $16.00 for up to twelve images for non-subscribers – but subscribe. Support the blurry black and white photographers of the world!

CALLS FOR WORK are open to all photographers internationally. All processes and techniques are welcomed. Color work will be reproduced in black & white. Please follow guidelines closely.


Send up to 12 images. No entry form is required, but please enclose a letter (or word document if submitting online) that includes your name, address, email, titles/captions, website, and any other information pertinent to your submittal. There are three ways to submit work: online, on a CD, or original prints.


Creative Quarterly

37-Michael_WardCreative Quarterly #40:  We’re looking for the best art, advertising, design, illustration and photography done in the past six months. Professional or student. Categories include advertising, graphic design, photography, illustration and fine art. Entry fees for Professionals are $30 per single entry, $55 per series—3 to 5 images for all published work, $20/$45; for recent graduates (from the last three years), $15/$45 and for current undergraduates or post graduate students, $10 per single entry, $20 for a series. Winners will appear in the Spring issue of Creative Quarterly and be exhibited in our online gallery. Winners will also be entered in our year-end juried competitions where we’ll select the top 100 pieces for 2015. Deadline May 1.

Lens Culture

337e3bd9-0073-42a4-b002-ac87a1cb04d7EarthLensCulture Earth Awards 2015 is a worldwide call for photography focused on nature, the environment, wildlife, landscape, conservation, sustainability, and how we live on the planet. We are awarding $25,000 in cash grants as well as many video projections at international photo festivals, visibility with LensCulture Insiders, a Printed Annualand more. These awards are open to a wide range of interpretations and approaches — from fine art celebrations of the beauty and wonders of nature, to hard-hitting in-depth documentary issues-based stories. Photography is a rich visual language that can express diverse perspectives in powerful, memorable ways. What is YOUR view of life on Earth today?




A Smith Gallery

Photographer-and-child-DSC_0043-1-200x200A Smith Gallery has an open call for “family“: fam – i – ly : clan, household, tribe, ancestors, lineage, inheritance, relatives, kin, children, class, descendants, pedigree, in-laws, dynasty, genealogy, siblings, group, gang, clique, hive, pride, folk, forebears, brood, blood, heirs, relationships……

Also open is a call for “fishing for iconography”: Announcing our open themed call for entry for black and white images to be included in our week long 5th anniversary celebration in conjunction with the shootapalooza photographers’ retreat in Johnson City Texas.  The selected images will be enlarged and printed on an architectural plotter printer and then applied to public walls and alleys with wheat paste by members of shootapalooza.  The process will be photographically documented and a subsequent blurb book produced to save this act of street art for the ages.  Check out this link for more information on the process  Wheat Paste Tutorial.

Entries due May 18th. An upcoming call for entry features Kate Breakey as juror.

The Spider Awards

bwsa_logoBlack and White Spider Awards is open to professional and amateur photographers shooting in all forms of black and white photography, using traditional or digital methods.  We encourage classic styles, new creative ideas and photographers who are driven by their artistic eye and a desire to excel in this classic art form. Deadline April 24, so jump.


Art Through the Lens

Untitled-1Art Through the Lens is open to all without restrictions on size or content. It provides photographers with an outlet for their art, encouragement for growth in their vision and presentation and cash rewards for works of exceptional merit.  Each year from the hundreds of works submitted, 60 – 100 images are selected for exhibition by a highly qualified juror, with five of them receiving cash awards. An awards presentation will be held during the opening reception. Deadline April 30.

Other entries have been gathered on Lenscratch. Useful stuff!

Minimal equipment, limited influences: Alain Laboile

©Alain Laboile, La Famille

Lensculture has a really good video interview of Alain Laboile up right now, found here (embedding not permitted). Laboile began taking photos in 2004 in order to show his sculptures to clients, and he began taking pictures of his wife and six children. A strong body of work continues to emerge from his practice.

This interview left me with things to think about, and maybe it will do the same for others.

“I use one camera. I only own one lens, a 35mm, so I really know what my frame is and what will be in it.”

©Alain Laboile

©Alain Laboile

It’s a familiar situation in the arts, no matter the medium: restricting your tools, paradoxically, increases possibility. It’s a matter of expertise. If there’s an image I want, rather that switching to a lens that allows me to capture it without moving my position — without further thought or consideration of the image — am I growing photographically, creatively, in the same way I would if I have one lens and have to find a way to make the image work, or a different image that says what I wanted to say?

There are limitations to this, of course, and it is almost endlessly frustrating if I’ve chosen the wrong tool to use. I’ve discovered through very cranky photowalks that I think in wider frame; if I carry a 100mm lens, I’m stomping and cussing by the end of the day because nothing is working. A 50mm or 35mm works much better for my eye.

It’s similar in painting, where a frequent art school assignment is to use two or three colors for an entire term. We were restricted to titanium white, ultramarine blue, and burnt sienna for 14 weeks. With that combination, a good black could be made, a white was already there, and a variety of shaded and tinted hues in between could be mixed as needed. This exercise would fail if the colors were similar in value, and I can only imagine the cursing that would ensue.

Next time I am photographically stuck, I’ll try to stick one wide prime lens on my camera, and leave everything else at home. It could be freeing.

“I am realizing, bit by bit, that color is disappearing and black and white is imposing itself, naturally. Black and white gives the work a timeless and universal feeling, at the same time.”

©Alain Laboile

©Alain Laboile

There are beautiful color photographs out there, and sometimes I take a picture that is about the color, but mostly, I find it distracting and jarring. I still haven’t resolved whether I truly prefer black and white in my own work, if I’m just terrifically unskilled with color, or if I’m indulging an affectation. Regardless, eliminating color is another way to strip an image down to its bones, to get to the heart of the photograph.

My portfolio this semester is all in black and white, and very stripped, low-contrast black and white, at that. It’s a portfolio of grays. I don’t presume to consider it either timeless or universal, as it is very personal work, but color would decimate the atmosphere and mood I’m working toward.

I don’t have any photographic influences, I don’t have any master…

‘I have heard a lot of photographers, say things like, ‘I went to photography school, and I don’t know what to shoot. Because when I shoot something, I mentally compare my image to so and so or so and so…’ And finally, they feel so weighted down by references, that it hinders their photographic practices. I don’t have any photographic influences, I don’t have any master, and I prefer to stay a good distance away from photographic culture. What matters is shooting what you feel like shooting, concentrate on that, and the equipment comes second.”

©Alain Laboile

©Alain Laboile

I can’t help but see Sally Mann in Laboile’s work, but I think that is unavoidable; children in the country, growing up free, skillfully captured in black and white. I love reading about photographic history, and the work of others. I find the work of others very inspiring, educational, and grounding. Comparing oneself to others is both a valuable way to get better, and a way to shackle oneself into immobility.

I want to know what others have done, if only so if I develop a style very similar to someone else’s, I know it before it is pointed out to me. I’m not sure the struggle against comparison is made easier by not having a lot to which to compare myself. I’m still thinking about this.

Alain Laboile’s webite can be found here.



I can also be found on Twitter:

What About This

Photo credit Ginny Stanford

It’s a rainy spring day again (we picked the right year to plant a vegetable garden again!), and I am stuck at home supervising a post-operative cat. Said cat is loopy from his pain meds, and just rolled off the bed in his sleep; in response, he has been swatting and yowling at the bed for its sudden but inevitable betrayal for about five minutes.

"First printing", what lovely words to a bibliophile.

“First printing”, what lovely words to a bibliophile.

Anyway. I don’t feel about writing about photography right now. I’ve been spending my co-confinement with my bedroom patio doors open, listening to the rain drip on the back porch roof, and reading poetry. Frank Stanford poetry. Finally, after years of inexplicable obscurity, Copper Canyon Press and Michael Wiegers bring us an anthology, What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford, containing all eleven of his published works, and a great many never before published. Amazon has already sold all of its initial stock though the official publication date isn’t until April 14th, so I’m not the only one excited about this collection.

When I was in college in the 1970s and ’80s, the poems of Frank Stanford were passed hand to hand like contraband: small editions from small presses, hard to get, guarded with secrecy, coming far outside any known curriculum, and profoundly intoxicating. Even now, as I sit down with the immense treasure of this book, the poems are still surrounded with the aura of the forbidden. They are still able to deliver a shock akin to what the first viewers of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon must have felt. Here’s something authentically raw, even brutal, which seems both old and utterly new, its vitality coming from roots that sink deep into the primitive well-springs of art and the mud of the human heart and mind. — Dean Young, Introduction to What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Pablo Picasso

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Pablo Picasso

I think poets should write all introductions and forewords — they would be read so much more often.

Like a lot of people of my age or younger (those of us too young to be in college in the 1980s), the only thing I knew about Frank Stanford was the manner of his death. Stanford committed suicide when he was twenty-nine, by shooting himself in the chest three times, as I was taught by the Indigo Girls’ eulogistic song to Stanford, “Three Hits.” The song, though one I really like, slips light-footed over the murky depths of Stanford’s work.

The Poetry Foundation gives us this anemic bio:

Born in 1948, Stanford was a prolific poet known for his originality and ingenuity. He has been dubbed “a swamprat Rimbaud” by Lorenzo Thomas and “one of the great voices of death” by Franz Wright. He grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, and then Arkansas, where he lived for most of his life and wrote many of his most powerful poems. He attended the University of Arkansas from 1967-9 and studied engineering while continuing to write poetry. Stanford died in 1978. He authored over ten books of poetry, including eight volumes in the last seven years of his life: The Singing Knives(1972), Ladies from Hell (1974), Field Talk (1974), Shade (1975), Arkansas Bench Stone (1975), Constant Stranger (1976), The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You (1977), and Crib Death (1978).

Left out of that bio is the intensity with with Stanford worked, and how talented he was at such a young age. In his twenty-nine years of life, he published eleven works, left hundreds of pages of unpublished work, some already bound into manuscripts. He was accepted in to a graduate poetry workshop at the University of Arkansas when he was still a teenager, though he never completed a degree.

Ben Ehrenreich wrote a biographical essay about his pursuit of the life and work of Frank Stanford, called “The Long Goodbye” that chronicles his life from his mysterious adoption at birth, through his hard-drinking college years, tracing the growing darkness chronicled in his work: “Gone are the good times with death—the flirting is over, the stalking’s begun.” Death and love are the constant running threads in his work, and death becomes more dominant as the years pass.

“Pineola”, by Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams is the daughter of poet Miller Williams, and her father was a friend of Stanford’s. It was Miller Williams Stanford’s wife or girlfriend called when he shot himself, Mr. Williams who cleaned up the blood, called for help, and put things in order. Just that morning, Stanford had sent flowers to Lucinda Williams, and she was placing them in water when her father returned with the news of the suicide (from the New Yorker). If you’re new to Frank Stanford’s work, this song playing in the background while you make your first acquaintance can help set the mood. If you spent any time growing up in the rural South, you’ll recognize the vernacular of Frank Stanford; tempers worn by humid nights, hunting crayfish, fishing in the swamps in lightning storms, drinking hooch in the moonlight on the front porch — these are the backdrops for his poems of entwined violence and vibrance.

[Side note – I know this tweet is not center-justified. I spent two hours trying to alter CSS to center justify tweets in WordPress, mostly rebuilding my theme after it broke completely. The embedded tweet is an odd result of using my real blog for a class.]

This isn’t a book review, really – that has already been done. This is more a celebration that this book exists. “Some lives are too easy to read backward. Frank Stanford’s is one of those: the last page is now read as the first page—sometimes as the only page—and the first becomes illegible without the last.” (Ehrenreich) Finally, all of Stanford’s work is in one place, and we have the chance to look at the pages before the sudden, bloody end.


Death is a good word.
It often returns
When it is very
Dark outside and hot,
Like a fisherman
Over the limit,
Without pain, sex,
Or melancholy.
Young as I am, I
Hold light for this boat.

When the rest of you
Were being children
I became a monk
To my own listing
Nights and days floated
Over the whorehouse
Like webs on the lake,
A monastery
Full of noise and girls.

The moon throws the knives.
The poets echo goodbye,
Towing silence too.
Near my house was an
Island, where a horse
Lathered up alone.
Oh, Abednego
He was called, dusky,
Cruel as a poem
To a black gypsy.

Sadness and whiskey
Cost more than friends.
I visit prisons,
Orphanages, joints,
Hoping I’ll see them
Again. Willows, ice,
Minnows, no money.
You’ll have to say it
Soon, you know. To your
Wife, your child, yourself.