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Bryan Wolf, “Eclipse watchers” (Grid M9).
On Saturday, my article The Grid Project: A Photo-Survey of Portland was published in The Oregonian. It was my first ever piece for The Oregonian, a paper which was founded in 1850 and predates official Oregon statehood which came about in 1859.
I wrote: “In 1995, Christopher Rauschenberg assembled a team of a dozen photography enthusiasts. Together, they sliced up a AAA map of Portland into square mile segments and resolved to hit the streets of each corresponding square and photograph, once a month, until no more squares remained. By 2004, they had documented all 89 squares within the city limits. At that time, the only thing to do was to start over. In September of this year, the Grid Project will complete its second full photo-survey of the Rose City.”
I wrote the article because The Grid Project is raising Kickstarter cash to replace its old, limited-function website with a new-spangly site with full on search, more images and happy-wide-eyed-users. With four days to go, just over $600 more is needed, so it looks like it’s going to make it.
When I arrived in Portland 18 months ago, folks at the Grid Project were some of the first I wanted to meet. Even though I don’t shoot photographs they let me join them for a meeting and look over images. Many of the Gridders are now friends.
The Grid Project is amazing. Here’s why:
1. It’s all about community.
2. It’s done for the love of photography; no one’s getting paid.
3 It’s a simple premise, but collectively 20 or so photographers have documented a changing Portland over nearly two decades. The estimated 40,000 images they’ve made is an incredible resource.
4. The Portland Grid Project invented the formula. The methodology has since been repeated around the globe in towns and cities such as Bradford, England; Toronto, Canada; Vancouver, WA; Victoria, BC; Rome, Italy; Providence, RI; Eugene, OR; Central Oregon; Napa Valley, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Forest Grove OR and Santa Fe, NM.
If you fancy a fancy print you should throw some money in the pot. Here’s some fine Grid Project images to stroke your eyeballs
Ann Kendellen, Pendleton Park, SW 53rd and Iowa, January 2011 (Grid N6).
BlakeAndrews, 2007, (Grid J12).
Bruce Hall, Kid on the Sandy Blvd overpass for the 205 freeway, (Grid J12).
Carole Glauber. “Frankie’s Franks” SE 82nd, 2011.
Christopher Rauschenberg, SE 15th Avenue, 2008 (Grid L9).
David Potter. “Inside of Marci MacFarlane’s car” North Interstate Avenue and Going Street, May 29th, 2005 (Grid J8).
Lisa Gidley. NE 42nd Avenue near Sumner Street, September 2011.
Nancy Butler, “Untitled” (Grid N9).
Bruce Hall, Off NE Fremont, (Grid K11).
Mark Barnes, “Jessie”
Mark Barnes, “Foster Rd”
Patrick Stearns (one image in a set of three) (Grid K8, 04/99).
David Potter, (M14, August 2000).
Patrick Stearns (one image in a set of three) (Grid G4, 04/00)
© Teresa Christiansen, from Trace Psychedelia.
The Eye On PDX series continues with Teresa Christiansen.
Blake Andrews asks the questions most others might shy away from. Read the full interview on Blake’s blog.
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BA: I love Trace Psychedelia. What is your experience with psychedelic drugs?
TC: The word “psychedelia” in the series title refers less to drugs than to the genre of music and art associated with that term. I also wanted to allude to the experience of seeing everything in immense detail through a heightened perceptual state of mind. I experienced this when I first moved to Portland after living in New York City my entire life. During my first spring here, I walked around with my camera, in awe of the dense greenness of everything. I painted onto the surface of the photographs that I took not only as a way to recreate this experience and the excitement I felt about being in a new place, but also as a way for me to put my photography in dialogue with painting.
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Thor. © Clarke Galusha
“It’s the best show of portraits I’ve seen in Portland in a long time,” said Blake Andrews when he told me he was interviewing Clarke Galusha whose tintype portraits of children are on display at Newspace Center for Photography in Portland through November.
“For many of the subjects in this project, this might have been the first picture-taking experience where they were not asked to smile,” says Galusha who only learned to make tintypes a few months ago!
Tell us a bit about your new series Arrangements.
First of all, Arrangements needs a proper title, but it’s a work in progress so I suppose it’ll do for now. In Arrangements I’m referencing the current language of photography of post-productions, studio practices and manipulations. It’s definitely a trend and it is a shift that has opened the door for a lot of people to experiment. We’re seeing a lot of the same imagery. Lots of patterns and fabrics, and mirrors to create something – props that are about perception and optics.
But I’m looking for naturally occurring abstractions. Arrangements is basically an old school approach to new school imagery. I’m recognizing moments [of light, color and form] when they happen in real life. I’m interested in photography that is out in the real world. I mean, taking a moment and making it into a two-dimensional image, that’s always seemed abstract to me.
My friend Sarah Palmer won the Aperture prize. Sarah is doing constructions in the studio. Her work looks at signs in visual language. I am interested in these signs and symbols and contemporary visual language but finding these things out in the real world.
When I was in SVA grad school, if anyone shot straight photographs, people were really concerned that it would be placed within the realm of documentary. In a lot of people’s eyes, the straight photograph isn’t artistic like it once was. Paul Graham’s essay The Unreasonable Apple is really important; he’s the most interesting photographer dealing with straight photographs and with sequencing.
You have a particular relationship to nature?
I’m a rock climber so my connection is direct and physical. I’m in awe of towering cliffs and the sublime nature of mountains. I don’t know whether it’s dumb to talk about climbing. Is it that interesting?
I think so. You spend weekends on rock faces. You don’t spend all your time chasing photographs.
It’s easy to get burnt out about something if you obsess over it constantly, especially if you want to keep it going all your life.
I’ve been taking pictures since I was 14 and even then I was serious about making a good photograph. Now, photography is part of who I am and what I do, but I’m not constantly doing it.
Why do you go climbing?
I can’t get the high any other way. I like aggression but I don’t like aggression put on me by someone else. I like pulling hard on a hold and using my muscles. Doing something that is scary but I don’t have to worry about anyone else injuring me. It’s not like wrestling or football.
And photography? Fun or bruising?
The best thing for me is when I start working on an image and figure, ‘Yes, there’s something here.’ I do love having exhibitions, putting something together and having it on the wall. It can be laborious and frustrating but when it’s on the wall it is super rewarding.
The pace that you’re working at, it seems like photography fits in between all the other stuff in life.
At this point in my career, I don’t feel pressure to be producing tons of work. I have no gallery. I have no expectations set upon me except from myself.
I go in waves of producing a lot and then looking at what I’ve done. I’ve been fairly consistent with shooting for the last year and I feel good about it. That’s where the new language comes into play. I don’t think I can have a deadline with my photography. I only know it when I see it.
That’s refreshing, no?
I’ve been studying photographs for a long time and I’m interested in new images. I can see something and know what focal length I want to shoot it at before I even pick my camera up.
I need to change my environments pretty often to find new things. I’ll walk around the neighborhood just to get my eye going but I rarely get something. Being in new places help, which is another reason why I really like photography. You have to be in the place at the time to make the picture. I could never work in a studio.
How do you characterise the Portland photo scene?
The Portland photo scene has a lot going for it and I’ve really only been exposed to what I assume is a small portion. Many of the photographers I’ve met I’ve known about for some time – Shawn Records, Teresa Christiansen, Corey Arnold.
I’ve only been here a year but already feel like I have a strong community of peers. In terms of the gallery scene, I think it’s growing. Spaces like Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books are indicative of a new sensitivity to fine art and vernacular photography praxis here in Portland.
“The world does not yet know the importance of Missy Prince’s photography,” is a tweet I sent out last month with a link to her Flickr account. Missy has only been making images earnestly for 4 or 5 years, but she’s loyal to film, has nailed down an aesthetic and (though she probably won’t acknowledge it) has nurtured an admiring photo-public.
Like most Portland photographers, I first met Missy at a Lightleak meeting. She wears cowboy boots and straight, straight blonde hair. No fuss. I don’t know what she drives but looking at Missy’s photographs you’d reckon it a Vanagon, Lincoln Towncar or a veggie-oil bus. Her wheels have to be fun as she gets out into landscape often.
Now, I’m not one to romanticise Portland or the Pacific NW, but if you are looking for a photographer who can capture the allure of the outdoors in a modest, meaningful and evergreen way then Missy’s the one. So verdant are many of her photographs, she could be a one-woman tourist-board for Oregon. Logging roads, trucker hats and fields of wildflowers; it’s the misty, damp images of the PacNW, Missy is known for but I wanted to feature some of her new stuff.
These four photos are from West Las Vegas which, remarkably, is just a stones throw from the strip. Historically it is a Black neighbourhood. It has been largely overlooked during Vegas’ tumorous, gilded growth and accommodates its fair share of the social problems that go along with economic marginalisation.
But in these images of sun-bleached streets there is the same appeal that exists in her work from Cascadia. Missy plays with time. Part of it is due to the texture of film, but part of it is her attention to the vernacular and the overlooked. Missy celebrates Americana; she does not patronise it. And, how does she always find that classic car?
Her photographs gently point out what is all around us, if we can be bothered to get out the front door. Not idealised views, not scenes intended to manipulate, just straight up, well-composed vignettes. She treats photography like an exploration and you too might encounter within it moments of discovery.
What exactly is Missy’s background? In a 2011 interview with LPV magazine, she said:
“I haven’t studied the medium’s history in any formal manner but I think I have a fair grasp of it. My intake is haphazard, I go through phases of not looking. Many of my influences are film makers. David Lynch’s take on The Pacific Northwest in Twin Peaks occupies some prime real estate in my brain. The photography of Tarkovsky and Wim Wenders have stayed with me over time. Road movies and westerns. Two Lane Blacktop, The Passenger, The Hired Hand.”
How do you characterise the Portland photo scene?
The photo scene in Portland is pretty vibrant. There are a lot of photographers here. There are also a lot of galleries, publishers, and events, and there are thankfully still public black and white and color darkrooms. It’s a very photography friendly city, maybe partly because it is surrounded by land that begs to be photographed. I’m probably not a very good judge of the overall scene. What largely attracts me to photography is being out in the environment I am photographing, the meditative solitary experience. Taking photos is almost secondary. I could just as easily be out there sketching what I see. I’ve only been taking photos in earnest for a few years. A little over a year ago I was invited into a collective called Lightleak, which meets once a month to share work and talk about photography in a very relaxed atmosphere. It’s probably the deepest I’ve immersed myself in the scene. The great thing about those guys is they are all fellow film devotees who print their own work. As much as I enjoy the exchange with like minds, I have not deliberately sought many other photo-centered associations. I like when connections happen naturally. So far the internet has been my main resource for looking and sharing. I’ve actually become friends with a few local photographers whom I first encountered online. Perhaps that so many online roads seem to lead back to Portland is evidence of its enthusiasm for photography.
Prison Photography: How do you characterise the PDX photo scene?
Lisa Gidley: I only know some of the people doing photography in Portland. I know the folks in the photo groups Lightleak and the Portland Grid Project. Even in these groups, we all have different aesthetics and approaches – analog/digital, B&W/color, portraits/other scenes. What we have got in common is that we usually capture recognizable pieces of the real world.
Although I love lots of postmodern art, photography that’s been obviously Photoshopped isn’t my thing. I feel a pretty strong allegiance to the more realistic and unfiltered style of photography, and I’ve got excellent company in Lightleak and Grid. Plus, they’re all cool people and talented photographers who keep me on my toes. Our regular photo meetings motivate me to make some decent work each month, since I know they’ll all be bringing some terrific prints. It’s great to have a photo community that spurs you to keep shooting. Like sharks with cameras: shoot or die.
PP: An Instax photograph of yours was featured atop Joerg Colberg’s recent piece The Single Photograph. You’ve been using this “Polaroid equivalent” for some time and I’ve witnessed the joy of Faulkner Short, Blake Andrews, yourself and others when using this instant-film camera. You’re involved with instaxgratification, a Tumblr of Instax photos by Blake, Faulkner, yourself and others. What’s with the Instax Camera craze?
LG: I think the appeal is similar to that of genuine old Polaroids. Especially in this digital age, there’s a thrill to immediately having a cool little physical object that doesn’t exist anywhere else (at least until you scan it). Once you’ve taken a shot, that’s it: no cropping or color balancing or special effects added after the fact. That finality is nice. The prints are compelling to look at and to handle — they’re proportioned well and have a satisfying heft. Plus, the Fuji lenses are sharp, the color saturation’s good, and from what I can tell, the prints are fairly long-lasting. It’s a fun system.
PP: Why do you make photos?
LG: It’s a compulsion! I love looking at all sorts of photographs, and I love the challenge of trying to make photos I’d like to look at myself. With the type of photography I usually do — where I rove around different places and shoot whatever interesting scenes I come across — the main appeal is the thrill of the hunt. It’s fun to wander with a camera with no idea of what I’ll find, if anything. I typically shoot on film so it’s a few days of anticipation before I know if I’ve captured anything decent. Getting the developed film back is the best thing. After that, it’s also satisfying to make prints and share the images online and otherwise try to get my photos out into the world, but those activities are secondary to the process of shooting. I’m usually antsy to get back out again. There’s always something else to photograph.
Zachary Allen moved to Portland more recently than I, which is recent indeed. I knew of his work and I was aware he had studied with Ian Van Coller in Bozeman, Montana, and that Zachary had also assisted Ian in South Africa in 2010. When I found out he was here in PDX I didn’t hesitate to contact him and grab a coffee.
In some ways, Zachary’s work is difficult to feature because much of his work is in-process; he stresses that Roseland (my personal favourite of his portfolios) is a twenty year project! Roseland is about land-use and residential planning in Virginia.
Still, I asked Zachary to pull together some images and pen a quote to introduce himself to the Portland photo scene.
“Over the last couple of years I’ve been making photographs documenting my trips into the landscape. I’ve been attempting to stay away from a strict theme based project, which seems like the only acceptable form of photography these days. I kinda ended up with a bunch of mini projects at the end of three years. These mini projects explore several themes, such as nests, town relocations, and the intersection of nature and human influence, but the main thread has been the idea of being a “photographer” in the field. I’m interested in how we as photographers approach the landscape and interact with it. The photos from In The Field explore both my personal outings into the landscape and trips I have accompanied other photographers on. I think there is something really interesting when several people go out into the field just to have a look.”
Zachary Allen is a photographer, printmaker, and educator currently based in Portland, OR. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his work: Twitter, Book Experiments, and Broken Spine, a Tumblr exploring artists’ books.
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Eye on PDX is a continuing, weekly series that features images and brief statements by photographers currently living in Portland, OR.
Ward Shortridge makes portraits in Portland and other cities, but mainly in Portland, Oregon where he lives. Ward used to work as a psychiatric social worker. Good portraits often come from the same place as good counselling.
“The best photographs, like the best therapy, occur when I don’t talk too much, when I engage my subjects with unconditional acceptance and love, when I let go of my desire for a particular result and take my direction from the life that is presented to me,” says Ward.
This post is the second in a new series called Eye on PDX. Once a week, I’ll post some images and words by a different photographer working in Portland, the town I now call home. Think global, shoot local.