Photographer of the Day: Man Ray

Man Ray

b.1890 d. 1976

 Today’s PotD is Emmanuel Radnitzky, who went by the name Man Ray. He actually refused to acknowledge his original name, which idk why**, because anyone with “Rad” as a part of their last name won the last name lottery. But, whatever Man Ray, you do you.

** I actually found out that he shortened his name because his family was afraid of antisemitism. That is NOT very rad at all. Way to go, America. Way. To. Go.

And we’re not talking about this Man Ray.

Man Ray was buddies with some names we are largely familiar with today: Dali, Picasso, Duchamp, Joyce, Stein, and Ernst, among many others. He was a part of that cool kid’s group at the beginning of the 20th century. He thought of himself as a painter, but it is actually his photographs that he is well known for.

He discovered solarization, and made his own photograms, which he called “Rayographs,” because when you’re Man Ray, you can do what you want, like name things after yourself. Who wouldn’t? #swag

Hello my name is Man Ray and I do photography without a camera. #soavantgarde #coolerthanyou #swag

Man Ray also did normal things like portraits, notably of his super neat-o friends, like Joyce and Stein.James Joyce, being the moody writer he is. Much agony. Very art.

Manny, get my good side. Picasso painted my bad side and I’m still salty about it.

So, he was the man. He did fashion photography, made avant-garde films, and even hung out with Duchamp to make readymades. He also said some pretty zen things about photography and art that make you go “whoa Man (Ray.)” You may even write one down in your sketchbook for inspiration.

“To create is divine, to reproduce is human.”

“Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.”

“I do not photograph nature. I photograph my visions.”


Man Ray had a hand in the beginnings of the first modern art collection, and has been referred to, many times, as one of the most important artists in modern art history.

So, that’s Man Ray for you! What a guy.

The next PotD will be Nadar. Keep an eye out, and if you want to read about more photographers, be sure to check out the Photographer of the Day tab!

Happy Shooting!

So, You Want to Go to Grad School: Pt. 1– Why Now?

I’m starting my MFA in Photography this fall at Columbia College Chicago, but this time last year I was stressing about where I was going to go to graduate school and if I was going at all. I had spent the last three years looking up everything I could about this arduous process, and though I found some helpful tips, I found hardly nothing in the way of Photography and Visual Art MFA Programs. And, as helpful as tips for Creative Writing MFA applicants were, I went into this whole process blind, wishing I had some sort of help with the whole thing.

So, I’m going to do a series on how to get through the process in one piece, sanity and self-esteem intact maybe. I’m going to tell you the things I wish I knew.

Now, this is just my experience. There are most likely other pieces of advice from others, and I may share some things that others might not have felt were necessary. Keep this in mind.

Well, here we go!


So, You Want to Go to Grad School

Pt. 1– Why Now?

I had decided my sophomore year of college that I wanted to be a professor of photography, and the only thing I knew beyond that was I needed an advanced degree. I figured because graduate school was a big deal, I would need to, y’know, be a big deal. I dived right in: I started reading and experimenting on my own, working on projects outside of my regular school work, and applying to exhibitions and competitions to build up my empty resume. While all of these things were good, and I’m really glad I did them, I missed a really important factor: my age.

What do you mean I’m not old enough?

I did not realize, until last fall, that most people take a break between undergrad and graduate school. I also discovered that a lot of programs prefer it this way. So, during my interviews, I was asked why grad school, and why now?

This is a very important question to ask yourself. Do you want to be a professor? If not, then you don’t really need the MFA. Are you going to graduate school because you’ve exhausted your personal resources, and you’re still feeling starved for knowledge? Or are you applying because you’re not sure what to do with yourself after undergrad?

Do you know this feel?

My ignorance on this topic actually helped me in the long run, because I was so adamant on going right away, I pushed myself to the limit, and I was ready to go. I felt I taught myself everything I could on my own, and I longed to be in an advanced and thoughtful art community, to take my work to the next level. I wanted to be a professor, and I wanted to be a damn good one, so it was time for me to keep pushing myself.

While you’re debating on going (or perhaps you’ve already decided,) ask yourself why it is you really want to go. Take a look at your portfolio and gauge your work– are you asking the right questions with your work? Are you trying to tackle contemporary ideas? Does your work feel “undergrad” in anyway?

It’s no easy decision, but I’m preaching to the choir.

I’m doing a series on the process of getting into an MFA program in Visual Arts and Photography, and I will be covering quite a few things, like what to expect on Graduate Portfolio Day (and why you NEED to go,) how to choose the right school for you, how to nail an interview, and how to decide, and anything else I remember from my hellish eight months of applying, waiting, interviewing, and choosing.

Right now, keep looking around the internet for help. You’ve probably stumbled across this post while looking for help, and I’m glad I can give some advice. Keep an eye on this blog, as I will be posting tips once a week. Good luck.

As always, Happy Shooting!

More Ideal Instances

I’m still going strong with my project, Ideal Instances. The goal is to create 1000 altered, found Polaroid pictures, and right now I’m at about 200. Here is the next installment!

Since I’m creating so many of these, I have the tendency to get stuck. I don’t want to get repetitive, which is quite the goal for 1000 of these, but I find that the longer I look at these Polaroids, the more potential stories I find. I may have to look through my stack 50 times before I get an idea for one Polaroid, but it is always worth it. I’m still making these and scanning them in, so, trust me, there will be plenty of updates. Wish me luck on my next batch! Happy Shooting!

Weekend Shots

I had a busy weekend, and it was wonderful. I went to a country fair in the middle of nowhere with some friends, visited Wayne State University’s gorgeous campus, went to the Memorial Day parade in Dexter, and visited my Grandpa. I took my Holga 120 TIM with me on my escapades.

The TIM has the ability to make multiple exposures and split the frame in two. You can make your own stereographs with it because of this feature. You can make as many exposures as you want as well, like the crowd one was three different exposures.

Yeah, I just goofed around with this camera all weekend. I am actually a little emotional over the picture I got of my grandpa, because he is so stoic and I got him without him noticing. You know, the whole “acting for the camera thing?” It’s not a factor in this picture. Roland Barthes is all emotional of the photograph of his mother as a child, and I am emotional over this photograph of my grandpa.

So, yeah. I took pictures of things this weekend. I have a schedule of interesting photo shoots coming up, and I am really looking forward to it. I’m longing for constructed images like nobody’s business.

That’s all for now. Happy Shooting!


Like Cotton Candy: Impossible Project’s Cyan and Magenta Film

In November, I went to NYC, and brought my Polaroid camera with me, loaded with the monochromatic Cyan 600 film by Impossible Project. I’ve also been hoarding the magenta version of this film, for a fair, for some reason. No idea why, just one of those weird artist vision things.

So this weekend, I was going to a fair, and was like YES TIME TO BREAK OUT THE MAGENTA FILM YAY! But, I discovered I still had a shot left of the cyan… So this cute little diptych exists now:

It’s actually totally coincidental that they are cotton candy colored. Or maybe my subconscious planned it along? Who knows anymore. You’re reading a blog by a girl who encourages her friend to push a shopping cart with a hobby horse in it around the neighborhood and puts her boyfriend in a fish tank. My track record either says I’m insane, or I’m awesome. Let’s go with the latter.


My friends Allie (who I talk about a lot, as she has always modeled for me,) and Dom are the cutest. The fair we were at was very small and kinda dull, so I was like “pic opportunities where are youu?” Then I realized I had a beautiful couple at my disposal.

“Dom. Don’t move.”

“Allie go stand by him.”


I’m very polite.

Since Impossible Project film takes about 45 minutes to develop, Allie, Dom, and Mitchell (my boyfriend I also never shut up about,) were surprised that the film was cyan and magenta. Mitchell was so surprised he took my camera and took a picture of me.

I’m not a fan of being photographed. I tried to hide behind my new stuffed animal, Stumpy (courtesy of Mitchell popping a balloon with a dart,) but he was too tiny. But, my expression is priceless, so here:

Stumpy, you tried.

Irrelevant, but his name is stumpy because his face is squashed in and his legs are two different sizes. Adorbz.

So, yeah. I have a couple more shots of the magenta, so we’ll see what I do with that. Maybe it’ll sit in my camera for 7 months like the cyan film did (whoopsies?)

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz


Today’s PotD is my inspiration, Annie Leibovitz. This is about to be a real fan girl session for today’s lesson, so bear with me. There will be knowledge, I promise.

Annie (I love her so much I’m just gonna go with her first name,) had always been into the arts, but she studied painting during her time at the San Francisco Art Institute. She had been working on her photography all this time though, and when the Rolling Stone magazine was born, Annie was a staff photographer, and eventually the chief photographer. She was a boss, and it is all her fault (in the best way,) for the Rolling Stone‘s aesthetic.

One of the best (and I guess worst,) stories about her decade at the Rolling Stone was when she photographed John Lennon for the cover. You’ve probably seen the iconic image, of him and Yoko Ono, which Annie orchestrated. Can you imagine telling John Lennon to take off his clothes? I sure can’t. Thing is, she photographed him on December 8, 1980– five hours after taking his picture, he was shot and killed.

Lennon’s Last Photo

The biggest reason why I adore Annie so much is the fact her work is very constructed, very beautiful, and very colorful. Very. She was also a boss at lighting, so all of these great things got her a position at Vanity Fair, which is who she primarily works for today. Seriously, this woman is such an inspiration.

The Wizard of Oz with Keira Knightley by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue.

The Wizard of Oz with Keira Knightley by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue.

“Hello, my name is Annie Leibovitz, and I just casually photograph the Queen of England.” -Annie, probably.

The Drew Barrymore Beauty and the Beast photograph was used as inspiration for my Home Sweet Home series, believe it or not. Annie’s lighting on point.

I could probably list her images all day long. Her vision and execution of her work is something to work towards.

Another story for you: I met a professional photographer, who takes a lot of celebrity portraits in LA. Well, when he first graduated, his professor set him up with an internship with Annie Leibovitz. So he called them, to see when he needed to relocate to New York, and they said they would get back to him. This happened a few more times, and eventually he found out that they gave his internship to one of the Olsen twins. C’est la vie.

It’s no surprise that Annie is a perfectionist, and her shoots cost a fortune to create. I know the feeling. She is always determined to get “the shot,” and Arnold Schwarzenegger still jokes about flying through a blizzard in a helicopter, then nearly freezing to death for the 1997 Vanity Fair cover image of him on skis on a mountain top in Sun Valley, Idaho. She has already earned her lifetime achievement award at the age of 59 (to her dismay, actually.)

Getting a lifetime achievement award at 59 was a huge deal, but to her, it was as if the community was telling her that the last 40 years of her work were it, that those photos shot then were her best and nothing else would be better.

This is just a conjecture, but Annie’s perfectionism costs her a lot.  I totally and completely empathize, especially after reading what Andrew Eccles, one of her assistants, said: “She could never quite relax, because she was afraid that there was an even better idea… The anxiousness about whether a photograph was going to be good enough was hard to be around. It seemed like a difficult way to live.”

Gurl, I totally understand. And I bet a lot of people who are reading this understand, too. She has a lot of flaws, but she is one of the greatest photographers of our age.

Oh, btw, she had a relationship with Susan Sontag. NBD.

And that’s all for Annie Leibovitz. The next Photographer of the Day will be Man Ray, so keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

LomoChrome Turquoise XR

I am in love with the new LomoChrome Turquoise XR. The results I obtained from it were unpredictable and exciting, and I can’t wait to shoot my next roll.

For this roll, I started in the middle-of-nowhere-Michigan, and my wonderful boyfriend would stop the car when I wanted a picture. The rest of the roll was shot on a very lengthly walk with my best friend Kaiden, and while on this walk, I asked him to lie down on random things. Bless.

I would like to shoot outside when there are big puffy clouds in the sky, as there is a hint of what could be in the first photo. I’m also wondering about shooting more indoors; a majority of my indoors photos have a blue cast, but one of them is more greenish. Fluorescent lighting?  I’ll find out.

Since I goofed off on a roll, I’m brainstorming what sort of narrative would be complimented by this film. I’ll be doing some underwater shoots this summer, so maybe I’ll give it a whirl then.

LomoChrome Turquoise XR? 10/10, highly recommend.

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger

b. 1945

Today’s PotD is my gurl, Barbara Kruger. She is one of the main post-modern photo feminists, right up there with my other gurl, Cindy Sherman. Kruger studied visual arts at Syracuse University and Parsons School of Design, and though she is known for her photographic images and bold text, she initially used crochet and sewing to create feminist pieces. A girl after my own heart.

She went into design for a while, and, well, that’s no surprise, considering the work she is known for. Like Heineken, she exploited mass media and consumerism to bring her points home on the subjects of women’s rights (especially reproductive rights,) obsession with consumerism, and desire. What makes her so important is, well, she did it first.

Your Body is a Battleground in one of her most well known pieces on women’s reproductive rights.

Bold text over a red, black, or white background was one of Kruger’s signatures. Kruger noticed how much images and text affect our interpretation of things, and she exploited that to the max. She has created some installations with her bold text covering the walls, floors, and ceilings of a gallery. + Doubt

Kinda critical of mass media as propaganda, amiright?

Kruger has been quoted as saying, “Pictures and words seem to become the rallying points for certain assumptions. There are assumptions of truth and falsity and I guess the narratives of falsity are called fictions. I replicate certain words and watch them stray from or coincide with the notions of fact and fiction.” Homegurl paid attention, saw what words and pictures do to people, and made that a central part of her art making. You go girl!

One of the other beautiful things she has said? “When I first came on the scene when I was working on magazines, the art world in New York felt like 12 white guys.”

Finger snaps to my gurl Barbara for layin’ down some truths.

Of course, I have to talk about her achievements, like being in the Venice Biennale and was the recipient of the Leone d’Oro for lifetime achievement. She has taught for places like the Whitney and UCLA, to name a couple.

Kruger didn’t expect herself to become an artist in “the art world.” She’s been working now for decades, and is one of the most important and dynamic artists of our time. So, hey, if you don’t think you’re gonna be an artist, who knows! Never say never! You may one day be one of the most recognized names in the history of art! How’s that for positivity?

That’s all for today’s fierce Photographer of the Day. The next PotD will be Annie Leibovitz. Keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

Ideal Instances

Over the last month or so, I’ve been continuing work on my found Polaroids. When I initially started, I thought the work was about connections, longing, and the notion of family. I wasn’t really grounded in this concept, because it was one of those things that made sense in my head, but in context just didn’t convey what I hoped. But, because I’m stubborn, I kept working on this piece to figure out what it was about. It was bothering me, and I needed to figure it out, so I didn’t stop. I’ve made a break-through recently. Around Polaroid #120, everything clicked.

I was making up narratives in these photographs, and I was playing along in others. I was altering and editing and censoring them. I don’t know these people. Can’t these things be said about how we present ourselves today, on social media?

It’s no secret that we fabricate our lives for the internet. Everything we put on Facebook is carefully tailored to the image of ourselves we want the world to see. Sometimes the lives we create for ourselves are the total opposite of what we really are, or what we’re really going through. Like the UPenn  Student who looked fine on Instagram, but was anything but. Or, the girl who pretended to go on vacation, but was actually at home. We are making up our lives.

Thing is, this phenomenon isn’t anything new. We’ve been doing this since forever, carefully picking and choosing what we wish people to know about us. We put on different masks, hide things, make things up. The Polaroids I’ve been working with have a common thread– they are photos of instances that are happy, the kind of events that warrant a camera. Birthday parties, family reunions, holidays, vacations, all of the things in life that are supposed to be joyful. This is fine, but when you flip through your old family albums, you can’t help but notice some small things. Like blank spaces in the album, or a photograph of two people who look so happy, but they actually got into a huge argument years later and they now hate each other. Or a photograph of a loved one that looks so calm, but really they were dying of cancer. Photographs don’t tell the truth. But we still believe they do.

So many of us go on social media and get depressed that everyone is having more fun than us. Spoiler alert: it’s not true. The people you are envious of aren’t posting their woes on social media, because why would they? Why would they do that when they can show the world the ideal version of themselves? We put filters on our images. We edit them and we alter the content. With my Polaroids, I’m doing the same thing. Sometimes, I’m making fun of the efforts we go through to hide ourselves. Other times, I play along with the narrative in the photo, as we oftentimes do with our friends on Facebook or Instagram. “Oh, Katie looks so happy with her new guy, even though last night she called me crying about how she missed her ex. Oh well, I’ll like this picture anyway.” And, sometimes, I hint at the more melancholy parts of life that we all deal with, but pretend don’t exist. It’s a curious phenomenon.

The other connection I made with this project is how I kept thinking of Instagram and the editing features on that application, and the relationship to the Polaroid. Y’know, the earliest “instant” image? Snap a photo, wait a minute, and see if it’s what you like. Looks bad? Re-take it. Just like with our cellphones today. “Ew! I look terrible in that one– let’s do it again!” We really haven’t changed over the decades.

So, here are the next, uh, 51 Polaroids of my piece. I have 100 more of these, but, y’know, excess and all that.

I plan on having 1000 of these fabrications by the end of the summer.

Wish me luck.

Happy Shooting!

Personal Photography Throwbacks

I did this thing called “graduating college,” which means I have to move on to the adult world. My goal for the summer is to organize all my crap stuff and get rid of things, so I’ve been exploring boxes I haven’t looked in for years. Like, since high school.

So I came across one of those boxes today, and I found a crap ton of photos. I sorted through them and found some relevant gems to share.

Apparently, I was practicing to be a photographer when I was 11.

My clique.

I must have had one of those Kodak cameras, the throwaway kind, because the flash on these are horrendous.

This was also around the time I was an aspiring teddy-bear fashion designer.

I vaguely remember taking these photos. Especially the ones with the teddy bear fabric in the background. I thought I was being creative– who knew I was actually practicing patterns?

Photograph me like one of your french girls.

I was a cute kid, what can I say? I was even ahead of my time, with my harsh flash combined with out of focus, “atmospheric” pictures. 10 years ahead of the fashion photo trends– take that, vogue.

As seen in an Urban Outfitters catalog.

So, those were entertaining. I also found a stack of photos from when I first got my trusty DSLR. I got in 11th grade for my birthday/Christmas, and I wanted to go downtown to take photographs with it. So, since I was the birthday queen, we did. I remember I was shooting for a homework assignment in my digital photography class, all about reflections. So I did some of that. And, of course, took the usual photos of Hart Plaza that everyone else takes.

Of course, I added my signature rainbow. Because duh.

If I remember correctly, this was the first photo I took with my camera (or at least the first one I liked?)

Thanks for leaving your screwdriver around, dad!

Shortly after, I did my first shoot with my dear friend Allie, who was my first model, and she continues to pose for me today. But, check out these early gems:

We’ve come a long way, Allie my dear.

But I’m not done reminiscing yet. I found some real gems in this box. Like the time I was planning my Cirque du Dement shoot, which was the first project that took extensive planning, people, sets, costumes… It was my first constructed series, so it’s kinda responsible for all of the other intense photo shoots I’ve done.

But, apparently, I was really into the planning process. So much so, I got into character to demonstrate what I wanted, so my best friend could plan the make up for the shoots– at least I think that’s what it was for. Really I’m just justifying my weirdness but whatever– I was the coolest kid on the block.

I’m glad that my creative process has evolved beyond, uh, this.

In my defense, this was the result:

Ah yes, the days of vibrant saturation and high contrast.

That was the breakthrough for me. Constructing images made photography even more exciting for me, but I wasn’t going to pursue it as a career or anything (joke is on 17-year old me!) However, I did submit my senior portfolio to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and I won Best in Show for the entire county. Not gonna lie, that changed things.

“Maybe I’m awesome at this?”

That was the first time I won an award for my photography. Later that school year I would receive other acknowledgements, and it made me feel good. It was something that came natural to me, unlike all my other interests, which I felt I had to put in a lot of effort to be decent at them. But, I was in denial, I was gonna be an aeronautical engineer, then I wanted to be an archaeologist, and then I settled on studying English in college.

And then I added my art degree. And here I am, seven years after my first photography class, getting ready to earn my MFA in Photography in the fall. How neat is that?

I think it’s important to look back every now and then, to see just how far you’ve come. When you get stuck, or you feel like you’re  not any good, take a look at some old work you did– when you’re done cringing, you’ll feel good about your progress, I promise you.

So, go reminisce for a little while. Then go make something new!

Happy Shooting!