Even More Ideal Instances

Here we are again, with more altered, vintage Polaroids. Have fun.

There will be dozens of more posts about this, so stay tuned. If this is your first time seeing this project, feel free to click here to find out more.

Happy Shooting!

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So, You Want to Go to Grad School: Pt. 3– National Portfolio Day

So, You Want to Go to Grad School?

Pt. 3- National Portfolio Day

The most rewarding thing I did on my graduate school journey was going to National Portfolio Day. If you are unfamiliar with the event, acquaint yourself, because it will seriously be the best thing for you to do to get into an ideal program.

National Portfolio Day is when a bunch of schools (like over 20,) send representatives/faculty to cities across the United States. So, there are opportunities to go. Each school has their own table, and you wait in line for the rep to look at your portfolio, and you will have the opportunity to ask questions about their program. This was incredibly valuable to me, but I didn’t go into it prepared.

I had no idea what I was doing. I looked to the internet to give me something, anything, to help me prepare, but everything I found was regarding National Portfolio Day for high schoolers, not young adults looking to get a master degree.

Here are some things I learned and wish to pass on:

  • Have artists who inspire you on your mind. Reps may ask you what artists you look at, and you want to look like you not only know how to make pictures, but that you can talk about them.
  • They will ask you specifics about your work. They want you to tell them what it is about, and they will ask if you considered X perspective, or why did you include X photo in your portfolio. So, think about your work, and find justification for it.
  • You MUST have a cohesive portfolio. What I mean is don’t bring in 20 unrelated images. That screams “undergrad,” and schools are not about that life. Your portfolio should be 2-3 series of work that all come together conceptually. For example, I brought in my work on dreams (which was three series condensed into one portfolio,) and my work about memory. I was able to explain to them my interest in dreams and memory, since our memory is oftentimes dreamlike, and my portfolio supported my claims. They are looking for people who are focused– if you have a bunch of different images that have nothing to do with each other, lawd help you.

  •  Be polite. You are speaking with people who may be your future professors. Do not get defensive over your work, but smile and nod and, if you feel passionately, kindly disagree– but have a reason why you disagree. This could open the floor to a discussion with the faculty, which is a good thing. If you are with a rep for more than 5 minutes, you did a good job.
  • If you get a card, you did good. When you are speaking to the reps, and near the end of your stay they give you their contact card and tell you “please contact me with any questions,” you did good. They are interested in you, and, let’s be real, who doesn’t want that? It would be best to follow up with them and shoot them a nice email, thanking them for their time. They will remember you more for it.
  • Take notes. But be courteous about it. Have a small notebook, and if you feel inclined to jot down any artists, literature, or philosophies that the rep is sharing with you, say, “Would you mind if I wrote all this down?” It shows them that you are eager to learn and improve. It is really hard to remember everything they tell you, so I highly recommend this.

  • DO NOT BRING PHOTOGRAPHS ON YOUR COMPUTER. Many people do, and I was actually one of the only people who had physical prints. It is one thing to look at an image on a small screen and another to be able to hold it. It proves that you took the time to print them, that you know how to print, and you stand out because of it. It was easier for them to flip through my images physically than having to do it on a computer.
  • Bring your prints in a portfolio box. I brought mine in one of those folios you get at Michael’s, the ones with the plastic pages that are kind of like a photo album, and that worked fine. They were able to flip through my images, and it was easy for me to transport. But, I found out later that at more “professional” portfolio reviews, you need to bring your work in a portfolio box like these. I personally like the Print File brand “clam shell,” but it’s your preference. I saw someone walking around with one with their named engraved on it, so if you’re into that sort of thing, look into it and look extra spiffy.

  • Check the National Portfolio Day website for a list of schools that will be at the event. Pick 3 schools you MUST see, pick 2 that you want to see but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t, and 2 schools that you would like to see if you have time. You will be surprised by how quickly time flies, and a lot of that time is spent waiting in line. If you want to speak to reps from schools like RISD, SAIC, or MICA, I suggest you get to your top choice first. You could be waiting quite a while to speak to them.
  • They have you fill out a form with your name and info on it, which the reps make comments on and put in a pile. I’m pretty sure they use these during the admissions process, to see if you talked to a rep at NPD, and what that rep thought about you and your work. This is a really good thing, because the admission board has no idea who you are or what you are like, but they do have a piece of paper that gives them some idea as to whether or not they want to work with you. By going to NPD, you are already a step ahead.
  • You know what to improve upon for when you DO apply. They will tell you what is strong in your portfolio and how to make it stronger. They will tell you your mistakes (gracefully,) and give you things to think about.

Going to National Portfolio Day was such a treat. I left feeling really good, hopeful, excited, and ready to work hard. I knew where I wanted to apply, because I was able to see how the faculty treated me, and I was driven to prove myself to these programs. If you are reading this and preparing to go, take a deep breath, wear something nice, and be confident. You are taking a step towards your goals, and it is scary, and not many people will do what you’re doing because they are too afraid. But, you’re not afraid to try, so hold your head up, smile, and walk and talk with confidence.

You got this.

Polaroid Automatic 100 Land Camera

Over winter break (can you believe that was half a year ago?) I acquired a Polaroid Automatic 100 Land Camera from a thrift store. I found out that I could still get film for it, which is FP-100C by Fuji, and since then I’ve been playing with it. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but these photographs are so fun. I get to not only make an instant photo, but I get to peel back the negative, so I’m kind of doing something!

The first photograph I took with my new love was of our Christmas tree. Totally out of focus, but I wanted to see if the thing worked and I love this picture because, well, it was my first one. ❤

I took it around with me, and I snapped this shot on a cold and rainy day, and the film got stuck together. So, light leak on this strange and ominous road? I’ll take five.

So there’s this small restaurant near my old house that has been going through owners through the years, and the last people who owned it painted it these lovely neon colors. Well, I guess it didn’t catch people’s attention (or appetite?) because it’s closed now. But, hey, I had a cool sweater, a composition, and a boyfriend who is good at following directions.

I took a break from the camera for a little while, and I picked it up again a couple weeks ago. I was discovering that the camera has a rather slow shutter, and I was wondering if it was because I was holding the button down. So, I took this picture of my room, holding the button for about 5 seconds, and discovered the answer to my low-light problems.

Then, I was playing with bleach, and was like “omg what would happen if I put bleach on it?” and the glorious green blobs are what happened. Oh, the possibilities this experiment brings.

Then there was this one time I was working on a photo series (that you will soon see,) and something went wonky and the developer got stuck on the image. But hey, it’s cool looking.

I have a lot of plans with this camera. I bought a flash for it in Alabama (at an antique shop on the way to New Orleans– I figured I could use it for something,) and the bulbs for it still exist. I’d also like to do more low light stuff, but even when the camera is on a tripod, my hand shakes too much. So, I have yet to figure that out.

I found mine at a thrift shop, so if you’re interested in taking these kinds of photos, keep an eye out, and even check eBay. I also recommend the bleaching– it was so cool!

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Nadar

Nadar

b. 1820 d. 1910

Today’s Photographer of the Day is Nadar, lesser known as Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, one of the most famous early photographers and an overall outstanding human being. He didn’t just take pictures, but he was also a caricaturist and an aviation enthusiast– perhaps one of the first. He was also homies with Jules Verne, and anyone who is friends with Jules Verne is a friend of mine.

So, let’s begin with the most important thing:

HOMEBOY HAD A HOT AIR BALLOON. HOW HARDCORE IS THAT?

Nadar was well known for taking aerial photographs of Paris from his own personal balloon.

I seriously can’t handle this guy. He took many portraits of people who are considered famous today, and man, he also had a good time doing it.

Photograph of Michel Eugène Chevreul with, I think, Nadar. I know that hair anywhere.

This elegant yet risque portrait of Sarah Bernhardt probz has a good story.

Sarah Bernhardt, Pierrot dans la pantonime– I wonder what conversation preceded this gem. “Hey. Sarah, wanna clown around?”

“Nadar pls.”

“No, really, here’s a clown suit.”

I wonder if this guy, Caran d’Ache, was trying to be serious here. And Nadar was like “Nah, let’s make this ridic because trollin'”

Also, Nadar liked to take self portraits. In his balloon. That was “flying” in his studio.

I would seriously love to be besties with Nadar. Home boy was the coolest. Let me prove how cool he was with a story:

My home boy Nadar loved balloons, so he asked this one guy to build him a hella big balloon. Apparently, Nadar’s homie Jules Verne was inspired by this and wrote Five Weeks in a Balloon. Sadly, the balloon was damaged after the second flight. What’s crazy to me was Nadar was like: “You know the future of flying? Heavier than air machines. Because science.” And, since Verne and Nadar had the greatest bromance of all time, they created “The Society for the Encouragement of Aerial Locomotion by Means of Heavier than Air Machines.” That’s a mouthful. I guess it could be TSFTEOALBMOHTAM for short. But I think sneezing would also work.

Nadar was also the first person to use artificial light in photography, since he was bein’ his self, takin’ photos in the catacombs because you only live once, right?

He also lent his studio to the Impressionists for their first ever exhibition. Did I mention home boy was the coolest?

I mean, I’d be friends with him:

Work it, Naddie.

That’s all for Nadar, the original MVP. The next PotD will be Catherine Opie, so keep an eye out for that gem.

Happy Shooting!

So, You Want to Go to Grad School: Pt. 2– Where to Apply?

So, You Want to Go to Grad School

Pt. 2– Where to Apply?

Choosing where to apply requires a lot of thought and research. But, you obviously know this, since you probably found my blog through an internet search, to help ease your panic. You can’t apply to 20 schools (I mean, you totally could, but the application fees would kill you,) and just go to the school that is ranked highest on internet lists.

When I was thinking about the grad school thing, I wanted to go one place. I thought it was my dream program, in the best possible location, with funding and unicorns and rainbows and ice cream mountains. But, upon further review, it wasn’t my kind of program.

There are a few things to ask yourself when looking at programs:

Who are the faculty, what is their work like, do I want to work with them?

This was really important for me. Some schools have 5-star faculty, like UCLA has Catherine Opie, Yale has Gregory Crewdson, and MassArt has Abelardo Morell. Having these artists as a part of the faculty definitely brings in the applications.

But more schools have faculty that aren’t as famous. Look at their work, their CVs, and see if they are someone you want to learn from. Creepin’ is important at this stage of the process.

And, most importantly, do you want to work with these people? You will be at the mercy of your professors for 2-3 years, and you’re going to want those 2-3 years feel worthwhile and not completely miserable. The biggest turn off for my “dream school” was the way I was treated by their faculty.

Go out of your way to meet faculty– I will talk about this more on my post about Graduate Portfolio Day and on Visiting Campus.

What does the work from the current MFA students look like?

Do some digging and find out who is currently in the program. Most school websites have a tab devoted to their grad student’s portfolios and/or websites. Check them out– please, really, do this. Pay attention to what you are seeing– does everyone’s work look similar? Are they all practicing the same concepts, or similar ones? Is there any experimentation? How about cross-media exploration?

Some schools have a very specific way of teaching photography. I was told numerous times on my journey that everyone that comes from Yale makes work like everyone from Yale does. “Cookie-cutter,” if you will. But, if Yale is the school you want to go to, and you feel their program will improve your photographic voice, awesome.

You could also want to be in a program that pushes the boundaries of contemporary art, or a program that is more interdisciplinary. It really, really matters to see what students are up to, because you can figure out the school’s philosophy and also gauge what kinds of resources they may have access to.

Do they offer funding?

I’m going to lay down some heavy truths here.

School is expensive. ESPECIALLY GRADUATE SCHOOL.

If you’re considering an MFA in Visual Art (or Photography, or whatever,) you need to realize there is no guarantee you will become a well received artist, an associate or even tenure professor, or anything else. The field is highly competitive, and everyone is good. So, if you take out $70K in loans and end up working at a job that makes $30K a year, I have sad news for you.

Do not start your art career off in debt. You will be too busy paying off those school bills and won’t have the time or monetary resources to produce work. Please, please, please don’t do this. It isn’t worth it.

So, do your research. State schools and universities typically offer nice scholarships, even full rides with additional stipends. There are some great opportunities, but these spots are also highly competitive.

Private schools and universities typically cost more, and they also don’t give as much money as public institutions. So, you could get into Pratt Institute, but get a $15K a year scholarship and end up having to take out $60K+ for the rest of your tuition. If funding is a huge priority for you, look into the sorts of funding schools offer.

A lot of advisors from these schools will tell you that they “will find you aid,” but that just means they will help you get loans. Yikes.

So, research the hell out of this. I wish I knew more about the lack of funding from private institutions, because I wouldn’t have applied to them if I did my research more thoroughly.

How about Graduate Assistantships? Can I teach?

Graduate Assistantships are hard to come by. I’m not delusional, or lying to you– they really, really are. Some schools, everyone that gets in gets a GA, but that may be because the program admits 2-4 people a year. Other schools you don’t get a GA your first year, and you have to apply for it/compete for it your second year. And, there are schools that don’t have any at all, since they “want their students to focus on their art.” Yeah, okay.

In some instances, you would get the opportunity to teach a beginners level course. This is actually pretty rare, and you will most likely find this kind of set up at universities, not small schools. If teaching is really, really important to you, look into it (well, obviously,) you may find that you may not be able to teach a class, but maybe you’d be willing to settle on assisting a professor in their class, if the other pros of the school outweigh the teaching factor.

Some assistantships range from administrative work, office work, gallery work, and archival work. If the school you are interested doesn’t specify what they have, ask directly.

Is it in a place that I can see myself living in for 2-3 years?

So, you get a full ride and a stipend, and you can’t wait to get started. At your new school. In Alaska.

Or, you’re a landscape photographer, you love wide open spaces, but you landed yourself in NYC for graduate school.

Yeah, maybe that’s a problem?

Figuring out if your school is in a place you want to live may seem shallow at first glance, but you must remember that the work you create will be affected by your surroundings. Some people won’t admit they would rather pay more tuition but live in NYC or wherever than have a full ride and live in Montana, where the most exciting thing outside the school is the gas station down the road.

Montana School of Art Institute

Take into consideration how expensive the location would be (for example, I wanted to apply to UCLA, but I knew I could not afford living in the LA area,) if you want to or need to be by your family, and, if you have a family of your own. Are you willing to relocate? Or are you happy with going to a nearby school?

Do I agree with their philosophy?

Last, but not least, look into what the school is teaching. Are they all about traditional processes? Or are they more into pushing contemporary boundaries through critical discourse? Are they open to all concepts, or are they only interested in sociopolitical ones? You will also need to know their philosophy better than they do, when it comes time to write statements and do interviews (but more on that later.)

So, there’s a lot to think about when choosing where to apply. One rule of thumb for a lot of people is to apply to 3 schools that are “dream schools,” 3 that you would go to, and 3 that are your safety net schools– but you also want to keep in mind that your safety schools should also be places you want to go, because they very well may be your choice 8 months down the road.

If you’re not sure where to start looking at programs, check out U.S. News Best Grad School List.  I urge that you START here, and not use this as your only platform for checking out schools. If you are still in undergrad, talk to your professors about good programs. Heck, even if you are out of undergrad, email them– they would be more than happy to help a former student. And, do your own digging. See if your favorite photographers/artists went to school, and if they did, maybe check that one out. The internet is your oyster.

Good luck, and see you next week for our next installment!

Happy Shooting!

Specks from an Antique Camera

I’ve had my Voigtlander V6 for almost a year now, and I’ve just gotten my fourth roll of film from it developed. I’ve been pleased with every roll I’ve shot on this pretty old thing. When I went to pick up my photos from the lab, I was told “You might want to look at these, they have black specks–”

“Oh, I know!”

“Oh. Okay…”

That’s why I love this camera so much. It’s an antique, and it gives that look to my photos. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

But enough of that. I took it out for Memorial Day weekend, which was filled with all sorts of adventures.

Near Mitchell’s house in the middle of nowhere, there is the decrepit house. It gives him the heebie jeebies, but I think it’s awesome. The others are from my adventures at the country fair, Wayne State University, and my grandfather’s Memorial Day picnic.

That dollhouse photograph is easily one of my most favorite photographs ever. It’s at my grandpa’s house, and when I was little I played with it every time I was over there. For hours. The tiny dolls that went with it went through drama that would make today’s soap operas pale in comparison. I guess you could say I’ve always been creative? Or deranged.

So, there’s that. Do you have an old camera that you love to shoot with?

Happy Shooting!