Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
I’ve been trying hard to keep up with my goals as I started my full-time position. It was difficult the first month when I was first starting my new job, of course, but I feel like I’ve really started to adjust and am learning how to accomplish more tasks after 5:00 p.m. and on the weekends.
Since I wrote my last list, I’ve read the following books, putting me at a total of three fiction books and 10 nonfiction:
- The Gathering by Anne Enright
- Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryū Suzuki
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- David & Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
- Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- The Gangster of Love by Jessica Hagedorn
- The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
And I can now communicate in very basic Spanish. Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to travel and use it soon.
The biggest news is that I’ve totally completed one Alt. Grad School goal: Publish three freelance stories. All three were published in Iowa City alternative press magazine Little Village in 2017.
- Profile of Jane Elliott, an anti-racism advocate famous for her Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes exercise she performed in her 3rd-grade classroom the day after Martin Luther King Jr. died. Jane is 85 and has lived in Iowa her whole life. I had the privilege of interviewing her in her home in Osage.
- Profile of Bridget Fonseca, a 24-year-old who graduated from the University of Iowa and started an organic farm with her partner Jake Kundert.
- Current affairs story about young women getting IUDs, a long-term birth control method, because of their fears about the changing healthcare system.
And one last goal I made headway on during these first two months… I’m training to run a 10K (6.2 mi) in 60 minutes or less. On Aug. 27, I completed my first 5-mile run and on Aug. 31, I was able to run 5 miles without taking any breaks to walk, which took about 55 minutes. This may not be a major feat for all runners, but it was big for me! I’ve been slowly increasing my running capacity over the last two years and it’s encouraging to see that, though very gradually, I was able to reach this point. I remember when two or three miles was a significant challenge. Reaching 6.2 miles in 60 minutes will require me to average faster than 10:00/mi, which will not be easy, but I’m confident I can get there by June 1.
On June 1, I started working on my personal version of Alternative Grad School, an idea borrowed from Chris Guillebeau’s book The Art of Non-Conformity. I was someone who really loved college because I was constantly learning new skills and information. Unfortunately, the world lacks structure for lifelong learners. While I am glad for the limitless opportunity I now have in lieu of arbitrary classes, required assignments, etc., structure helps me work, so I needed a framework in order to continue educating myself. I bought a new notebook and created a list of things I would like to learn, do, memorize, experience, and so on over the next year before June 1, 2018.
You can find Guillebeau’s list here.
My list is very similar with a few adjustments to make the program feasible for me while working full-time. I’ve also added a few of my own, completely original requirements.
Memorize every country, world capital, and leader of every country in the world
Travel to a new continent
Read the basic texts of the major world religions: the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, and the teachings of Buddha
Listen to a Spanish language-learning podcast 5X/week for a year and practice with Ethan
Loan money to an entrepreneur through Kiva.org
Train to run a 10K in 60 minutes
Show Once Familiar in an Iowa City coffee shop or other public venues
Compile a graphic design portfolio by completing 15 Briefbox projects
Read 30 non-fiction books and 20 novels
Start a blog and post bi-weekly
Listen to Grammar Girl and read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Read Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs
Publish three freelance stories
Complete a photography series by 12/31/17 and another by 6/1/18
In my three weeks of Alternative Grad School, since June 1, I’ve focused on several requirements more than others. I tried tackling the biggest, most time-consuming requirements right away, the most daunting being reading 50 books in one year.
So far I read:
- Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland
- Tell Me If You’re Lying by Sarah Sweeney
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
- Utopia for Realists: The Case for Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and 15-Hour Workweek by Rutger Bregman
- Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America by Stephen G. Bloom
I also started learning about Buddhism by reading Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Meditation and Practice. It isn’t exactly a Buddhist “text” like my Alt Grad School goals outlined, but it’s a compilation of talks given by Shunryu Suzuki at the Zen Center in Los Altos, California.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
I also started learning Spanish via the podcast Coffee Break Spanish, which I discovered on Spotify but is also available on iTunes. I used it to refresh my German studies in the past. Once you get used to the teacher’s Scottish accent, it’s a really great podcast for picking up the basics of a language. So far I don’t know much (Me llama Carly. Vivo en Iowa en Los Estados Unidos.) but I’m getting there.
Goals in which I’ve been behind are my 10K run training (I was truly sick over the past few weeks, I swear), my photography projects, and graphic design. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some progress in those areas in July.
Wish me luck. Comment with any other important life skills you feel should be on one’s Alternative Grad School list.
I’m beginning my last photo project of undergrad and I’ve decided I’m going to build pinhole cameras out of mostly salvaged materials and make into a camera. Essentially, I am trying to explore what photography could look like after an apocalypse of some kind, like an environmental disaster where the latest Canon $3,000 DSLR could become useless.
For reference I’ve mostly been using a book I bought used on Amazon, Pinhole Cameras: A DIY Guide by Chris Keeney, as my guide. I’ve also been reading Minimal Aperture Photography Using Pinhole Cameras by John Warren Oakes and Pinhole Photography From Historic Technique to Digital Application by Eric Renner, though these are more complicated.
Below is the first image I was able to create using a large peanut can and 5×7″ darkroom paper. I scanned the image and reversed the values in Photoshop.
The best piece of advice I ran into was suggested by Keeney’s book: scanning pinholes to bring them into Photoshop and measure them. I used an online pinhole calculator to determine pinhole sizes for various containers. The focus on each of the cameras I’ve made so far has been far more sharp than I ever expected.
Here are a few images I took just this week. You can expect to see a lot more as I start cramming my project into my last few weeks of undergrad.
March 1: My photography professor, Jeff Rich, recommended I look at the work of California photographer Jeff Brouws. Vintage signs, square frames, stunning colors: what’s not to love?
March 2: Stephen Shore is another photographer my professor recommended I look at because he felt his work is similar to what I’ve been trying to achieve in my Once Familiar project. Every time I tried to pick a favorite to share here on my blog, I flipped to the next image and loved it even more.
March 3: Brian Finke’s work is essentially a wide sociological representation of various groups: truckers, flight attendants, frat boys, etc. And his use of flash outdoors is flawless. Plus, he makes work for National Geographic, New York Times Magazine, ESPN Magazine—no big deal.
March 4: Jennifer Greenburg inserts images of herself in found mid-20th century images to “hijack the memories.”
March 5: British photographer Simon Roberts explored 200+ locations throughout Russia for his series Motherland.
March 6: The following image is from Paul Shambroom’s Meetings Series for which he took photos of official meetings in small towns.
March 7: Kyle Ford’s project Forever Wild is currently in progress. Click the image below to see some of the shots he’s created so far.
March 8: I adore all of Lacey Criswell’s quirky Minnesota images. She clearly is a genius at finding remarkable locations.
March 9: I’m always a fan of surreal photography though I don’t care to produce it myself.
New York City-based photographer Brooke Didonato is “influenced by the subconscious and its correlation to emotions and perceptions,” according to the bio on her site.
March 10: Martha Rosler explores the implied freedom of major American roadways in her series Rights of Passage (which includes much better quality images in book form).
March 11: Many photographers probably know Alec Soth’s large format work, but I finally got my hands on a copy of Songbook. I’ll always be biased toward his book Sleeping by the Mississippi because I grew up on the Mississippi River in Iowa, but seeing his black and white work for Songbook was a new take.
March 12: Stephanie Calabrese is largely an iPhone photographer who made this Georgia series featured by the New York Times.
March 13: EI just finished watching Manufactured Landscapes, a documentary of Edward Burtynsky photographing industry in China.
March 14: Tom Wood photographed bus rides in Liverpool over a period of 20 years for his series Bus Odyssey.
March 15: Antti Janjunen is a London-based photographer I ran across while looking for examples of exposures made on Velvia on Instagram today.
March 16: Margaret Morton made this documentary series about young people living in an abandoned glass factory in Manhattan.
March 17: If you love vintage signs, Zack Vitiello’s Instagram is for you.
March 18: In Juan Fernandez’ series Façade, he removes all distracting elements in Photoshop to create an increased sense of tension in his architecture shots.
March 19: German photographer Elmar Ludwig’s zany work caught my eye in a used book store in Chicago last weekend called Our True Intent is All for Your Delight. Unfortunately, he’s slightly difficult to track down on the internet and I regret not buying it!
March 20: John Hinde is an English photographer with a nostalgic feel, especially in postcard version.
March 21: Tamara Reynolds explored transient town Oak Grove, Kentucky for this Oxford American project.
March 22: Throwback to my angsty high school years when my all-time favorite photographer was Brooke Shaden.
March 23: Jennifer Bolande was commissioned to create billboards that matched their scenery.
March 24: Drone + Photoshop = Aydin Büyüktas’s photo manipulations
March 25: Homai Vyarawalla was a photojournalist at the time India became independent from the British Empire.
March 26: Shelby Lee Adams is known as “Picture Man” among the locals he photographs in Kentucky.
March 27: Lori Nix builds dioramas of imagined abandoned spaces for her project, The City.
March 28: David Plowden tried to capture elements American heritage that are threatened to be erased by industry and progress.
March 29: It’s impossible not to love the work of street photographer Elliot Erwitt.
March 30: Recommended by Eirik Johnson, who is currently visiting the University of Iowa’s photography program, Robert Adams. How have I not heard of him before?! His photos are just my style.
March 31: The series Animal Logic by Richard Barnes had me laughing out loud all the way through.
I so rarely go out to shoot for myself. It’s a good thing Ethan’s there to make me get out there and create images just for fun. I’m always glad I did.
Take a guess: Which of the following images is medium format digital and which is film?
I took the opportunity to borrow the University of Iowa’s Mamiya 645 camera with a digital back out to shoot and compare with my own Mamiya 645 1000s, which uses film.
Both cameras absolutely have their advantages and disadvantages. The digital is bulky, creates enormous files (which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage), and would cost thousands of dollars (probably $20,000+) if I were to buy it myself. Obviously, as a soon-to-be college graduate with a liberal arts degree, this isn’t feasible for me and likely never will be.
At the same time, I could see my images instantly on the back of the camera, never had to deal with film, and had great results.
I’ll keep this post short because I’m not going to debate which image is the winner. The compositions of these two images are of course not equal (I think the top image’s composition is much better) but it’s fascinating to finally observe them side by side.
Top image: Mamiya 645 with digital back
Bottom image: Mamiya 645 1000s, Kodak Portra 400 film
I’m beginning the last semester of undergrad and have decided to focus on my rural Iowa project for these next few months of school before graduation.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to open myself up to new techniques, cameras, and film stocks because I want to use whatever tools suit my project best (even if they don’t happen to be film).
During my first semester working on the project, I stuck to the Hasselblad exclusively because I didn’t want to mix square format images with other ratios. After spending a few days looking through artists’ photobooks, though, I found that many were able to mix ratios to great success.
I ended up trying a Canon 5D Mark III, which I mostly enjoyed, and a Mamiya 645 digital camera (blog comparing this to my Mamiya 645 1000s film camera to come) to put any biases I had against digital to the test. I definitely like using the Mark III, especially for portraits and indoor work, but when I’m shooting digital, I work too quickly. I think it’s because I have so many opportunities to just click, click, click, click that I don’t take time to compose. I’ll definitely have to try the Mark III again in the future though and keep pace in mind next time.
Gear aside, scroll down to see my most recent results.
I’ve completed the first four weeks of my 52-week photo challenge where I am making Instax photos based on my partner Ethan Zierke‘s original haiku. Check out my first post for a full project description.
Jan. 1-7: Poets toss rotting
books from knotted shelves to fro-
Jan. 8-14: A new snow dusting
Above old fixtures rusting
Long live frozen towns
Jan. 15-21: the quiet surrounds:
swallowing sounds, each louder
than my heart expounds
Jan. 22-28: impossible, yes,
the silence cannot listen:
what is there to say?
At the beginning of January, a prompt in my Steal Like an Artist Journal encouraged me to begin a 31-day challenge. I love photography but don’t look at others’ work as often as I would like, so I decided to do some brief research on one photographer each day and ended up with my own little personally curated gallery of artists that inspire me.
NONE of these images are my own. Please click on the images to see them and other images in the series on the photographer’s websites.
January 1: Irving Penn
Irving Penn is a photographer best known for his fashion photography but also has several interesting side projects that are worth a look.
January 2: Jon Horvath
His Pathetic Clouds series killed me.
January 3: Andrew Borowiec
I see so much of what I’ve been trying to accomplish in my Iowa series in this Ohio photographer’s work.
January 4: Kate Medley
Her work in the South is gorgeous. Unfortunately, her website doesn’t seem to be working right now, so I’ve linked to Oxford American.
January 5: Francesca Woodman
Her black and white self portraits and long exposures continue to amaze years after her death by suicide.
January 6: Chris McCaw
Long exposure sun images burn holes through the paper. In the image below, he used new paper every 30 minutes. Click the image to check out his site where you can see a wide range of techniques he used in his Sunburn project.
January 7: Matthew Brandt
This L.A. photographer is known for making C-41 prints of lakes, then soaking them in the body of water depicted in the image.
January 8: Rebecca Drolen
Rebecca Drolen’s work is uniquely surreal and witty.
January 9: Stacey Baker
This photo editor started an Instagram account where she captures women’s legs on the streets of New York.
January 10: Lucy Hilmer has taken a self portrait every year on her birthday since 1947 when she was 29 for her project “Birthday Suits.”
January 11: Maia Flore
Check out Maia Flore’s website for fun, surreal images that will make you think.
January 12: Gioia de Bruijn
This photographer finds traditional documentary photographer voyeuristic and instead believes in being involved in the situations she photographs.
January 13: Lisa Elmaleh
Lisa Elmaleh shoots 8×10 wet plates of the Florida Everglades and develops them in a darkroom in the back of her truck.
January 14: Susan Derges
This camera-less photographer makes photograms of the movement of water.
January 15: Jens Knigge
German photographer Jens Knigge makes plantinum prints
January 16: Keith Carter
For his book Uncertain to Blue, Keith Carter photographed small towns with odd names in Texas. This image is called Bebe.
January 17:Michael Weitzman
I follow this alternative process photographer’s Instagram. He uses a wide range of techniques. The image below was produced with a toy camera.
January 18: Kat Shannon
Today my photography professor showed us this “Girls in Uniform” series one of his former students, Kat Shannon, made and I instantly fell in love.
January 19: Mauro D’Agati
I checked out Italian photographer Mauro D’Agati’s book Less Vegas. He visited Las Vegas for 10 days, following permanent residents around.
January 20: Harry Callahan
Harry Callahan was a street photographer who was inspired by the look, though not so much the subject matter, of Ansel Adams. The image below is part of a series made in Chicago.
January 21: Joel Sternfeld
Check out his American Prospects series for more of his witty sense of humor.
January 22: William Christenberry
William Christenberry is known for his years-long projects taking pictures of Alabama buildings as they decay, but he also made work that exposed the evils of the KKK. He said that while some people told him that it wasn’t an appropriate subject for art, he said, “…I hold the position that there are times when an artist must examine and reveal such strange and secret brutality.”
January 23: Gulnara Samoilova
Gulnara Samoilova used handcoloring to express the hidden elements of life in the USSR.
January 24: Claude Cahun
Claude Cahun was a French transgender photographer who created Surrealist self-portraits illustrating various personas.
January 25: Rose Marasco
I checked out Rose Marasco’s book New York City Pinhole Photographs and was amazed by the sense of motion in this fish market image.
January 26: Justin Quinnell
Justin Quinnell made a pinhole camera that fit inside his mouth and photographed humorous situations for his series/book Mouthpiece.
January 27: Sandi Haber Fifield
If you’re interested in photomontage, take a look at this photographer’s beautiful, deliberate composites.
January 28: Andrew Moore
This Omaha-based photographer takes stunning aerial photos of the Great Plains for his project Dirt Meridian.
January 29: Chris Verne
This rural Illinois photographer photographed his family and community since high school.
January 30: Eirik Johnson
Eirik Johnson focused his series Sawdust Mountain on Northwestern identity and use of natural resources such as forests and salmon.
January 31: Lois Bielefeld
Lois Bielefeld’s body of work The Bedroom is composed of 103 portraits of bedrooms and their owners.