Create: Office Space

You know those videos on YouTube that show “minimalist,” desk setups, or workstations, with a grand total of four items perfectly spaced. Each item is new, perfect, trending, and guaranteed to trigger a cascade of new buying? Ya, I figured you did. They are rampant. “My ultimate minimalist setup,” or my “dream desk setup.” I find these rather odd. But that’s me. (Same for the perverse world of EDC.)

Shifter Command. Still haven’t put art on the walls in my office. The floors are lined with prints yet to be hung. This is a typical day at my desk. That radio is from Wyoming in 1970’s. We had no phone when we moved there.

I find them odd because they aren’t about the desk setup. These films are about YOU buying what THE FILMMAKER gets paid for YOU buying. I also think they are odd because of all the creative people I know, the high-level ones anyway, NOBODY has a desk like that. Same for art studios. I know a few art studios that are organized, but never to THAT degree. Why? Because the artist is actually USING the studio. And art is messy. We learn that in grade school. I’ve still got glue in my hair, and yes, I ate as much of it as possible. So filling.

This is the first desk behind my main desk. All of these items are being used on a daily basis. Most are book samples I use during online classes or lectures. The prints are wall art samples. One metal, one acrylic, and one canvas. Camera is my main vid cam.

A few that stand out to me were the Francis Bacon studio. Good grief, look at that place. How about Peter Beard at work? (This is a great article by the way.) I am in NO WAY putting myself remotely near the level of either of these folks but after seeing one too many thumbnails for the modern “creative” desktop I couldn’t stand it anymore. I suddenly wondered, “What does my studio look like,” and why does it matter?” Truth is, it doesn’t but I thought maybe someone might find this interesting.

This is the second desk behind my main desk. I use every item on this desk almost every day. And this image does not include the multiple bags of gear I have the closet behind me. All my film gear, the rest of my audio setup and recording setup.

I’m fortunate. I have a job that keeps me more than busy. And I guess I have a second job if you throw in AG23. And my outside work life is just as active. Probably why I’m sitting here dog tired at the moment. Alas, no complaints. But the point is I don’t have time to pretend, nor do I want to. I just want to work, to make and to experience a life of positive, interesting endeavor. My current life requires what you see here. Yes, I put these items in order so you might be able to determine what is what. Normally, it’s in a big pile. No, I’m not joking.

The third desk behind my main desk. A small amount of my art supplies my rock collection, AG23’s ready to be mailed out, my glasses, a Lawrence Fodor art piece, a custom wooden box for a limited edition Blurb book I did a few years ago and a pile of the current correspondence I received in the mail. Few other odds and ends. Two knives, both carried daily and a lighter. Stencil. And a Canon Pro 1000 I’ve never plugged in but it does make a great shelf for paint and brushes I don’t know how to use.

What’s my point? Doesn’t matter. Whatever your desk is it is. I’m not selling you on my lifestyle or my style, just cracking a door and letting a little light in. The key is to create a space that allows for exertion. Creative, focused exertion. I think the same could be said for my car or your car. It’s just metal and plastic, it’s where you go that’s important. So if your desk isn’t “perfect,” it’s okay.

18 Comments on “Create: Office Space”

  1. True. A desk or office should be functional for the one using it and a place you feel comfortable in. Like you things you use should be there within reach and not tucked in a closet. Mine is messy too, a little too much has been relegated to the floor lately, books don’t fit in the library anymore. But my car has to be clean, zero mess. To each his own way.

    Your chair though seems like a back breaker!

  2. Ok, this is now my all-time favorite Shifter post. Because I’m grateful. My work area is a disaster. I’m a failed Virgo. Must have been born under an icy, cold, dark comet. I crave order and simplicity, but Loki sends in his clutter gremlins. I do need to move the needle – a lot of my clutter and disorganization stems from some laziness. We don’t do ourselves any favors lying to ourselves, right? But seeing this reminds me that workshops are places for work. I have camera bodies, negatives, lenses, audio gear, lighting, etc. in a modestly sized apartment. There’s no way my desk is ever going to be a single laptop with one orange LaCie hard drive off to the side, no wires in sight. I’d love for it to be as organized and work-conducive (made that term up) a space as yours – I can get there.

    1. Scott,
      I actually have space here. Having said that, my wife’s studio is at least 2x mine. She wins.

  3. My work desk was always a mess, but I did buy into the whole standing desk thing the last five years of my work life and loved it. Now it sits mostly idle in my office/pantry where the walls are covered with my prints, cheaply displayed. Since retiring my desk is my ikea chair and my ipad.

  4. Love this Dan! Makes me feel better about my desk situation. I was always jealous of those minimalist folks…and always thought there is no way a photographer’s desk can be that clean! This is re-assuring, especially since we had our baby 8 months ago my desk has been a complete mess! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Michael,
      Ya, I think there is the crowd that WANTS us to think they are that minimal. I do, however, know one very, very famous person who does have a desk like that. An entire room actually, but he also owns like ten houses.

  5. I have 2 of those super low desks… you know the Japanese style ones where you have to sit on the floor and they are NOT comfortable at all. I also can’t remember the last time I saw the surface because of the ever expanding pile of pens, pencils, charcoal, ink, brushes paper, pads. I have an obsession for buying art pens, ink, and pencils when I don’t even need them. ( if you are in the market for a nice pencil btw, might I recommend the Faber-Castell 9000 series)

    1. Kurt,
      You sound like a few other peeps I know. Pens, pencils, paper. Ahhhhhh, no. I have the same issue.

  6. Hi! First post! I work in architecture in London (UK) and aspire to be a more well rounded and expansive creative. I have come here after watching a couple of Daniel’s interviews. Really grateful for the invaluable insights into the world of photography and with a real focus on what’s important… Anyway, I think I have watched too many of those ‘minimalist desk setups’ videos 😉

    1. Lorenzo,
      Me too. It’s like a train wreck. I can’t not look. But never going to happen in my desk world.

  7. I love this post, Dan! I’m aspiring to have 3+ desks as well … I have so much stuff it’s impossible to be a minimalist in this lifetime. 🙂

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