Creative: Palm Springs Photo Festival 2019, Take Three

Today I had little time to think. This can be dangerous. I feel as a collective, as an industry, we are missing something. We are missing the greater conversation while we focus on other things that might lead to us to water in the short term but won’t solve our long term thirst. But whoa, hey, let me slow down. (More on this later.)

Women in Photography panel.

I try not to break routine on trips like this. Heck, I try not to break routine on any trip, but when I’m attending something like PSPF it can feel overwhelming because there are so many interesting things happening I often feel like I can’t relax because I might be missing something. Yes, FOAM. Guilty.

Sybylla Smith

But I try to get up early, read, do yoga, etc. I’ve spoken about the beauty of routine before, and I think sticking to a solid routine can actually make things like this even better. Doing these other things helps me keep in perspective.

I was able to attend a lecture by art consultant Sybylla Smith, someone I met a few years ago and someone I find intriguing. Her program was titled “Concept Aware: Enhance Your Creative Practice.” Sybylla is an art consultant but she has also been a designer, an art director, producer and has been responsible for getting and creating shows for hundreds of photographers. In other words, a diverse background.

She covered A LOT of topics and ideas, and her talk actually became interactive as we were tasked with multiple assignments dealing with understanding our place in photography. We worked as individuals and as teams attempting to define terminology, context, practice, and creativity. Perhaps the idea that stuck with me the most was “You have a professional responsibility to be involved in the overall photographic conversation because it will inform you where you fit.” Now, this plays into the context idea of with your skillset and with your knowledge, you can determine where you currently fit in the professional industry. Understanding your context can be the key.

She also encouraged us to consume. Read, attend shows, go to lectures and expand our current knowledge base. She also had us supply single descriptive terms to individual images. A single image would appear on the projector and we had one minute to produce ten terms. Might sound easy right, and in some ways it was, but what was profound was the range of response. All over the place, which is incredibly poignant. This exercise again illustrated context, perception, interpretation, etc. ALL of these things are how small ideas become life-changing ideas. As an intelligent photographer, you must have an understanding of these ideas to fully maximize your potential.

Geek bliss. These are very cool devices.

Okay, okay, okay geeks, settle down. I know what you are after. I spoke to the kind folks at Gnarbox. Their new model is emerging as we speak, and it happens to be very cool. Imagine a portable backup device that happens to do A LOT more than simply backup files. And it’s small and light and allows me to travel without a laptop, iPad or phone.

Women’s panel. Wide range of work and skillsets.

The afternoon symposium was “Women in Photography,” with Mona Kuhn and Barbara Davidson amongst others. The night session landed with two heavy hitters. Stephen Wilkes and Jay Maisel who have an interesting, long-term relationship. If you don’t know Jay Maisel I’m not sure where you have been for the past fifty years, but he is a unique personality and unique photographer who has done more in his career than I could ever do in ten lifetimes. When his face pops into my mind it is followed by a range of imagery that seems more like the work of a hundred different photographers than just one, lone man. He’s remarkable.

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