Last fall, AJ Epstein, old friend and proprietor of West of Lenin, a fabulous new theater space in Fremont (Seattle), approached me about doing an exhibition in their lobby space, finally finished into a lovely gallery. We tossed ideas around for a few months, and eventually settled on some of my theater photos, in keeping with the theme of the space, and my long history of working with performers, many who now put on shows at WofL.
The images are a selection from the theater world, including groups and events like UMO Ensemble, 14/48, Sandbox Radio Live, theater simple, and Teatro Zinzanni. Individual performers include Kevin Joyce, Kevin Kent, Mik Kuhlman, Annette Toutonghi, and Charles Leggett.
One wall of “20 Years of Northwest Performance Photography” at West of Lenin, Seattle, spring 2014 | Photos L-R: theater simple’s Wonderland, Kevin Kent – Teatro Zinzanni, 14/48, Kevin Joyce – A Pale and Lovely Place, UMO – Red Tiger Tales
I couldn’t forsake my circus and variety photos, or omit some of my favorite promo photos. There are single images featuring Ela Lamblin of Lelavision, Lauren Weedman, the Flaming Idiots, Alex Zerbe, Tom Noddy, Michael Carbonaro, Martha Enson in Gravity of Kindness, and more from the Moisture Festival and other shoots.
I put together a new presentation telling the stories of some of the photos in the exhibition, and adding many more that were never used, with behind-the-scenes images and history. It was great fun to be on the stage myself for a change!
In my talk, I told the story of creating this image of the Flaming Idiots and how it ended up in Times Square
The show continues through the end of May, and possibly June, 2014. Contact West of Lenin for dates and access information.
I started this post many months ago (OK, January), and while the events may have happened quite a while ago, I like what I shared here, so, a bit late, here it is…
For quite a while I’ve been reporting on my travels, workshops, exhibitions and other photo fun on this blog. I’ve gotten a little behind, and might not try to cover every event in the future – we’ll see how it goes…
So what have I been up to? This past fall I did some international travel; a combination of visiting friends and family, photographing (especially on beautiful Inish Mor), and bringing my toy camera show on the road. I spoke to two classes in Dublin, Ireland, and had a great time showing them cameras, images, and offering inspiration. I asked the teacher I worked with there for some words about the experience:
Today, we were privileged in Griffith College to be Michelle’s first international audience for her one of renowned talks on plastic cameras. The passion Michelle has for the world of Holga and beyond is infectious. Numerous students (and ..ahem staff) could be heard uttering the words, “that’s on my Christmas list” after we were wowed with images that spanned all genres of photography taken on the simplest of devices. The images Michelle showed were mesmerizing and dreamlike and filled with creativity. Newcomers to the medium fell in love at first sight and for the rest of us ignition sparks could be seen as passions were relit. It takes a special kind of skill to not only know your subject well, but communicate it, engage an audience and inspire, Michelle has this in bucket loads. Thoroughly enjoyable!
Photography Course Director
Griffith College Dublin, Ireland
Of course, that felt great! When I got back, I did my yearly pilgrimage to PhotoPlus Expo in New York, which is always a great time to catch up with Focal Press, my publisher, and Freestyle Photographic, whose advisory board I’m on, as well as the New York photo scene and everyone who comes into town. I’ve been going since 1991, and always enjoy it.
Back in Washington, I gave a presentation at the Society for Photographic Education’s NW regional conference in Spokane. I spoke at this event, nearby in Pullman, in 2005, and it’s amazing to think about all that has happened since then. I know I’ve become a better speaker – I’ve had lots of practice!
And the following week in Seattle I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at TEDxRainier, a day-long event with 30 speakers on a huge range of topics, 700 people in the audience and many more watching online. I love speaking to photo audiences (I can really geek out on the technical stuff), but I also love general audiences; I can wow them with the a wide range of images and amaze them with the idea that something that low-tech can create something so beautiful. This was a great audience, and now I have the video, available for all to see as well. TEDx is a great thing (as is TED, its parent); I helped out in 2010, spoke in 2011, and I imagine will be involved again in 2012.
The rest of this winter has been focused on a massive organization of my images. I started shooting in 1991, and have amassed a huge number of rolls of film, contact sheets, prints, and digital files. With the help of my fabulous intern, Fiona Shearer (who I met at SPENW 2010), I’ve made some order from the madness, in the meantime putting my hands on almost every image I’ve ever made. It’s incredibly satisfying, and I hope will lead to streamlined workflow in the future, and more time and space for making new images. I’m building a darkroom; I’ve always had the gear, but the spaces come and go. I’m looking forward to some play time in my new space, without having to watch the clock. And I’m doing some plotting: hopefully some teaching in Australia, revamping my website, constantly organizing my office and many other things.
One more topic; I know I talk more about my Holga world here, but I spend a lot of time photographing live performance, especially physical theater, circus, vaudeville, etc. In 1996, my first promo shoot was for Kevin Joyce, who was creating a new solo piece called “A Pale and Lovely Place.” One images from that shoot has continued to be iconic for both of us. He remounted the show in December at West of Lenin in Seattle, and I made big prints of those images for the lobby, using the original negatives – so satisfying! I also did production shots, and got this note from the lighting designer/producer/theater owner:
These are so amazingly beautiful, I want to cry.
No. Seriously. No one has ever made my lighting look so wonderful!
Kevin Joyce in “A Pale and Lovely Place” in 2010 and 1996
I continue to grow and learn in my field, both in my skills as a photographer, business person, marketer, teacher, and speaker, and it’s incredibly gratifying to work with people over many years, and meet new ones, and get great feedback on what I’m doing. It’s a pleasure meeting the many photographers, performers and others in my travels.
Happy new year to all, and I hope to see you on the road,
After spending a month in March and April in Seattle, mostly spent photographing the Moisture Festival, I hit the road again, this time in my little van, with my collection of toy cameras, books and lots of film.
First stop was San Francisco to teach a workshop at Rayko Photo, which was featuring their huge Plastic Camera Show. As one of the guest artists, I had a mini show of my own in the midst of the exhibition.
Moving south, I hit PDN’s 30 Under 30 exhibition at The Icon in Los Angeles, where the Holga Inspire exhibition was in March. It was a treat to make it to one event as part of MOPLA, and see Hossein Farmani, head of the Lucie Foundation.
And heading into the heat of the Southwest, I ended up in Tucson, to be part of ArtsEye Gallery’s Curious Camera exhibition. They really take their toy cameras seriously there, and in fact I was greeted on entering by the BIGGEST Holga anyone’s ever seen!
My class with the World’s Biggest Holga, JP (top), its creator, and Mary Findysz (blue shirt)
A few of my photos
The workshop was great fun – a full house of students, staff of Photographic Works, and owner Mary Findysz. Tucson has a lively photo community and they were wonderful hosts – I had a great visit!
- Part of my Curious Camera class, Tucson
Heading east from Arizona, I spent a week with a friend in the Jemez Mountains hanging out with wild turkeys, beavers and other critters. And, finally shifting into real road-trip mode, I turned northwest, into the glorious state of Utah. Just getting from one place to another took me through mind-boggling scenery and topography, like the Moki Dugway (impossible to photograph and impossible to forget…). The stops were equally amazing and satisfying. I finally got to explore Capitol Reef National Park off the main road, in all its bizarre glory. And stops in Kodachrome Basin State Park and Bryce Canyon were fabulous fodder for my Holgas as well.
Heading north towards home, I stopped in Eureka, Nevada to visit photographer Deon Reynolds. It’s fun knowing people in bizarre out-of-the-way places. Great excuses to explore the country!
And finally, I traveled through Eastern Oregon, which I love dearly, on a particularly spectacular day, with the most intense hailstorm I’ve ever been in, and gorgeous dramatic clouds highlighting the landscape.
Flooded Field & Horse in Eastern Oregon
And I finally made it back to a place I’ve never forgotten since my first visit in 1997 – Round Barn.
- Round Barn, Oregon
It was a perfect combination of teaching, visiting with friends, old places and newly discovered ones; groups and solo time; and exploring with my van and Holgas. Hurray for road trips!
March was a busy month for my photographs, which were hanging in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with openings all in the same week! The one I actually made it to was in New York, where I had the great honor of having a solo exhibition at Soho Photo Gallery in conjunction with the venerable Krappy Kamera show. This is the oldest and largest of the toy camera shows, and includes an international juried show and a show of work by members of the gallery. I was invited as a guest artist to fill the upstairs gallery, which until now has been the Salon de refuses – a salon-style showing of all the submitted prints that weren’t accepted into the exhibition. I’ve had images in the main show (in fact, my monkey photo won first prize in 2009!) and also lots of prints in the salon. This year, however, I hung 32 framed prints, including some that had been tacked to the walls among the multitudes in years past – that made me laugh!
In trying to decide what to exhibit for such a large show, I came upon the realization that 2011 marks 20 years that I’ve been shooting with Holgas. This gave me the chance to curate a show that was a survey of the imagery I’ve created since 1991, when I first picked up a Holga at the Maine Photographic Workshops (now Maine Media Workshops). I called the collection “20 Years of Toying with Creativity” and hung the first photos I made in 1991, as well as band new work from this winter. Having the show in New York made it even more special, as my family, friends from MPW, and even a college friend who first told me about Maine Photo came to the opening. Rounding it out, many photographers who are in my book, including Mary Ann Lynch, my editor and all-around supporter, came out for the events.
I arrived in NY a few days before the opening and hung the show as a team of gallery members put up the huge show below. On Tuesday, March 1st, the gallery filled up with toy camera photographers and aficionados for a lively opening. And on Sunday, I came back to give a talk about my work, the history of these cameras, and who’s doing what with them. We had a lovely crowd for the talk, and walk around both exhibitions afterward.
Me with Sandra Carrion, member of Soho Photo Gallery
“Plastic Cameras” contributors Mary Ann Lynch, Anne Arden McDonald & Harvey Stein
I moved on to Atlanta for the Society for Photographic Education’s national conference, which was a treat, as always. I snuck in a little exploration of Atlanta, including the Center for Puppetry Arts and the Atlanta Zoo.
That’s Portland, OR, and New Orleans, LA to the uninitiated…
Not sure why I never posted this when I wrote it in January, but in the spirit of catching up, here it is!
Returning from New York I bopped down to Portland for the SPE NW regional conference – that’s Society for Photographic Education, which I’ve been a member of for 5 or 6 years – at Newspace Photo. This time I was invited to be part of a panel discussion called “Northwest Territory: Women in Photography,” moderated by Julia Dolan, Curator of Photography at the Portland Art Museum and presented by Photolucida. The panel included myself, Holly Andres, Toni Greaves, Lauren Henkin, Heidi Kirkpatrick, Dianne Kornberg, Ann Ploeger, Rebekah Rocha, and Grace Weston. It was an honest and fascinating session, and Lauren recorded and posted the whole thing to her blog: Photo Radio: Conversations on the Visual Arts. The rest of the weekend continued with gatherings and many more presentations, including Blue Mitchell, Zeb Andrews, Lauren Henkin, Harrell Fletcher and many more.
In December, I took a long-awaited trip to New Orleans for PhotoNOLA. I heard about this relatively new event when I taught a workshop for New Orleans Photo Alliance in 2008, and it definitely lived up to the positive reports I heard. New Orleans is so ridiculously full of things to do, I mixed in other friends, music, a road trip to visit the places I went in 2006 in Mississippi with New Old Time Chautauqua, and tooled around the French Quarter.
PhotoNOLA kept us busy with a slew of events. There was a group book signing where I introduced my second edition. This weekend drew a pretty large selection of my contributors together: Michael Kenna had an opening at A Gallery for Fine Art Photography, Sylvia Plachy taught a workshop at The Darkroom, Jennifer Shaw organized the whole event, Louviere + Vanessa live in town and also were showing at A Gallery, Gordon Stettinius was part of a panel discussion, and I convinced Laura Burlton to make the drive over from Houston to join us – it was a blast and I got everyone to sign my copy of the book!
Michael Kenna & Sylvia Plachy in New Orleans
Michelle Bates & Jennifer Shaw at PhotoNOLA 2010
A full room of photographers and fans were entranced by Michael Kenna’s images and stories; it was a rare treat for him to speak in public, and a joy for me to hear from someone who is so content and dedicated to the art he makes. It was a beautiful night. The other sessions and portfolio reviews were interesting and well-organized, and events around town kept us all socializing and looking at art until all hours.
I taught a workshop at the Big Top on Sunday and Monday with a very enthusiastic group. PhotoNOLA is a fantastic event – highly recommended!
Plastic Cameras workshop at PhotoNOLA 2010 taught by Michelle Bates
I’ve had quite the run of speaking in Seattle this fall, and things are still happening. Since I love talking about my passions, I’m having a great time!
Back in September, I gave my shortest, and perhaps scariest, talk, at Ignite Seattle at the huge King Cat Theater. The scoop there is all the talks are exactly 5 minutes, with 20 slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds. I’ve given talks from 20min to 2 week-long workshops, so filling time isn’t a problem, but distilling the world of plastic cameras down to 5 min for a geeky audience was something different, and speaking to 700 people my largest crowd to date. In the end, it was lots of fun and the whole night of watching the other talks fun and educational. My talk should be available online soon.
Michelle Bates speaking at Ignite Seattle, Sep 2010 - iPhone snap by Noah Iliinsky
In November, I had the great pleasure of doing a talk about my book at the venerable Elliott Bay Book Co, in its beautiful new home on Capitol Hill. For a month around the talk, I made a window display of the book, a variety of cameras and some of my photos. On November 13th, I filled up the speakers room with friends and fans of low-tech cameras and gave them a beginner’s tour of the world of plastic cameras. Dan McComb filmed it and an edited version will be available shortly for a taste of what my events are like (preview 8 min version here if you’re curious) .
Michelle setting up the window display at Elliott Bay
Window Display at Elliott Bay Book Co in Seattle for Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity
After the talk and book signing, we moved over to Photographic Center Northwest for a celebration. This event coincided with the PCNW Faculty Exhibition – Picture Us. I had 8 photos from my trip to Thailand and Nepal up for that show, which was a nice opportunity for people to see the work printed and framed.
Faculty Exhibition opening at Photo Center NW - Michelle Bates photos
Faculty Exhibition at Photo Center NW - Michelle Bates photos
The following Friday PCNW hosted an evening of talks by faculty members, so I put together a totally different presentation showing the history of my fine-art and other photography, much of which is not done with Holgas. I showed work from other series (all up on my website portfolio section) – and some of my performance photography, which I think relates to the rest in my “quirky sensibility” – so called by a photo editor years ago. I also enjoyed seeing imagery and hearing about their work by Beb C. Reynol, John Blalock, Keeara Rhodes, and Erin Shafkind.
In January I’ll be Author of the Month at Ada’s Technical Books on the north end of Capitoll Hill (across from the Harvard Exit), picking a selection of books to be featured, and giving yet another talk on Sunday, January 23rd at 4:00pm. This one will be geared a bit more to the geeks, but is a great opportunity to enjoy the images even if you don’t like techy-talk. It’s a great new bookstore too – worth stopping in!
It’s been a busy couple of months with book events, trade shows, conferences, workshops and more, and I’m not finished yet!
In October, I had another great photo visit to NY, this time full of events for the newly released second edition of “Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity.” Actually, I started out in Philadelphia, teaching a workshop at Project Basho, and enjoying the Phili Slideluck Potshow, which included images by Plastic Cameras contributor Nancy Siesel. Basho is a great photo center, as is Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, right around the corner.
Heading to NY, I attended the Lucie Awards. I really enjoy this event, and not just because I get to dress up fancy at Lincoln Center! It’s a great mix of photography lovers, so I love talking with people before and after. But the awards themselves are hugely educational for me. Most of the awards are given for lifetime achievement, so the photographers being honored have long histories of artistic creativity and career success. I feel like it’s rare today to acknowledge the long view of what people have accomplished, and seeing the selection of images is an inspiration to me.
PhotoPlus Expo was the centerpiece of the week. I’ve been attending this trade show since 1991, and it’s like home to me (odd thing to say about a trade show at a massive convention center, I realize…). I scheduled my book release party during it, and did a book signing at Freestyle’s booth, as well as presenting a seminar as part of the show.
Book signing at PhotoPlus Expo - Freestyle Photographic's booth
Michelle Bates Seminar at PhotoPlus Expo
The book party was fantastic – I had an eclectic mix of people from different parts of my life – even from different parts of the country! Book contributors Sylvia Plachy, Nancy Siesel, Mary Ann Lynch, Anne Arden McDonald, Gyorgy Beck, Brigitte Grignet, Erin Antognoli, and Susan Bowen were there, as were my whole team from Focal Press and Freestyle, family friends from New York and Seattle, and a whole bunch of people I didn’t know! The party was graciously hosted by Soho Photo Gallery (many thanks to Sandi Daniel, Jeff Smith and Sandy Carrion), where I’ll be having a solo exhibition in March.
"Plastic Cameras" book party at Soho Photo Gallery, Oct 27th, 2010
Book contributors Nancy Siesel, Mary Ann Lynch, Michelle Bates, Sylvia Plachy, Erin Antognoli, Gyorgy Beck & Brigitte Grignet
Book party for "Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity"
See more photos of all these events
Introducing the second edition of the classic book on toy camera photography:
“Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity” second edition
by Michelle Bates
with new Foreword by Mary Ann Lynch
Focal Press, 2010
Now available! Direct, signed copies from the author, and links to merchants available at http://toyingwithcreativity.com/
The second edition adds 21 photographers (complete list below), and a slew of new cameras, including the latest Holga versions and accessories, the Diana+, and Blackbird, Fly. Expanded how-to information helps you get the most out of your Holga or other toy camera, and extensive resources give you a jumping off place to explore more books, websites and retailers.
*Meet Michelle, hear about the cameras and photographers, see images, and buy books at the following events:* Details and links at http://www.michellebates.net
-Workshop at Project Basho, October 23 & 24, 10-5 http://projectbasho.org/
-Book Release Party! Thursday, Oct 28th, 6-8 pm
at Soho Photo Gallery, 15 White St, NY – www.sohophoto.com/
-Book signing at Photo Plus Expo:
Freestyle Photographic Supply/FS Distribution (booth #274) Friday, Oct 29th at 2:00.
-Seminar at Photo Plus Expo: Plastic Cameras – Going Low Tech for Fine Art and Profit – Saturday, Oct 30th, 1:15-3:15 (registration required) www.photoplusexpo.com
-Opening reception of Picture This: Photo Center NW Faculty Exhibition: Fri, Oct 15th, 6-8pm
-Reading/slide show at Elliott Bay Book Co (in its new home on Capitol Hill): Sat, November 13th, 2pm
-Book release party at Photographic Center Northwest following the reading: Nov 13th, 4-6
-Book signing as part of PhotoNOLA: Dec 3rd, 5-7pm www.photonola.org/ – several other contributors will be there, including Michael Kenna, Sylvia Plachy, Jennifer Shaw & Louviere + Vanessa.
-Workshop as part of PhotoNOLA: Dec 5th & 6th
Contributors to the second edition – new additions in bold:
Michael Ackerman, Thomas Michael Alleman, Erin Antognoli, Jonathan Bailey, James Balog, Michelle Bates, Phil Bebbington, Gyorgy Beck, Susan Bowen, Laura Burlton, David Burnett, Susan Burnstine, Nancy Burson, Perry Dilbeck, Jill Enfield, fotovitamina, Annette Fournet, Brigitte Grignet, Eric Havelock-Bailie, Christopher James, Michael Kenna, Wesley Kennedy, Teru Kuwayama, Louviere & Vanessa, Mary Ann Lynch, Anne Arden McDonald, Ted Orland, Sylvia Plachy, Dan Price, Becky Ramotowski, Nancy Rexroth, Francisco Mata Rosas, Richard Ross, Franco Salmoiraghi, Rosanna Salonia, Jennifer Shaw, Nancy Siesel, Mark Sink, Kurt Smith, Sandy Sorlien, Pauline St. Denis, Harvey Stein, Gordon Stettinius, Ryan Synovec, Rebecca Tolk, Marydorsey Wanless, Shannon Welles, Matthew Yates, Dan Zamudio
I’m thrilled to have a huge solo exhibition – 29 photos – up at the university of Portland, OR Buckley Center Gallery. This is the premier of Holga photos I made on my 2008 trip to Nepal and Thailand, both color and black and white. And it’s the largest collection of my Urban Oasis series shown to date.
Being a university building, the gallery is open long hours: M-F 8:30am – 8 pm, Sat 8:30-4, through September 23rd. There will be a closing reception on the 23rd from 5-7, but please stop by before then so you have time to enjoy the images (and who knows – there could be a freak snowstorm the night of the reception and then you’ll have missed your chance!).
Here are some photos from the opening:
Part of the Asia series
The Buckley Center Gallery has a variety of spaces for the photos
Friends from Seattle made it to the opening
Longtime Portland photographers Eugene Lee and his son, with Patsy
Light from the windows plays with the photos
Four years after finishing up the initial manuscript of “Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity,” I’ve finished up the second edition and it’s off to the printer. It’s been a fascinating process of seeing where the world of these cameras has come in a few short years. The book is 32 pages longer, I’ve added 21 amazing photographers, updated to include the newest cameras, more resources and tips and tricks.
I’m thrilled to include new portfolios by:
Louviere + Vanessa
Thomas Michael Alleman
fotovitamina – Roasanna Salonia & Matthew Yates
and work by many other talented photographers.
The official publication is in October, and there will be book release parties in Seattle and in New York during Photo Plus Expo.
I’ll be traveling around lots this fall too, so there will be many chances to get a signed copy: Workshops West in Pismo Beach, CA, Oct 1-3; Project Basho in Philadelphia Oct 23-24; seminar & book signing at Photo Plus Expo, Oct 28-20; workshop and book signing at PhotoNOLA in early December.
I’m so appreciative of everyone who submitted and contributed photographs and information for this edition, and I can’t wait for everyone to see what the best in plastic camera photographers have been up to!
"Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity" second edition by Michelle Bates
Here’s the cover – look out for it this fall! Details and links to purchase at ToyingwithCreativity.com
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