Archive for June, 2011
I’ve had a problem with my back for some time – and only recently, I finally admitted that something was wrong and sought help from a chiropractor. It wasn’t a huge surprise to find out that I am in fact crooked! In all seriousness, to be the best artist I can be, I have to take better care of myself. My achievement of the week? Taking better care of me!
In the mean time, news from my studio:
I first “met” Photocomment editor and photographer, Tristan Hall, on Frederick Van Johnson‘s This Week in Photography podcast. This month, I am so honored to be featured in Photocomment magazine’s Pro Portfolio where I discuss with Tristan my life as a pro photographer. Read the interview to gain my insights into how to survive in our extremely competitive business.
An App On The Way
Shhh! In our hood of tech startups, people are hush hush about the next big thing they are working on. My busy elves at Catherine Hall Studios have been working on a new mobile app that will soon be available in the App Store. What is it? It is a photographer’s tool and we hope it will help you stay above the noise. Can you guess what it is? Tune in to find out more.
Canon Creative Asia Awards – 2 Wins!
The Canon Creative Asia Photography Awards | Photography Competition announced that two of my images are among their Top 25 in the Portrait – Individual Category. One of the images is from my Burning Man series, and the other from my Tasmania series. Whoopee! Check out the other finalists – it is quite an honor to be part of such an extraordinary group of images!
Recommended: Adobe Photoshop
Lightroom 3: Learn By Video
Digital Lightroom users will benefit tremendously from Mikkel Aaland and Tim Grey’s complete Lightroom 3 training program. It combines more than 10 hours of video instruction to teach you the basics of LR3, and image processing and management. With Mikkel and Tim’s expert tips and instruction, you’ll be a Lightroom expert yourself in no time.
Joshua Stedman has been labeled “Stevie Wonder meets Seal with the voice of Sting.” I also know him as my Ex. We remained good friends and this is my favorite photograph of him. This image illustrates the magnetic burst of energy you feel when you are around Josh. We were at a friend’s apartment and we thought it would be fun to do a test shoot. Josh is a musician and promotional photographs are so important to helping an artiste connect with his audience. My goal as a portrait photographer is to capture the inner aura and character of a person, not just his outer shell – and this photograph emanates such positivity and captures the essence of Josh – generous, kind and just full of light.
It’s true. I used to be a chubby kid. Ostracized and made fun of. It sounds like a cliche – or like the plot of many a bad adolescent movie. Most the time I could ignore my less then perfect state, except when a major bully (damn Chris Olson) would put me in my place. It didn’t help that I had a skinny, cooler older sister and a beautiful, elegant Southern belle for a mom.
Luckily, a growth spurt in the 6th grade shed away the unwanted “baby” fat; however, I did not walk away unscathed. The most important character-building trait I took away from my childhood experience is my sense of empathy. Being made fun of made me a lot more understanding to people who may not be the norm, or who may be different from everyone else.
I would argue that it made me the artist I am today. I am always seeking out interesting traits of different people – and digging deeper than what we see on the surface. As you get older, you also realize how fallible human beings are – and how we are ridden by insecurities.
Yes, even the cool kids and the most outwardly successful people are plagued with personal challenges.
That’s perhaps why I love photography – because I love mapping the internal geographies of people, capturing their experiences, insecurities, emotions and essence in the space of a shot. Being able to capture that intensity requires you to connect with your subject, to be patient and get through to them. And that, I consider my greatest strength.
I see all my subjects for who they are – instead of focusing on their character differences as perceived flaws. There’s beauty to be found in everyone – big or thin, nerdy or athletic, tall or short. Life would be a monotony if not for our individual differences – and my own insecurities have made me endeavor to celebrate life in all its dimensions.
Joe has been a mentor to me for many years starting back to the days we worked at Getty Images together in New York. Joe has had the sort of gigs bright-eyed photography students dream about – LIFE, National Geographic, the list goes on. Despite his enormous success, he has always been approachable, generous with his time, and very down to earth. This moving letter of encouragement is a testament of his dedication to photography and education – newbies, take heed :)
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Post + Photo By Joe McNally
Lectured last week at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. In the photojournalism department, the students all had that traditional mix of energy, enthusiasm, angst, and doubt so typical of that time in your life when you’ve just picked up a camera and are looking at it, wondering where it will lead you. The usual mix of questions are ever present: Who do I work for? Can I make a living? Will I ever be any good at this? Will my pictures have impact?
Nowadays, that traditional line of questioning is accompanied by another significant set of queries. What is the future of all this? Will I shoot video or stills? Can I get a job where somebody pays me more than a nickel for my photos? Will there be any newspapers left in a few years? Should I also go to business school? How many pixels do I need? What the hell is going on and how am I going to fit in? When I left school, a traditional path for many J school grads was small paper to slightly bigger paper to mid-size daily to a big metro. It was a process. It had potential structure and pace.
Now, graduating into this field is like blasting into hyper space. The destination’s uncertain, and the road is a blur.
The raft of questions I fielded last week brought me back to a letter I received some years ago.
We met a few years back, I was, I guess, a runt high school kid with a camera. now, I guess I’m a lost science major, have no idea what I want to do with myself, and everyone just tells me to do what I like. I can’t justify transferring to what I regard as the large year round summer camp of arts school, but have no idea what to do with myself, now or in ten years. I know this is a little weird getting an email from someone who you might not even remember meeting years ago who, at 19 is going through a midlife crisis, but I appreciate any thoughts anyone might have other than the “follow your dreams” which doesn’t fit with my New York cynicism. I guess I was wondering, as I was told to wonder, and ask everyone I know (or “kinda sorta” know) who does something interesting for a living, how they wound up doing what they were doing? Anyway, it’s a heavy question with a ton of run on sentences.
Would really appreciate any input you may have on the matter……thanks….
Of course I remember you. I am sorry for not getting back sooner, but these last two months have vanished with road work and I did not want to just dash you off something superficial. Following your dreams is not a bad thing to do, but I am well aware of the practical limitations of such a plan. The world gets more and more restrictive in terms of a free-wheeling approach to life, and despite all the press given to those who strike it rich and play their own tune doing it, there are the much more prevalent stories of most of the rest of us who grapple day to day with exactly the same issues you are facing. A science major in the Ivy League is a pretty strenuous thing to do, I imagine. Art school would be a different atmosphere altogether. I don’t know what might be possible in terms of combining them, or finishing a degree (very important!) and then trying your hand at some art education.
The fact that you put your camera to your eye instead of running on 9/11 indicates something restless and perhaps unusual in your makeup, and as someone familiar with being regarded as unusual, I can tell you it is definitely a two-edged sword. The things you struggle with now you will struggle with your entire life. It is the essence of a creative soul, really, without being pompous and overblown about it.
Being lost isn’t the worst thing in the world, either, especially at 19. I hadn’t even discovered photography at 19, but nothing in particular concerned me about my aimlessness. Probably a lack of depth on my part, no doubt, but then it did leave me with room to move and the ability to imagine myself in different contexts. I do know that when I finally engaged in photography, it was like a black hole, an irresistible force that pulled me, my time, my energy and, without exaggeration, my every waking (and sleeping) moment. I had never known such a resonant thing.
I do know I went abroad, and became the lab manager for the Syracuse London photo program and took 9 graduate credits. I left my lab duties in the hands of a fellow student (and my princely weekly pay check of 5 English pounds) and went to the Easternmost tip of England, a place called Lowestoft. There, I talked my way onto a fishing trawler (November in the North Sea, lovely indeed) and went off to to do a two-week jaunt, with the hope of making a photo essay along the lines of what I had seen my heroes like Gene Smith do. I remember the smell of tea late at night, and lurching through 40′ waves sitting in the wheelhouse, and the utter blackness of sea around, and thinking, yes, this and the like is what I am cut out to do.
I’ve been fortunate in that I have been able to act on and make a living out of some largely irresponsible urges. I have had a bit of a comic book of a life, I am still drawing the panels. I sense something like a change of scenery may be a good thing for you, if you can afford the time and effort to launch yourself in a different direction and in a different environment.
Don’t know if your science professors possess the capacity to excite and inspire, but I was blessed with a very good and inspirational photo professor who helped me at least realize something larger was always possible. Have you thought of chucking it for a while and going abroad, and trying your hand at some art education? Or trying your hand at anything that comes along? Or trying your hand at essentially nothing? I’m not suggesting something totally out of bounds or dangerous, but the search for something that propels you, draws you, and simply becomes that which you cannot help but do is in itself a worthwhile endeavor. And if and when the discovery of said treasure occur – eureka! I still love photography, and enjoy the simple act of being a photographer more now than when I first picked up my dad’s camera.
One thing my dad did tell me, and it has echoed in my ears for a long time. He was the quintessential corporate man, a salesman, and in his later years, he became disgusted with the ways of his world, and told me on numerous occasions, “hang out your own shingle.” Which is what I have done, and been happy to have done. The jalopy called McNally Photography has transmission trouble, a couple of flat tires, and not all the cylinders fire, but it still moves, and I drive it where I want to go. There is a great deal of value and satisfaction in that, as I look back. I’m still standing, and lots of others fell away or played it safe or never tried. The simultaneously wonderful and daunting thing is that there is so much still to do, so much ground to cover, and my best work is still out there, somewhere. I am still on safari here, the great picture hunt, as someone once called it.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense. You are just beginning to write your pages, and the thing to remember about this early rough draft is that it hardly matters what you do exactly, as long as you continue to become something close to what you might imagine you want or need to become. Being a bit slow and never prone to academic excellence and achievement, I really have had no choice over the years but to embrace Einstein’s thought. “Imagination is better than knowledge.”
Stay well. Call anytime. Joe