Category Editorial

Portrait of William in Vegas

A friend of a friend of a friend in Vegas.

The impossibility of photographing babies

A National Geographic photographer I met a few years ago said she refused to photograph babies and puppies. Her argument was that it is all but impossible to make creative and interesting images of the two cutest subjects known to mankind. I think she had a point. (The same can be said of fences. When was the last time you saw an interesting photograph with a fence running through it? If you are a fence photographer, I apologize for my cynicism.)

Yesterday I went over to my friend Jenny’s place in Denver to photograph her newborn baby girl. I knew what I was getting myself into. Doting new parents, an adorable baby, and me looking through my viewfinder struggling to avoid cliches.

While I mostly failed, and while I wholeheartedly embrace said failure, I did manage to capture a few images that I thought were worth posting.

And Jenny, if you are reading this, rest assured that I will share with you all the precious other photos that you should save and send along to your family and friends.

What Hello Kitty can teach us about contemporary photography

In case you didn’t know, Hello Kitty, the fictional Japanese cat character, is turning 35 tomorrow. For over three decades folks from all over the world have been in love with this basically expressionless character – she has no mouth, and only rarely emotes with her eyes.

So what’s there to love? Well, in a most basic way, Hello Kitty allows the viewer to project whatever happiness, sadness, or ambivalence onto her. Hello Kitty doesn’t tell you what you should be feeling or thinking. She’s basically there, as a supportive and uncritical mirror.

In Charlotte Cotton’s book, The Photograph as Contemporary Art, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to a similar theme in contemporary photography – the deadpan aesthetic. In this approach to making mostly portrait photographs, the viewer isn’t given a specific emotion to read. Instead the idea is that the viewer is allowed to project whatever emotional or narrative conclusion they ‘d like onto the photographed subject.

Boy in Longmont, CO park © 2009 David Mejias

Boy in Longmont, CO park © 2009 David Mejias

As our media saturated societies have matured, we’ve grown suspicious of how marketers and advertisers use imagery to try to force along an emotional response to a product or service. Hello Kitty and the deadpan aesthetic work because of their detachment. For a change, we, the viewer or the consumer, are given some semblance of control.

Keats, negative capability, and keep on keepin’ on

Across the street from Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Across the street from the LA County Museum of Art ©2009 David Mejias

The poet John Keats had a pretty tough life. He died at the age of 25, the girl he loved didn’t love him back, he struggled financially, the critics weren’t fans, and he was often plagued by creative insecurities. He still managed to become one of the most influential poets of all time.

In a letter to his brother, dated December 22, 1817, Keats writes:

” …several things dovetailed in my mind, and at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously–I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”

Keats conclusion was that although we cannot answer all questions about our work and our world we should keep working, producing, writing — photographing.

As a freelance creative I often try to make sense of my world, my work, my criticisms, and my future. All of this analysis is mostly in vain. Has worry ever produced much?

I think Keats had it right. We need to learn to just be in the uncertainty, the mystery, the doubt. All we can successfully do is put our heads down and keep working.

“The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin’ on like a bird that flew,
Tangled up in blue.” – Bob Dylan, Tangled Up in Blue

Photos from the sullenest bbq ever

If anyone ever (still?) claims that photographs don’t lie, smack them upside the head. Gently of course.

I recently went to a friend’s bbq in Denver, CO and brought along a camera and one lens (Nikon 50mm F1.4). As most summer bbqs provide, the afternoon and evening were mostly full of laughter and smiles.

In editing my images from the day I decided I’d paint a different picture however. Instead of what you might expect a bbq experience to be like, I thought I’d make things seem a bit sadder, reflective. Here are some photos from the sullenest bbq ever.