During my recent trip to Cuba I spent a wonderful morning in a small town outside of Havana. I photographed for an entire morning outside the entrance to a church where a religious festival was being held. I hope you enjoy the work. It deals with empathy, the shared human experience and the expectations and burdens we place on ourselves.
View "Ascend" here. http://www.michaeltittel.com/#/ascend/
I am a privileged person. I am selective too. My entire life I have surrounded myself with people who I respect. Many of them have some things in common: a deep sense of individualism, talent, creativity and a solid-gold spirit. And although I have always appreciated that on some level, it wasn’t until this year that I realized how special that was.
It hit me over the head when I began to seriously think about putting out a musical project of mine. I'm a damn talent magnet. As I invited several people to contribute parts to my songs it became very apparent that my life has been an amazing journey of being next to amazing talent. And in being there I have come to know and understand the way creative people think, create, collaborate and communicate. It is fascinating and wonderful when people make something good together. It is the ultimate celebration of life.
My tribe. My crowd of inspiring people touched by creativity and energy, I crown you and bonk you on the head with my drum stick. You don't know it but you've made a world of difference in my life.
So to all of you kookie creative-types: thank you for the gifts you have. Keep doing stuff. Keep creating. You make life rich, loud and exciting.
Over the past year I have enjoyed assembling collages from found visual material.
I thought I’d share how I made sure urgency would win against overthinking and procrastination on my latest musical project. Sometimes the key to efficient creativity is limitations. When you limit your options your decision making process becomes streamlined. You have a better criteria to evaluate results. Here are the boundaries I set for myself over the last few weeks while writing and recording these songs
1. I will write songs that are simple and direct. Choose non-fiction over fiction, prose over poetry. Choose "from the heart" over "from the mind". Choose clarity over ambiguity.
2. Pleasant melodies over dissonance. Anything can be celebrated beautifully. Even the bad times. Just because you are serious or sad doesn't mean it can't be hummable or melodious. Emotional themes combined with melody can remind people that there is hope and beauty everywhere, despite life throwing us some curveballs.
3. Employ minimal instrumentation. Drums, bass and guitar. No more, no less. (ok maybe a keyboard or two)
4. I will keep the sounds minimal. The drum kit has two drums and two cymbals. I will use one acoustic and one electric guitar. I'll limit the engineering to a simple workflow using Apple Garageband. One microphone to capture everything. Keep it simple.
5. I will avoid perfectionism. Do no more than three takes of any track. “It’s good enough, now move on.” became my mantra. If I couldn't please myself in three takes it didn't make it on the final song. I will defer to the energy and emotion of the moment.
6. I will write the song and then record it, quickly. Record the song within 24 hours of writing it. Don’t edit, don’t rethink and don't rewrite. If it was real to me in the moment it is good enough for later. This also had an interesting way of revealing the weaker contenders in the group.
7. I will ask for help. Inviting others in to contribute musical parts to the songs made them not only better but it gave me the confidence to put them out. If my musician friends liked the songs then maybe others will too. Everyone needs validation. I also asked somebody else to mix the record. I do not have the patience or skill to make the mixes shine. Know your limits and trust others.
8. I will be brave. In a creative situation, wearing my heart on my sleeve is never easy for me. In fact I have gone out of my way creatively to not show my emotions so directly through my work. This time it was all I had to say. It was the point. It felt sincere. I leaned on a few friends to listen and get their feedback. I soaked up every bit of criticism and encouragement. These discussions gave me energy to keep going and get it all wrapped up.
9. Real not professional. By not employing a fancy audio set up I saved a lot of time. I also realized that I couldn’t lean on the audio quality to make the songs work. It isn’t that I wanted them to sound bad. But I did not want production and sonic polish to distract from rawness of the project. I wanted it to feel more like a train wreck than a perfect lunar landing.
10. Know when you are finished. At sixteen songs I think I could have continued writing music. But I think I had made my point. And frankly it was all a bit too intense. I needed a break and I needed to get the project done. I put my pencils down two weeks ago. And I am already excited about my next project.
Look for the record and hopefully a live show or two to celebrate this summer. More details to come.
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
After a ten year break from songwriting and recording, things changed recently. March through May I wrote and recorded sixteen new songs. How and why did this happen? I credit a little creative secret. A little formula or elixir of sorts to cure any creative blockage.
Pain, emotion and chaos. Unleashed by a nudge and an explosion from my precious creative champion and here it was. I’m back and brilliant. In my own mind of course. But it feels good, real and purposeful. Music can help you get through the tough times. Whether you’re a listener or a creator, music is good. It’s good for you.
I am excited to share some of these songs this summer. And hopefully a new band to perform them.
What defines a good photograph?
It isn’t about a certain kind of light.
It isn’t about a certain time of day.
It isn’t about a certain moment.
It isn’t about a certain kind of subject matter.
It isn’t about the right place.
It isn’t about a certain part of the world.
It isn’t about a certain kind of camera.
It isn’t about a certain kind of lens.
It isn’t about digital.
It isn’t about film.
It isn’t about rules.
It isn’t about technique.
It isn’t about a certain kind of style.
It isn’t about a type of composition.
It isn’t about a certain kind of a feeling.
Unless you say it is.
A photograph is what you included in the frame. It is about whatever it is supposed to be about. And that is whatever you think it should be. You define it. Make it your photograph, the one no one else can or would dream to make. That is a good photograph.
What's inside of us? A lot of course. Personality, spirituality, beliefs, pain, hope and happiness. We are complicated. We keep a lot of feelings and ideas bottled up , none of which the world may ever see, hear or feel. We are the sum of these things and what we do with it all. Thinking is important. But more so is getting things out of our heads into tangible actions. Without risk of sounding like L. Ron Hubbard, I wonder this: if we could dispel all our wasted energy we spend on things that either have happened in the past or won't really happen in the future what would that leave us with? We'd be left with only what is happening right now, the only true thing we can control. And how could that change how we feel about ourselves and the world?
That is what comes to my mind when I think about this image. Taken in Austin Texas a month ago where I was seated amongst friends enjoying a lunch. There is beauty here. It is the imposed world we have to deal with, surrounding the true self, contemplative and thoughtful. The girl's wonderful introspectiveness, her gaze amidst all the trappings of this food truck. Equally beautiful is photography that gives us the opportunity to relate to all of it every time we look at it.
I recently discovered some interesting old stone gates on some acreage adjacent to my new home. After some investigation it turns out there is a rather old, 19th Century cemetery on a bluff overlooking Markley Road. I doubt many people know it even exists. There is no recognizable way into or out of that area.
This is a photographic documentation and exploration of that area.
The series is posted on Flickr here.
Below is a note from Hamilton County Historical Society. They have minimal information about the cemetery on their web property that archives local grave sites. Another name exists for this cemetery: Liberty Chapel Cemetery.
West side of Markley Road North of Bennett Road
Hamilton County, Ohio
This cemetery is located on the west side of the road, high on a bluff overlooking the valley to the east. Access is by a small wagon road which takes off from the main highway at a 30 degree angle, and it winds up the steep hillside toward the west. A steel rope at the top blocks traffic. A winding lane follows the ridge and finally reaches the little cemetery. The trees have taken over the area and it is very difficult to locate and work in. The names are from the Marie Dickore Research Collection and permission is given by the Norwood Family History Center Director, Alma Ryan, who has possession of the collection.
I am pleased to share some new work. This work was started and completed over the last year.
This work is about our dependence on safety, comfort, décor and the difference between truthful and false displays of the places that we truly belong. It was completed while traveling, working, selling a home, buying a home and moving.
Explore the work.
You can see more of this work in progress here.
Photographs © Paul Graham
I chanced upon Mr. Graham's work a few months ago. My knowledge of photo history ended squarely with work leading up until the late 1970's. Over the next few decades it felt to me as if the story was more about changing technologies than noticing what any one artist was doing that was pushing the boundaries of the art form. I lost interest in keeping up with the medium.
Well I think the dust has finally settled. People are back to once again proving that photography is the art form of our time. Old film cameras are back in use, as are our cell phones and the latest high-quality digital cameras.
I maybe premature but I think Graham is the man. What is it about Graham's work that I think makes him the most relevant photographer of our century? I think he combines perfectly a nod to the formalist tradition, the social documentary view point and marries it with an absurd pop-culture slant. It is almost as if he studied 100 years of photography and created a recipe to launch the next 100 years of imaging. He respects the tradition of the medium with a new relevant way to see.
His work builds wonder and excitement out of everyday actions and rituals. It feels rooted in reality but magical at the same time. It isn't about what photography and compositions should look like but instead about how life might really feel if your senses were aligned to the everyday and you took the time to really look. All of this layered over larger social political issues. It is subtle and emotive work. His use of sequencing and narrative story telling with images is fresh.
The best photography is not just about the technology, dramatic light or stunning one-of-a-kind views. It is about our world seen through the eyes of someone who has an extraordinary sense of transforming the every day into viewpoints around humanity that cause reflection, thought or feeling.
The story behind making this image is simple. I was in a car. The drive this afternoon was calm, the weather was cold and bleak which are two words that describe an Ohio winter vey well. But I was energized from a blustery three hours of walking around in the cold. And from 5 feet behind this vehicle I suddenly had a window into someone else's world. Activities were happening inside the Ford. People were moving, shifting, looking out windows. A dog kept raising its head to the left of the girl. It was craziness.
And then the activity stopped, nothing stirred, the dog's head ducked low to the floor of the truck and the young girl in the back turned her head to the left. She paused for a few seconds perfectly profiled and seemingly alone. I took the photograph and put the camera down as the truck pulled away.
As often is the case you never know what the image will be, what life it will have after the moment of being taken. More often than not it is an unmemorable moment and an unmemorable image. In this case, for me, it was remarkable. It feels like life.
My next favorite photograph might come sooner than 24 years from now. But it might not. Regardless i'm thankful to have this one under my belt.