NEWS: Blake Gordon Photography

The latest from the frontlines

Goodbye 2010: a quick review

Ah, 2010. Goodbye. We spent a lot of time together working on somethings. I'm looking forward to 2011 and investing some more time and energy into a few personal projects that I'm excited about. I'm blessed to be surrounded by a wealth of friends who set a high bar with their personal work. I think with the abundance of images in the world it's critical to have a sense of authorship as a photographer, or anyone adding to the cultural noise that is media. It reminds me of a quote I saw recently: "Beneath every good word is an even greater silence." If you're going to supplant the silence, it should be done with some craft/style/grace. A few of the highlights:

-completing a 5 day continuous nightwalk through Austin -collaborating with the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio in Biloxi, MS on an exhibition -SXSW -covering the Deepwater Horizon oil spill -producing a multi-media piece for the National Parks Conservation Association -assisting Brent Humphreys with his development of the Ziddel House -hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim for Boys' Life magazine -acquiring a 1948 Boles-Aero travel trailer which will be the foundation for a deployable hermitage/studio

Onward to 2011.

1948 Boles-Aero

The last three weeks have been quiet for assignment work, but that's been welcomed as I've been busy working on the 14' travel trailer I purchased a few months ago. Though it is a very solid unit, it is a 60 year-old trailer and there is always plenty of work to do on a project like this.

My intent is to design a modular mobile production retreat. By that, I mean that the trailer is meant to be deployed to an isolated space for the purpose of producing work focused on a specific project. The personal projects I explore often focus on an environment and require a contemplative process to do so. Allowing that methodology I use in the field to play out in the production phase (which often demands a necessary amount of studio work) is important to retaining the authenticity of the work.

The trailer allows me to retool my relationship with my environment from one of balancing a number of relationships, responsibilities, and the daily grind to one of a singular focus on the work. This is important in order to explore the possibilities of the work more intensely. This facet of the process is embedded within field work, but so often gets lost upon return. The primacy of the field and lessons learned while in contact are central to much of my work.

There are a lot of loose ends on the trailer as it has been in use as a gutted utility trailer for some time. Nearly every single component of the trailer needs at least some kind of attention and over the past month I have: -cleaned and painted the frame with industrial rust-proofing paint -replaced the wiring -cleaned, sealed, and reinstalled sub floor -replaced electrical inlet -repaired clearance lights -new license plate frame and light -new glass for door and windows(2) -new exterior door handle -polished interior skin of door -installed reflective insulation -cut, painted, installed interior walls of Homasote -new aluminum trim at interior wall/door interface -new stainless steel bolts to replace missing rivets at skin/frame connection

I've been working in the space as I've been designing/building it out to get a sense of what will work. The largest constraints are space/weight. There is a wide array of suppliers I've gone to with parts needs as nothing original is available. The layering of time is the most visible marker binding the trailer to its surroundings and I have no intent of making this appear "as new". Thus, it is a slow process finding parts and materials that respect that layering but add to is functionality. All in all it's been quite fun with much work still to do. I would like to take it out for a field test in the following weeks.

editorial: G+J, Stern, WSJ

I recently shot some editorial portraits for a few different clients: the German financial magazine G+J, another German magazine Stern, and The Wall Street Journal.

The first for G+J, was of Van Hoisington, president and chief investment officer of Hoisington Investment Management who unconventionally puts his investments on deflation. He told me about growing up in the tiny plains town of Paradise, KS.

For Stern, I photographed Chris Rodriguez after he was interviewed about his time as an Army recruiting officer in Houston a few years ago. He shared the post with Aron Andersson who committed suicide during that time. Sadly there is no shortage of PTSD-type stories coming out of our two lengthy conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lastly, the assignment for The Wall Street Journal was of a Shayne McGuire, a pension fund manager at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. We wandered around the Texas State Capitol grounds early one morning, though only had a small serving of sunlight.

NPCA: Valles Caldera

http://vimeo.com/14680989 I shot a story for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) on the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico earlier this summer, capturing both stills and video/interview material. I enjoyed working on a larger, collaborative editorial project with a process that everyone was exploring. I worked with Jason Bosch at Aurora Novus, the multimedia production arm of my agency, Aurora Photos to produce the video under the guidance of Amy Marquis, associate editor at the magazine.

This parcel of land is, of course, quite stunning, but also has an interesting cultural history behind it. It's been logged and mined, though mostly used as ranch land for the past hundred or so years. It's mild summer climate and situation at the headwaters of the Jemez River make it an ideal summer habitat for many animals. It shifted from private to public ownership and has been in an interim management policy, though is now in the process of coming under National Park Service management, though is likely to remain under the 'preserve' model.

As serene as the caldera is, my time there was definitely focused on making work. I was fortunate enough to catch an incredible evening of weather. It always strikes me at how wonderful and amazing "bad" weather is.

6,000 miles in the Southwest

I recently arrived back in Austin after being on the road for 6 weeks initiated by a weeklong assignment in the Grand Canyon for Boys' Life magazine.

I used the assignment as an opportunity to get back out West, spend some time in the mountains and view an old travel trailer in California I've been eyeing as the foundation of a project. I purchased the trailer after my assignment, attended the summer Outdoor Retailer convention in Salt Lake City, spent some time in Los Angeles, Flagstaff, and Carbondale, CO before heading back to Los Angeles to pickup Brent Humphrey's prints of his Le Tour project from the Clark-Oshin gallery in West Hollywood.

Hauling the 1,400 mile drive between Los Angeles of the West Coast and Austin of the Texas Hill Country was my first professional transport gig bringing me one step closer to being the "long-haul trucker" I've been called by a friend.

Much of the route I traveled back Austin I'd either never driven or have driven through only at night. The expanse of earth between Willcox, AZ and Las Cruces, NM is simply stunning. I would say it was easily the best part of the drive, but the Big Bend region is quite lovely this time of year.

And so despite the fact that the distance (nearly 6,000mi) covered over the past 6 weeks was a bit more than anticipated (with the final 3,000 towing a 60 year old trailer) it's a very promising step for the development of my work.

GEO Italia: Reality TV

I was interviewed by photo editor Paola Brivio of the Italian magazine GEO to profile my Reality TV project in their July 2010 issue. Paola questions were very insightful and wove through several ideas my work. I've included a copy of the interview here.

50 miles through the Grand Canyon: Rim-to-Rim-Rim

On Sunday, I finished backpacking 50+ miles from rim-to-rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon with Boy Scout Troop 65 from Wooddale, IL. The Grand Canyon trip is a staple for the troop and they've done the trip about 9 times - roughly every 5 years. It was a fantastic assignment from Boys' Life magazine, an official publication put out by the Boy Scouts of America.

I hiked with 6 fourteen year olds and 4 adults. We spend two nights in the canyon each way with a rest day in the middle on the north rim. I knew I would enjoy the terrain and challenge of the assignment, but spending some time with a group of 14 year old boys was both a challenge and reward. On the last night, the 6 boys slept on two adjoining picnic tables underneath a shelter, hoping that rain wouldn't punctuate our last night. I slept on the ground nearby listening to the rumors and stories coursing through their high school lives and for a moment stepped back to that age as a couple of shooting stars split the only clear patch of sky.

Thanks for the adventure Troop 65.

LOOKbetween

http://vimeo.com/12660458 Coming back from an assignment in northern New Mexico, I headed straight for Dallas and hopped in the car with Brandon Thibodeaux to head just outside of Charlottesville, VA to the LOOKbetween photography festival at Deep Rock Farm on June 11-13.

It was an amazing time - over and finished in way too short of a time. I got to catch up with a number of great friends and even meet a few new ones. I just wish there would've been more time to speak with some of the people I didn't know. I was really impressed and inspired by the quality and range of projections that were shown on Friday and Saturday night.

I conducted a few interviews with the Creative Action Team to both foster dialogue and get to know the working process of other photographer/artist/creative folks there. I could've easily spent two weeks doing this but all the magic was squeezed into a short weekend.

It was a true pleasure to be out at the farm, see old friends, meet new ones, swim in the lake and a mountain swimming hole, see the fantastic work, listen to live mountain music, and share the power of photography. Many thanks to all who contributed to the event.

NPR: soliders with Traumatic Brain Injury

Several weeks ago, NPR sent me out to El Paso to photograph several soldiers receiving treatment for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that occured while they were in service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The story was a joint investigation with ProPublica on the challenge soldiers are having getting treatment for TBI. My photos were implemented in both an online story and a multimedia piece. I enjoyed supplying a part of a multifaceted story.

You can view the piece here on NPR.

Gulf Coast oil spill

I drove all night Sunday night from Austin to cover the oil spill for a Norwegian paper, Dagbladet. I've been working for them for the past three days trying to make sense of the massive oil leak. It's a challenging story to visually tell and the media has been waiting for landfall for a week, but luckily that hasn't quite happened. The scale of the leak is pretty unfathomable and a lot of people are on edge about it. The ecological and economical repercussions will play out over a long time.

Made in Moss Point exhibition

Tonight in a Mississippi town of 17,500 people on the Gulf Coast, is the opening exhibition of a body of work developed collaboratively with the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio (GCCDS) out of Biloxi, MS. It has been an evolving project that has developed across three separate trips to Moss Point. It's hard to say how excited I am for the project and how I wish I was there. I finished my part of the collaboration the day before I left for New York. I'm really excited for it as a start to things and incredibly enjoyed working collaboratively, primarily with Nadene Mairesse.

Nadene studied architecture at Auburn University, where I studied landscape architecture. It is a field I immensely enjoy, though I prefer to engage it through exploration and documentation. The dance of being not knowing how the piece will take shape, but together working with the questions at hand was a tremendous test of my sense of creative skills. When I visited previously, the old library that is the exhibition space had windows boarding it up, concrete barricades in front of the building, old files and ATVs inside. And those things have been there for a few years. The GCCDS has transformed the space (I'm still unsure of what it actually looks like) with new paint, hanging display panels, and temporary walls.

Jim Sipwicz at Shell Media did an outstanding job handling the prints, which also had many questions. We went made it smoothly the printing process over the past week despite being myself being sick, some unresolved questions, and the exhibition date only a week away.

What fascinates me about the project is our attempt to bring together a small town community through a broad understanding of what it means to make something. We're all very curious to see how the town will respond to it, as we set out to reach across several barriers. Nadene found quilters, taxidermists, doll makers - a wide and beautiful range of people with a creative practice. I found it a joy after having studied fine art at University of Texas for two and a half years to hear how humble and eloquent many of them spoke about making.

Tim DuBose draws on high quality wood left over from job sites with a wood burner, marking the wood through heat. It is a personal practice for himself and he tells the stories of his culture. He mentioned that the act of creation and production is a very important human act - and something embedded in the American ideal. But he mention that he feels contemporary America has shifted to consuming more than it produces. I was in awe at such a profound and apolitical, though politically relevant, statement.

And so with this tiny exhibition that we've worked hard on, we wish to celebrate the humble physical act of making. We've been working hard at getting the exhibit together, but the project is bound to evolve to reach a wider audience. Stay tuned.

joining Aurora Select

new Aurora Select membersIt's a great honor to be added to the Aurora Select assignment roster along with a number of other fine photographers. I'm in a bit of awe of sharing the lineup with James Balog, whom I worked for on his Extreme Ice Survey project. His work continues to amaze me.


I've been working with Aurora Photos for about a year and a half and have enjoyed my time with them. They've connected me to some great clients and the assignments that come down from them have been a really good fit for my interests. Assignment work is a real joy as it always entails going out into the world and searching for a truth to share. I appreciate you keeping me in mind, Chris and David.


I'll be going up to New York City and Washington D.C. in a few weeks for a round of meetings and look forward to strengthening our relationship as well as connecting to some new clients.





The London Times: The Drums

I followed Brooklyn based band The Drums around during for The London Times. The story is running as a weekend feature this weekend. I really enjoyed pursuing a narrative during SXSW. The band was quite humble and great to work with allowing an intimate look at their SXSW Friday in Austin, TX. I did get to use the "I'm with the band line" numerous times, following them in-studio, backstage, onstage, etc. I was really impressed with their music and performances, too. Best of luck, guys.

Smithsonian Magazine

I got an unexpected package in the mail today. It was a couple of copies of the April 2010 Smithsonian Magazine. I shot some work for them last summer, and though I knew it at the time, it's taken a while to go through to print. The story "All-American Monsters" is written by Richard Conniff and is on America's fascination with the mammoths. I didn't know it until meeting him at the Mammoth Site in South Dakota, but many Americans at the time of Thomas Jefferson were convinced that we would find these animals alive and roaming on this continent.

It was really great to get it in print from them in the mail. So few times do I get my first viewing of the layout in print. I really like the work that they do and am excited to shoot this assignment.

extended nightwalk

I'm heading out on an extended self-supported nightwalk this week. It will be my first extended venture through an urban environment in this manner. I'm packing food for 4-5 days, camera equipment and sleeping bag/pad. I will NOT be taking a phone, wallet, or money. I'm intent on keeping my pack size down so that I will be able to move lightly across terrain. I've fully appropriated a method of walking in the wilderness for experiencing and creating the images in the nightwalks series.

The entire purpose of the project is to develop an intimate relationship with the direct physical environment, whatever that may be. What we don't take into our environment is as critical as what we do take into our environment.

Low temperatures are predicated to be in the 30s throughout the week with highs in the mid 50s during the day. Tuesday is very likely going to be precipitation in the form of snow, so it will be interesting to see how I respond to that. I plan on walking at night and finding a place to sleep/rest during the day. As the intent is a dialogue between myself and my physical environment, I aim to keep social interactions non-existent. Relating intimately to physical space requires making the appropriate space behaviorally.

portrait: Hemispheres Magazine

Veronique Matthews, director of Hearts & Hooves A few weeks ago I shot some portraits of Hearts for Hooves director, Veronique Matthews, for Hemispheres Magazine. Hearts for Hooves provides animal therapy primarily with miniature horses to those in need. Hemispheres is the inflight magazine for United Airlines. They will also be using some images of mine for an upcoming profile on Austin.

Despite the winter weather we're having in Austin, we were able to find a beautiful winter day. The ranch out in Lockhart sits atop a hill and was a wonderful location to work with. I brought a lighting setup, but ended up shooting with the fantastic natural light to keep the production more intimate and improvisational.

The portrait will run in the April issue of Hemispheres Magazine.

Nightwalks

I've been out in Utah and Colorado attending a couple of outdoor industry conventions.

In midst of that, I've been refining my nightwork centered in Austin. I've been working with, John Weller, on refining the writing and understanding of moving through wild places. John is an exceptional wilderness photographer that has been working on The Last Ocean, a project focused on the Ross Sea of Antarctica for the last three years.

I've updated the website with a revised gallery and am continuing the book development on my field research.

PDN Photo of the Day

Hello 2010.

PDN ran one of my nightwork images from Natural Bridges National Monument for their Photo of the Day blog for Jan. 1st. A wonderful way to start the New Year. Those red rocks and stars always put things into perspective for me.

strip malls & churches:The Wall Street Journal

outtakes from The Wall Street Journal assignment I shot for The Wall Street Journal this afternoon. The turn around was only a few hours, and fortunately I was in my car with computer and camera to shoot some other work when I received the call.

Austin has quite an array of unconventional strip malls, which are always a challenge to photograph. It's compelling to show the vacancy of space, but that wasn't the intent of this story. Shooting from the nearby elevated highway was tempting, but the legal and safety risk quickly ended that thought. I did have a good sign to work with and did what I could. We brought a needed human quality to the visual story and Bishop Nathan Thomas was kind enough to give me some time at the beginning of a service he was conducting nearby. While waiting on Bishop Thomas I scouted out a few spots with good natural light and a solid background and was able to take a few portraits in a matter of minutes. Then it was off to file the images away ASAP for publishing.

Read the article here.