Next Portland speaker
January 16, 8:30am • Hollywood Theatre • part of a series on Ugly
Part of an ongoing series highlighting the amazing people in the Portland creative community.
You describe yourself as “a reader, a writer, and a librarian-about-town.” I’m interested in why you chose that order.
I think I have that phrase on my Twitter profile—and on Twitter you have to be describe yourself pretty selectively! But I think the order just falls out that way. You start out by reading. If it clicks, if you’re a reader, you probably read everything you can get your hands on. Then you start to think, I could do this. I could make a story like this. So you start writing. And then you realize just how many stories there are in the world, and maybe your mind turns toward questions of collecting and organizing them…and then the next thing you know you’re making a life out of stacking stories on shelves. (Digital shelves, maybe, but still.)
What are you reading these days?
I try to read fifty books a year, but I’m probably not going to make it this year. I started reading submissions for a literary journal, which has cut into my general reading time. I will say, there’s nothing like tracking your books to help you realize that you can only read so much, and that you have to find the books you love.
This year has really been the year of the debut. I’m stealing that from Lincoln Michel, the editor of Electric Literature—but it’s true. There have been so many amazing first and almost-first books—books that broke out for their author in a big way after an earlier book had quieter success.
One of my favorites is Smith Henderson’s debut novel Fourth of July Creek. It’s about a social worker in Montana in the 1980s, who gets wrapped up with trying to help an off-the-grid fundamentalist family. It’s beautiful and rugged and tragic and just so deeply felt and written. Everyone should go to Powell’s and get a copy. It’s really great.
I also really loved Evie Wyld’s second novel, All the Birds, Singing. It’s about an Australian woman working as a shepherd in Scotland, living a rough life and grappling with ghosts from her past. It’s Wyld’s second novel and it won a major Australian book award, the Miles Franklin, in an upset over much more established writers. And the US edition has one of the best covers of the year.
I’m currently in the middle of Rene Denfeld’s The Enchanted, which is an amazing first novel about a woman working to save a man on death row. It reads half like a fairy tale, and half like a horror story. Both Denfeld and Henderson are Portland authors writing from experience in tough worlds—Henderson was a social worker and Denfeld is a death penalty investigator. It’s great to see them getting national acclaim for their work.
Is being a librarian connected to your other work, or does it feel separate?
I started out as a literature librarian, buying literature and criticism and working with the university’s literature departments. Back then the ties between my day job and my writing life were a little more transparent. I’ve since changed tracks, and now I work a lot with architecture and design students and faculty.
I actually really like the lateral connections—working with creative, interesting people who are primarily visual and sometimes numeric, rather than wordy. I learn a lot. I think there are still plenty of connections between my job and my personal creative life, in terms of energy and drive—but they’re more submerged now, and I like that.
Why the fascination with scary stories?
Oh, great question! I love scary stories, and on a whim this year I started a “scary story service,” where I emailed a scary story to interested readers every day in October. Not stories that I wrote, but stories by amazing writers like Angela Carter and Yoko Ogawa and Ambrose Bierce and Brian Evenson. Anyone who’s interested in the collection can see it here—and sign up for 2015 if you want to.
It was so much fun to do—searching for great stories on the Internet, mixing older, classic stories with more modern ones, and just generally curating my own personal collection of what I appreciate about the genre. I like artfully-told tales with a dark cast to them. This may have to do with having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, which is dark so much of the year. Or it may have to do with having cut my reading teeth on Stephen King, who really had his cultural heyday in the 1980s and 1990s.
Or it might be because I’m secretly Canadian, and Margaret Atwood established a long time ago that Canadian culture is basically all about survival. Canadians have, from one point of view, a very gothic, horror-genre cast of mind. I grew up in a mild part of the country, but in school we still learned to recite The Cremation of Sam McGee, which is a wonderful poem about freezing to death in the Yukon. Canadians are mild-mannered people, but we know where our chainsaws are.
In terms of your own writing, what are you working on these days?
I write fiction, which is another way of saying that I roll a big stone up an endless hill. After many years of work, I recently put some of my stories together into something resembling a collection, which I’m now nitpicking. It was a great exercise, actually. I sent a first draft to my wife and she read it and said it should be titled, “Wings, Water, Love, and Death.” She was kidding…but then we went through it together, and I was amazed. So many wings! So much water! I had no idea that I repeated those themes so much. I kind of love that title, but she vetoed it. Fortunately.
And then at the same time, I’m getting serious with the novel that I’ve been working on for a long time. It involves water, but no wings. So far.
Part of an ongoing series highlighting the amazing people in the Portland creative community.
Christine Taylor is a photographer, art director, and curator. Whether she’s shooting for clients, helping to shape the signature look of Hand-Eye Supply, or giving visibility to fashion photography in the Pacific Northwest, her discerning eye has made an impact in Portland. This tweet during the Holly Andres talk caught our attention, so we wanted to shine a light on her great work.
You do a lot of things, from photography to curation to art direction. What’s the throughway in your work?
There’s a natural relationship between photography, art direction and curation because for each I am shaping an environment for others to experience. The only real difference is in how you are engaging your viewers. Ideas can always have a kaleidoscope of objectives. How they are applied is dependent on resources, and where there is flexibility in use of space, light, sound and even scent (if it’s an ultra-immersive installation). Seeing the world through a constant thoughtful visualization has been a part of who I am since I was a little girl so the connection between the three practices – taking/making a photograph, showing a selection of artists work, and directing commercial projects – is to disclose a specific point of view. I’ve observed it’s a certain personality type that obsessively envisions ideas before they exist – ideas that show a specific point of view. It just comes to these kinds of people and I think my family would verify that I’ve always been a little too enthusiastic about making things happen. These three practices combined have given me an outlet for all that energy.
Tell us about the work you’re doing as Art Director at Hand-Eye Supply.
In brief, what I do at HES as Photographic Art Director is oversee photography and contribute to the entire retail branding experience. That translates into a lot of organizing to make things happen smoothly, and in the end, that takes a team of people for success. In addition, my photography is the human personality of what most people see of HES; all of the Quarterlies, ads, and the editorial content. In many ways HES has been the ideal place for me to have landed in Portland, because I come from journalism (since the early 1990’s). From there, I went into editorial shooting, which led me to college to study multidisciplinary design and concept, which somehow took me even deeper into bigger commercial photography projects, and is now steering me into lots more art direction. What an exciting ride that’s been! Being at HES has allowed me to improve that collaboration of courage, envisioning and constancy needed to complete multi-channel personality-driven projects. There are some inspiring design minds working there and that environment has made a sizable impact on my work, much of which seems to have culminated this year. One of my luminaries, Steven Johnson, adamantly tells us that the breakthrough idea has never come in a flash. He states with fact that that theory is a myth. It comes over time and through experience and hard work by trial and error, scrutinizing, and researching. One of my life breakthroughs came this year. So I believe in that!
On a personal level, HES is a great example of my nerdy brainy side, my process obsessed side. My own work motto is, “In my mind everyone is a star!”. I get to apply that ethic at HES. It’s an outlet where I have combined my youthful interest in cultural anthropology, my delight in history and investigation, and a lifetime of experience in pop culture photographing creators, style, and environment while sharing my point of view. It’s simultaneously complex and simple.
Is it challenging to navigate between the commercial and fine art world? Is there a relationship between the work you do in each?
Thank you so much for this question. Like most people with a daytime gig, creatively I have additional interests, so I am 100% committed to exploring those, in part because I honestly cannot help myself, and in part because I completely understand that without exploration, there can be no growth. It is indeed incredibly challenging at times, though. I mean, who has the time? I would like to be much more directly engaged with the art world but along with art, I have been a commercial maker my entire life now, so my knowledge is limited to a very specific point of view that’s highly educated and technical. It’s not all-encompassing like for instance someone like Dave Hickey, or any museum curator, for that matter, or even my partner/boyfriend, the conceptual painter Michael Lazarus. Those people can talk about every nuance of art and then some. I know photography and video, and after that I know what I like and why I like it and how it relates to history vs. present day - but I cannot compare too many artists outside of my own medium and hold face. The name game is definitely not my strength. But the art world plays an enormous part in my life because I choose to be in it for inspiration. The artists know what’s up first. Almost all of my close friends are active artists, serious writers, curators or vigorous designers of some kind and they are also all dedicated educators. You can imagine our conversations: “Did you listen to the In Our Times podcast the other night?” …or else we talk over teaching styles, grants, residencies, public art, art around the world, politics and LOTS of process talk. Boring stuff for most. In general, I am just a dogmatic fan, and like Thomas Edison said, “I am a sponge”. My view on life is that we learn something critical from every person who enters it, and gratitude or failure are what brings those lessons to light.
What is it about fashion that drew you in?
Fashion can be a stage to explore my conceptual ideas that involve the body, movement and expression. It can also be a powerful tool to communicate cultural views using beauty and style. For example, I always choose to portray women as having great strength. At its simplest, fashion photography is predictable; at its worst, the ideas are immature and poorly executed; while at best, it shows flawless creative freedom and diversity in what we find beautiful. All of that, and it changes constantly. To be good at it, you have to change with it. To be great at it, you need a colossal amount of resources integrated with an inherent ability to anticipate lifestyle changes before they take place. See what I mean? Its a great provocation. Not anyone can make something significant and it’s not always in the concept that makes it celebrated, nor is it always in the clothing, nor the model, nor anything one thing - yet it certainly can be.
Fashion photography is remarkably intricate. Fashion takes more than a village, it takes a world, and in that world, every single person has to be great at what they do. If one tiny thing is off – say, the makeup is too heavy, the hair is not on style, the image only shows one foot where there should be two, or a hand is hiding and looks weird, the clothing lacks a consistent overarching statement, there’s a wrinkle in the wrong place on the fabric, or the model is too thin and poorly cast - each can ruin the final images. Then time passes, and what you created isn’t even pertinent any longer. It takes a very good eye to see these seemingly minuscule things and untrained eyes will easily overlook them. In addition, what you show to the public is susceptible to anyone who has an opinion, and because fashion is a part of pop culture - everyone has one based on what they have seen in their everyday lives, which often means very unchallenging images. Ideas around beauty run deep and differ culturally as well. All of these factors make it a constant challenge. That difficulty is what keeps me intermeshed with fashion photography in my freelance life as either a shooter, a director, or an educator. Of course, for my commercial work – which is what most people see – it must meet industry standards so that it’s well received. But the avant garde I love, and it informs my commercial fashion work.
You pioneered the Fashion Photography course at the Art Institute. What was your goal with the curriculum?
Yes, to my knowledge I did, but I am not teaching right now. The goal with the curriculum was to offer an immersive experience to inspire the students to push themselves so that they have a better understanding of what is expected of a shooter in the real world of professional commercial photography. I want them to get what their competition is. Being good isn’t enough. I do this by instructing in a contemporary style, that which utilizes a bit of performance. I was not actually performing like an actor or musician, but the idea is to keep everything in class at a high level of enthusiasm using real people, real community members, multimedia and modern ways of sharing and receiving information that include things like fashion video karaoke, TED talks, music and slideshows to help train and expose students to ways of seeing and thinking about fashion imagery. I do that along with more traditional forms of teaching using written essays by international writers such as Gilles Lipovetsky and local writers like our own Lisa Radon (whom I read out loud on the first day). Through that first interaction they know the class is going to be distinctive.
It’s all designed to get them to think about what fashion photography is built upon: individuality. They need to find that in their own opinions and knowledge in order to apply it to their imagery. I want them to be able to change and shift and redefine, not just say, “Yes, I can do that.” Anyone can be technical. Not just anyone can have ideas. So I am teaching them how to have ideas, communicate them, then follow them through. In my class they learn how to properly produce a shoot. Great shooters are cultural sponges. They experience everything.
With students I am transparent and honest about my own numerous failures in New York, Chicago, Seattle, etc. I am also transparent about budgeting and etiquette. We have 3 in-person talks in class with a mix of impressive producers, designers, art directors and photographers who come to discuss what they do and what they look for in a shooter. They are expected to create call sheets, creative briefings, budgets and find their talent. They communicate and organize while they produce one fashion test shoot on their own with my direction, then they are broken into groups to collaborate with each other to produce another smaller-sized studio shoot with my direction, and lastly they form groups again to collaborate to produce one commercial location shoot portraying their own ideas. I also offer to help find internships with photographers for anyone who wants one. Oh yes, we also do critiques on all of the projects. Without non-opinion-based criticism there can be no progression as a maker.
What inspired the Notions of Beauty show?
The ‘Notions of Beauty: NW FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY NOW’ exhibit was directly inspired by the Museum of Contemporary Craft’s recent exhibition ‘Fashioning Cascadia’ curated by Sarah Margolis-Pineo. During her research she had me come in to talk with her about fashion in Portland which led to a dinner and some great conversations about manufacturing, designers and resources. It also led to the discussion of Northwest fashion photography. It is on the rise, but because Portland is mostly new to this, professionalism, originality and taste are works-in-progress. There wasn’t space or time for Sarah to take on the photo monster so with MOCC’s support, they introduced me to Annin Barrett, and what an enlightening meeting that was. Annin is the Art Institute’s astounding brainiac gallery director and she loved the idea I had to do a survey exhibition showing the work of many of Cascadia’s fashion photographers. She approved my curatorial approach, keeping the focus on the conceptual side; to show how NW fashion photographers think, so-to-speak. We hung large-format prints, and the entire space was incorporated into creating an immersive experience that I designed based on my respect for the process of the printed magazine. Included in that spacial design were sculptures, jewelry, animated gifs, a section for art directors, and publication viewing station. An entire wall was for projections of videos. The prints wrapped around the space, and it was a real joy to see a white box come to life. Included were six Northwest fashion publications that had been made in the past 5 years, and lastly Art Director Willyum Beck created a handmade catalog as documentation of the exhibit and its participants. Some of those participants included Charlie Schuck, Holly Andres, and Rafael Astorga, mixed in with more unknowns such as Bryan Kyckelhahn and BriAnne Wills. Together we proved that Northwest fashion photography is alive and well, and ready for the task in all its variety. Luckily it was a great success, but I’d like to do it even better next year.
You’ve been to quite a few of our events. Were there one or two talks that made the biggest impression?
This is true. Its early, so that means I can attend and still get to work later in the day! There are so many that inspire… but most recently, Anna Telcs was great because I have followed her work for 5 years now. Her talk taught me new things about her - that is very cool. Then, as a photographer, Holly Andres’ talk was memorable. She is a guiding light in so many ways. Her transparency and passion for her art is without parallel. She has had this experience so different from my own and yet as people we are not so unalike. Her story is really interesting and it’s awesome to have the juxtaposition of being a fan before we knew one another back when I lived in New York and saw her first exhibit there, and now to have met and know her. I find her work developing in a direction that is only more and more gripping. That’s the kind of artist I wish I had become. That’s why I photograph makers… because I wish I could do what each of them does. Its a kind of love.
Part of an ongoing series highlighting the amazing people in the Portland creative community.
Adam Garcia is a creative director, designer and illustrator at the helm of The Pressure, a design studio in Portland. He’s been a member of the CreativeMornings/Portland community since the beginning, and illustrated Rebel, the global theme our chapter chose back in February, for which Andi Zeisler spoke.
In your mind, what are the most important qualities in an effective designer?
There are many ways to be “effective.” Maybe that’s a part of it, that “effective” is fluid, evolving, amorphous depending on the projects or clients or context. Perhaps “effectiveness” is the capability to sense those shifts beneath your feet, in the air. To sense when things must change. To be aware of culture, nuance, detail, subtlely, emotion on a tiny level and on a grand, macrocosmic scale. I think an effective designer is a dancer, a seismologist, a scientist and a psychologist all wrapped up in one. Maybe. These are my thoughts right now anyway, until I find a more effective answer.
Does your personal work impact your client work and vice versa? Or are they separate practices?
The personal work not only impacts the client work, but they flow into one another constantly. I think that creative exploration is part of what makes our studio work. Using experiments and surprise as a foundation of our model as a studio means that sometimes clients approach and ask for the thinking instead of the result, as they see the constant creative output. That enables us to use all of that exploration to create work that we’ve never made before, and allows some exciting collaborations that are unexpected. Which usually becomes an impetus for personal work in a different direction, which turns into client work. Et al. Ebb and flow.
How did Gemira come about and what were you trying to explore with your solo show?
We were asked by the good humans at the One Grand Gallery if we wanted to do a gallery show, and the theme was up to us. One thing that we’d been thinking about a lot as a studio is this kind of confluence of science fiction, futurism, the political state, and technology like facial recognition, drone surveillance, dictatorial regimes. The show was called Unbound: Artifacts of the Gemira Commission. We thought that through a design lens using imagery of power, and actually writing a short story with a fictional regime could be an interesting way to approach the show. After I wrote the story, created the characters and dynamics between the groups, the pieces were created supplementarily. The best part, to me, was working with musician Medium Zach (from Minneapolis-based group Big Quarters) to create a 50-minute long, 11 track score to the show that is phenomenal.
Why a spelling bee?
SO MANY REASONS! One: I like interactive game-type situations in public places that enable us to hang out with a big group of people and make good times. Two: Me love words Three: I get to host, and I’m an alright host of things, and Anton gets to DJ, and he’s a very good DJ. We should be doing that kind of stuff. The people need us, Tsilli. Four: It’s just SO FUN. If you haven’t been, I urge you check it out. It’s kind of awesome and hilarious.
What do you wish people would ask you that you never get asked?
< That. :D
"At Scout Books, we’re inspired by color every day. We craft notebooks using three primary ingredients; ink, paper and your good ideas. Each color’s adventure starts at Great Western Ink, our local ink company, based right here in Portland, Oregon.
This video traces the color yellow as it is mixed, transported and then put to use on press to create a custom Scout Book that was designed specifically for Laura Whipple’s CreativeMornings/Portland talk.”
Part of an ongoing series highlighting the amazing people in the Portland creative community.
Stephen Green is a husband, a father, and a very busy man. Between his work with local businesses at the Portland Development Commission, his role on the board of Oregon Public House, and the countless other duties he takes upon himself, he’s making Portland a better place for you and me. He’s been a member of the CreativeMornings/Portland community for the past year, and we chose to profile him after his tweet at the Intisar Abioto event, which summed up that amazing morning quite nicely.
Having switched between banner images of a crumbling wall and lined book spines for Prison Photography, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook looked for a change in 2011. After learning of artist Dider Falzone’s generative logo project, TOBERND/YOURHILLA, Pete was inspired by the sketches’ relationship to German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher and their acclaimed interest in typologies.
Falzone drafted nine of his typologies, or landscape planes, with the intent that once all are adopted by photography blogs, the “digital manipulation will mirror itself in a systematic auto-generated community.” Pete chose the sketch named “Slot ●●● ●●● ×●●”.
The … logo is a pretty solid walled-in shape. It reminds me off some modern prison cells that have gone beyond the four-wall cuboid (below). I also like the fact it resembles an arrow pointing down to everything else that will pass through the pages of Prison Photography; whatever goes on between the lines and limits of this blog, you can always be reminded ‘You Are Here’.
In addition to blogging, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook has been writing for the technology magazine, WIRED, and their Raw File blog since 2009. By helping “expos[e] the WIRED world one photo at a time”, Pete has published almost 200 articles. Topics range from the Detroit and ruin porn, mausoleum’s spectral light, and photos taken from a stolen Macbook.
The included Q&A features Elizabeth Alvedon, an artist sharing photographer Richard Alvedon’s famous last name who has earned her own reputation curating galleries, influencing multinational advertising campaigns and leveraging design to assist several of the 20th century’s most acclaimed photographers.
Wired.com: Despite all the new opportunities arising for photographers due to the internet, publishing deals and exhibitions remain the goal for many. Is this how it should be? Always will be?Avedon: Pressed to gaze into a crystal ball, I would say what is ironic to me is limiting a potential new tool by compromising it to accomplish or mimic what a traditional tool already does.
I believe as these new mediums mature and natural selection takes hold, quality will rise above the static and noise. It will take time to measure what opportunities are really worthwhile and not illusionary. We’ll see what has promise and is useful versus what was empty and vapid. I think goals and values will evolve as we learn what is truly moving our visual language forward.
While serving as a teacher for University Beyonds Bars in 2011, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook discusses education’s role with the American prison system’s “invisible” rehabilitation efforts.
University Beyond Borders was founded in 2005 and became the country’s first program offer college-level instruction at the Washington State Reformatory after the legislature prevented public funding of prison higher education programs. Almost ten years later, the program offers programing to over 160 prisoners.
To bring to attention things previously unsaid.
To bring attention to things said but unrecorded.
To present a consistent textual and visual editorial voice, to which I am held accountable.
To highlight pre-internet work (digitally unpublished) and give it some exposure.
To joust in the melee of contested meanings in surveillance, fine-art, documentary, amateur, institution, and virtual photographies of prisons and other sites of incarceration.” -
The manifesto behind Prison Photography, the acclaimed blog written and edited by our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook.
By working between the included objectives, Pete’s blog employs methods to “[conduct] interviews with photographers, …comment on issues of photography, prisons, police, media, civil liberties, …present visual convergences and a short thought/context for viewing,… [and] maybe [include] a quote or two.”
In late-2011, our August ‘14 CreativeMornings/Portland speaker Pete Brook shared an interview with the New York Times and their photography blog, Lens. And in light of this month’s global theme for CreativeMornings, ”Failure”, Pete remarks as to how imagery may improve cultural awareness regarding the prison-industrial complex:
Well, a lot of people don’t want to talk about prisons. There’s no incentive for anyone in society to look at prisons for the failure that they are. Politicians don’t win if they appear to be soft on crime. And then you have the media, which is after ratings. It wins by stoking up emotions.
… So a lot of people don’t want to talk about prisons but a lot of people might be ushered into the conversation by way of an image.