Rantings of a misanthropic art school instructor...

Teaching can be amazingly satisfying, and incredibly frustrating... I often tell my students that when I began teaching I was, in fact, young and pretty, and that the grizzled, grey-bearded fountain of sarcasm they see before them is a result of past students slowly driving me insane. This is only half true. I've always been sarcastic, abrasive and mildly crazy, just not grey...

Having just wrapped up the spring semester, I'd like to offer some words of wisdom to my students, present and future. Words that I know will most likely never find them, since I'm not posting this to my instagram story.

Nonetheless, in no particular order...

Care about something. Anything, doesn't matter what. Have an opinion, any sort of opinion. Show some passion. It's ok to be wrong, just be something. "I don't know" is not a suitable answer to anything, ever, and I'm tired of hearing it. I would rather see you fail miserably in an epic fiery explosion than watch you eek out a resounding "meh." Put a little heart into it... you've got to care.

Put down your phone. Please. I realize this makes me sound like an old codger (which I am), but for the love of all that is holy, just put it down. I get that there is stuff happening and you have an algorithmically enhanced case of FOMO but for Christ's sake please, just for a minute, pay attention to what's going on around you. Engage with people, have a conversation, try and relate to your peers and your classmates on a personal level. The relationships you build are going to be worth so much more than the likes you acquire. I promise, the algorithm will have plenty of crap for you to look at later. It's also horrifically rude in a class. Seriously. Talk to a real person instead.

Learn to articulate yourself. This isn't about slang. Language changes, words and phrases fall in and out of favor with time, geography, pop culture, etc. Most of the time my own wife can't understand me because of my gratuitous use of mid-western colloquialisms, enhanced (or exacerbated) by my consumption of bourbon... However, I can tell you from experience, nothing is worse than not being able to articulate yourself to those around you. Read, listen, ask questions, learn to use your words, this is important.

Last and certainly not least... Do your homework.

Juno, Take #2

Second take with Juno from February... more of the amazing window light in this space I've been shooting in... everything below was shot entirely with available light.

Check out Juno's work at https://instagram.com/juno_ltk/. More scans coming soon...

Amber, Rooftop Take #2

Second take from a shoot with Amber on a roof at night in the rain... the rain that didn't quite cooperate, but nonetheless made for some interesting (and very cold) shooting...

Check out Amber's work at https://www.instagram.com/anudemuse/

Word On The Street...

As always, a little randomness from the street... and a random frame from my mother's pool in Florida from a little vacation we took last month...

Amber, Rooftop Take #1

Yes, it seemed entirely normal when Amber said to me "we should totally shoot in the rain at night on this rooftop that I have access to." Because that's the way she rolls. Rain didn't exactly cooperate, though it was still colder than a well digger's ass up there...

Check out Amber's work at https://www.instagram.com/anudemuse/

March For Our Lives

The March For Our Lives, March 24th, 2018, in San Francisco. What a sad and tragic thing to have to stage, but nonetheless amazing that so many people, and so many young students, came out to voice their opinion, in grief and anger, we're fed up, we're tired of guns, this must stop.

Juno, Take #1

First take on film with Juno from February... amazing window light in this space I've been shooting in recently. Everything below was shot on Ilford HP5 400 film with available light only. Check out Juno's work at https://instagram.com/juno_ltk/. More scans coming soon...

Sonia, Portraits

So for a few years now we've had these little get togethers, some models and photographers and creative types, it was all started by Sonia on her birthday a while back and it's been a thing ever since. Things tend to get weird. Thought I'd share a few portraits I shot last time around of Sonia, just for giggles. You can see more of her work at https://www.instagram.com/googlymonstor/

That's Cat, who jumped in there randomly in the last couple frames... you can see Cat's work at https://www.instagram.com/catalinacruise/

Juno, Polaroids

Still working through a giant pile of films scans, but was able to clean up the Polaroids from my February shoot with Juno. My stash is now down to 5 boxes of color and 11 boxes of black and white polaroid pack film, and then that's it... gone, no more, forever. Such a shame...

Word On The Street...

Buried in scans and grades and students and other stuff, not much time for wandering the streets these days, and the rain definitely puts a damper on things...  For now a few frames from the past couple months. Got a lot on deck, more scans and Polaroids and what not to come...

Juno, Digital Tests...

Shot with Juno, a new(ish) model a few weeks back. Yes her name is actually Juno, which is rad. The model I was supposed to shoot with before her flaked 12 hours earlier, Juno was good enough to come in early...

Word of advice, if you're going to flake on a photographer, or flake on a model for that matter, writing to them 12 hours before shoot time saying "hey yeah I'm sick so not gonna make it 2morrow, u free next weekend? lol" is not the way to go about it.

Juno on the other hand is a great communicator and wonderful to work with. Check out more of her work here: https://www.instagram.com/juno_ltk/. Polaroid and film scans to come shortly...

Notes From The Desert

There's something about the desert, I don't know what. It's amazing how much nothing is out there...

Hwy. 101 South

Ridgecrest, CA

Ridgecrest, CA

I highly recommend these rad "Eco Pods" we found outside Ridgecrest. There are 2 sleeping pods and a bathroom pod with a huge open shower, all solar powered. A kitchen pod is currently under construction...

Panamint Valley, CA

Panamint Valley, CA

Panamint Valley, CA

Heading east toward Death Valley things get empty. Who are the people that put weird stuff on the side of the road in these places? I've never once in my life thought "hey, I should put a big ass cross on the side of this desert road, that would be awesome."

Death Valley, CA

The signage amazes me... it's a road literally in the middle of nowhere. It goes to the left, and to the right. It gets a sign, so nobody goes straight? By accident? I'm confused...

Badwater Basin, Death Valley, CA

Death Valley, CA

Hwy 5, CA

Anyway it makes for great road tripping...

Education Is The Silver Bullet

The President of the United States wants to arm teachers and pay them more money because “I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected...”

Let that sink in for a minute.

I grew up around guns, Michigan loves their firearms. I learned how to fire a weapon long before I could drive a car or vote or buy a beer. We'd burn through a thousand rounds of ammunition in a weekend like it was nothing. 

I'm also a teacher. I've taught university level photography courses in San Francisco for almost ten years now. I've taught one of the most diverse student bodies around, about half of which are international students. I've had good students, I've had bad students, I've had very strange students, I've had students that I honestly believe needed professional psychiatric help.

Don't ask me to put a bullet in any one of them.

We have such staggering wealth in this country, wealth that seems almost immeasurable at times. Schools should be temples, filled with knowledge, books, facts and figures. Our schools should made of solid gold. Our educational budget should be double that of the Pentagon.

Education is the silver bullet. Not firearms.

People claim mental health is the issue... if the shooter is white. Muslims are terrorists, black people are criminals, white kids are "disturbed" or "sick." You want to stop school shootings? Stop giving kids guns. A 10 day waiting period before an 18 year old can get an Uzi is not a sensible solution, mental illness notwithstanding.

Access to weapons and ammunition is not a mental health issue.

To drive a car I must be of proper age, trained, tested, licensed and insured. I must renew that license on a regular basis. If I hit something with my car or act stupid with my car or drink and drive a car they take that license away.

Why should it be any different for a firearm?

People want to talk about freedom. Guns aren't freedom, they are weapons. People talk about protecting their families. Guns are for killing, not protecting. People like to say that criminals don't obey the law, so why ban guns for law abiding citizens? Locks only keep out the honest people, but we still lock our doors don't we. People like to talk about keeping the government in check, that the people have a right to fight back. If you think your personal arsenal is going to hold back the largest military force on earth, I have a bridge to sell you...

Guns aren't a check against tyranny, the rule of law is.

Schools aren't banks, that's why we don't protect them as such, the toddler in the White House should know that. Banks have money in them, people rob them for the money. People don't come to schools with weapons to steal things. They come to schools with weapons to kill people, because that's what weapons are for.

If you put weapons in schools, get ready for a body count.

Education is the silver bullet. Not firearms. I am an educator. Don't ask me to put a bullet in anyone...

Brooke Eva, Take #2

Second take from the film scans of a shoot with Brooke Eva in early January. You can see more of Brooke's work at http://www.brookeva.net/. I typically like to take a shot of the setup so I can remember what the hell I did after the fact, thought I'd throw one in for sport. Really digging this strip box I picked a while back. All images shot with a DigiBee 400 mono light, 56inch strip box and a 36 inch reflector.

Polaroids From The Road

A few Polaroids from a little Leica Sofort camera that shoots Fuji Instax Mini film... so I guess they aren't actually Polaroids anymore. Fujiroids? Leicaroids? I had an instructor in college that just called them "roids." He was a total asshole. Can we just agree to keep calling them Polaroids?

Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo, CA

San Luis Obispo, CA

Hwy 14 West

Panamint Valley, CA

Panamint Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree NP

Brooke Eva, Take #1

First take from the film scans of a shoot with Brooke Eva in early January. You can see more of Brooke's work at http://www.brookeva.net/

Found a great new space to shoot in... beautiful old hardwood floors and great big shop windows with amazing natural light. Got a couple more shoots on the books already for February, looking to use those South facing widows...

New years resolution of shooting more is so far working out. If you're down to shoot, drop me a line, always looking for new people to work with.

You can contact me here...

All images shot with a DigiBee 400 mono light, Leica M2 /M3 - on Ilford FP4 125 film, developed in Rodinal. 

Snapshots from 1,614 miles, roughly...

San Luis Obispo, CA

We headed south to San Luis Obispo and had burritos with a cousin at Cal Poly. College towns are ridiculous. There are burritos everywhere. Took the dog to the beach the next morning before heading east across the valley.

Shot across to Ridgecrest the next day, which is sort of the definition of nowhere, but very near something called the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. We stayed in something called an eco-pod in the middle of the desert and looked at the stars. Entirely solar powered, with a separate shower pod. I highly recommend it.

Desert Eco Pods

Orion's Belt, Etc.

We cut north through Panamint Valley to the eastern entrance of Death Valley National park. Made it as far as Stovepipe Wells and stayed in a really run down motel for the bargain price of $200 a night, which is how it goes when there are no accommodations for 190 miles in any direction.

Death Valley

Death Valley is decidedly more colorful than I had anticipated. Also huge. I highly reccommend at least a couple days if you can swing it. I could have wandered around that place for a week.  There is also a great little restaurant towards the south end of the park in Shoshone that makes a really good Reuben sandwich. Incidentally, the town of Shoshone consists of a gas station, the aforementioned restaurant and a post office. That appears to be it.

Zabriske Point

Badwater Basin

Zabriske Point

From there we hucked it all the way across to Pasadena to see my sister Andrea and her family. There are no pictures from this event because I got stupid drunk that night. Andrea, I blame your husband for this. I should not have taken the handle of Jim Beam to the hot tub as he instructed. (Craig, if you're reading this I don't really blame you, it was a good idea at the time.)

Next day we bolted for Palm Springs and the Ace Hotel to meet some good friends for the weekend. If you've never been to the Ace, it is the epitome of what you might call a "hipster compound." I think they actually breed spindly mustachioed dudes and girls with YOLO tattooed somewhere on their bodies in the back room. It's great people watching.

Joshua Tree National Park

Took a quick jaunt through Joshua Tree while the government was shut down (thanks Obama). As it turns out, National Parks are free when the federal government closes. Kind of a shame really, I like to support our National Parks and Joshua Tree is one of my favorites. Plus all the bathrooms were closed so we peed in the desert. Hashtag #trumpshutdown.

Desert Selfie

Back home in the city, drove straight through in one shot. Feels good to have some moisture in the air again. Film scans to come soon....

On The Road...

Hitting the road. Gear loadout:
Leica M2 & M3
Zeiss 35mm f/2
Zeiss 50mm f/1.5
Zeiss 21mm f/4.5
Leica 90mm f/2.8
Sony A7 w/ Grip
Voigtlander 50mm f/1.1
Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2
Voigtlander 21mm f/4

Film, bags, Metz flash, light meter, money maker, computer, tripod, and a whole plethora of other shit I'll never use... Heading South to San Luis Obispo, Oceano Dunes, turn left, Maricopa, Tehatchapi, California City (literally nowhere personified). Up and on to Death Valley, South through the park, Shoshone, Renoville, into the Mojave, and Kelso Dunes. Past Amboy, South to Twenty Nine Palms, Joshua Tree, and on to Palm Springs for Vodka Gimlets and hot tubs at the Ace Hotel...

Follow me on Instagram for updates and pics from the road @joseph.szymanski

Brooke Eva, Digital Tests...

After several unsuccessful attempts I was finally able to connect with Brooke Eva for a quick shoot last week at a new space I've recently found. Great model, totally comfortable, can either take direction or riff on her own. She's all over the place online, but you can check out her work at http://www.brookeva.net/.

I've also just recently picked up a new light, after going back and forth for months, I finally just pulled the trigger and ordered a DigiBee 400 from Paul C. Buff, and the thing is absolutely rad. Super compact with a ton of juice, I also grabbed a 36" octabox and 56" strip box to round it out. Seriously contemplating picking up a second head.

Posting a few digital tests here, film scans to come shortly...

All test shots done with a Sony A7, Voiglander Nokton 35mm f/1.2, Nokton 50mm f/1.1 and 21mm f/4. Processed with RawTherapee / GIMP on Ubuntu Linux.

Ashlyn, Take #2

Last take from a shoot with Ashlyn way back when up in Mariposa... The places we stay up there are kinda funky, this one has a full on cowboy motif happening, at least in half the house. All the couches have the same cowboy upholstery, it's pretty random...

Not entirely sure how I feel about a few of these images, they're a bit more revealing than I typically shoot, and I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. But here they are for what it's worth... You can see more of Ashlyn's work here: https://www.modelmayhem.com/2352803