Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber.
Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet.
Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little.
I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.
"Necessity is the mother of taking chances." Mark Twain
I am fortunate to count among my friends quite a few people who are successful artists of some kind. Musicians, photographers, painters, comic book artists, actors, singers and writers. Recently -- as in two months ago -- I made the decision to commit, really commit to my photography as both a vocation and as a business. Yes, I've had a good amount of work published and in art shows and the like, but it's always been a side business which got attention when I could. I consider, and I think reasonably, myself to have been a semi-pro. I get paid for the work and I think I'm a pretty good photographer when you get right down to it. But I didn't take the steps necessary to take it to the next level. As I looked around at the successful people around me I wondered why I hadn't "taken off" as they had, and the answer is -- being directly honest with myself -- that I hadn't really applied myself to making it work. All of the successful artists I know work hard at their craft, but also in the marketing of it. One of my friends -- my British "best mate" James Moran --just posted a brilliant piece on Taking Stock of his writing career at least once a year. It's a great read and really pins down why it is he's successful and will continue to be. It resonated with me to a great extent and crystalized much of what I have been thinking and doing for the last two months. First, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I recently opened an online store to market canvas prints (and later, other products) based upon my photographic works. Many of the shots are filtered so as to look more like paintings than photographs, and that is part of the "art" of what I do. The online store, which I've only really started to market, is simply a logical and needed step in making my "second career" as a photographer more of a primary income when and if I ever get the opportunity to retire from my "bill paying" career. (I enjoy what I do in my "day job", but if I were to win the lottery I admit that's the first thing chucked out the door.) Reading James' post reminded me that it isn't just taking a series of almost unrelated steps which make for a career, it's having a plan and working on that plan every day. In that light, I have to look at my goals and realize/plan out what I'm doing and where I'm going with my work. There are essentially four different and yet closely related elements and goals I have by the end of the year. 1 - Teaching. I have dipped my toes into the instructional waters and found myself enjoying them. To that end I have several sessions booked at a camera store that seems to like what I do and supports me. (I support them as well...it's where I buy all my camera gear.) To that end I have created a couple of presentations geared toward Travel Photography and getting that moment versus just a series of pictures of people in front of famous structures. How do you make your work stand out? A second class in in the works, and I'm currently trying to hone down what it will be about. I've been given carte blanche to come up with ideas, which they will then vet and (hopefully) give me approval to move forward. I'm also instructing using one of the existing templates on Capturing the Moment, an excellent presentation designed by their instructional director. To that end I am booked for a number of sessions through the next six months. 2 - My book CHASING MARTINIS is essentially finished. I have a handful more parts to add, but I have a mockup of perhaps a third of the final pages ready to be printed to be used as a sample for potential publishers and/or agents. What I need, now, is to begin to market the book. Finding an agent is the first part of this. I am frankly unaware of the process for finding a publisher for a book of photography. (Oddly enough I am far more familiar with how its done for fiction and other books, but since coffee table books are a different beastie altogether I'm in the dark.) Fortunately I am willing to learn by trial and error. The topic is a marketable one, and several ideas I have make it even more of an interesting project for the eventual publisher. But it's job #2 for my photography career. (Several people have suggested self-publishing, but this in inherently too expensive when it comes to photography. I'd have to seek the coffee table book for nearly $200 just to break even. This needs a scale above what I can afford to spend and then try to get into stores myself. I need people familiar with marketing and distribution, and I am not.) 3 - The online store. I just need to keep pimping it. More than any other project this one is the one designed to bring money into the coffers. There are, as of this writing, nearly 40 images uploaded with more to come. I am starting out with canvas prints because I believe it displays a number of the works in the best possible way, and can be a strong artistic accent piece for the buyer. Photography is a tricky item when it comes to marketing. Unfortunately, as I've discussed in the post, many people regard it as a "pseudo-art" because "anybody can take a picture". This is true, but not a complete answer. Anyone CAN take a picture, but not everybody with a camera makes good art. The images selected for the gallery are the things which resonate with me, and I believe strongly that they work well with a number of design styles. The prints are designed as accent pieces for rooms, not focal points (though they can function as such). Are they my most artistic shots, perhaps. They are a different species than are my martini shows, or my travel work -- though examples of both those categories have made it into the mix. So it's an open and ongoing effort. 4 - Continuing to work on and improve my skills. I had a discussion with a musician the other night at a gig where my wife was performing. The discussion centered on the need to work on your art, improve it, and never get complacent. No matter who you are and how successful you've become, everyone can benefit form ongoing training. I'm nowhere near being that successful or skilled, so I continue to work on knowing my camera better, improving my eye and becoming a better just of what is and is not photo-worthy. To that end I am not only being an instructor at the camera store, I am going to be taking a number of the classes myself, working with the other photographers to hone my skills and becoming better at what I do. It's the only way to grow as an artist, and I am finally allowing myself the conceit of considering myself one. James' blog entry is the jumping off point, and has instilled in me a more fundamental approach to this artisty thingy. It's something I want to do, but it's something I need to take the steps to do. Not just "hope" something happens, because it probably won't. As he notes in his blog,: "you never “break in”, you just keep moving, and have to break in again every time you do something new".It's an important recognition that nobody is ever so successful that they can just rest on their laurels. (Well, some can. It's called "retirement".) Everybody needs to try new things and improve on the old ones. So that's where we are. Just felt I had to write it down. Cheers.
On our last trip to Kauai e indulged in a daylong tour of island film and tv locations. Those places we've seen in films like Jurassic Park and King Kong as well as tv shows such as Fantasy Island or Gilligan's Island.
If you're a little on the "older" side you probably spent a portion of your life listening to the music of Elvis Presley, and you may recognize the below as the setting for the film Blue Hawaii. The Coco Palm Resort, where much of the film was shot, has been closed for years after being heavily damaged by hurricane Iniki.
This image, available as a canvas print at the Barbergallery Etsy store (or click the logo on the far left column), came to me in a rather unusual way. I was in Palm Springs in my hotel bathroom, readying myself for my morning shower. The environment struck me as very photogenic for some reason, and I quietly snuck back into the bedroom to retrieve my Nikon.
I had the shower running -- yes, very bad form given the current drought, but this was more than a decade ago...during our previous drought.
Seeing the variety of personal items on the counter, such as toothbrush and toothpaste, my morning pills, deodorant, etc, I began taking a few shots with the mindset of capturing the morning routine. This included some shots of the little collection of shampoos and conditioners hotels often leave for the guests. But in the setting up and arranging of the items I moved my razor over to the little diamond window on the other side of the shower.
This caught my attention. The extreme contrast between the morning light coming in through the window and the darkness inside the bathroom made for a nice silhouetting of the razor and the drops of water on the window itself. As you can see it's now part of the Barbergallery store logo. Very eye catching and simple, I think.
A photograph made in all innocence in or around 1985 -- before I began tracking my work and shooting professionally. New Years Day. My (at the time) fiancé and I were on a tour of the East Coast that included New York City for a very brief stopover.
This, of course, is the Empire State Building swathed in a dense fog. The gothic look is deliberate.
But when I ran across this image, years later, I could not help getting a chill at the way it eerily foreshadows some of the images from 9/11.
Sunrise in magical places is always a special moment. This tree was along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon while I was waiting to shoot the sun's light as it cascaded down across the canyon floor. As I was waiting I noted the tree, silhouetted against the blue sky and slightly reddening canyon below.
So I pulled into the gas station in a completely dead automobile, having no idea what was wrong or what it might require to fix it. I went into the (thankfully) 24 hour station to find a younger woman (younger than I was, at any rate) working the counter, doing her nails. She informed me that there wasn't a mechanic at this station, and in any case nobody would be able to help for several hours, at least until well after daylight. I crawled back into my car and spent several hours trying to sleep, but between the discomfort of the seat (for sleeping, it was fine for driving) and a growing anxiety I pretty much stared at the dashboard. Around 8am a pickup pulled up with three guys in it. The woman had called the local mechanic -- a guy named Beverly -- to see if he could fix the car, so he and a couple of buddies came ver to the station to see if they could help. I figured I was in trouble when his first question was if the car was a Japanese make (it's British). He futzed around and finally decided the problem was the alternator. Since British Electric had a major reputation for being unreliable this seemed like a decent theory, at least to me. He pulled the alternator, examined it and said he would have to go pick up a part from a dealership in Tuscaloosa, some twenty miles away. This was around 9am so I figured I would be on the road again in a few hours. Beverly and his buddies headed off in the pickup again and I sat in my car, essentially killing the time any way I could. I called my Father to let him know what had happened using a pay phone that was on the premises (this was before the age of cellphones). I then rang my friend Malcolm who at the time lived in Rushton, Louisiana where I was supposed to spend that night. Malcolm and I planned to go down to New Orleans for a night on the town before I resumed my trek west, but this little delay might cost us that trip. An hour or so later another pickup pulled into the lot, and three guys got out. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but they were rivals of Beverly. The lead guy came over to see the car -- the hood was still up -- and asked what was going on. At this point I was hot and tired and just wanted to get on with my life (no sleep, and it was summer in the south). The guy began stoking the flames, as it were, and tsp-tsking about how long Beverly was taking. "I'd a had you outta here hours ago", etc. It got to me and I let him talk me into calling the gas company office in Birmingham -- when common sense should have simply had me talk to the owner of the station, who at this point was working the cash register inside the store. The owner knew I was out there and waiting for Beverly and his crew to return, and hadn't really shown much desire to get involved. But it would have been the appropriate thing to do. Instead I let the new guy put the phone in my hand and we called customer relations. Shortly afterward the new guy and his buddies took off, leaving me to deal with an (understandably) angry station owner a short time later. He came out and told me to get off his property -- something I was flat out incapable of doing until I got the alternator back. I tried to explain what had happen, and finally got him on the phone with my father, who managed to calm the situation down. A couple hours later Beverly showed back up, installed the alternator, gave me a jump and promptly told me it would be $200 for the repair. No credit card -- which of course left me without any cash for the remainder of the trip. I unhappily forked it over, made a couple of calls to my Dad and Malcolm, and hit the road again, happy to finally rid of the town of Union. Continued tomorrow....