Random Thoughts and Photographs

For the life of me I can't recall what I even started to write these blogs. Maybe it was that the thoughts in my head are life changing and full of inspiration and wisdom.... highly unlikely. Could it have been that I am some prophet-like wordsmith whose words will stand the test of time? It'd be rad but yet again...highly unlikely. 

Well, whatever the reason is, the words get typed, they get posted and with any luck... someone reads them before they're lost in the interweb. The idea of having some sort of continuity or overlying theme in these posts is absurd and wicked difficult, so a random thought or photograph will have to do. I mean after all is said and done, that's pretty much what I'm about. Random thoughts and photographs. 


This shot was the culmination of a few different pieces. The first being that it is basically mission impossible to try and skate the government center plaza. The second was the feeling of freedom that can be had when riding a skateboard, or doing anything you love doing for that matter. Since skating wasn't and it just didn't seem worth it to piss off the very proud and diligent security guards, I told my friend Grady to start to toss his board in the air. At first he looked at me with an expression that was: "WTF?", followed by "this dude might be crazy" then to "alright, lets see where this goes." Since I just spent 10 minutes shooting Grady blindly play one handed catch over a fountain (his idea), he played along. 

To me, the image conveys freedom. Freedom to do what you enjoy doing, freedom of expression or what have you. There is a sense of anonymity, which allows people to easily put themselves the the shoes of (Grady) in the imageWith skateboarding in particular, there is a helluva lot of freedom that goes into it... you can do it any place, any time with anyone...who skates, or doesn't...whatever. There is also a sense of being able to simply let go and just enjoy whatever the hell it is you're doing at that moment. Or, it is just a picture of some dudes hand and a skateboard. It's up to you. 

The Best Policy

We're told from a young age that honesty is one of the most important things that we can value. It's the best policy...Then, we start to grow up, our personalities start to be molded by what we see, who we are around and what we think is cool. By twenty-something years old we feel like we have mild grasp on who we are and what we do. If you're anything like me, there are times where you question everything. The who, what, where, when and why of our lives becomes as clear as mud and it is this point where honesty and truth are extremely important. It is also extremely important when your president is okay with "alternative facts" and honesty is something you now have to search that much harder for...but that's just a little insight into my political ideals. We won't get into that. 

Anyway, back to the point. Somewhere along the line, we enter into a sort of second reality where (this may be a biased view) bullshit rains supreme and hopping on a bandwagon is the easiest thing to do. I'll be the first to admit that there is a time where that is extremely comfortable. However, there's always an alternative. It is the difference between taking the blue pill and taking the red pill, for all us Matrix fans out there. One will allow you to to simply wake up, go to sleep and find something to fill the time in between without really living at all. The other allows you to go passed to surface and start to find honesty and truths you never really thought you'd find and then the living really starts.

At first it might be scary, intimidating and unusual but then without any heads up it all becomes, for lack of a better term, just fuckin' cherry. For me, it was all these things. I've gone through points of extreme uncertainty in my life, but the one thing that always remained constant was the camera. No matter what I had going on in my head, I could always find comfort and honesty when I looked through the view finder. It is that reason that I love photography so damn much. It has always been honest. With it, I am able to capture real, raw and truthful images and express the things that I'm not sure how to put into words. What really helped me at that time, was the truth of it all.  

To me, that is what makes photography so epic. When I shoot, I strive to capture exactly what is there and how its happening. That is where the beauty is found. In the moment and in the details that are captured within the frame. Being able to tell stories, capture moments and provide honest work is what drives me to keep creating.

The images below are some of my favorite images that I've taken over the last few years. In each of them, there is a distinct feeling that each of them provide. What I tried to capture in the first image was the content, calm and solemn personality of the Portuguese model boat maker. In the second, the bond between mother and daughter that can exist anywhere in the world. Finally, in the third, the brotherhood of two stoked and spent Lake Superior surfers. All of these have an element of truth to them. Each of the images is a brief moment in time that may not ever happen again. No posing, no studio lights, no fancy camera tricks...Just real. 


Means of Translation

As creatives, we've chosen to dedicate ourselves to a craft. We thrive off of the fleeting moments of satisfaction and gratification that come at the end of our latest projects and then, at a moments notice, we find ourselves striving for the next. If you're anything like me, you're constantly critiquing the work you put out and never feel fully satisfied. There persists a constant struggle to better ourselves and aside from practice, the best thing to do is ask questions. 

These questions can either serve as icebreakers among photographers or simply just small talk here and there. With any hope, they are asked to try and better our craft and in this instance, to better our photographs. Over the years I have found that a lot of what people want to know is technical information like "Which lens?", "Which body?", and "What settings?". 

The more I have thought about it the more I have realized that, when it comes down to it, none of that technical stuff really matters. Sure, it helps to create a technically perfect photograph, but what is a world full of technically perfect photographs without creativity? In my opinion, the most important tool that we have is not in our bags, not on our cameras, and it can't be found at your local camera store. The most important thing in creating stronger, more interesting or simply "better" photographs is you. It is what is inside our heads. Photographs should be an extension of ourselves and represent the thoughts, emotions, ideas that are trapped in our mind. 

You may have a bag full of the nicest gear on the market, but what is all of that gear without a mind that thinks for itself? The gear is simply a means of translation of our mind's ideas into see-able images. It's the equivalent of having a brand new Wrangler sitting in your driveway, but not having a drivers license to do anything with it except sit in the drivers seat and wonder. 


After a month hiatus, it's safe to say that this blog was lying on it's death bed. Here is my attempt at a sort of revival. In the last month or so, I've graduated college, traveled with family and friends and hunted for jobs. The one thing I've been able to do that has stood out more than others is making photographs. Making photographs without the pressure of a deadline, the pressure of meeting client needs and dealing with anyone other than myself and my subject has been liberating. The last month has reminded me why and how I love to shoot. As of late, the subject of my images has been snowboarding and it has enabled me to build a more solid portfolio in that regard. 

The one thing that I love about it is that it isn't for money, it is simply for the joy of making a photograph again. There is no pressure and it has allowed me to focus on getting more creative and getting in touch with a more refined version of my style and creative touch. This no pressure state of mind has also allowed me to get a better idea of how to create more interesting shots whether they be portraits, snowboarding, even landscapes. This feeling is something that I've missed a lot. Creativity is coming back and shooting seems less of a chore. The craft is once again fun. 

After all, isn't that was it is all about? Doing something you love, because you love to do it? 

The images below are from the most recent shoots that I've been a part of. It has been a blast getting to go out and shoot one of my favorite sports with talented people and to create just for the sake of creating. 

Use your voice

Recently the idea around photography as a voice has been running through my mind. Somewhat relating to the idea of these trends that I've mentioned in photography, it begs the question of how we want our voices to be heard? How can we differentiate? For anyone that loves an art, our voice is arguably the most important aspect of everything we create. It can arguably be the most important thing to anyone out there. It shows the world how you view things as an individual. These trends that have begun to appear are the photographic equivalent of someone copying the mannerisms, voice and personality of some else. 

Ask yourself this: "If I was in a room full of people, would I want to sound exactly like the person next to me?" If the answer is yes, you know exactly what I mean. It's hard for me to imagine that a room full of people who act and sound exactly the same would be any fun at all. There needs to be different ideas, voices and personalities present, this is how things are kept interesting. This is also how we begin to learn more about ourselves and what it means to be able to have this unique voice. 

I am a firm believer that from day one, our personalities and ultimately our voice is created and curated from all of the different people that we come into contact with. The strongest influences are the people that you see as inspirational or wise and have that "something" that seems almost unattainable that you've been looking for. Now, here lies the line between idolization and admiration. We should by all means try to emulate the best qualities of the people we look up to, after all thats where the idea of role models come from. However, it seems almost all too easy for people to sprint across this line and try to become a carbon copy of what we see in hopes it will allow for some sort of appeal to the general public. 

When you're crafting an image, of the biggest things that should be focused on is the creation of something new, different and powerful. Now I won't sit here and say that each of images are the most unique or most powerful but I can guarantee you they were shot with those ideas in mind. It only leaves room for growth and improvement. This process of cultivating your own voice and ideas on the world is what makes us individuals and what, at least in my head, keeps things interesting. 

This same idea can be applied to photographs as well. Many of us have favorite photographers who inspire us to spend hours on their websites or Instagram feeds studying and enjoying their most recent work. When I have the time, frankly that is one of my favorite things to do. It's a phenomenal way to stay up to date with what has been done and if you're lucky you are able to stumble across work that inspires you to create something equally, if not more inspiring. If you truly want to stand out amongst the crowd, the development of that voice is paramount. 

I've found that the desire for some unique voice and style and true creativity has started to fall to the back burner. It could be argued that trying to closely emulate these established styles is a stepping stone to developing a voice. If that is the case then we all must be careful to not get too comfortable and ensure that the next step is taken. 

Factory Switch

As things begin to clarify themselves as to the direction that I am going to be heading, at least in the near future, an overwhelming amount of opportunities begin to start formulating in my head. It's a curse and a blessing, really. I get so stoked on what could be or what might be and it's easy to get lost in the potential ideas and forget to actually start doing something. Then I look at my good friend Braden who is all about doing. His work ethic inspires the hell out of me and if you haven't seen his work look up Braden Doucette and you'll see what I'm talking about. His ambition to make it to a show, capture it in its essence, make it back to Duluth and have edits finalized by 8 am is nothing short of fucking awesome. 

Once the doing occurs, especially as a photographer, you have to really analyze how you're going to portray whatever work it is that you're going to put out to the world. If you really want to stand out in the industry today...differentiation is paramount. That really can be applied in any field when you really think about it but with an art, it is how you establish your personality through your craft. There are endless amounts of bullshit images that exist out there nowadays. Maybe that makes me pretentious for saying it...but it's true. The cause? I blame social media...and more than social media, the idiots that use it for the wrong reason. Now I will say this, it is a useful tool to portray your work, connect with people and all that but you have to use it in such a way. On the other hand, it just is another outlet to embellish our vanity.

Similar to many other things, there is a fine line between the good and the bad. On one hand social media gives you access to people's work that is truly inspiring. You get a look into their lives and their creative vision and come across stories and images that make you think and see things in a different light and with any luck, you learn something from them. Cole Barash, Morgan Maassen, David duChemin, Dorothea Lange, Jimmy Chin, Andrew Miller, Atiba Jefferson and Jason Peterson just to name a few. All of these people have had a huge influence on the way that I want to portray my work and tell stories. 

On the other hand, and this one seems to be far more prevalent, there are hundreds of thousands of kids that are churning out image after image that look identical to one another. It seems like there has been an unholy matrimony of attention whores and cameras that has paved the way to these weird trends in photography. Now, hats off to the originators of these trends but at this point, it's impossible to figure out who they are. It's a slightly cynical view of things but from what I can tell I'm not wrong. Whether it's a filter in post, or a coloring scheme or half assed composition there are hubs that inspire the same thing over and over and kids are going goof in search of a feature for these things to gain notoriety.

I'll be the first to admit, at first the idea seems enticing but then taking a step back and realizing that your work, along with thousands of others simply molds together. What sets one apart from the next? In my mind, if you're not working towards showing your personality, your vision and your ideas then don't even bother. That can be applied to anything. Understandably, we live in a world that is not a fan of the outlier when it's much easier to blend in and hop on the conveyor belt. Then ask yourself, why would you hop on a belt that has a set path in one direction (typically a loop) when you could hop off and find your own path full of twists and turns? Maybe it's that mediocrity scares the hell out of me. For some, mediocrity is just fine. As far as I know, no one has been truly commended on being mediocre.

I think it's time we turn off the factory switch and have a serious session of introspection and figure out what it is that makes us, us. Realize it, then never let it fade. 

The work of the artists mentioned before are listed here:


Unclear Clarity

These vaguely specific (see what I did there?) titles I'm giving some of these blog posts somehow make it easier to start typing, so bare with me. I apologize for the consistent lapse in posting these, it turns out that the last semester of college can be really time consuming and I don't get a grade for a personal blog post. Bummer. 

Anyway, to try and establish some sort of narrative within these posts, we will jump back to "Think...but not too much." I touched on the idea of not thinking too much about something, in most situations that is a good thing. Always go with your gut. Recently some sorta dusty shit went down in my life but it really didn't phase me because my gut told me something wasn't right from the start. Turns out, my gut was right and now life is pretty damn sweet. My family also has gone through some pretty heavy stuff but I had a gut feeling the outcome would be in our favor...again the gut was right. What all of these things have done is provided clarity. A similar clarity to shining a light down into the Marianas Trench, seeing where you're headed but having no idea where you'll head up.

In one month I graduate college and inherit a crushing mound of debt. Exciting right? Four and a half years of hangovers, all nighters, pretty girls, life long friends and the occasional run in with the boys in blue. I would have never guessed the price tag would be so steep. But who gives a shit about the price tag? Coming up to the point where a good portion of the world expects me to suit up and buy a cactus for my cubicle, I find myself sprinting in the opposite direction. 

It seems to be that people are losing sight of the fact that the next bit chapter of our lives is literally all up to us. Bills can be paid, money can be made and the way it gets done should be all on you, not what someone else thinks it should be. This bit of unclear clarity has shown me that it will no doubt be some sort of unconventional future involving creating in some way, shape or form.

No matter how crazy things get from time to time my mind finds comfort in creating. I didn't ask for it, I didn't plan for it but things just ended up that way. There is a pull towards creating and photography that I can't ignore. I have no idea how far it will take me in life but if my image makes it on the cover of some magazine some day, we will have the answer. There have been too many people that have come in to my life unexpectedly and whether its a sign or just a ton of harmonious coincidences, a path has begin to from. Now, I'm trusting my gut. Moral of the story? We've all got one shot at this. Do whatever the hell it is that calls to you. Don't settle. If something you truly want seems hard and unattainable, don't bitch out because it's probably worth the work you put in but you won't know till you try. It's life's little way of testing you to see if you truly deserve those things.  

PS The image along with this post is Rob Prochnow's favorite landscape of mine. I found it in the archives of Iceland and well, yeah. Enjoy. 

Think...but not too much.

It's been a good while since I've had the time to sit down and write a post, not to mention its been a long time since I've felt something worth putting out to the world. Whatever, this blog is a work in progress like anything else, so bare with me. Currently my mind is on the idea of how much thought you give to something. This last weekend, I let my mind get the best of me and let my thoughts run wild for no apparent reason. Granted, bourbon fueled some of the thoughts to amplify a bit more than they should and if you're one of my friends/family who lent an ear and some wisdom I greatly appreciate the thoughts and honesty. Frankly, what was pissing me off had nothing to do with photography but it did involve a girl and hindsight being 20/20 it wasn't a big deal by any means...what was a big deal was the fact that I thought about it way too much. 

Naturally, like anything in my life I find a way to relate damn near anything back to the art of photography and creating. As I sat thinking, thinking and overthinking the less time I spent acting upon anything, so the ideas just kept spinning around and around leading me nowhere but closer to the bottom of a bottle of fine bourbon and annoying some people. If I would have just acted, or kept on moving then things wouldn't have been so...shitty. With photography, it is really easy to sit on ideas for days, weeks or even months. As creatives, we get these incredible ideas and tweak them in our heads about the best way to portray whatever it is we are about to shoot. Then we keep thinking, thinking and overthinking and eventually the idea stops seeming so good. Either that, or the idea gets replaced by another idea and that one is beaten to a pulp. All the while, these two ideas which could have made for a great series, project or single photograph, remain just ideas. 

Now, if our creative and crazy heads would have just told our minds to shut the hell up and do something, we could have great, or not so great pieces of work. If it's great, we praise ourselves and get hyped on the feedback we get and myself, I get a little cocky but hey, at least I admit it. If it's not so good, we dwell. We crucify ourselves to an almost unhealthy point because our work is extremely personal if you're doing it right. The trick is to try and realize why the end result didn't come out as originally thought out to be and make sure those mistakes aren't made in the next project. It is easier said that done but if you can swallow the pill, the medicine will kick in. Again, here it is easy to think way to much when all that really needs to be done is further action. Creating is a process, a process that is never ending. There will be highs and lows but have patience and for the love of the photograph, just keep creating. 

As far as the image attached to this, to me it is the definition of patience and persistence. It was freezing when this was taken and this fisherman stood scary still for the duration of the image. Sure, he probably thought about getting out of the water, or why he was still fishing or if the milk in the fridge was expired... It could have been literally anything but he stayed in, pole in hand and kept fishing. 

A little reminder

Moments like these remind me why I love photography.

This man has been the subject of a lot of photographs that have been made by me and some of my friends over the last 5/6 years. I will never forget the first time Chase and I met George.. he was out on the streets playing his drums and singing a song about hope in the middle of November.. Since then, each time we've gotten the chance to see him he always has a massive smile on his face. He's been a reminder to me that no matter what your situation is, you can always have a positive outlook. Many of us out there need that reminder from time to time.

Anyway, I met with him Friday night and he asked my why he didn't have a picture that I had taken yet... for the life of me, I couldn't think of a valid reason. He'd inspired me, provided me with some of my favorite images and all I'd given him were some handshakes and a couple dollars. So, I decided it was time. I told him that if he could meet me downtown Minneapolis on Sunday around 4pm that I would have something for him. I got an image from Friday printed at Target photo (ps thank you to the staff for the pen and the kind words). The woman who handed me my image said his face and smile in the photo instantly made her smile and just all around happy to see that positivity radiate from George.

I just figured I would share this with you all... don't forget to keep a positive mindset, no matter how tough things can get.

Taking vs. Making

This post is a continuation of my train of thought from the last post "The picture taker and the photographer." The idea that I was trying to drive home between those two titles was the line of thought behind a person and their camera. I'd like to touch on that just a little bit more. Let's say for instance, that in your mind and your craft, you've surpassed the "picture taker." The standard blurry, ill-framed vacation photographs have turned into a series of landscapes or portraits. In your head, the ideas of making and taking are wrestling back and forth. 

So first, the idea of taking. I think of taking as the Snap Chat approach to photography. There isn't much thought, maybe two or three are taken to get the best look (probably a filter or two), and its gone just as quick as it was there. Forgotten and lost in the cyber world of floating digital images. I do think that many photographs have to simply be taken in order to get to a point of making a photograph but some people get stuck in the appreciation and social media love they get from everything they take. It becomes comfortable but your craft ceases to differ and progress. This is easy to understand, because making a photograph can be terrifying as all hell. It's your thoughts, emotion and view of this world being shown to someone else and if you're not your harshest critic, someone else will be. The idea of someone not liking your photograph is detrimental, unless you simply just don't give a shit and either have a massive God complex or are the best photographer in the world. Deep down we all care about how our images and work will be received by our peers. 

Now we'll get into the idea of making. For some, making a photograph consists of hours of planning and thinking about the absolute best and most creative way to portray a feeling or to tell a story. They make a list of potential ideas, different angles and subject matter. Ponder it some more, then finally go and shoot it. For some, this is the best way to communicate the ideas in their head...personally, I think that would be exhausting, however Rob would heavily disagree with me. 

For me, I like to shoot a little more on the fly. Don't get me wrong, there is still some pre-shoot conceptualization that goes into a scheduled shoot but I love seeing how things play out while at the location. To me, a little bit of surprise and change makes it more exciting and challenging and in the end you can get a much more rewarding photograph. This is why I love street photography. If a creative can master the art (and mastery is another completely separate idea to be further touched on) of street photography, they are completely aware of what is going on around them. They are able to analyze what is and what is not important to include in the frame, they see the moment and they snap the shutter. That thought process I just touched on is compressed into seconds, after those seconds pass, there is no way you can truly and organically re-create that scene. This is probably why there are more landscape photogs than street photogs... it's a lot easier. When you truly make a photograph, it is something that can be remembered and will hit home to your audience, something about it will resonate with more than just you or your shooting buddy. 

Here's a Labovtiz school of Business inspired analogy for taking vs making. Imagine there are two people who want to start a clothing brand. One person bulk orders a bunch of radical looking tshirts and sells them via word of mouth, they make a bit of cash then forget about it cause it was really hard to keep going with demand, production and all the other fun things that go with starting a business. They stop, the brand dies and it is forgotten (taking). On the other hand you have a kid who weighs the cost a benefit of a bulk order vs ordering as demand comes in. They consistently post to social media and create a website, a message is created and people start to believe in the brand. Eventually, bulk ordering is the only way to keep up with demand, new product lines are thought up and business continues to grow (making). 

Anyway, those are my thoughts...I've gotta scoot to class now. Till next time, cheers! 



The picture taker and the photographer

A while back, my good friend Braden and I were out and about with our cameras and decided to grab a drink at a local watering hole. We sat and chatted about everything and nothing all at the same time, it was a great ending to an eventful day. As the beer flowed, eventually the appetizer came and it (not us) caught the attention of a somewhat familiar face sitting at the table next to us. She looked at me and said "Hey you're Taylor, right? The picture taker?" To be honest, at first I was a little offended... Thinking to myself...shit is that what people see me as? Maybe it was just my ego saying (at the risk of sounding pretentious) "I'm much more than a picture taker, I'm a photographer, an artist" or maybe it was the level of alcohol in her system and the fact that adjectives were a thing of the past at that point...but it stuck with me. 

I asked myself if there was a difference between the two. One one hand you have the "picture taker" that can take pretty pictures of whatever may be in front of the lens, on the other hand you have the photographer who takes time to actually craft an image. An image that has depth, meaning and purpose within the frame. At first, everyone who picks up a camera and likes to press the shutter could be considered a "picture taker". Someone who enjoys taking pictures and posting/showing them off but lacks a direction or purpose. As that enjoyment turns to fulfillment and taking turns to making I believe there is some sort of transcendence into a photographer that takes place.

There is some sort of threshold, or event horizon that some of us pass through, where a picture becomes a photograph and that frame becomes your voice to the world. It's most likely not one singular moment, if it was I think we'd all sit around waiting for that moment to happen. I think it is more of a change in the thought process of the one holding the camera and the more thinking involved, the deeper the image becomes. When it comes down to it, I think the fundamental difference between a "picture taker" and a photographer is the thought behind an image. 

When you look at this image, what do you see? Is it just a BW of two kids playing soccer? Or, is it an image that captures the essence of a summer afternoon spent with best friends. I urge you to look beyond the first dimension...How are each of the subjects looking at one another, where is there attention? Who is learning from who? What is their demeanor, posture? Questions like these differentiate the "picture taker" from the photographer.



Wall Flowers, not always a bad thing

A few months ago I spent some time traveling through Europe, one of my favorite stops was the (highly underrated) country of Portugal. While we were there exploring around, one of the things that I couldn't stop noticing the pastel colored buildings scattered all across the country and all of the vibrant flowers that only complimented the architecture. Seeing the flowers compliment pastel walls inspired me to come up with an idea I turned into the Wild Flower Series. Honestly, the simplicity of the images caught me off guard and for a long time I was hesitant to publish them. Then one of my best friends, Rob, told me it was the most creative series he's seen me shoot. He reminded me that not every image taken has to be some grandiose composition always telling some larger story. 

What the images do for me is remind me of how simple and easy life was while on the road. Our only priorities were exploration, finding the next bottle of wine and becoming better friends. These images are a good reminder that the simplest things in life can be the most beautiful.