Todd Gehman




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write an artist's statement
first stab

Oh crap, now I actually have to finish this. The school is putting together a book of student’s work and they’re calling for submissions. I wonder if this is too snarky to include with my portfolio?

Somebody once said that they took up photography because they wanted to paint, but faster. I never wanted to paint – I can’t even doodle – so I don’t know what they were talking about. At all.

But shooting is pretty fast, I’ll give them that. Developing and printing can be a bit more tedious, but the juicy part is the moment just before the shutter is released. At that point, in the case of people like me, there is no philosophy or intentional design, there is no statement in manufacture. There is only an instinctive link between a photographer and a subject. I walk around and look at people and things and when something might look cool as a photograph, I take a picture of it, hoping that it will.

If my work conveys sarcasm and abstraction, which is what I’ve heard, it’s possible that this is an art form and I am an artist who is sarcastic and abstract and hereby self-expressed. But maybe these are just photographs after all, which hopefully look cool, for your sake. (I already got what I wanted out of it.)



organize an XTC tribute concert in Seattle
deadline

In a couple weeks, I’m auditioning on bass for an indie pop band. Assuming I get in, we’ll be playing on bills with exactly the kinds of acts who would sign up for an XTC tribute. So, I’m thinking I could make this happen within a year. Andy Partridge’s birthday is in November, but their last proper live show was played on April 3 in ‘82. I think I’ll shoot for the April date, which is a Thursday. As everbody knows, Thursday is the Friday of pop.



build a free web hosting service for fine art photographers (read all 4 entries…)
Beta!

I spent the last couple of weekends hacking up the first version, or at least an approximation of the first version. The site has to rely heavily on local caching for slow pages and slow calls to the flickr API. But I haven’t implemented any of that, and I haven’t written robust error handling, so the site’s slow and a bit clunky. I’ll do performance tuning and spit-shining over the next week or two, but I’ve opened the site up for beta testing. A website is never complete – I’ve already got a long list of fixes and feature additions – but MajorWhite.com is public, so I’m ready to call this goal complete.



Learn to play the drums (read all 5 entries…)
growing bag of tricks

Last night teach demonstrated some patterns with off-beat snare and kick drums hits and suggested alternating these new ones with standard rock patterns because, and I quote, singer-songwriters eat that shit up. I heart drum lessons.



write a clear and concise essay on color theory for photographers
yellow is the absence of blue

When I started taking color classes, I was excited to unwind the mysteries of color theory. I mean, as an example, I knew that yellow and blue were different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, but I also knew that yellow was the absence of blue. How could they be mutually exclusive if they were two separate wavelengths? It didn’t make sense. I get it now, but it took a few lessons spread across two classes with two different teachers, plus a little research on my own. I think the internet needs a simple and clear explanation of why color theory makes no sense. The topic might not be possible to summarize clearly and concisely, and I might not be the guy to write it, but I’m gonna try.



Learn to play the drums (read all 5 entries…)
Fills!

As of tonight, I’m three lessons deep. It started comedically, what with the rubber pad “snare”, clothes hamper “hi hat”, and carpeted floor “kick drum”. But as of last week I was working on sixteen variations of the basic rock beat with those three pieces. As of the weekend I got my hands on an actual kit so I can actually practice the instrument, and this week I’ll be working on my first fills. I love the idea of reviewing this entry in six months for giggles, especially this fact: within a week or two, I’ll be able to bang out blueprint rock classics like AC/DC’s Back in Black, and I can’t friggin’ wait.

So far I’ve been able to practice while my housemate’s not around; now I’m going to see how long this can continue before she realizes there’s an inept drummer who practices in her house.



practice lomography (read all 2 entries…)
my adult toy

Shooting with a Holga is like vacationing from formal photography. Here’s how you focus: turn the ring to point to a cartoon depiction of one little person, three little people, seven little people, or a mountain. Here’s how you set your aperture: select sunny or not sunny. Here’s how you set your shutter speed: let the camera fire or hold it open with your finger and count. That’s all you can do. You can’t even worry about your camera if you abuse it; it’s cheap enough that if it falls and crashes to pieces on the ground, your main concern is having lost prior shots to overexposure. As a bonus, a Holga adds a layer of cool vignetting from the plastic lens, light leaks from the cheap construction, odd focus anomalies from the film’s loose pressure on the plane, and so on. And compared to 35mm, the negatives are huge. I haven’t been in my element lately so I don’t have much to show for it, but I’m digging the Holga so far.



eat at a new restaurant every week
Untitled

My brain’s too small to keep meals in memory for days on end, so I am going to keep track of the 52 new joints over here.



Learn to play the drums (read all 5 entries…)
I'm in.

I showed up at the first lesson last night anticipating that something called the “Seattle Drum School” had to be a corporate factory churning out insipid band camp types, that my teacher would be an intolerable wanker weaned on mullet music, and that I’d want to drop out three minutes into my first lesson.

This did not happen.

The school is funky and laid back, seems to boast loose ties to a few quality local acts (Death Cab, Jason Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players, and…okay, maybe that’s it). Better yet, the teacher’s style seems to fit my non-regimented attitude toward music instruction – favoring technique and style over rote memorization – with the bonus that he delivers all his expertise via a classic Bulgarian accent. Within ten minutes he had me playing the basic rock beat that I’ve always felt too awkward to pull off at a kit not made out of air. It’s too bad that I’ll likely be practicing on a folding chair (back = hi hat, seat = snare, floor = kick drum) for the next few lessons, but I have a feeling lessons at this place are going to inspire me to get a kit by summertime at the latest. I sense that this 2007 resolution is gonna happen.



Learn to play the drums (read all 5 entries…)
Registered for lessons

The only way to familiarize myself with this new instrument within one year is to practice, and the only inspirations to practice are love and obligation, and since I don’t love playing drums yet I need obligation, so I signed up for lessons starting Monday. The place I’m taking lessons rents out rooms with kits by the hour, which is a bonus since I don’t actually own any drums to feel obligated to play.



Get my house in order (read all 6 entries…)
open schedule for the year

This’ll be even more boring to write about than to actually do, but I like the accountability part of declaring goals, so I’m going to have an uber-goal tracking my New Years resolution to get my house in order. This means, at the very least, in order of anticipated completion:

  • clean and decorate upstairs bedroom
  • clean downstairs bathroom
  • replace roof
  • replace front door lock
  • clean studio lounge area
  • fix upstairs bathtub
  • fix living room ceiling
  • rewire living room
  • buy or build a bed
  • organize studio office area
  • clean studio sink area
  • install studio lights
  • hang art in studio
  • upstairs windows
  • downstairs windows
  • deck outside studio
  • clean up yard
  • clean up porch
  • clean out basement


build a free web hosting service for fine art photographers (read all 4 entries…)
prototype running

A basic site started taking shape over the weekend. Since it relies on web services, I’ll have to figure out a caching scheme for decent performance. This may take some trickery as Rails doesn’t cache in a way that works with sites keyed by subdomain. I also have to figure out if Site5 will allow me to customize Apache to allow each photographer’s domain name to map to the Major White app. I’m shooting for a “beta” with my own domain on Jan 1st and a completed site by Feb 15th. I plan to get domain names for my photo friends and cajole them into scanning and uploading some of their work to beta test it. This will server several purposes. First, I won’t look stupid being the only photographer using the app. Second, I’ll have some helpful beta testers. Third, it’ll allow me to enjoy their photographs more often.



shoot a gun
Work Outing

I’m passively pacifistic and thought that I’d hate the experience, but I didn’t want to bail on Hodel’s choice for a field trip on his last day at work. At first, it was very unnerving to handle live handguns, but then the drive to improve at something new kicked in and I wanted to shoot as much and as consistently and accurately as possible. Of the four guns we sampled, my favorite was the .38 Special, which makes sense. You just can’t match the firepower of their southern-rock-for-the-arena hits such as Caught Up In You and Hold On Loosely.



build a free web hosting service for fine art photographers (read all 4 entries…)
It's go time.

I laid down an okay album and hung up an okay final photo series for class, so it is time to find another excuse to avoid cleaning the house, okay? Major White it is. I’m thinking that if it’s going to be free, it should host a limited number of photographers. So I think it might be membership by invitation or portfolio submission only. I’m not saying that photographers flickrwide are going to be clamoring to use MW to luxurize their online presence. I’m saying that I don’t want to put the work into building and hosting a website in service of “the cutest cat ever”.



win NaSoAlMo 2006 (read all 6 entries…)
It's a Wrap

I chose watermelons as last year’s album theme so I wouldn’t care about being earnest at all, and I chose photography this year (and talked to more people about the fact that I was making a record, and wrote progress entries online) to put pressure on myself to make a better record, and to be somewhat more earnest. I think I did do better than last year on both the songwriting and recording fronts (though maybe not with mixing and mastering…as I listen to the MP3 versions post-deadline, they sound like complete crap), but in the end, The Photo Album taught me that making a solo album in thirty days is just like taking photographs. You might shoot an entire roll with great care, thinking every shot is good, but at the end of the day you average about one good shot per roll. That’s just how it is…so there is the photo editing process. But there is no time for a photo editing process when it comes to NaSoAlMo. For better or for worse, I recorded another album. The only person who’s heard it so far is my housemate, who suggested based on the pop tunes that I should try writing jingles for advertising.

So it goes.



win NaSoAlMo 2006 (read all 6 entries…)
Thirty Two and Change

About 32:30 unless I ditch the four-minute original that I completely despise, despite the fact that it’s four minutes long, the second longest yield on the record. I cheated tonight to record another original. I was really hungover and burnt out on NaSoAlMo last night, so I thought I might write a song about being really hungover and burnt out. And then I thought I should write a funny song about not having a muse, and then this naive melody came into my hungover and burnt out head, and I thought, hey, this song is so stupid that it would be easy to write goofy lyrics for it, and even easier to record it all in a take or two per track. Viva NaSoAlMo! But, because I am not a cheater, I made it extremely challenging and musically mature by buying a harmonica today. This may be the first time that a first lesson on an instrument was caught on tape for an album that got inflicted on the public. My fans may be shocked, one and all. Literally, both of them.



win NaSoAlMo 2006 (read all 6 entries…)
Thirty and a Third Minutes

I was hoping to complete all the tracking for the album over the holiday weekend, but simply didn’t have the musical mojo to crank out songs. I mostly did tracking on existing tunes, but also wrote and tracked The Recruiter and a one minute non-wonder called Masterprinter. Last night, having no inspiration whatsoever, I covered half of a Heatmiser song. All told, I made it to the Nick Drake album length (28:22) with originals and threw in a cover to make it past the Ramones album length (29:09). So I could declare myself a winner and just mix and master the existing tracks for the rest of the month. I’d prefer to do at least one more original but at this point I think I’m too burned out to pull it off. Maybe I’ll do the goofy psychedelic one after all. It’s a cheap trick but not as cheap as, say, reggae.

The moral of this entry is: making bad records ain’t easy.



win NaSoAlMo 2006 (read all 6 entries…)
Twenty Six Minutes

There’s a point you reach toward the end of November where you have most of the songs written, so you have a general sense of what the record is going to sound like. And under the circumstances, what the record is going to sound like is the crappy, hastily produced record that it is. If your recording mojo is off, it can be demoralizing to face another week or so of spit-shining a bad record. And then you realize that the self-critic talking is the same jerk who you were trying to dodge by signing up for NaSoAlMo’s constraints in the first place. Of course it’s bad…who cares! It’s done. Or it will be. That’s the point. Anyway, I’m struggling with workable song ideas now but I’ve got three more (Bummed a Quarter, I Like the Night, and Tune In) that show okay promise in their draft stages. Depending on how long these end up when finalized, this would put me at about 26 minutes, 3 minutes from being done. Tune In is the one most likely to be cut, as it careened into psychedelia as I started recording, and that might be just as regrettable as it seems. So I need to finish Bummed a Quarter and I Like the Night, and scrape together two more songs to be safe. Might be time to start thinking about a cover song. Has to be photography related. Hmmm…Def Leppard? J. Geils?



win NaSoAlMo 2006 (read all 6 entries…)
Nineteen Minutes

Two more songs mostly finished in the last two nights brings me to almost nineteen minutes. Shots at the Bar is the saddest song I’ve done, and Hangover Kids may well be the happiest, yet each matched my psychological state at the time perfectly. This experiment is proving that recording artists are moody bastards, quite possibly psychologically deranged. What else is new?



win NaSoAlMo 2006 (read all 6 entries…)
Fourteen Minutes on the Fourteenth

What a difference a year makes. Just having a basic grasp of how songwriting works, how to work with GarageBand, how to diligently save and back up files, and roughly how long it takes to do tracking for each song…that month of experience last year seems to be helping a lot. Last NaSoAlMo I didn’t know if I could finish but promised myself that if I recorded four songs I could tolerate, I’d be satisfied. I did record four songs I could tolerate, as well as five more to reach the minimum time. This year I’m almost done with four songs I can tolerate (Crowded Darkroom, Minor White, Mug Shooter, and Masterpiece – this year’s theme is photography), with just the finishing touches, mixing, and mastering left. 14 minutes by the 14th day. I’m not really ahead of myself, that’s right on track or even a little behind. But considering that I took the whole long weekend off from recording, I think my pace is fast enough to get the thing done in time. Thing is, I don’t just want it to get done, I want it to kick last year’s album’s ass. We’ll see about that come midnight November 30.



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