Jan 30 2023

Tools

Photos by Ray Potes

Cameras are tools. They are an important part of the craft for sure, but asking someone what their favorite hammer is or needle nose pliers is not really a good first question. If you just ate something delicious, you wouldn’t ask the chef which frying pan did they use. Maybe you would but I think it would come later in the conversation. “Excuse me, did you use a spatula or tongs on this?”

This post is sparked by the last post about people asking me which camera to buy. What is happening is that I have assumed everyone reading Hamburger Eyes is already obsessed with photography which is not true, some are just getting started. I think my new mission in life is to keep you obsessed if you are already, or get you obsessed if you are not.

Part of the obsession is chasing a certain quality or fidelity or feeling, chasing that secret sauce. So you experiment with different cameras and lenses. It’s fun and it is part of how you “develop” technique and skill and vision. I am not trying to say it’s not ok to ask, I am saying it’s not ok to not experiment for yourself.

Don’t worry, in a future post I will list cameras I have used, am using, and hoping to use in the future. These photos here are screenshots of my IG page (@rays_reports). These photos are a mix of old and new, shot with Samsung Galaxy 7, 8, 10e, Olympus TG6, Lumix GX85, Nikon A1000, Nikon D750, Nikon F100, Yashica T4, Fuji Natura Black, and maybe more that I can’t think of. I am still experimenting.

The point is it doesn’t matter, just get to shooting. Too expensive is not a good excuse, there are good finds at swap meets and thrift stores. And we have published photos from disposable cameras, broken cameras, plastic cameras, etc

Jan 28 2023

Nuggets

Photo by Ray Potes

I have been selfish. I do these Q+A thingies on the Hamburger Eyes IG stories and I get a ton of questions about photography and publishing. Sometimes I can be informative, but most of the time I hold back. For one, there is only so much space to write. For two, I have always viewed myself as a student. I am still learning. Hella much. Who am I to teach anything when I don’t have any formal education or legit “profession”?

I think I came off annoyed in the last one. Like, how can I answer what camera or what paper type is the best when I am still experimenting and figuring it out. So I made some vague and smug answers. I apologize for my bad attitude.

There exists a weird old school old man vibe of not sharing. I imagine chefs are like this. They don’t want your photos to look like their photos. They do not want to share their secret recipes of cameras, lenses, films, film developers, and papers. I worked in many labs and I adopted this practice too. While the black tape all over my cameras logos is stealthy, it is mostly for a fear of sharks. (Biters. Copycats.) I once heard that old Hawaiian tribes had their own secret tunings for ukulele. How far would they go to protect these tunings? Could these tunings be used as a form of identification?

I got over this sentiment a long time ago because I work with so many photographers and love to talk shop, but it is still there for some. And publishers too. They will never tell you where they are printing their books and it can be very rude in some circles to even ask. So out of respect for tradition, it is sometimes hard for me to answer these questions.

Still, I got more DMs with more questions even after the sesh was over. And according to my analytics, everyone is younger than me. Way younger. So I can shed some light on some topics for sure and provide some understanding for them to make up their own recipes. I know when I meet other photographers, especially older ones or more professional ones, I ask a minimum of 1 million questions. Gold digging for any kind of knowledge or wisdom nuggets I can get, if not technique then philosophy or even just gear nuggets.

It’s not fair to hoard all the nuggets. I will do better. I have freestyled some writings on here before, on again off again, but now a much clearer path has presented itself. I will start sharing everything I know about photography and publishing, including the tools I use and why I use them. I will be your nugget man.

Put in the comments any questions you have and I will answer them in the form of a blog post.

(Also, peep some other writings.)

Sep 29 2022

Reversal

Photo by Ray Potes

You ever get a message that starts off saying, “I’m disappointed that..”? I have actually received this type of email more than once referring to the type of photography we are publishing or not publishing. It’s nuts to me. I understand constructive criticism and comments and suggestions, for sure, this is a community after all. A large one. But simply unfollow if you don’t like what we are making.

How am I supposed to respond? “I’m sorry our art practice doesn’t please you, we will make the proper adjustments as per your instructions until you are satisfied.”

I’m reverse disappointed. In this day and age it seems obvious to me that we should be encouraging each other to be as weird and nerdy and expressive as possible. Also, it seems even more obvious to me that other people, places, or things are not responsible for yours or my well being. If you don’t like something, keep it pushing till you find what you are looking for.

If you haven’t heard it lately, you’re hearing it from me – Shoot whatever you want, where ever you want, for as long as you want, however you want, why ever you want for no reason at all or all the reasons. And treat others as you like to be treated. That’s it.

Sep 21 2022

Beans

Photo by Ray Potes

I am throwing around the idea of making a “How to Make a Zine” book. It would have detailed instructions but it would also have some of these philosophies and random thoughts on photography and self publishing that I have written here on this blog. I started digging around and realized there’s not much to work with. So, I have to write more. So, I have to blog. And, you have to read it since you’re here anyways.

The first reason to make this book is obvs, people are asking me how to make a zine. There are 1 million ways to make one but this will be about the way(s) I like to do it. The second reason is less obvs, people know how to make a zine but they are stuck. All kinds of overthinking and procrastination. This is where we can re-visit some blog posts and/or write some new ones attempting to address the sticking points.

It can be impossible to un-stuck someone. I’m thinking I have some beans to share and they may be magical, but it’s up to you to grow the beanstalk, kill the giant, save the girl, and get the golden eggs.

Nov 12 2021

Practicioners

Photo by Ray Potes

Some thoughts about photography today. I said and wrote before that for me, it’s not so much about “good” and “bad” photos, it’s about shooting regularly. I could never articulate this properly, now I know it’s because it is just half of a thought. The second half of it is the practice of expression.

We are trying (practicing) to express and communicate our particular story in this world frame by frame. The setting, the vibe, the main characters, the plots, and the subplots. Every photo we get off is like adding to our vocabulary which we use to help tell this story. And vocabulary isn’t “good” or “bad”.

What makes it hard is our inherent split personality. Once you say that you are a photographer, you assume an identity crisis. Am I a product or a service? Once you claim either side or both, your practice and vocabulary gets more complicated.

I sound complain-y. And maybe too artsy. I get it, we have bills to pay. We have to work. I got lucky becoming a publisher. I guess I am just trying to remind myself out loud to shoot everything all the time, if not for anything then for the practice of learning new words.

Jan 11 2021

Finishing

Photo by Ray Potes

On the Hamburger Eyes ig acct stories mode, I have been hosting a Q + A that has been pretty fun. In fact starting tomorrow we’ll do it regularly. So if you have any questions about anything, tune in on Tuesdays.

One of the questions from the last sesh was about what to do with a photo after it’s processed and scanned. At first I thought it was maybe sarcastic, but it wasn’t. I am realizing in this modern era, the finishing of a photo means many things to many people.

This has to do with the intended destination of your photo and the workflow that is needed to get there.

When I learned photography, a photo wasn’t “done” until you had a final print spotted flattened mounted matted and turned in on time. Your contact sheets and work prints were different from your “final” prints. I purposely made smaller sized “work” prints so I could scan them for my zines.

Fast forward to today and my photos still have the same 2 main destinations, either a print or a book, or both. Not every photo I snap, maybe 1 out of 25. Sometimes 1 out of 50 or 1 out of 100.

In school it was common to get critiqued and edited by peers and teachers before final prints. Posting on social media and my blog reminds me of this, these zones are sort of a testing place for a photo before decisions are made concerning a book or a print. (For me.)

This is how I arrived at my current process/workflow. You will arrive at your own. A commercial photographer’s finishing of a photo might be a billboard or the side of a bus, while a photo journalist’s might be front page of a newspaper or website. Both will have an entire process workflow system and sometimes whole teams to make it happen. Each photographer has their own thing and at this stage of the game, you will need to figure yours out.

Jan 04 2021

Peace

Photo by Ray Potes

Happy New Year! Peace to you and all your peoples.

I have this battle in my head that makes me want to barf sometimes. Where one side is about doing more on social media and the other side is about doing more on the website. What happens is a stand still and everything is frozen for months or years at a time. (I have already written about this a bunch and have deleted and re-started multiple accts on multiple apps. I’m sorry.)

Today there is peace in this particular weird war. This pandemic and subsequent quarantine(s) have forced many realizations. The problem was never ig vs website. The problem was analog Hamburger Eyes vs digital Hamburger Eyes.

The digital side was originally built to service the sales of the zines and books, the analog side. What happens is the digital side does not sleep and is always hungry. And is always talking shit. It is a multi-headed monster of store, blog, site, ig, yt, etc.

The analog side tries its best to keep up by making zines and books and clothes and photography accessories as fast as financially possible, yet the digital side is never satiated. So the roles have now reversed and this makes both sides very sensitive.

The solution is to separate them. I have tried to kill the digital side on purpose multiple times, it won’t die. The economy has tried to kill the zines and books on accident multiple times, it won’t die.

We separate them by feeding them their own specific food and at their own specific feeding times. I am not sure exactly what this will look like yet. It could be as simple as more blog posts on the site (like this one, thanks to those who miss these writings) and more ig stories. Or it can be as complicated as submissions for site/ig (photo of the day, for example) and separate submissions for zines/books.

Obviously, as per usual, overthinking everything. Maybe the main point is that in these crazy isolated times, we need to connect and share more in as many ways as possible because we, you the photographers, are more important now than ever.

Dec 13 2019

How to Take a Bad Photo

Photo by Zane Grant

I was going through old writings on here about making good photography. I’ve attempted to explain my thoughts about it and even set up some polls in order to come up with formulas but the data seemed inconclusive. (Referencing HERE and HERE.)(Actually this whole frigging thing is about seeking isn’t it?)

We have some ingredients but we don’t have the recipe. We can say there is a secret sauce of luck and magic when something turns out right. That’s what we are doing here is trying to define that sauce.

This speaks of universal truths in a photo that can transcend time and space. As well as transcend technical skill and experience, and emotional and mental conditioning. And most of the time the truth isn’t “good” or “bad” or is that simple to sort out. Which is why there are so many differences in taste.

If you pick any of the ingredients, let’s say “composition” for arguments sake, who’s to say how good it is? To grade it with a percentage, 51% towards good would still be an F. So objectivity vs subjectivity is really the argument. And these things change over time and space.

That infers that the viewership of an image in a particular time and particular space is what makes makes it “good” or “bad”. It seems moot, but it is correct to say that a photo cannot be “good” or “bad” until someone sees it. Including yourself (the person who shot it).

I know it’s not super useful to say that a bad photo is a bad photo because you showed it to the wrong person at the wrong time. But assuming you nailed the timing lighting composition mystery and wonder, none of that will matter if the person seeing it cannot appreciate any of those things. And that will depend on their relation to you or the subject matter as well as their state of being at the moment.

I’ve said before that a good photo is about the presentation of either the shooter’s story, the subject matter’s story, or a combo of both. Now we can say that a bad photo is one that isn’t telling those stories in a universally truthful way to the right person(s) at the right time.

What if the story is pure fiction though? Is it all fiction! Photography is not real. That’s for another writing. Photography is a recording and I’ll order mine with extra truth gravy on top, otherwise I’m not hungry.