24 March 2009

libraries, photography, communication

no food today, so feel free to skip,. today my mind is all about photography since today I went on a photography spree, a spree of 8 rolls of film.

today i visited almost every library on campus. there are more listed online than what I had on my sheet of paper. In ABC order: Architecture Library, Audio Visual Library, Biology Library, Chemistry Library, Classics Library, Engineering Library, Fine Arts Library, French Library (unofficial), Geology Library, Latin American Library, LBJ Archives (not a real library), and Main Library (PCL). And not visited today, but definitely already done, the Harry Ransom Center.

There apparently also exists a Collections Deposit Library, a Marine Science Library, and an Engineering Library which I will also make stops at.

I'm documenting the various collections of toys that accumulate around the circulation desks because I love the personal touch they add to an otherwise quiet and boring area. The personalities of the people who frequent the library are also reflected in the objects that are there.

HOWEVER, and this drives me nuts, I often had to use the "I'm a student at UT, taking a photography class in the art department, working on a project for the class."

No. That is not why I'm doing it. I'm doing it because it truly interests me, and I want to see how each library compares and contrasts. But people don't want to hear that, they only want to hear how it is just for a project, and they are satisfied.

The staff ranged from super suspicious and uptight to very relaxed and open. Some interrogated me for a good 5 minutes about what I was doing, while others immediately said okay and began giving a history of the toys.
Granted, by "staff" i mean the one or two persons I spoke to, not necessarily everybody. So it really is up to luck and chance, if I get a person who thinks I am out to defame the university, or someone who thinks i am harmless. But I do understand because I am taking photos of things people don't normally take photos of, and if I did do something awful, they'd get sacked. But i don't want that, not at all!

(I think people forget that if I wanted to do something bad, being told no wouldn't stop me. It's all about intent. I had no intentions to take photos of things that would put the university in a bad light, but if one wanted to, how could you stop them? cameras are getting smaller and smaller and most everyone has a camera on their phone. Plus I wouldn't be introducing myself and asking permission and explaining my project. The "if there's a will, there's a way" quote is very true, i feel.)

This has made me realize that a good photographer is someone who can talk themselves in and out of situations. How you can make someone feel at ease, and not at all violated or suspicious is the key. Even for portrait photography - a tense subject is not good, you need to be able to get them to relax. And to get those intimate close ups of strangers, aside from being a stalker with a huge zoom lens, you need to be able to talk to them to get them to trust you. for them to let you into their personal space so you can take those photos. So photography on the surface may be about images, light, shutter speeds, and so on but today i discovered photography is also about communication. of course it helps to be young, female, and an actual student, but how i presented myself and posed the request is how I was able to take so many photos today.

and on a tangent, my photography professor mentioned how it is possible to photograph with authority. people will let you photograph them if you photograph with authority. how? of course he couldn't give the answer, it is up to each individual photographer to figure out their own way. but here was a nice example: he and a friend were walking around on campus, and the friend decided to take a picture of a construction worker's buttcrack as he was working. as they walked away, the large, burly, and ticked construction worker yelled out in a deep and angry voice, "HEY..." but was interrupted by the friend who said, "Don't worry, you did fine. It's perfect." and continued walking. the construction worker was appeased and the situation diffused. Had he stammered and began apologizing, it would never have gone well. So what i've learned from that little lesson is to never apologize for my photos, and only defend them.

also: people who follow the rules to the dot and are inflexible = not fun at all. when i worked as an usher, i knew when the rules could be bent and when they couldn't. rules are rules, but if you adhere to them as if they are black and white, and don't allow a gray area... that's just annoying. but i was able to talk people into the gray area today, so it's all cool!

photos, of course, once I hit the darkroom!

photography ideas:
-people and their bookshelves, how their books are a portrait of who they are
-library circulation desks, how there are collections within a collection, personalities reflected in toy collection
-professor office spaces & their bookshelves, and what it tells about what they teach
-open deck restaurants in austin
-things left in books. bookmarks, receipts, note cards, etc.

too many things to do, too many ideas, too little time to execute them all!

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