LAROQUE

DOT.THREE.WIDE

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GENERATOR

Guidance: You can only make one dot at a time.
Assignment: Today you must shoot images with at least 3 people in the frame, using a lens closest to the current temperature in Fahrenheit and your newest camera. You must also use your device’s widest ratio.


By Patrick La Roque

Right, so we’ve now published half of this issue’s Generator theme but have yet to explain what in the world it is we’re doing. So here’s a brief overview: awhile ago Derek shared a workflow he’d devised to generate shooting assignments with a friend. It involved technical variables, themes and dice throwing. I thought this could be a cool idea to automate so I created an iOS Shortcut that does exactly that: it dishes out assignments. It’s called KAGE Assignment Generator and it’s a free download if you want to check it out. Also feel free to modify it and add your own variables if you’re into this geeky stuff.

But anyway, this is what this issue is based on: Robert sat down with the generator a few weeks back and gave each of us the resulting assignments. And if you’re wondering what the “guidance” is about: I integrated Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies into the workflow as well. To add even more randomness.

The following images are essentially an exercise in compromise as far as I’m concerned. Luck of the draw saw quite a few of us having to use a focal length based on the temperature...which strangely—given how spread out we are on the planet—ended up leading us all to the XF 56mm f/1.2. I don’t mind shooting street/urban images with longer lenses; I’ve even used the XF 90mm in the past. But the combination of needing at least three people in the frame, ideally having them isolated (that’s how I interpreted the “dot”), a wide ratio (16:9 in this case), an 85mm equivalent and very few human beings around when I went out there (surprisingly)...let's just say I was more than a little unconvinced during the shoot. But that’s the point of the game: to work through the limitations and find a way in spite of them.

I’ll be honest with you: these are ok but I’m not sure the series is all that interesting as a whole. I feel there’s an emotional thread missing. Probably because there is, and in the end there’s no faking these things. 

But perhaps that’s the lesson here. 

In spite of ourselves

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Strobe lights and blown speakers
Fireworks and hurricanes
I’m not here
I’m not here
— Radiohead

I’ve disconnected myself at last. I’ve deleted CNN and MSNBC from Safari’s Frequently Visited URLs. I no longer visit Trump’s Twitter feed, “just to check” the level of insanity. I unplugged the poison drip, cold turkey.

We listen to morning reports of course, the 6 PM news on TV...awareness feeds on information and I refuse illiteracy. But I won’t plunge into the depths: for three years I drowned, my lungs and brain screaming for oxygen while I swam further and further away. No more. The change, in such a short period of time, isn’t even remotely subtle: my thoughts are clearer than they’ve been in ages. I’m writing again, shooting again. Breathing.

We’re alone and we’re a multitude, separate yet identical. We host quantum universes in our blood, aspire to the same improbable ideals, all of us finite and impossible.

I see no plan
but I do guess at beauty, still.
We will always be one, fundamentally indivisible—in spite of ourselves.

A week's worth

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By Patrick La Roque

We barely realize how much stuff we consume on a daily basis. We go through the motions, take out the trash, recycle as much as we can and now compost most of it...but it still just moves constantly, in/out, flowing like a river.

The images below barely scratch the surface. I picked through the recyclables before dumping them in the bin outside. I could’ve added Amazon packages and at least ten times more boxes and wrappers and cans. With five of us sharing the house and the kids growing up, it’s quite an exponential curve. And you can’t help but imagine all of this multiplied across every household, a thousand million times...we ingest and reject at a dizzying pace.

As photographers, this extends to our gear as well: the appeal of the shiny and the new is a siren’s song that’s hard to resist. This is why we made a point this month of shooting all our essays with our oldest camera—well, our oldest digital and usable camera anyway. In my case (and a few of my colleagues as well I think) this was the Fujifilm X100. Back when these were still called Finepix. And you know what? It wasn’t a pleasure to shoot and it quickly highlighted just how far we’d come. Technology really does shift insanely fast and our reflexes and expectations shift along with it. And yet I was profoundly surprised when I loaded the images on my computer: the files from this camera totally stand up, even in 2019; even on a 5K Retina display. In the rush of new features and medium format and ever faster performance I’d forgotten how good this little camera was, despite its flaws.

Images should always spring from who we are, not what we shoot—and yes, we know this in our bones.
But it was damn good to be reminded.

Poker Night

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By Patrick La Roque

Inevitably, there’s playing—cards or water guns, a board game of some sort. This time tradition won the draw and out came the brushed metal suitcase. Serious stuff.

I stood on the sidelines, lurking—the eternal bystander. I watched as individuals fought for supremacy. One family, two nations.
If only the world were so simple.

Rubicon

A limit that when passed or exceeded permits of no return and typically results in irrevocable commitment.

By Patrick La Roque

I don’t understand anything anymore. How facts suddenly become fluid and the educated suspect. I don’t understand the hypocrisy, this failure of empathy, hellbent on the annihilation of others. I don’t understand the messianic appeal of an indecent, cruel and profoundly imbecilic buffoon on anyone, let alone millions of people. Not now. Not after almost two years of verifiable lies and daily obscenities. Not after bomb threats and the murder of innocents. And yet, enough Americans still stand and cheer at those “political rallies” to stoke the fires. Sparks to dry kindling. Hatred and vilification elevated to spectacle and bloodsport. Lock her up. Lock him up.

Lock everybody up.

Tomorrow the future will shift, one way or another. And if the pendulum doesn’t swing back towards decency, if unhinged anger, racism and conspiracies should win against truth, respect and civilized discourse...a new world order will be complete. Because unlike 2016, this time the choice will have been made with eyes wide open, with the full knowledge of what the man truly is—and what he stands for. This time, it will signal validation.

There’s a river ahead, red with blood, burning crosses lining the banks on the other side. Move away, please. Regardless of political leanings, help steer the ship back.

I still want to believe in humanity.

October 16, 2018 at 8:56 AM (Otterburn Park, Canada)

By Patrick La Roque

So here we are. This will be my last post for the Chronicle 90 project, as the experiment comes to a close in a few days. There will be a necessary post-mortem in the weeks ahead, discussions about the results and how each of us dealt with the project’s premise. But we’re not quite there yet.

I spent Friday on the streets of Montreal as part of a 3-day workshop, flexing my eye while discussing photography. I’m not fond of this city anymore. Part of it is the common fatigue that stems from living somewhere your entire life, but I’m used to shaking off that sort of familiarity. No, my feelings go deeper. Montreal is a city destroyed, gaping and boarded up. It’s a promise repeated but never realized, in a constant state of re-assembly, choked by construction sites where no one ever seems to work. Where barricades fall on sidewalks and orange cones multiply like some infectious disease, gnawing at the broken skin.

I should document this reality but I can’t. I’ve tried many times over—it never works. The scope never translates. So I keep framing up and around the scars, looking elsewhere. Hoping we’ll eventually get our city back.

October 9, 2018 at 10:08 AM (Otterburn Park, Canada)

By Patrick La Roque

Every day we attach pieces of ourselves to others. To the people we love, to our parents, to the pets we adopt and care for...to our children, most of all, even as they race away into the unknown. Sometimes a small part of us will remain hidden, bound halfway around the globe—as we stretch across this universe, our skin ever thinner and more fragile. Vitruvian men, quartered and stoned.

These intimate spaces and moments we inhabit will fade. We will face regrets and limitless joys.
And we will face change.
We will always face change.

October 2, 2018 at 1:45 PM (Otterburn Park, Canada)

By Patrick La Roque

A few days have passed already. I’m sitting at the computer after a morning of catching up and preparing for a teaching project. October is shaping up to be busy—more travels, workshops, sessions. And all these images and memories to revisit and make sense of.

I was on a train a few days ago—speeding through this blurry world. At one point, just three kilometres shy of 300 km/h.

I was on a train that now seems a hundred years away.

September 25, 2018 at 12:15 PM (Cologne, Germany)

By Patrick La Roque

We’re here. Last night I crashed around 5:45 PM—I looked like a wreck and felt 85 years-old. I’d been existing in a half-reality for most of the day, everything around me becoming increasingly fluid.

These are from Bert’s place, a few hours after landing. Quick shots with the new GFX 50R, quickly edited on my iPad with Snapseed. Indoors stuff...because it’s all still a “secret” as I write these words. Not for long though.

Next up: the press conference, a rehearsal and an evening out.
Photokina it is.

September 18, 2018 at 8:48 AM (Otterburn Park, Canada)

By Patrick La Roque

At 6:30 AM yesterday I was fine. Around 9:30 AM I started feeling a bit tired. By 12:00 PM, my throat was on fire and my head threatened to explode. Damn microbes—is there anything worse then a cold when it’s 30ºC outside?

I really had the best intentions in the world too: I wanted to document the conference I was giving last night at the photo club in St-Bruno. Fun night, despite my queasiness throughout—adrenaline is an impressive pain killer. But when I pulled out my camera and took the first of what should’ve been several shots, the light on the back flashed red: no card. Wow.

So we’re a day later and I’m just waiting for the pills to kick in...because I need to fight this off, pronto. It’s shaping up to be one of those days. Three quick double exposures below—I managed to find an SD card. Boy, I’m a real photographer now ;)