Josh Romberg: Structures That Click


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Image design as it relates to constructing visual content from both emotional and technical standpoints.

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  • Graduated from University of Oregon in 2008 with my degree in photographer and have been travel, shooting and working ever since….Until landing in Portland about two years ago, where I’ve really started to put down some roots. IA…the type of logical thinking that heralds, and how it effects and facilitates the work I do. Also how these concepts that strive to create high value shared information environments are not limited to the intra and internets of the world, but can be applied to any sort of visual medium,They type of work that I do…
  • …is very layered, very structured, invites inspection and the creation of narratives unique to each viewer.
  • And like much of the more abstract work, they take a little time to work on you, and hopefully occupy a dynamic place in the mind as well.
  • ..and to start this section I’m going to outline a process that many makers undergo when first exposed to what will later become their medium of expression.And for me as a photographer I’m going to talk about this in terms of the camera.
  • Really the origins of my interest, and in more or less chorological orderMechanism… an immediate and impulsive act. I loved the camera from my first introductionCollection… what do you do with this data, how do you interact with it, and how does it change your perspective of the world around youSafety being the most abstract of all these ideas, I wasn’t able to thumb down until well out of my introductory phase, but it was there all along.Release…
  • Immediate, primal and naïve of all these steps fall in love with the mehanismLike anyone picking up a paint brush, or touching a computer for the first time, these seemingly insignificant moments have a profound effect on you that changes your reality All the sudden you have a different lens/way through which to see the world and represent the information in that world.2) But, before that… what happened for me… upon picking up a camera and pushing all the buttons, hearing the shutter, feeling its weight and realizing that thousands of moving parts working in perfect synchronicity, along with the voodoo of optics, create this tiny piece of plastic. What was not immediately clear was that, this negative, this data had virtually unlimited applicationsBefore… magicAfter…. you understand these systems, whether it’s a computer, camera or a car you become able to conceptualize the output of the object, a camera in my case, as the product of each of the individual components, and you become able to manipulate these components creating something truer to your original vision.Original vision in the early stages of relationships with our tools is really abstract, later on it becomes something much more complex and developed.
  • This documenting, gives you something firm to latch on to, a patch of solid ground. A very intoxication idea as a kid, as your surrounded by constant change.All the sudden you can take a picture of some object of interest and save it for later, in complete stasis.And also, for the first time you are able to see the world around you through the lens of time, able to look backwardsAnd you become aware an images ability to transport you back into your own memory or that of someone else.It serves as a tool for the disambiguation of memory
  • Safety: Something I wasn’t able to clearly label until later on when my relationship with cameras and imagery developed further… soOccurs before we know how to label it… Inexplicably drawn to an image, holds our gaze, we are unable to tear ourselves from it… Everything melts away and you have the experience, however abstract it is, where things seem to snap into place and order becomes clear.2) This is a prime example of how the appearance of a safe space found within information rich environments for the viewer to occupy, operate as an indicator of a well designed user experience.The viewer interacts with the elements in front of them, and through this dialogue between bits of information and the viewer, these bits of information become more than just the sum of their parts, and they provide a place where learning and questioning occurs safely.In these moments, you experience a connection with the artist or creator which is really just an awareness of the artist or creators intention, then your personal interpretations follow.9 min.
  • The last of this initial and primal process starting with obsession, then collection, then safety, is release. And it’s pretty self explanatory why this is one of the reasons that I work and one of my origins of interest.FUEL! Theseideas reside within us and are often just screaming to get out, but without the cheese at the end of the maze the journey is a much more difficult undertaking.And after getting to the cheese a few times and experiencing many of these moments of satisfaction, I became keenly aware that they were a product of a system: I started, I generally became frustrated, I spent time reasoning through issues, I finished, I was jazzed.This is the cycle of satisfaction which facilitates the perpetuation of work.It keeps the work that we do from just being WORK that we do. And there is immense power in labeling and harnessing this structure.It allows us to just “show up”, refer to methodology you’ve come to know and understand… you already know how to put one foot in front of the other.We’ll come back to this in the section about processes and practices.
  • I am going to show you this piece briefly and then come back to it after talking about the designing of an emotional experience…
  • The designing of an emotional experience is contingent on the creation of dialogue or narrative between the viewer and the information in front of them.In my work I call this digital archaeology… Which begs for a precise definition of what exactly archaeology is? It’s the excavation and analysis of physical remains and is a time based process that occurs through many steps, not dumped on us all at once. Information is revealed one piece at a time in a fashion that is digestible… and connections are facilitated in that manner.Which is exactly the type of interaction we seek when creating high value shared information environments such as visual art, websites or databases.This process bears an uncanny resemblance, within this context, to the creation of a narrative.
  • And for my work, narrative is a big piece, not necessarily a single narrative, but many unique and often abstract narratives dependent on how the viewer chooses to interpret the data within the framework I provide.This creation of narrative, or uncovering, occurs in two different stages, our initial introduction (or the instantaneous effect, like your first glimpse at that image), AND NEXT comes the way that we GROW with this image, and the image grows with us.So I am going to go back to the image I just showed you and I’d like for you to notice how information reveals itself, how narratives are born, and how the dialogue between elements is created for you. And I’ll leave it up for about 30 seconds.
  • At first elements are jumbled, a few little moments poke out at us, like the central I-beam, dividing right form left… and then the eye is drawn to the lower left corner. Then maybe we notice the arm, reaching out from the right of the frame. For me that is where the narrative kicks in. Questions like where and why is that person there? Boy or girl? I really try and organize the image in such a way to give enough solid information to peak the interests of the viewer and giving them a safe space from which to view, without explaining away anything. Always leaving more questions than answers.
  • The next portion of my talk concerns the physical steps I go through when preparing, creating and actually dealing with the work that I make.
  • Inspiration and planning: Why/whatApplication/shooting: HowAftermath: What do we do with all the information that we’ve collected. Its what gives us our final product.
  • Variety of different ways that inspiration happens of me.1)One quote that always comes to mind… “Write the book you would want to read”. For me this kind of inspiration comes from listening to those little voices that scream from inside you. We all have them, sometimes they are quieter than others.I’ve written many “books”, most of them were garbage. But we learn so much from our mistakes that eventually if you continually show people these “books”, listen, and find the take way from each experience something funny happens… you find a voice and then something even stranger occurs, you find an audience. Maybe it’s only one or two people at first. But slowly it builds….2) And that’s very much the objective of my work, interaction from an audience however small.3)The next bit, pretty drybut incredibly relevant, is that tools do facilitate new techniques and new ways to represent and interact with the information around us. Like a drummer with their kit, say they start with bass drum– then the high hat, then a kick drum, … but before you know it you have a really amazing set of tools you can not only use, but use well... That is when you find your voice. When I have my kitin front of me that I have put decades into getting to know, the knowledge that I’ve gained from making, getting feedback and making again, I am able to design an experience both true to myself and appealing and informative to my audience.
  • **And the next type of inspiration happens all the time and whether you have one tool or twenty… Scouting. You have to have an idea before you can make that idea a reality so how do we go about it?1) Inspiration through the things around us.Home can be a desert, in that way I’m always digging for moments of inspirational clarity2) Travel: Always keyed up, hunting. Amazing but unsustainable. This is the value of fresh eyes, but fresh eyes cannot remain fresh.
  • 1) Strategic technical choices for emotional considerations, a very fancy way of saying that you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.2) Like the analogy of the drummer, you choose your gear based on experience and what you judge, thanks to that experience, as necessary.*** The way that I do this is generally through a mental checklist, but for larger jobs I definitely write everything down, and it looks like this…
  • This packing tree gives me something invaluable, piece of mind knowing that I will at least have all the tools that I need in any given situation, and it’s an inevitably continuing process, always being revised.
  • This is the fun part. All the work: inspiration, planning, organization… it all comes into play now.1) …And like running a marathon you hit many emotional spaces, not all of them fun, many of them just outright painful, but all you can focus on is one foot in front of the other (keep the endgame in mind) and follow your heart. The speed with which this phase happens in photography is fairly unique and you have to rely heavily on you heart, or your gut, depending on where you do your thinking.I talked earlier about writing a lot of different “books”, most of them garbage. Well… within any given day shooting, you may well write many garbage books, but learn from them all, adjust and move forward and what you end up with, is a final product that has been written, rewritten, assessed and reassessed so many times that it starts to take a new form. One that’s refined, often true to your initial intentions for the day, but more importantly true to the goal of the project.2) And so through all of these painstaking phases you’ve learned to use, and hopefully use well, you finally find yourself in the promised land. You find your rhythm and things just pour our of you….
  • I once heard a quote, that no one every falls to the top of a mountain. And that’s as true as anything I’ve ever heard. You’ve got to get scrappy, tooth and nail all the way to the summit. BUT, THEN… you’ve got to make it all the way down. And that’s the aftermath of any project.At least when you’re heading downhill you’ve got gravity and momentum with you. 1) Finals require you to keep your creative pants on, to stay in the moment when the images where captured, and try and distill the feeling of that day/week/month and use it to create the framework in which the viewer will operate, free to make their own narratives. 2)Technical, just requires planning. But you have to tie up all your loose ends, or it can all fall apart around you in the blink of an eye.3)Emotional is multi faceted. You have your initial moments of connection, then what happens throughout the life of that piece, creation of new narratives.
  • Office work
  • You choose what to include, and what to exclude.The single image, once touted as objective proof, has lost the mystique this modern world. With the creation of layered images… This idea is obliterated, and were free to create, and recreate our own conclusions. An intoxicating idea for makers like myself.
  • So the creation of a final product starts with selections, hopefully defining a feel for the project then you have to find elements within the gathered information of the shoot or project that create an opportunity for narratives to be created…Lastly the construction, which is a process that is always in flux, and is so open ended that without a structure or a defined goal for the piece to help keep the maker on track, can easily overwhelm.At the end of it all what you hope for is a piece that speaks to your audience, that engages them and so becomes more that just the sum of parts.
  • Interdisciplinary representativeIA and the type of logical thinking that heralds, and how it effects the work I do. And also how these concepts that strive to create high value shared information environments can be applied to any sort of visual medium
  • Josh Romberg: Structures That Click

    2. 2. Emotional Viability of Work
    3. 3. Why I do work Obsession with the mechanism Collection Safety Release
    4. 4. Mechanics  Love of the Mechanics  Thousands of parts creating a single impression  Understanding systems:  Before: magic  After: manipulation
    5. 5. Collection  Early on, this collection, is very autobiographical  Collect that which is immediately around you  An image’s transporting ability  Disambiguation of memory
    6. 6. Safety  Inexplicably find yourself drawn to an image  Everything but the information in front of you melts away  Indicator of well designed UX  Carves a place out for the viewer to safely occupy  Facilitates introspection and learning  Possession of the artist body/eyes/experiences  Then personal interpretations follow
    7. 7. Release  Expression of an idea as exorcism  Cycles of satisfaction, perpetuation of work  Become aware of these cycles  Become aware of the power of structures  Structures defined give impetus to continual movement  Removes the shroud that keeps us from starting
    8. 8. Designing Emotional Experience
    9. 9. Creation of Dialogue  Digital Archaeology  The timely uncovering of information  Allows for easy digestion by the viewer  In the seemingly complex, order reveals itself
    10. 10. Creation of Dialogue  Digital Archaeology  The timely uncovering of information  Allows for easy digestion by the viewer  In the seemingly complex, order reveals itself  Narrative: “A representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values.” -Oxford Pocket Dictionary
    11. 11. Processes and Practices
    12. 12. PROCESS Inspiration/Planning Application/Shooting Aftermath
    13. 13. Inspiration  Write the book you would want to read  Building and experimentation  Room for a broad range of results  Resilience  My objective still is not complete without viewer’s interaction  Personally: Emotional growth with the piece is a necessary component  Tools facilitate technique/new kinds of interaction
    14. 14. Inspiration Scouting  Seeking out form/light/structure  When in a home environment, always taking place… passively Filed away in the mental database  Travel, always taking place, actively Like bringing in a fresh set of eyes
    15. 15. Planning Strategic technical choices for emotional considerations  Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight  Know your gear or it’s just dead weight Packing Tree
    16. 16. Packing Tree
    17. 17. Application/Shooting Anything that takes time has phases  Usually the first ones are hideous  Wear many hats on any given project Eventually, you develop your rhythm
    18. 18. Aftermath Creation of the final product Technical Aftermath Emotional Aftermath
    19. 19. Technical Aftermath  ORGANIZATION  Importing/Labeling  Sorting, pairing down  Backup (onsite)  weekly  Backup the backup (offsite)  Monthly
    20. 20. Emotional Aftermath  Immediate moments of connection  Growth with a piece  Creation of new narratives over time  For the creator  RELEASE  Fuel to keep the machine alive • Positive feedback loop
    21. 21. Perspective Photography, like any data collection, is an editorial process  A single reference point cannot give a complete picture, but is instead a point of departure  Layered images let all semblances of objectivity fall away
    22. 22. Creation of a final product Selections Defining a Feel Threading the narrative needle Construction (for layered work) Layered Work Goals  Engage the viewer, invite inspection  Give a feel, let the creation of a narrative happen organically  Final product is more than the sum of it’s individual images
    23. 23. Closing Because, especially with the advent of the digital, we no longer see images as objective representations of data, they become more powerful as touchstones for the creation of an emotional journey. Without sound structure and organization throughout the process of making, that power cannot be fully exploited.