The Images of the Mad

Or when bad photos happen to good people

As of today, I have 1,076 images In my iPhoto Disneyland album. That may seem excessive to some, and not enough for others. They're a mix of photos I took, images I found, and scans of artifacts. I had a friend who worked at the park and had a great collection of obese people there, but mine are mostly typography. On the other hand I have fewer than 30 print photographs of Disneyland from the time I was a kid to the 1990s. Strangely, these mostly suck

You'd think that the cost of film and prints coupled with a degree from art school later, would lead to well considered and composed images. No. I seem to either have been on crack or in the midst of a seizure when I took these. They're of odd items such as the roof of the River Belle Terrace, or they're crooked and blurry. There is no sense of a focal point or rule of thirds.

Today I get furious when I see guests photograph their subject thirty feet away: "Hold on until everyone passes. I want all of you in the frame with the castle." BRING YOUR SUBJECT TO THE FOREGROUND! We don't need to see their shoes. After finding my careless and oddly cropped images, I can no longer throw that stone.

Of course, I couldn't help myself, and decided to fix some of these. But I think I like the bad ones better.

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos

At the Fluxus exhibition, Fondazione Bonotto, Comune di Venezia

My dad told me, “You can go along with the fates, or you’ll be dragged along behind them.” The point was to accept change and gracefully move forward. That being said, it’s not so easy. In the last year and a half, I’ve been faced with many decisions and changes. Sometimes I went along easily. At other times the universe had to slam my head against the wall repeatedly until I got the message. I like to think I’ve come through the other end with a greater acceptance of change and see it as a wonderful adventure. But, then iPhoto became Photos.

I can’t get behind this one. It does all kinds of dumb things like losing titles that I painstakingly added with names and dates (which I like to use, oddly). Then it sucked up another 70 gigabytes of space. And then I find that the dates are goofed up. So I’ve ditched it and gone back to Aperature.

The good part of this (see, always play the Glad Game)*, was that I found hundreds of images that I forgot about. Many of them from my recent Italian trip. Like most of you, mine are bereft of people. Why take photos of your friends or spouse when there is a cool cup at the synagogue in Rome?

*The Glad Game: Pollyanna, 1960

As a child with her missionary parents in Africa, Pollyanna asks for a doll for Christmas. When supplies arrive in the tiny village, the church has sent, not a doll, but crutches. Pollyanna is sad. Her father suggests playing the Glad Game. She should find a silver lining. In this instance, she should be glad she doesn’t need the crutches.

 


Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

You'll Never Walk Alone

“How many photos of the same ochre door in Liberty Square at Walt Disney World do I need?” Obviously, the answer is “never too many.” Organizing my iPhoto library this weekend, I found the same image photographed almost in the exact same location over the course of ten years. Clearly, each time I see this door, I think, “oh, that would make a nice photograph.” But clearly, my mind is a sieve.

The other surprising discovery was the large amount of Walt Disney World photos sans people. I’m not talking here about the lack of photos of family members. I mean no people, as in Life After People. This tells me something about my psychological makeup, but I can’t focus long enough to know what. I don’t know how I manage to take so many images at a place with millions of people that are devoid of human activity. And there are quite a few images that may have a couple of guests, but are of empty areas of concrete or sand.

I have a secret dream of retiring and creating a job at Disneyland helping people with their photos, and offering guidance to the guests looking lost. “Excuse me,” I would say, “Are you looking for Space Mountain?” Or, “May I help you with a photo tip? Bring your child forward, and let the castle be in the background.” I could wear a white shirt and black bow tie, and be the “Answer Man.” The trick would be to not direct people to shoot scenes without any human presence. “Now wait, ask your child to get out of the shot. Okay, there are no people in the frame, shoot it now.”

C'est le ton qui fait la musique

For those of you too young to remember life before iPhoto and the picture books, there once was a time photographs were physical objects, and went into a shoebox. If you wanted to make a book for your friends, you needed to stick the photos into ugly Holly Hobbie “photo-books” with plastic and waxy boards. Of course, now we can simply order a book of our personal images from Apple and, except for the “crayon” theme, make something tasteful.

One of my favorite publications is Alexey Brodovitch’s Ballet. For years, Brodovitch took snapshots at the ballet. He didn’t hire Richard Avedon to shoot them. He didn’t use a flash or worry about perfect lighting. The result is often a blur of motion and light. In 1945, this was not “real” photography. Using the standards of the time, these are simply amateur snapshots. Fortunately, this rigid definition didn’t deter Brodovitch. The blurred motion and full bleed images create the sensation of the ballet, as opposed to simply documenting it. The ornamental typography doesn’t attempt to be international style, modernist, or “high-design”. It is exuberantly about the ballet.

As I’ve said before, I truly admire work that has the courage to be about joy and delight. Ballet is a masterpiece. While we look at the book now as “high design,” it is, in fact, about something frivolous and transitory. But, aren’t those the things in life that are the most wonderful?