Being There

by Jackson Couse

Being Here

how to take a photograph

how to take a photograph

On August 26th, 2008 I published this blog’s first post. Three years later to the day, Being There comes to an end. The decision to end Being There was a long time coming. The there part of title stopped fitting: I’m here, I’ve arrived.

There’s been a lot of life in the last three years; I went back to school, quit school for a job, quit that job, moved to New York, and went back to school once again. Life has changed me, and my work has changed. I’m working with a large format camera these days. I dove head-first in to video, too. And now, from my apartment in Long Island City, I relaunch my career as a photographer feeling a great deal of excitement. I am doing what I love to do in a place I want to be. There is a lot of work ahead. Maybe one day I’ll start a blog called “being here.”

Until then, I’m working on building my photography practice. I have several projects brewing here in New York. I’m looking forward to adding the new work to the projects section of my revamped website. The relaunch will add several new sections, including a calendar, news feed, and an updated biography and CV. I also have a newsletter: sign up for updates, and I’ll send you a postcard!

In parting, here are a few of my favorite posts from the blog:

  • Black History Month, about my experience growing up in a multicultural school in Canada, and the importance of a safe and nurturing environment provided by my teacher, Ms. Cromwell,
  • When I get Older, about moving back to the neighborhood I grew up in, and volunteering at my old school,
  • Tightrope, about the day I quit my job and was accepted to the International Center of Photography (in that order),
  • Why the International Center of Photography, about moving to New York.

Thanks for reading, and talk to you again soon!




On the edge of glory

On the edge of glory (actually somewhere in Delaware)

On the edge of glory (actually somewhere in Delaware). Jackson Couse, Giulia Bianchi, and Valentina Riccardi.

Capture and Release

2010-2011 International Center of Photography Full-Time Student exhibition.

June 25–August 14, 2011
Opening Reception: June 24 | Friday | 6:00–9:00 pm
School at ICP, 1114 Avenue of the Americas

Alison Morley, Chair of the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism Program
Marina Berio, Chair of the General Studies in Photography Program

Only one week left of school.

On the I-95 somewhere in Delaware

I went to Look3, and all I got was this photo:

Jackson Couse taking a 4x5 picture

Somewhere in Delaware

That’s me, taking a break from driving a carload of Europeans from Charlottesville, VA back to New York City. Check this space for pretty ladies in about 3 days (when I get my film developed).

Tyler Hicks Convocation Speach

Photojournalist Tyler Hicks addresses the School of Communications at Boston University. In context of the recent deaths of Chris Hondros and Tim Heatherington, Hicks answers the question “why photojournalism?” A good watch for recent and soon-to-be PJ grads.

Watch this video on YouTube

via Giulia Bianchi.

Basketball Shoes

Basketball Shoes

Maybe I'm not an MJ, but I am a JC, and JC plays basketball with a little extra spring in his step

Sometimes I forget the things that make me human. I get so caught up in my work, caught up in recording what makes other people human, that I forget to take care of myself.

Last night I bought a pair of basketball shoes and a ball. Those shoes are damn comfy! I want to wear them all the time. I considered wearing them to bed. If I hadn’t walked home in them already, I would have. (Aside: why do Americans wear their shoes in the house at parties? I still don’t get it.) I feel like I could slam dunk in those shoes. And they aren’t even the fanciest ones.

At a party the other day, another student told me “I like you, but you need to be less intense.” She was right, too: if were I to go on working without relaxing and taking care of myself, I’d have a heart attack one day. Plus, being all pent up doesn’t help your creativity. Insight never came from being a ball of stress. And so, basketball.

Dr. Ruth Gruber wins Cornell Capa Award

The highlight of the ICP Infinity Awards last night was Dr. Ruth Gruber, recipient of the Cornell Capa Award for documentary photography.

Ahead Of Time Trailer from Bob Richman & Zeva Oelbaum on Vimeo.

At no more than five feet tall, Dr. Gruber was dwarfed by the large glass podium on stage. In the world of photojournalism, though, she is a giant. Her acceptance speech was a brief and clear call: use photography as a tool to battle injustice, and to work with your the heart. It was a touching and weighty speech from one of the few remaining people who documented the holocaust.

Infinity Awards

#1 Foam Finger

we're number one

Today I was invited to the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Awards, taking place next tuesday. Good thing I brought my suit!

Astrological photo editing

The push to July is on! Only two more months left of school and final projects are starting to be wound down and put into editing mode. I have editing class on Monday nights. The class is so exciting that Giulia and I usually stay afterwards to keep editing our work. Gotta use that mojo while its flowing.

Late night photo editing at the international center of photography

Late night photo editing at the international center of photography. Photo of Jackson Couse by Giulia Bianchi.

My horoscope has been very accurate lately, but this is incredible:

ARIES (March 21-April 19): To convey my vision of how best to proceed
in the coming week, I’ll offer the following metaphorical scenario: Imagine
that you are not a professional chef, but you do have a modicum of
cooking skills. Your task is to create a hearty, tasty soup from scratch
without the benefit of a recipe. You will need a variety of ingredients, but
on the other hand you don’t want to just throw in a welter of mismatched
ingredients without regard for how they will all work together. To some
degree you will have to use a trial-and-error approach, sampling the
concoction as it brews. You will also want to keep an open mind about the
possibility of adding new ingredients in the latter stages of the process.
One more thing: The final product must not just appeal to you. You
should keep in mind what others would like, too.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

I’ve been told many times that I think too much. “You are thinking too much,” my teachers say. It’s been that way since I started taking photos, and I’ve never fully understood what they mean!

Bacon, cooking with gas

six strips of bacon, pop pop pop

What I think they mean is that I’m doing my thinking at the wrong time. Photography is like CPR; it requires a lot of thinking, but that thinking has to be done in advance. Administering first aid you don’t have time to think, you just have to react and rely on your training. That training has a lot of thinking behind it – centuries of investigation into the mechanics of the human body. The same is true of taking pictures. In the moment, you don’t have time to think. When you see an image, you have to react, rely on your training, and trust your vision. You have to do your thinking in advance.

The more deliberate you can be about that thinking the better. Having a system helps. Focusing on the process can take away the psychic tension inherent to creating. And when you do feel that apprehension, its probably a good sign. A sign that you’re on the right track. Inspiration is great, but in order to create consistently you have to do your homework and then trust your gut.

Skating to the edge

Espresso at Stumptown Coffee at the ACE hotel

Espresso at Stumptown Coffee (at the ACE hotel)

In January, I took a workshop with Jeff Jacobson. Jeff’s class was incredible. I think its safe to say that he is a legend, a photographer’s photographer. Each day, he assigned us explore the city. It was the “rocketship” assignment: you have 24 hours to photograph what it feels like to be you today so that your photos can be sent into space to tell aliens what it is to be a human being. The next day, he looked at every photograph of every student. No outtakes, no hiding. It was like being naked. Worse than being naked. We looked at thousands of photos every day for a week, and Jeff edited them all. It was amazing to watch. The workshop completely reoriented my perspective and reignited my passion for making pictures.

At the beginning of the workshop, Jacobson gave us an essay by Charles Harbutt to read. It represents Jacobson’s photographic philosophy pretty well. Here’s one of my favorite paragraphs:

The photographic goal flows from the nature of the medium. Photography is the only medium that originates in and is caused by the real, historical, time-space event of a collision between a man [or woman], a camera and reality. But the photograph itself occupies its own time and space and is a separate thing from that real-time collusion. Most photographers see only one or the other of those aspects of the medium. Documentary, news, and street photographers see mainly the reality, the content or subject. “Artistic” and academic photographers see mainly the image, its style, technique, and fantasy associations. Great photographs exist not so much where image and reality meet and balance, but in the electric tension between real and unreal. The good photographer skates as close to the brink of total realism, while still honoring the otherness of the image, or he skates as close to otherness – the sheer, unique, two-dimensional object – while never leaving the direct realism of which the medium is capable. But the great photographer skates close to both brinks simultaneously and, in the process, frequently states new ways the problem can be perceived if not solved, new ways the rules can be broken if not observed. The result is a two-dimensional image that is a separate experience in itself while totally authentic to the real continuum which gave it birth.

The full essay, “I Dont Take Pictures; Pictures Take Me” is available at American Suburb X.