Our PLATFORM series shares work, projects, visuals, ETC from artists + creatives around the city. We want to know what you do + how you do it – tag your work to the #aCreativeDC feed, or send it our way via SUBMISSION. We're your platform, and today we're excited to share a selection of work by Keith Lane, DC-based photojournalist and freelance photographer/videographer. In his own words:
I've been working as a freelance photographer for about six years. It's been an incredible journey. One of the things I enjoy about it best is being able to come up with personal projects. The challenge for me comes in finding a way to turn those ideas into an actual series.
[Another] part I like about freelancing is being open to what is going on around me. I see experimentation and cross-pollination of different styles of photography [as] vital to what I do. Whether it's trying to make portraits of people on their way to the funeral of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, using double exposures to document Chinese New Year, or using different editing techniques with film scans, I find that I grow most as a visual storyteller when I get out of my comfort zone.
I [was living] in Cairo, helping facilitate a workshop on public art, and while there was given the opportunity to teach photography at American University, Cairo. While there, I returned to a subject I became deeply familiar with while volunteering in Bangladesh: public canals and waterways. The spaces in and around the canals are used for dozens of activities. Cafes, mosques, irrigation systems, public waste disposal, and farming co-exist along the edges of the canals. Water taxis, ferries, and feluccas ride up and down all day, and in the summer, the canals are often used for bathing. In times of water shortages, the water from the canals is used for drinking, despite waterborne diseases stemming from dumped human and animal waste.
By photographing multiple canals in and around the city...I attempted to find a new approach to documenting a massive issue. Within the repetition of these images I wanted to create a story that would resonate universally, both with those who spend their lives on the canal and those foreign to Egypt.
I used a Polaroid 250 Land Camera for the project. This film format allowed me to slow the process of creating images while also giving me instant feedback on the project’s progress. To intensify the challenge, I limited the output of the project to roughly forty sheets of film, shooting just four frames a day. The idea was to force myself into a greater level of intentionality and creativity. I shot the series over ten days, spread over a month-long shooting schedule. While I had a general notion of the types of images I wanted to make, I never knew what I would actually see during each morning drive. Choosing precisely where to stop and what to photograph was part guesswork and part trust.
The transition back from living in Cairo took a long time. I wanted to hit the ground running but at the same time felt burnt out from working almost non-stop. Little projects and outings helped both in terms of killing downtime and as a means towards figuring out the types of images I now wanted to make. In the case of the [above] Fourth of July image, I was hanging out with a fellow photographer friend of mine in his neighborhood when a block party started to get going. Coming from Egypt, where fireworks were used during protests, I found my brain flashing back – while at the same time writing a new visual memories. I find that I am often drawn towards themes around memory, distance and time. How a physical space can carry with it different layers of memories: protest one day, calm the next; wild block party at night then clean lawns in the morning. These types of moments and paradoxes fascinate me.
Later in the year I was with the same friend taking photographs of Blue Monday Blues in Southwest DC. I’ve always been interested in making images of musicians, but at the same time knew in the back of my head that I couldn’t take the same images I use to make when I first got started as a photographer. Drawing on experimentation and slowing down, two key lessons gained while working [in Cairo], I felt I was able to make images of the audience and musicians in a more intentional and intimate way.
When it came to photographing what was unfolding in Baltimore surrounding the death of Freddie Gray – I knew it was important to document what was going on. At the same time I was telling myself that if I did go I would try and make images outside of my comfort zone. Most of the images during the day were taken with my 35mm lens which forced me to move around more than I would with a longer lens. Building off my experiences covering demonstrations I knew I had to also take my time and to try get the know the location, before taking any photographs – a difficult thing to do in a high energy environment...the lessons I gained from that weekend [I will put towards] towards future projects.