Year-end print competition


HPS’ first meeting of the year is the “Year-End Print Competition,” which is comprised from the first, second and third places in each category for every print competition of the previous year. The prints are then re-evaluated and the artists are given awards by a panel of judges for this occasion.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012
7-9 p.m. (open at 6 for print perusing)
All images will be on exhibition at the library through Feb. 28, 2012.


The prints AND the meeting will take place at the Houston Public Library—Central (500 McKinney in Downtown Houston) for our Year End Competition.


Year End Print Competition

In just a couple days, we’re going to hang prints for public display at the Houston Public Library—Central (500 McKinney in Downtown Houston) for our Year End Competition (or is it beginning?).

I’d like to give a personal note of thanks to Jim Fife for doing a lion’s share of the prep work for this show. Without his efforts, I don’t know how we would be getting this show to the public.

Thanks, Jim!

Message from the President
January 2012

I hear a lot these days about how photographers need to have a signature style to their work—a specific lighting pattern, look, color palette, gear, or whatever. Apparently, we’re supposed to be able to look through our work and find what we do most often and refine it.

Okay. But, why?

"Experts" say it will help define your work and make it unique, to give it your look.

That’s all good and well.

But, I personally think a lot of these people are putting the cart in front of the horse.

Trying to go out and build your style has some massive pitfalls attached if you go about it the wrong way.

For instance, new photographers have a tendency to pick the current fad in the photography world, copy it, and call it a style.

Similar to this is to copy the style of an old master and call it a style. If you do this you haven’t found your style, then you’ve probably found what you like or what you think will be popular.

Opposite of this is to just do everything under the sun once or twice and wait for some omnipotent spirit of the arts to reveal your style. By going down these roads, you are apt to find a lot of frustration.

Photo by John Kleb

The problem is, I think you must go down these roads.

An acquaintance of mine has a deep knowledge and study of music—especially jazz.

He likes to equate photographers finding their style with trumpeter Clark Terry‘s “Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate”, which is saying that finding your signature is a process—not an event.

I think this really holds true.

You have to try to recreate what you love, incorporate it into what you do, and let it grow into something unique. Do this and you have a style.

What no one can tell you is how long this process will take.

It’s not like you take a semester of Your Style 101 and you’re done. You really have to do the work. It will most likely take years unless you’re just a photo-savant. Those people are rare—very rare.

You have to do the work to get there.

Unless you really have a passion for the work, it’s going to be hard to do. The closer you get, the harder it is to keep pushing until you evolve into something new.


Simple formula, hard to execute.

~ John Kleb, 2011 HPS President

Pow Wow field trip video

A few HPS members went on a last-minute field trip to photograph at a Pow Wow on November 12, 2011. The video was created by HPS activities coordinator Nathalie Brouard featuring photos from the participants.

January 2012 program meeting

What: This is the first program meeting for 2012. Due to the holiday season, no meetings will take place in December 2011. As is with tradition, we will be having our 2011 Year-End Awards. In addition, the winning photos from 2011 will be on display in the library through the month of January. Hours are subject to change so stay tuned.

When: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 from 7-9 p.m.

Where: Houston Public Library (Central Library in downtown Houston at 500 McKinney St.)

The Downtime


I’d like to thank the Society officers and chairmen who served us for 2011: Bob Jump, Orlando Morales, Jim Fife, Don Hill, Donna Kleb, Nathalie Brouard, and Les Stessel.

And, I’d like to give a special thank you to Bernie Levy who has decided to hang up his treasurer’s hat after many, many years of service—you leave big shoes to fill!

Thank you all for your service and I look forward to working with those officers returning again next year.

Message from the President
December 2011

Growing up on a farm this time of year was always a very self reflective time. All the crops are in and the equipment is mostly serviced and stored away for the winter. I spent most of my time that wasn’t in school either hunting ducks and geese around the house, hunting deer in the hill country near Leakey, Texas, or building things in the work barn.

For the most part, it was very laid back compared to the spring and summer. There was a lot of time to think and plan for the upcoming year.

I guess those old habits are just ingrained in me now.

I find myself thinking and planning more than doing. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing—it just is.

Click on Thumbnail to view full-size

Plans have been drawn up for a new mini-darkroom and storage area. Detailed CAD drawings, material list, and work flow. It could have been half built by the time I finished all that. Quite a bit of research has been done for diversifying what we grow on the land we live on. The live oak tree business has dropped off with the housing market, so it’s time to re-think what we do.

I’ve moved out of my studio space and looking for a new one. All the gear is still packed on a trailer in the barn until I figure out what I want to do for a new space. It’s busy. But it’s a plodding along kind of busy.

It’s a good time though, too. It’s the time of year where you clean off the chalkboard (okay, it’s a dry erase now) and write down what you want to do, then really think about how you want to fill in the space getting there. That’s what was so great about all those years of long drives to the hill country and hours in the deer stand—it gave you time to think.

At least that’s what I did with the time—just letting the mind wander to see what emerged.

Thinking seems to be under appreciated these days.

Work, work, work. Hurry up. Increased efficiency. Always on. Task oriented flurries of activity.

Sustaining that kind of lifestyle is a dream killer for most. It’s like driving so fast that your GPS can’t update fast enough until it finally sends you off a cliff instead of turning. It’s a road to burn out for what ever it is you’re doing.

Take some time to stop and listen to simple silence.

Get lost in it.

Don’t over think a single issue, but rather, let it wander into a completely new subject. You never know what you might find there.

I know this doesn’t sound like it has much to do with photography, but it has everything to do with it. It’s been said that every photograph is a self-portrait of the photographer. Done right, you bare a little bit of your soul in every shot.

The longer I photograph the more I find this to be true. I think other artists take this as a given truth. I don’t know why it can be a hard connection to make for photographers. Without that time for introspection, you don’t know what or how to share yourself through your photographs.

The time I spent in the hill country and in the fields at home is when I really made my start in photography. My camera saw where my wanderings took me. I wouldn’t venture that my photography was necessarily “good” by any standard. Rather, it was simply documenting where I went and what I did. Trying for “good” would come many years later.

Perhaps it’s because we have so much technical skill to master that we lose touch with the artistic part of what we do. We spend so much effort to get the best shot that we lose sight of what the best really is sometimes.

Work at the lighting. Work at the composure. Work at the printing. Better gear. More efficient workflow. Constant networking. Task oriented flurries of activity.

It can be a creativity killer.

Go somewhere and just sit down and think.

Get lost in some silence.

Go someplace familiar and wander it till you find something new there.

Make a project out of it. If you end up with a record of aimless wandering, that’s okay. You may wander into something special down the road.

The photos I’ve attached with this month’s letter were all taken in the mid to late 1980’s. I was somewhere between the ages of nine and twelve. It seems like a lifetime ago in land far away now. But, what I did then still echos in what I do today.

I just had to look back twenty years later to realize it.