“Leaving Traces” has been inducted, err, accepted into the Baseball Hall of Fame… Film Festival.

I am happy I can say that the film, which follows a group of documentarians creating projects on the Durham Bulls, has been recognized now by both a festival about photography and one about baseball.

How many films can boast that?

(No, honestly, I’d like to know.)


Photographing “Now What?” at Hopscotch

After spending a week in Knoxville this past March with a group of photographers and filmmakers attempting to document Big Ears 2014, I took a hiatus from live performance, fulfilling my musical quota — or addiction — solely through the use of headphones. I’ve been editing the Knoxville material on and off over the past couple of months. It’s great to relive the event. It’s made me see, and hear, the festival in an entirely different way. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t from time to time wish we’d shot this or that. A music festival’s an asteroid, and you can’t get everything.

When a friend invited me to see St. Vincent and Spoon play at Hopscotch last night, I decided to go — novel idea, sans camera, simply be part of the event without having to mediate. But then I changed my mind. The neurotic won out. Why not just bring a camera anyway? Plus, I’d be curious to know where my eye would lead me now, having spent time viewing and editing what we’d shot at Big Ears.

Below are the results of this effort.

What I noticed is that I’ve become increasingly drawn to examining how people look when they’re engaged with music and performance — whether they go into their heads or express themselves physically in some way, or if they keep an ironic distance, as I tend to do, until the child- or ego-less part of me falls headfirst into the song.

I’m drawn to the detritus and garbage of a large event. I’m drawn to the way people interact when nothing is happening, the easy-going banter, the awkwardness.

One discovery for me last night was the way crowds can make something happen, even if there is nothing special going on. What to do in the face of the proverbial “Now What?” How to satisfy the collective desire to create something not as an individual but as a group. The music, and booze, seemed to spark that desire last night, but people were left wanting more, hyped up, ready for action. But the streets of downtown Raleigh — wide, clean avenues, tall office buildings with bank logos on top — not exactly the epitome of excitement, danger, and possibility.

Probably nothing would have happened, and this desire would have remained latent, if a brass band hadn’t shown up and started yelling and playing and corralling the crowd. Some kind of gentle anarchists, or just having a good time, they were inciting something — I didn’t totally catch what, but it seemed to be along the lines of, Live! Be in the moment! Maybe there was something political, but I didn’t catch it.

Like the pied piper, they led us down Fayetteville Avenue. We ended up at a square where everyone was spilling into the street. It was a bit rowdy, but otherwise innocuous. Suddenly Raleigh 5-0 showed up, and a poor, profusely sweating 20-something guy with a Hopscotch staff shirt stormed by yelling frantically. He started explaining that we needed to get out of the street, that traffic was still coming through. He turned and started explaining the situation to me personally — either because he thought I had some sway over the crowd, or more likely because I was the only one listening to him.

People started laughing when they noticed the police officers — tall, sturdy, all American guys. It wasn’t clear if they were there to “protect us” or were our enemies. Whatever it was, there seemed to be a little bit of a situation here – “Gimme Shelter”-light, very light. But still something.

So people did what they often do in the face of confusion — we laughed and took pictures. But it was the kind of laughter you might get at a circus — conveying entertainment, yes, but also a nugget of tension or fear underneath. A slight gulp in the throat, as if, out of nowhere, something dark might creep out.

BCS on Mother Jones

Bull City Summer graces the cover of the Mother Jones website on the last day of August 2014, the same day the exhibits came down at CAM and NCMA. Excuse me for waxing a little nostalgic…

Check out the article here.

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The Meaning of Rock Fish Stew

Since 2013 I’ve been working at Rock Fish Stew, developing documentary projects with Sam Stephenson.

We put a lot of thought into the company and how to explain it to others. But then it occurred to us, perhaps the best way to understand Rock Fish Stew is to taste it.

So we asked our friend Chef Ricky Moore over at Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham to cook us up a pot. His approach to recipes reminds us a whole lot of how we feel about documentaries – find the right ingredients then bring them to a perfect simmer.


The Education of Ida Owens

Commissioned by the Duke Unversity Graduate School, this 30­-minute documentary follows Ida Owens from her upbringing in rural North Carolina to her years at Duke University, where she became the first African-­American woman to receive a Ph.D. When Ida reflects on the complicated cultural waters of her era, questions about identity, memory, and social activism surface. This personal exploration of Southern history and the Civil Rights movement brings to the forefront the past and its lingering effects.


Leaving Traces

In 2013, a team of artists converged on the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to document the legendary minor league team’s 2013 season. The project was called Bull City Summer, and resulted in two exhibits, one at the North Carolina Museum of Art and the other at the Contemporary Art Museum in Raliegh.

“Leaving Traces,” a feature documentary produced by Rock Fish Stew Institute of Literature and Materials, follows the documentarians – including renowned photographers Alec Soth, Hiroshi Watanabe, Hank Willis Thomas, Kate Joyce, Frank Hunter, Leah Sobsey, and Alex Harris, and writer Adam Sobsey – as they confront the challenges of finding something new in a baseball park. While techniques and output vary, this diverse group is united by baseball’s (and photography’s) unique experience with time. The slow, measured movements often hide the roiling drama beneath. By interweaving stories about process and craft, “Leaving Traces” evokes baseball’s atmosphere and captures the struggle to make the unseen visible.

So far the film has been accepted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival and the On Photography Film Festival, and will stream worldwide on September 20th.

Following is a trailer for the film.

And below are some clips and outtakes.

Photographer Kate Joyce walks us through the literal journey entering the ballpark and the metaphorical journey of readying herself for a shoot:

Photographer Leah Sobsey recollects being at the park as a kid and the thrill of photographing people today:

Kate Joyce uses photography to express the vulnerable side of baseball players:


They Will Rest High on the Mountain

Dee and Bernice Mitchell live in Elk Park, North Carolina — the same remote mountain community where they were born. They have lived a full life there, making a solid living and raising three children. Now they are enjoying watching their great-grandchildren grow up and play in the same fields they once did. Like the mountains, they are worn by time but their belief in family and generosity stands strong. On the eve of their 60th wedding anniversary, they are at peace with the end – whenever it comes. And they have faith that their love will live on.

They Will Rest High on the Mountain documents this stage in their life.

Photo by Vanessa Patchett

A documentarian and photographer, Ivan Weiss currently serves as a partner at the Durham, NC-based documentary production company Rock Fish Stew. In 2013, Weiss joined the Bull City Summer team and produced a feature-length documentary, which was exhibited at CAM Raleigh from May 22-August 31, 2014. This film has since been accepted into the Hall of Fame Film Festival and the On Photography Film Festival.

Recently, Weiss directed The Education of Ida Owens, a 30-minute documentary chronicling the life of the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. from Duke University. The film premiered at the Nasher Art Museum in May 2014. At that time he completed an MA in visual communication at the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill, for which he was awarded a Roy H. Park fellowship. In 2008, Weiss received an MA from the London Film School in the screenwriting program. Previously, he traveled to Russia on a Fulbright grant, after which he worked as a journalist covering the oil industry in Moscow.

As an undergraduate at Haverford College, he double majored in English and Russian.

Despite his Russian-sounding name, he was born and raised in the Midwest.