Made for walking. My French Legion Canvas Boots. We’ve travelled many roads together.
I’m still a freak
And like every human being that was ever born I’m unique
Things disappear but I’m still here
I’m still awake, I knew all along
If you ain’t crazy there’s something wrong
Empires rise and fall but through it all
I’m still a freak!
I’ve got a few thoughts kicking around my head today but I am going to try to keep it tied down to just one or two. Recognition… or fame… or acclaim, or whathaveyou.
I admit that I have often struggled with the recognition that my photography earns me. In one way I have the opposite challenge of many, where they struggle when they don’t get enough recognition I often struggle with the notion that nearly any recognition is too much attention. It seems a weird thing, I know, and I have often pondered on it. I think it comes from a couple of reasons. The first is that recognition isn’t my goal. It is not what I am after when I put my images in front of an audience, so when that is what I get in return it feels inappropriate somehow. I do appreciate the giving of recognition. I honestly appreciate someone caring enough to pass on a compliment or to offer praise, I realise where that is coming from and I think that is a good thing. But I guess I put my images out there in the world not to earn that or collect it. It is if random passers-by on the street stopped and offered you money. Sure, it’s cool, but it would also make you feel weird.
So why put my photography out in front of an audience then, if not for that recognition? I think I like doing it because I like the community of photographers, and what we are collectively capable of, and I want to do my part in making that collective bigger and better. I like putting my work out there, with my written thoughts, because I know it is capable of inspiring or motivating or enlightening, and that the ripples caused by those things will lead to the making of brilliant photos by others. I like enabling and encouraging and watching those I know grow and succeed and reach new heights. That is a cool thing.
But here is where a sort of weird stream of thought might start to sound even more strange. In a certain way, the recognition for the pictures is hard for me to comprehend because to a large degree I don’t care about the pictures I make. I do, a little. But not a lot. And here is what I mean by that.
Draw a line representing a journey. At one end, the beginning, you sitting at home with the cameras tucked away. Photography is not near at hand and it is just an abstract idea of something to do. As you move along this line you progress from that beginning point to being out looking, to finding, to creating, to returning home, to developing the film and seeing the negs for the first time, to scanning them, to printing them, maybe to publishing them at the very opposite end of that line. Now, different photographers will put their emphasis point at different spots on this line. I know some who would place it at the publication spot. Everything they do is toward the goal of having the work published or displayed in a gallery or similar. Some would place there point of emphasis at the print stage. They make the prints and they are happy. I know some whose point would even fall far to the left, much closer to the beginning. What they love is the planning, even if the execution never fully materialises. My point is somewhere between the looking and the creation. That is the peak of my hill, so to speak. My best moment of photography is that grey zone between searching and finding. The farther away from that spot I move, the less excited I am. I have noticed this about myself for a while now. I love seeing my negs developed and while I enjoy seeing the initial proof prints or scans quite a bit, it is not quite as exciting as the first glimpse of developed film. I am moderate good about getting my choice images scanned, but I wouldn’t say it excites me. I’ll do a somewhat decent job of editing, but my interest is really waning at this point. I only print when I am about to change my home display. I have sometimes remarked that I am a photographer who just happens to make pictures. Or that my favourite part is the process versus the results. All this I think is circling this notion that the most important part for me is somewhere well before a physical artefact ever gets made and is even earlier than the creation of the image itself.
What spurred these thoughts? Well, my mind is often tumbling something around regarding my photography. I like to think about it. Not as a problem to be solved, I don’t ever want to fix it, it might only make it worse. But I do enjoy the mental engagement, so I ponder when I can.
If I was going to offer a moral to this story, and caution to any who would be brave enough to accept such from this writing, it would be to realise that it is ok for you to choose any point on that spectrum/line/journey/process as what is most important to you, but let it be your choice and not a choice you are adopting from the beliefs of those around you. If the images are important to you, great. If it is making prints, great. If it is publication, great. If it is sketching and daydreaming ideas to turn into photos, great. If it is collecting the gear that you swear you will use… someday, great. There is no wrong answer here for you other than any answer that is not your own, but rather adopted from somewhere else. That is all I think I have right now. I’m sure you’ll hear more from me soon enough.
Over the past couple of years, my appreciation for the simplicity with which the world is rendered by black and white film has grown. I have exposed many a roll of b&w over the years, but more often I find myself appreciating how much quieter black and white is. Sure, the scenes can still be dramatic, but there can sometimes be a brashness to colour that I don’t seem to find as much in black and white film. It makes for a simpler, quieter world…. at least how I use it. And I guess that is the chicken meeting the egg. Is the world really that much softer of personality in black and white, or do I see and record such a world when I am in a black and white film mentality? Am I finding what I seek, or seeking what I find?
There is something to be said about how a film or a lens or a camera influences and feeds how you think, look and photograph. The technical qualities of a specific camera, or roll of black and white film aside, it is important to be aware of the mental process that is engaged when using a certain piece of equipment.
Is the world simpler and quieter in black and white, or do I make it thus because I was in a mood to go looking for it and chose the right equipment to pursue that? Yes and yes and sometimes no.
My homage to Lee Friedlander
A Summer Evening of magical proportions.
In my time on earth
I will tell what is true
In my time on earth
I will say what the heart knows
Getting away from the noise of the city and replacing it with the noise of the open landscape. This noise has a harmony and place to it within the greater context of the music of the world than the sounds of the city, which can be harsh and jarring. Noise has been something I have been noticing more over the past few years. I am not sure why. While I love photographing in cities and seeing how they change and grow, I also find I dislike their inharmonious clatters, rumbles, bangs and booms. Give me the meditative rumble of an ocean, or the sound that twilight makes as it seeps into the world, or the birdsong of a quiet forest, and of course the sound of chirping Crickets under serious Moonlight. Quiet is often underrated. But I think we also build up a tolerance to the noisy noisiness around us where we live and should get out to appreciate some of the non-human sounds of the world more often too. Though I have noticed that we have a tendency to go into such areas and then proceed to fill them with our own sounds and noises nonetheless. So I make a habit to go to places like this whenever I can and make as little noise as possible and then appreciate as greatly as I can what I then hear.
There is a part of me that definitely prefers doing long exposures in black and white. I could say it is partially due to the colour shifts I get from filtering through stacked NDs, but I have largely wrapped my mind around those. No, my reticence comes from my frame of mind when I stop to make these types of images. One of the big reasons I do these long exposures is because of my interest or fascination with time. Often, but not always, time is what I am making a photo of here. Time is usually my subject. So when it comes to composing these images I generally think in terms of working to get rid of elements that don’t belong. And if I am building an image about time, I want to get rid of things that don’t relate, because if they don’t support then they distract. Often colour is not in this equation. It is easy to be enamoured of colour and to include it simply because you like it, but if the photo is not about colour. If it is about other things, such as time, then colour becomes a layer atop your subject that to some degree or another obscures it. So while colour is always tempting to add, I have to be careful to actually make images that make use of that colour as part of the message, thought, subject, what have you. I have to make sure that I want to direct some part toward that colour. So usually I don’t want the colour to be overtly important in these types of photos… it is not what I am trying to impart. But there are occasions where I want to mix colour and time. This is one of those occasions.
Is it easy to keep so quiet?
Everybody loves a quiet child
Underwater you’re almost free
If you want to be alone, come with me
Is it easy to live inside yourself?
All the little kids are high and hazy
Nowhere to go
Everybody wants to be amazing
The world’s rotten
Dress light-cold to be forgotten
Eat your pearls on Sunday morning
Keep your conversations boring
Stay with me among the strangers
Change your mind and nothing changes
You should try to get some sun
There’s a little bit of hell in everyone