The Random Photography Manifesto.
March 20, 2009
[Reykjavík, April ’05]
I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past few days, carrying around my camera, feeling like I’m getting “back into” photography – what does that even mean? What am I even doing? I’ve never laid out a plan for my photography or sat in a studio or even posed a portrait. So… what is it that I’m doing exactly? Sometimes I feel like I need some kind of justification beyond wandering around and documenting the world. Mostly this pressure comes from within, and I can pinpoint it on having gone to art school. There has never been a moment when someone comes up to me and asks “So, how can you call yourself a photographer if you never go into a studio?”
For me, photography is about documenting moments. Life is a series of moments, mostly what catches our eye for a moment escapes us the next moment. My photography is about putting down a record of those moments. There are certain themes, certain things that catch my eye repeatedly, and I photograph them like a record to see a sort of recurring melody in my own life. Like, say… flowerpots on doorsteps.
[Reykjavík, March 06]
This isn’t to say that I’m not constantly striving to make my photos more “artistic.” I worry about color and composition all the time. Now that I have a “real” camera, I futz with the white balance and ISO and everything else eternally. Not to say that this makes me any better at what I do than I was with the camera with two settings “on” and “off,” but that I pay a lot of attention to it and do my best to make the picture that comes out of the camera match the one that I see in front of me. This isn’t easy. Eyes play tricks on you and cameras aren’t perfect.
I’m also always striving to see better pictures. Certain things always attract me, but there comes a point where I have to ask myself if there’s something special about THAT window or am I just taking more photos of windows again? If I’m going to do it, it needs to be intentional. I did name my collage “studio” Nervousmotion because art, to me, is like a reflex action – it’s just something that happens – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t also think about it.
[ Providence, February ’08]
I think about art and making art endlessly. It’s like with my Div III (senior thesis) from Hampshire – someone wise who graduated the year before I did told me that if I spent half the time working that I spent worrying about it, everything would turn out fine. If I spent half the time working on art that I spend thinking about it, my output would be phenomenal.
And yet, it doesn’t work out that way. I hit ruts. I don’t know any “serious” artist who hasn’t gone through hibernations, periods where the art just doesn’t come. That doesn’t mean the thought process has stopped, but rather than something’s gotten in the way; a creative logjam between the brain/art barrier. Too much brain, too little art. I’m hitting the creative swing of the creative spiral, and I can only hope that my months of stewing over what it is that I want to do helped bring me closer to actually being able to do it.
Often, I find that taking a break helps me from getting stuck making the same thing over and over again. It certainly helps bring down the “crap ratio.” My mother, who is a writer, and I once discussed that for every good piece you ever create, you have to create at least five as sacrifices to the art gods that are just total, utter crap. During my downswings, I know without a doubt that if I were to sit down and force myself to create, the crap ratio would be upwards of 100%. Sometimes, I hit a good streak and take five or six amazing photos or create two or three really successful collages, but mostly it’s hit… and miss.
[Providence, May ’06]
So, on my good days my camera comes with me and my day will yield something. On my off days, nothing happens. This winter, the camera came with me everywhere and just never made it out of the bag because I couldn’t see anything. Literally. I couldn’t see a picture anywhere. Now, for no reason, I walk around and just on a walk to the library and back snapped 18 pictures. What the difference is, I can’t really say. My third eye unclouded, I guess.
This is what I do. I live with the camera. Nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes, the camera and I have periods of relative silence. Sometimes, we’re able to engage. But that’s how I see my photography practice: it’s me, and the camera, and my life, and whatever ends up coming out of that.
[ Today ]
PS: This post was partly inspired by a really well-written post by blogger Emily Shur that I happened to stumble upon.