I’ve been thinking a lot about photography. And lack thereof. I recently attended my friend Sam’s annual studio opening, and I felt this emptiness about how I don’t find time to shoot anymore.
Traci posted this today:
(On Value Not Yet Given)
Picking up a camera is hard.
(I’m saying a camera because it’s what I use more often, but I could write pen, paintbrush, woodblock and chisel, etc.)
It takes time. It takes confidence (or blissful ignorance). It takes a suspension of disbelief.
Mostly, it takes practice.
Composing an arbitrary frame onto reality (often, within half a second), seeing or falsifying the light, knowing your camera well enough to make or procure settings, not forgetting processing, printing and much more — these are decision that make photography a process.
Forcing yourself to pick up the camera: taking it with you on a walk, taking it with you to university, taking it with you to share breakfast with friends, taking it with you to the zoo, taking it with you while you sit on the couch with your sister and read a magazine: this is the process.
But the editing. The Choosing which image. The seeing your photograph less with the eyes and more with the self.
This is the genius of photography. This is what makes it, for me, art.
You shoot a roll of photos, but how do you decide which one rises, which one you share or tuck away so as keep it solely yours?
What gives value to a particular image?
This is the art of photography (and of all other disciplines, I think).
How do I decide an image of mine — shot off the cuff and in between a bunch of crappy frames — has value?
I shot my first roll of film when I was eighteen. Which means that next year I will have had the knowledge (if not always the machinery, money, interest, etc.) to make film photographs for half my life.
Looking back, my sense of image-value has been a clear trajectory connected to what other art I engaged.
You make a photo and give it value. I see it and, in turn, give my own similar work value.
This is how artistic themes develop.
I remember the first time I fell in love with a photograph of a tree shot (I think) in a hand-held long exposure.
I still make photographs that are in dialogue with this very first image.
The explosion of multiple exposures over the last couple of years (including by me) is an example of this.
We’re now following a trend that someone somewhere learned how to do with a new effectiveness, and they were willing to share.
What awes me are those who seemingly develop an aesthetic that doesn’t obviously relate to anyone else’s.
Maybe I’m overlooking their overlap. Probably.
When I downplay what I’m making — more so, what I’m capable of making — it’s because I’m aware of how deeply my work is engaged with the other work surrounding it.
I’m honest about this; that perhaps gives me a slight advantage. (Not to say that I’m aware of all of my influences or how they change me.) But I do know that, no matter how I connect the work to my own psychology and decision-making, the value has been instigated outside me.
Therefore, I never claim ownership.
I can only say, picking up a camera is hard, knowing how your camera works and pushing its limits is hard, sharing and exposing what you’ve made that you’ve given value is hard.
These must be enough, temporarily.