This was written on January 3, 2013. I meant to publish this today, but after waking up, it seems a bit much. I’ll leave it for a few hours nevertheless. Enjoy this great historic footage of Lyle Lovett while you read. What a treasure that just surfaced thanks to Terry Canup.
I am a terrible suck up. Anyone who knows me might cite this first criticism. Because it is true. A friend of mine, the guitar player (and music store guitar tech who drives this car. . .
. . . Jim, he had a tough time at first. But he offered this nugget to a room of my friends, “he comes with an edge on him, don’t he?” It’s all part of the same thing. In my case, it is being myself.
It’s not necessarily self-centered to say this: I don’t spend much time looking at other people’s photographs. I find it distracting and confuses my own limited vision. (And I have so much damn work to do with my own backlog). Anyway, this could very well be a reaction carried over from my songwriting. I just don’t seem to have the gift to write songs. Sometimes I blame my academic consumption and encyclopedic recall of American songwriters. I’ve filled my head (and hands) with thousands of amazing songs. When it comes to my own songwriting voice, time and again, I find I have nothing to say that doesn’t get overwhelmed by someone else’s song or melody or chord progression. I have been unable to eject from that trajectory for almost twenty years. It no longer hurts to recognize that it just may not happen for me.
Is it for these reasons I find photography so awesome?
I’m not sure. Photographers are rarely frustrated songwriters. I find photographic expression limitless. I choose to measure my progress and satisfaction to my own evolving standards. The gear mumbo-jumbo in this blog is driven not by an affection for the tools, but by a desire to remember something I saw, or communicate the emotion I have when I set up for a shot; to facilitate the photographic impulse. The internet has made everything so much more informed, and yet so complicated. I often use this space to work through all of that. Like academic literature; if you spent all of your time learning what others did, you would have little to do your thing. But you have to spend some time with what others did just the same.
Nothing comes easy. Well, actually quite a lot comes easy. When I feel like shooting, I shoot. Then I harshly and quickly select any shots that are good enough to post here. That is if I feel like I have something to say. I don’t fight with an image in photoshop. It has to work pretty much out of the camera or I count it as ‘nope.’ (With the exception of film blemishes. I can spend over an hour per scanned frame.) This style has accumulated into quite a mess of digital files and html code on a bunch of hard drives. All of it is just digital crap.
But somewhere in all of this, there is a considerable body of ‘who I am’ that exists (albeit verbosely) outside of me. It doesn’t matter if I was in a weird mood on a given day, or if some time later, a photograph I thought was so good just seems mediocre. Since I rarely delete anything once it’s posted, it is pretty raw. I suppose I try to draw the line before I get to point where I am writing one of these blogs.
In my photos, those that move me are personal. A place, a time, a feeling of freedom with a camera, or to behold something beautiful. And right there is the hardest part: can one make photographs that move others? My appeal is personal and idiosyncratic: if you like me, you like what I do. You may like me more the more I am myself, but my initial off-putting traits won’t garner legions of fans. Good. I’d rather inspire someone to try out their own photographic impulse than to suck up to me. That is why I am a terrible suck up. If you are a good musician, photographer, grocery clerk, car salesman . . .I hope you already know it. I’ve got my own problems. :)
We are most definitely in a disposable-image world. Bahjillions of photographs are made and shared and I think it is numbing everyone;s eyes. We are becoming conditioned to staring at screens, and they don’t see beyond. At the movie theater there is a red-screened ad scolding us to put cell phones away. That is what it takes to reach ‘em anymore. (have you seen this condescending pre-film warning from Cinemark?)
lengthy comparative tangent. . .
I have probably talked about this before. What the hell happened to popular music? The change happened in my high school years, some twenty-odd years ago. I say that our ears have become numb. Music plays too loudly in every restaurant, grocery store, gas station. . .and especially in bars. But music is everywhere. Without going into ‘jumping the shark,’ it was a distinct pain the first time I heard Talking Heads’ Life During Wartime in a Raley’s grocery store. What does that define, if not a huge question about what all of this means? Songs that were never radio hits have seeped into canned music. I accidentally drifted there, because I wanted to talk more about the difference between pop music now, and pop music in 1978 or 1983, compared to now. I must admit some affection for the now played-to-death song from Gotye when I saw them on Saturday Night live, early in the ritual sacrifice of a genuinely good song. 2012 ate up, chewed up and spit out “somebody I used to know.” I will hear that song once a week in a canned space somewhere for who know how long.
Do you get it? I am saying it doesn’t matter if music sucks any more than if music is good because we no longer have the ears to differentiate. And if it is good, it will be plastered everywhere and milked for all that it can be just the same as if it isn’t good(Ghangham style, ahem). Then we will all be sick of it a disconnected from it in any meaningful way. And the same goes for photography. The important qualifier is this: “in the cultural spectacle.” It matters to me to not suck, in private, on stage, and on this blog. That will have to do. One thing I love about the Hasselblad is that only a moment more with a given image communicates the ‘more’ that it sees; the ’more’ that I see, or at least try to see.
Playing music for people without ears or showing photographs for those without eyes is hopeless. And as 2013 begins, I’m proud to say that I play music and create photographs to one person’s standards: yup, mine. And as such, I am enthusiastic as I travel down this lonesome road. I hope you come along, though I won’t know who you are.
I saw 2001: on the big screen tonight, a one day screening. Why was this done? Is there any connection to Earth’s orbital perihelion (the day we are closest to the sun?) Well, for what it’s worth, thank you Mr. Kubrick
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