A rose by another othe- what the?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Jadedoto, Jul 25, 2007.

  1. Jadedoto

    Jadedoto Member

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    This is a bit rambling, but I'm trying to distill my thoughts over 4 shots of espresso...

    ...is still a rose, no? Well, if Shakespeare can immortalize the single most beautiful and dangerous plant (to my younger second cousin anyway), then why can't I?

    The background: I got really bored in the darkroom the other day, so I decided to start printing a few of my first "real negatives" (as in, I finally bought negative sheets so that I could keep them in some sane order). One of them I picked was from every photographer's first "Real" shoot: the flower study. A Rose. Simply, a rose.

    It's a nice image, and I still like it- and it's interesting to see how a picture can change when you don't look at the negative for... several months. Well, almost a year or so (I just started processing myself not too long ago, so hey). I had a flurry of emotions while printing that ranged from psychotic to euphoric to angry, and so I just let it fly. The final result? Everything from enlarging onto 4x5 film to print a positive to contacting the 35mm, to contacting the positive to 4x5 film and all variations of solarizing and double exposing among them... But still I just didn't feel it. Why?


    What is it that gets you going in the darkroom? Lately I seem to just get bored, and with my commitment to wet photography, it makes my heart ache to look at my dear photographer friend's Flickr and realize that my style isn't refined or changed at all. Albeit I'm 17 (and so is she!), it seems with her digital camera, she's getting ahead where I'm staying behind (I used to be the one teaching her technique and pushing her to develop her own style!). In times like these, how is film going to really push ahead to stay relevant?

    Moreover, how am I to develop my style and truly learn where I'm going if I can't shoot much because of prohibitive costs? I really don't want to stop doing this, but even though people tell me my work is awesome and "oh boy it's refreshing to see someone as young as you doing traditional methods!", I'm not feeling it.

    It makes me think that maybe all the technical information that's been crammed into my head (I'm a very technical guy, I skim it once and have it memorized) has overpowered my artist's instinct. I recall my early work when I didn't know about how and why it worked- I just knew it worked. The prints from Walgreens showed me that (on BW400CN and an SRT-201)- and I fell in love with BW! But has technical data hindered my art? I made it this summer to a very selective art program in my state, but am I an artist? Do I make art or just technical statements?

    How are young analog photographers like me going to stay afloat in an all-digital world that I'll be living in when I'm 40, 50 or even 80 years old? I love the magic of the darkroom, but for growing purposes, would it be a crime for me to buy a digital camera to learn style?
     
  2. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    Printing a picture that interests me, that gets me going. Something that I care about, or something that I want to share with someone or friends. That's my motivation. Without this, darkroom 'work' becomes a chore. It's not fulfilling to me. And i'll find other things to do. If i'm not taking pictures of something that I care about, I don't take pictures at all. Or I try not to.

    My other advice would be to not worry so much. Take pictures, have fun. If you aren't having fun, find a way to do so. Or find something else to do. The last thing you want is to hate taking pictures or printing. That is the worst feeling, to have loved doing something so much only to begin hating it.
     
  3. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    OK, I'll give this a shot...

    #1) You're 17 and you're seeking answers from those more experienced than you. For this you get 1000 bonus points :smile:

    #2) You're asking questions of yourself at 17. For that you get 10,000 bonus points :smile: :smile:

    #3) Create.

    #4) Create by whatever means or media available.

    #5) Follow those creations which lead you down the most tantalizing paths towards further discovery.

    That's about it, I think, except to say that any artist who stops questioning themselves is dead in the water. You seem to be starting out with your head up, looking for the signs...this promises to be an interesting journey!

    Murray
     
  4. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    It sounds like you've reached the first of many overwhelming-points that we all go through in life. Life comes at you in fits and starts, with lots of brain-freezes in between. Maybe you just need to walk away for a little while, and do something else creative, to give all that technical stuff time to percolate and become meaningful. Maybe find another interest of yours and try to make your photography a part of it. No matter what, don't worry about "finding your style". That will take as long as it takes.

    The biggest mistake you can make is to think that a tool will give you a style. The only style you'll get by buying ANOTHER tool is an expensive lifestyle. You've already got the foundations of a style - you like black and white, you have some subjects you like... build on that. What's important is that you learn to make images that reflect how YOU see... your own unique perspective and composition.
     
  5. Paul VanAudenhove

    Paul VanAudenhove Member

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    I think it's just part of a progression we all go through. We start taking pictures with enthusiasm, but no real technical skill. Then we progress though learning the technical aspects - in short we learn techniques, but not when to apply them. Then it seems we clue in to the fact that craft is part of the art... and so we progress....

    You will probably receive as many approaches as there are posters; some you will agrre with, some not. But everyone who takes the time to post is interested in help you, and has someting to say. It's up to the individual to take what is applicable to them.... Good Heavens we can be an entertaining bunch!
     
  6. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    "Moreover, how am I to develop my style and truly learn where I'm going if I can't shoot much because of prohibitive costs?"

    Digital cost just as much if not more.

    Do yourself a favor and buy yourself a digital camera. It's the only way to find out if it's right for you. It might wind up to be like falling in love with a few different girls before you marry the right one, but you'll never know till you try.
     
  7. Jadedoto

    Jadedoto Member

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    I don't know about falling in love with girls now :wink:

    I shot with a digital for three weeks (A D70) while at the Governor's School, and I realized that the whole technique thing, well, it was impossible to bother me because I didn't have too much say in the matter.

    I enjoyed digital, but when the prints came out, eh, not so much.


    Thanks for all the replies everyone, they make me feel a lot better :smile:
     
  8. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Why? Perhaps the starkest truth is that this was not in fact a good picture, one which really holds what you want to do.

    Or maybe it is not a good picture now because you haven't found the way to see it yet.

    Style is not a set of decisions that govern your picturemaking before you click the shutter. Style is the residual of what people see from what you have done. As for it not being refined yet, well, not everyone is Arthur Rimbaud.

    <Old codger's voice> Get a job! </end old codgerness> No, I'm not kidding. My current job is feeding my film expenses. Granted, Provia 400X is now 20$ a roll of 35mm, but bulk film remains pretty cheap. Expired film abounds in the classifieds of photo sites. I only buy new, fresh film when I'm doing something important.

    You seem to be using 35mm, so I don't see a reason for you not to bulk load. For 60$ I must get about 15-20 rolls of 36exp. At that price, I can shoot just as if it were digital and try all sorts of things.

    Do you need APUG's absolution to shoot digital? Go ahead, do what you feel is right. Many people here use digital, and they're not ashamed. They just don't discuss it here because the point of the forum is to focus on the film part of life.

    If you want to develop yourself, it's not about getting a different toy, it's about thinking about what you are doing, receiving tougher criticisms than people thinking you are awesome, comparing your work with that of others, exchanging ideas, reverse engineering the work of artists you admire, developing an artistic culture, and all sorts of other things that are human, not technical.

    Here's a big old cliché of gender, but I would not be surprised if your friend has in fact a very active interpersonal life about her photo. Women communicate more; men often think reading yet another book on the Zone System will make them better photographers. Being wired to other people is what makes you grow, even if these people are dead and their work is all that remains; art is a form of communication after all.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2007
  9. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

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    I'm 22 and can certainly sympathise with how you feel. A few months ago I switched to shooting 4x5 exclusively, and despite having fallen in love with the process I have yet to make a negative that I am really pleased with. I'll second the suggestion on bulk loading 35mm. In combination with doing your own processing and printing it will cut down on the cost quite a bit. I would also suggest sticking with one lens. If you have a zoom, pick one focal length and just use that, or you can save up for a bit and get a 50mm. Second hand 50mm f/1.8 manual focus lenses usually sell for practically a song. The most important thing about art I learned from Julia Cameron (the author, not the photographer.) The most important thing about art is MAKING art. Don't worry about whether or not you are a "real" artist, what your message is, or if what you are doing is good or not. Just get out of your own way and CREATE. This is very hard for me, because as you seem to be I am a perfectionist. Perfectionism is only good if it doesn't get in the way of your work. While I am not the biggest fan of Ansel Adams, I was reading an interview in B+W magazine from a former apprentice of AA's. He said that while working with AA he was struck by the fact that Ansel made an awful lot of very ordinary photographs. This resonates strongly with me because I frequently expect every shot to be perfect, which it won't be, and expecting that will only give me photographer's block.

    I can see I'm starting to ramble, but basically my point is to keep it SIMPLE, and just enjoy taking pictures. Play with the camera, regain the feelings that made you fall in love with it. Sooner or later, something good will come of your shooting. It may take 1 roll, it may take 5. Just do your best, but don't get in your own damn way! :D

    Best of luck,

    - Justin
     
  10. mjs

    mjs Member

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    Progress doesn't come in a smooth curve; it's more like a ziggurat. You make some progress for a while, then you're on a plateau and it seems like you're pushing mud uphill. Dedication is working through the plateaus; giving up is what separates those who teach from those who do. Or something like that. Don't give up! Keep pushing and nagging and flailing away at the bugger and eventually it will get better. Good luck!
     
  11. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    And I've learned in my long life that a chrysanthemum by any other name would be easier to spell.

    Good luck to you. Practice makes perfect.

    PE
     
  12. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    My advice is: Follow your bliss. It's obvious darkroom work does't excite you and the key word here is "work". Darkroom workers are working - as opposed to having fun. The fun is being out shooting and the joy is seeing a great photo for display.

    I'll admit, I find darkroom work generally uninteresting but the dull routine is sometimes punctuated by exciting moments when a great shot is finally a successful print. I also found Adobe Photoshop uninteresting, except for a few tools, and the end product is poor quality when comparing with fiber based silver prints - I work for the full tonal range framed archival prints - it's quality over quantity.

    Style? When you create a body of work you'll recognize your own style.
     
  13. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Think left brain right brain for a minute. Ron Wisner for all his faults has written a wonderful piece about why the mechanical processes we put ourselves through with all this analog old stuff stimulates the creative process. He claims that the right brain whirring away back in the recesses to make all the necessary things of photography happen has a direct link to the creative house over on the left side. Re-inventing backwards from that concept, perhaps digital is just too easy. No right brain thought necessary, so your left brain goes stale too.

    That said, I have a D100 and I love it. It makes fantastic pictures for Ebay.
     
  14. Alex Bishop-Thorpe

    Alex Bishop-Thorpe Member

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    I'm in basically the the same position, I turned 18 last month and my film budgets consists of something along the lines of, "whatever I finds, I keeps". It's certainly annoying, but the restriction helps you grow I think.
    With film there's always that gutting moment when you realise you were just a little off, and your winning negative is just average - and it makes you work harder next time, because you know what to do better. It's the sink or swim moments that have the most effect on you. Are you getting those moments with critiques of your photos? Take a photo you love and show it to a few people, I bet they'll be able to tell you what's wrong with it. No matter their response you'll grow for it, and a kick in the face does a lot for determination.

    I also recommend looking at the photos taken by people better than you. I can spend day browsing APUG galleries, get annoyed at myself and competitive, and then strive to do better to reach a mark. Photographer penis-measuring (or lens-measuring, I suppose), is actually a decent learning tool. It gives you a direction, an inspiration, and you borrow a little bit from other's style too. Look at your friend's photos more.

    And as for the difference between art and technical statement, or if you're an artist - don't worry about it. Take some photos, it's fun.
     
  15. Black Dog

    Black Dog Member

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    I agree-when you walk, walk, when you dig, dig, when sitting, sit....above all don't wobble. As far as darkroom work go, I really enjoy it. For me it's like cooking (another great passion of mine), where you experiment with and bring together various different ingredients to create the final result, accompanied by some good music of course (Brian Eno and Nick Drake are great for moody landscapes, for example, whereas for more documentary stuff I like Mark Lanegan, Tom Waits or Johnny Cash).Time just disappears when you get into a really good groove (photographically snd musically). One more thing-don't try and do too much in one session when you're making fine (as opposed to quickie work) prints.Take your time and take it poco a poco, as they say in Spain.

    BTW-put plenty of posters and as many of your own photos as possible on your darkroom walls. Keep lots of books and magazines in there so you have something to read while you're waiting for prints to wash etc. Make the darkroom as welcoming a space as possible and then you'll really love working in there.:smile::smile:
     
  16. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    it's called work

    I'm not sure how much you know about Zen but I suggest that you find some books to read. most people spend their entire life running around looking for answers when they already have the answers. on the other side of the coin is the fact that so few can ever attain mastery of ANY skill at all. Zen will tell you: if you are going to be a wood chopper than be the best woodchopper in the world. seems pretty lowly-but go out and try it....same with photography-it's great that you question your own worth but then how much actual time have you spent doing it?? is it a day a week a month five years ten years what?? for me it just happened one day. some may say enlightenment but I just said my hard work paid off. AA said something about the first 10000 negs being practice.
    he wasn't wrong. it's the next 10000 where you will start to become yourself and no one else. it's very hard when we live in a society of instant gratification.
    we want it now not later. photography aint no fast food stand.....
    Best, Peter
     
  17. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    It's a labor of love. Keep at it. For me, and I have to go to the hassle of taking over my kitchen for two to three weeks at a time and using it only late at night-------when I have prepared my chemicals, just that familiar odor of "dark room" is all I need to get focused. Thankfully, my wife is very forgiving for that period of time; she understands "the passion".

    There are no magic bullets to achieve a "style". But I think your style will be more forth comming when you are in command of all the materials and processes that you work with; get those to be second nature and your style will work its way out easier as your mind sort of gets freed up, so to speak.

    Keep at it and good luck.
    Chuck