self criticism, self doubt, and the ever elusive pursuit of meaning....

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by scootermm, Jul 22, 2004.

  1. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    perhaps this has been discussed ad nauseum but its been on my mind (inregards to photography) lately.
    a majority of my free time as of late has been spent doing photography.... .sometimes there isnt much free time, sometimes there is. But regardless, Im out shooting 4x5 film seeking new images and always looking at the world around me through that imaginary groundglass in my head. The time I spend shooting I dont think about anything else. Nothing. I dont stress about life, work, relationships, etc etc. Its a wonderful removal from the redundancy of "everyday life" but often times I find myself have thoughts of self doubt about my photography while Im not shooting.
    why am I doing it? what is my style? what is my ultimate goal? why do I work so many hours a day and then spend the majority of my free money and free time to build up what seems an endless binder full of pages and pages of negatives?
    that self doubt of purpose and meaning.
    I have one other passion in particular that is similiar, my passion at painting. It is inherently different from photography but has shared feelings and connections. They both feel as though they are almost a neccesary to me as breathing. that life (mine in particular) requires them to sustain itself.
    perhaps Im waxing philosophical. but I have these conflicting camps in my head at times that counter each other and seem to perpetually be in a state of negating each other depending on my mood.
    its a confusing delimma.
    this was particularly brought to the forefront given an experience last night. I was shooting with my Cambo on the San Marcos river. There I was standing over waist deep in the river aiming my camera at the cedar roots growing out of the river waiting for the right light (and for a small family to leave the frame) and a younger fellow (maybe 21) paddled over to me and asked what I was filming. I did the standard "its not a video camera Im taking pictures, yes its old, yes the negative is big yada yada" but he stayed there for quite a while and kept asking why I do it and spend so much money if Im not generating income or monetary profit from it.

    just wondering what others thoughts are on this.
     
  2. jim kirk jr.

    jim kirk jr. Member

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    I think this sums it up-it's in your blood
     
  3. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    because.....

    it makes my heart sing and i can't image my life without photography, it is that simple
     
  4. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    It's the same with me. On my documentary projects, I can answer the purpose question more easily, but the self doubt is ALWAYS there. The voices in my head keep saying "Stupid! You are going the wrong way with this... the real shot is not here, and blah-blah..."

    It's a royal PITA, but there are moments, like yesterday, when I catch myself speechless looking at my work. "Damn, I'm pretty good!" But then, what if no one else EVER sees it? that is why I post some images here; part of me NEEDS other people to look at my work, even if they don't dig it. If not, the whole project becomes a selfish thing... It won't change a thing. It defeats the purpose of my photography.

    This self doubt is the basis for my educational indecision: In about one year I'll have an Associates degree (only took me 4 years, Ma!), and will move on to a Bachelor's, maybe even Masters.

    But in what? Photography? No one buys documentary anymore, not unless you are a Magnum photographer, or Seven, or something like that. I HATE comercialism, and can't do comercial work because of that (there is a lot of GREAT comercial work, which I truly admire, but the idealistic "I" cannot do it). So photography will stay as my passion/adiction.

    So what else do I like? Well, there's philosophy, but that's a carrer-less field as well. It pretty much dictates a Doctorate so I can teach in college (no one hires masters anymore--- over-qualification...). Which ever way I turn I'm screwed.

    So, yeah, I feel your pain, man!
     
  5. kaishowing

    kaishowing Member

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    Perhaps it's the pursuit of the ever unattainable 'perfect photograph'?? Not by anybody elses standards, but your own, which make it an impossible task as we seem to be the harshest critics of ourselves.....but is still a goal that you find irresistable!
    For me it's slightly different as I'm still very much learning, but I hope that learning carries on, and there's always a new question that needs an answer.
    I know that hours pass in the blink of an eye when I'm out with my camera, and sometimesI develop a slightly hazardous 'tunnel vision' mentality, shutting out the rest of the world apart from what I see through the lens. In that moment, thats the real world to me.
    I've been told several times that my shots have a 'style', but I can't see it. It might be true, and if it is, it's only due to the way I see the world, and each person will see the world differently. So if thats the case, that will be your style.
    For me, the reason I do it is pure pleasure.
    Despite the let-downs in what I thought were fantastic photographs at the time, the mistakes that I've made in choosing the right camera settings, and the bumps and scrapes that I accumilate in pursuit of my pictures etc etc, that just makes it that much more satisfying when I do get something halfway decent.(for me!)
    It's changed the way I see the world, and I don't think that I would like to return to what the world looked like before I took up photography.
     
  6. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I feel guilt when I see how close to the bone my wife and I live, because I have decided not to rejoin the corporate world to spend my time creating art and filling in our financial gaps with work as I can find it. On the flip side I could be hit by a car tomorrow and I would much rather die with binders full of film, than a bank account full of green. My life is much fuller.

    My wife was going to get her masters in library science (a very nice career by all surveys we've read) and now is leaning toward literature (a not so promising career path). If she decides on lit that will be fine or even great. It is far better to be poor and happy, living your dream than rich and dissatisfied.

    Of course it isn't an either or proposition. Some photographers make a very good income and many, but not me, are living their dream 9-5 in the cubical farm.

    Creating art the contemplation prior and after, the proccess during, and the results, can be consuming. It is a discipline. I was a painter once upon a time and it took constant practice, to maintain my skill and even more to improve -much like being an athlete. Such is life. It is a good thing.

    Look at the people here who speak in reverent terms of some films, papers, cameras, technics and so on. Some might not consider themselves artists, but they certainly are fine craftsmen/athletes/artisans much like you.

    At some point you may not be able to do what you're doing now or atleast not to the same extent. I would say don't hesitate grab it whilst you can.
     
  7. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    A great exercise is to mount the photos you like the most and to display them on your wall. Get those negatives and prints out of their boxes and into the light where they deserve to be!
     
  8. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    True. I framed 4 of my prints (the boats series) and gave to my brother as a wedding gift. Everytime I go to his apartment, and see the prints on the wall, I get a very weird, but good, feeling. It's not pride, but rather a a tranquil sense of accomplishment. Those prints succeeded.

    Very good point, Francesco. And by the way, when I see one of your pictures in the gallery, I can tell it's yours before I read the name (most of the time). Same for Juraj's, Cheryl Jacobs', and very many others. So yeah, we all have our styles, but don't waste your time trying to figure out what it is, for that will limit your work in the future. At the most, find out what is was when a particular work was done.
     
  9. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  10. noblebeast

    noblebeast Member

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    I've worked in Hospice, and watched many people die. Not a single one of them ever laid on their last clean set of sheets in this world and talked about work, money, what they owned, who they owned. They only ever wanted to talk about experiences, things they created, interesting people they met, laying in a hammock feeling a child fall asleep in their arms under a shady tree. The really amazing part? It never took them too long to run through those memories, because there were so few of them.

    Sure, we all need to do certain things to feed, clothe and shelter these bodies. But don't ever confuse those things with what is really important. And in my experience, what is truly important very rarely carries with it any great meaning. Do what you do because it's what you do - you don't have to explain it or validate for anyone.

    Don't take your life so personally!
     
  11. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    so refreshing to hear peers and their thoughts.
     
  12. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    Francesco, I agree 100%! One of my goals before the end of the year is to have 4 of my prints hanging on the wall. They don't have to be perfect, but they have to mean something to me. And of these 4 I want 2 to be new pictures. To this end I've been scouring my old negs for work that I would like to put up on my wall for me.
     
  13. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    I'm with Francesco, too. I'm a real "newbie", but I took some pictures that I thought weren't too bad, so I matted & framed them & hung them in my kitchen. It give me great joy to see them there! I also decided to make a calendar a couple years ago. I scanned my prints, wrote some poetry, made the months & printed the sheets on heavy drawing paper. I gave them to people at Christmas, and they were asking me in July if I planned to make another one! I did & it was very well received.

    Of course this is different from selling something...I think I'd have to grab the nitro if anyone actually wanted to buy something I'd done :D haha But it does make you feel great to know that someone else likes the things you do. We can say we do it for our own personal satisfaction, and that is true! But it is also true that we like it when others like what we do!

    Gosh, most days I feel like I am not very good; don't understand what the heck I'm trying to 'say'; and a myriad of other self-doubting things. But I just try to work past it and keep plugging. So, you are not alone!
    Jeanette
     
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  15. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    Many interesting and beautifully put explanations above, but I'll see if I can add anything to it.

    I guess I shoot pictures because that is who and what I am. To create an image which reflects how I see the world rather than how we just look at it gives me satisfaction beyond explanation. For a few seconds when I first see a picture I have created when I'm out in the street and has been published I feel that I exist and have some purpose. The feeling fades over the next 24 hours, but for that short period I am me and I am real.

    I have yet to capture the perfect picture for myself and maybe I never will. But I will keep trying until the grains of sand run out and all that is left of me is the prints I have created. Hopefully one day someone will look at a print and wonder about the subject and the unknown photographer, but I am not as important as the picture.

    I also feel guilty at times that I have dumped well paid jobs to chase the light, sometimes to the point of a "starving artist" which is not good with a wife and son. But my son is proud his father is a photographer and my wife loves me enough to work in order to support us and any fee's I make give us those little treats just every now and again.
     
  16. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    It's mostly been said. I'd add that sometimes people succumb to that horrible human condition of feeling a little guilt when they enjoy themselves too much, certainly I do.

    If you enjoy it, it makes you a better person, doesn't hurt anyone else in the process and makes the world a slightly better place - why not do it? I think Photography (particularly the purist forms) fit this mantra quite well.

    Additionally, Photography makes you See Differently, and in a good way. It's been said a passionate photographer will live 300 yrs - not a bad reason to do it as well!

    That's pretty inspirational MrCallow. I'm at a junction where I've lived the corporate world 10yrs followed by my own business for 8 and thinking about elevating the arts to the exclusion of the rest. We need to hear stories like yours ...:cool:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2004
  17. ian_greant

    ian_greant Member

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    Each of us is what we are.. nothing more, nothing less.
    The doing is more important than the understanding.

    or in other words.. it's better to make pictures than think about why you want to make them.

    That's the best I can come up with after two years of navel gazing, self doubt, the pursuit of meaning.

    Cheers,
    Ian
     
  18. papagene

    papagene Membership Council Council

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    Scooter,
    You should have asked the guy in the kayak/canoe what he was doing paddling around, wasting time spending money on frivolous toys and such.
    It seemed that every time I seemed to be at a point where my career in the arts was about at a point to move forward, something would happen where I would have to give up more of my creative time to support the family. I have five years left of this great societal pressure to be a man and take care of my responsibilities.
    Then it's back into the arts on a more elevated level. When we send in the check for my younger daughter's senior year in college, we're gonna pack up and move and not tell the kids!!:wink:!!
    It will be my time again to pursue my dreams.
    gene
     
  19. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    I was going to ask why you didn't ask him why he was in the middle of river, not making money! It's a common response... do you do weddings, you should sell them, etc... there's never a, can I buy that print! Something about photography that makes people think you should be making money out of it, or worse, they can make money out of it! My wife makes greeting cards and the 1st question is usually, is it cheap to make them.

    Couple of semi-related stories...

    When we were building our house I had a darkroom on the plans. When we showed the builder (husband and wife team) their response to viewing the plans went something like this... them : "what's this room" me : "a darkroom... I make B&W prints for a hobby" them : "a what?". After we'd moved in, we had them back for lunch to say thankyou (they did a good job!) and I gave them a framed print. They (esp. she) was genuinely touched. It was probably just having recieved a 'thankyou' but I'd like to think it was also the fact that it was something unique, handcrafted with care!

    Our camera club has a B&W exhibition each year and it's in a bout 2 weeks time. I've been trying to select and print my prints. We can display up to 3 and I've got 5 printed to choose from. For a 3rd opinion, I bought them to work. One of the prints ( http://www.photocritique.net/g/s?zzaivn-p22181520 ) I was pleased with but didn't know how it would be percieved. AS a landscape, it's a bit arty! You can't see it in the scan but when you stick your nose on the print, you can pick out the city skyline in the distance. I had two people react similar to this pic (the other pics got the usual things like, I like this one, etc). They looked at it, didn't say anything, moved a bit closer, looked around, moved closer and whammo, uttered 'ahhhh, you can see the city' or similar. Which was why I printed it so light, to make you discover something (the city skyline is the obvious one, but there are other things when you look closely) I had other people that were still cool to it even after having the detail pointed out, but I've decided to use that image because of the reactions it got. My other two prints are going to have to do with "I like this one" reactions! :smile:

    Edit : Actually, you can see the skyline in the scan if you stick your nose on the monitor :smile:
     
  20. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    I stuck my nose on the monitor and all it did was leave a grease print....would have liked to see the city line....I think it makes for an interesting image when you discover the city line.....
     
  21. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    I think it very nice print (and I was going to say so at photocritique but had to register).
    Great cityscape - (wiping my grease spot off the monitor) :smile:
     
  22. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    I agree completely. My little piece of cube land has proved to be a place I can hang some prints and view them several times a day. I peruse them for both pleasure and critique, seeing if they stand up on their own over the days.

    A side benefit is anyone who enters the cube sees matted B&W photos on 3 of the walls. Kind of sets the mood I think. Some people actually get interested.
     
  23. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    You've lucky neighbours IMO :smile: . John.
     
  24. anyte

    anyte Member

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    I don't know why I keep doing it. I can lose myself in the act of photographing but once I put the lens cap on and set the camera down I'm all alone. I hardly know what I'm doing. My equipment isn't worth mentioning. I don't develope my own photos. I've never taken a class. I'm not creating art or trying to express something. It's just photos - and color ones at that. I don't do it as a living. I've no aim to work professionally. I'm too much an amatuer for this board, too analog for that board, too much a purist for just about everyone. I haven't taken one photo of note, not one worth framing. I feel nothing but doubt and insecurity until the camera is in my hands, then I forget all the pain. I simply enjoy the process of making the best photos I can.

    And that folks is the end of my whine.
     
  25. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG anyte. You must be growing - I certainly feel like that just as I'm about to do better.
    juan
     
  26. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Scooter, I don't think I answered any of your questions with my first post. As I look around my cube, I have 2 prints from 2002, 2 from 2003, and 4 or 5 from 2004. These were taken with 35mm, 4x5, and 8x10. Irregardless of the film format, I can see a noticeable change, one for the better, over the last couple years.

    But I can also see I've gotten into a rut, in that the majority have been taken at a similar angle. Development of a style? - maybe. But now, I'm going to kick myself into breaking up what I see as a developing monotony. So a year from now, you should ask this question again, and we should talk about where we are at then.