would you give your life to photography?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by jordanstarr, Jun 16, 2007.

  1. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    it seems almost all great artists, revolutionaries, teachers, etc. all have one thing in common -that they give the vast vast majority of their life, thought and energy for their cause whether it is an imense lack of sleep, experimenting with drugs to alter perceptions of the mind, or put themselves in dangerous circumstances.

    i'm wonder if there is anyone in this forum who have dedicated their life to photography in one of these ways (having a job as a photographer or building your own darkroom doesn't really count in this case, unless the following includes you -not wedding photographers or sports event photographers; that kind of stuff). i'm talking about the people who will stand toes-over-the-edge of a 36 story building without safety gear on a windy day for the shot aiming straight down, by sneaking into a building by jimmying the door to the roof -that type of stuff. it would include photographers who take benzedrine to stay up all night to develop photos (similar to kerouac's approach to prose/spontaneous beat writing) or cannot look at anything in the physical world without wondering how they can capture it on film.

    if there are any of you out there and would care to share your story, i'd love to hear it. this isn't a contest to see how badass you are or anything like that -so exaggerations can be left at the door. i'm not trying to do this to compare my experiences or self to others. i'm just interested to see how many of you out there are willing to give your life to push film photography to a new level or die trying.
     
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  2. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    it is also not to alienate or draw the spotlight on certain people who have consciously decided to dedicate their life or well-being to photography. i would just be interested to hear how far some people take photography and what a day-in-the-life of them would consist of -just out of pure interest.
     
  3. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    I don't think "all great artists" did this, but you do have a point. I think just like in mountaineering it's all about "acceptable risk", and it's up to each person to decide where the lines get drawn and those lines also shift through time, as they have for me.

    I used to disappear into the north coast mountains of BC for 3 or 4 days at a time by myself and not tell anyone where I was going or for how long. Then I met my wife and that all changed.

    A couple years go by, then my wife and I took off one early October day to paddled the length of BC's coast for 6 months (before GPS and sattelite phones) and soon fell into a rythym of life where doing it was totally normal. It didn't seem dangerous at all, as long as we didn't impose our desire to continue traveling over what Nature was offering.

    Now we have a 5 year old daughter, and there's no way we would attempt such a trip in the winter with one so young.

    Balance is what it's all about now. My dad, being a product of his time and the culture of the workforce of his day, spent months away from home at a time as a chemical engineer as he went around the world doing research. Today, his eyes well up with tears knowing all those important developmental steps along the path of life he missed with his kids. We all know he was just doing what he had to do to not let us endure the childhood he had during the Depression. He made those choices to further his career, provide us with a good life, and it now pains him.

    However, I choose to be there for all my daughter's steps even though it may hinder any grand photography career or chance of fame and glory that I may have thought possible in my youth, and even though it means I make $5.00 less an hour than the starting wage at the local smelter, I'm a happy man :smile:

    Balance is the key...or somebody or something suffers in the end.

    Murray
     
  4. Jadedoto

    Jadedoto Member

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    Well, I'm not sure how far I'd go... I have snuck around on some roofs at nighttimes and done stupid stuff. Then again, as a teenager, that's in my blood!

    Who needs benzedrine (pauses to worship Kerouac and Ginsberg at my shrine) when you've got coffeehouses that are open late at night! :smile:


    I do admire those that go all-out for a shot, it's an inside joke within my group of friends at school (one of whom is a d****** photographer) that I'll either die on our trip out west by falling into a canyon, or early by cancer.
     
  5. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    sorry...i didn't mean "all", but almost all of them anyway.

    the factor of a kid or a loved one would certainly bring the level of "acceptable risk" under question. it is a very good point. i enjoyed your story very much by the way murray -very inspirational and zen-ish. i would be interested to see the photos you got while in seclusion.
     
  6. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Hi jordanstarr,

    I wrote my response to your post because I see people of phenominal wealth held in the highest regard...despite how their kids may have grown up not knowing their parents but knowing their nannies better. Kids left on the sidelines while mommy or daddy disregard them to further their artistic career would be no better off. We were lucky in that my Mom was always there for us...you touched a nerve I guess :wink:

    Here's some scans from back in the mists of time when our scanner was working;

    http://www.apug.org/gallery/showgallery.php?ppuser=4292

    Murray
     
  7. DrPablo

    DrPablo Member

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    "Giving your life to photography" is not the same thing as "risking your life" for photography.

    Being willing to risk death just is not the same thing as being willing to die.

    I mean we all consciously risk death every time we go hiking, and we accept that risk as part of the experience. But that doesn't mean we're willing to die for that experience.

    Having kids just means that you're more conscious of the risk, and more cognizant of the implications of your death. But that doesn't mean you were willing to die before. It just meant you were willing to incur risk.
     
  8. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    I'll take much bigger risks with a camera in my hands (or on a tripod) than I will without one. Well, not so much 'risks', but I'll still go much closer to a cliff edge with one than without.

    The other thing about people who take their photography seriously is that they waste a lot less time and money on things that others think important, such as clothes, cars, etc. Their priorities are different. 'Take what you want, and pay for it, saieth the Lord'.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
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  9. wfe

    wfe Member

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    Well said Roger and I agree

    Cheers,
    Bill
     
  10. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

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    In college, my school's outing club's (unofficial) motto was in fact "bring 'em back alive." But that didn't stop us from going out on trips--we took risks, but we tried not to take stupid risks.

    Risk can come in a lot of different forms--financial, social, political, mental, physical. Being willing to take a risk or make a sacrifice doesn't necessarily guarantee that you'll end up with anything interesting in your art (or your life), but playing it safe all the time pretty much guarantees that you won't.
     
  11. DrPablo

    DrPablo Member

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    Right. If someone asked a risky photographer in advance if they were willing to die for a photograph, I bet most would say no.

    I'm the same way with my job. I do medical work in Africa every couple of years, and I'm willing to take all the inherent risks. I would never say I'm willing to die in order to do it. But I am willing to risk malaria, waterborne disease, tuberculosis, political instability, crime, and dangerous roads and vehicles in order to do it.

    Perhaps it's a rationalization, but the distinction can change your behavior.
     
  12. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Back in high school we studied Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which presumes that we must meet our physiological needs before our psycological needs. Last on the list of presumed needs was self-actualization. Even at that young age I knew students - artists and musicians who would eschew meals, sleep and other comforts in pursuit of their passion. It seemed, that at least in terms of artists, Maslow had it wrong.

    Later, when I was at university as a music major it seemed that even more of my peers would live for and through their art. A couple of people I knew well followed their art to the point of physical and emotional collapse. These were not thrill seekers or adrenaline junkies, they were simply artists who forgot that there were other things necessary to life than art.

    On the subject of risk takers, I often think of the words of Helen Keller:

    "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure."

    As for me, I would not presume to name myself an artist in this sense. I love arts, and devote much of my energies and many hours of my life to them. For me, that is enough.

    Regards,
     
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  13. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I am working on a solarization photographic which started about 5years ago.
    I walk to work and everyday and backed up to my work is a metal crushing plant.
    For years I passed this place and saw all the crushed metal and thought that it could be interesting.
    I started to go in through the fence and photographing the metal on the yard floor on weekends when the workers were not there.
    I was able to do this for a few years on Sundays and no one new better. Until about two months ago I was caught in the yard by security. Basically they yelled at me and asked what the hell I was doing there. Sheephishly I responded *just taking pictures.*
    They were on the outside of the fence and I was inside. When they made moves to come inside I hightailed it through the backway to my lab and hid like a chickenshit.
    I am still going to breakin but I have to let time heal their memorys and next time I will have a lookout. Now that I have started I have to finish.
     
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  15. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Toffle,

    It's always struck me that Maslow was painting with a brush so broad as to verge upon the bleedin' obvious, i.e. this hierarchy doesn't apply to all people at all times, but it's a fair rule of thumb for most societies. Colin Wilson takes the argument further in a couple of his books but it looks to me as if he his merely using it as a convenient peg on which to hang his other theories. The point is that in the long run your fellow students already had shelter, food and companionship and could therefore afford to indulge themselves. If they had been sleeping rough, hungry and lonely, I doubt they'd have devoted quite so much time to their art.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  16. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    My new plan is to just have a supermodel as a girlfriend. I will make snaps of her sprawling across the sofa and coyly peeking from under the covers, and become famous. Just put the camera on "P."

    It's hard work and requires a lot of 24/7 attention and administration, but I think it's a good strategy.

    (PS: it is hard to make more pictures when dead. We each give in our own way)
     
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  17. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I have devoted my life to photography in one way or another. Several times I have put my life on the line (so to speak) in order to get a photograph, as you can see in the aerial photos in my gallery. I have been in or near exploding planes, missiles and bombs to get the pictures I wanted. Most of the time I was so startled, I missed the picture of the year. Many times I was caught without my camera.

    I worked at Kodak for 32 years to bring out new products for you guys who love film, and now I'm trying to pass on my know-how in emulsion making and coating.

    For this, the thanks I get are people who call me a fraud, a liar and a fake. I even hear that some people claim that I have lied about my background.

    It is quite strange to me that people feel so threatened by my work that they must start a campaign of nasty comments circulating in e-mail and PMs behind my back. I find it odd that they go to other forums and post nasty comments about my work.

    This kind of attack only adds to the stress level, so in that regard I continue to give my life, day by day, to the cause of analog photography.

    Sorry for the rant. It is just that I never knew what kind of people I was trying to help. I know it is a minority, but nevertheless it is disturbing. I truly hope that the master photographers out there are not subject to this sort of thing.

    PE
     
  18. dmr

    dmr Member

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    PE, please don't ever think that your postings are not appreciated. I for one, if I see a post by PE, I know it will be relevant and authoritative.

    When PE talks, people listen! Please don't forget this.

    One thing there is about this world is that there will always be more equine derrieres than there will be equines. :smile: I guess there is no law against being a total jerk, so unfortunately jerks will keep on being jerks. :sad:

    On the forums (fora?) I visit (and I admit that I do not read those that are known to have a high noise level) your name is held with great respect.

    If anybody speaks ill of you, it's most likely a form of immature envy.

    What I really wish you would do is write a book, maybe even a compendium of articles you've posted here over the years.

    I for one appreciate your efforts. Even though I will probably never mix an emulsion or coat paper or film, I follow the write-ups and photos of your workshops, and because of this I have a strong appreciation of the effort and the precision it takes to produce a quality film and photographic paper.

    But back to the subject ... No, no photograph is worth the price of a farm. :smile: :smile:
     
  19. Shawn Rahman

    Shawn Rahman Subscriber

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    Putting your life on the line in an inherently dangerous situation (like Photo Engineer's aerials) is vastly different from "willing to die" to get the right photograph. The former is courageous (to a point), and the latter is just plain idiotic.

    There's very little in this life worth dying for, and photography is just not one of those things.
     
  20. Murray

    Murray Member

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    Somehow I feel that this has drifted off what I think was first posted. Yes at one point in my life I lived in my van and and worked as cook in truck stops so that I could afford to take photographs. My 8X10 Deardorff a couple of lenses and a box of film was ALL there was in life. Yes, I was reasonably successful after many years, but that was not the reason to take photographs. I had a passion to find the perfect lighting (light was to me the most important part of any photograph, not what I photographed). I would spend days to get the perfect light. But, at some part I lost the passion and got out of photography. Now, 25 years later, I am trying to regain that passion. I just dug out my large format and am now trying to chase the light. Money and comfort has never been my interest. It has never made me feel alive like when you produce a great photograph.
     
  21. thebanana

    thebanana Subscriber

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    Whoaa!! I thought the post said "wife", and I stressed out for a minute:D
     
  22. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    DMR and others;

    Thanks for the kind comments. I did not make that post to gain kudos, but rather to point out that things are not all rosy behind the scenes no matter how nice things are here on-line. Nor are they all nice elsewhere.

    It was also to point out that there are many routes to giving of one's life to photography. Stress is one of them.

    Murray said it well above. The first photo that I posted here gave me great satisfaction, but it required a lot of hard work and concentration along with risk. The satisfaction was in seeing it published on the front page of several national newspapers, and the disappointment was in seeing the note "Official US Air Force Photo". So, one of my best shots was never listed under my name.

    The saving grace was being given the negative as a gift by one of my commanding officers.

    PE
     
  23. loman

    loman Subscriber

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    I feel that it's very few defining photographers who went "on the road"!
    The only photographer I can think of (all though I'm sure there are more) is W. Eugene Smith. A lot of photographers gave their lives for photography for sure, but not by pumping themselves full of drugs, but simply because they were obsessed by the medium. You cannot be a great artist without being obsessed about the media you work in! Of course if you walk around thinking about photography all day long, it's going to have some personal consequenses. Again, I know of very few great artists, who also were noted for having a great personal life. As Faulkner once said, you gotta be ready to kill your own mother to get the book done. To some degree it's about choice. If you have the talent, are you willing to invest the time to explore it, let it unfold? It's a simple fact that what you do a lot you become good at, and if you do it even more you become better.
    I also think it was Faulkner who once said when he was asked what makes a good writer: 99% talent 99% selfdisciplin and 99% hard work.
     
  24. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    beyond debating whether dying for photography is worth it or not, i was interested in hearing stories from those who have made the material, emotional, and physiological sacrifices to "live photography" (so to speak -i'll probably get 2038420984 responses regarding this phrase) or making photography their sole life ambition -even just for a week, month or year. in other words, making photography their crack (but instead of hitting the pipe; hitting their shutter release) by discarding everything in their life for this addiction.
    i didn't intend on this to be a debate on whether it is worth it or not as it is obvious 99% of the people will say they wouldn't die for photography. i'm looking for the 1% who would or at least have at some point in their life (even if it was for a short time) given themselves to photography to do as it will to their emotional, physical or financial state.
     
  25. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    I think what you are asking for is not going to be put out there by the people that actually are living the way you describe. It is a conversation that is to be had among friends, the kind of friends that are supportive, not for the internet.

    Patrick
     
  26. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Patrick,

    Yup, they're out taking pictures, not faffing around on the internet.

    What's my excuse? My wife's not well. It'll pass but we can't travel as much at the moment.

    Cheers,

    Roger