self criticism, self doubt, and the ever elusive pursuit of meaning....
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.
I think this sums it up-it's in your blood
"An object never performs the same function as its name or its image"-Rene Magritte
"An image of a dog does not bite"-William James applied to photography
it makes my heart sing and i can't image my life without photography, it is that simple
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!
[font=Book Antiqua][color=black]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![/color][/font]
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.
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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.
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!
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.
Originally Posted by Francesco
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.
Originally Posted by mrcallow
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!
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"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive" - Howard Thurman