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  1. #1

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    What is all this for? Ennui and the art of black and white...

    What am I doing? What's the point? Where is all this going anyway? I print and I print and I print. Then shoot, then develop and then print some more. So I can have a huge pile of prints accumulating on the shelf in my darkroom. So I can get a couple seconds of hollow joy from the occasional nice image. Before joining the others in pile after that brief look - or maybe pinned to the darkroom wall if it has some small flaw that disqualifies it from the PORTFOLIO.

    Why am I doing all this again? Isn't there some point to this pursuit? Wasn't this once something that was fulfilling and gave me measure of joy in my life? Where'd that disappear off to?

    Oh, I know just what to do! I'll put them all out there! I'll get a website! I'll scan and scan and scan and scan until I can scan no more! The beauty, integrity and utter QUALITY of my work and my vision will surely be recognized by, if not the ART WORLD AT LARGE, than at least some quality gallery will notice and beat a path to my door. My photography will stand out and be noticed! Finally I'll get the recognition I so roundly deserve for all my hard work!

    Oh, sure I know that there are already 6.8E16 images out there of every conceivable subject of every conceivable medium and every conceivable format to "compete" with, but my pictures are different! They are made on FILM! (right, no the camera doesn't have the little color screen in the back) They are BLACK and WHITE images, made by HAND! In a REAL DARKROOM! MY photos are the REAL THING and that HAS to be worth something, right? ..."what to you mean I should get with the times and get a digital camera like everyone else?"..

    Well. To ME they are worth something then. Or used to be. I can no longer recall the reason I started doing this. I have been overcome with ennui and sense of hopelessness. Not only can I not come up with anything worth making a picture of, let alone taking the time to do the requisite work required to get it onto a piece of paper for all (I mean me) to see.

    There are no more Walker Evanses or Edward Westons or Richard Avedons anymore. I don't know why? There are lots of great photographers out there to aspire to, just no more famous ones. And the odds that I would ever be counted among them, well, I'll just stick to the Powerball dream, it's more likely! Not that I'd really want to be FAMOUS anyway, just maybe recognized. A little. Or not, I don't know.

    Note to reader: I'm not technically proficient enough to insert a .wav file with the little violin playing in the background of the text, so forgive me....

    Maybe I just need a break. I have to force myself to go in the darkroom lately and then when I get there, I don't see anything worth doing.

    Does anyone else ever feel like this???

  2. #2
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    This happens. And this too shall pass. Maybe you need to put down the camera for a while, go do something else, maybe you need to find a new inspiration - try doing something completely different from what you've been doing photographically. Try alt-process prints, or working in color, or some kind of mixed media project. Change your subject matter- shoot rocks instead of trees, or portraits, or naked people, or clothed people, or buildings or abstracts or just stuff on the street. Maybe go read some books (without pictures in them) to get your mind working imaginatively. Listen to a lot of music for inspiration.

  3. #3
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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    Following on from Scott's reply, it's important that your photography matches other interests. It's an adjunct not a chore, so think about what you are trying to say with the images.

    It also helps to deviate occasionally, after making straight silver gelatin FB prints for years a chance meeting with an APUG lurker has made me begin Platinum/Palladium printing.

    Ian

  4. #4
    jp498's Avatar
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    I like photography and it scratches my creative itch. It helps me see and perceive slightly better.

    Who likes it and why they like it are things I have no control over, so I don't worry about it. There are enough things to worry about that I have to decide what is worth worrying about and what is not. As an amateur, who likes my photos is less of a worry than raising a family, paying the bills, or staying healthy. A pro might have to work to make sure his/her clients like the photos.

    You need a purpose. You don' t have to follow it constantly, but it can drive your creativity and make your hobby useful and provide people connections who value your involvement/contribution. If there is a cause you care about and can help with photography; do it. Maybe it's teaching for a private school or scouts, maybe it's shooting cats/dog/people for a local shelter, maybe it's for a church, hospital, or social service agency in your town? Maybe some landscapes for a local conservation association?

  5. #5
    lns
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    Quote Originally Posted by Exeter2010 View Post
    ... Maybe I just need a break. I have to force myself to go in the darkroom lately and then when I get there, I don't see anything worth doing.

    Does anyone else ever feel like this???
    I agree that a break sounds like a good idea. If it's not a job, or not necessary for your health, there's no point forcing yourself to do something.

    For me, I become more or less absorbed with different things regularly. Sometimes I only want to use my medium format camera and have no interest in 35mm; sometimes the opposite. Sometimes, like now, I'm trying to shoot color so I don't do much black and white. Sometimes I'm biking too much to photograph. Or I'm going through a phase where I'm reading a lot. Or cooking a lot. Or gardening. Or some other interest captures my attention. We all have only a limited amount of free time after all.

    I don't really have a lot of guilt about that. The cameras will be there later. I guess I also don't judge my efforts as stringently as you do. I'm just trying to please myself, and if I don't like something, I just think how I can do better next time.

    Maybe after your break, you could try something fun and different, like a few rolls of super fast film, or some color slide film, or something cross-processed, or anything different enough to remove yourself from the loop of discontent you're feeling with your current efforts.

    However, if you really are feeling "overcome with ennui and sense of hopelessness," as you say, then maybe there's something deeper going on than just temporary discontent with a hobby. I hope you find some good guidance here. If possible, maybe there's also someone in your life with whom you can talk one-to-one.

    I hope you soon feel better.

    -Laura

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Exeter2010 View Post
    Maybe I just need a break. I have to force myself to go in the darkroom lately and then when I get there, I don't see anything worth doing.

    Does anyone else ever feel like this???
    Sure, that's why I have exposed film stashed in my refrigerator, for a time when I feel like dealing with it. Feel free to take a break--if photography isn't making you happy right now, do something else for a while. Or shoot and set aside film for later. Or indulge yourself in GAS.
    Pentax: 6x7 MLU
    Olympus: OM-1n
    Graflex: Miniature (2x3) Speed Graphic

  7. #7
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    It is for fun. If it ain't fun, why are you doing it?
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  8. #8
    David Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Exeter2010 View Post
    There are no more Walker Evanses or Edward Westons or Richard Avedons anymore.
    Worthy models, but they belong to another era.

    Quote Originally Posted by Exeter2010 View Post
    There are lots of great photographers out there to aspire to, just no more famous ones.
    Yes there are! Some of the un-famous ones are right here in DFW and maybe you just need to meet and share with them.

    My own photography was stagnant for years until I hooked up with other local guys and now I no longer feel like I'm the only one doing this in a vacuum.

    Watch this board for meet-ups - they happen occasionally. Although right now we're all probably staying indoors out of this record heat! Hey, you might even suggest a time and place yourself. That's what I did when I joined apug years ago and here we are ...

  9. #9

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    Thank you all for your kind and sensible replies. I say 'kind' because I really appreciate not being flayed to the bone for publicly whining and venting a bit about going through a creative tough spot. I'm thinking seriously about taking the predominant advice here and maybe take a little time out from all things photographic and see if that helps. I am definitely behind on my reading!

    Ironically, my wife and I went to the Amon Carter museum (in Fort Worth, TX) today and there is an Ansel Adams exhibit up with about 30-40 large prints from his "Portfolio V and VI" collections, along with some earlier work. It was inspiring to see firsthand the absolutely gorgeous tonality and quality in the master's prints. Also a little disheartening in that it will be a long time before I can make anything that comes even remotely close to that in my own work. Probably did me some good to get a little perspective in any case.

    C'est la vie...and best wishes to you all...

  10. #10
    Leighgion's Avatar
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    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sums up all the motivation I'll ever need to do photography in the second minute of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Shwsv22X4w0

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