Quote Originally Posted by batwister View Post
Recently started reading Alec Soth's Little Brown Mushroom blog and this question is something I've thought about quite a bit recently.
Based on reading his thoughts over the years and a brief chance to speak with him after an Atlanta event, Soth strikes me as a bit of a Gloomy Gus.

Strand was amazing at the beginning, middle and end. Very few people maintain that high level of excellence, although Strand took about ten years off to work as a film maker, during which time he did very little still photography. Szarkowski said that Ansel Adams had about a 20 year peak before he began to fall into repetition.

Emmet Gowin (whom I met last week ) did great work at a young age and has been consistently very good. He's now 72 or so, still making great photographs and obviously very passionate about it. (His wife is lovely and looks nothing like the classic images would suggest.)

Sugimoto and Izu are doing amazing work in their 50s and 60s. Keith Carter, too. Carter didn't actually become known until about 40. Frederick Sommer was great right until the end.

Don't forget Avedon's "In the American West" which he started at age 56 and completed around age 62. Robert Adams didn't even pick up a camera until his 30s, and he's still going strong past 70.

Quote Originally Posted by batwister View Post
Thinking of my own demographic, Stephen Shore produced a lot of his work for Uncommon Places at 26. Lewis Baltz started his Prototype Works at 24. The funny one Soth mentions is Lartigue, who hit his peak at 11.
I would argue that Shore pretty much peaked creatively around that time. Baltz is not one of the more memorable photographers in the history of the medium.

Quote Originally Posted by batwister View Post
Personally, I think the lack of stamina that comes with age has little to do with it - particularly thinking of Paul Strand, whose later work, for me, is his best. Not mentioned much on the blog, but how productive we are at any given age surely has a great deal to do with external influences - the people you come into contact with, how inspired you are by your environment, MONEY! Living a life of uninhibited experience might be the most important factor in producing great creative work. Four walls in a one horse town don't stay inspiring for long.
Physical stamina is one thing. Mental stamina is quite another. You can get someone to carry your camera for you (like Izu, his 14x20 camera plus all the trimmings weighs 300 pounds) but it's hard to have someone see for you, although Richard Prince has that figured out! I think it takes a very strong mind and incredible willpower to work at the highest levels of photography. At what age you find that is probably irrelevant.

At 44, I personally refuse to believe that my peak years are behind me. Maybe someone needs to slap me. So much of what you see out there in PDN or American Photo tends to focus on the youth of photography, but most of it is uniformly uninspiring 35mm digital crap. It all looks the same.