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I never wanted this
or, accidentally devoting your life to images and how a RED Cinema Camera blew up my life
oh lord. oh lord. well I remember, don’t worry.
I never wanted to be a photographer.
I especially never wanted to become a fine art photographer. If I even am. You can debate that. Fine. I never wanted to aspire to become a fine art photographer.
I wanted to be a writer. A poet. A Novelist. maybe a filmmaker. A lover. Leonard’s heir. It’s bordering on the insane how full of ourselves youth makes us.
Some folks are born with a gulf between them and others to varying degrees, or you can argue perhaps a perceived gulf—known only to them, maybe only real to them, and my gulf as I ascended into young adulthood was profound.
Seems so very long back now. So far gone, those awkward days of trying to figure out how to speak like everyone spoke and pretend to care about what they cared about.
I've never been moved by fireworks.
Never Yee-haw’d in excitement.
Never Danced without being aware of my own beating heart and misplaced feet—Well that one time in drunk up and in full drag. Sure.
I’ve never moved easily through my days. I’ve never felt entirely comfortable around groups of men, or women. Most people are alien to me in motivation and action and I find them fascinating and repulsive in equal measure.
Cacophonous heart, racing mind and dis-ease with the everyday world gathered me up in a swell of curiosity and pulled me into the shapes I became over different periods of life. Young Punk Asshole. Father. Husband. Son. Perpetual Entrepreneur. Techie. Coder. Magazine Publisher. Painter. Actor, Director, Artistic Director, Sound Producer. Music Producer. Golf Addict. Pool Addict. Chess Addict. Hearbroke Drunkard. Photographer. So many versions of me and all of them equal parts accident and part of a search for something.
Words ran behind everything. always being marked down on little pieces of paper. Poems. Thoughts. Blogs. Half hearted novels. foolhardy ideas of life rich with feeling and the belief anything meant anything.
The hobbies turned obsessions turned parts of me stopped taking over once the camera became my life. The searching for that thing stopped.
Or. Then the camera came and the searching happened through the camera and questions could be asked of the world without offending those being asked. What does your body look like in this painfully soft light after a third of Southern Comfort? What does a city mean? Who is my family? Who is anyone? Where does that road go?
So many questions. So many days trying to find the answers. so much life lived without dis-ease. a tiny box unlocking the world, but making no sense of it.
That work had to be done yourself.
As we age, it’s claimed, our colon stops working as well. It absorbs less nutrients. You can eat the same amount and get less value. Your fucking colon is ruining your life. I love this idea because it feels like an apt description of nearly every organic process and life is the grandest organic process.
Everything eventually gives less nutrients. Love or raunchy sex. Politics. Our dreams. Even the lies you tell yourself when you pull your feet off the ground into the cool sheets. The very fabric of life is diminishment. Entropy will eat everything you love in time.
And so it was with my confusion over the world. And so it was with the wonders of the giant glass and steel towers jutting phallic from our city streets. And so it was with grainy black and white tussles of pubic hair and hip bones. And so, oh, so it was with the sun slowly setting and the land sprawling under light come laconic before me.
Even though I stood on that hill with you in undress and my hand on your throat and wanted everything. Wind pushing long grasses around our stupid feet and wanted. Even though I wanted so much it paralyzed me and you laughed that unforgivable little laugh melting everything we had like a stone of hail held against the prairie summer road. Even though, even still.
And so it was with everything. Every moment.
All the richness of heartbreak. sorrow. euphoria. The simple quiet of waiting on the last few minutes of laundry drying. Tumbling. All the tiny joys. A good meal. Seeing someone you love do well. The first snow. first rains. first cool nights of August unfolding.
So it should and shall, and will be. You cannot change the nature of existence however hard you hope against the truth of it. There will be beauty and loss. Suffering in amounts entirely unjust and unfair. Your heart will swell, and lay still for long periods. It will race and thrash against the folds of your ribcage. you’ll find it all too much and somehow not enough and this is how it’s meant to be.
Which is a very long way of saying I never meant to put myself in this box of photographer. I wanted to untie the world and use artistic forms to try to show you what lay just beneath our busy daily lives. be it the fire of young passion or the closing of the light.
I routinely make work I think is objectively good. sometimes objectively beautiful and as excited as I am while I’m in it, it often leaves me cold and empty later. I think of our attentions like a spotlight and when it’s swung onto this or that thing everything else falls aside. I make a lot of work in this way, forgetting myself, forgetting a perfect highlight isn’t the point.
Recently, my job exposed me to some Red Scarlet video footage(very high end cinema camera for you non camera nerds) and coloring it toppled my delicate balance sending me into fits of editing both photos and videos trying to understand why.
What I came up with is video at this level is like writing with images. The beauty of the motion like twisted lines falling off a page bringing that part of you places you didn’t expect to go.
I spent all week working on RED for work and my own footage after work. Nearly destroying my shoulder entirely and then spending the entirety of saturday trying to bring some of the things I’ve learnt backwards into photos but it went exactly opposite how you might expect because life has a sense of humour.
In the process of trying to get further from reportage and closer to memory in my edits I dreamt (literally came to me in a dream) up a way to trick Lightroom to give me more control over my middle greys and as soon as I did this I was able to control my tones in a way that I've never been able to before.
Shifting the edits deeply towards “The Medium Format” Look which is something i’ve been striving to for years.
To finally get to this level of tone control when i’ve been inspired by memory and the nostalgic side of video is near torture.
I never wanted to be a photographer. I never wanted to make literal reports of the world, as important as that is. I wanted to express something more complex and now there are two halves of me fighting over where to spend my time and energy.
I spent several days debating buying a RED and just switching to grabbing stills. Then I had the tone breakthrough. Now, I’m just not sure how to move forward.
The largest argument I can make for stills is I can physically make them with some regularity. Regardless of the back/shoulder/migraine/getting old problems. They live in isolation of a larger story in a way video cannot and literally every step of the process is just physically less demanding. Less time demanding.
I wish I could wrap this up with some inspiring answer.
I’ve written and not finished 4 newsletter’s in a row and I feel like you deserve one so let’s call this that. Unresolved. Like my fouled heart. unsettled. like my ambitions. and slowly giving way to the beautiful entropy. like all the universe.
Next post is going to be photo heavy. I want to share some of this new work and see how you like so that’s next.
Stay tuned to see where this goes and maybe even subscribe you animals.
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In the Air Tonight Cover - https://music.apple.com/ca/artist/sierra-eagleson/1350633358
If you need a video pro, hire Justus over at Rain Owl. He’s amazing and a good person too. Rain Owl: Video Production Victoria BC
More on this breakthrough to trick Lightroom in another newsletter. if you want to try to crack it yourself: ask yourself how could you get a grey card into lightroom using the profiles?