Discover more from wide open
On roots, black and white and what persists.
I've been struggling for some time. maybe since my mother died (after a prolonged fight with cancer, with me riding as head nurse). it's challenging to untangle what is situational like grief, or what is boredom from covering the same 40 square kilometers for a decade, or what is malaise from the state of the world, and on and on.
What is easy enough to say is that for some time I'm feeling detached from my own work. I know it's mine but it doesn't register in my heart often. I feel so little these days and awareness is dangerous if you want to make anything that can persist.
You have to be just living your life and experiencing things and loving those things and working out how to best capture and share those things. Being aware of your time and place and situation during taints everything.
Or, maybe, I'm just powered by equal measures of nostalgia and curiosity. The curiosity pulling me forward and the nostalgia later pulling me backward all the while ending up somewhere in the middle.
but, now, not for some time.
Few of you will know this but the first images that turned my focus to photography were shot on a borrowed Nikon e950 with it's whopping 1.92 megapixel sensor. really.
The oldest surviving photo I have which I still remember taking and being so excited by was in October 2002, 20 years ago this month. I was on a grocery trip and found some leaves frozen into an alley puddle. I remember the joy so clearly.
I really fell in love a with photography a couple years before that when I was on a road trip to Vancouver Island in 2000. We roamed long beach in the mist and fog and sea stacks and I was more moved by those images than anything I had ever done.
Everything was black and white jpgs, like my heart. Those images are lost now.
Later, in 2002, I was able to buy that same camera used from my friend and started learning light and shadow. Learning how to photograph. Learning what to photograph. Learning how to make what i felt show up in the dumb camera box.
The Summer of 2004 I spent the entirety of it exploring the back yard learning how to translate light and dark. literally the entirety of the summer. days and nights. me and shell would wander the streets at night making long exposures.
The above images from 2004 are all 500px square. effectively useless today. not printable. But, they stick in my mind even now. The clarity of purpose. The sheer beginners audacity. All on a 2mpx camera.
it's worth saying there was no instagram or mass audiences for your work to find in 2004. You'd shoot because you loved to shoot and maybe wanted to either find commercial work or if you were ridiculous wanted to take on the masters and build a body of work.
I never much cared about commercial work but i was absolutely ridiculous.
I wanted to share the torrential swell of feeling pervading everything around me. I wanted to show people how remarkable the world can be.
Of course, this later expanded to portraits and nudes. the gravity of nudes in photography is hard to explain but it's very real. Nowadays, instagram has largely killed the nude. It's just not a good return on your time for photos no one can ever see.
And through all this it was almost always black and white.
Color came more often as the editing tools improved, as the sensors improved but the heart of it was always black and white.
Even deep into the street era black and white was the main focus.
But color was something that slowly took over. I invested thousands of hours into trying to perfect color and now I sit here and think, having not at all mastered anything, how have my compositions failed in pursuit of color. How has my focus on color pulled me away from the part of images that for me speak directly to your brain and by line and form and tone.
What have I given up in this trade?
This is what i've been mulling over as I prepared to exit instagram. What am I even doing. Being unhappy. making work that doesn't move me. Sharing because I don't want the algorithm to forget about me. Literally killing myself trying to use savage tools (modern color in photo editors) to reproduce something that just happened naturally in film. something predictable and bankable and something firm you could build a body of work on. why.
I don't have answers. I'm still deep in a funk and deep in my head. Still not feeling anything that resembles curiosity or joy, or even nostalgia. So many of the things I cared about for so long we're later soiled by human humanness it's hard to feel nostalgic about a large body of my work. Perhaps in another 20 years.
I have been seriously considering purchasing a monochrome only camera. but I really don't need it to make black and white images. It's just that siren's call for new gear to jolt your enthusiasm.
I've also considered now, I'm carving out this little space to do more focused project work and concentrating on a topic, a style and you guessed it black and white work for a while. Maybe throwing a year at form again would do my eye wonders.
In the end, when I wander back through my archives and see what still tugs at my heart it's invariably black and white.
That there, that probably means something.
Thanks, if you made it all the way to the end. I know I promised a weekly digest but I have to write when I can write and this week is one giant post about fall emo paradoxes of non-feeling. this will round out into something more structured in time, in any case, thank those of you who've followed along.