I'm late but maybe I can make it worth the wait.
I'm on my last of several very rare days off and I used them to watch a lot of high level chess, play some decidedly bad chess, work on photos, shovel snow and make some really crappy prints.
but all the while chewing on a thought.
This is the second time I've wrote this weeks newsletter and where the last stopped was after I said "I've spent the last 3 years trying to improve my edits to be on par with my favorite film work." and with that line came sudden realization how much time I've invested into exploring editing on the edges hoping like a fool to make digital ever have the character of film stocks.
never mind the question of why we all feel so emotionally bound to film in the first place. hold that thought.
This fool's errand started while nursing my mother to her horrific end. A time of high stress, high emotion and little opportunity for creativity or time/energy to go shoot. In short, I began a line of argument with myself because I needed something to chew on within the very strict bounds of the reality I was living.
It, then, continued as we blossomed into the isolation and perplexed state of pandemic. With all the horrors of other people laid bare by what might be carried on their whispers.
And has, now, yet continued whilst the world pretends there's nothing sinister about because I for one, believe what you need to believe I won't begrudge you your whimsy, have not exited the gift shop and joined you in the lobby of this horror show we call 2022.
Meaning, simply, my life is still empty and isolated but for brief moments of abandon. I have my reasons for living like I do and they aren't relevant to this outside of explaining I've spent a lot of time in front of computers and when you do that you find work and problems to solve inside computers.
Since we surrendered mother in violence, without malice and, bordering on the most honest kind of human love, I've done nothing but surrender. We've all, to a man, given more ground than we thought we might--even if for some it was the ground of never giving in again and living in spite and anger.
Either way you went in the last few years your world shrunk somehow.
But what does this have to do with photography you might ask.
Take this frame of my Mother and my daja making dinner up at the family cabin in 2005. What do you think the next frame would be?
If you guessed the steaming pots with their curling watery clouds and the sun busting through on them, you win. but you also lose.
What I took away from surveying the scene above was that the light on the vapor and pots was insane, and it was. But boiling pot vapor in west light is not hard to recreate any old time you want.
Photos of your mom and kid making food after a long day at the cabin are a bit harder to make on demand.
We make photos of the world around us and there's so very much world around us that we have to make choices about what to capture or more directly, what matters to us at any given moment.
However true the above is you still can only take photos of the world you actually have around you. I cannot take photos of the surface of the moon, or the nape of my lover's neck, or my mother's shriveled hands--which I did, and now cannot come to share. I cannot take pictures of so very much I think I just kept on down a road of technical challenges, of color theories, or understanding tonalities by default.
As I emerged from my nursing responsibilities wore physically, emotionally, and mentally thin as I can ever remember being in early 2020, it was not the time to start anew and in some ways the pandemic gave me a beat to catch my breath but I still knew that what I had been working on up till then, which is basically "This, Here, Light" was effectively a dead end for me.
Even if I could ignore the culture war between the urban and rural which was taking the shine off the romantic notions I was holding about this life, I had still travelled every road in about 40 square kilometers (a tidy 1600k patch) in nearly every season, every light situation, every weather situation and it wasn't engaging my heart anymore. maybe it was grief, but maybe just maybe it was boredom.
When your muse has left the room and your world is rapidly shrinking it's just so easy to keep grasping for that technical challenge just outside your reach. It's so easy to fall into theory and hide from the truth of things.
and I see now I've done that for a while.
I see, too, that somewhere I shifted from oil stained fingers smudging vintage scrounged lenses and shooting through and behind anything and everything, using color like a weapon, crushing blacks like a blackout drunk and probably more than anything just finding an emotional core to an image however i come to express it, over worrying about crop, or tonality or balance.
I've spent a lot of time this past few weeks looking backwards at my work and trying to understand how much was conscious change, how much was growth, how much was tools, and situation. How much was changes of life, age, or will?
It's a complex stew and one without a clear answer or resolution.
I feel like the solution for the moment is to surrender some more ground to time. To surrender the need to understand everything right this moment. To be right about what I'm saying. To tread a bit slower.
I always believed, and actively worked towards the idea that growth requires periodic destruction and I've done my fair share of destroying. But I don't want more destruction just now.
So here's what I purpose. I'm going to take the next few weeks of this newsletter to go back in time to old edits of old photos which to my mind still stand as good work after all this time despite how primitive the equipment was, or how shoddy the technique and see if I can establish for my own self at least what it is that still makes me feel something about photography.
My world isn't going to magically expand to be dramatically different than it is now any time soon. It will take work and time to win back territorial posts. to win back the world, or as much of it as I can stomach.
That doesn't mean some analysis won't be immediately helpful. trying to collect thoughts on what changed, what remained and what still moves can only help shape the work to come.
After re-reading this I realized that everything in every image above is now gone from my life, or gone from the world aside from my sweet daja. I'm not sure what to do with that realization.
I always loved a good eulogy.
Okay, I will close out this week's newsletter much better read than my drivel. Enjoy it and see you sunday. I hope.