EDIT (INTERLUDE)

Finally back to the edit/sequence of my project. There was some delay because my printer broke. Had to drag my sorry ass down to the store to get a new one. (P800, in case you’re interested.)

But enough about that . . . what about the edit?

I spent the last year and a half shooting this project. It began with a broad conception and I photographed all sorts of things that felt like they might work, fit. Now, seven weeks into the edit/sequence, I’m beginning to hone it, to zero in. And, as I thought, as I wanted, it seems to be about (for lack of a better word) some dark shit: the potential (maybe even the propensity) of homo sapiens to fuck things up. (Or something like that. I don’t know. In the end it’ll be up to you to decide, if you see it.)

In the meantime . . .

One of the things I’ve been thinking about, as I look at what I’ve done, study these photos and try to shape them, is, what if things get better? What if the First World isn’t as broken as it seems, what if the premise of this project is wrong?

But if you look at, study, history, if you consider the long view, it’s kind of obvious that the “prosperity” and “progress” of the last half of the 2oth Century (the era we’re familiar with and, so, think of as normal) was an aberration. Planet Earth has always been a tough place. Yes, homo sapiens have mostly progressed, but that progression always comes with, is situated within, a background of violence and repression. And often that background becomes foreground.

So I suppose I needn’t worry too much that things will get better in the short run. And, man, how perverted does that sound? Worrying that things will get better because it might fuck up my project, my projection? That’s just weird, right?

I mean, of course I hope things get better. But, to quote Robert Frank: “Look out for hope”. The beauty of that sentence being that it cuts both ways.

And, anyway, hoping ain’t worth shit. Kinda like thoughts and prayers.

So here I am, in the dark place this work is taking me. Not that I don’t find joy in the small things: walking the dog, cooking dinner, working and learning, trying. But I’ll leave changing the world, and hoping, to someone else.

Finally, here are some words I found when I was well into the shooting for this project. They seem to sum up what I’m working towards . . .

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”
-Bertolt Brecht

THE NEXT FOUR YEARS

This post is reprinted (and slightly modified, with lots of extra photos) from the original Medium article. It is a continuation of a previous drool. article which outlined my first five years as a photographer. This is the next four years . . .

LATE TORONTO 1981-84

I wanted to shoot my life. That included my home life and the small circle of friends Cin and I had gathered. But I also wanted to shoot a larger life: sex and the body, violence and life in the city.

I finally figured out, too, that if you shoot with an open mind, let the camera do the work while your brain is somewhere in the background, you end up with what I call “piles of data”. That data can later be mined; you will find rich seams that run through it and, by carefully editing and sequencing, by arranging images into arcs of non-verbal narrative, you can define something.

I felt I had gone from emulating Robert Frank, from shooting the expected point of view (expected, if you have studied the history of photography), and was moving towards using photography to define my own intelligence, my own point of view, my own politics.

7 YEAR ITCH/TORONTO 1894

In love, like life, you go through phases. Passions fade and shift, what was once new turns into the dull routine of existence. One way to combat this is to try to live and learn in the subtle shifts and textures of a long-term thing. That is what Cin and I decided to do. Without much discussion, it just seemed like us. Determined.

We had a small circle of friends in Toronto, we’d go out, do stuff. Cin was working in kitchens, being a receptionist, making art. I was working on production lines, taking photos. We were both still interested and figuring things out. Things like what did we have to say and how can we express it, how can we get along, what do we want to do? You know, the standard stuff.

Cin and I never really had 2 nickels to rub together. End of the month we’d be rolling quarters to make the rent. One time we were so broke I had to sell the gold ring my grandfather had left me. We were approaching 30 and getting tired of what we were doing and where we were going in Toronto. So we decided, without much discussion, to move to England. Before we met Cin had lived there for a year, I had spent 4 months in London. Let’s go back, we thought.

Problem is, as we were soon to discover, you can’t go back . . .

To be continued at a later date . . .

TO CALL YOURSELF AN ARTIST

I was at a talk a while ago. One of the speakers, a university professor, fine art faculty, said his university graduated 30 artists every year.

I beg to differ.

Art colleges don’t graduate artists, they graduate, well . . . they graduate people with a fine art degree. Whether you actually become an artist or not remains to be seen. Art students referring to themselves as artists seems a bit premature to me. Sure, it’s a swell idea, just not one grounded in anything real.

Even after graduation there is no guarantee that you will become an artist, that you will have anything to say. How many art school grads fall by the wayside after a few years, sick of being broke and frustrated, sick of finally figuring out that they are not, in fact, artists?

Because being an artist is something you earn. It’s not an idea.

The same holds true, in my opinion, for those who have stuck with it, practiced. The need to label yourself as an artist is an indulgence that causes me (for one) to question your motives. (Having exhibitions and getting noticed doesn’t make you an artist, except in the broadest, least critical terms.) The way I see it is, if you have some deep-seated need to insist upon being called an artist, there’s a good chance that that need has caused you to put the idea before the reality. Calling what you do art because you call yourself an artist brings to mind Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because what you do is popular means it’s art. Lots of popular stuff in the Arts is crap.

(For the sake of full disclosure: If asked I’ll say I’m a photographer, but in my brain I think of myself as just a person trying to learn a thing or two and, maybe, make some sense. I leave it to others to add any further labels to what I do.)