THE LATEST

Quite often a photographer’s favourite photo is the latest one they’ve made that doesn’t suck too much. That favourite image is then inevitably supplanted by their next photo that doesn’t suck too much.

Nothing wrong with measuring your success by admiring the endless parade of photos you’ve made that have, shall we say, worked out. Unless, of course, you view photography as something more than just liking your latest good picture.

If you consider each of your photos as a piece of a larger construct you will be forced to look at and judge your photos on merits other than “hey! this looks good”. You’ll need to assess them by how they fit into the larger scheme of things.

I mention this because of where I am in the edit/sequence of my new project. All the shooting, up to now, has been done without thinking about specifics too much. I had a general idea, shot a whole bunch of pictures that might somehow support that thesis, and trusted that I had enough options to make the edit/sequence work.

But now, at this point of the project, I realize I need a few more specific images to make the sequence smoother. One of them being a portrait-type photo of a young woman.

So I went out and shot it (yesterday). It has become my latest picture that (I think) doesn’t suck too much.

Whether it will actually work for the project remains to be seen. I have to print it, insert it into the sequence, and see what’s what. I hope it’s what I need, but there’s every chance it’ll join the big pile of photos that I like but just don’t work.

We’ll see.


ABOUT A BLOG

Last week I was wondering why my projects don’t all look the same. Same goes for this blog. I mean, of course there’s a kind of continuity here, dead horses I continue to flog. (Writer Martin Amis once said, “The only reason to flog a dead horse is for the pure enjoyment of it”.)

I think we’re all a bit like that, us humans, us photographers. We latch on to something (or other) and somehow (or other) the tables turn and the thing we’ve latched onto gets its hooks into us. That can be good up to a point, obsession must be part of any practice, mustn’t it? But what’s even better is when that obsession is tempered by a larger perspective, a longer view. That’s where theory meets practice, where the inner meets the outer, where old thoughts are tempered by new possibilities.

Anyway . . . drool.

I can tell you (and you probably know with being told) that some weeks I’m just itching to say something, something is on my mind, I’m affected by, and infected with, some verve. Other weeks, not so much. But I’m committed to posting something (or other) every Sunday. Like church.

I like the structure. And, sometimes, when I sit down to write, I’m blank, empty, depressed. I’ve got nothing, but the process of writing leads to something (or other). (Or not.)

It’s all really just a shot in the dark, isn’t it? But the important thing is to take a shot.

And, because of the relatively short gestation period from post to post, drool. reflects my state of mind in a different way than my photo projects.

drool. fulfills a function for me. Like my photo projects it’s a way to keep track and to reckon, to try to understand myself and the world, and to leave a trace of my passage through.

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 END OF THE FIRST BEGINNING

As I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, I made a few first beginnings of the edit/sequence of my current project. Then I put that on hold and painted my kitchen floor. Unlike editing and sequencing photos, when you paint a floor you know when its done. Satisfying in a nice, simple way.

I’ve known for a while that relaxing into an edit, allowing down time for the back of your brain to process, is important. After all, that’s how I approach shooting my projects: slow photography. Let the thing you are studying seep into you. Think just enough, but not too much. The time I spent painting the floor was most beneficial. Not only did I get a swell floor, it also gave me time to rethink my approach to the edit/sequence, and to wonder a bit more about what this project might actually be about.

After the floor was finished I spent about 5 days, on and off, really moving images around. Did at least 20 iterations that were between 15 and 25 images long. Just to explore possibilities. I worked on possible pagination,  flow of content and feeling, figured out possible ways of ordering the whole thing.

Then I walked away from it again, realizing that it just kept changing, that my perspective was, for now, shot.

But I learned a lot, saw possibilities I didn’t know existed (except in my dreams). It’s still pretty clunky and very unresolved. There are obvious flaws in how the flow of images might be read, bad page turns and all the other stuff that happens when you’re trying to figure out a solution to a puzzle with a lot of moving parts, a puzzle that has no one correct solution. But some solutions are more correct that others, right?

Then what I did was, I showed a PDF of this, the end of the first beginning,  to a few random, non-photography people who just happened to be visiting (like my niece, and a couple of droppers-by). Listened to what they had to say.

And I sent it off to Colin Pantall and Timothy Archibald, two photographers who, in the past, have provided me with shrewd insight into what I’m doing. Their comments and perspective on some of my previous work changed how that work was presented.

Their initial comments really got my brain going. They agreed on certain directions and images but had opposite opinions on others. (One referenced Robert Frank, the other David Cronenberg!! If this project could even approach a marriage between those two sensibilities I’ll be a very happy camper.)

I’m fine with, and expect, varying opinions. One of the aims of this project is to create a book where the actual subject isn’t too nailed-down. On the other hand, varying opinions from trusted sources add to my confusion. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m prepared to be (and to remain) confused. And I will continue to embrace contradiction.

So for now I’m just going to chill, do some thinking on my own and then get back to it again. And that will be the beginning of the second beginning.