When I look at my Instagram feed I’m struck by the weird (at least to me) discrepancy that is shown there. On the one hand there are photos of my garden and of me communing with the backyard chipmunks.
There are also photos from After the Fact, the book I’m in the final stages of producing. A book about, maybe, the rise of fascism, and the changing political and physical climates. Large events that we are living through and, if you are conscious, trying to make sense of.
But I think many of us are stuck on the horns of that dilemma. We wonder how to live our lives in an era of lowered expectations and rising outrage, how to reconcile beauty with cruelty and greed. And I think a lot of us deal with it by becoming obsessed with both ends of that spectrum. We are obsessed with living perfect, photogenic lives and we are obsessed with the fucked up state of our world. That is the continuum we are stuck on, the continuum we bumble through. Our lives.
Of course, if you take the long view, what’s happening these days is actually the norm. The years between, say, 1950 and 2000 were actually an anomaly. In that era we had a rising middle class and politicians and captains of industry who at least gave lip service to serving their constituents and workers.
But that was just a bubble, a weird confluence of events that gave First World citizens hope and rising expectations. Before and after that bubble, though, our civilization was a lot tougher, a lot rougher. That was the norm.
Problem is, we (most of you reading this) came up in that bubble of more or less peace and prosperity. We think that that’s the way things are and should be.
Coming to a conclusion, it seems to me, is one of the most difficult things in photography. To know when you’re done shooting, and to edit and sequence the images you have, to arrive at your point can be nerve-wracking.
Of course, if you put your edit online you can change your mind in a day or two, or in two months, no biggie . . . you just make the changes. With a photobook, on the other hand, once its printed there’s no going back, it’s all locked down, permanent.
And that certainly sharpens your mind.
Now that enough money has been raised to turn After the Fact into a book I find myself in this place . . . finalizing my conclusion. Up to now it has just been a dummy. Image order, print quality, and a million design details were always in the back of my mind. Now I must move them forward, fret, second, third and fourth guess.
The zen dudes will tell you: “First thought, best thought”. In photography that most often, but not always, applies when you are there on the ground shooting. The edit/sequence process, though, requires a second and a third and a fourth and a hundredth thought. Shifting one image will cause a cascade of further changes, will skew meaning and flow, will alter the course of what’s come before and of what will follow.
So I’m having a hard, hard look at the “final” dummy of After the Fact (which I’m quite happy with) and intend to explore some nuances.
For instance, I remember when I was sequencing I was torn between these two images:
The top one is the one that’s in the dummy. The bottom one, I thought, too closely resembled an image which appears 3 or 4 pages later. But, seeing as there are repetitions and echos throughout the book, I’m now having a rethink.
Just like I’m having a final rethink about the whole thing. I’m nervous and excited and can hardly wait.
If you missed out on the Kickstarter you can still order the book here.
My Kickstarter ends at midnight tonight. Whew! And if you are bored with all the Kickstarter hype here, just scroll down for a bit on transparency . . .
So, yes, a day left to get yer sorry ass over to my Kickstarter and kick in. You’ll get a book out of the deal, mailed to your door. Not to mention that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you support independent voices and alternate takes on what’s what.
A huge thank you to everyone who chipped in to make this possible. Yes!
I’ve been using trailers, sample page spreads, and Mark the chipmunk to hype this thing. So here’s a final trailer (sound on please), one more page spread, and Mark.
Go here for support the Kickstarter. If you are reading this after July 1st head on over here to get your copy.
Next week drool. will resume regular programming (whatever that is).
I think we all can agree that transparency is important. In a lot of ways.
For instance, if you are a photographer who’s work touches on social and/or political aspects of the world, your approach to that should somehow be explained. And I’m not talking here about telling your viewers exactly what your work “says”, or what you are getting at. It must be left to those who consume your work to wonder.
What I’m talking about is building clues into the work, markers, and so on, that point to your politics and predilections. Of course, you may also write about where the work is coming from, and the process you used to make it.
Of course, no matter how succinct your writing, how obvious the political stance of your work, you will almost always be misinterpreted and reinterpreted, recontextualized and decontextualized. That’s the nature of communication. Our brains are really quite limited.
But that’s a huge subject and not really what I set out to talk about here. What I want to talk about is much simpler . . .
I wrote this on Facebook a couple of days ago:
Photographers (etc.) who apply to contests (etc.) and win (etc.) always mention their success on social media. Would like to see those photographers (etc.) also mention when they didn’t win (etc.). #transparency
What ensued was a comment chain that mostly disagreed with that sentiment. Lots of interesting opinion and some funny stuff, too. (And, I might add as a tip of the hat to the quality of my Facebook family, all the comments were respectful and thought out. Thank you very much.)
Someone in the comment chain wondered what the value would be in declaring, right out loud, something like, “Rejected by (insert name of contest, granting agency, gallery, etc.). Damn!”
I suggest the value would simply be in keeping it real and owning some of the disappointments and rejections we all endure.
I’m not suggesting anyone harp on rejection, or display bitterness. A mere mention once in a while, though, would supply some of the perspective we desperately need and so seldom find these days on social media. By admitting failure, once in a while, we help each other.
And, bonus, I have found that, framed correctly, with the right tone and a certain aw-shucks-ain’t-life-like-that attitude, admitting your mistakes, shortcomings and failures usually doesn’t make people think less of you. In fact, it often makes people hold you in higher regard, makes you seem like a full-fledged human.