Long story short, I realized that I wasn't very good at writing about my work. I could talk about it well enough over drinks with friends, but when it came time to clearly describing it for strangers, I struggled. I’d fall back on describing it as simply following my intuition, which is true to a degree, but misrepresents the amount of thought and time I have put into my practice over the years.
For a long time I gave myself the excuse that if I was good at writing, I wouldn’t be a photographer. This was BS— I am good at writing, and it has nothing to do with why I got into photography.
Talking about one’s work is a skill, and like any other skill, you need constant practice to improve. I decided to start up a blog so that I could have a reason to force myself to sit down and put my thoughts to text somewhere outside of discussion groups on forums or Facebook…
I love being able to capture a moment, a glance, a thought between words, and preserve it. Some art philosophers say photography is about death, a never ending struggle to keep fleeting memories that are in reality already gone the instant the camera’s shutter closes.
I disagree, I think it is about life: celebrating the moments as they happen, savoring them, and allowing them to be shared with others in a way that transcends space and time. Long-gone civilizations have their monuments, our memories of love and laughter can last as long as paper can hold them.
I was recently thinking about inspiration and how people develop a personal style. There's a phrase, "follow your Muse." But what's a Muse?
In modern times, a Muse is considered a person or thing that inspires you. In Greek mythology they had a different idea: the Muses were goddesses of music, poetry, comedy, and other arts, and they were responsible for providing inspiration to humans. A song was not invented by humans, it was created by these goddesses who would whisper it into the mind of a musician. Divine inspiration.
It’s really easy to take time for granted. Even if the future is open, everything is finite. I may live to 110 or I may die tomorrow, but either way, there will be a finite number of photographs I create. A finite number of birthdays, a finite number of dinners with any particular friend. Cherish the moments you have, as you have them, because you never know when it may be the last.
Ah, the faithful 50mm lens, or for beginners the fantastic-plastic nifty-fifty. This essay will explain what it is, and why I consider this lens to be the best teacher in photography.
This isn’t a post about food, at least, not entirely.
This is about how we learn, how we find what we like, and how we savor experiences.
Think back, to our ancient history, to an ancient pre-human primate, discovering a fruit they had never seen before, hungrily taking a bite. Upon discovering how delicious it is, our ancestor brings some of this new fruit back to its tribe, offering it to the others.
”I found this. It’s good.”
In essence, this is what the curator and the artist do. The curator finds the good things, and shares what she thinks is the best. She may be a museum director or a DJ spinning vinyl on a friday night. Her job is to develop a nuanced appreciation for what is good, what tastes good to the soul, and bring it back to the tribe.
This is an series I shot several years ago with M, a lover who is herself an artist as well. My goal was to make a personal memento of a passionate romance, with no intention of ever sharing it beyond a few close friends who understand what I’m reaching at with my work. I have been very hesitant to share this work since it is so deeply personal and private, but the friends I have shared it with have been incredibly supportive, and M herself encouraged me to share it publicly as well. Almost a year after promising another close friend that I would post this, I’m finally ready to share it.
Some time ago I heard photographer Bil Brown give a talk about what it means to be an Artist compared to being a Professional.
The gist of it is that the Professional has a set system in place to deliver the images that the client requires, while the Artist follows their own intuition, making what they are compelled to. The Professional is reliable, but the Artist is capable of innovation.
I think there’s some truth to this, even though the line between Professional and Artist is a hazy one, and probably best thought of as states of mind rather than two divisions of types of photographers. When working with a client, be it to cover an event or a boudoir session, I have had enough experience that I can confidently make good photos in almost any situation with almost anyone. That’s not special, that’s the baseline of what it means to be a photographer. The challenge is in shifting gears, getting into that Artist state of mind, where you try things that even you don’t know if it’ll work. Being vulnerable, shooting unfamiliar subject matter, facing what makes you uncomfortable. It doesn’t always work out.
I was recently watching a time-lapse video of another photographer’s work retouching an image. The subject was an incredibly beautiful woman in perfect lighting. The retoucher’s cursor ran back and forth, cleaning up stretch marks, masking blemishes, smoothing skin, adjusting the shape of the woman’s eyes, and finally patching up a section of her eyebrow that apparently wasn’t up to his standards.
It made feel sad.
The kinds of imperfections that the retoucher was fixing were natural, real parts of what an adult human’s skin looks like. It made me wonder if the retoucher had ever been in love, when any flaw is an endearing trait to be cherished and treasured.