From 1988 to 2010 I did one thing with my life: photography. That’s about it. There were slight forays into side projects, adventures, but very, very minimal attempts. I spent all those years studying photography, thinking about photography, practicing photography and making my living with photography. Perhaps there was room for much more but I either didn’t see it or I didn’t care to see it.
All of this has changed. In 2010 I walked away from photography as a career and began my quest with Blurb. This has been the best job I’ve ever had, by far. Hot tub installer? Fragrance model? Not even close. Blurb opened my eyes to a much larger creative industry and I began to cherry-pick all the amazing things being done outside of the photography world. But perhaps more importantly, Blurb gave me time. Time to think about things outside of photography and time to think about who I really was.
Turns out I’m a lot more than someone who presses the button. As photography faded in importance in my life other things began to reemerge. Cycling, hiking, fly fishing, climbing, writing and a bevy of other things. Some of these pursuits became slight obsessions, like cycling, while others were rare but meaningful, like climbing. (I’m a gym climber now.) How far have I drifted? I’m in Tucson as I write this and my wife and I are buying rock hammers so we can go rockhounding. Yep, the situation is grave.
I also began playing the guitar, doing online language classes and began reading my ass off. Broadening my knowledge base, broadening my experience base.
When I look at my photography from the early 2000s I have serious doubt as to whether I am good enough now to create images like that. But the real question is does it matter? What if I can’t? I think I would still trade my current self for my past self because I think I am a better, more intelligent person. I’m more well rounded. I think about other people, and their projects, a lot more than I think about myself.
Photography is a skill, just like sport. The more you practice the better you are. So potentially were I to commit like the old days there is a chance I could get it back. But photography, especially documentary photography, is about so much more than the button-pushing. Trust, access, commitment. And these things you just can’t turn on. The next time I know I will be photographing for real is March 21st. If things go as planned. This doesn’t bode well for returning to form, but again, the trade is okay.
So maybe this one for another is a good thing. Or maybe I left winning cards on the table? Winning what is another question. Or is there anything left to win? I say yes there is. But for now, I will continue to strive for balance, range, and experience while I hammer the Hell out of random outcroppings.
I love reading your blogs, Daniel. “Yep, the situation is grave” made me laugh. Your honesty always gives me a smile.
You are correct about documentary photography. It’s not just something you can turn on. I think it comes from the soul and a voice inside that will not quiet until it is heard. Trust, access, commitment as well as passion, even a bit of obsession.
Haha, same here Hannah. I laughed at that. I’m just north of you Dan. Have lingered in Phoenix a bit (a lot) longer than I expected. Getting back on the road to the PNW tomorrow, but looking at a move back to the southwest. I don’t think I can do Phoenix, so I have my eye on Flag, Sedona, and possibly Tucson. Become a professional rockhound. If those rock hammers get you to Zihuatanejo, I hear the water in the movie is cleaner than real life. (That’s not a dis against wonderful Mexico – bad water happens in coastal cities north of the border, too…shocking.)
My wife is on her way to Zhuat in a few weeks. I won’t be going, as usual. Too many tasks at the moment. I do like Tucson a lot. As a cyclist this place is a gem.
I know I’m super sloppy for the first few days after not shooting for a while. I’ve missed some gems over the years.
The one thing I have found about photography is (for me anyway) things happening in my life affects the how I make images. New things I learn and new knowledge I acquire inspires me to try new things. You never forget how to photograph, its like riding a bike, although you do notice that you are not as fast and fluid as you used to be but the rust soon wears off. Grease up those squeaky bits and you will soon be back in that mediation state where time seems to disappear,
That is one of the main reasons why I love making images so much. Its a kind of meditation for me.
Kodak recently increased their film prices. Such a shame! I love Kodak so much but I have just jumped over to Ilford now. Great film, but the contrast on the negatives come out a lot flatter than Kodak. I find I have to do more work in post with Ilford.
Interesting to hear your thoughts on Kodak and Ilford. I’d like to get to that point where I have a feel for different films.
They both make a great film. It typically takes quite a while to fully understand a film. And when you throw in the range of potential developers, papers, chemical combinations, etc. The options are endless. I shot Fujichrome 100 every day for eighteen months and finally knew how to use it. I love TRI-X and TMAX and don’t really need anything else but again, took me quite a few years to really understand it all. HP5 was an all-time fav as well.
Film is a luxury now. Still, film is one of the most profitable items in their lineup. But, numbers are SO down and will never return to pre-digitals levels. I would expect film to continue to rise in price, sadly. Make it count!
Of course, winning isn’t everything. You win some, you lose some (or many). But maybe how you play the game is more important.
I’ve lost far more often than I’ve won…but that’s life.
Finding balance in your life is the path to true happiness…and I’m sure when I die that will be the only goal I’m glad I tried to win.
Says the guy with the boat in the amazing location…..