Creative: Revelation

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Left to my own devices, I am is a still photographer who wants to write in his journal. That's it. The grand total of the sum of my parts.
Instax edit in real-time as we traverse Albania.

I am a filmmaker. Wait, no, that’s not quite right. Oh ya, I am NOT a filmmaker. All it took for me to come to this conclusion was five minutes away from home. Albania. My third trip. My third trip co-teaching with Elena Dorfman. Left to my own devices, I am is a still photographer who wants to write in his journal. That’s it. The grand total of the sum of my parts. Fifty-four years and all I want to do is press the little button, click the clicker and put my thoughts on paper. The rest of it, well, you can have it. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s just not for me.

No matter what I do, I’ll never exhaust still photography.

It’s like a second or third language. Nothing you do will make you native speaker. All you will ever be is a linguistic imposter, and this is how I feel when the little red motion button is flashing across my screen.(Still learn the language for crap’s sake.) Little moving segments taking away from the real focus. The depth of the mental game played while looking for things that only exist in a fraction of a second. It’s not in my blood, it IS my blood.

Left to my own devices, I am is a still photographer who wants to write in his journal. That's it. The grand total of the sum of my parts.
The absolute genius of the white gel pen.

This trip to Albania was unlike the first two. Each trip lives and breaths in its own fashion, ebbing and flowing. Twisting over humanity, the Earth and the dynamic of change. Each student a unique blueprint. Spacing, timing, composition carried like luggage. We are here to refine. That’s it. The foundations are there, each cracked based on history, environment and learned behavior. We spackle. That’s it. A little fill here and there, a little push, a little suggestion. The rest is on them. And they respond in ways you can’t imagine. It truly is remarkable. Chaos becomes order. Chaos becomes meaning. Chaos becomes story. And then it ends.

Left to my own devices, I am is a still photographer who wants to write in his journal. That's it. The grand total of the sum of my parts.
Photo: K Dillard The Blue Eye, near Theth. The jacket tied around waist is sign of total coolness.

No books for two weeks. No real writing for two weeks. So, the fire burns hot. A plane delayed. Hours on the tarmac and my furnace churns out the blacky black of coal fire kept inside. Released through a violent, visual tapestry playing like a movie trailer in my mind. Eyes open, 8k vibrance of possibility as my analytical side tries to connect dots that never even knew they were in the same game. My inner self knows there is something more, something new, something undefinable at the present moment. My inner self knows the danger of playing this game. This game is the ONLY game and with it comes consequence whether I win or lose.

“I have an idea,” I say to no one in particular. I mingle with the flight crew. I mingle with fellow passengers, but it’s not actually me in those conversations. It is the old me. The one that found himself on thin ice with cracks racing toward the edges of the pond. The path is forward not back. At some point I will be forced to jump for safety. Mine or yours, could be either or both. Be prepared because when I reemerge as this “new” me it might bring pause. Or it might be the same me that was here before, perhaps with new paint, new carpet, drapes or a little spit and polish. There might be failed attempts. Just know I’m laughing inside.

My mother knew. “You will leave the moment you get your chance,” she said when I was very young. She and dad knew I was headed for the hills. No map, no destination. “Part of our family has wheels for feet,” she added. “Your uncle Lester died in China.” What if? Perpetual reinvention. I guess that’s where I’m at here, as are many of you but I take the time to spill it out here, on these digital pages. That’s perhaps the only difference.

Left to my own devices, I am is a still photographer who wants to write in his journal. That's it. The grand total of the sum of my parts.
Documenting the Raki consumption. This is “baked” Raki, which means you will be “baked” if you drink more than one.

A restlessness pervades. Kept at bay only by the duties upon me and the works of others. Watching the students is why I do these things. It’s certainly not the money or to make my own things as we progress. No, it’s about watching what emerges from uncertainty, unlearning and relearning. Watching success from early skirmishes. The war will be fought long into the future but the creative counterattacks explode via cameras balanced on carefully crafted hands. Light pressed through pixels. Lanced into the retina and tethered by fiber optic nerves. Wins and losses. Advances and retreats. The healing of emotional wounds.

This is why I’m here. Still photographs and the written word. “What would you be doing if you didn’t have to work?” “This,” I reply. “The same.”

Comments 12

  1. That photo of you shooting by the falls had me for a moment. “Dan’s got a ponytail now????” Had to look at it on a proper screen to realise it was a well placed bit of shadow. Damn this fading sight and all other symptoms of growing not-young.

    It was good to read this. It’s generally good to read all your posts, but this one had me. I need to be reminded every so often that there is a world outside of this bubble with its smooth, shiny facade keeping it all and imagination at bay…

    The restlessness is pervasive indeed.

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      I knew you would comment on this. I just knew it. Cause you know what I’m talking about. A tinkerer you are. I think I’m too old for ponytail.

  2. Posts like these are why I’ve been reading your various writing for seventeen (!!!) years. Whenever I need a kick out of the straight-and-narrow, like now, I’ve always managed to find it here.

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  3. Great post, Dan! I like that you admit that your sum parts make you “just” a photographer and perhaps a dabbler in making films. I love your journalistic posts as well as your YouTube films. Keep on keeping on!

  4. No, you’re not too old. It isn’t an age thing. I’ve got the remnants of such a tail, and I’m not about to cut them off. The tail’s just a state of mind. It also saves wasting money on barbers. The less hair I own, the less cost-efficient barbers become. 🙂

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      New to me. Belonged to a friend who committed suicide. Took it in tribute and it worked really well. The first time I carried a sling in over a decade.

  5. It’s a researchable fact that suicide and photography are not strangers. I don’t know about how the figures concern amateurs, but in the pro world, the connection provides food for thought. I suspect that back in the day, aspirations and expectations of photographic success were much higher than they are in current times; the thwarting of such dreams could be catastrophic if the individual had no family support team, whether or not such a team had any inkling of what the photographer may or may not have been experiencing in his career. Just having them around could still be the fix that makes that vital difference between another day and exit.

    I have a feeling that, especially for young people, photography used to be a fairly solitary way of life; the money at first was usually so poor that there was little option but to live alone, stay in the parental home or share with other creative semi-destitutes. Most of the contemporary young snappers I knew drifted from model to model; early marriage seemed rare. As an old widower, I can assure you that personal resilience is not what it was when my wife was still around. Solitary living magnifies every problem, if only because there are no home distractions to give the mind at least a temporary rest. It might be claimed that photography, of itself, might be such a distraction when it’s not actually the cause of problems. How difficult to interpret the shifting timelines surrounding photographic chickens and eggs.

    Of course, I imply no connection in any of this to your late friend – I have absolutely no knowledge about that person or his/her circumstances. Anyway, it’s good to have you back posting.

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      My bud had a lot of issues. Being a photographer was just one of them. There is a reason why so many social media, online folks end up with mental health issues. It ain’t real. Photography is a tough way to make a living but it sure beats a lot of other options.

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