Photography as an artistic expression isn’t always paired with photography as a craft. Many respected photographers wanted nothing to do with the developing and printing of their work. Today, as a film photographer, if you’re not exceptionally funded somehow it can be a real struggle to work that way. So most of us do as much as we can ourselves. Some of us control that process from shutter to print or publish. When life gets busy I tend to put film photography aside. I might continue to shoot but my film piles up in a box waiting to be processed. My iPhone becomes my primary camera and I go about my busy life until I feel the urge to practice that craft.
The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust.
In the last few years I’ve seen new photographers pop up with amazing talent and a knack for constructing amazing images. But very few photographers bring anything new to the medium. My point isn’t to be critical of their work but to be critical of my own. What am I adding to the conversation? It’s very well to take photos for myself for the sheer joy of photography but I feel driven to do more than find recipes in life that I know combined with the right film and camera will result in a popular photo. I want to be like Shore or Baltz and make images that transcend populism. But to follow in their footsteps because it’s easy to do superficially isn’t the same thing as turning established universally accepted ideas of artistic qualities on their head. They’ve already done that. You can be content to mimic their vision perhaps and maybe convince yourself you’re carrying on their legacy but once a barrier has been broken it’s broken for good until it’s been restored. No one said being an iconoclast would be easy.
Declaring War on Nostalgia
If everything’s been done already why not do it again? Nostalgia is a powerful tool. Square framed faded drugstore prints look great. Old signage. Old cars. Memories of better days artificially created by cropping out inconvenient truths. Nostalgia to the “documentary” photographer is the homeless man on the corner to the street photographer. It’s not for me to judge what’s good or bad, right or wrong, I’m just pointing out that it’s low hanging fruit many of us are picking. I’d like to reach higher. I’d like to see my peers reach higher.