Exploring photography has been my theme song for the past month. I've done everything from revisiting Irving Penn's work to watching YouTube videos of every photographer presented in the book "What is a Photograph?"...my response due to a life changing review of my work on Lensculture from one of the 8 jurors for the Talent Awards.
Every night I climb into bed with my german shorthair Shooter, turn on the tv and go to YouTube to explore, once again, photography. I have a notebook with me and some nights I fill pages of quotes or thoughts of mine about why photography. Why this medium? What is it my work messages to people. Maybe there isn't answer I think because my message may not align with the perspective and stance of the viewer. That's a pretty daunting perspective yet I continue to edit and I continue to shoot and I continue to think about photography.
Last night, listening to Marvin Heiferman speak about how photography changes everything - his groundbreaking work with the Smithsonian - has been life changing/art changing for me. First of all because he speaks so clearly and in such an easy manner that I can understand his vision and philosophy concerning photography and its role in our lives.
He bullets 6 points that define how photography changes everything.
-what we want
-what we see
-who we are
-what we do
-where we go
-what we remember
Those points of Heiferman's cover every aspect of our lives from documentation to advertising to art and all points in between. Photography has its essential roots in science as its progressive technology has shown us. From the very first images, its advancement has been due to the ever changing sciences of camera and lens construction to the chemistry of development to the digital world we live in where each day 1.3 billion images are produced. That is astounding to me. 1.3 billion images. How ever do I find my way, as a photographer, into that world where all I want is to get you (to paraphrase Catherine Opie) to look at a photograph for more than an instagram minute. That's kinda crazy if you ask me. I wonder how my photographer friends deal with the question I ask myself - how do I ever make it as a photographer. And then I think of a photography road trip I was on a few years ago. The first morning 14 of us split into 4 or 5 cars and hit the road. One of our first stops was an abandoned homestead on the prairie. We turned down one of the dirt roads you find everywhere in South Dakota and I saw my image. We parked in a field and while everyone headed up the hill to the homestead, I lit out back down the road to where we turned. I photographed and on the way back saw a few more images I thought would work. Then we spent the rest of the day visiting abandoned homesteads and towns in that vast farming landscape of South Dakota. A few days later we were sitting around looking at each other's work from those four Kerouac days. When I showed everyone my first image, it was the one from the road of the first homestead. One of the guest photographers turned to me and asked "that's where you went?". I laughed. "Yep. I saw that shot when we turned the corner." To which another photographer replied "you've got some Minor White going on in your work". Those comments spun me forward for a number of years because I understood something essential in the daunting 1.3 billion images every day. That I retain my own my eye and my own vision and that is what keeps me holding the camera and looking through the viewfinder (altho I do have days of spontaneously shooting without looking in a viewfinder at all).
So with that I leave you with a new photograph that has no title as of today but reminds me to keep playing and moving even if its what feels like walking in the same footsteps as I did yesterday.
The link to Heiferman's video at the Smithsonian can be found here