“God spare me from the desire for love, approval, and appreciation. Amen.” — Byron Katie
A year ago I didn’t feel like blogging very much. Further photo blog methodology analysis followed. I was happy with my photos, but needed a break from the online photography world. Then more digging into the why blog question. I wrote a post that generated a lot of reactions. Then I gave myself permission to shoot more and write less. The existential questions didn’t stop, but I felt better.
On December 10th, 2008 a kitty cat epiphany occurred that explains everything about posting content to the Internet in two words: DATS ME!!!!
This has nothing to do with Lacan’s mirror phase. Or maybe everything. I’m not sure. Previously I thought this quote from Jonathan Lethem’s You Don’t Love Me Yet was a succinct explanation of the why blog question: “”I want what we all want,” said Carl. “To move certain parts of the interior of myself into the exterior world, to see if they can be embraced.”" But really, the cat said it best.
The world of online photography keeps churning out more content than I can absorb. I’ve been in a space lately where the extra food for my brain is not often necessary. This seems to be helping my picture making. Thinking less. When you get to a certain point with an instrument, there are times when you can pick it up and play and the music comes out of some deep subconscious place and you instinctively know that all things are simple and good and pure. No songs, no scales, no rules, no patterns, just the fingers and body moving almost on auto-pilot from the mysterious inner workings. I’ve been touching the edges of this place again after not being able to find my way there for awhile. The more I let go of both online and offline distractions, let go of judging, pressure, and rules, the more I can cultivate a headspace that nurtures a picture making zone without pretensions. Just a strange sort of joy bubbling underneath the surface somewhere. Trying to talk about this place can make it disappear. Forget I said anything. I’m going out into the crisp Fall day to wander around and photograph now.
I listened to Craig Tanner’s podcast on Finding the Heart of Your Work. I’m impressed that Craig saw the original article as a challenge, and was able to see this dark time of questioning as a smaller phase in a larger creative process. I’ve had a lot of teachers in many different disciplines throughout my life, but nobody has been able to succinctly communicate the idea that we can acknowledge the darkness, find some learning there, and proceed with a plan to move on. I’m working on it.
I like Craig’s idea of a “purpose statement” rather than an artist statement for photography. The world doesn’t need any more “I’ve always loved to photograph. My father gave me an Instamatic when I was 5 years old….” clichés. But a purpose statement — that sounds useful.
Craig talks about acknowledging our frustration with the gap between how our pictures look now and how we’d like them to be, and using a purpose statement to stay on track. I want to clarify that I’m not worried about making better photographs. That’s not the gap for me right now.
Craig’s discussion of pushing your limits, shooting beyond comprehension, kicking the fear of failure to the curb — this is what I was talking about in my original post. Ninety miles an hour in the dark with no hands on the wheel until you catch the glimmer of the next stop out of the corner of your eye, grab the wheel, push it up to a hundred and head towards the light.
Tuning in to these glimmers, writing them down, and creating the time and space to explore them is what will keep fueling the engine. I’m doing that with gusto. I’m also pouring a lot of stimulating music, film, and art into the tank. The car is running great. The gap is existential. The question is “what is the purpose of the drive?”
And yes, sometimes we need to spit shine the car and take it to the show and hope that people think it’s pretty. There is certainly some learning we can do at the show, but that’s really just a pit stop on a much bigger trip.
So back to the idea of a purpose statement. How many of you can clearly and concisely explain the purpose of your photographs? Two sentences maximum. No biographical information. This is not an artist statement. What do you want to communicate with your photographs and to whom? It’s a tough question. I’d love to hear your answers.
Craig Tanner of The Radiant Vista has posted a podcast in response to an article I wrote called Going deeper may require more abstract excursions. Craig is an inspiring teacher and I’m looking forward to listening to his thoughts on digging deep to uncover the meaning behind picture making.
Update: Radiant Vista discussion thread.