Photographically, these are not productive times for me. For a few years after my 2010 Calendar stimulated me back into serious photographic activity, I got busy. I joined a camera club, discovered Vivian Maier and Garry Winogrand (along with others), and heard this term, “Street Photography” being used. I felt I could identify with Street Photography.
For the next few years, I carried a camera everywhere with me, and while I had done this in the past as well, I am happy to say that these last few years were were my most productive. I don’t think my craft had improved, but I do believe that my sense of photography has matured.
I wanted to refresh my photographic experiences not by sticking my head in books, but getting out there and brushing up against real life photogs who were doing real work. I saw good work at the camera club, but their organizational model was so enveloped in formal judgings and accumulating competition points, that I didn’t attend any of those the meetings. The other meetings were open showings with member critiques, and though the work was very good, the members even used the same language as the judges, and to me it just didn’t have any soul.
I am not a technical photographer, but the camera club made me want to learn about printing, so I took some classes from the Art Department of a local community college. One thing I learned is that I am not good at printing, but I did find value in assignments and critiques. Assignments instilled discipline, and I loved the dialogue of a group critique, but as these classes transitioned from one instructor who used Photography to discuss Art, to another who used Art to discuss Photography, I found it no longer stimulating.
All of this time, I was carrying my camera, and shooting like crazy. I was also entering calls for judged exhibitions, got accepted for a few, and even sold some work. The money was nice, but the acceptance, the validation of my ideas, was the most satisfying part.
What I just described took place from about 2010 to 2017, then started to peter out. I had attended a couple of Street Photography exhibitions and lectures, and although the images were fresh, they didn’t look very different. It seemed as if Street Photography had evolved into a genre, and the practitioners were all using the same rule book.
I also unsuccessfully entered a few Arty competitions, but those applications were really just exhibition inertia.
As Terry Allen would say, “All that exhibiting was just too damned inhibiting for a beer drinkin’ regular guy like me.”.
I was already pretty unproductive for awhile, then when I broke my camera, I lost all momentum. I already had a few projects on the back burner, and thought that since I was cameraless, I could shift my energy to finishing them up, but like Meier and Winogrand, shooting is much more fun than processing and editing.
I have always used my camera for visual note taking, but over time, this chore was transferred to my phone, as I realized it was more accessible. Now that I don’t have a camera with me, I use the phone for everything, but don’t find it satisfying for “serious” work-I am a viewfinder guy, and have difficulty composing and shooting with a touchscreen.
I haven’t given up on Photography, but I think I just need to find new direction. Daily, I still go to several photography web sites*, which take me in several directions. I visit galleries, have read a few books, and attend monthly member critiques at SF Camerawork. I believe something is stirring inside, and hopefully, it will soon bubble to the surface.
* The Online Photographer