February 26th, 2006

shadow, halo, maui

Photographic [RD]evolution

[Cross-posted from my MovableType Blog]

[It's official. I suck at this whole "blog" thing. The genesis for this entry is exactly one year old. It's been rolling around in my head since I was in Maui. It's a big topic, and one that's very important to me, so I wanted to be sure that I captured it. Invariably, that meant I'd put it off. -ed.]

For some time, I've been yearning to produce/get "something more" out of the pictures I take. A year ago, I started down the path toward figuring out what that really meant.

While I was in Maui, taking and processing 1900 photos, I had two distinct (and, in fact, conflicting) epiphanies. The first was that with some thought, planning, and work I could automate much of my workflow.

The second epiphany was the real start of the revolution, and may have been jiggled loose by the first. I think the mechanical nature of automating my workflow (and having some time to dwell on that fact) was the straw that broke the camel's back. I realized that for some time I haven't been completely satisfied with much of the fruits of my labor. Exploring that dissatisfaction led me to an awakening.

Over the . . . nearly 20 (eep!) years that I've been taking and developing my own photographs, I've become quite adept at the technical aspects of creating a photograph[*]. Without that, granted, the clearest vision in the world will be unrealized, but there's more to photography than making a print.

My style (and it still feels weird to call it that) has been firmly planted in what I've taken to calling a "photo-journalist" mode — a near-neurotic attempt to capture "la scène vraie" as closely and as accurately as I can. I had a better term than "photo-journalistic" for it at some point (after rejecting "hyper-real" since I am not worthy^Wevoking what Baudrillard (or even my beloved Eco) was (and yet, there IS an element of that . . . )), but I have lost it (much to my chagrin).

It is easy to see how I got there: my formative photographic experiences were mostly spent getting lost in the perfect balance of one Ansel Adams print or another. I ingested the Group f/64 Manifesto, and their "photography of the West." It nourished my youthful exuberance and skepticism of all that had come before.

(end first cut. LJ'ers, if you want to take a break, you can come back to the second cut)

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So where do I go from here? More inspiration, more practice, more experimentation. To that end, I'm getting very excited about the UCSC Extension Field Study I'm doing next week in Death Valley. (Thanks, mom!) I'm really looking forward to having four days in the wilderness to do nothing but think, compose, shoot, and evaluate. Particularly, I want to spend a lot of time working at night and more in the abstract realm (both together and separately).

But as with any experimentation, I must be open to mistakes, they often lead to the most profound breakthroughs. For those of you subscribed to my Flickr stream, things are likely to get worse before they get better...

And this is what happens when I don't post things, but let them percolate for a year, and end up rolling up what should have been 3 or 4 different entries into a single entry. 1300 words. Yeesh. If you read the whole thing, my hat is off to you.

EDIT: Screw it. I can't seem to make automatic formatting do what I want. Time to beat it with a stick.