Following Through on a Threat
At the end of my last post, and even before that, as well, I mentioned something about posting some images from what I call my “Photo Walks”. After a hiatus during which I have been frantically editing and re-shooting the nearly 500 images for the upcoming book on the New England Metropolis (Diocese), I am back to the Photo Walks and back to posting on the blog. And, by the way, it makes me very happy to see people actually visiting the blog. The only thing I might like better is to see some feedback from anyone who may have some. Comments, questions and encouragement are always welcome.
So, I imagine some may wonder what a Photo Walk is. It is an exercise, or “stretch”, that came to me by way of a friend and mentor, Ian Summers. Simple thing, really, but it feels great. The idea is to take a walk every day for a set amount of time; I am doing forty minutes, and making one photograph at set intervals of time, i.e. every seven minutes. Wherever you find yourself at that seven minute mark, you raise the camera and make a photograph of something, anything, within your field of vision.
Now, the point of this stretch is not necessarily to make pretty pictures, though, hopefully that may happen from time to time. The essential key is for one to detach from the process of making photographs. Very spiritual term, that “detachment” is. We hear it spoken of as the ultimate aim of the spiritual life. And it applies to all aspects of life, including photography. You see, many people undertaking a creative endeavor, or even making a living from creative endeavor, often experience, for lack of a better word right now, stuckness. This stuckness, in my experience, stems from a fear that the work I am producing is not “good enough”, my ideas are not “good enough”, not profound, not award-winning, not the most inspirational and fulfilling work the world has ever seen and, therefore, the work has no value and neither do I, and oh, woe is me, etc. etc. Very deadly stinkin’ thinkin’, of course.
Well, how many times have we heard it said that there is no success without failure? No light without dark? No good without evil? There is a certain amount of these complementary items and more in every one of us. And both sides of the equations are useful for growth. The Photo Walks are set up so that there is failure built-in in that everything I come back to the studio with will not be perfect. And it is useful to be able to accept that. But they take a step further in that they force me to look around and draw a story out of whatever is in front of me at that given moment, not what I wish was in front of me. Very practical, really. Kind of like a musician who sits in a room, practicing every day, every day, every day and, every once in a while, has a little breakthrough, has a little growth spurt. I am not sure many photographers think in similar terms of “practicing” their craft as would the musician or an athlete. And even though I think there are some fundamental differences regarding certain natural sensibilities a photographer might have, the Photo Walks are just that: good practice time. And it’s o.k. to fail during practice.
I will make a few selections from these walks and, no, I will not show you the failures – unless they’re all failures, that is. And if they are, that’s o.k., too. I’m stretching.
Come back next time for a little explanation of Deer Island, where these photographs were made. Fascinating place if you’re into sewage.