Here's what I've been doing photographically lately: Just having fun.
It feels like a big change, somehow. I'm just doing exactly what I want to do with no added conditionals or stressors placed on top of it. Just having fun. Don't need to show it to anybody, don't need to make it into a book, don't need to sell it for money, don't need for other people to be approving or admiring or impressed. I'm old enough to know I'm never going to be a great photographer. Or even a significant minor one. But it's still fun to do.
And you know what? It's kinda nice. It's like the "doing" of photography* has energy again. I made a few things last night that I really like.
Hope you're having a nice Memorial Day, those of you who have the day off. Even if it's raining where you are, like it is here.
*All the words we have for "the activity of photography" are loaded somehow, it seems to me. Coming from reading about Zen, I used to use the word "practice," like a lawyer or other professional is said to be "in a practice" or "practicing" her profession. But then I got a letter from a reader at the magazine with a picture in it, and I wrote back something like "That's a great shot—keep practicing!!"—I just meant, basically, keep it up, keep at it, "keep on truckin'." And I got back from him a closely logick'd two-page letter delineating how brusquely I had affronted him and offended his work. He had taken the term "practice" in the sense of "practicing the piano"—exercises that needed to be done by a student who hadn't attained mastery yet. He thought I was trying to imply that if he kept working at it he might get there someday. That wasn't how I meant it. (And didn't he know that the greatest pianists in the world practice every day?) But it indicated the poverty of the word.
Other words seem similarly loaded. "My work," "the work," seems somehow pretentious—and anyway is it your "personal work" or something done "for" work, i.e., for pay? Those things are very different. "Photographing" is a bit too bland, and anyway it seems to favor one part of the activity—being out shooting—over others like editing and processing and printing, or posting. And of course "work" is interpreted by some to mean the opposite of fun.
Somehow we need a neutral, judgment-free term for just doing photography—in the way that "woodworking" can mean building a birdhouse from a kit with your seven-year-old all the way up to creating original furniture as art like you're some sort of George Nakashima. One that just means doing photography, without any indication or implication or emphasis of one part of the activity over another.
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Featured Comments from:
Richard Skoonberg: "I often look at the links of the people who comment on TOP. John Krill, who posted in the Comments here, has a wonderful video at the top of his blog about the life of Wayne Miller, a photographer who worked with Captain Edward Steichen during the war and afterwards went on to assist with the very famous 'Family of Man' exhibit. Wayne Miller died this year. Here is the link to the video."
Nigel Voak: "When I realised that 'I'm old enough to know I'm never going to be a great photographer. Or even a significant minor one,' photography for me became fun again. (I did 10 years of first full time, then part time, theatrical photography.) I now use photography for the most part to document my explorations of the Italian Apennines. No pretence to do art. Just what I hope are good photos of where I have been or what has interested me at the time."