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Thursday, 14 April 2016


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Ain't that the truth

Throw some light in there and you've got a photograph.

I'm very busy- I don't have any time to make good pictures... I know! I'll buy a new camera! Then my pictures will be good!

"To do something interesting, you need time. Nobody ever has time. Everyone is always in a hurry. Time is the secret."

Almost everyone in the world instinctively understands this. This is why people are money crazed-they hope to retire rich while they are young, and have all the time in the world to do things properly. There are noble motives behind the pursuit of wealth, you see :)

More seriously, Roland and Sabrina Michaud have spent all of their careers in photographing lands and cultures known as the Silk Route. European readers might remember a time, before the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, when hundreds of thousands of overlanders (aka hippies) traveled by bus, car and motorcycle from London to Goa in India and Katmandu in Nepal.

They traveled through fabulously the picturesque landscapes and societies of the Middle East, Iran and the Indian sub-continent along the routes that the silk traders of Marco Polo's time took. In these rural locations those lucky travelers saw cultures and peoples largely unchanged over a millenium.

Roland and Sabrina Michaud are unabashed Orientalists and that route has been their beat. I recommend their book 'Mirror of the Orient', which sets their photographs against corresponding scenes from ancient Persian and Indian miniature paintings. It is a delight.

For those so inclined, a bracing intellectual antidote to that variety of sentimentalism may be found in Edward Said's seminal book, 'Orientalism.' Essential reading for the intellectually minded or those who like art criticism, and a must read if you have read books such as Susan Sontag's 'On Photography.'

Time management — it comes with the territory. Without time management an amateur can't impress his/her friends on an image sharing site.

If you are trying to make money with photography, time management skills are as important as your gear.

If you don't have the time to imagine and plan a shoot, all you will be doing is making sharp images of fuzzy ideas.


The French Wikipedia page about them says:

"Roland et Sabrina vivent à Paris sans ordinateur et sans téléphone portable."

- which makes them all the more likeable to me, but which maybe also explains why I couldn't find their "home page"...

Time is something everybody has, and it is free. Complaining about not having time is nonsensical. What we choose to do with the time we have, that is entirely different subject.

Sit down, relax. Put on that Dinah Washington record and enjoy listening to "What a Difference a Day Makes" ....

Yet we still say people have "too much time on their hands" when we really mean they are interfering busybodies and we wish they would go and bother somebody else.

Sometimes you only get things done when you're under time pressure.

Sounds like they know how to create the spaces time can flow into. They say in an interview that they have no internet, email or mobile phones and still use their trust Leica film cameras. A remarkable couple - what a heart-warming story, a quality that comes straight out of their images.

To really do it, photography IS time. All of it, pretty much. You dream of it at night, and in the day you're always looking and working. Like real interpersonal intimacy, you give yourself fully and open up. Half measures are not the same.

Time gets pretty weird in photography. I tell my wife, "Wait, this will only take 1/125th of a second" but I don't know how long it really takes. Apparently much longer.

I am the lines in the Greg Brown song:
"There is no time, there is only this rain
There is no time, that's why I missed my plane."

I missed my plane, but I am a photographer.

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

I have heard this one often through the years and it is reality more than not.

I've just remembered the famous Douglas Adams quote - "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by"

I don't understand. We all have 24 hours each day. It only takes, what, a fraction of second to take a picture. What's the problem?

I would modify HaJe's comment ever so slightly: "Time is not something you just have. You have to *make* time. Only then will you have it."

As in, free time has to be constructed, not just taken. Or more precisely, un-free time has to be deconstructed in order to take/make the free time.

By way of example, I've always wanted to work a four day week instead of a five day week. Well guess what? As of last week I am now working the four-day week that I stepped-up and negotiated with my employer. I'm taking a hit in terms of income, but at this point in my life the time is manifestly worth more than the money. But I had to make that happen; it wasn't just laying there waiting for me to take it.

Another way of looking at this is to use attention instead of time. Being aware of where one's attention goes is not easy, but can be rewarding.

I've been touting the idea for years, that if you go back and figure what things cost against your gross salary, you would be amazed how everything has gone up and now controls a far larger percentage of what you make. The gross price of my new Toyota Corolla was one sixth of my gross 1977 income, now a new, cheapest model Toyota, would be over half of my 2016 salary. Ditto my apartment, it was 20% of my gross in the 70's, and almost half my gross now! Finally the NYT wrote about this a few weeks ago, it was sent to me multiple times by all my pals that had to listen to me say it for years...

Somehow, I seemed to have far more spare time in the 70's than I do today...

What's the point? I'm in my 60's and I can't slow down, at least I can't slow down in the mid-west; because I would end up on skid row. Even a few years ago, in small mid-western towns, I could get an apartment with heat included, for about $500 bucks a month, now I pay $750 minimum with nothing included, (in a dangerous neighborhood for a lot smaller space); and in fact, surcharges that would probably be illegal on the coasts.

After I was done with an extended family care situation, it took 3 years to find someone who would hire me, over 55 years old. And it's a bad job, in a bad state, for 1995 money. If I lose the job, or reduce my hours, I'm in serious trouble.

This stuff sounds like "1st world problems", by people who never had a bad day, or at least not a bad day, as bad as I and my friends. The person who said "complaining about what we do with our time is silly", must think that some how those of us that spend almost all of our time holding on to a job are somehow deficient in some way. Sorry Bub, that's the way the American labor market works for the rest of us. I'll be lucky to stop working any time before I die, unless I want to go from an efficiency apartment in a dangerous neighborhood to a tent in the woods! There are still a few jobs around where people might make good money and have extended time off, or can take sabbaticals, but bunky, it doesn't exist for most of us, and white collar is worse! We do what our boss tells us, work as many hours as they request, or we lose our jobs...

I have spent my whole life avoiding artificial busy-ness. Because I'm lazy.

It started in high school where the current trends towards college bound kids "needing" to have tons and tons of "well rounded" extra activities was just beginning. This has more recently ballooned to ludicrous proportions, but I always ignored it and only did things I was interested in.

I have generally managed to keep a hold on this through school, graduate school and in my work life. Nothing in your work life is worth sitting in bed at home responding to work email on a laptop or phone. I don't keep work email directly on any of my personal hardware, and have been lucky enough to be able to maintain this disconnectedness. This is not out of some luddite concern for not using the computer at home ... it's just to avoid work at home whenever possible.

I find the modern trends around essentially working 24/7 to be horrifying. There are certain times and certain kinds of companies for which this is justified for short periods of time, but it should not be the norm.

But of course, the social pressures to be "busy" are unrelenting. You have to keep your kids busy too, and be busy keeping tabs on all their busy-ness. It never ends unless you decide to ignore it.

"Et voilà—it's a sign of status to be busy. It means you're better educated, have a better job, and are earning more money, and it implies that you're essential to the people you work for, because why else would they make so many demands of you and depend on you so much?"

It is always a nasty surprise when we find out how unessential we really are.

People who aren't busy all the time are probably the kind of people who sit around and contemplate, get ideas, imagine. That's subversive, so we're trying to stamp them out. A corporate culture, which is more or less what we are now, loves conformity.

All that busy-ness because it makes people feel important! Then, when you're 50 or 55, they turf you out the door anyway because you're costing the company health plan too much money and there are 5 younger people lined up at the door for your job, and they'll gladly work even longer hours then you because they still think they'll be CEO one day.

They won't be happy till they restore the model of the West Virginia coal mine company town. Don't believe me? Black lung disease is making a comeback there because of industry deregulation. They're even trying to bring back slavery, only now they call it internship.

(Am I too paranoid?)

[A little. --Mike]

You could always become a working photographer. Then you'll have no time AND no money.


I came late to this post but appreciate the news that Roland and Sabrina Michaud have a new book out. And that there's a Wikipedia article in French on them (thank you, Wolfgang).

Their 1977 book "Caravans to Tartary", one of my first photo book purchases, transported me on a nomadic camel caravan through remote Central Asia. That haunting portrait of the man from Afghanistan with liquid eyes mesmerised me every time I admired the book.

It's nice to see that they're still going strong and remain adventurous. I really admire their tenacity. Good on them. The book sounds like a cracker. A world disappearing.

People who are always complaining how busy they are can be the most inefficient people to work with. Yet these same always-busy people are the ones often recognised and promoted into management. Genuinely talented and able staff are crushed by these busy people, who have no time for objective analysis or for people who think creatively and solve problems that have usually been created by people too busy to think in the first place.

In photography the ease of creating digital pictures invites an endless cycle of busy-ness in post processing and digital asset management. (I was going to add printing, but I doubt most digital photographers do much of that - an interesting idea for a survey, perhaps? Although I suspect more TOP readers than most would regularly print their digital pictures.).

Film photography by its very nature slows one down, allowing more time for thought. In the past few years I've gone back to using mostly film and found the slower pace refreshing, as well as enforcing more discipline; and I think I'm making better pictures as a result. I'm certainly having more fun.

I do agree with your observation about busy-ness as a status symbol. It's the same here in Sydney. Boasting about busy-ness is common. And don't get me started on parents who inflict busy-ness on their children. I find all that tiresome and tend to look for company elsewhere.

Your addendum on 'busyness' was very insightful. It explains to me why I am so uncomfortable in getting broadcast letters at Christmas: I never send any and don't reply to (or even sometimes read) the ones I get. But I don't think I need to read the book now as I have the idea – I was going to say that I didn't have time, but that would be a bare faced lie!

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