It’s better to be lucky than good

As I mentioned in my last post, while I have taken a few photos over the last year, I haven’t really felt that the process was particularly directed. Mostly it was just pointing the camera at something that momentarily caught my attention and taking the shot. Unsurprisingly, I found myself gravitating toward my least demanding cameras – the Minox 35ML got more use than any other. One could argue it was a very zen way of photographing, but that’s a big stretch, as it implies intent; this was zombie photography, driven by some primal urge toward something I vaguely knew I wanted, but didn’t know why, or how to get it. In case it wasn’t clear, I’m talking here about meaningful photos, not delicious brains.

Clearly, this process, or lack thereof, is not going to produce any sort of coherent result, unless of course your objective is to be incoherent (much as I admire the conceptual novelty of Dadaism, it is not something I have embraced). There is no overarching idea or purpose behind any of my photographs from this period. They are snapshots in the purest form of the word. Still, one might ask, doesn’t a group of images taken in similar circumstances or conditions take on a collective meaning, even if the individual photos have none? Perhaps, but I’m still too close to them to even begin to think about them that way. For now, it’s just a pile of pictures.

But this is the Internet, damn it, and by now most of you have either stopped reading and gone to look at Instagram, or if you’ve inexplicably stuck with me this far, are nonetheless growing frustrated and annoyed with the seemingly endless stream of boring words on what is ostensibly a photography blog. So here are a few of the photos I shot in the last year or so, more or less randomly chosen, all from the Minox that kept finding its way into my pocket. There’s no theme, no big idea – just pictures. Are they interesting? I’m not really sure, but if any of them are, it’s pure dumb luck. As the saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

Timing is Everything….

This being a blog generally about my photography, and my photography being done entirely outside of a studio setting, resuming posting here a year or so ago was especially ill-timed, even for me. Regardless, while I have not been posting here for a bit, I have been thinking about photography, and even managed to take a few photos during the current unpleasantness.

Being limited to places that are nearby and familiar forces some degree of rethinking if one wants to avoid taking the same photos over and over again. I am not especially interested in taking photos inside my home – I see it all the time – so that’s out. I’m sure there are ways to make such photos interesting and different, but mostly I don’t care. Every once in a while something catches my eye, like when the morning light comes in a just the right angle for a couple days to highlight something, but usually it’s just too boring to be enough to motivate me to pick up a camera. The same goes for my yard. It’s arguably somewhat photogenic, with nice trees and good morning light, but I see it every…single…day. No thanks.

So we have to enlarge the circle. There are a number of places I like to hike around here, and I’ve expended a fair bit of film on them over the years, and that’s the problem. How many different ways are there to shoot the same views, the same buildings, the same features? Not enough, at least for someone of fairly limited imagination like me. I can go further afield, but limited daylight, other commitments (stupid work…), and general laziness (or is it apathy? I find it hard to care…) all conspire to make such excursions infrequent at best. And even so, it’s trees and rocks, hills and streams. Blah blah blah….

One of my usual motivations for photography is travel, but that’s been off the table for obvious reasons. Without the promise of new places to see, and to provide useful contrast to the places I see every day, it’s been difficult to see the daily views as anything other than an utterly nebulous background, like something you might see in a Sears Portrait Studio circa 1983. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say, and the last year would seem to bear that out, albeit negatively.

Street photography is another dynamic source of potentially interesting photos, but the thought of willingly plunging into a mass of potential Typhoid Marys is deeply distasteful to say the least. It should be pointed out, I suppose, that I’m also not especially interested in directly documenting the way society is reacting to this transient upheaval. Plenty of other people are happily taking pictures of people in masks, or protesting loudly about how right they are and how wrong everyone else is. I’m bored just writing about it.

So what’s it all about then? Well, if we consider photography – and art generally – to be a personal thing, then for me it’s about confinement, limitation, and boredom. Seemingly minor complaints in the grand scheme of things, I know, but that’s what the last year or so has looked like to me. And in my world, the greatest failing, the greatest weakness, the greatest sin, is boredom, both inflicting it upon others and suffering from it myself. How exactly does one photograph that?

Well, it turns out, I don’t. Much, at least. Sure, I took a few photos here and there, but there’s no real creativity, no real meaning. Perhaps an occasional photo managed to capture something more than an utterly prosaic image, but it feels accidental rather than deliberate. So rather than bore others – again, a Very Bad Thing in my weltanshauung – I just didn’t put anything out there. I worked sporadically on some past photos, reediting and rethinking, perhaps assigning new values to old pictures – a very personal thing to be sure, and not one to be imposed on other viewers – but the idea of producing new creative work has been the very opposite of my experience in the last year or so.

So there you have it. The absence of photos posted here is my artist’s response to the last year. What seems like nothing is actually a meaningful artistic expression of a sort of dull, slightly angsty, void. Now if I can just find a way to sell it….