I don’t like getting stuck in ruts. Though it’s less a rut than simply personal preference and my own peculiar way of seeing my world, I’ve been shooting nothing but landscape orientation since I came out here to the desert. Much like it was with square format, I haven’t been comfortable with verticals – the format clashes with the way my world looks to me.
So… to get over my aversion to verticals I’ll be doing more of them, like it or not.
I was drawn to these ironwood skeletons the first time I set foot in this desert. Now, several years later, they still talk to me. I could take pictures of these guys and nothing else for the rest of my days and never run dry. Hell – I could do a book, several volumes in fact, of nothing but ironwoods if I was so inclined.
It can be interesting, and fulfilling, to revisit your beginnings now and then. I remember the days when I used a 127 Brownie Starflex or my dad’s 620 Argoflex. Then along came the Instamatic. Just pop a 126 (or maybe a 110) cartridge into this little plastic box and have at it. Point said box at something, push a button, and when you’d done it 12 times bring the cartridge to the drugstore and you’d get pictures back. How cool was that? Wow… click.
Lately I’ve been using my phone camera much like those old Instamatics. I set it to 1:1, wander around out here, point it at what I see, and push the button. Snapshots of my world right at my fingertips. Except for maybe dialing down the saturation a bit or adding a border I’m doing no post processing. It’s almost like what I used to get back from the drugstore…
I’m not thinking any pretentious thoughts about it being art. I don’t concern myself with whether it fits anybody’s definition of what is or isn’t good photography. I keep thoughts of ‘will anyone like it’ to a bare minimum, and above all I’ve managed to purge the thought ‘will it sell’ from my mind. I don’t do this for money. I’m not interested in money. I do this simply for the sheer pleasure and joy of doing it, and I like to explore different directions just to see where they may take me. Wow. Click.
I’m trying to please myself; certainly that’s a big criterion… though in a sense, I don’t take images just for myself. I take images that I think other people will want to see. I don’t take pictures to put in a box and hide them. I want as many people to see them as possible.
Mary Ellen Mark
I came across this quote by Mary Ellen Mark, and it makes a point I’ve been wrestling with lately. I want as many people as possible to see what I do. Whether anybody likes what I do or not isn’t the point. Some will, some won’t, most won’t really care one way or the other. To me an important part of taking pictures is simply showing them and letting whoever stumbles on to them decide for themselves if it’s worth spending their time with them. I think I’ll start showing more again.
I’ve been posting a few snapshots here on and off, but I haven’t been on Twitter for a few months now, and I haven’t done Instagram in a couple of years. One of these days I’ll probably start doing both again for a simple reason — I take a lot of snapshots, I do it for the fun and pleasure of doing it, I like to experiment and play with different approaches, and I like to show what I do. When I first started in photography it was much more difficult to show your work. There were limited opportunities and there were gatekeepers to get through at all of them. Not so now, and I want to take advantage of that.
I can start up Instagram any time I want to, but I’ll wait on Twitter until most of the gas concerning the upcoming election has been passed and a decision has been made. When that might be still seems to be a bit of a moving target. I’ll be posting here now and then too. Maybe I’ll see you around…
Sometimes unintentional things happen. And sometimes they actually work.
I used to shoot square negatives. Back in the late seventies and through the eighties I used TLR cameras — a Yashicamat, a Ricoh Diacord, and a Mamiya C220 — with Verichrome Pan 120 film. I loved it, but I seldom printed a negative square. I never got comfortable with a square format.
Some of photos I’ve admired most over the years have been done in a 120 square format. Lately I’ve been playing with it more to try to overcome my aversion to it if possible. I’ll set my camera for a 1:1 image, either color or b/w, and have at it and see what comes of it. I was out this morning and took two quick shots with the sun at my back. I had no intention of doing a diptych or panorama, but when I looked at things later on I saw these and thought, ‘huh — I’m gonna try combining those just to see what happens’. So I did. And then I posted the results here.
So much of what we know, and what we think we know, about the land has first passed through someone’s lens. The interesting thing is to make use of this history, not merely to be absorbed into it. For me, landscape photographs begin as the artifacts of personal moments. They get interesting when they become cultural commentary.