Astoundingly it’s been about four months since I’ve last blogged. In fact it’s been about as long since I’ve written from the heart, or about as long since I’ve written. I have taken photos, which doesn’t always happen when in a spell of not writing, but those photos were not so good, and I literally had to force myself to take photos, even if they were quite bland. I was careening into the photographic “death spiral” of perceiving, then noticing what caught my eye, and then gloomily self effacing the worth of my own observations. “Oh, why would anyone photograph that anyway…”
So I took some photos anyway and they sucked and yeah. Moving on.
I have previously used what I will call “photo inhibition lowerers” or perhaps “death spiral avoiders” in the form of random something or other generators. Previously, it was with words. In my Sophomore year I tried to shoot one frame of medium format film every day with the seed of a random word as input into the creative process. It took me a semester to figure out that the strength of the project wasn’t about trying to show the word in a picture, but the thoughts and imagery that going out and trying to show something with a photograph could elicit.
Almost two years later, I am happy to say that it only took me about twenty minutes to realize that an interesting photographic activity is not just going out and photographing a random spot on a map.
So anyway, I got to the place and started shooting. Where before I would’ve left it at the snooze inducing photo above, I kept shooting around the area a bit but still tried to keep myself from trying to find the meaning of life in a Richmond alleyway (and believe me, I’ve tried).
Alleys are like abandoned buildings. Their content is just so there that you don’t even need to think about it. And what’s funny is that I think it’s a pretty good place to go and think if you’re so disposed. People try to keep the fronts of their house orderly and nice, the backs of their houses tidy, but everyone lets their alleys kinda go to shit, as if that’s where their responsibility ends and society’s begins, in the hands of the garbage man. It’s not a new thought at all, but it’s also not pretty, and I’ve seen way too much of it in school.
But hey, they’re there. And I was there. So I tried to make some photos, because why not. I am tasking myself on these outings to let myself think what I will, but not to be judgemental over my own thoughts. Not that there aren’t good and bad thoughts to be having, but rather to say, I’m a poor judge of them. Which is unfortunate, because I spend most of the days having to listen to myself think (at least when not trying to air out my mind for the review of others, like I’m doing now).
So I left the alley and kept going.
I guess I’m going to start in the direction most days of that random direction, just to get myself out of the house, just to get myself pointing my camera at things. So I started rolling on my bike and snapped my chain a few blocks down the road.
That little jawn is one half of a master link, which came out because I was trying to do some dumb stuff on my bike which I shouldn’t have been doing (namely hopping around on a bike not designed for it). I had the worst time trying to put this back together, but it would’ve been a long trip kicking myself home on a chainless bicycle if I didn’t.
I did have a funny idea for something of a performance piece (type thing) that is essentially a single use bike. As I was trying to rethread the chain, I dropped it onto the front chainrings and used the normal pedaling motion to pull the chain through, which moved the wheel as it was supposed to, but it was to the end of eliminating excess chain below the rear derailleur so the ends could be brought together. The comical idea I had was to link like 30 chains together and put it all in a backpack, and figure out a way to thread a bike so that it would pull from the backpack, drive the wheel, then be spit out below the chain ring. It’s a metaphor for life, so I would say.
With the delinquent link back in place I gingerly left the parking lot.
I decided to roll around Scott’s Addition for a bit, which was an industrial portion of the city that’s slowly being built up with condos, breweries, coffee shops, and the like. It’s somewhat interesting, though, because the factories and whatnot are still on the fringes of the neighborhood, and furthermore there are some old houses there still as well. Believe me, it’s a very interesting place for a photographer. Unlike alleys, because, well, it’s just different.
It’s a lot of juxtaposition you know. Old and the new, rebirth, phoenixes and broken buildings and whatnot. So much whatnot. I rode around in lazy rectangles looking for something to shoot. Most everyone was going about their business as it was a Friday, and I felt just a little out of place. As was the struggle before, I was really trying to avoid the ambition of solving any problems with photos. It can happen afterwards, sometimes, but going out to take photos with the hope of curing anything but boredom has sometimes left me jaded and unable to photograph anything, because the world just doesn’t seem to be showing me the things that I need to make my masterpiece.
On my bike I enjoyed the freshly paved streets that, wow, seemed to follow all those nice and respectable buildings that made their way into the neighborhood.
Will was “joking” with me, one of those jokes that can quickly turn into not a joke depending on when you say it, that the photo department are just a lot of alcoholics. I quipped back it was because all we have is our problems and a medium that literally everyone can do. So we invent or delude ourselves into thinking that we can perceive and see the world better than others. That our thoughts are more interesting, our observations more precious. And finally, that by controlling the context and sequence and so on and so forth, that we can take a picture that might mean nothing if anyone just happened to take it, and breathe life and meaning into it.
There’s plenty of thoughts to be had on this one, there’s a four year degree concerning such lines of thinking. And believe me, I don’t think the impulse of fine art photography is as destructive or false as I more or less just said it was. As I said, we were joking, in the sort of joke that can very quickly turn into not a joke depending on when and how it’s said. I think that that’s where I end up after a spell of not talking about my motivations for making work, for writing (even journaling for myself), or sharing my photographs. I try to tame my own thoughts and only end up further inside myself, and that’s not good for anyone, let alone myself, because there are a lot of other people in the world, and they’re all just as important as I am.
Here’s to hoping more people work their ways into these photos and closer to the lens, because for the longest time, my photos have been as empty as, well, you know.