I was tired all day yesterday.....greenspun.com : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread
I was tired all day yesterday because I had stayed up past midnight to make a print. And then had to get up at 4:23 AM to get to work. I wanted to see for myself that my vision was indeed intact. It is. Worth it? You bet.
For me the biggest problem in my creative adventure isn't magic bullets (although I do have a philosophy that seems to be working) but time. I started out on this journey knowing that I would fill a dumpster with bad prints before I ever made a good one. It has proven true.
My problem: I'm teetering on the commitment ledge that falls off into the black unknown. Lately I've been adding up how much time I can devote to this creative effort and stay in balance with a family that has constant needs and demands, my wife who I promised long ago to hold in priority, a job that pays a fair $ and expects a fair return on the investment, friendships with demands, faith with demands and on and on, ad-infinitum ad-nausium. When I get to the end of that equation I'm down to minutes........that's right minutes per year that I can use to express my creativity and make real advances towards excellence. It is frustrating. Maddening! Meanwhile the dumpster sits there waiting!
Do the guys I read about in magazines with the fabulous work and dream darkrooms have wives and broken down cars and houses with pealing paint, or has their commitment to the craft made them walk away from all that to pursue the goal. I'm painfully aware that Weston abandoned his family to go to Mexico. I'm not willing to do that so I ultimately may be just one of the very many who doesn't get to the magazine pages.
Just venting a bit. It's nice when you know you're not the only wacko in the world and this forum goes a long way, for me at least, by giving me a peek into what others are experiencing. In Central Nevada I truly am the only wacko. Anybody got a late 150mm Xenotar?
-- Jim Galli (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 20, 2001
Jim, For what it's worth... welcome to the club! As far as the wife, job and faith are concerned...inescapeable... friends should be understanding or you should put them in perspective. I'm a commercial shooter and love it, just redid the darkroom, have an absolutely great wife (although like any good wife... high maintenance [HMW as I would joking say to her]) and a small child whom I love them both dearly. Sometimes I have the need to "escape" and go shoot pretty pictures so I plan a long weekend so I can get away and shoot my 4x5 and recharge my creative batteries. This weekend/week will usually surfice for 2 months at best as far as the "itch" goes. Shooting during the day does help and the corporate stuff enables me to be somewhat creative but I do, like you, still need the creative outlet so we do what we have to do and on those long nights in the darkroom, I highly recommend espresso the next day! Good luck, Cheers
-- Scott Walton (email@example.com), November 20, 2001.
Jim, I completely relate to what you are experiencing. Probably not to the extent though. My son is grown, I don't have a wife , but I do have a live in girlfriend and a job, other artistic endervors (dance) and a number of friends that I backpack, ride mountain bikes with and have lunch and dinner with. My girlfriend is also a photographer so she is supportive of my efforts, but I have to continualy fight the urge to completely withdraw into photography. However,I am nt willing to give up the other stuff and feel like I am burning the candle at both ends. I think my money making job has definately suffered. However, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will no longer need to work in two years and my 53 year old body isn't going to be able to do the kind of rigorous activity that I now do too much longer. Things should begin to get a bit more mellow and I will have more time to market my portfolio. Keep on truckin Jim.
-- Paul Mongillo (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 20, 2001.
While I was within the corporate working world, photography was most difficult if not impossible. Add the demands for a family, wife and all of the other responsibilities and the frustration mounts as you clearly are feeling now. It was nearly 10 years from the date in the front of Adams "Negative" to where I arrived at a solution that balances it all. But photography was not the only stimulus for reaching from beyond the status quo to a better situation for myself and my family.
I got caught up in one of those corporate fiascos where management was interested in finding out how many employees they could get another 20% more work out of without a pay raise. Needless to say, I got my walking papers out the door and had the opportunity to re- assess my priorities and start fresh. I concluded that: 1) My corporate job was at an efficieny level of about 20% because of to many meetings and knucklehead management, 2) I was not involved at all with my family because of travel and the general feeling of belonging to my "job", 3) I was constantly stressed out about the perception (not the actual numbers) of what I accomplished at my previous job and 4) I needed to find a way to have it all - my photography, family time and financial freedom.
How did I do it? I started my own company two years ago after finding a service niche that was not being filled that let me work out of my house making more than I imagined with the ability to set my own schedule, take my kids to school and my wife out to breakfast when we want and create the flexibility to build a darkroon and make photographs at my descretion.
I content that anyone that can succeed in the corporate world already has the skill set to make it on their own. All that they are lacking is the balls to make it happen. Reminds me of the age old axiom "Sometimes the Greatest Risk is Not Taking One".
My point is that you can attain all that you want to with good planning and photography does not have to take a back seat.
-- Michael Kadillak (email@example.com), November 20, 2001.
Upon telling my wife that I was getting a 8x10 camera, her response was 'Oh I see, you're too lazy to do your 8x10 prints anymore, you gotta go and get a camera that does it for you'.
-- Jonathan Brewer (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 20, 2001.
That's funny because lately I've been using 4x5 for the convenience of Polaroids. I don't have an enlarger at home so it's great to get a direct print right away (I like to pretend they're contact prints). Now if only Polaroids weren't so schizophrenic about their EI...
-- David Leblanc (email@example.com), November 20, 2001.
When i read your post i felt like I was reading my biography. Not only is time an issue with my wife, work and two daughters (ages 18m and 5yrs) but so is the amount I can budget towards my passion. I had to make a major shift in gears when the kids came along and my darkroom time went from 4hr sessions 5 or 6 nights aweek and photographing anytime i wanted outside of work, to maybe 2hrs a night 3 nights a week and except for occaisonal day trips only a few hours a week with the camera. Fortunatley my oldest daughter has an interest in photography and comes along with me to shoot, so that is increasing my time out somewhat.
So what to do? I don't hold any illusions about chucking everything and doing this full time, but i have learned to work within my limitations. My phtographic interests and projects suit where I live and where I can go for a day of shooting. I use a JOBO processor which allows me to do other things like while the film is processed. I standardized on a couple of developers, a few papers and 2 films for large format. This doesn't mean I don't try new things, but I have certain predictable results with my standards which saves time and paper when printing.
When I print, i work on two negs at a time, usally one is in prelimnary stages determining manipulation decisions, then i will end the session working to have a finished fine print from another negative a began in another session. The only real washing needed then is the finished fine print(s). If toning, or spot bleaching is required on a print, i will substitue that process for one of the negs. The real frustration comes in when you have planned time to print some exciting negs that you processed the night before, and your daughter wants to play, or the other one is sick, or you had to bring work home etc etc. My family is the priority, so i just have to make do. I don't get as much done as i like, but i know the situation will not last forever, and I like to beleive that the few images I do complete to my satisfaction are well worth the effort.
i really don't have any other choice. Photography and the creative outlet it gives me is the counterbalance i need for the rest of my crazy life.
It also helps to appreciate the passions of your wife and kids. It makes it easier for them to understand my near obsession.
-- James Chinn (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 20, 2001.
Having just begun down this road myself I can certainly empathise. I have 2 kids, 2 1/2 and 7 months, neither of which goes to bed on my (darkroom) schedule :) I am limited to 1 night per week (on rare occasion 2) and dont get started until 10pm. A few minutes later in the DR and it's 2 am, knowing full well that one if not both of the kids will be up early and rare'in to go, and the multiple commitments of the weekend. At this time I'm not even developing my negs (take them to a private lab) due to the time contraints and limited space for storing the chemicals. After much internal turmoil I have come to the conclusion that my photography will, to some extent, suffer (maybe I should say "evolve" at a VERY slow pace) for some time to come. This is not to say that I sacrifice quality for time's sake...just that I am aware of the self-imposed limitations to shooting (and the learning curve to go with it) and the total control processing would allow. My wife thinks I'm too obsessive about the final print as is. I'm simply an obsessed weekend warrior, and of course get to take lots of shots of my fondest subjects - the kids. Regardless, I can't imagine NOT being involved in photography and dream of the day when both kids will go to bed at 7:30, let alone be old enough to do their own thing. It's all a matter of perspective...
-- Scott Hamming (email@example.com), November 20, 2001.
Great discussion, Jim. Thanks for sharing and starting it. I think there are always times when "it doesn't go like we would like it to." We don't get into graduate school. Our portfolio is rejected. We can't afford the paints and canvas. My answer has been is that if we have something inside that needs expression and is worth communicating to others, if we have the passion, it will find a way of being expressed. Can't afford a camera, learn to draw with pencils. No one will publish our work, start a web site or self-publish. It's the vigor and committment and honesty of the expression that coun
-- David Stein (DFStein@aol.com), November 20, 2001.
Jim: I'm in the same situation as you. For the foreseeable future I see no prospect of increasing the time I have to devote to photography. I've been thinking lately, though, about how I spend the time I do have. I tend to lose focus. I start a promising project (e.g., still lifes under the skylight in the kitchen), but before I can finish it, some real busy phase at my job intervenes, time passes, and before I get back to the promising project, I get interested in something else ("scraggly trees I see on my route to work"). So I end up scattered. But I have an idea! At this moment I have essentially three photographic projects going. I'm going to choose one of them, define it narrowly, and say that I will have ten images in that vein finished and ready to display by, say, March 1st. In the meantime, I will not permit digressions into the other projects or any new projects. Isn't this a good idea!? -jeff buckels (albuquerque)
-- Jeff Buckels (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 20, 2001.
Probably best just to schedule the time whenever, and let everyone know that during such and such hours Dad is recharging by being creative. Next best course is the $100 have fun shopping bribe. I have found that having loads of time doesn't necessairly translate into more work being produced. It's just to easy to say I'll do it later since there are no obligations to stand in the way.
-- Wayne Crider (email@example.com), November 20, 2001.
Jim, this is obviously a very important topic to a lot of us. Scott, you talked about the constraints that having little kids puts on you. When my boys became teenagers, they had to have separate bedrooms, so there went my darkroom for a while. When they were both in college, and I finally had the money to do so, I completely rebuilt my darkroom and furnished it with the best equipment. Of course, at that point the very job that allowed me to finance all that took up all my time, so I was just as frustrated. I finally settled on a schedule of late night darkroom work, 2-3 nights a week, because my wife goes to bed early to get to work early. Other nights I often have to go back to the office to work. So I never sleep, I've cut years off my life expectancy, but I do finally get to turn out prints from a well planned and comfortable darkroom. The trade-offs are always there. Like now, I have only a fuzzy memory of what my dreams were when I was 25 or 30, or how I thought I was going to achieve them. Dreams can evolve and should to keep you going instead of giving up.
-- Don Welch (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 20, 2001.
I agree with Wayne. I don't have kids at home, but I have a husband who likes my company and I teach part-time and train for marathons and write essays... you get the picture, we all have many competing interests and obligations. For me the best thing to do to get creative work done is schedule it in advance, be firm, get off the internet, and work like hell shooting for one week or whatever amount of time you can get away (or into the darkroom). Wayne is right that more time does not translate into more or better work. It's _intensity_ that produces good work for me. When I return from a trip I have lots of negatives (processsed in motel bathrooms) waiting to be printed, and their presence creates an additional impetus to reject the less important diversions (internet, TV) and make prints instead.
I once read an essay by a writer with three children. She said she got the same amount of writing done now as she did before she had kids, she just had to squeeze it into a much shorter time.
-- Sandy Sorlien (email@example.com), November 20, 2001.
A lot of us really do have the same sort of difficulties. I can't claim to be in quite the same position, but it's difficult nonetheless. I'm going on 20, I'm a sophmore in college, and photography is my life. When I say it's my life, I mean it's my major, my hobby, my consuming passion. And yet, I still have trouble finding the time and resources for it. I've been sinking virtually every penny I've made into equipment, film, and chemistry since my freshman year of high school, and I've spent probably on average 4-5 hours a day since then doing something photography-related, whether it be shooting, darkroom work, or usually just research.
My set of challenges are similar in some ways and different, too. I'm completely far away from marriage at this point in my life- hell, I haven't had a date in almost a year. I can't afford a car, so I can't get anywhere to even make any money while I'm at school. My biggest challenge really is funding. While I'm at school, I don't have a job. I'm in the perfect demographic to not be elligable for any scholarships or financial aid. My parents are in the middle of trying to sell the house right now, and they're paying two mortages until the house here sells, so they can't help me out. I had to work 60 hours a week in a warehouse all last summer to be able to afford the 90mm lens I needed for my architectural work, I'm probably going to have to take out a loan to buy my new 4x5 system, and I'm already taking out a loan for a computer. Factor in other things like the $5,000.00 medium format system I'm required to have by the university and I'm positively drained. I sell plasma half the time when I'm at school just to have enough cash to buy 8x10 film so I can continue shooting to keep myself sane.
Time is a problem, too, at school. All fall I worked on an independent study project in architectural photography. Simple enough, but with that plus three other very demanding classes, darkroom work, running errands for people for pocket change, and trying to remember to take time out to eat, I found myself perpetually fatigued, broke, and without enough time to get all my work done. I'm home on break now, but even though I'm home and don't have a way to get to a job for the next 6 weeks (3 people + one car = me not having a job), I still have trouble finding time to get things done. Between making prints to try and sell, trying to get my site on-line, vacating the house for showings, etc, it's practically impossible to get things done.
Figures....I have to get out of the house now because there's a showing at 6:00. You're not alone Jim, in your strife. I think the responses to this post have already proven that. Who knows, maybe it'll all work out for us sheet film addicts. Good luck to all.
-- Dave Munson (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 20, 2001.
Wayne.....I don't know how long you've been married, but for me the 'have fun shopping bribe' has passed $100.00 a long time ago(for my personal projects and ideas).
The most important thing in life to me, is the love you get from from family and friends and especially the 'goodwill' you can get from strangers. Love and friendship mean everything, and they'll save you in a crisis when money won't. I remember being in a south american country, and being told to give up my camera, and having four guys(I'll never forget 'em) come over to where I was and chasing off the folks who were about to take my camera.
The undercurrent of anxiety and frustration juggling important aspects of ones life, I've felt for several long periords in my life. When I go through one of these periods, I try to remind myself that there is somebody somewhere paralyzed from the neck down, who wouldn't hesitate to change places with me in a 'New York minute'.
As you get older, and lose relative and friends, you become thankful to just be alive and have someone around who cares about you. Most the people I've seen who've had the roughest time going through mid-life and beyond were people who didn't have anybody. None of us on this post really have it that bad from what I've read. Reminding myself of this while I walk along the beach relieves me of a lot of the frustrations I put myself through.
-- Jonathan Brewer (email@example.com), November 20, 2001.
I can't resist telling this about one of my neighbors. I try to walk four miles a day in the morning when I first get up. About a mile into my walk one day, I pass by the house of a very nice lady who lives by herself whose husband had died and her kids had grown up and left a long time ago(and they never visit). I said hello to her one day and 'how are you doing?' and she responded 'fine, if anybody cares'.
I talked with her for awhile. I didn't question and I didn't intrude, but the substance of what she said amounted to 'I just don't care anymore, 'cause nobody else does'. She seemed to have had a string of bad days, complicated by the fact that her children never came around, they call or send cards, and that's just not getting it.
She seemed to be down for a couple of week but then snapped out of it. Her dog brought her ought of it. He's a happy dog, and she now says the dogs love means as much to her as anybodies. I know she doesn't mean that, and at the same time I know what she means.
I've asked her to let me do a Portrait of her and her dog, and she says 'maybe some day'.
-- Jonathan Brewer (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 20, 2001.
Always an interesting dynamic between the gravity of life and the pull toward artistic evolution...and how these two interact,feed,and conflict with the artist.In my days as a Jazz drummer there were always the top 40 guys that were constantly complaining that when they had enough time or money or support they would go for what they really wanted...a jazz or classical carrer. This enevitably never happened. We often disscussed this and came to the conclusion that if you want it, NOW is the time!Also that, top 40 was what they really wanted to do, since they were doing it! My now departed mother was a very well known pianist working in N.Y.C.... and when the classical piano and modern dance world told her she was crazy to have a family ...she did it anyway and was very successful there with 6 kids too. Her piano instructor though dumped her when she got pregnant so there are dues to be paid of course....she was 21. When she was 13 she won the New York piano finals making her the best 13 year old classical pianist in the country....to have her teacher of many years go cold was a great blow. Anyway...... the way she balanced a big career and family was this...Music and work came first. Since my dad was gone by then, the children understood that there was absolutly no interuptions when a lesson or rehersal was going on. There was no discussing it... that was law...if she didnt work ...we didnt eat....I dont think people/children in general understand the needs of a working artist...this needs to be understood...there has to be respect there... for the art.... and the adult is the primary force in this... not the kids. Many people have this ass backwards...with the kids running the show. With the tail wagging the dog!Many parents are weak in this. I remember having a deep respect for the arts/artist instilled by my mom....this made us independent and knowing our limits in a defined and positive way, as kids. This might not work for everyone but it worked for us. A less responsible or energetic parent/artist might have a problem working this way. Most great artists are supported in a big way as kids or as adults ... physically and emotionally for their art... before they take off...and also in the lean times. But.. they give the art their first priority ....do or die! Most of us are not able or willing to commit to that level....and especially in adulthood as life takes over. The most we can muster is a balanced approach...Working with intensity and soul in the time we have to do it. And producing good work.The world as well as the artist still profit and eventually if you dont give up.... the world may accept and smile at your talent.
-- Emile de Leon (email@example.com), November 20, 2001.
Emile....Your mom obviously did a great balancing act. I agree with being the adult and taking charge of your kids and I would add this.
That family and friendship will serve you when nothing else will. Survival for all of us means at some time in our lives we are helped by others. There were a couple of times in my life that I wouldn't be here to practice my art and/or have a great family and kids for that matter, if it hadn't been for the help of someone else.
There has to be discipline and denial to eventually good at anything. Emile makes a good point about the dynamic of a family and the way it should be. Some folks take this to the extreme(Emile...this doesn't refer to what you said) and are willing to sacfifice anything and anybody and at that point it becomes a selfish pursuit.
To be totally selfish is in fact, an act of self betrayal. If you only want to look out for yourself, that's all you'll have looking out for you. If you look out for nine other people and they are looking out for you, then you've got 10 people who care about you, not one. Doing the math on this one makes it a simple choice for me.
-- Jonathan Brewer (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 20, 2001.
Jim, you obviously hit a nerve. No, the balance is not at all easy. I tend to be a solitary type to begin with (my sister used to call me "mole man" when I was a kid). Shooting and darkroom work are both solitary endevors; what we have here is a classic positive feedback loop. Solitude begets solitude.
I just exited the darkroom after a four hour session. Before I left for work, I got the space ready for tonight. I planned refinements to the print while I was at work. I ate a sandwich in the car on the way home so I could get busy right away. Is there such a thing as a healthy obsession? I sure hope so.
I was dating an artist a few months ago. She was somewhat of a loner, too, and claimed that someone devoted to their art may have to make sacrifices in other areas, like relationships. Did I see that one coming? Of course not (if you're out there, call me, you sweet rascal!).
I don't have a point or a conclusion, other than "I feel your pain". You read about people who win the lottery, and then keep going to work at the brick factory because they can't imagine doing anything else (stunned silence). Friends, if I ever hit the jackpot, I doubt I'd even come back from lunch. I'd be on the phone to B&H ordering up some new magic bullets, uh, I mean lenses.
-- Kevin Bourque (email@example.com), November 20, 2001.
Thank-you one and all!! I'm overwhelmed. If no one had posted I would have felt better anyways for just shouting out loud. But what a wonderful group and what great ideas and truths. You've all said it in one way or the other; What artist ever had it easy, didn't have to make some conscious hard choices, didn't have to struggle with the balance, isn't guilty of some wasted time, (got me Sandy, if I threw this computer away the minutes would add up) hasn't made mistakes. If it was easy, where would the passion be. The value in the work may just be in the fact that we choose to do it instead of idling in front of the TV with a beer. Thanks all, very much. Jim
-- Jim Galli (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 20, 2001.
I got frustrated and totally gave up on photography for nearly seven years. I had pretty good luck selling my 35mm work and decided to move up to 4x5. I really enjoyed the challenge but had become frustrated with the few publishers I was dealing with. They would be working on a project and want a certain picture sent instantly to meet tomorrow's deadline. I guess they thought I sat at home constantly waiting for them to call. I found it was impossible to come home from work, get the material they wanted and get it to Fed Ex on time. I finally quit photography completly. The money wasn't enough to justify the hassle. This Sept. I decided to drag out my cameras and shoot up some outdated film I had in the fridge, just to use it up. Damn it, I got hooked again. I'm taking a different approach this time. I'm doing photography strictly for my enjoyment, No more deciding not to make a picture of something just because it probably won't sell. I don't care! I do strictly color transpariencies and just send the film out for processing. I'd love to do black and white, but I don't have a darkroom or the time. I am near retirement and will get there sooner if I keep my photography expenses down. Maybe then I can do more with my photos. For now I plan on keeping it simple so I can simply enjoy it.
-- Wes Carroll (email@example.com), November 21, 2001.
Wow, did you ever hit a nerve! I have 7 pieces of film to develop and I haven't made the time since last week to do it. That's probably because I recently decided to take up the fiddle. It's an instant means of self-expression, unlike photography. So now I'll fiddle while prints are in the wash. Then there's whitewater kayaking, fishing, duck hunting, woodworking, writing, etc. Maybe one day I'll grow up and decide what I want to do, but right now it seems I want to do it all, and as a result I haven't achieved a mastery in any particular area. If I could find a modestly profitable work-at-home scenario, I'd grab it in a heartbeat, but I'd probably lose money because of competing interests. I find that I go through seasons with photography. Since I live in a semi-tropical climate I don't lug my 8x10 around during summer months. But this fall I didn't get the urge for photography until a vacation. I'll rejuvenate my passion in a week or 2 when making prints for Christmas gifts. I couldn't imagine focusing just on photography, although I went through that phase in my college days when I always carried a camera and spent ridiculous amounts of time in a darkroom at the expense of my education and other things of major importance.
-- Bruce Schultz (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 21, 2001.
To add to my earlier post, yes there are the other interests to get in the way too. Playing guitar, making guitars,exploring the net. I don't remember who it was, but a very rich man advised to restrict yourself to only one hobby. Making money apparently was his hobby? I'd love to be rich simply because it would buy the freedom to do what I want to do. What's the sense of trying to be the richest person in the cemetary if you didn't enjoy life on the way?
-- Wes Carroll (email@example.com), November 21, 2001.
Wow! Two things in one week, first the "Magic Bullet Club" and now I get to join the "Who has any time Society". :>) Boy do I feel a lot better and like I really belong here. Just like yourself I am a husband, provider, parent (2 teen children..sports, concerts, school activities) and lastly over busy employee trying to find some personal time. I have my own story but most of it has been already mentioned in this thread. So as I have always believed "Never mention a problem unless you are ready to suggest a solution" Here goes... Perhaps some of us hobby types could keep in contact and set up a monthly goal in regards to shooting and printing. I realize that this will not solve the time problem but it may help us to focus that precious time while learning a bit from each other and enjoying some "photo pals". Maybe somebody like a "Doug Paramore" who is actively instructing classes might rise to the challenge of bringing us together via the net and share our interests and sucesses. Just a thought...
-- GreyWolf (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 21, 2001.
According to my personal scheme of things (essentially rooted through a grandparent in late 19th c. rural protestantism supplemented by a 1950s upbringing), photography (or any other avocation) must always give way to demands of family, profession, and church, but even so that still leaves lots of room. If my pursuit of LF photography is obsessive, it's because it has become my *only* avocation--and that goes for time, money, and expenditure of energy. But if you're going to have an all-consuming hobby, you could do a lot worse than LF since it's potentially so multi-faceted. If you let it, it ramifies into all sorts of interesting directions. Physics, optics, chemistry cannot be entirely avoided. My subjects enhance already existing interests in the natural world, local history, and the formal esthetic aspects of everyday objects, not to mention new approaches to the family portrait. The antecedents of the craft allow me personally to revist my west coast origins, sometimes in a very literal and direct way. Study of the masters opens up new (for me) vistas of artistic appreciation and criticism. So, if this is an obsession, at least it's one with significant compensation for what I'm giving up, for the other things I could be doing with the time, money, and energy.
All our children are well along, and it's getting to be the time for me and my wife to do things together again, just the two of us but often with the much-cherished company of our adult downs syndrome son. Marilyn is very interested in LF photography (after all, she was party to most of the 10,000 snapshots that wore out our Nikkormat FTN) and has a very good sense of LF procedure and mechanics, esp. the movements. Ned carries the tripod and film holders, and often releases the shutter, necessarily so for the occasional portrait of Mom and Dad. Not at all a solitary activity to feel guilty about, not that that would have been feasible anyway since our 8x10 rig is too big and heavy even for a large man like me.
Expense is a matter of concern, as I gather it is for most of us. What protects me (relatively speaking) from over-indulgence is my photographic orientation. Although I'm entirely self-taught, I still have mentors: my studio portrait photographer father and the group f.64 masters whose life stories, subjects, and even life-styles have such enduring resonances for both of us. They define the craft for me; I have no desire to go beyond the genre as they understood and practiced it, whatever the technical merits of the medium (say, digital) might be. My (unrelated) professional work takes care of any impulses towards pioneering originality I might possess. All I need is the wooden 8x10 field, three lenses, and an apparatus for contact printing that rivals EW's cabin in its simplicity. For me, it's all about family tradition, nostalgia, subjects, the process, the craft as it was practiced at mid-century.
Sometimes a week or more goes by with no field or darkroom work, but this morning I was up at 5:00 am printing test RC's of the latest batch of Tri-X negs. After a half day at the office (it's the day before T'giving for crying out loud, and as it turned out I was the only the person there), I drove our 14 year old daughter into Pittsburgh for choir practice. It was late afternoon and we were headed south with a bright sun sinking to our right. The trees to either side of the road along with the brilliant highlights on the utility wires suggested photographic possibilities. "Did you know that Ansel Adams once shot into the sun. He called it 'The Black Sun', and if I ever understand how he did it, I'd like to give it a try." Now, on the left we're pulling even with a church with a cemetery before it, the gravestones bathed in brilliant sunlight. "This reminds me of another Ansel Adams shot, his most famous, called 'Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico'. Did I ever tell you the story about how he got that shot?" "Countless times," Alice said. "You get so excited. It's like the Super Bowl for you." She didn't know how right she was. Best to all and good light. Nick.
-- Nick Jones (email@example.com), November 21, 2001.
Like most people I've struggled to balance photography with a normal life- job, wife, kid(s= more on the way), and many other time consuming isolationist hobbies (playing/practicing Tabla, audiophile madness-building speaker, amps, etc). Often wished for more time, but I'm happy to have the opportunity to struggle with this issue, since it has forced me to really focus on what is most important to me, my life, and what my involvement can contribute to the art overall. And since I only do this as a hobby, to consider what types of images only I can/should make, ie,what is my duty to photography anyway, except for just being crazy about it, etc.
Indulging in the photographic process is fun, but I was not getting results. Either family or photography took a serious hit. Application of classic wisdom was my only solution: be simple (less equipment, less distractions), be efficient (one film, dev, reduce darkroom setup time - get a Nova processor), eliminate variables, be focused, and just do it. Everyone knows this, but it just took time for me to realize it is the only way.
-- Vishal Mathur (Vishal.Mathur@nsc.com), November 21, 2001.
Vishal, The last two years I have been playing tabla also...music is a beautiful compliment to photography and meditation! Been studying with a college senior who learned in India but he is leaving in 2002. Do you know of any tabla teachers in CT? Have a good holiday! Regards,
-- Emile de Leon (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 21, 2001.