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Thread: My work vs Atget's (Part II)

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Mar 2001

    My work vs Atget's (Part II)

    My sincere appreciation to those who took the time to write in my previous threa d. Here're my thoughts:-

    Adrain, you talked about projected "vision". I'm not so sure about that because if I'm going to have a "vision", then I'm almost certain to have to look for som ething and in my experience I always find nothing if I go around looking for it. It may be the case for Atget but I just don't know how, for myself. Maybe this "vision" can be executed in still life (you can arrange it) but not likely with landscapes. I tend to agree with Ellis that Atget was in love and moved by his s ubjects. I admit getting caught in tech stuff quite often. My prints are not fla wless (quite weak, actually)and I'm afraid to be perceived as a lousy photograph er. I should change that thinking. So what if people tend to relate high quality printing with good photographs!

    I may have created the impression that I'm trying to shoot like Atget. But that' s not the case. I admire how freely he was in his eyes and mind able to capture his subjects with such ease. As Bruce said it, I must like the process of making pictures and to make those pictures for myself, first and foremost. No doubt ab out that, but my frustration is ignited deeper than just thinking that I may not have what it takes after all. What about my social responsibility? Haven't had a decent income for the longest time is abandoning responsibility. You'll just d rag everyone down with you. You sure can juggle between job and photography, but you know inside you cannot be good at both. Someone told me recently that to ma ke a good photograph is more difficult than to paint. I'm not a painter, so I do n't know, but I do know I'll feel guilty if those are not my best work. Eight ye ars isn't a long time at photography as Joe pointed out. Ansel said one good pic ture is about right. Supposing I photograph for 30 years, how would 30 photograp hs pay the bills for over three decades? It would be irrational to even think ab out it. Social pressure is mounting! But Joe made me see a point that those who are good at what they do always makes it look easy. As for 10,000 negatives, I p robably wouldn't make it in my lifetime. I did a calculation and came up with al most 900 negs (800 4x5's & 100 5x7's) from eight years work. Printed about 25 ne gs. Probably 4 or 5 decent (though not flawless)photographs. Adding the countles s times out in the field without removing the camera from the sack, that's more than 99 per cent failure rate. Five photographs and eight years of shooting, thi nking, learning, smelling, drinking, dreaming photography??? I seldom go back to printing old negs, though I know reprints always get better. I'd rather move on. Almost all are 4x5 contact prints and won't sell anyway. Ho nestly, I didn't do it to sell. Just six people have actually seen my work. Some times I don't know what the hack I am doing this for. I do not normally cast my thoughts openly, but I guess I want to find out if those serious photographers o ut there do feel the same when in a slump, and for the same reasons, and the way to go is to "expose" my own situation. Art & Fear will be my next book to read. Thanks for the recommendation, Scott and Tom.

    I like what DJ narrate about things going a certain pattern and to keep at it to get better. I think if I do decide to quit photography, it would not be for pot tery or anything, but for butter & bread issue. Perfectionists (not in the techn ical part of photography in my case) do make things hard for themselves, don't t hey?

    I've read both Robert Adams books. In Beauty in Photography, he showed a chinese painting of what looks like six pears by Mu Chi. Simple brush strokes and it se ems so easy. Thousand times of failed attempts and a love for his medium! But Sa ndy, obsession without the means to do it is misery. I have long accepted the fa ct that there will only be a very small audience for such work, so to think of g etting recognition for my work has not been on my mind at all. What do audience know about photography anyway? If some great personality says my work is a treas ure, audiences will find an excuse to agree (Matt, you're right!). If you ask me , Jonathan, what am I getting at all these years, I'll tell you I don't know. If you asked if I'm confuse; I probably am!

    You know John & Ed, I've recently upgraded to an 8x10 Ansco and this beast has i ntimidated me for over a month. Not a single exposure made! It's huge, heavy, cl umsy, and I weight just a hundred pounds. The ground glass is so dim with a slow 305mm lens and the image is so big I am overwhelmed. The viewing seems less int imate than would my 4x5 and 5x7. I cannot 'connect' with the subjects. Similarly , an 8x10 print or larger overwhelm me. I generally feel a lost in intimacy with bigger prints. I tried a little change in my routine, it didn't work. Perhaps m ore time is needed.

    Thanks for that little spark at the other end of the tunnel, I can see your craw ling marks and footing in this same path. But I'm climbing two feet and falling three for now. Where does this lead to, Jim? Brian, Justin, John, I know you're pushing my along, but where am I going?? I am still confused.


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 1999

    My work vs Atget's (Part II)

    I believe that you might benefit from a reading of Edward Weston's "Daybooks." Not technically, but inspirationally.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Apr 2000

    My work vs Atget's (Part II)


    Making really successful pictures is hard work, and knowing whether you've succeeded or not can be equally difficult. Spending the day not getting any exposed negatives can be every bit as valuable (though much less enjoyable) than a day when everything clicks. Especially if you are paying attention to why things aren't clicking--it may not be that you're failing to connect, but that you're connecting perfectly and realize the conditions are not going to produce the pictures you want. With enough of this negative data, you learn to recognise the conditions that do work and take full advantage of them.

    Production is a very tricky issue. If you shoot less and have a higher success rate, is that an improvement or not? If you learn from experience when not to shoot, has your 'production' gone down, or become more precise and targeted? Do you thrive on careful planning or countless hours spent in serendipitous searching? The answers will be different for each individual.

    If you've found the move from 4x5 to 8x10 to be daunting, try simply practicing. First just practice manipulating, setting up and taking down the camera. Then go out without film and get used to the machine. Pictures are aesthetic objects, but cameras are machines and you need to learn how to work with a specific camera just as a machinist needs to learn to use a lathe. To mix the metaphor, once the 8x10 feels as natural as riding a bike, the pictures may star

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Apr 2000

    My work vs Atget's (Part II)

    ......start happening.

    Was supposed to be at the end there. The software seems to cut off the end of postings from my computer. Anyone know why, know why, know why

  5. #5
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Honolulu, Hawai'i

    My work vs Atget's (Part II)

    Try making some exposures with your 8x10". They don't have to be the most profound images in the world, just things that are interesting to you.

    If the prints don't inspire you to work through the awkwardness of a cumbersome format, then maybe it's just not the format for you. I feel the same way about 4x5"--tried it and enjoyed the process, but it didn't click for me the way 8x10" and the 8x10" contact print did. Why should you feel compelled to use 8x10" if you don't enjoy the process or the results? Some external standard? Find your own standard, and I think you'll be happier.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Forest Grove, Ore.

    My work vs Atget's (Part II)

    I'm wondering if perhaps your frustration doesn't stem from not having some aspect of technique allowing you to realize your vision. Black and white photography can be like that. For me, it was finally learning to achieve proper exposure and contrast control that enabled me to become satisfied with some of my prints. And, that makes all the difference. You have to have some wins to enjoy what you do.

    Have you thought of taking a workshop. A good workshop can make a big difference in one's inspiration and on one's ability to achieve that inspiration. For example, I've heard good things about Bruce Barumbaum's (sic?) workshops in central Washington. There are good workshops available all over the country. Perhaps you can find one in your area.

    It's absolutely possible to be good at both photography and at a regular job. One may not take as many photographs, but if some of those photographs are pleasing, then they are good at photography.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jul 2001

    My work vs Atget's (Part II)

    I agree with Neil that a workshop would be an excellent boost to your confidence and your outlook.

    I was also thinking that it might do you well to take a more casual approach for awhile to try to relieve the pressure you seem to have burdened yourself with. Take a 35mm camera and shoot anything that captures your attention. Do not edit your thoughts or what draws your interest--just shoot it. I think in the pursuit of perfection, it is very easy to edit out those concepts that come to mind and which could be most exciting. The trouble comes when we overthink or over analyze, and in doing so, dismiss promising creative ideas as a waste of time.

    As for pursuing your art in your spare time, consider that Kafka only wrote in his spare time and he turned out some pretty good books during his off hours.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Redondo Beach

    My work vs Atget's (Part II)

    If you're not paralyzed from the neck down, they you're in great shaped. I think you've made life a little too complex and I think you're a little lost. That happens to all of us to some degree at some point in our lives. You're thread almost sounds as it you're mentally whipping yourself and it's time for you to quit, you're had more than your share of self doubt, now it's time to go on living.

    You can sit in a room an eternity and ask endless questions about life, about yourself, and you can self-doubt yourself into mental paralysis. Somehow I just don't think you're as bad as you've convinced yourself, and on the other hand you don't need to torture yourself because you're not as good as you want to be, yet.

    You might as well play the cards you have been dealt, come up with a plan, something that's been suggested here or something you can come up with, any plan so long as it's a plan. Do it after you've relaxed yourself for a while, and take a vacation from being a 'tortured artist' and have some fun with your life.

    One thing you gotta remember about life, you can go out and have fun living it, or you can sit in a room forever and ask yourself why you're not an inch taller. That's what you're doing.
    Jonathan Brewer

  9. #9

    My work vs Atget's (Part II)

    You need to read Rilke's "Letters To a Young Poet". It anwsers many questions you have raised.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Tonopah, Nevada, USA

    My work vs Atget's (Part II)

    Couple of thoughts. If I die tomorrow and my good wife rents a dumpster and scoops every piece of photo gear along with negs and chromes into it with a grain scoop, I am still "paid in full!"

    It's the journey I'm reveling in, not the destination. I don't know where it's taking me, and I don't much care. I'm doing this for me.

    Second thought. The Ansco has performed it's job fabulously! Remember how BIG that 5X7 used to seem. The Ansco made it tiny, which is about all the Ansco's probably good for. I initially bought a Cambo 8X10. Nice to know if I ever take up deep sea fishing I'll have a suitable anchor to hold my craft steady. Then I bought a Folmer and Schwing 11X14. The Deardorff is a feather compared to it, and it's truly good for nothing because I'm afraid it would float. Hmmm. If I get cold, I see about an hour and a half's worth of BTU's.

    Lighten up guy. I know, easier said than done on some days. Jim
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

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