I have been tip-toeing around the title of this post for the last week or so and this post is absolutely some more tip-toeing. A bit askew from the actual topic. It's a very complicated subject and deserves a bit of context so I am going to continue down this road with a somewhat askew set of thoughts but at the end - for me - very related. Diving right in I want to take a moment to talk about one of my favorite people of the moment - maybe more than the moment - Patrick LaRoque and how this all relates.
To summarize the last couple of years for my photographic endeavors - I have been desperately attempting to un-do some damage that I did in going down the wrong road for way too long. I chucked everything - I mean everything. Didn't even touch a camera for over a year. Started messing about with helping other people get things done that they were into while trying to re-think myself as a photographic artist.
I made a big leap last year. I actually went out and did a couple of no big deal projects. For me the absolute essential ingredient for those not to get corrupted, transmuted, and generally end up on the same road that I swerved off of was that there could be absolutely no audience. No mental game - literally no audience ever, ever, ever. This was a big win for me and informed my mentality in ways I wanted it to but in reality did not truly grasp until a couple were under my belt.
Right before that period Patrick, who I stumbled across a lot earlier, started having some friendly with conversations with me etc. He intrigued me from the start. That's why I followed him. Intrigued me in ways that you and even he cannot possibly imagine. That's a long conversation for another time but lets just say I could see thought processes that I was extremely familiar with just executed so far differently than I would - in both my minds eye and from my commercial/pragmatic/what would someone else like eye.
Somehow or another we did a bit of banter that was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. A little play over my usual winter depression. I accomplished far far more than you would believe during a season where I usually regress to nothing-ness. I accomplished things I haven't discussed in the real challenge of photography - the mental one. I actually started a few projects that had a few things in common. None of which I shared yet. Well I have shared a couple of what I would call fodder for thought - the thoughts that got me started down the road on some of those projects. Here are a couple of things that happened that may be very hard to understand at first glance. For me that I have to credit almost 100% to LaRoque even though he has no idea he did this… Maybe I was prepared for his unintentional little kick in the ass at that point even if I did not plan on it.
- First off with respect to those projects I started during that time period. They will have an audience but I don't know and do not care who that will be when I am done. This is a big deal for me. I could not do anything remotely like a project without fully analyzing who I am doing it for and why I am doing it. The key here in the word who ( a market ) for a reason why ( a reason to accomplish some tangible measurable result ). That who was never ever me and the why was never ever defined by me. Huge breakthrough that I knew, and I wanted but very difficult when you are working in reverse for so so long.
- I have tried desperately when I started to dip my toe back into the photographic waters over the last couple of years, even on non-projects to cast off and shed every single thing I have ever done, accomplished, known, was good at, or even interested in when I ever picked up a camera in the past. I could not tell what was me and what was not. Even in terms of subject matter I gravitated toward - was this interesting or just what I know? Why do I care? I had no idea because that was my project mode define the end first - do whatever it takes to get to that end - defined by some audience/market. Well attempting to cast everything off was a bad idea. Maybe not entirely bad but just this year I am okay with what's me and what's not. Yes there are things I am good at that aren't other people's stuff. I am now okay using one skill, viewpoint, whatever, that I have used previously and not using others. It's okay. It doesn't all have to be brought to bear as a big lump, bundled together as part of the same package. The part pieces are okay. Another thing I learned if not directly more indirectly from LaRoque.
- The notion of project is now free from it's former strict definition. The idea, the intent, is okay without pre-working out of every single visual, technical, and logistical element to get to the end. In fact I can now start with the idea, the notion, the feeling and work towards evolution in whatever direction the work takes me. This is huge for me. Mega-huge. Night and day different than starting at the end. This is where I wanted to be mentally. Freedom, not in any sort of haphazard way but in a productive way for what I want to accomplish. I have a notion of what the end might look like but I do not have a deadline. I am okay with the on-going evolution - not as a procrastination device but as a creative device. A refinement. An exploration.
Okay so for me, a hell of a lot of this was thanks to Patrick LaRoque - even if he doesn't know it or couldn't possibly understand it at this point. A lot of this is also some soul searching on planning vs preparedness and very specifically a balance. I am really good at planning - at causing a desired effect within a very small margin of error. I don't have to throw all of that out the window but an open mind with a looser definition and preparedness is a very good balance for where I want to go as a photographic artist at this point. I promise I will get more concrete for those of you that are going "whaaaaaaa?" or in the UK "WOT?".
This is a good kick off to what will be an ongoing discussion as well as a good time to say thank you to Patrick if I haven't done so already.
Ps. I keep promising but want to make sure I think this through and get some trusted input before I go off half-cocked. I think I have something very interesting for those of you looking for insight into creative process, work-product, and getting from point A to point B in any sort of creative photographic endeavor. I promise - soon. Hopefully this week.