I can only imagine what life would be like without the constant churning of ideas in my mind. I feel like life has progressively sped up over the past decade, not just for me, but for many others in the creative industry. Having a moment to your thoughts is a rare occurrence. We are often jumping the gun with quick whit and grandiose statements, even in our art these days without taking a moment to develop our thoughts and processes. Even amateur, or weekend photographers – such as the men and women of my father’s generation – have found themselves at the mercy of a rapidly changing time. It is always with encouragement that I speak to this more experienced generation during discussions of the photographic process. Many men I talk to about their former shooting styles (many who enjoyed shooting slide film and felt comfortable with these processes), feel left in the dark in this now digital age.
Photography was a hobby for many individuals who loved the art, that for a price of a $300 fully manual camera, a couple of prime lenses, a few rolls of film and processing, could enjoy, forever. Now, burdened with the constant enhancements in digital camera bodies, where the investment is never a sure thing. I always talk to people about how my 1982 Canon AE-1 still functions like brand new, and with the proper maintenance, will last another 30 years – show me a Canon digital camera from the 1990’s with the same quality and intentions. I think, in an effort to make a quick and sustainable buck, the photographic industry leaders (such as the manufacturers and retail stores) moved much faster then necessary.
With that, I reflect on my previous Fall semester at The Art Institute of Boston. Using both 35mm film and digital SLR, I photographed people on the streets of Boston. I photographed during a time I felt was worth documenting – and I tried desperately not to single out any one group or individuals, but gave everyone a fair shake at publicly displaying their own absurdities of the human condition. This generational moment we live in today is pinned with an explosive social culture and strong opinions. (I will admit, my end of semester review did not go well – the best feedback I received was from a juror was that she felt I needed to show more images than the 12 I chose to display, the 12 of nearly 1300 photographs I made over the course of 3 months).
A lesson I learned from this critique of my work, that I will apply to my processes, is to slow down. We move too fast. As I continue my work, I plan on interviewing the people I meet – to the extent they will actively participate and tolerate me. I also will no longer approach people with a little SLR – I feel that this presentation is weak and does not validate my intentions. I have chosen a 4×5 view camera to give myself a better pacing and sense of dedication.
And, my advice for the older generations. Take your film cameras out of the closet and go buy a roll of film. Get back in touch with the way you remember enjoying life.