Quo Vadis?

Tell 8126

I’ll be resuming shooting people if plans work out for a photo shoot on Sunday. I’ve shot this model before. He loves modeling and has few boundaries! He’ll do nudes as well as as portraits and fashion shots.

Two days ago I renewed my model website subscription. I plan to start recruiting models again but before I do I need to clarify why I want to shoot models. In my naiveté, when I started doing photography, I shot fashion-type images but I didn’t doing anything to market my photographs or images to magazines, internet or print. I expected the models to get themselves professional modeling jobs using the portfolio I created for them.

I was just learning professional photography. Every shoot I did was a lesson on how to use the DSLR, how to set up lights, how to process photos, how to pose models, for crying out loud, I was learning how to just work with models! The shoots were vehicles for acquiring core skills.

Today, after five years, I have learned enough to be more discriminating about doing shoots. If I continued to shoot editorial spreads I’d have to get serious about breaking into print. Right now I don’t want to enter into the fray; I want to shoot at my own leisure rather than work with deadlines. But can I do this? Can I do superlative work without having to stress about it?

I’ve been doing pro bono work. Maybe it is time I start charging for commissioned shoots. By the same token, maybe it is time I work not with just any model willing to do a shoot with me but work with the right model for the project I have in mind. I need to shoot concepts, not just shoot for the experience. It’s time for focus, for shooting as a professional photographer. If I am good at what I do then maybe it is time I make money! Getting paid is incontrovertible evidence that I possess skills that others recognize enough to pay for with their own hard-won rewards.

I’ve labeled April my “back to basics” month but it’s really time to move on. It’s time to take stock of where I am and where I have been but more important: quo vadis? Where am I going? Where do I want to go?

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Asparagus 1684

Wednesday night I struggled with post-production for four hours before midnight. After all that the images I finished were so-so. After midnight, when I kept thinking I should be going to bed, suddenly I slipped into a creative mode.

Working on a photo closeup of flower buds on the parsley plant in my bedroom window, I altered the hue then added a photo filter and a solid color adjustment layer. I enlarged the canvas but now it took on the color of the color adjustment layer. I played with the opacity of the color adjustment layer and voila! There was the image I wanted! In quick succession, I took the original and once again, with a few deft strokes, I came up with the second image.

They’re not spectacular but working on those images suggested a direction for creating visual art. I want to create images that do not so much represent reality as tell of the inner promptings occasioned by the photographs. Instead of verisimilitude I want to build upon photographs to express my own aesthetic, even an artistic effect through the manipulation of colors, lines and shapes.

Today I only did this one image. Again nothing special but this image of asparagus hit the spot. In England they say, “Blue and green, only on the Queen!” Traditional artists don’t think blue and green should go together. But they do!

I could have done more today – the energy was high and bright – but my archival backup RAID drive suddenly went out on me last week. I could only read the files and couldn’t alter anything on the disk. On my old desktop computer, the RAID was connected via Apple’s Firewire 800 that my MacBook Pro does not support. Copying files from the corrupted drive was taking forever.

Finally this evening I went out and purchased a USB 3.0 external drive. Instead of hours copying took minutes. Shortly after midnight, I finished copying the files on the 3 TB mirroring RAID array. I couldn’t reformat it for RAID but was able to erase the drive and recover the 6 TB. It’s no longer RAID and it is USB 2.0. I’ll use it a third disk backup for my photo and video archive.

So, another day that could have been great for doing production work ended up as archival work. Such is the life of a photographer/artist. As much as I want to do fun, creative work, sometimes I have to use precious energy for grunt work!

Almost Colorless Stairway

Masonic Steps 4824 narrow

Even when not outwardly producing we may still be using time well. Maybe there is a need for both fallow and use times, just as the author suggests in several parts of the Torah.

In Exodus 10:23 for instance, he writes: “You may plant your land for six years and gather its crops. But during the seventh year, you must leave it alone and withdraw from it. ..”

The seventh year, shmita, in Hebrew שמיטה (literally, “release”), is to allow less fortunate humans and wild animals to feed from the fallow land while you live off what you have put away for such a time of release.

Our collective sacred writings are rich stores for radicalizing our lives. Everywhere else we see signs to consume: grip the wheel, make the devils jump out of your way and beeline for the mall. A Sabbath year makes sense. We need times to turn off our wills and repurpose ourselves for letting go.

Take sleep, for a metaphor. During the day we thrust our way through words and life, insistent and full of ourselves. At night we live, it seems, another life. In the inchoate dark of our nights, dreams disassemble the structures of our frenzy. They turn them over and out, fluffing carpets, shaking off the dust, re-arranging chairs and tables and lamps that the “room” is fresh and new again for us when we wake up in the morning.

Turning ourselves for the use of others can accomplish a similar miracle. When we turn our gaze away from the carrot dangling in front of our face we might see what’s around us – the shiny pebbles on the road, that little bench under a shady oak, in the field beyond, a lion feasting on a deer, farther down, a snow-bedecked mountain, over it all a design-free sky – and find our footing on the ground.

The quiet hours of the evening and night are some of my most creative moments. In the helter-skelter of the day I get lost in the clamor that I don’t hear my own voice – or hear the still, small voice speaking to me and only me. It’s my lifeline.

Granted there are all species of humans out there. Some have adrenaline pumps for a heart; they live for the sheer terror of almost just falling off the cliff as they ramp up their engines to their vision of a Promised Land. More power to them. For some of us production is more like making love. We reserve it for the quiet times, when everything else has been put to bed, nothing left on the mind to distract us and we are completely alone with the Beloved.

Here is an image I worked on earlier today. It’s a photo I took during a walk about downtown Indianapolis this fall. It looked useless when I first saw it but the vagueness of the image lent itself to “light” work. It’s a play on crazy shades that are not quite colorless or gray. It’s in the innuendoes that I think  an image can be most persuasive, leaving much of the storytelling to whomever is viewing it.

Visual art should be like a page torn from our peoples’ sacred writings, a metaphor for creating anew a stairway of wandering and hope.