What is life but a trip through time? Time is the one thing we cannot influence or control. As individuals, what was before can never be restored, because what went before is now a part of who we are, and restoration is just adding a new branch onto the tree that has become you and me. We do choose the journey somewhat if only by opening the doors of opportunity circumstance and others put in our faces to unlatch or pass by. The one opportunity I have usually opened doors to explore new paths, is photography.
I tried many other doors along the way, and with good luck learned more about myself, and the world I was living in. But now after 60 years of travel, I have settled to not opening any new doors, I’m road weary. So it is maybe a time, as long as I can do a little, to look back on my journey to understand where I have been and what that road now means to me, and maybe a few who travel parallel paths.
Of course because anyone reading this has a parallel interest in photography, that has to be the main focus of my thoughts. Because without subjects there is no photography, it necessarily complicates the story. Because for me photography was not just making pictures, but engaging in the adventures in living that involved my subjects. A lot of exploration and occasionally some adventure if not knowing much about your subject requires a lot of learning.
Of course being based in Hollywood to do my photography the one natural subject there are the many beautiful and interesting women in town for a variety of reasons. The challenge is always to what extent the interests and intentions of women as subjects coincides with my interest in photographing them. A challenge always, as the relationship was never much more than a guessing game because very few of my subjects made it simple. And when they did, very often the photographic potential suffered. Complexity is a mystery very often worth exploring. It’s much richer than mutual exploitation to fill simple, particularly common needs.
Hollywood is also a place that needs dilution and counterpoint. So the fact getting in a car usually and seeking picture adventures with distinctly diverse subjects was essential to both my work and perspective. I learned this early when I was a reluctant military person stationed in Alaska. The people I knew there were mostly indifferent or impossible challenges to get along with. But free time off base was a land full of challenge I now wish I had the skill then to capture photographically, much better than I was able to do.
But in the early 1950’s just learning how to do all of the photographic process was a thousand times the challenge it is today. Yes I accept, but resent the advancements that have made photography easier, because today due to easy there are many billions of mediocre images of almost every corner of environment, and kind of human, this planet contains. The results seems to me that photography no longer attracts much serious interest as a way to express a creative talent, so few do that. Is that a reason for me to be cynical and negative about the democratization of photography?
No for many reasons, but the most recent to come to mind arose from this year’s carnival season. From just one magazine I read, The Atlantic, I was able to enjoy quite fine photography from Rio’s Carnival. Besides the mind boggling display of creativity captured in the pictures; to know so immediately that the joy of life is so well celebrated in Brazil, provides much more hope than despair about this world today. It also reminds me that the change from analogue to digital that began for me in 1989, afforded a new opportunity to learn and explore; and to acquire new tools to better perform the skills I have been developing for most of my life.
One might suggest it is all the result of attitude, and for a photographer it is an attitude of an open and exploring vision. You can only make photographs of what you see in your mind’s eye as a picture. The way life and things looked yesterday may be very different in tomorrow’s world. So, how people are looking and seeing today may suggest those new attitudes of vision. That does not mean the obvious of taking up and doing photography with an iPhone or the camera in the latest tablet computer. But how does having a camera integrated into one’s daily living tools affect how we see life from moment to moment. This was so readily illustrated by a one in a century meteorite which struck earth in the Russian Urals near a city and was captured in its flight across the sky by many different cameras, some stationary, some in vehicles and in the hands of people. So now everyone in the world can see some of what that experience looked like, and maybe it will be another century before a meteor strikes again, but now we all know what it looks like.