This summer, for some reason that goes beyond me being an old shut-in, has been boring.
I’ve ridden my motorcycle as much as makes sense given the Seattle-like climate that seems to hang over the mid-Atlantic region each summer. Still, there is no place to ride. Nothing is happening. I can’t ride to go shopping. I need a trunk for that. Shopping isn’t really fun unless you’re rich or maniacal anyhow….
I have an advertising shoot with a young Puerto-Rican model for my line of T-Shirts coming up next weekend. I’ll keep you posted on that. Still, even though I love taking photos, it’s work. It’s not guilty, ignorant fun. I want THAT. The ignorant shit.
I’m getting old. My romantic engine is showing it’s age and struggles to get started most days. My sufferance of fools and friends is at an all time low. Despite this, my overall temperament feels jovial. I’m not brooding.
I need activities. I’ve taken some pretty neat photos this summer. A handful of winners maybe, but thats all that can be expected. My X100F remains a solid choice of mine. It’s the greatest street photography camera of all time perhaps.
As I’m trying to transition into being a full-time photographer and do it MY WAY, I find myself treading water most months financially. A monetary breakthrough would be nice. With my checkered past, age, and tendency to be self reliant we shall see….
What matters more: photo content or picture quality? What photo has more intrinsic appeal: a grainy photo of a person getting shot in the head at point blank range or a crisp medium format photo of an apple sitting on a kitchen counter?
People seem to prefer interesting content over visually appealing picture quality. Actually, having both at the same time can be a detriment….
Before I begin I must admit: I’m far more shallow and superficial than I might have hoped….
Let’s take the internet for example, which consists of 3 things: photos, video, and text. That’s it. That’s the internet.
With laptops and PC’s declining in sales and tablet sales becoming stagnant, the main way folks consume the internet these days is by using their phones. Phones have made people highly tolerant of inferior photo quality, especially if the photo features a juicy ass, a nice set of boobs, or a cat, in no particular order. This is because people use their phones to record video and snap photos of the above things, often times in bad lighting or with less than professional level cameras mounted on their phones. Actually, there arguably has never been a professional level camera mounted on a phone…
Come to think of it, amateur porn is the reason this is a debate at all. Every time a chick sends you a photo of her rack and you whack off to it you are taking a side in this debate….
Meanwhile, the internet gives us high quality porn and photographers offer their services for top dollar. Premium porn sites sell content that later gets bootlegged and iPhone photo geeks scoff at paying 5000 USD for a wedding shoot. What the marketplace, both the internet consumer and iPhone shooters are saying is that image quality essentially doesn’t matter.
….and we wonder why our basic friends are simply not impressed by our nice, sharp, well composed DSLR photos, and instead like grainy, drunkly composed iPhone St. Patrick’s Day pictures….
This is why Instagram models are so successful. For every person surfing the web on their phones looking for art there are 2600 men searching the hashtag #tittytuesday. Art is secondary to porn, and in turn, image quality is secondary to content. In fact, many men are suspicious of well lit, professional photos on an Instagram models feed. They suspect a sell is coming, and nobody likes “the sell”. We, ahem, they are more amenable to poorly lit bathroom and bedroom photos where the model is wearing her often worn night clothes…
A nice painting is probably not as desirable as a nice blowjob I suppose, even though the painting normally costs more….
We photographers spend thousands on our cameras and even more on an array of sharp lenses and we only have 900 followers on Instagram and 300 on twitter while some chick in her moms basement using a Galaxy Note has 200k followers on IG and a respectable 24k on twitter, even though she never does more than post photos….
Why the fuck are we buying all this gear? Are the camera companies mind fucking us? If you shoot weddings or funerals or school photos I get it, but most of us don’t shoot shit besides street photos and our reluctant family members who we are afraid to tell how much we paid for our gear….
This is a micro-struggle. The debate over image quality vs. image content will not determine whether or not your city legalizes prostitution. This is small shit in the scheme of things. Still, think about how much grainy amateur porn you whack off too compared to over-produced West Hollywood porn…..
This is normal to me. I don’t expect to ever be fully satisfied with anything. I mean, I can find temporary satisfaction at any moment I want to, and I can adopt a realist mindset and be content “in the moment”, but in my humble opinion, long-lasting satisfaction is impossible.
Many husbands and wives are content with their spouses of course, though I suspect true contentment is evasive and is replaced at some point by filial piety and duty, despite what the contents of the secret mind are. In other words, people may want something better or something different than what they have, but are deeply motivated to resist any and all temptation. This is perhaps the definition of loyalty…..
What about us however? What about our photography and being satisfied with our work? Is there ever a point where we should feel like we have taken enough photos? Probably not. What about gear? Is there a point where we have the perfect kit for our photographic needs and should stop looking at gear forums and adding items to our Amazon wish lists? Probably so…..
Im never satisfied with anything, as I said before. In fact I reject the premise of being satisfied and embrace instead the reality of constant evolution. Sure, it is fruitless to divorce your spouse randomly or to sell all your gear and buy a new camera each year. Still, our kits must evolve and our marriages must grow and both partners need to try to be the best partner they can be, and avoid stagnation and complacency. No matter how good the last photo you took was, you’re only as good as your next photo. Excellence is being able to reproduce results, and there is no hard limit as to the number of results required before you consider yourself excellent.
I am insatiable. I’ll never be satisfied with anything. Well, besides my motorcycle…. and a dozen jumbo steamed crabs…. and a Hasselblad X1D…..
Street photography is a search. What one searches for depends on ones personal outlook on life and overall temperament. Some people search for structure. They may shoot buildings or inanimate objects. Others search for festivities and random action. They shoot people smiling and dancing or reacting in a unique way. Me, I search for the unobtainable. I search for happiness and love.
I’m not saying I treat street photography like Match.com. In fact, I don’t like to speak to anyone who doesn’t themselves have a camera when I’m out shooting. What happens when I’m in my zone shooting and walking the streets is I am confronted with overwhelming sadness. This is juxtaposed to the general joy I feel when composing and snapping street photos. The sadness I feel stems from how active and engaged people seem out in the world, versus how distant and lonesome my life has always been. I’m a loner of the highest order. I’m edgy and gritty and often overbearing. I don’t readily take to friends, and my romantic life is a runway junkyard of crashed passenger planes. Nothing has ever really taken off.
When I’m shooting, part of me is trying to unlock some secret as to how I can overturn this self inflicted penalty of isolation. I’m not looking for verbal cues or to feel included or welcome. I want to find my epiphany through art. I want the God of street photography to give me that eureka moment where my affairs thin out and all becomes clear. Until that day comes, and even after, I will stay low and keep shooting….
When I’m out shooting I’m also out thinking. Sometimes however, I’m dreaming. This is why I aim my lens at women primarily. My dream, at least a summer-dress wearing representation of it, is across the street from me. I shoot. No more dreaming but instead, action. Click. After the photo is taken and the moment has passed, I look around. If there is not another subject nearby I move to another area. Between areas the dreams come back unless I spot another beautiful subject. If I do I am at once sad and excited. I snap another photo, and at the same time I feel both hopeless and hopeful.
I suspect that I’m unfit for romance. Natural selection. Darwinism. Just call it science, basically. Despite this I dream every day of my comeuppance where I get the girl, the money and I utterly crush the spirits of my enemies. I dream of magic, basically.
I see many couples during my street photography shoots, especially during the summer. These couples range from younger hand-holding couples to old best-of-enemies couples. New love and tired love. I see them and I shoot couples that catch my eye artistically. I rarely post photos of couples on my social media, however. The reason is simple: I harbor envy towards them. There they are, together and not lonely. Here I am, pointing a camera at them and later cropping the guy out of the photo, always lonely.
In the eyes of the men whom I normally crop out of photos I see an annoyed look that I rarely see when men are walking by themselves. This annoyance is likely, I suspect, because men cannot have their normal wandering eye when strolling with their snuggle bunny, and this creates a subtle-yet-visibe angst. Even men with world-class women whom I’d have to ask for credit line increases on all my cards just to afford to date, there is that look in their eyes.
I know time can do this to a man. A woman is a man’s hot little mama for a while, and then she becomes an actual mama and has his babies. Now she is not his hot mama, at least in the household, as much as she is “mommy” and he is “daddy” to the kids. The man has everything he ever wanted, but now peers at other women when his wife is not paying attention, and momentarily contemplates throwing his treasures away to start something foolish and new.
The man misses his passion for the future. He used to seize the bull by the horns, but now he is a protector and a father and a husband. Everyone tells him he should be happy with what he has: his dime-piece wife, his children, his house and toys, and indeed he is thankful. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t feel blessed. His micro-struggle is that he no longer gets to hunt. His hunt has ended. The world now tells him, “You have your prize now enjoy your life.” This is pacification through achievement. This is the penalty of reaching your dreams, especially those pre-defined by your birth-family and society. This is the penalty of victory. When you had nothing you were free. You possess so much now but you are no longer free. This is the penalty of possession.
I’m not saying it’s a bad deal. I can trade lonely Friday nights which are normally followed by spirited rides on my Harley the next morning to anywhere I choose, for Friday nights hanging with my wife’s weird friends followed by Saturday morning soccer games with the kids? Sign me up. 🙂
In a sense I have all but given up the hunt for love and romance. I instead hunt for beauty through photography and I hunt for explanations about why life has to be this way for me. I also hunt for sex, I mean lets be real here, but I will admit that over the course of my life romance has been my main micro-struggle. I suppose until black magic happens and the universe suspends the laws of physics just so I can be happy, I will most definitely stay low and keep shooting…..as you should.
I walk up to a pretty lady. In my hand is a $3000 DSLR with a $1500 lens attached. I raise the camera, smiling the whole while, and begin to focus….
This is the moment of truth. Sometimes the subject poses and smiles. Normally when this happens I’m so shocked that I screw up some part of the exposure triangle trying to make the photo perfect, and curse myself when I check the view screen after she walks away. Sometimes they let me do my thing. “Just go on with it” their eyes say. They don’t slow their pace or give me more than a soft smile, however. They see what I’m doing and have decided that it is harmless.
As you can imagine, some women reject the idea of having their photo taken in public. They wont cause any sort of scene or say anything mean to me, but will instead wrinkle their noses, raise their hands over their faces, or scowl looking straight forward into space. Or all 3……
In other words they reject me.
I know I seem to be trending towards “ridiculously dramatic” with the above statement. I counter that notion, of me being dramatic, by offering the following scenario: What if I were Brad Pitt circa 1998 holding a camera walking around, and I mean actually Brad, not just some guy who looks that famously handsome??? If I were Brad Pitt I wonder if any woman would ever reject my photo request. I imagine they would happily stop and take at least 7 seconds to smile for a photo, instead of seeing me holding 5 grand worth of camera gear and deciding: NO!!!
That’s why I think it’s me. Being a perpetually single guy, I have opposite sex PTSD that is hard-wired to rejection and dating. I’m also an aggressive lad, some would say, and typically aggressive lads receive many rejection letters as a result of that aggression. I suppose I’m more used to rejection than most fellas. It still stings though. Every time I ask for that photo it’s like I’m 15 years old asking a pretty girl to the sophomore ring dance. If she says yes I’m far too excited. If she says no I’m far too defeated.
As I said before Street Photography is about balance. In reality all I’m doing is snapping a photo. In reality she is NOT Kim Kardashian and I’m not the paparazzi, despite how deludedly healthy her self-image might be. In reality she isn’t rejecting me as much as she is rejecting the idea of me suddenly and suspiciously taking her photo without asking. In reality she feels she controls her image and likeness as captured in public, even though the law disagrees strongly unless the image is used for business purposes. Native Americans once believed that a photo steals a portion of the soul. I think there is an instinctive belief similar to this in many people. I also believe that on some level, people just like saying NO whenever possible.
Welcome to street photography. Welcome to the art of acceptance or rejection. By engaging in classic street photographic behavior, you are setting yourself up for rejection. To avoid being rejected I have started to use a makeshift zone focus technique, where I set the aperture between f7.1 and f11 and shoot from the waist. At those apertures most things will be in focus anyway. Using this method I sometimes get a reaction like: “Did he just take my picture?” but my shutter was in silent mode and the camera never went up to my eye so there is no stank face or eye rolling from the subject. They have no idea what just happened. I win! I beat rejection! I overcame yet another micro-struggle, even though I did it by cheating. 🙂