Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New blog post: no #film; #Tokyo part 2

You know, I never did shoot any film while the Leica was visiting New Jersey.  For years I loved film and thought it was the girl of my dreams. At one point I even wanted to get a film tattoo, but after of five years of shooting digital, I don't miss film at all and will be happy if I never have to shoot it again.

I just can't bring myself to do it.  I hate paying $5 for one roll, then another $6 for processing, so I'm not going a lab.  And I'm not going to do it cheap through Walgreens, because I've seen how they handle the film (shudder).  I won't process it myself, especially since I gave all that stuff away a few years back.  

What really makes me not want to shoot film are the ten million little things that can and do go wrong.  I hate it when a tiny bit of dust gets in the camera and makes scratches from frame one to frame 36.  I hate when the sprockets slip and I get double exposures.  I hate wiping dust off of the negs only to see more dust a moment later.  I hate having a toolbox crammed with assorted brushes and blowers that don't work all that well.  I hate having to grab that little bottle of oil to fill in the scratches that my furious cleaning left behind.  I hate having to spot my prints because of the dust I missed.  I hate running out of film.  I hate fretting over the right film-dev combination.  I hate having to run to the store because I ran out of fix, having to drive across town to drop off the spent fix only to be told, “we don't take that anymore.”  Worst of all, I hate dropping it off with someone who says, “oh yeah, we just dump this stuff down the drain.”

So yeah, I left the film camera to gather dust and shot with my old, duct-taped Olympus.  I got back to what's important: not thinking about anything. Shooting on instinct.  Shooting what I feel, not what I think other people will like.  

I got the Leica back in June, and that was good because the Oly sucks when it comes to manual focus and exposure.  Also, between May and October, I went on a fucking tear, shooting nearly every day of the week.  It was good, just being alone with my camera, slowly refining my vision.  That's not to say that I've arrived, but that I'm coming to accept my photos without comparing them to other people's photos.  

Rather than coming up with my own pithy sayings, I'll quote what showed up in my Reader feed just a few days ago:

You Don’t Need What Other Artists Have

…the important point here is not that you have—or don’t have—what other artists have, but rather that it doesn’t matter. whatever they have is something needed to do their work—it wouldn’t help you in your work even if you had it. their magic is theirs. you don’t lack it. you don’t need it. it has nothing to do with you. period.


Now, I've known that for a long time, but it's taken me nearly ten years to actually accept it.  I'm me, and I'll never be Moriyama, or Gilden, or Jacob Aue Sobol, though I'll always admire them, and probably always be jealous of them on some level.  But I have what I need to do what I do.  Anything else is empty and false.

(side note: the above quote sounds a lot like a concise summary of Art & Fear, which is the greatest book ever and which every creative person should read. http://goo.gl/TsKrt)

Summer 2012 in Seattle was good.  A good, unrestrained, creative time.  A challenging time.  A worthwhile time.


Back in March, I spent a week in Tokyo and hated it.  Hated it.  Why?  Well...

1.  I made the mistake of staying in Taito, where you can find cheap, adequate, no-frills hotels, but it's 10 miles outside of the center of the city.  That meant I was spending loads of time on the subway.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I ended up spending more money on tickets than I'd intended.  Plus, being dependent on the subway makes it hard to stay out late because the whole damn thing shuts down at 1am, so I needed to rush back to the hotel every night.

2.  I hated the food.  I swear, if I never eat another grain of white rice, it'll be too soon.  I'm from the midwest, dammit!  I need MAN-FOOD!  I need MEAT!  I thought I'd get by cheaply by getting food from supermarkets, but didn't know I'd pay $6 for six eggs or $8 for two apples.  Not exaggerating.  Maybe I just chose the wrong markets.  It was cheaper to eat at conveyor-belt sushi places or Yoshinoya, but like I said, the rice...  it's 8 months later and I still dislike eating white rice.

3.  I got raging sick while there.  Pretty much on the day I landed, I got a cold that stayed with me for two weeks after I got home.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  I couldn't even concentrate on shooting.  I shot only a few hundred photos and spent most of my time wandering without shooting.

4.  I regarded the few photos I did shoot as absolute garbage.  After I got home, I didn't even look at them for months.

5.  I went to Tokyo to shoot, and left feeling like a failure.  I hated it and never wanted to go back.

Fast forward to the present: November 2012.  I'm going back to Tokyo.

Why?  Because after letting the photos sit for months, I looked at them again, and I saw something in them.  I saw how I felt while I was there.  I shot some good photos after all, and I need to go back and shoot some more.  I have the start of a project.  The start.  Maybe none of those photos will survive the final edit, but I'm going back to spend more time there and concentrate on shooting every day.  I'll sink in and be taken away by the flow of the city.

I'm fascinated by big cities, and that's part of the project, but it's a story for another day.

The project as it is right now:  Tokyo Sick

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