It Was All So Easy

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It was all so easy. I didn’t know it at the time. There was no reason to know. There was only reason to want, to get and to experience. “Who was your greatest rival?” the driver was asked. “Well, if you go far back there was a guy, a pure driver, a complete driver, but this was before politics and money, this was pure racing.” It was the same for me. I just knew I wanted to be someone who made pictures. I had little. Two cameras, two lenses and a bag of 35mm, black and white film. I was “freelance,” which according to my father was “mostly free,” “little lance.” It didn’t matter. There was a simplicity, or purity of the drive. Not once did I think of fame, or fortune. They were fools gold, but further these things felt like poison. A slow drip of someone else’s idea of me, of who I should be. Who I should want to be. I never once thought, “What would so and so want from me?” I just did what came naturally, what felt natural and that was more than enough.
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Find story. Get to story. Shoot story. Compile. Repeat. That was the game. The hunt was and is what I am about. I knew it then and I know it more than ever today when once again I find myself free and easy. The early days were the way they were, perfect in their form. With success comes outside influence. A reluctance to put my work out, even from day one, because I just wanted to be in those places, meet those people and make those photographs. Lying in bed at night, staring a cracked fresco on the ceiling above while my parter breaths deeply, next to me but a world away. My exposed film lined up on the floor below the bed. Consuming my night. Reliving those fractured seconds where nothing else in the world mattered but becoming one with my surroundings. Feeling what it meant to really do this. This was never a hobby. It was part of the DNA. Born somewhere far back in history. A newspaper reporter, a school teacher, a searcher, a pioneer, all passing down threads they could never imagine.
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My energy then was all directed outward. Endlessly. I projected. I never wanted anything in return, other than acceptance and opportunity. I knew what I was doing wasn’t going to change the world, but I still felt the need. My world was so peaceful compared to today, to now, when peace is something our culture is slowly exterminating. Click and wind.
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“I don’t get you,” she said. “You shoot these things, you edit and make stories and then you put them in a drawer and never show them to anyone.” “Yes, that’s true.” That’s just the way it is, and no explanation will change it. It was never meant to be, me and this, at least as anything official. It’s not that I don’t care, because I do, but not in the traditional sense. Walking into a house I stare at images on the wall, mine, forgotten that I had made a transaction years ago. Walking into a hotel, staring at images on the wall and realizing they too were mine, forgotten as part of a past trangression. Erased from the front range, placed in the back row and dismissed. Embarrassed even. “Those aren’t really mine.” “You are confusing me with someone else.” I can’t go back, only ahead, but I can strip down, leave behind and reengage. When these memories come they come with an overwhelming force. They are reminders, indicator arrows where my past controls my future. Call this what you will, but I appreciate these little subtleties. Followed by smiles. Acceptance again. Strip down. Fall away and walk on.
Remember? Remember when? When it was all so easy.

12 Responses to “It Was All So Easy”

  1. lionelB says:

    There is something about us that wants to talk up the contrast between the world as it is when we enter it and how it is when we depart. The story we tell ourselves is that what happened last week or last year set the tone for now but that the past as measured in decades and centuries long since ceased to have an echo. Those times are ‘history’, fit only for academic study or maybe entertainment. Their echo must have faded long ago. That is deceased time and we are now free of it. But we are fooling ourselves. Fifty years is a blink. The echoes from centuries back still surge through today and carry us along like logs on a river. If we were honest with ourselves, we would note that Euripides offers only the shockingly familiar. Our latte barely got tepid in the space of two and a half millennia.

    • Smogranch says:

      Lionel,

      I find it impossible to escape from past experience. Like another life running parallel, gaining weight as it moves along. Another boxcar, another scar. Powerless.

  2. Charlene says:

    What a beautiful post.

    Was it really all so easy? Or did you just not stop to really think about it?

    Or is it that you are thinking about it too much now?

    • Smogranch says:

      Charlene,
      It was easy because I never thought about it at the time. There was no reason to think about it. Nobody was promoting like today. Nobody was doing daily postings or anything along those lines. We were just working and thinking long term.

    • Charlene says:

      I would think it would be possible for you to see through all the online blather. Why are you so troubled by it?

      (It just occurred to me that I’ve been dying to ask you this for a while)

    • Smogranch says:

      Charlene,
      I wasn’t referring to online chatter. The chatter is real industry chatter, the changing dynamics of actually working full time as a photographer. You can’t imagine how different it was. The important point is the amount of focus on the work compared with promotion. There was no thought of promotion until the work was complete.

    • Charlene says:

      Ah ok, i get you. And no, I have no idea. But it is something that is happening in other industries too. I often think that working this hard at promotion must take a lot of energy away from actual work. There won’t be many who can do both well. Can’t be sustainable in the long run. Is there any hope of change in the foreseeable future?

    • Smogranch says:

      Charlene,
      For the most part it’s already happened. Music, design, etc. I recently attended a panel where successful bloggers were talking about their process. Several speakers said “80% of my time is promotion.” Several others said “If I’m honest, it’s closer to 90%.” That has a tremendous impact not only on the quality of work, but also the type of work that is created in the first place. Many creatives today are just attempting to gain followings, so they craft what will achieve this. Making great or honest work often times doesn’t plan in. Look at the photo bloggers and the “Top Ten things I learned from such and such,” posts. List posts, listicles, all silly little things to get more followers. The work is never mentioned because it’s not worth mentioning.

    • Charlene says:

      Agreed. But yeowch, that’s a bleak picture.

    • Smogranch says:

      Charlene,
      It’s just a very different experience today. Some would say far better, so it’s personal. I know a lot of people who say one thing in private then put on a great public face when required, but there isn’t really much anyone can do, other than just go try and make great work.

    • Charlene says:

      Word! *slinks off back to cave*

      Nice boots in the last image above, btw :D

  3. Mike says:

    Daniel ““I don’t get you,” she said. “You shoot these things, you edit and make stories and then you put them in a drawer and never show them to anyone.” . Me too:
    I spent the 1990s photographing a seaside resort and hardly anyone has seen the results; certainly until recently. I did take then to The Independent on Sunday after the essay was completed and they were going to print them “in the Spring”. Spring came and so did a rescession; I came home from work one day and found my portfolio of transparencies leaning against the front door, no warning, no explanation. A telephone call from me received a “Sorry, economic recession, we are only allowed to use staff photographer’s work (remember them?).
    The next issue of the Independent on Sunday magazine had an essay on the Top Ten Toasters. Puts things into perspective I suppose.
    I never bothered trying to get the essay published after that: not because I was disappointed but because I now knew that they were good enough TO BE published, but not as much as the Top Ten Toasters.
    I still shoot for me.

    Mike.

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