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.
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.
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.
“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.
If this image doesn’t sum up Southern California or American suburbia…I’m not sure what does.
As you can see, I’m using Instagram. There are many things like Instagram out here, such as Hipstamatic, but for some reason nothing else has really held my attention. I can say the same about software programs and filter sets for applying to digital files. Nothing did it for me. But then something odd happened. Blurb release Blurb Mobile. Blurb Mobile is an authoring architecture that allows the user, an iPhone user, to quickly produced a multi-media essay with motion, stills, audio, captions, etc. I had been using this app for a while, with a specific intention in mind, but then realized I had painted myself in a corner with this intention. It turns out, for me anyway, Blurb Mobile is an extremely powerful tool. The ways in which I used it began to change, and so did my style of essay. I downloaded Instagram and realized that depending on the audience I was going after with my Mobile story, Instagram could be a fun and interesting addition to what I was attempting to get across.
Most of the creative types I know are somewhat frustrated. Today’s pro market is a tough nut to crack, and oddly enough one of the most difficult things to do is to create the kind of content you really want to create. Instagram is like a smile you crack a few times a day, unrelated to anything serious, in most cases, and entirely your own. The vast majority of the time the image comes from my phone, it’s made quickly, but meant to share and meant to bring that moment of creativity that feels so good you want to share it.
Instagram is also about feedback, and community, something that will only become more important and more powerful as tradition media channels continue to falter. Having 10,000 followers on Instagram can be a significant advantage for someone with the right plan in place. I’m a fledgling at this point, with under 200 followers, but within those followers are some hyper-creative, hyper-talented folks who are inspiring in a new way.
Now, like all other things of this nature, there are things that make me shake my head. I’ve experimented with filtering on top of filtering to see what demographic of people these files will attract or interest, but again, for me, the most difficult thing in the world is to make a straight image look incredible…especially with the crappy iPhone camera. As you can see by this post, filtering on top of filtering can provide an interesting flavor, and I’ll continue to experiment. Also, I get the filter on top of filter because things like Instagram gave us the permission to do this, which brings me to another point. Instagram doesn’t have to be serious. These photos for me are smiles, nods, gestures, sneezes, etc. Not that they can’t be serious, they certainly can be, and there are people making serious work using these apps. I have a list of these folks, hit me up on the comment section with others if you have a minute. I’m digging what is out there.
The only thing, so far, that makes me wonder is when I see someone with tens of thousands of followers but they are only following like eight people. That I’m not sure I quite understand. If you follow too many people, like Twitter, your stream can be overwhelming, but isn’t that really the point? When I see someone with a massive following and only eight people they are following it reeks of a pure marketing tool, which again is valid, but for me goes against the DNA of what this is really about. But, everything is now a marketing tool, just like this blog. Guilty. I’m not sure what I’m marketing, but it’s there.
When I wrote on Twitter that I was on Instragram I got a few DM’s saying, “No way, not you.” All in good humor mind you, but I’m perhaps not known as “Mr. Technology” but I probably am more than you think. My plan is to keep using this app, as well as Blurb Mobile, which if you haven’t seen and used is a tool that can do amazing things. Blurb Mobile also has a story stream area where you connect with, and follow, users from around the world. And just like Instagram, I’ve been blown away by how people are using Mobile and the quality of their work. Okay, I’m marketing Blurb Mobile. It’s official. Guilty.
So as we move ahead I plot my electronic future. Later today I drive over to my darkroom to drop off a print washer, some trays, etc. My feet are firmly planted in both the old and new worlds with no plan to move either foot. What a great time to be alive and with camera. I will shoot Instagram photos in the darkroom, so get ready. It’s coming.
Gram on people, gram on.