Been a while, but here's a sixpence:
But the trouble is, it isnít really about time at all: itís entirely about our own souls and money.
Money allows a certain freedom of operation, but it doesnít offer the incentive to do the Nike thing. In fact, if anything, I suspect that it does quite the opposite in that it removes any sense of urgency or of priorities determined. When you can do anything you like because you have both time and enough money, you might actually find yourself asking yourself what the hellís really worth the doing. Thatís why so many yachts never leave home waters: been there, done that, so why do it all again? Iíve asked the question, been given that answer.
If anything, I discovered in my youth that not having a lot of money to spend made a positive difference in that it provided urgency and motivation to make-do in ways such as designing my own flash umbrella system, which consisted of a large gentís umbrella painted many coats of white. To an accessory shoe screwed onto the shaft was connected a portable flash unitís head, and to another part of the shaft a bare, domestic 150w bulb modelling light. That little combo paved my way into fashion and onwards. When I could, I threw it away (the home-made brolly) and bought monoblocs. The rest, in my little world, is history. So, striving does help. And thatís how it was for the rest of my career Ė a constant process of finding work to satisfy the habit, the craving to make images of pretty girls. I lived in Glasgow; I could have made more money much more easily shooting whisky bottles every week, but that wasnít what photography was about, for me. It didnít seem worth the time, doing anything else.
Now, reluctantly retired, the urge is still strong but the support system for the craving has long departed. Companies have crashed; some have changed hands and along with that, top management; political correctness and the power of the Ugly Sisters has crushed the joy (or courage?) out of some companies and I look upon a world that has changed. Where there was glamour there is only porn; porn was ever with us, but now itís the only game in town and I still donít want to play.
Landscape photography seems to be the burning quest of many (not surprisingly) on this forum, and folks obsess about what may be the right equipment to use, how to process and on and on. Why donít people into the genre grasp the fact that it doesnít much matter: if the joy is in creation, surely, then, that should come from simply being there and waiting and capturing what God offers the ready mind? Whether thatís really creative or not is a mosquito bite that Iíve scratched before, and itís really up to the individual to decide for himself: what others think shouldnít matter a damn. In fact, if coming up with the best rendition of the scene is the objective, rather than simply being present as witness, Iíd suggest one go to large format transparency and stop right there. Scrap the bloody printers and computers and save all that precious time and energy spent fretting over it all. Instead, buy a great lightbox because nothing else will come close.
So maybe one has to decide: is it photography per se thatís the buzz, or rather, playing with computers that brings the rush? I have an HP B9180 sitting behind me on the bench as I write; it is constantly plugged into the power system and occasionally makes its presence audibly known. It needs a new ink, a yellow, as it happens, and has been blinking its demand at me for weeks. I ignore it. I have come to the conclusion that printing pictures without a real, professionally driven market is a monumental waste of time, money and energy, frustration the only payback. For me, art or creativity is in the moment of the shutterís click and all that one does leading up to it. After that, it hardly matters. Ask the spirit of Winogrand if you donít believe me. If the love is for the cameras, be like the Japanese collectors and keep Ďem in their pretty, original box in a safe. You can bring them out now and again and have a thrill. The cameras, not the collectors.
Does that mean that I recommend travelling around without a camera and just making mental pictures? Not quite: thereís something absolutely divine (for me) in the art of focussing (when I still can) and particularly with long lenses where the sense of depth in the change of planes is something magical, almost tangible. The camera is essential Ė itís the cool crystal glass cuddling your champagne.
Live for today? Not quite that, either. Do what you can that you want to do today, but certainly put off what you donít want to do and can avoid because, should your tomorrow not arrive, think of the pointless bother youíve saved yourself.
Photography seems really to be quite sharply divided between the mindsets of amateur and pro. The am. appears to want to have all the fancy gear he can or canít afford, whereas the relatively few pros that Iíve known would rather own the best but only as little as they actually need to buy. Equipment isnít the buzz. (But then itís difficult to express a definitive view on this, because pros come in many colours: thereís the guy who took up photography because he failed at everything else; thereís the guy who thought it would be a great way to make pots of dough; the chap over there thought it would raise his sex life whilst that other guy in the corner just did it because his Dad had the studio before him and it seemed safely obvious to follow on shooting babies, pets, passports and brides... and he probably sucked at school. Then thereís the other poor guy who just had no say: he couldnít change his mental spots and simply found that he had to live with photography or die.)
I find that I keep harking back to the old Terence Donovan quotation that, roughly, states that the greatest problem facing the amateur is finding a reason to make a photograph. Unspoken, of course, is that the pro never faces this because he always has a reason; he faces the flip side of the coin, the problem of finding the steady stream of customers. Unless he shoots stockÖ right.
Digital prints can seem an odd end to the creative process if, indeed it is even a part of it. Like myself, you might choose to hang a few of your own on your walls, you might even get the odd request from someone else. But, unless people want to buy what you produce, why produce? At the end of the day, actually selling an art print, a fashion shoot or even a calendar is the only validation youíre going to get: sweet words are cruelly inexpensive to offer and until somebody is willing to part with lots of their money in exchange for your product (which photography most certainly is) you have no external validation of what you are doing. Your own opinionís pretty worthless on that score; you even change your mind about your own stuff over time. If you canít stay convincedÖ
Reading about the lives of past greats seems to send mixed signals: on the one hand you find those who enjoyed the whole trip and, on the other, others who looked upon it as a sort of fiscal obligation, a kind of distraction from something else better, the photography but something from which they took nurture but didnít really value that much. As examples of the two types, Iíd quote Jean Loup Sieff as the former and HC-B might fit the shoes of the latter. I canít even remember HC-B ever calling his photography art, but then I donít think Sieff ever did either. Haskins knew he was an artist; the very idea of not being able to continue took him out. They were all just very, very good at it. Where do we, the rest, fit?
But returning to the relativity of time, itís true that a young person sees it as without limit whereas an older chap thinks of the accelerating speed with which it flees. In the case of youth thereís the temptation to postpone; for the old, thereís the temptation to say why bother when itís all too late to matter a damn.
But isnít that the nature of the life of man: si jeunesse savait et vieillesse pouvait?