A quick rat-atat-tat. Some clarifications for the previous screed.

 I think my writing style must have become defective somehow.  Many people are interpreting my posts to reflect a frustration or anger or bitterness on my part at the changes taking place in photography and in art endeavors in general.  It's just not so.  My year to date has been rewarding, both financially and artistically.  I am ever curious and spend so much time reading, researching and trying new things.  While I love the work we collectively did in the past there's more and more good stuff out there.  It's just a matter of finding your voice and overlaying it to the changes.

I love what the image above represents.  It means to me a level of craft and control that made printing beautiful and enduring.  And it still goes on today.  When I was covering the Formula One event here in Austin on Tues. I got a bag with swag and in it was a printed brochure done by a company called Exopolis.  It was beautifully designed and very well printed.  And though there were flash drives with fast paced videos (well done)  on them the collateral I remember is the brochure.

But while I have nostalgia for four and five and six color ink printing I'm also enjoying immensely the whole field of video.  There's so much to master and so much to re-learn.  This week was an exploration in microphones and sound recording.  I'm in love with wireless lav mics.  I'm mildly infatuated with stereo microphones on a camera or on a pole and I'm ambivalent for now about shotgun mics on poles.  I just read a book called "Naked Filmmaking"  which was self-indulgent but at the same time interesting.  And I once again learned the two most important lessons of production which seem to be:  Don't cross the "180" and, cut on actions.  I'm putting together a piece that is mostly interviews intercut with stills and I'm having fun pacing it.  I'm in no way angry or frustrated at this stuff.  I think it's pretty amazing what you can do with a good camera, some good mics and an i7 laptop.  Couldn't do this stuff solo ten years ago or even five years ago.  At least not with the promise of any quality.....

Someone asked about my sleep habits and I have to confess that I'm one of those people who get by nicely on 8 full hours of sleep.  I tend to write faster than most people and that makes a huge difference in apparent productivity.  I also have mastered some aspects of time management, the most important of which is not to let people steal your time.  That, and a mania to never procrastinate.

When I write a post like the one I did earlier today it's not my intention to make a statement that one approach or another is definitive.  I do write in a declarative voice but my intention is to provoke thought, just as the subjects of that post are unsettled and thought provoking for me.  But if you are a photographer and you are certain of the future and comfortable in your position in that future you probably wouldn't be wasting your time reading my blog.  But then again, maybe you would.....

Offline a doctor commented that I tend to be, "Painfully Introspective"   and for many people in America and Texas that could be construed to be an insult.  But I would query back:  Why write a blog if you aren't presenting new or different ideas?  Why not question your position or opposition to the mainstream?  What do you have to lose?  What do you know better than yourself?

I find the process of writing out my thoughts to be mildly therapeutic but my intention is to push people to confront their own relationships with the topical subject matter and better understand how the shifts in culture and society affect everyone.  And I don't think that's too much to ask.  Every generation has the choice of putting their heads in the sand and hoping against hope that nothing goes horribly wrong or embracing change and surfing on it's ridge.  But to do that you have to go out every day and read the waves and practice getting up on the board. Right?

So I'll keep writing these kinds of posts for the fellow professional photographers who seem to need them.  If you've convinced yourself that your business or profession will never change and that you'll be forever insulated from the robust and sudden shifts in culture and commerce then I can only say, "Wow!  You're a real dumbass."

What I'm really stubbornly railing against is a lack of "point of view," a lack of "personal vision," and a lack of visual curiosity.  The last being the most important.  To slavishly follow the prevailing imagery down to technique and subject matter isn't a learning mechanism it's just mental laziness.  Visual curiosity is about making your own journey instead of gang banging your way thru art.......

Yes.  We did have beauty dishes in the 1990's.  I swear.

What makes me happy?  Swimming fast.  Eating well.  Drinking well. Belinda and Ben.  Fun conversations with smart people. Good books.  Well made things.  Automatic watches.  Nicely done coffee.  Interesting art.

What makes me unhappy?  People who talk way too loud in restaurants.  Bad traffic.  Bad art passed off as a stylish new trend.

My suggestion for people who lack an art historical education (not taking a cheap shot)  and who want to understand modern art:  The Painted Word, by Tom Wolfe.  And for the people who want to understand the last 20 centuries of western art, Jansen's History of Art.   If we all read these we can disagree but at least we'll all be talking the same language......

Scatterama. How many directions can you go until you get pulled apart?

There are two mythologies floating around the sphere that are diametrically opposed.  In one corner we have the idea that the successful photographer is the one who sits, monk-like, in his studio carefully honing the one style and one technique that will differentiate him and help him rise, meteorically, into the rarified strata of image makers:  Those who make real money.  Those who have big assignments.  Those who are dearly loved by the masses.  These monks work with a laser vision and decline any work or assignments that don't fall into the mold they've constructed for themselves.

The other mythology surrounds the feedback we get from all those incredibly smart vocational advisors we hear from on the web.  In this scenario you must, even for a grudging modicum of success, embrace a new way of working which requires you to become everything to everybody.  Everybody suddenly is made to feel that they must master not only all the various subroutines of photography (past and present) but also conquer html5 (and 6 and 7), create websites from scratch (and why the websites have to look like the front page of an old Enquirer from the supermarket newsstands I have no idea....) master all blog and social media formats, have programming for iPhones, create videos for the web and whatever other use there is for video and, while doing all of this, re-invent themselves as masters of content for the iPad and all the nasty, snaggle-toothed cousins that Apple's competitors are working over time to spawn.  And did I mention the requirement that you must lead weekly, or at least monthy, workshops to teach dentists and programmers all the things you've learned over the course of your careers?....

Well.  I've tried it both ways and neither of them work.  As I looked around the smoking and wrecked battlefield of photo commerce as it exists in 2011 I can see a lot of guys who refused to go beyond the style they've done for the last 30 years and they are just dead.  We'll be burning the bodies soon.  They didn't shift and overlay their clear and unique voices onto new platforms and styles.  They didn't even try to keep up with change.  I tried to poo-poo the gyrating and trendy status quo by not embracing new visual cues.  I had the hubris to think that, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in music,  my generation invented, distilled, made the best images in the best way and every thing that came after is crap.  And I got my lack of lunch handed to me on an empty plate.  Good for retrospectives.  Not so good for continuing commerce.

Now if a client "needs" some additional saturation, some grain and destruction, some charming faux HDR or glancing (irrational) accent lights, we'll serve it up hot.  Because, regardless of how much we want to further the idea that everything we touch is art at the end of the day what we do for a living is to swim in a fast flowing river.  If we try to stay firmly rooted in one spot the river flows on without us.  And if we don't keep up with the party barge how will we get invited on board for drinks?  It's possible to keep a voice and change a style.   I like to think that what my work is all about is my interaction with my subjects.  I'm pretty sure that as long as the connection remains intact I can wrap the core in any style I like and still be successful.

In my little world, in the best case aspirational mode, I'd spend all day long photographing intriguing people against a lovely gray background with a medium format camera loaded with tasty Tri-X and endowed with a virile and vital 180mm lens.  But nobody seems to be breaking down my door demanding that these days.  I do get lots and lots of requests to go on to locations to make heroic skies and dramatic portraits of people engaged in real, physical work.  I do those jobs and get paid.  And then we don't have to raid the college fund just to buy cheap Riesling.  But hell, after the last few years I'll pretty much bend my personal aesthetic standards with great flexibility.

To wit, this last seven days has been an Oster blender of a week.  I'm working on: two artsy video projects (sorry Michael O'Brien, I'm delayed but working diligently...),  I've interviewed doctors,  I shot a new Thunderbolt product for a start up company, I shot cool portraits of six executives for an intriguing company called SocialWare (and I got to do them in a style I invented and love),  I shot a day long event for the Formula One people who are bringing exotic European car racing to Austin, and I met with people who want me to do a workshop in May.  Oh......I also wrote some blogs and am writing book #6.  And I'm so busy trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing right now that it's driving me nuts.  If I have to add SQL and another layer of social marketing to all this then I'm going to quit and get some sort of job as a janitor or bank regulator.  Something easy and stress free.

So, what's my point?  Well, as the brilliant designer, Belinda Yarritu, would say: "Moderation in all things."  I guess I need to find the things I like to do best and prioritize them.  And I'd guess that's something every photographer working today needs to do.

But you know what?  As much fun as it is to shoot black and white in the studio there is a certain satisfaction in making it all work on a location.....

Warning.  I've edited this over the course of the day.  Andy thought it sounded a bit negative and angry when we talked about it at lunch.  Will thought I sounded defeated.  I've made a few changes because I want to honestly reflect that I'm having a great time but that everything changes and no one has a map.  It's all back to trial and error.  But if we're having fun and making money it's okay.  I'm just thinking out loud about the process of re-invention.  I want to make sure I don't throw the good stuff out with the bad or spend too much time doing trendy stuff that doesn't stick........