image making

Over the past couple of weeks, I finally got around to adding a couple of ridiculous new image galleries to Wofflehouse, in the PHOTOS section. It’s a section of the website that I’ve semi-neglected, largely because it’s more for personal amusement, less for professional advancement. Also, I’ve increasingly used this blog, as well as my Facebook account, for sharing photos instead.

The galleries are both pretty deadpan:

GREAT MOMENTS IN OVERHEAD LIGHTING

PORTA POTTIES OF THE WORLD

Anyway, I got more pleasure than anticipated out of putting together these 2 series of photos, and plan on doing much more of this soon. I’ve been reflecting on  a few things, due to this.

First, I take for granted how integrated photography is into my life, and often forget that it is its own creative endeavor due to this. I took my first photography class at an art college in San Francisco when I was 15, and continued taking photo courses and educating myself about the history of photography throughout high school and college. I also worked in one-hour photo labs for ten years of my life. While I’ve rarely exhibited my photos, every Mail Order Brides/M.O.B. project was dependent on both Eliza’s and my photographic expertise. And somehow, I’ve still never taken my relationship to photographic image-making too seriously.

Second, something happened during the shift from film to digital. I stopped working at the photolab in 2000, which ended my many years of getting to purchase and print 35 mm film cheaply and easily. Also, this era was the beginning of the demise of many photolabs, due to increased consumer interest in digital. I had a beautiful Nikon SLR that suddenly stopped getting employed as regularly due to this. While I continued taking it on trips, it was far too bulky to justify carrying around for casual daily use. Also, I was unenthusiastic about compact snapshot cameras, disdaining them as something for amateurs. It wasn’t until I got my first little digital camera in 2005 that I could tote something with ease anywhere and everywhere, but this was still basically just a digital version of aforementioned-disdained-snappy cam. Given my latent photo-snob tendencies, I fell into my own trap for a little bit of not taking my own use of them as anything other than amateur, despite how many more images I was actually making. (And what’s wrong with amateur, anyway?)

Third, the digital camera thing has done a couple of things to image-making by both liberating it and cheapening it. Making a pile of photographic images is now next to free (unless you print it, which is done less and less): you’re only limited by the amount of memory your camera/card has. It also comes with the instant gratification of reviewing images on the display immediately after taking them. This is great, but has also led to a sort of bloated, un-edited glut of images. And it has removed the mystery, and delicious anticipation of what might lie on a roll of film. Anything truly special often gets lost in the shuffle, or not appreciated as much, as it once might have. (This is, of course, both good and bad, as it’s also weeded out the over-fetishization of actually-kind-of-mundane images.)

Fourth, I’ve had an often-difficult year creatively since the move, insofar as making other kinds of art (painting, drawing, video–the things I usually exhibit), and even blogging, at times. I’ve struggled with what to express, at times. But what I’ve only just realized is that I’ve been doing an extraordinary amount of photography instead, and its function has subtly shifted to become more diaristic and expressive. Also self-entertaining. It’s also very much used for “note-taking”: for quickly recording something that I may want to address in a different medium, later down the line. For the many moments where I’ve been at a loss for words, or been unable to figure out how to make a drawing of something I’ve been feeling, the camera has been my immediate, often taken-for-granted companion, instead.

In Bogliasco, I think I figured a bit of this out. My shutter-bugging got truly excessive there, given the circumstances. And the other Fellows trusted/tolerated the presence of my camera at every meal and outing: I became the de-facto embedded photojournalist for our group, and put together a big Flickr archiv of images- sort of a collective visual diary of our time there. In the prior couple of entries here on Wofflings, I also realized I was using the camera differently: not so much documenting the world-at-large, more using it to give a different visual voice to things I’d been really thinking about.

I woke up this morning, thinking about it, so I thought I’d write out a few thoughts before they evaporated. It’s not all so serious, of course: I think any woman driven to compulsively document porta-potties can’t really get too Susan Sontag about her photographic endeavors.

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2 Responses to “image making”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    And who got you into the photo class? And who got you the photo lab job? :) BTW, we were 16 for that class because it was my second year doing it and I drove us…I remember you sleeping all the way across the Bay Bridge and I used to get so pissed at you for it!

  2. admin Says:

    Duuuude! I could have sworn I was 15 b/c I do remember you driving (and I wasn’t driving yet).
    But perhaps it wasn’t that I couldn’t drive, it was just that I didn’t have a CAR…
    (You were always pissed at me, in general, I think! Not that I didn’t occasionally deserve it.)
    That summer was the BEST. Learning about Harry Callahan. Robert Frank. Meatyard. Others.

    Good People:
    Let it be known!
    Everything I am as a photographer I do in fact owe to JC.
    No, not Jesus Christ.
    The Jennifer who shall remain anonymous above.

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