I have often captured the performance imagery of artists who are dancers be they ballet, tango or jazz along with those who are musicians or actors during live performances. And in the past I have tortured my fellow photographer friends by well, photographing them! As we all know photographers make the very worst subjects since they are accustomed to being on the ‘safe’ side of the lens.
There is another art form that I always marvel at, but never photograph – design. I happen to be very fortunate to have my very own live in designer, Tracy who I’ve written about numerous times on this page. Today she released my new pro site at:
I have often fancied myself as a amateur designer, but as I look upon how she designed and executed my site, the reality of just how elementary my skills are is evident. I wrote to a friend yesterday that looking at my work through the site she developed is akin to appreciating the frame that holds the art more than the art itself! Another friend wrote “Congratulations you lucky dog. Great lady….great work.” Amen brother, I’m right there with you. Thanks Tracy for so many things.
One of my friends who I have just reconnected with wrote to me the other day alerting me to the fact that I have not updated this page since July 1st. “Gosh, has it really been that long?” I thought to myself as I read his words. So I went to my Musing page and low and behold Dom was right, July 1st was my last entry.
When I first started this page, its main purpose was for me to vomit upon you my thoughts, feelings and adventures about photography. Then I found that writing here was a bit therapeutic so I began to write about my personal feelings and life adventures. Lately I have become a bit more private in what I share here and it’s been difficult for me to articulate why. I can only say that it is a transitional period for me and whenever I seem to pass through those life passages, I become more reclusive in my desire to share.
But life has certainly blessed me with many events which involve those who are close to me as well as new friends I have recently encountered. In just a few weeks Vernon will travel across the pond from Germany to spend just over a week with me and Tracy. This past weekend a new friend and fellow photographer from Denmark visited with us. We also invited a long time friend along with us Friday night since her husband has been out of town for some time. And later this month we will spend a long while with my kids and immediate family. What I’m saying here is my life as of late is about those around me who I love. It’s about my world continuing to expand by meeting and befriending new souls who I would have never met had it not been for photography.
And yet I struggle even more with my work in photography. Tracy and I are constantly talking about the fact that for me improvement is the goal in photography. And since that is my goal, or has been my goal I am currently lost. So I am taking the most protracted break that I’ve experienced and although I am still shooting, I have the need to find a new vision for my work.
It’s all about evolution, as I never want to stand still in this craft.
Tracy was recognized for her photographic work by Design and Publishing. The author of the article is someone who she heard during a lecture in Toronto several years back and holds in very high esteem. Needless to say, she is very pleased to have this type of recognition, even more so that it was juried by someone she respects. Congratulations Tracy, it’s wonderful your work has received such recognition.
It’s amazing how different perspectives can be. I have a long time friend in Botswana helping people she does not know by donating her medical knowledge to them and has for five months. What she describes to me about the HIV situation there and the sadness she personally endures is something that is very difficult for me to imagine. I’m certain that despite the reality of death and illness, the people she helps and works with view life in the most positive way.
But on the other side of the world, my side to be specific I have encountered the opposite of what my friend Katy is experiencing, the attitude of entitlement. Over the past several weeks I have encountered people who can come up with countless ways to sight the negative in their life or situations. And no matter how much help is offered or how many opportunities materialize before them, they just can’t seem to appreciate them. It’s a shame to live that way and in so many ways I feel sorry for individuals who view life through those lenses.
Yet in my travels through the City, I find people whose lives could be considered by some hopeless or sad, but they are anything but those things. Feeling sorry for oneself or focusing almost exclusively on the negative does not come to their minds or hearts. My father once told me that the only thing one can ever really change is one’s own attitude. Dad, thanks for teaching me something so valuable.
Multitasking. It’s a moniker that so many people in today’s society prize. The other day I was at a local coffee shop and watched as one young woman was speaking to her friend, while she was texting on her phone and responding to her friend’s questions, with the obligatory ‘uh-huh.’ It was obvious that the young woman was not paying attention to her flesh and blood table mate, but was concentrating more on her virtual friend to whom she was texting.
Now multi tasking is something I do when I am performing tasks. I often come home from a street shoot session and load my CF card into my computer to begin downloading my day’s images while I get undressed, put my laundry in the washer, pick up the clothing I had left around the house and go to the long overdue bathroom break I neglected while I was out shooting. I put a cup of coffee on and have so many things going on at once while my images are downloading. For me that’s task multi tasking.
But just the other day while Tracy and I were at Filoli gardens in Woodside, CA my cell phone rang. I looked at the number to ensure that it was not one of my children or family in need of my attention. Since it was not any of those numbers, I simply put my phone away and went about enjoying what I came to enjoy, the garden and beauty of the day. I have come to realize that I have missed so much in life by not being present in the moment. Why bother to go or do anything when you are thinking about or paying attention to something else?
So I began to relate my musings about the phenomenon of multi tasking to photography. When I go out specifically to shoot, I am anything but relaxed and multi tasking, which I’ve mentioned here many times. I am ‘hunting’ and I have felt that way for quite some time. I read today a passage that eloquently describes my feeling – “The photo is the hunt, it’s the instinct of hunting without the desire to kill. It’s the hunt of angels. You trail, you aim, you fire and — click! — instead of a dead man, you make him everlasting.” – Chris Marker
I find that when the subject which are important to me present themselves, I no longer multi task. And that includes being present with those I love and when I am hunting.
I participate at Onexposure and one of the features that I find well done is the Critique section where photographers can post their images for constructive criticism. (if you’re not a member, you will not be able to view the link to the Critique section) Recently one photographer posted his image and sighted another photographer’s image as a comparison. His image was rejected from publication and in essence he was comparing his image against another photographer implying that the published image was inferior to ‘his’ image. Sad…
This past weekend, Tracy and I walked through Half Moon Bay to relax before returning to our work weeks. We happened to stop at a gallery there, the Coastal Arts League. CAL is a cooperative gallery where those who participate must work several times a month. It just so happened that the member who was there during our visit was one of the photographers in the cooperative. He asked if I would be interested in joining and perhaps displaying and selling my work. After hearing his comment, Tracy said, ‘Mark’s work is not very commercial.’ I simply nodded and after we spoke for a bit more, we thanked him and were on our way.
Some may consider Tracy’s comment as derogatory toward my work. But I was so pleased to hear her opinion of my imagery as ‘not very commercial.’ Throughout my artistic journey I have never wanted to sell my work. In so many cases I have given my work away to complete strangers. I have certainly sold images to companies who wish to use some of my pieces to promote their own companies. But that is not my main intent or goal with this craft.
Nor do I any longer compare my own pieces to the work of others as the man I mentioned at the beginning of this musing seems so set on doing. There are very few activities in my life that are for the pure pleasure of engaging in that task. And yes, for me ‘pure pleasure’ can include phases of artistic self loathing, but in the end, what I discover when I emerge from the other side is remarkable.
During my break I was not sure whether or not I would write in my Musings or if I would ‘neglect’ my whole site. As you can see I have been moved to write and for several reasons. First a man whose relationship began as work colleagues. But as I have come to know him better, I now call Bernie my friend. He wrote to me yesterday when he noticed that this blog states that I am taking a break, which I am. Then a woman who I have known for over 35 years wrote to me from Botswana.
I stopped writing here last night as I was too tired to continue writing. This morning when I awoke and checked my email, I was so pleased and surprised to get a note back from my friend Katy, the woman I mentioned above who wrote to me. She is a physician who donates her time and skills to less fortunate people all over the world. I can only begin to imagine the personal hardships she endures in order to bring medical assistance to others.
What struck me about both of these friends writing to me is that I really never realized that photographs are something which can in some ways bind us together as people. Every individual looks at a photograph differently, which is part of the beauty of imagery. It is a conspiracy between three elements, the photographer, the subject and the viewer. Because I have made a conscious choice to NOT provide a method for my viewers to leave me comments, I seldom get feedback on my work through the internet. What I wanted to prevent were the ‘nice picture,’ ‘I hate this shot’ sort of feedback. So instead my site is about my work and putting it ‘out there’ for others to view.
What has struck me is having some friends who have written about my hiatus. A woman a world away, in a land where email and the internet are scarce took the time and effort to go to this blog and write to me about her concern that I was not posting. A friend in Kansas who checks my blog daily also expressed his disappointment that I no longer post. And finally my friend Bernie from the UK who just purchased a digital SLR and wrote to me to tell me that I must have become frightened of the ‘competition’ he poses as a photographer and so deduced I must have decided to quit shooting because he was now ‘on the photo scene.’
Perhaps it is just because I needed some attention. Perhaps it is because I needed to know that my own work means something. Perhaps it is because I have been disappointed in my own contribution to the greater good of society. Perhaps it is because I wanted a bit of the daily recognition from Tracy that I hear her speak about other’s work. Or perhaps it is all of those feelings, petty, imagined or real. I am after all a human, part of the overall world we all know and sometimes ignore or ridicule as we watch reality shows or lament over the price of gasoline. What I can say for certain is this – without the support of friends, family and loved ones near or far away, I am simply a single soul, left to my own devices whether they be positive or negative. During times of inner turmoil, those closest to us remind us of where we have been and where we have yet to travel.
In the words of my favorite author, Phil Cousineau in The Art of Pilgrimage, “And so, the real treasure Zimmer reflects the treasure that brings our wretchedness and our ordeals to an end is never far away. We must never go looking for it in distant lands, for it lies buried in the most secret recesses of our own house; in other words, of our own being.”
Thank you my friends, for the kind of support for which I will never be able to repay, but will pass on to others.
I will be taking a break from photography for a bit. Right now it holds very little interest for me, so I’m packing away the gear and taking a break. I’ve found that I have lost quite a bit of interest which means that I need to leave this all behind for an undetermined amount of time. If you want to view some fantastic work, go to my about me page and click on some of the links I have enjoyed by the work of other photographers.
Although the date on this musing is June 16 2008, I write this on Father’s Day June 15. I write my musings a day ahead of the date I post them. For those of you whose minds and opinions lean toward wholesale judgements, you may not wish to waste your time reading further since this musing is tied to an image of a handgun, specifically a Smith and Wesson model 617 a .22 caliber gun.
During the weeks that led up to this Father’s day I would watch with some envy as young children would speak at local markets about the crayon drawings they had crafted to give to their Daddy. I would hear those innocent and sweet comments and lament that my children are no longer that age and it made me miss a time gone by. Both of my children are young adults out of high school and making their way through college before facing the ‘real world’ that lays before them. But today as I spent my favorite holiday with them, I realized that each age a child passes through presents its own wonder to a parent.
I listened as my daughter offered me intelligent banter about my own behavior and marveled at the fact that her choice in life is to assist those who are less fortunate mentally and emotionally than herself. She never speaks of the hollow pursuit of money, but always speaks of what will help humanity. I listened as my son spoke today about resigning from a job he has held for three years to pursue better employment at his other job this summer. He shared that he was concerned that his former boss may have hard feelings because of his resignation, but instead his boss gave him a lifetime membership to where he worked. And he personally signed his membership to my son with his own term of endearment, ‘Little guy’ a name he gave Niko from the beginning since he was the youngest of all his employees.
Both of my kids have teased me for the past week about my Father’s Day gift. At one point my son told me that the gift was ‘a bit expensive’ and I may need to help chip in for the cost. I laughed at his comment and before I could say anything he simply said, ‘But Dad, if you don’t want to, I’ll use some of the money I got for graduation to cover the whole thing.’ I had originally thought that since he works at a toy store, he and his sister purchased me a large remote controlled helicopter that I’ve been drooling over since they got me a small toy one for my birthday.
But instead they both surprised me with a Smith and Wesson Model 617 10 shot .22 caliber stainless steel revolver. My son and I have shot together since he was 14 and he has since become a marksman more skilled than I could have ever hoped to become. The 617 is an item I have always wanted for myself, but never purchased due to other much more important issues like mortgages and tuition. And for many reasons that are often valid, there is a very dark stigma against handguns and in cases of violence, rightfully so. But there is another side of handguns which no one cares to hear. Target shooting is a skill that requires intense discipline and control. The very same kind of discipline and control I learned in martial arts, self control and self discipline.
I am proud of who my children have become and I am proud to say that I am their father. Of all the things in this world I have achieved I am most proud to be a parent. I often laugh when I hear the saying of the Peace Corps, ‘The toughest job you’ll ever love.’ That saying is a far second to being a parent, at least a good honest one.
I’m blessed to be a father.
June 4th, 2008
It never ceases to amaze me how life’s twists and turns can change one’s life without even knowing how they happen. We’ve all heard stories about someone deciding to not get on a plane that ends up crashing or the worker who calls in sick on the very day of the horrid 9/11 incident.
This hobby has given me so many opportunities to meet new people and in some cases they have turned into friendships I will have the rest of my life. Through a simple turn of events I met Tracy online at Weeklyshot.org early last year. And on June 4 2007, she and I met for the very first time face to face at San Francisco International Airport.
My children and close friends all thought me to be completely mad to have a woman who I knew only through photography, email and phone calls come to stay with me for a week. I could never have imagined that I’d trust someone enough to have them live with me, but once we spent time together, the rest is history.
So on this anniversary of our first face to face I can only reflect in appreciation and happiness. And it never ceases to amaze me…