Now that I am no longer a professional photographer, I can finally take photographs: one or more/day, for the 365 days in 2012.
During my early days in photography, I was drawn to the play of natural light, strong graphics, and the opportunity to document real life as it unfolded before me. As my career took off, I began to specialize in editorial assignments for large corporations, national and regional magazines, and academia. The work afforded me a fair degree of creative freedom, but the need for off-camera strobes, client approval, and idealized images of reality, destroyed much of my enthusiasm. I stopped taking personal pictures and never picked up a camera unless I was getting paid to do so.
The idea to take at least one picture a day for an entire year is hardly new or original, but for me, it marks a return to my original romance with photography fifty years ago. The pocket-size, consumer-grade digital camera I now use, Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FH20* makes the daily exercise eminently doable: no 30-40 lb. camera bag to lug around or lights to set up, break-down, and then put away; no wait for the film to be developed or cost concerns; and no one else to please except myself. The camera itself has its limitations (e.g., no manual controls, focus issues, and a shutter delay that’s problematic for people candids), but that’s OK — there are plenty of things it does quite well.
At home, I find a plentitude of mundane objects that are all too happy to pose for me — often at 3:00 in the morning. Sometimes, they play an almost incidental role in a formal composition or color study, a serendipitous creation that only becomes apparent — and appreciated — through the lens and framing of a camera. Other times, their prosaic nature is transformed through photographic alchemy into an “otherness” that takes me to a new dimension — not unlike what happens with a microscope. The “aha” experience that comes from finding beauty in an unremarkable object, or that the viewer has upon discovering the nature of the actual subject, is a rare and wondrous treat.
Occasionally, I feel a bit guilty at the ease of producing images I find so satisfying. In my commercial work, the moment when the shutter was released was almost anti-climactic, so much laborious preparation had taken place beforehand to ensure a successful image. Now, only seconds elapse from the time I pick up the camera to seeing the result and having instant gratification (most of the time). Aside from weeding out the throwaways, and minor adjustments in Photoshop (e.g., light levels, cropping, color balancing, resizing, sharpening, and image rotation every now and then), there just isn’t that much effort! It’s art as play, creativity as daily nourishment. Last night, while prone in bed before falling asleep, I photographed my eyeglasses on the night stand. Some mornings, I’m taking pictures while still under the blankets. It’s hard to tear myself away once I get started.
I photograph my own body, not because I’m infatuated with it, but because it happens to be handy. Those particular images explore the idea that we are biological creatures just like any other animal, to be examined with the scientific detachment common to any research. Rather than idealize the human physique, I’m drawn to its imperfections as it ages — liver spots and all. I also enjoy making photographs that appear erotic, pornographic, or NSFW at first glance but which are perfectly innocent in what they depict — a kind of visual joke, along with others, you’ll find at Pixetera from time to time. Sorry if this disappoints, but I have no plans to post anything that doesn’t rate a “G” for General Audiences.
Twenty-one days into this project, I have some worries: burning out; how to stay fresh and not repeat myself or settle for the easy picture; becoming obnoxious about taking photos everywhere; losing my spontaneity; succumbing to an addiction that consumes my life. Only time will tell I guess.
In the meantime, I think I’m a painter at heart.
UPDATE: For 2013, Pixetera has a slightly different format. Please see Looking Backward and Forward at Once for more details.
*UPDATE: Nikon Coolpix L620 in 2017.
What a beautiful (and moving) description of your creative journey. And while you may be a painter at heart, you are one hell of a photographer…
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Reading your biography as a photographer is like holding a mirror in front of me…
Almost four years to the day you commented, Luc, I’m finally getting around to answering. Nothing to say except how sorry and embarrassed I am for not replying sooner.
Since you started posting images of your mother in a nursing home(?), I’ve felt another connection between us. In February, 2011, when my mother’s dementia became more pronounced, I started documenting the art making and creative play I was doing with her before she died that May. It’s there in the archives of my ElderSparks blog beginning February 2011, https://eldersparks.wordpress.com/2011/02/, and ending in the hospice in June of that year. You might find it worth your while to explore.
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Excellent images. Please keep it up!
Will do. Thanks, Ken.
Hi, After you left a comment on Peter’s site for me I thought I should check out what you are up to and I very much like what I’ve found. I’m now following Pixetera.
I’ve had a look at Gruntled / Disgruntled which I also really enjoyed but I’m assuming that project is parked for now?
Nowhere near as extensive as the Gruntled project I did a series of eyes which I hope might have raised a few smiles. A couple of examples can be seen on the links below:
Many of the eyes have long since disappeared but three years later one set are still keeping an eye on the world!
I will look forward to keeping up with your future posts.
Very best wishes
Mr C :-)
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Thanks so much for writing Mr. C, and signing up for Pixetera notifications.
You are right about Gruntled/Disgruntled being discontinued for the time being. It started out one way, morphed into other things, and is now on the back burner.
In its place, I suppose, is the virtual presence of anti-Trump signs that appear on Pixetera whenever appropriate for the setting. That way, they don’t ever disappear :)
Certainly wish he doesn’t stick around for as long as one of your pairs of eyes has. Good for you that the set has not been disturbed.
Looking ahead, count on me as a regular visitor to Postcard Cafe even though I’m not formally registered as a Follower. You can tell how much I enjoyed my first visit by the number of likes I left.
Now I await many more. (Having done countless raindrop photos in my career, I greatly admire yours.)
Thank you for dropping by my site and for leaving the likes.
I only follow a few blogs and fully understand why people choose not to follow too many. It can be overwhelming.
We are in very strange political times both here in the UK and in the US and taking time to make comment through whatever medium is important. I ran a whole series of images when we had the Brexit vote. Brexit is only another way for people to become more divided when what we need in the present climate is ways to build bridges and unite people.
Thanks also for leaving your generous comments about my raindrop images. I was pleased with how they turned out and it is nice to hear they worked for you :-)
Are you still using a simple compact zoom camera for your images. If you are then that adds to the enjoyment I get from your images. So often people feel the need to spend a heap of money on expensive gear and in the process somehow forget about the art of taking interesting photographs. I’m always interested to know what people use for their photography but I am anything but a gear snob. I think people should aspire to great images and not to the most expensive cameras!
I recently saw an exhibition of work by a local photographer and when he saw my enthusiasm and we got chatting said that although he has a DSLR most of the images I had commented on were taken with his compact Panasonic. I’m pretty sure if asked most people wouldn’t be able to tell which of his images were taken with which camera. Proof if any were needed that having a good eye and the skills to capture that image are sometimes more important than the camera you are using. Of course there are limitations but there are with any camera or system.
Keep up the good work
Mr C :-)
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I’m in total agreement, Mr C. If I had to schlep more professional gear, I’d leave it at home most of the time and not take a 10th of the pictures I’m able to now.
It’s true that I lust for an eye-level viewfinder, more manual controls, and less of a shutter delay but the trade-off I think is worth it.
Looks like we see eye-to-eye in more ways than one :)
Since discovering and following your photo blog I am very much enjoying your work. I look forward to the regular posts and like the mix of mash-up (probably the wrong expression) images alongside more conventional photos. It all makes for an interesting and inspiring site.
Something which perhaps dampens my experience a little when using your blog is the way images are posted. They appear to be in thumbnail form and require clicking individually in and out of each image to get to the next. I know that if I post a gallery of images then people only need click one thumbnail to get into a scrollable gallery of images and it makes for a slightly smoother user friendly experience. Of course it is not for me to be critical or to suggest how you should present your images. It’s your blog to to with as you wish. Please take these comments as a bit of user feedback. Having been visiting your site for a while now I thought it might be useful to offer my thoughts. I will continue to follow your site however you post the images. I don’t follow many sites but the images you present are great and it’s because I like what you do that I have offered a bit of feedback. I suspect there will be some people who will see less of your work because of the posting format. I think there is lots for everyone to enjoy in what you do and you deserve a wider audience :-)
Right, that is more than enough of my waffle!
Do take or leave my comments as you wish but they are said in a spirit of being positive about your photography.
Keep up the great work.