Going shooting. Out photographing. Photo road trip. Meaning the act of photographing, usually outdoors. It's what I do and many of you too. But I wonder how many of the photo trips you make, whether they be day trips or longer ones, are done solo.
I just ended a ten day trip to SE Washington to photograph, incessantly, the fields in the area, and working alone is much on my mind. I have a theory about this, this solo approach: it allows you to get inside the work better. Maybe another way to say that is a solo trip gets you looking at decisions you are making and cutting through noise to allow you to be in synch or in unison with the pictures you are making. On this most recent trip I didn't have a conversation longer than a couple of minutes with anyone since I left home. Long days driving on farmers' dirt roads makes for much thought: about the pictures I have made, am making and will make. Long nights when the light has left the day were spent biding my time sleeping, waiting for dawn, recharging myself and my batteries, downloading files, writing blogs, occasionally going out for a meal or a beer. But my myself, solo.
Working solo is immersive, as it should be.
I learned a long time ago how to make pictures in a group or with a friend. I don't have a problem with that as some do. After all there were countless field trips, hauling students in a van to various places to shoot, on class day but also on weekends. I would photograph on those trips as well.
But the solo photo trip, the road trip where time is spent on the prowl for pictures by yourself, day after day, getting completely into the act of photographing regularly, establishing a routine of shooting, looking, assessing, discriminating, rejecting, accepting, waiting, hurrying up, making decisions, missing opportunities, screwing up, succeeding, being jubilant, being crestfallen, talking to yourself, being bored, needing to take a leak, getting in the car, getting out of the car, setting up, tearing down, taking a break, looking at files, day after day. That's the kind of trip I am talking about.
To many outsiders this all looks like a vacation. And in some ways, of course, it is. Certainly it's a vacation from sitting in an office doing stuff you don't want to do. But it is work too. I think of it as what I do, my work, what I have done my whole career. It is an essential part of my process, my methodology as a career artist, intrinsic and as intuitive as making my prints in a darkroom for 25 years or working the files and inkjet printing the results.
It is also something more of my adult students should do, photograph alone. Often there is a non photo partner along. Not so good. Distracting and conflicting, as supportive as they may be. Look, this thing photography is hard, not as easy as going "click" with a camera up to your eye. Photography is amazingly illusive, to do really well. It takes all we've got and then some to make truly significant photographs. Truly great work is almost impossible, a few in a lifetime, I figure. So, work hard and increase your chance for success. Think! Concentrate! Look! Research! Discriminate!
What does that say to you, to your family and friends if you make a trip just to photograph? It implies a level of commitment and dedication. Ultimately it doesn't matter where, the exotic and gorgeous (which, as you probably know, has its own problems) or the run down and/or ordinary. It's a "frame of mind" thing, isn't it? To flip it a little, think about going to say, Albany, NY to photograph. My choice of cities is arbitrary but for most of us we wouldn't ever have any reason to go to Albany, let alone photograph there. How freeing is that? Pick a place and don't go for touristy things only. Go for pictures.
And try photographing solo.
This blog is provided to you as a public service, to increase awareness and understanding of artistic process, visual communication and my creative career. While I shamelessly promote my own work, I frequently look at others' as well and try to write posts that improve our knowledge of this discipline we all love. I accept no advertising and do not endorse for compensation any products used in the making of my work.
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