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what i’ve got.

12 May 2011

The answer: not so much.  (Though hey!, isn’t that a nice pillow I snagged from a yard sale recently? The couch is awesome too, though not mine, sadly.  In fact, that’s not even my apartment.   Confused yet?)

The other night while riding the subway home, I was reading David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green, and found myself so engrossed by a particular passage that I nearly missed my stop.   The specific details of the passage in question aren’t important here, as their potency is greatly lost out of the context of the larger narrative, but suffice it to say that reading those 4-5 pages was both exhilirating and completely debilitating, all at once.   

I’d lost myself in the novel, a feeling I haven’t had recently with my own photography.  To be sure, I don’t know if David Mitchell ever reads his own work and loses himself in it (and if he doesn’t, he ought to, because sweet jesus, the man can write dialogue like nobody’s business).  But that feeling of being confronted with a vision, and even if only momentarily, melding with it to the point where, in the case of reading Black Swan Green, absolutely forgetting the artifice of the novel — I don’t have that feeling very often, even with most of the books that I love.  W.G. Sebald and Mitchell are probably the only two writers with (from? by?) whom I have that experience, and even then it’s only a couple of pages here and there within much longer novels. 

And it only happens sometimes with photography, where I’ll see a photograph, and just get so blown away by it that I forget that I’m looking at a [insert famous photographer here] or how wonderful it is that [insert talented amateur photographer here] was able to capture the light in such an amazing way.  It’s rare that I see a photograph and stop thinking that it’s a photograph; in those precious few moments, I feel like I’m right there, surveying the scene myself.  The most captivating photographs are those that completely envelop me, make me giddy as I imagine feeling the roughness of the stones on the wooded path, or the sounds of passersby. 

And to be sure, I don’t know if any photographer looks at her own work and is able to step into that space so wholly.  But lately, I feel so far away from the possibility of that sensation with my own work — and mind you, these are spaces and people and foods that I absolutely love.  I mean, I fucking love that couch, and yet when I look at the photo, it all feels so far away.  It feels like a photograph. 

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, and no one has a particularly happy relationship to their own work.  I think, though, that at some earlier point I did feel much more at one with what I was seeing, post-developing.   There was a point where, on occasion — not often, but still, every so often — I would look at one of my photos and there’d be an oh, fuck moment.   A moment where I’d sigh a little bit, be a tiny bit pleased at what I had brought into the world — not just a photograph but a perspective.   And right now,  I want to get lost in that clarity of vision once again.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 13 May 2011 4:57 pm

    Writers/photographers/mental blocks are part of the process of crafting art. Stagnation and self doubt the unfortunate by-product. But consider this: You may not find your work inspiring right now, but that doesn’t mean that others don’t.

    • 13 May 2011 9:17 pm

      thanks, nick — always good to get some perspective, especially from someone whose work I so admire. i’m hoping it’s just photographers block and the normal bouts of self-doubt that are at work here. but such an odd feeling! it’s springtime in the city, and me & the camera have had little inspiration to capture anything.

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