I could not figure out why my negatives suddenly seemed to be telling me that my camera had a light leak. It certainly appeared that it had a light leak. So I tried a different camera. Same issue. Maybe it was the caffenol solution I was using. Fresh batch. Same issue. Switched to Xtol. It never fails. It failed. So web, please help me... and it did. An obscure site with a single post told me I was not fixing my negatives long enough. I had usually fixed for about 3 minutes, because I was unable to wait to see the photographs I had taken. Stupid. It also suggested that I could re-fix any zebra negatives I had laying around, and the stripes would vanish...and they did. So, thank you Google and random search result. You fixed my zebra.
This is a man who hid most of his life as I have hid from most of mine. I made mistakes early on. Nearly at the start: the whole thing was a mistake. I had problems I tried to erase through anger. I do not know what, if any, issues Bill Gendney had, but hiding from who you are in your heart is something I thought we had in common. This is a man who was devoted to recording disparity. He would score ultra gigs. High paying, high profile positions within the world of art, simply so he could make enough to fund projects that mean something to him. He would just make enough to fund a project and he would quit a safe job others would consider the the peak. Economic disparity. Alienation. Dehumanization. He would just quit and record what his soul said he should. Per usual, he had to die to be considered. I may die before I am considered. Fine. But my truth as with William Gedney is all I am interested in recording. If I die and am considered of value, my work of value, then that is how it goes and I will feel a bit better having gone down telling the truth as far as I have lived it.
"Fascinated by the commonplace, the author (William Eggleston's Guide) portrays in these 150 color photographs obdurately ordinary objects with a candor and respect for place brought into focus by a subtle sense of decline. Storefronts in East Tennessee, Mississippi parking lots and vehicles traveling through the great leveled spaces of Atlanta highways let us dwell in the familiar and mundane. These down-to-earth pictures tell their elegies in a muted voice, catching the eye with details: light and shade revive deteriorating brick and shape a roadside fruit stall and van into muscular bulk. Taken during the last decade, the photographs were shot "outdoors, nowhere, in nothing."
This idea changed my life. Not just how I take pictures. I take pictures to help me live my life and the idea of the democratic forest changed how I view all moments in my life & in turn I hope has informed my work.
I am not even sure how much I enjoy photography. What I do like is feeling something when I see the work of others and then hope other people feel something when the mine. We live in a hyper-individualistic society that is crushing for me to be a part of it. I grew up talking to people. I did not stare at a screen and ignore the actual life happening around me. With how things are now you do not have to technically relate with other people to live your life. I do want to relate to other people, I just don't really know any who know me how I wish they could. It's just how it is. So if all I can do is share my photographs and hope there is some sort of relational value in that act, it's better than how things are now. People chasing money. That is how it is here. You are what you do and how much you make.
Anyway, this idea, from this book, it really changed my life and certainly my approach to photography.
I use my digital camera for paid work only because it produces lifeless memories. They can replicate, but not produce a memory that feels right. They are hollow and stack up on hard drives. I never look at them and if I do, I feel nothing for them. I use film to record how I felt that day. When I look at that work, years later even, I can almost always remember what happened just before and just after I took the photograph.
I used to be terrified of making mistakes. Any mistakes. Anything that might show people I was the fraud I thought I was. So with photography, if my work did not strictly adhere to what "they" said you should produce, I discarded it. We are not perfect. We are flawed. Film, if you relax with it, if you stop worrying about what "they" will say, will show "flaws." The flaws in this photograph are many but without them, the photograph, to me, is just replication and memories can never replicate the experience.
Death used to really terrify me. The funeral. Open caskets. Loved ones who like they are sleeping. I understand these things are done for the living, but they are done so we can continue to deny that we have only have this life, for sure, to live fully. I clung to the hope that there might be something else. Something better than this place called Earth, that could quite possibly become a true hell in the next few years.
My fear of death was so consuming that unless I attended a funeral, I refused to step foot in a cemetery. I could not stop thinking that the grass beneath my feet was fed by the dead below.
So I forced myself to enter them and get comfortable with years of terror through the slower process of taking 4x5 photographs. Much of the work I produce now is taken in cemeteries. Not because I am preoccupied with death, but because I accept it as a part of life.
I am really scared. Scared we won't get a chance to live a full life because of elected officials, sociopaths and psychopaths. But I do not fear death.
Everyone has something they feel they must proclaim and more feel a need to blast every utterance and lunch tray photograph across the universe.
I am not sure that anything I have to say is of value to anyone. I just want to talk about the frames and films I have made with other people. I am no technician. I like to feel. To record. To try and sort things out.
To start, I do not know other people very well. I was a shut-in for most of my adult life. I went out very rarely. Nearly everything terrified me. All I wanted to do most was sleep. My anxiety, not a buzzword at the time, was killing me. I drank gallons and smoked endless strings of cigarettes. I had some unresolved PTSD, also not a buzzword at the time. At some point, I started to wash my hands a lot. I guess it must have sent a message that it made me feel better. My hands would get dry, crack and bleed. This made my fear of germs and illness that much greater and the noose tightened. I became fixated on death. I could not handle the idea of losing anyone close to me. My solution was to never let anyone get close. It worked.
I am getting better.
We are social creatures. We need each other or we will die. Try to help each other out. Life can be deeply grim and insulting. If you know a way to do something better. To Help. Do it.
Don't hide your answers.