Holly Famous Barber Shop, 2009
If you are a determined photographer, you will find something to photograph no matter where you are. I take it as a challenge to make something of what others walk past. As long as there’s light, I figure you’ve got a starting point.
I’ve photographed broken windows, empty bottles, blades of grass, a lawn mower. More than once I’ve photographed my own foot when I was stuck on a long conference call. I’ve photographed curbs and cracks in the highway. I once shot a dozen or so pictures of a hotel room air conditioner just to keep the juices flowing. As the picture above shows, even if I’m waiting for a haircut and have nothing more than a phone cam, I’ll take pictures with it.
Crazy? Yes. But what good’s having an artistic obsession if you can’t revel in it from time to time? Sometime you just have to let that energy out, no matter how it manifests.
I like people with vivid interests. They can’t not do whatever it is they do, whether that means painting, drawing, making photographs, writing, singing, dancing or even writing marketing plans. (Yes, there are people apparently born to write marketing plans.) It’s hard-wired into them. They’re going to do it whether they have an audience, or not.
When I was a kid, I was uneasy and insecure. I didn’t see things because I wasn’t looking. When I bought my first serious camera, it gave me a reason to be places. I moved more comfortably among people and places where I’d previously been uncomfortable. Martine Franck, the Belgian photographer and widow of Henri Cartier-Bresson, has described how a camera brought her alive, too, and gave her a reason for being places when she was young and shy.
Once I had a reason to break out of my shell, my eye became attuned to seeing things. Big scenes. Small moments. The world was alive with visual opportunities. Years later I learned that a lot of people in my very small high school class had no idea what I looked like because, as one put it, “You always had that camera in front of your face.” Just goes to show, God’ll get you, especially when you’re trying to impress cute girls.
After college there followed a long stretch during which I didn’t “see” anything. My interests wandered. I was uncertain in my life’s direction. In time, I got married. We had a child. I worked on my career. I pulled out the old camera during the baby picture phase of things, and occasionally took a few other pictures here and there. But the latter were mostly unremarkable.
About the time my daughter headed off to college, I noticed that I’d started “seeing” things again that I wanted to record in photographs. For whatever reason, the long foggy veil was lifted. Nowadays, there are still periods when that fog reappears. But I know I can make it go away by lifting the camera in front of my face and clicking away.