a matter of perspective
Every year, in December or early January, I like to make a book of my best, or favorite, images from the past year. And, while reflecting on the last year and where I have been, it seems a good time to consider the coming year and what I would like to make of it. I haven’t been photographing such a long time – three, now almost four, years. If I had to describe my experience of those years, it would look something like this – that first year was easy and great fun, the second year a bit more difficult, and the third year (last year) felt nearly impossible. Ask me to describe last year and I would say it was more struggle than anything. Reviewing photographs for the book taught me something different about this last year – and what I might do with this next one.
– I traveled more than I thought and not nearly as much as I would like.
– I pushed myself more, probably too much at times. I like to think that Thoreau said this best – “In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.” And so I do – I could be more accepting of the failure part.
– Perhaps no surprise to you but I love black and white. While occasionally I shoot for color and can appreciate a color photograph, black and white is what makes my heart sing. Only a few color photographs made the first cut for the book, not enough to justify including them. Black and white is what I want to do.
– Most importantly, having just the best work of the year in front of me, I realized that there was more good work than I thought – and it’s better than I thought. We, I spend so much time with my rejects and outtakes, that it can feel like that’s all there is. I still fail more than I succeed – and I fail a little less and succeed a little better than I used to. And for me at least, that seems to be the nature of this art.
A year in review – or a review of some kind – can be an illuminating process and mine this year has been most beneficial and instructive. It has me thinking about new directions and how I define success, among other things. I highly recommend it or something similar – perspective is a wonderful thing.
As an aside – and on the question of success – Robert Adams’ Why People Photograph arrived this afternoon. Just browsing the first few pages, I’m sure I’m going to love reading it. In one of his first essays, he writes, about how he likes many photographers and attributes this to a quality they share, animation. He writes, “They (photographers) may or may not make a living by photography, but they are alive by it.”
That is the standard of my success, how I want to experience my photography and judge my photographs. By that standard, 2013 was a very good year – and 2014 promises more of the same. I hope all of you enjoy many, many hours of similar success in 2014.