cliche’, sure, it’s the journey, not the destination, etc. and so on. but it’s true. as i continue to age (for some damned reason) i am more and more aware of this old, tired fact. now to just slow down and live a little more of my life with this recognition at the top of my mind.
having been away from the “bar business” for quite some time and having given up hanging out for hours in one, i probably am not the best person to ponder if the local watering hole/home away from home/Cheers is still a thing. but i assume it is in that folks will always find a nook to sit, drink, chat, drink, stare at a TV, drink, hear a band, drink, get in a fist fight, drink, pick up a man, woman, farm animal, drink that they can call their own. i know it ain’t just an american thing, but i know we definitely are one of the world’s leaders in said activity.
13th century theologian St. Thomas Aquinas explored human transgression, notably the seven deadly sins. of the sin of pride, he said, “inordinate self-love is the cause of every sin…” which some few centuries down the line can best be described like–we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we feel we really can’t be judged and don’t really have to go by the rules–and once we buy into that most of our transgressions are just written off not as sin but as freedom of choice. i’m not a religious sort at all and basically scoff at organized attempts at worship and the way that religion is used to control simple minds. but i do understand the need to put things into an order when it comes to life lessons explored in some of the writings related explaining sin, redemption and being a better person. these writings are worth pondering even if i don’t claim to be an expert on either side of theology. i think pride is something that us, Americans, have maybe way to much of, and so few of us have actually earned the self-love we shower upon ourselves. have you seen any campaign ads recently?
i have a thought pertaining to art, music, sport…
if you are any good at all, then you know that you can be better. i played some football in my youth, screamed in a band, took some photos, talked for hours a day on the radio, made some art, wrote some words, basically i failed at a whole litany of “things.” i can honestly say i was never that good at any of those “things,” but i was good enough to understand that i needed to improve, and that i could. now with young boys, there’s an ego, there’s a “i’m the best at this” attitude that helps drive them. you never want to smother that, but you do want them to understand that there really never is a “best.” you are in charge of pushing yourself to this unobtainable notion of an invisible measuring stick. now, you can use stats, or the eyeball test, or success as a gauge in anything your are doing but none of those things truly can give you a scale to mark your personal “better.” i am proud that boy #1 and boy #2 manage to push themselves to be better in so many ways. there’s maturity there that i didn’t possess at their ages when it comes to drive and fortitude. that’s kind of a big deal. it’s serving them well.
when i snap a frame at a soccer match, i think i am trying capture a story in 1/500th of a second that speaks to “getting better.” i doesn’t always work, it maybe never works as a public narrative–but to me, what i see here is a boy, who looks more like a man, compared to the opposition. he is running towards a ball not in the frame, and he has already beaten a pair of kids mentally, they are giving up, he isn’t. he doesn’t know they have, he doesn’t care whether they have or not. he has focus, he is finding a maturity. he sent me a text the night before a full weekend of soccer matches, it said, “i don’t even care. like i literally could be playing against college kids or a 2-year-old. i really don’t care at all.” he is making his soccer game, about his role, not about others. he’s getting better.
“We’re living in a funny world kid, a peculiar civilization. The police are playing crooks in it, and the crooks are doing police duty. The politicians are preachers, and the preachers are politicians. The tax collectors collect for themselves. The bad people want us to have more dough, and the good people are fighting to keep it from us. It’s not good for us, know what I mean? If we had all we wanted to eat, we’d eat too much. We’d have inflation in the toilet paper industry. That’s the way I understand it. That’s about the size of some of the arguments I’ve heard.”
—Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me
yes, yes, it approaches. the spring season of soccer in the midwest/south. miles on the road between kentucky, ohio, virginia, tennessee, indiana and the like. dreams of trophies and cups. and getting better, always better–ball to foot, earphones to head, foot to gas, smiles to faces. sun-up will be here before we know it and we will start that day.
i have wasted a wealth of words over the past decade pontificating about using film, cheap, plastic cameras and why i still think doing it is relevant. as the populace have adopted photography (again) as a means of communication, storytelling and narcissism with the rise in smartphone usage, somewhere between 6 & 7 our of every 10 persons in the US and UK now have one, it has become harder and harder to find images that have resonance. as i scroll through instagram, pinterest, twitter, tumblr or any other social photo environment there is no short of actual “good” photography. there’s maybe too much good photography as a matter of fact. good photography has become as disposable as the bad. between the cute puppies and the people of new york is a vast variety of fantastic lookables. you can digitally duplicate everything from tack sharp large format work to toy camera or vhs tape cruddy captures. there’s little you can’t make an image look like if you want. which brings me back to film. let’s take the above image for example. it’s pretty boring, who knows where the horizon line should be, between the parking lines, the light poles, the tree line, it’s all somewhat terrible. the face focus is soft, i’m too far away from the subject to really make this photo effective as a portrait, the limitations of my plastic lens have hampered the sharpness because of my bad guess at distance, there’s random dust specs even after i cleaned them up after scanning and all in all you could just count this frame as a throw away…
so why do i love it? i mean you can guess i might love the subject and that helps but that doesn’t really jilt my ability to judge an image…so, i am left lured by the film quality, the color, the crappy-somewhat flat contrast. and the fact that when shooting film, my frames seem, mentally, less disposable. i am just as critical of my personal work yet less willing to dismiss frames of film now without searching corner-to-corner looking for something that might say something to me. is it just about not giving up on an image just because it’s film? possibly. but i’m fine with that. for now. because i want to keep using film. i want photography to continue to take time, thought, rumor, conjecture, innuendo and a little passion. not just my phone placed 24 inches above my head to the left and my lips pouted and cheeks sucked in for something you have dubbed a “selfie.”
photography — with all the advances, the fact that “everyone” has access to a rather sophisticated camera on their phone, and more importantly a real willingness to use it — still relies on some tried and truisms to work as a tool of interest and art. light sure helps. shadows, too. i like lines, and if we’ve learned anything from the internet it’s that girls in a photo are capable of making said photo, er, better. or something. anyway, this wasn’t taken with a digital camera of any kind. instead taken with a Diana, with film, at the Arch in St. Louis. looks like a few people were suspect of me using this device by the stares gathered in this one frame. i guess i should have pointed my phone at them.
whether or not you buy into the whole “it’s a new year, i’m gonna make wholesale changes” narrative that comes with flipping the calendar or not, there’s some to be said for striving to make the next year better than the last. it does kind of suck that you have to motivate change in the middle of the damned winter though. i mean really, it’s 7 degrees and i’m supposed to feel some form of renewal? grade me on a curve, please.
sunny day at the St. Louis arch.