Sunday, July 24, 2011

Slowly Moving at a Frantic Pace

As I move through this most recent transition from a full time job to cobbling together a living I often find myself exhausted from the juggling of schedules and resources and the navigating of various bureaucracies. But I still manage to get in a little shooting here and there. In fact I'm actually behind in my scanning of negs, and the number of rolls of film to be processed increases each week.

To all appearances it seems that my creative out-put has dropped dramatically and the hours devoted each week to my photography are indeed fewer, yet I am creating new images.

While the day to day business of making a living has become a most time consuming struggle the mill of my creative work keeps grinding away, slowly, persistently moving me forward.

Photo: ©2011 David W. Sumner

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Consider the Percentages

A while ago I told a friend of mine that I was averaging 7 good frames per every role of film I was shooting. He was surprised and said that was high. It didn't seem high to me.

Back when I was shooting with the intention of having editorial pieces published, I figured that if I didn't get 20 good "keepers" out of a roll of 36 frames I wasn't getting the job done.

I don't know what other photographers consider a good "take," but if I'm not walking away with at least 5 good frames per roll I'm doing something wrong.

I don't shoot the same way I did when I was trying to consistently get published. I rarely shoot transparencies and I seldom bracket and I have the time to let the story develop, if there is one.

I went on a shoot today. I had a very specific objective, to document a single scene for my Flag project. I knew I wouldn't need a lot of film to get what I wanted. I started shooting with an FM2 that had about 25 frames left on the roll. When I finished I knew I had what I wanted. I knew I had 5 good shots.

The whole time I was shooting I was thinking of another possible angle or point of view from which to approach the subject. Then I turned my back to the subject and saw a mirror across the room. I went to work on the reflection in the mirror. Then back at my original shooting position, I put my busted up 20mm lens on the FM2 and started over.

I got what I wanted because I was thinking the whole time, moving, considering every corner of the room. When I saw the shot I settled in, concentrating on making the image.

I used a couple other cameras to get a few close ups and some color images of the entire room. In all, I shot about 35 frames and I know I walked away with at least 8 good images. That's all I need. So, considering the percentages it was a good day's work.

Photo: ©2011 David W. Sumner

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sad But Not Necessarily Bad News

One month ago I was laid off from a job I had held for ten years. Sad, but not necessarily bad news.

I've been here before. I know the routine. It's a bit tougher being 52. It all seemed easier when I was younger. Rather than bouncing back these days it's more like a steep climb. But I do it. I made some decisions a long time ago that made this sort of thing a regular part of the equation.

To be able to make a living working at those types of jobs that allow me the time and energy to pursue my personal and creative work I have to realize that those are not the most stable of positions and be able to roll with the punches.

I've created a life style that I consider very rich and satisfying. The concessions I made twenty years ago have long since been forgotten and never seemed like sacrifices. Some people still wonder why I don't own a car, have credit cards, have cable TV, or want to own a house. Imagine the fix I'd be in today if I had all those obligations at 52 having just lost my job?

I live in a city in which a car isn't necessary, I rent a house I can move out of with a 30 day notice, I have no debt, I spend my free time pursuing my photography and enjoying my huge network of friends most of whom are painters, writers, photographers, actors, musicians.

Low stress jobs that allow flexible hours and make no demands beyond the normal 8 hour day are often not the best paying jobs and often not the most secure. But they do allow one to maintain a certain degree of control over one's own life.

Since moving to the Bay Area 23 years ago to practice the art and craft of photography I've held 7 different jobs. I worked for a couple of well known photographers, I worked at a photo lab, at a stock photo agency, at an art store, at a little museum and now I'm starting a new "little" job at a big museum. It was time for a change of venue. I know from past experience that the white water ahead will soon yield to a gently flowing current that will take me farther along my journey.

The photo above shows my desk at Mountain Light Photography. I worked there for almost two years. It was the first job I had after moving here from Southern California. I was a photo researcher and I loved the work. That was over 20 years ago. I've come a long way since then. There's been some white water but for the most part it's been smooth sailing.

Photo: ©1989 David W. Sumner

Friday, July 1, 2011

With Liberty and Justice for All

I've been shooting images of the flag for a few years now. This has become a project which is beginning to take on some sort of shape. Where it will end or what I will learn from it is still a big unknown.

Public display of the US flag is not uncommon. We expect to see it in a variety of public settings. But what is it that compels some individuals, ordinary citizens, to display the flag in a window, on a pole in front of their houses or on their cars?

There are of course the obvious motivations: patriotism, nationalism, solidarity. But over the past decade the flag has come to represent many different things to different people. For some it is a buffer of protection, for others it represents an over abundance of false promises and still for others it serves as a warning.

It has become more acceptable to include the flag in the design of products, packaging and apparel. The meaning, the symbolism present in the image of the US flag has become more complicated and much harder to define than at any time in the past.

Is the flag something people, as a nation, can stand behind or is it becoming a symbol they prefer to hide behind?

Photo: ©2011 David W. Sumner