When I was stationed at Fort Campbell, I was so miserable with Army life, all I ever wanted to do was go home (and drink). My off-post home was the place I could be to somewhat get away. But, it’s all I ever did. I was depressed; I had no interest in getting out, or seeing that side of the country. Of course, now that I’m not there, I can think of all the places I wish I had gone while I was there. And mostly, my interest is in taking photos of those places.
The beginning of this summer is my chance to redo. I don’t have to work. Bills are paid, life is comfortable enough, and I’m not blitzkrieging through summer classes. Now, until the baby is due in early August, is my time to have some fun, and to enjoy living again. Truth is, I don’t know that I’ll have another chance, and I want to make the most out of this opportunity before I have to buckle down again.
I’ve been reading, for personal reasons. I’ve been studying, for personal reasons. I’ve been researching, and planning. My DIY, 120 roll film, panoramic pinhole camera is nearly complete. I’m going backpacking in the Sierra’s after “the Fourth.” I have turned my garage workbench into an area to store my photo development and alternative process chemicals. I’ve (somewhat) cleaned out the office, bought a new work desk for all my computer and camera junk, and am feeling more calm than I have in years.
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I really love photography, and want to take my “amateur” work to the “next” level, whatever that means. I’m exploring new processes, styles, and bodies of work. I’ve submitted to a couple magazines and shows. I suppose I want to also be known as a photographer, not necessarily someone who carries a camera around. That thought leads me to consider education, and my current path. A majority of Americans do not know how to write. Just because I know how to spell, or to arrange words into sentences doesn’t necessarily mean that I know how to write. This, I am supposed to learn while in school—but I question whether I have what it takes to succeed, whereas, photography has become my passion, and I personally feel I have more talent there than I do with the pen.
Perhaps this is a confidence issue, I’m not sure. In Basic Training, nothing was difficult; it just took time to understand a new way of life, and to quickly practice a few new skills. It’s hard to relate that experience to the classroom. But seriously, how does one learn to write? It just doesn’t seem like I could wake up one day and think, “Sweet! Yesterday I didn’t know what I was doing, but now, I know how to write!”
Anyway, I just finished a book on Henri Cartier-Bresson. You probably don’t know him, but he’s credited with starting a movement in photography called “the decisive moment.” This is my inspiration! I want to travel; I want to see new things; I want to wander and explore, and bring back fifty rolls of black and white film to share with the world. As I look through his photographs, which are mainly just street life/travel/documentary stuff, what I find most startling is that his work is pretty close to being average. His real strength was in composition, and being in interesting places at opportunistic times. Many of his photos are slightly out of focus, occasionally a bit too grey, or just sloppily printed. But it works, and no one will take criticisms like these seriously because he’s freaking Henri Cartier-Bresson who shoots with a Leica! And, mainly, I can do this, too—I’m more sure of that, than I am in my ability to write.