Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Finding Your Voice

Rock City Barn GA-12
GA Hwy. 42, Monroe County, Georgia
Canon EOS A2, Canon 28-105 f3.5-4.5 EF lens

In the absence of any clear idea of what they hope to achieve, photographers often sub-consciously seek to define themselves by their equipment. It can be fun for those who can afford it, but it avoids the real question: Who am I as a photographer? What is my passion? Until you can answer that, you "ain't gonna get no satisfaction." Because ultimately, it's not the tools nor the act of photography that counts. It's the subject, your relationship to it, and your feelings about it.

The photographer who finds his voice, his niche, his passion, most likely will also find that he can do whatever he wants to do with a relatively small amount of equipment. An exception, of course, would be the photographer whose passion is birds in flight, action sports, or auto racing. But for myself, I can do everything I want to do with a few Fuji bodies and three or four lenses; equipment which is also sufficient for the occasional commercial gig I get.

As I've said several times (but who's counting?), I found my voice, my passion, in photography in the early 1970s, but did not recognize it for what it was until years later.

I have always been drawn to the old, the abandoned, the worn out, the passing away. Abandoned buildings, abandoned cars – whatever man has used, worn out, and discarded -- fascinate me, because they speak of worn out lives, lived and discarded with neither name nor history.

FOR SALE (Unidentified Auto from the Mid-1930s)
U.S. Hwy. 411, Gordon County, Georgia
Canon EOS A2, Canon 28-105 f3.5-4.5 EF lens

I am especially drawn to the remnants of mid-twentieth-century roadside culture because I lived it. In the 1950s and '60s I hitch-hiked the two-lane highways of America. I saw the Rock City barns, the Mail Pouch Tobacco barns, the roadside fast-food stands built to look like giant chickens or hot dogs, the wigwam motels. Like Tennyson's Ulysses, "I am a part of all I have met." Or more accurately, all I have met is part of me.

I admire the work of nature photographers such as David Meunch and the late Galen Rowell, but am much more drawn to the work of the great observers of the human scene, such as Elliott Erwitt, Robert Doisneau, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I wish I could do what they do. I've tried, and I know I will never photograph insightful slices of life as well as they do. But I have a niche of my own, and I must be content. Rather than photographing nature or the human condition, my passion and my role is to document the interface between nature and the crumbling works of man.

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