Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why do I do it?

There's so much pithy information in Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland, that it's difficult to decide what points to address first. The first point that hit me right between the eyes, and it's on the second page of the first chapter, sucked me right into the rest of the book.

Making art .... means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares whether you do, and for which there may be neither audience nor reward. Making the work you want to make means setting aside ethese doubts so that you may see clearly what you have done, and thereby see where to go next. Making the work you want to make means finding nourishment with the work itself.

So, why do I do it? Why do any of the many street photographers with whom I correspond regularly use their precious free time to go out with a camera and walk the streets looking for that visual pun, that 'decisive moment', knowing that not many people will ever see it if it's posted on the internet, and of those that do, few will comment on it (except to tell you how great the shot is in the hopes that you'll look at their work and tell them how great their work is).

When I was out this past Saturday, I went to one of my favorite spots in Manhattan. It's a corner in the Meatpacking district near the lower end of the Highline. I like this spot because there's a bench to sit on just outside of a biker's bar. Since the area has started to become gentrified, quite a few trendy shops and restaurants that attract a hip young crowd have opened. It makes for an eclectic mix of the people that pass by the bench. I love a crowd - they increase dramatically the possibility of serendipitous moments. Grabbing those instants of time give me a rush, a feeling of 'got it!' And after I 'get it' I love to digitally develop the image to make it tell the story that made me push the shutter button in the first place. Once the image is created and posted, my process is finished. I'm done with that shot and on to the next one. I enjoy showing the work and getting feedback from viewers, but that's not the real motivation to taking the shot and developing it. During that whole process I'm really looking at myself, like looking into a mirror.

Now about this shot - there's just something I enjoy about taking a photo of an attractive woman. Here I was, standing in this small crowd of bikers who are swilling beer and chowing down cheap bar food, and this pretty blonde girl walks by followed by a preppy looking luster. I got a couple of shots of the girl, but this one in particular grabbed my attention because at the moment I pressed the shutter button the preppy guy stopped dead in his tracks, thinking he was going to  courteously give me space to get my shot without walking through it. 'Social Distortion' filled in the space and made the image speak.