February 19, 2009
There exist in my archives a very large number of images never seen by anyone — a quick estimate puts the number at over 100,000. The vast majority of these are the duplicates, the blurry, the over/under-exposed, the ill-composed; you would be most disappointed to see them, I wager. I have heard it said anyone can be considered a good photographer if they only choose the right photos to post, but I digress: I’m not here to talk about the mountain of bad photos I have sitting here, and I’m not here to tell you the various trite reasons the ones worth posting remain languishing in the dark. No, I’m here to ask: why bother doing it at all?
I have always tried to put my work on display, even when it (frequently) was not worthy of it. My goal was not the criticism and critique of others, for I am and have always been my own harshest critic, and am never satisfied but for a moment with anything I have done. For if I cannot find flaw in a creation, it means either that it is perfect (which is utterly impossible) or that, instead, I’m not yet skilled enough to identify what is wrong. And, if so, I should not rest until I can do so. Nor did I (do I?) present and showcase for the (undeserved) praise that I sometimes received. Instead, all I wanted was acknowledgment. “Look, I did this, and I am proud of it for a moment.” A nod would be more than sufficient.
To not share is to be unfulfilled: it’s akin to laughing at a joke in an empty room. You turn and cast about, hoping to share it with someone — anyone — and thereby expand your own experience and joy, but no one’s there and you sigh and carry on. It’s like filling your mouth with fine wine and not swallowing.
I am not some artist laboring in obscurity to fill some void, some need in my psyche, only to have my work discovered posthumously — I cannot claim that dignified a goal. It is a performer whose traits I share, the desire for an audience. Though instead of even a quiet, polite applause, I instead satisfy myself with pageviews and bandwidth (oh woe is me). Ours is work to appreciate after the fact, for though we and the performers are plying our trade at the same moment, their act is the moment, and my photos will be up tomorrow.
Periodically someone will ask why do I bother? Why do I spend all this money and time and effort and go through the stress and pain and sleepless nights to do this? (For, perhaps you do not know, but I do not do this for a living. In fact, it barely — if at all — pays for itself. It depends on how I do my books). And I will not offer up some asininely banal reason such as “I enjoy it.” I can do better than that, and will explore that topic in a future post.
Ultimately, the answer here is that there is no point whatsoever for me to shoot something if no one ever sees it. There’s your tree-in-the-forest solution; did anyone hear it? Yes? No? Irrelevant.
All this was a very fancy (read: longwinded) way of saying “Oh hi, look, I didn’t post these last year for various reasons, but I am now. You should look (and thus validate their existence and my effort). Kthxbai.” And so, without further ado, I present you with a very small gallery of “studio-esque” — that is, contrived and posed and planned to some degree, and not a live performance — photos of miss Erica Mulkey, aka Unwoman, from a shoot she hired me for mid last year. She has not made use of them yet, but I have her permission to publish them — go here for the full gallery.