More words from a Master

When I’m in the office I constantly have something playing on my second monitor that I can learn from and be inspired by. I’ve been listening to a lot of episodes of Inside The Actors Studio, that amazing series on Bravo where they interview great actors and directors about their lives and the personal aspects of their craft. I was just finishing the end of the episode with Al Pacino and he said, to paraphrase: “You want to keep trying to see things fresh and not know what you are going to do. It’s like I’m doing this for the first time. When that stops happening, I’ll stop acting. Because then what’s the point? Then it’s a job.”

This totally encapsulates how I feel about my work. I hate, hate, hate repeating myself. I loath to have to be one of those guys who finds a signature image/look and keeps doing variations on that one photo for years because it makes them famous and thus brings them work. If that happened to me I’d hang up my cameras and get a meaningless job because all the joy would have been sucked out of my photography. I don’t do this for the money. I do this because it thrills me. Every day is different. Every shoot is unique. Every subject new. I don’t ever want that to change.

So part of the challenge is to make subjects that I’ve shot before seem totally new. Push-push-push. And man is that sometimes tough but to me there is no emotionally and artistically acceptable alternative. To not push is asking for a kind of soulless death. (Yeah kinda dramatic I know but hey! … that’s how I feel.)

I was sent to shoot one of the many vigils and outpourings of support for the numerous students who have committed suicide lately because of the pressure, intimidation and bullying regarding their homosexuality. I’ve shot these kind of things before and they tend to be mostly the same. I do find that they tend to be a group of people with a common emotional experience but they rarely seem to personally connect with anyone but who they came to the event with. So after the moments of silence and a few hushed and teary words of support for the cause they started to put out their candles and shuffle home. I did all the basics: wide shots high and low, groups leaning on each other with the candles warming their faces against the cool blue of the night sky, tight shots of the few tears that appeared. All that. Job done but nothing different. The client be happy but I wasn’t. I wanted something different. I saw a group that had kept their candles alive and had formed a circle. I said hello and then laid on the ground at their feet pointing my lens up. That worked. Something different. Job better done and a shot from old territory that is fresh to me.

Vigil

Technicals: Nikon D700 @ ISO3200, Tungsten WB, 1/30th sec. Nikon AF-D 28mm f/1.4 @ f/2.8.

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