Names on a hat

I just had a thought. Yeah, it does happen from time to time so bear with me. There is a scene from a Monty Python movie, The Meaning Of Life, where a marketing guy says that they have figured out that people would be happier if they wore more hats. Ok, that's not too funny but in the context of the whole scene and movie – it's a riot. Still I was thinking about the hats that I would wear on assignment. No, not the super cool Fedora that I've always wanted to be able to pull off in that Indiana Jones manner, but mental hats. Huh? Ok let's wind back a bit. (Insert time machine sound effects here)

When I was younger and trying to figure out what kind of photographer I wanted to be when I grew up, I would try to go to an assignment and promptly feel intimidated by something. It could have been the awful light, awful environment, awful mood of the awful subject – see a pattern here?, but something would smack my creativity around pretty good. I would end up saying to myself : "Geez self! What the heck am I supposed to do with THIS?" So I played a game called "What hat should I wear?"

The idea was to think of a great photographer who really would knock this assignment out of the park and maybe find a way to make a prize winning photo out of the mess I found myself in. Maybe the photographer was, Dave Black if the assignment was sports, maybe it was Mark Seliger if it was a portrait, maybe it was David Allan Harvey if it was an intimate yet graphicly inspired story, maybe it was Gene Richards if it was a gritty story and if there were animals involved the guy was always Frans Lanting. Anyhoo, I imagined that I had a hat with that guys name on it and I would mentally put that hat on and try to be as inspired as, say, Jodi Cobb would be and go make photos with that mindset.

The deal is that I never tried to copy any of the legendary photographers work who so inspired me. I'm not that clever. But it did help me find a place to start from. The funny thing is: I can't remember the last time I put one of those hats on. It's been years.

I've never tried to work to have a style as I wanted the process to be organic and looking at what I have been doing with my images for quite some time is that my work is no longer inspired by my heroes. Instead my work is inspired by my feelings about my subject. I didn't really "get it" until a few minutes ago when I finished watching a video of Joe McNally talking to the people at Google about his work. It's well worth the hour to see it on YouTube.

Ya see, I'm never had a hat with the name of a generalist photog, it's always some kind of specialist. I've had great respect for guys like McNally and James Stanfield but they were too flexible for me to try to emulate. Well guess what? I'm a generalist too. Now I really understand. I've become an amalgam of all the specialists who I respect along with a huge dose of me.

So maybe it's time to get a new hat with my name on it and wear that with pride? Yeah, sounds good.

Oh and I ran across this pic from a few years ago. It was one of the last assignments that I did on film, remember that stuff? It's of Al Gore when he did a presentation that let up to the whole "Inconvenient Truth" project that he did. It was an instinct shot. I mean, who shoots a famous dude without him being recognizable? Well, there is that whole green thing going on – right?


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