Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Right Passion

The Right Passion
Very recently, my business partner (and damn dear friend) and I were selling art at a booth at an event. A band called Chasing Amy was doing amazing covers, people were milling about, it was wonderful. Of course, I was hunting for customers and trying to move inventory. This is how I eat.

Two young people came to our booth and the young lady, a senior in high school, loved my work and connected with it. She told me with fearful enthusiasm that she was a photographer too. I knew in that moment that the time to make money was over and that we needed to talk. I decided not to do what most "professional" photographers do and dismiss her, I decided to treat her as a peer and ask her to tell me more. 

With so much enthusiasm she told me about the class she took, her preference for film, her work in the school paper and other school events. I told her that being the photographer for the high school newspaper and yearbook was how I started and how it led to my career path. Her friend and Giselle (biz partner and dear friend) joined in the conversation and we were all over the map. 

We spoke about beauty and horrors and art and passion and the things we have seen in the darkness of life and the beauty that is always present in the darkness when you look hard enough. 

Then the young lady said something that made my day. 

"I don't even know what brand my camera is."

"Thank God!" I exclaimed. 

I went on to tell her that I have a hard time talking to photographers today. They go to meetup groups and brand each photo with their logo and name. They talk about their equipment and their software. They speak of the tools, but not the art. They are so lost in the passion of expensive gear with too many fuckin' megapixels and overpriced software that they do not have a passion for the right thing. 

"What is the right thing?" she asked. 

"Passion. Looking through the viewfinder and becoming one with the camera. It is just a tool, but in the right hands, it becomes an extension of your eyes, your body and your very soul. It allows you to use your perspective to show others the world you see, the love and the heartbreak, the story and you. The right passion is not found in gear and lighting and techniques, those are mere tools that drive the passion. 

I sit with artists who paint. I do not hear them talk incessantly about Windsor Newton verses Creative Edge canvasses. They usually get what is on sale with a coupon. Utrecht brushes or Dynasty, what brand oils or acrylics or watercolors. No. They may have preferences, but the conversations is about the creation, the frustrations, knowing it is finished when you look at it and say, "This is shit! Pure shit!" But even as you say the words, you secretly love it and know you created something and told a story (well, sometimes you also think it is shit).

We tell stories. We share perspectives. We create. What I consider the main difference between photography and painting is this (and I know many will disagree with me), the painter starts with the canvass. For me, the canvass is the last step. I capture my perspective and creation on the canvass last with a click of a shutter.

Here is the thing. The canvass, the paints, the brushes, the kilns, the clay, the camera, the software are the tools we use to create. We create, we see, we use the tools to do so. In the right hands a 6MP DSLR or an old 35MM camera can create far more beauty than the most expensive Nikon with the lighting kit and 4 figure software package. Because the truth is, art is really 80% perspective and passion and 20% skill. That is my opinion."

Then I asked her which were her favorite pieces of mine. Her and her friend told me the ones they liked. I gave them 2 prints and one framed print, signed them, and thanked them. It was the right thing to do because I wanted all of us to remember and treasure this moment. A moment where a 17 year old and a 46 year old were peers who shared passion. We are all peers. 

I know this is getting long, but I have to keep going because this matters. 

Last month I was at a Anime convention in Baltimore with my son. While he was at a panel I walked about the night streets and saw a professional photographer doing a shoot for a cosplayer who paid her. Her fancy hot shoe flash umbrellas with the wireless remote trigger failed. She messed with the equipment and I stood across the street and watched. She could not get the equipment to fire. I saw her about to end the shoot. It was not for her, it was for the young lady who worked so very hard on her costume that I did what I did. I crossed the street. I told the young photographer to give me her light meter. I re-positioned the cosplayer near a street light, put the camera in full manual mode and set the tripod. I looked at the photographer and told her to only change the focus and do not touch the speed or aperature. She did. I re positioned, reset, let her shoot. 

She looked at her work and showed it to the cosplayer. It was haunting and beautiful. The subject/customer was delighted. I walked away and started talking to a friend via text on my phone. The photographer came to me and thanked me as she lit a cigarette. I looked at her and said, "You are a user of the camera, you rely on the camera. You need the tech. Be Luke Skywalker once in awhile. Turn off the targeting computer and shoot."

"Not like I have the force, dude."

"Well, if we are gonna beat a dead horse out of this analogy, Luke was not a jedi yet, but he worked with what he knew."

The picture above is of my Pentax K-1000 35mm SLR camera that my dad bought me Christmas of 1983. I still break it out once in awhile. That camera shot pictures that appeared in the school newspaper, the yearbook, at least four different professional newspapers, various websites, market copy, and even a magazine or three. I have a picture in this blog of the moon. You can see the craters, it is clear, it is true. I did that with a Pentax K100D packing 6MP with a 200-800 Pentax Lens without a tripod in manual. It was not the camera, it was my perspective and passion and ability to use the tool and not let the tool use me. I did not even plan the shot. I was standing on a third floor balcony in Baltimore and I saw the moon and knew I could, and had to, capture it. It is my favorite moon shot of mine yet. 

I have seen carpenters have a hammer break, they can be handed another hammer and keep working. It is a tool. In the right hand, the hand that can create and envision and knows how to drive the nail straight and true, he can still build the house. 

Have the right passion in life. Do not let the tools be the passion, let the passion for creation, love, sharing, and perspective be the passion. 

Have the right passion. 

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