Pictures of Nothingness

I have shared less and less of my personal photography work on social media lately. My client work has taken off this year, but I’ve found myself hesitant to share anything outside the scope of what I do for my clients.

I know I’m not the only one who feels that the large social media platforms have changed so much, enough to feel that they no longer have the users’ best interests in mind. I won’t lie and say that Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr didn’t help improve as a visual artist. Sharing my work there helped me build confidence, take risks, find a voice. I also bought into what happened there, too. The people going from artists to “brands” to “influencers.” The photos in exchange for “free” watches. The purchased followers (never did that) and the mad dash to hack your way to a large following.

Things got lost in that process. I’ve studied visual art my entire life, and learned to see the world around me as creative inspiration. That started to become the cliche—doing it for the ‘gram. As in constantly seeking the most visually stimulating thing to post.

I’m trying to remember what it is like to simply make photos as visual meditations again. Pictures of nothingness and that don’t serve an outright agenda. Work that documents. Work that is my own mix of influences that follow me everywhere: Salvador Dali, Vivian Maier, Leonardo Da Vinci, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and lots of musical theatre.

Social media isn’t all bad, but it’s also not that great either. Instagram in particular was built of the work of photographers, then became saturated by media and Meta’s attempt to appropriate ever other app out there. I’m sticking around with a few selfies, and some updates on various projects. I still believe in building a long-haul audience, in having a space like this to post quality content. It’s extra work, but I’m keeping this site exactly for that.

New year, new me?

It has been quite awhile since I’ve posted anything here. To tell you the truth, I’ve had this URL since about 2000 and haven’t added much to it. It used to be a catch-all site for my fledgling acting career back then. Then came the rise of the blog, then the rise of what we called the micro-blog, the then the rise of the social network, and that became the rise of the social media. Now seems to be the fall of social media as we know it, with some of the most reliable platforms seeming to fall under their own weight…or onto their own swords. I still love them, despite that everyone seems to regard them as “hell-scapes”. All this is to say that now seems to be more important of a time to keep one’s own website updated with quality content and connection.

Where have I been? Well, it’s nothing serious. After several years of building a freelance photography career, only to have it put completely on hold at the start of the pandemic, things have been back. I wasn’t doing all that well during the long stretches of lockdown months. For any creative person who found that time to be ultra-productive, great for you. Despite my introverted nature, I found my anxiety to be barely manageable and I had almost no ability to actually concentrate on a single project. In fact, I think I just got my brain back within the last year or so.

But, yes, things have been back since last fall. I’ve built relationships with a handful of new clients who have been fantastic and who have kept me busy. I expected maybe a few bookings last fall, but the phone kept ringing right up through the holidays and into this year. I’m a very lucky photographer because I know a lot of us went out of business in 2020.

It’s been a year of shifts. No, it’s not January, but I think of this time of year as a New Years in many ways. My birthday is in summer, and I tend to take stock of myself and my year around June/July. Many shifts began about a year ago when I was approaching a big birthday. Friends I had regarded as ride-or-die seemed not to be “ride” at all, and I had to sort of quietly let them go. A family member was in the midst of a health crisis and I spent several weeks in the hospital with them during a record heatwave in Southern California. (They are doing much better now.) What I thought would be a joyful celebration of me entering into a new decade surrounded by friends actually had me feeling very alone. Most plans I had made to welcome this next stage of my life all seemed to fall completely through amidst a bad COVID wave.

Things can, and do, change. I had to accept that as I watched relationships in my life shift. As I watched my priorities realign around certain people. As I understood that by embracing my own personal growth I had to course-correct certain precedents I had set around how I had always allowed myself to be treated before. I’m risking this post becoming a bit long and cliche, but that is sort of it in a nutshell.

Again, as social networks continue to annoy and/or disappoint their users, I am aiming to be more committed to this space. I’ve never been much of a writer, but I’d rather my words and quality creative efforts go here.

Social down

Yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of images from Ray Bradbury stories–of wall-sized TV panels blaring reality TV, ear seashells, and machines that breath and function like organisms–as a global social media platform went down for about five hours. Of course, it felt like a sense of relief that I didn’t have to check them as much as I typically do.

During fall I take up candle making.

I’m aware these major social platforms monetize our attention, siphoning off our focus little by little while hopping us up on dopamine all along the way. I want to tread lightly by saying that there are some good aspects to social media. I know that posting my photography work has helped me improve over the years. Promoting my various projects has been a plus, even if it simply keeps people in touch with all the things I do with my life.

Where that balance is between sharing my entire life on social media and whatever else doesn’t happen online, I don’t really know. I try to devote at least half my day to non-screen activities. I have a personal trainer; my ongoing garden projects; making gourd-shaped candles.

During the non-social media freedom I stopped by the only local bookstore left nearby, a large chain store. I went in to pick up a new copy of The Illustrated Man. Even in the middle of a weekday, the place was fairly bustling. I found my book quickly and went to check out. In front of me was a woman purchasing at least two large stacks which the store employee was scanning and piling into large canvas tote bags. I must not have been the only one taking advantage of digital downtime.

“I have the feeling you just want to be miserable.”

A recent reply to a mildly snarky tweet I sent, a comment on celebrities receiving free clothes all the time and why it always seems to work as a marketing scheme.

“I could explain to you why it works but I have the feeling you just want to be miserable,” a paraphrased tweet in response. I was slightly taken aback, not because I’m such a know-it-all, but because of a stranger’s rather mistaken assumption about me based on a few words.

While I tend to be somewhat quiet and introverted, I don’t think anyone would describe me as seeking to be miserable. Then again, you never know…

It’s an attitude I seem to find over and over again on social media, Twitter in particular. This attitude of schooling someone, or “let me explain it because apparently you don’t know…” I often seek knowledge online out of genuine curiosity, but I find people online either assume I can’t think for myself or that I’m somehow just plain dumb.

Did I waste time clapping back to this dim response? No, I moved on as they continued tweeting at me. I hope they enjoyed their moment of superiority.