I am Nostalgia
I've been busy editing my larger body of work. Not because I wanted to. I didn't want to. But because I was asked by my Dallas photo rep, Quitze Nelson (quitzenelson.com), to give her 40-50 shots which represent the heart of who I am and what I shoot. So she could showcase the images on her agent website and collateral promotions.
Mechanically, this involved me sloshing through literally hundreds of hard drives to find the zingers. The ones I am most proud of. And that I think best represent my vision and voice in the world.
As a general rule, I don't like editing. I'm a shooter at heart. I love shooting the most. As a matter of fact, throughout my career, I've hired staff editors to help me with this less glamorous side of the business. But since going digital, I've been editing my own work more and more (although I'm still not liking it much better).
I imagined this edit, while obviously tedious and laborious, to be painstakingly dull. I wasn't at all looking forward to the exercise. But, I must say, it's been anything but dull. It's been inspiring, invigorating, rejuvenating. Almost beyond belief. My past work has connected me to my current work in an almost unexplainable phenomena.
I encourage each of you to take a quick trip down memory lane and look back. As far back as you can go. So that you can look forward. And connect the dots.
Not surprisingly, after looking at my work, I still feel that my best and brightest moments came when I was shooting analog, not digital. Those analog moments had a tactile, instinctive, visceral, deep-seated feeling that can't be easily replicated or explained (especially to those who have grown up digital).
I'll never return to shooting film. It's not going to happen. Digital offers so much more freedom than analog ever did or will. But that doesn't mean I can't and shouldn't fondly look back at these nostalgic, split-second instances and see how, over time, my vision was forged and formulated.
By the way, as a side note, my favorite career shots still seem to be the ones that I cranked out with my reliable Mamiya RZ67. (I'm stoked about trying out the new Mamiya digital back for RZ called RZ33.)
Another key revelational epiphany I had during this edit was that my hero selects had more to do with my vision, mission and passion at the time...than my surface and fleeting mastery of tools and technologies. It wasn't the gear. It was about the vision.
It's so important for photographers to look back at their work, over time. It's a necessary right of passage. And one you should do annually. When is the last time you nostalgically looked back at your body of work?
It's really ironic that looking back helps you connect the dots to looking forward. At least it does for me. And I'll bet it would do the same for you if you take the time and go to the trouble to just do it.
This grand experience also taught me to dust off some of those tried and true techniques I've used when I was just starting out that I somehow forgot or ignored. Simple compositional, design and aesthetic techniques that somehow got buried over in the piles of tutorials, workshops, seminars and peer critiques.
Granted, many of my favorites came from personal, not commercial, projects. When life and times were a bit simpler and more liquid. But passion is passion. And vision is vision. What I had then, I can have again. Even more. More clear, more powerful, more focused.
It was also pretty apparent, in looking through this body of work, that I made a lot of technical mistakes. But so what? That fear didn't handicap me from experimenting then. It won't handicap me now. Brands and personal styles are built on the back of creative and playful experimentation.
My goal, in this coming year, is to get back to the inspiration, imagination, innovation that I first embraced with childlike naivety when I began my career in photography almost three decades ago. See it. Shoot it. Showcase it.
When I do my next body of work edit, I want to see new things. New images. New techniques. New tests. New styles. New subject matter. New exposure experimentation. New compositions. A new me.
Looking back at this point and time in my career may just have been the spark I needed to set ablaze a whole forest of originality and ingenuity. Stay tuned.
I look back...so I can look forward. I embrace my past. And revel in my future. I may not be the photographer I once was. But rest assured that I will not be the photographer I am. Today I am wistful, sentimental, romantic, nostalgic. Tomorrow I will turn these sensibilities and sensitivities into raw material for a whole new vision. Join me, won't you? Look back with me. So we can look forward together.