one f-stop at a time


On Saturday, I had photo shoot number one of six.  I was anticipating a disaster, considering that I'm a) totally out of practice and b) a lot of important personal issues were riding on the outcome of this shoot.  Namely:  Can I still do this?  More importantly, do I even want to?  Thankfully, the answer to both of those questions is a resounding "Yes!"

But what made me feel even better is, when all was said and done, I was satisfied with the results without feeling that anxious craving for positive feedback, for affirmation that I'd done a good job.  Simply knowing that I'd made something I liked was good enough, for once.  I was even able to put aside the photographs for a few days and enjoy the company of a very good friend whom I haven't seen in many months.  Then this evening, when I came back to the photos, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could look at them somewhat critically and not feel like I had to tear my talent down in the process. 

At one point in my college career I took a photography class in which we were required to build a series of photographs around a written statement.  I shot roll after roll of Kodak Elite Chrome (cross-processed, of course), and every week I'd bring my favorite photographs to class.  There weren't very many favorites.  At the end of the semester, my professor took me aside and said, "Look – I think you have a great vision, but you should be producing more work.  The only reason I'm giving you a B is because I didn't see nearly enough work from you."  What the professor didn't understand was, I'd taken a few hundred photographs over the semester, but in my mind, only 15-20 made the cut for a class critique.  Only six made it into my final portfolio.   I'd never given him or the rest of the class the opportunity to tell me what they thought about the other 190 photographs (minus dupes and brackets), because in my mind, they had already failed in some way or another. 

When I say I'm my own worst critic, I couldn't mean it in a more literal way, especially when it comes to the things I take a lot of personal pride in.  Some photographers have a problem narrowing down a selection of their best works… I have a problem finding two photos out of a hundred that appeal to me.   I suppose it's good to have a finicky eye in some cases, but it also shows how hard I can be on myself (to the point of ridiculousness at times) and that's a part of my personality I'm trying to tame.

I feel good about this shoot.  Not because it's perfect, but because I did it for me.  These may never win awards, or see the inside of a glossy magazine, but that doesn't matter.   They're for me, and I'm glad to be able to say that.

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