Why is your website full of photographs?
I got my first camera before I was old enough to really take advantage of it. The Practica Nova just sat on a shelf gathering dust. Later in my teens and with some great encouragement from school teachers I started to pick up the general concepts of exposure and framing. As a kid who loved to draw, photography was a way of recording interesting things around me so that I could utilize them as reference material later. This activity was heavily reinforced when I started working in animation, where photographic reference and research became a powerful tool in learning a new art form.
As my work began to bring me to new parts of the world my camera enabled me to explore and record the world around me. As I now go through the boxes and boxes of photographs of interesting knickknacks, textures, reflections, materials and occasional people and places, the images seem strange and out of place. They are from another time, which will never return. Commercial artists no longer require vast libraries of visual reference gathered over years, the development of which was central to their ability to create original work in a timely and accurate fashion. The internet is uniquely better, faster and cheaper for finding what you need when you need it.
This change in my artistic relationship with research and reference gathering changed my relationship with photography and for a few years I stopped carrying a camera with me everyday. I would still stop and see things but the need to take the photograph was gone for any reason other than memory. The camera on my phone being mostly good enough to give a sense of time and place.
As life developed and I moved from animation to commercial art & design and then into academia I didn’t notice that I had almost completely stopped drawing and painting other than for demonstration purposes. My desk changed from angled to flat; blank pages to printed pages and opportunities for doodles to advance to finished pieces diminished. My sketchbooks became notebooks as doodles morphed into lists and my head out the window thinking was replaced with head down thinking.
The designers desire to solve problems is incredibly well fed in a university environment which by its nature is an engine of problem creation. Sitting with students, working through their creations and helping them to avoid boldly going where so many have boldly go before them, is hugely rewarding yet also exhausting. Days drift by in meetings and the lists, notes and projects they generate, which more often than not lead to more meetings, lists, notes and projects, while ideas, like magic butterflies sparkle and burst into flames unused and forgotten, leave small holes in my sense of self.
Photography is a remarkable artistic tool. Photography is naked in its delivery of subject in ways drawing or painting are not. Unlike drawing or painting, where some mastery alone can impress and create satisfaction, a photograph of a man sitting on a bench is just that. Drawing and painting have a big how and a small why whereas photography has a small how and a very big why and that why can make you crazy.
Why can make me crazy like a fool. Where there is no why, there are great reasons to buy new gear, new cameras, lenses, sketchbooks, pens or just stuff. The absence of why fuels obsession and research of stuff that revolves around how, but when why shows up it fuels obsession in research of the why leading to greater understanding of why, which in turn somehow gives me a better understanding of self. This why is the why that traveled with me to new places and helped me understand where I have been and is the why I take photographs today, to help me understand where and why I will going next. Though I currently have no idea how we will get there.