Thursday, March 15, 2007

Slow Down

I've been reading The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer. I've been reading it in bed but it is one of those books that you need to read sitting at a table or desk where you can highlight parts of it or write notes in the margin or on a pad because it has given me lots to think about. I'll probably be writing other posts from ideas that came to mind while I was reading it. But today I want to talk about a footnote in the book.

In 1972 when Stephen Shore (then aged twenty-five) set out on the road-trip that would result in American Surfaces he found his Rollei 35 so easy to use that he also became snap-happy. 'I was photographing every meal I ate, every person I met, every waiter or waitress who served me, every bed I slept in, every toilet I used.' On subsequent trips Shore swapped to an 8x10 view camera in order, partly, to slow down both his methods and results (as seen in Uncommon Places). Joel Sternfeld made a similar move to the large format camera for the work eventually published in American Prospects.

This made me think of myself when I first got a DSLR. I was snap-happy. I, too, was photographing everything that past by. I was trying out the camera but I was also trying to photograph things I had never photographed before. In a way this was good. I found that not only did I like to cook which I already knew but I found that I liked to photograph food and play with the depth of field. But most of the other stuff I photographed was just a digital file.

My friend, Stephen DiRado, started out using a 4x5 view camera but changed to an 8x10 view camera because in part, it slowed him down and let him think through and "frame" his exposures.

Another friend, Steve Williams, who is a photographer and likes to ride a scooter, just won the Best Motorcycle or Scooter's Blog of the year from the Motorcycle Bloggers International, recently wrote a post, The Person Who is Looking for Something Doesn't Travel Very Fast . You might want to check out his blog. While it is about riding a Vespa, it is also about how you live your life and it is about photography.

Just because a DSLR can pop off 10 frames per second, doesn't mean that I must use my camera like that. This footnote in Dyer's book reminded me that when I slow down, when I take the time to be 'in the place', when I am really looking, that is when I find 'my' images.


Steve Williams said...

Slowing down and photography go hand in hand. It doesn't always mean velocity but also includes singular focus which requires me at least to let go of the mental racing of trying to manage a lot of things at one time in my head and just focus on what it in front of me.

Stephen Shore's comments reflect his attention to what is in front of him. My work with my Kim Project images was the same sort of thing.

Thanks too for your kind words about my blog!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

pitchertaker said...