Photography evolved

So I have been thinking for a long time about moving to medium format, and finally with the close of my last exhibition I the pieces came into alignment and I made the transition, or rather, expansion. From a number of reputable sources, I decided to go with 6×7 as my format, and the Mamiya 7 as my camera. Long story short the merits are the most portable of medium format bodies with some of the highest quality glass available.

Currently I only have the F4.5/150mm lens, which is best suited for portraits and at some distance, so framing is something I need to get used to. In the market for a wide angle lens for street photography, thinking 50mm over the 43 ultra wide.

Since I need to share these wonderful photographs with the digital world, I bought a medium format compliant scanner as well. With the death of Nikon’s superb Coolscan series, I set my priorities on high DPI and Windows7 compliant, buying the Epson v750-M Pro. I only digitally print up to A3-nobi anyway, so ridiculous resolution is unnecessary. The true drool-inducing project for this camera is going to be oversized analog prints anyway.

Baby steps, baby steps.

Oversimplifications

The mind feels safe when presented with simple, everyday concepts. There’s probably a lot of entry level psychology behind that but let’s let it be and accept it as fact. (There, it’s working already, don’t you feel good?)

So, complicated things are best explained in analogy until the pathways are paved to freeway levels of delineating this is why ancient religious texts speak in parable. Something as ethereal and co,plaited as divinity or the human soul and how to care and feed it needs some concrete metaphor that the ignorant human mind can digest. Sure, I may say that I understand the concept of Kharma but flicking off someone on the highway or fantasizing about my friend’s wife doesn’t usually carry the immediate causative feedback as touching a hot iron kettle. So we start with the esoteric “Dharma” and immediately liken it to an eight-spoke wheel. Why? Because there are eight basic elements on the road to Enlightenment and we needed an unmistakable positive symbol (the most primitive icon of technology, the wheel) to associate it with. With the wheel comes progress and balance in it’s eight spokes. All good things… see, you’re on the road to nirvana already.

Hatreds never cease by hatreds in this world. By love alone they cease. This is an ancient Law.
Dhammapada

To change the subject, let’s talk about suffering. Suffering, Buddha teaches is inherent of mortal life and unavoidable. One may only break free from the suffering of mortality through entry into Buddhahood, breaking the cycle of rebirth.

Leaving aside the belief in Buddhahood or rebirth, there is practical wisdom (read: easily digestible metaphor) in the way one approaches suffering. To be among men is suffering, for one is constantly confronted with their imperfections in everything from their character to the devices they design and build. Take for instance this bus I’m riding in. It gets me a long distance cheaply and more quickly than most means. However, due to the limitations of infrastructure it is built to seat someone seventy percent of my size, has poor circulation, is hot, shakes violently, etc. So the physical discomfort of this bus is one of many kinds of suffering my mind and body must endure. If I were extremely wealthy, I may have a helicopter or private limousine which is relatively much more acceptable to the human body. However in that meager improvement to my physical comfort I’d be alienated from my fellow man, the empathetic disadvantages are incalculable. This brings me, finally, to my point: which is that everyday suffering is a blessing for providing a culture foundation for strength of character. Focusing on the suffering is an opportunity to grow; a start towards deeper connections with people.

Notice how missionaries always speak of how kind and compassionate natives of remote and inhospitable environments are? They have been through so much suffering every day of their lives, they are truly grateful for the simplest elements of human life: water, food, shelter, health, and fraternity. Pity the isolated prince who knows not the suffering that surrounds him. This has been many men as it has been you and I. As it was also Siddhārtha, the Buddha.

The year with/without Christmas

Some things seem over the years to lose meaning in a sense, things like Christmas. As a beloved childhood memory, Christmas was a glorious five weeks starting with Thanksgiving and ending with the trip to my grandmother’s house on Christmas Day. The songs, the lights, the decorations in town. The magic of everyone being kind and considerate to each other, the different crackle in the air. But as I grew older and focused on increasingly daunting pursuits, that magic seemed to fade, like a dream after waking. Christmas changed from a season to a couple of weeks to detox from the stress and bustle my 180bpm lifestyle, punctuated with a couple customs to share with a significant other. As much as I didn’t want to lose the magic of Christmas, I stopped seeing it and wondering what that meant of my soul.

Rooted in religion, commercialized by the 20th century America, adopted by the world’s shopping malls, Christmas means so many things that it’s become fettered in my mind with cynicism. But beyond language or divinity. But beyond language or divinity, the message still rings true with me, like a lone candle left burning after a storm. Peace on earth. Goodwill towards men.

Successes and failures

That’s probably too strong a word, but maybe it caught your attention.

The private exhibition this time was mixed. I didn’t have a clear vision until late into the development of the show and a lack of feedback in the development process ended up curtailing the end result.

Some criticisms I received from others:

  • the overall show was too busy
  • there was a lack of consistency
  • the quality of some prints was lacking
  • mixing color with black and white took away from the overall quality

I agree with all of this. And to be honest I had doubts about a number of these things myself during the development process, but I put faith into the feedback from my teacher and ultimately didn’t get the level of input I wanted so I ended up with a lot of inconsistency. In reflection I should have listened to my instincts and been more assertive/inquisitive. But this is happening a lot lately. I expect to receive guidance for something and I don’t get it and then it pans out I should have gone with my instincts. In this case though I was paying a sizeable sum of money for professional guidance so I guess I expected a bit more.

So things I need to stick with next time:

  • unified, strong theme from the start (no archive dipping)
  • follow my own belief for which material to use
  • push for direct and forthright feedback from professionals about specific elements I’m unsure

This applies to everything

I have a lot of theories that form the framework for my philosophy. Like most people, they’re a cobbled amalgamation of experience, stories, consumed media and things I don’t quite correctly remember someone saying.

One thing that I currently put stock into though is the process for learning something, in particular a craft. Without going into too much detail, a cornerstone of the process is being to judge quality dispassionately. In the critical evaluation of an expression’s fulfillment of the art form, growth may be obtained through practice. Without the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, there’s no basis to evaluate one’s work and all that ends up being produced is garbage. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough critical ability to evaluate music right now, and it’s impeding my composition. Without this I just paddle around in circles modifying the same elements over and over feeling that something is “wrong”, but not knowing what to do about it.

With software engineering, and to a lesser extent mechanical and electrical, I can tell you what is done well and what is not. It’s easier to build these skills because in science right and wrong is a lot more cut and dry. With photography, from an implementation standpoint I can hold my own, expression-wise things become a little fuzzy. In any case, musically I’m hamstrung by this and I need to grok the difference between “good” and “bad” when it comes to rhythm and timbre.