Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Events and conversations of the past few days, weeks, months have led me to question almost every aspect of myself as a photographer, and as a person.

There was a song by Joe Jackson a number of years back (I'd probably be shocked if I looked up just how long ago... jeez, 1988?) called "You Can't Get What You Want 'Til You Know What You Want" which was an unwieldy title for a pop song, and at the time, it seemed kind of stupidly obvious. I was just out of college at the time, so of course, I knew everything back then.

Nowadays I'm not so sure.

Seems lately people have been asking "what do you want?" in the sense of what direction do I want to take with my life, and what I want to get out of it, and I guess what do I want to leave as a legacy, if such a thing is possible. I remember my Dad talking about how "values clarification" was the key to everything, in the sense that figuring out what's important to you is the first step to pursuing that. 

At the same time, I'm having trouble figuring "what do I want?" in more immediate situations, too. What do I want to achieve this year? Where do I want to live? Do I want to attend this event, or take part in that? Where do I want my work seen? What do I want to sell it for? Do I want to be a photographer for hire? What do I want to achieve with tonight's shoot? Even a simple question of "what do I want for lunch?" is rarely clear cut.

I'm also one to immediately dismiss my wants as either stupid, impractical or unattainable, which doesn't help in achieving them.

Recently, I stumbled onto a reference to the concept of the Fox and the Hedgehog, taken from the Greek poet Archilochus. It contends "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." Do I want to be a fox or a hedgehog? I guess at this point, I'd have to say I'm a fox, in that my life is so divided and various aspects rise and fall in importance and influence. Or maybe that's just being a dilettante. But maybe I need to figure out what that one big thing is for me. (You can also refer to Curly's "One thing" from the City Slickers movies.)

At 45, I'm probably past the midpoint of my life, and may be at a good time to sort it out and chart a course. And also in my photography... I guess I've been something of a "fox" in that regard, dividing my time between studio and location work, nudes and portraits and even glamourish, color and black and white, and a variety of stylistic approaches. Looking around, it seems that the "hedgehogs" may be on the right track... photographers who have developed a readily identifiable "signature style" and to an extent staked their claim to that style -- although it sometimes seems to me like they've put all their eggs in that one basket, so to speak. Or I have established that style and don't recognize it because I'm so close to it?

All of this aimless pondering is newly complicated by a situation that happened recently, in that a couple of friends of mine were put in something of a bad situation, indirectly triggered by me taking pictures in their home. I don't want my friends to deal with that kind of fallout in return for being generous to me.

I don't want drama, but I don't want to be clueless about my personal surroundings nor oblivious to situations that may concern me. So, where do I go from here?

What do I want?


Dave Rudin said...

Those are questions, Gary, that only you can answer - and I'm sure that you know that. I myself feel comfortable doing both my art nude and travel photography. I would not want to do only one of them. Sometimes I wish I spent more time on one or the other, depending upon how much time I've actually spent on one or the other. Then there are times when I feel like I spend too much time on my photography altogether, and should be doing other things instead.

Andi said...

Sugar, don't worry about my nutty mother-in-law...she'd have found out about our "lifestyle" as soon as I'd moved in and started hanging art - OUR art.

So it was inevitable.

Do what you do...the rest will happen anyway.

Teenage Rock Opera said...

Sounds like you need an ear or two this weekend?!

Rebecca Lawrence said...

I'm questioning a lot of the same things. I hope you find what you're looking for.

Lin said...

Good post. Do let me know if you figure it all out, won't you? Because we all ask ourselves the same questions at about this age.

I don't personally think there are any right answers, only choices (neither good nor bad, just 50/50 decisions) with which we have to live.

My advice? Don't worry too much about it. All roads lead to the same destination anyway.