Monday, November 14, 2011

Holiday of Pessimism

It's neat when you can peruse your own photographic library, meticulously organized by dates and subjects and what have you, and find out just what exactly it was you were up to 365 days in the past.

Myself, I was wandering the large campus of a very recently vacated and left to rot mental health hospital campus not far South from where I live. I remember the day pretty clearly, actually, despite the shoot itself being rather uneventful. November of last year still saw my appetite for exploring the abandoned both voracious and insatiable, and much as I did most weekend mornings I hopped in my car with camera gear in tow and pursued the next spot on the list. It was a Sunday, as I recall, and I parked at a nearby church still flooded with cars and people attending morning mass. Bundled up in my typical jacket and scarf and gloves, my main interest was less direct infiltration and more... scouting.

My gear list was short back then. Short, simple, sweet and complete. A Panasonic GF1 with 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and LVF-1 viewfinder attached (the primary and most important bastions of my daylight artistic photography) and a bag concealing a shutter remote, 20mm f/1.7 pancake and the necessary spacers and step-up rings to allow for use of the circular-polarizer tucked in my pocket. No need for a tripod this time, the sun was shining high, maybe an hour from its noon-time peak. Diminutive as the gear was, the petal lens hood on the barrel of the zoom really gave off the air of Professional Photographer, so when security and police both inevitably stopped me to ask what I was up to it wasn't hard at all to write off my shenanigans as the musings of a wandering artist. Not at all far from the truth, really.

I only ever spent my time shooting various exteriors, but the place exuded enough personality to where those were all I really felt I needed to visually describe the place. Entry very quickly showed itself to be against my better judgment. Can't much complain, though. The more difficult a place is to access the more likely it is to stand the test of time sans vandalism until my persistence and brash decision making get the better of me.

Anyway, pardon my abrupt subject change.

It's been a solid 7 days since I've taken a single photograph, and this fact is supremely depressing. Granted, I was also sick enough to stay home from work both Monday and Tuesday, a rarity to say the least. Even today, a full week later, I'm still on my way out of a state of being sickly, but that's still no excuse to my personal high standards. To boot, the onset of illness was paired with that most woeful time of year, Daylight Savings Time, which most people embrace for getting an extra hour of sleep before work but then progressively learn to despise because it often means coming into work in sunless dark and leaving just the same. For certain, I've noticed my own mood take a very sharp nosedive since the onset of night began taking place at 5pm.

At current, I'm wrestling with my memory trying to ascertain just how it was I endured this period of time last year without rolling down into this godawful slump. I'm fairly confident I had some underlying motivation driving me to venture out in the cold on early mornings and photograph the seasonal death and decay. Perhaps it was in part due to lingering sickness, but nothing could assuage my pessimism and defeatist attitude this weekend. Despite two days of strong sunlight and lovely temperatures, I still chose to stay indoors. What's worse, with no sunlight to command my biological clock to stay awake and aware, I have consistently been falling asleep at or before 8pm, sometimes sleeping a straight 12 hours or more only to awaken for a measly 12 and sleep again. It's clear that I have slid into a funk, and the only way out will require a mountainous store of persistence and effort. Perhaps when I'm not also combating illness I will again have such reserves.

This week there is a planned photo walk being led by a fellow photographer to one of my more illicit locations of guilty enjoyment. Much as I would love to attend the walk for sake of meeting other photographers with similar interests in decay and detritus, I can't help but to feel wary of the circumstance itself. Best as I can tell, this walk will consist of several members of a considerably sized group. Though the location itself is admittedly one of the less fortunate in that it has been very blatantly vandalized and commonly tread upon by wandering curiously 16-24 year olds with a healthy dose of boredom, I can't help but feel traveling through a location of this type with any group (especially one as green as this one may in fact be) is an invitation for bad times. After all, it's almost been a year since a similar situation cropped up, and the lessons learned from that experience are still bright and fresh in my mind, and this particular photo walk triggers all the alarms my experience from a year ago should have. I suppose the only reason I'm humoring it at all is a strong sense of desperation to be around my kin, my fellow shutterbugs.

Aside from this proposed photo walk, I'm also feeling an odd kind of jealousy toward those who engage in formal modeling and portrait shoots. I can take candid portraits all day and they look well enough, but in the end it is still not what I want to be doing, and when people I've photographed in my signature candid fashion come back at me later with formal (and markedly beautiful) modeled shots a peculiar blend of jealousy, territorial rage and disappointment in myself surface in my psyche. They are the kind of shots I've wanted to be taking for close to a year now. My budget, impromptu studio sessions in the past have always been a blast, and I want desperately to construct a space in which to do such shoots again. It is beyond frustrating to take a backseat to my own desires and watch as those with the resources (or willingness to go into debt) reap the satisfying rewards of studio work. And worst of all, my greatest challenge in this pursuit isn't the gear at all. I like the minimalist approach and I'm more than capable of cranking out art with very little in the way of gear at my disposal. No, my conflict is with space, which is to say I have none. My apartment is not permissive of modularity, I cannot simply rearrange my furniture anymore to make room for a backdrop and hotlights like I did in the past. There are no empty rooms to use or space to set up and stretch out. Everything directs back to what I determined to be an absolute necessity in April - I need a dedicated studio space. And sure enough, it is the one thing I cannot afford anymore.

The only other option I can think to humor is to force the gear-centric route and pick up 2 or 3 battery driven LED banks and light subjects on-location, which is still not my intended goal but at least meets that goal halfway with my current capabilities. But then I'd also need to find a model willing to endure the dangers and risks associated with less-than-cozy locales, because I'm certain my inclination would be to photograph models against the backdrop of the decay I already love. It's a hairy state of affairs. At least I can predict my own tendencies and inclinations, at least.

So here I am, treading water still, more pessimistic than ever with the shade drawn on the sun for this Winter season. For the most part, my gear set is a workably complete kit, with the 45mm f/1.8 for strong portraits and 14mm f/2.5 for wide interiors. The E-P3 has managed to impress me more than my old GF1 ever managed to, despite my longing to once again shoot with that old glory (the GX1 is a bit of a downgrade at best from what I've seen, and this is strictly coming from an ergonomics and control standpoint). Future lens acquisitions will likely include the 12mm f/2.0 to replace the temperamental 14mm f/2.5, the VF-3 because sometimes it's just nicer to hold the camera to your eye, the shutter remote for experimentation with HDR once again, and maybe the 40-150mm f/4-5.6 for sake of having a "for work" kit to complement a prime driven "for art" kit. Aside from those pieces, perhaps a speedlight or 2? I'm not sure, I've always been partial to WYSIWYG lighting, so hotlights might be my better route. I suppose that list is not cheap, but the pressure is not on for any single piece acquisition. They are simply tools to make what I'm already capable of even easier.

Cheers to the patient wait for financial stability.