Saturday, July 16, 2016

When Safe Spaces Aren't Safe Anymore

I suppose it's only natural to go through periods of self-defeat when your end goal is to somehow be endlessly, creatively, trans-formative.

It's a broken record thing, a seasonal cycle. Pretty sure I've seen most material on the matter of creative death coming from the Winter cycle, when I'm ironically feeling at peak performance. Suppose we're all seasonally inspired in different cycles. Meanwhile, it's getting to be the peak of Summer and I couldn't feel more dead inside (cue Linkin Park music).

Shenandoah was the first inkling of the problem. Here I am with two of my most creative and inspiring friends, and I can barely be bothered with the struggle of getting my camera out of the bag my capacity for caring is so diminished. Every image I did take was a forced thing, less inspired by the art of seeing so much as it was the manual struggle of attaining the vantage point. I simply didn't care.

Last week saw a brief flight of the muse, chasing a protest down Baltimore's streets. But that was documentary work, not art. A great record of an important movement and moment in time, but only ever as much when it comes to satisfying a very different carnal need to consume the art of my surroundings. The simpler things.

Today was a trip to what I'd always considered a safe space, a setting and terrain whose aesthetic I was familiar with and could always eke out inspiration from. It was a forced effort to make the trip, a long drive in hot Summer air with no air conditioned sanctuary to be found in my car. And upon arrival, the last ditch bastion of inspired art making was not only shut and sealed, but under watch of authorities who (however politely and apologetically) turned us away, the Seekers of the Muse. Eight hours in the hot air with not a single photographic record to speak of. An entirely wasted day. And I still don't care.

I'm sitting, alone in the evenings, pouring over photos from the last few months looking for anything that might suddenly reach from the screen and grip my shirt at the collar. A full 90% of the stock is nothing but photography done for work, uninspired and stagnant swaths of poorly presented food in Styrofoam containers, drab interiors with dull furniture and flat light, and people captured for sake of documentation of events or general goings on, not art. My theoretical portfolio is a mass of images I couldn't care less about. I shoot nothing I'm deeply compelled by. And I don't care.

The fantasy is that some day some curious soul will pick up my hard drives at an estate sale like a shoe box of old negatives and be inspired by this massive body of work the world never knew existed. However, the realist in me understands that it is a facet of the times to eternally struggle as an undiscovered someone in this over inflated population, and if I was ever good enough at inspiring others I'd know it already. If not some pending fire, I'm sure an errant solar flare would do in that pipe dream just fine. And I can't be bothered to care anymore.

I should be curating my speech and angling to build future business, but I'm not. My business peaked with the hump of the Sharing Economy, and all that is left now is for that venture capitalist machination to succumb to the only logical conclusion of any unregulated free market venture and dissolve as the businesses are morphed into profiteering last ditch efforts and sold as bankrupt hopeless causes never able to satisfy the ludicrous demands of shareholders. My value proposition was that I didn't value myself and would greedily sell out to the hand with the money. On my own, I have no market. I don't care enough to put the effort into it.

Like every ambition I've ever had, this dream has hit the line of atrophy, wherein my speedy successes are inevitably met by sheer laziness and unwillingness to invest the time and energy and stamina to make it to the next step. It will never be a thing that is spectacular, only ever good enough to impress the layman. At the phase of Good Enough, I subconsciously consider it conquered and move onto the next well of supposedly untapped potential, a tendency I've often referred to as jack-of-all-trades syndrome. How could I ever think photography and business are any different on the spectrum of "talents" I've adopted ranging from car modification to yo-yo play.

I've worn so many hats. My neck hurts under their weight. I carry the burden of unrealized potential in every single thing I pursue. Why should any single thing I do now be outside the scope of my capacity for losing gusto at Good Enough.

[EDIT 7-16-2016]: I thought getting that monologue off my chest and out of my head would help me feel better. It didn't.