Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Figuring Out This Headspace

Olympus OMD E-M1 with M. Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8, 25" x 9 exposures at f/5.6 and ISO 200, composited.

I haven't been in the best head space for a long time, barring periodic breaks through suffocating mental clouds. Last month may very well have been the head of that storm. It's hard to want to engage anyone, anything. A lucrative month from the business perspective, sure, but weighted heavier toward the end of creative suicide than I've ever permitted before. Frankly, I feel prepared to let this business I've built atrophy, wither, and die. Time always has a knack for wearing down the glossy finish on new and interesting things, and for things as sterile and calculated as business, even a new coat of gloss doesn't hide the marring of the timeworn. Patina is strictly reserved for those things crafted with passion, the artful parts that oft look awkward next to the dispassion of genderless business.

Yesterday's quiet scream of a rant on GAS is indicative of this conflict of methodical logic and abstract inspiration. Of course one's tool don't matter assuming they are equally capable of producing the same outcome. Some tools, however, inspire the user to use them, and that's the point of a finely crafted tool. That is why I am in this ongoing phase, perpetually seeking a new camera. I don't like my tools, and I said as much not even a year ago. No matter how well they work, no matter how intimately familiar I am with their operation and nuances, I do not like my tools, and this will not change.

The business is battle worn, its gloss roughed and hazy as if by sandpaper, because I allowed it to accept other people's definition of what a photography business should be. When this experiment began, it was off a lucky break earned because my passion for interior stills photography was recognized. I've since let my "brand" encompass the greater breadth of the expected, the cliche, realms of weddings and maternity and a number of other categories I would struggle to exhibit less enthusiasm for. Sometimes those clients are fun, engaged, and I genuinely enjoy working with them. But that interpersonal amicability is not sufficient to endure work seemingly engineered to suck the very passion from your bones. Weddings in particular. They pay well, and my business income on "wedding months" is markedly higher, every time. And it is a compromise of my business integrity and respect of self every single time I accept a wedding job not because I'm enthusiastic about the work but because the money is good. It is a garbage way to operate, and it must stop if my brand of photography is to retain any integrity at all.

At least I recognize my mistake, why this year was marked by a sense of creative death. I knew my solution a year ago, knew what I wanted to do, the creative process that made sense and I was inspired to adopt. Before the PEN-F was even announced, I knew the conceptual handling of the Fuji X100T made the most sense to me, and I was ready to pick up a Dell Venue 8 7000, and mentally the gears were wound and ready to attack photography from a purely minimal, mobile platform. Travel light, focus on the experiential, and photograph candidly, processing and posting in the intermittent downtime that goes hand in hand with relaxed travel (or, hell, even sitting on my couch back home, since I despise sitting at my office computer, and will never not despise sitting at my office computer, ever). I knew exactly where my muse was leading me and I didn't move forward for sake of practicality and focusing on business investment, resulting in making no investments in the business this past year and feeling completely miserable about personal photography work. And it's too late to hop on that ship now, the X100T is nearing replacement with the newest X-Trans sensor (worth waiting for) and the Venue 8 7000 fell out of production earlier this year. At best I can wait and see if succeeding product release coincide next year, at which point I don't even know what my muse will be doing. It's been so long since I've seen inspiration in anything I could be staring my muse in the eyes and be incapable of recognizing it.

My most current new concept of "perfect" system is theoretical and insane. Fujifilm is digging into a place that is pulling my heartstrings taught. The GFX 50S is exactly what I want in a system designed for deliberate and calculated photography work. Paired with the proposed 23mm f/4, it would be the thing to lift my interior work to the next level by facet of reducing perspective distortions while still portraying an extremely wide scene, enabling a "look" you just can't get on smaller formats. And, honestly, that's about it with that system. It could be a fixed lens medium format system in that configuration and I'd be just as thrilled to pick it up (of course that is far too niche a system to ever make sense from a sales standpoint). The counterpoint to that medium format (baby) monster would be the theoretical X100F(?), with the same 23mm focal length lens, but producing a 35mm perspective under the constraints of the smaller format. Toss in a new tripod (my MeFoto Globetrotter is battle worn these days) and I feel remarkably comfortable with this proposed minimalist gear set. At the very least, I've gotten much more comfortable editing images on my phone, negating the perceptual need (want?) last year of the Venue 8 7000 tablet (and, of course, that would really only be for processing X100 shots... medium format photography would warrant desktop processing, and I'd do it gladly). But that's it, that's the sort of minimal disparity I feel compelled by in this moment, in this current market landscape, and I'm confident I could make stellar images with those tools genuinely exhibiting a different structure than what I've produced the last 6 years with Micro Four-Thirds imagers (not that they're bad or subpar, just that I've mastered them and am ready to move on to the next thing). Also important is the limitation of work potential with such a pared down system... I will not engage in weddings-as-work with such a system, thus negating any impulse to say "Yes" to such proposals under such a lack of technical capability. Back to basics. Back to what I know. Back to what I want to shoot, with unwavering focus.

This year hasn't been one of investment, but one of saving, of hoarding. Arguably, I'm in as good a spot as ever to hemorrhage business funds in the acquisition of such a different system. While I want to say I would hang onto the Micro Four-Thirds kit... I'm not sure. A strong part of me wants to see it vanish to allay any temptation to return to it, but another remembers selling off the old Nikon gear set so many years ago and rather regretting the choice. Speaking of the old Nikon gear, I think I'm seeing a pattern in my impulse to transition systems... and every 6 years doesn't seem so bad, really.

Tonight I wrap up the last of this season's wedding photos, forward them off and never speak of them again. Friday night my gallery is closing with a bang, party atmosphere encouraged. My head space is stable for the moment. Remind me to never again give merit to thoughts of practicality... there is no truer counter to progress and personal growth than a practical approach.