Perfectionism and Shitty First Drafts

August 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Not only is Anne Lamott a hysterical writer, she is incredibly insightful.  As I read Bird by Bird it felt, quite literally, like she was reading my mind.  Writing and me, well, we’ve had a love hate relationship most of my life, ever since the second grade, when I wrote a short story on ice skating that, as it turns out, wasn’t very good.  There I was pouring my heart and soul and everything I knew about double axels and lutzes down in my Five Star wide ruled notebook, only to realize after reading my classmates work that writing was much harder than I thought, and that my opus needed a bit fine tuning.  That’s when perfectionism kicked in.  I still love telling stories, but I admit, my writing is no where near as fluid a as it was when I was seven.  It’s a struggle, like a battle, and I have frequently used the expression “pulling teeth” just as Anne Lamott did to describe the creative process.  The second paragraph on page six pretty much sums up the majority of my life’s writing experiences. In  the end it is always a “matter of persistence and faith and hard work.”  You can sob, tear your hair out, chew your pencil til you realize it no longer resembles a pencil, pace restlessly or rock uncontrollably, but something will always pull you back down, preserving just enough sanity to eek out a few words.  Then a sentence.  And maybe if your luck an entire paragraph.  When I get to a full page I am always astounded.

What can make writing so difficult is the enormity of the task at hand, compounded by perfectionism which dictates perfection on the first go.  That’s not how writing or any other art form works.  Practice, practice, practice; the motto of anything worth doing.  This includes photography.  Much like writing  a novel, taking on a long-term photo story or essay can overwhelm you to the brink of tears, but the process is the same as writing.  You take it bird by bird.  By cutting the pizza into manageable portions the project becomes a step-by-step process that starts by simply mustering up all your courage and taking the first bite.

Needless to say I’ve really enjoyed reading Lamott and am looking forward to the next chapters of her “workshop.”  What she has to say is useful to, not only writers, but anyone involved in the creative arts, including photography.  Her encouragement to be bold and fail if need be, is refreshing, and reminds me of our readings from the Tao of Photography, which encourage photographers to think outside the box.  Sometimes ideas work and sometimes they don’t, but expanding yourself beyond convention will always result in something far more fulfilling, something that will make you (and hopefully your audience) feel alive.

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Inspiring Picture Story

August 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

http://www.aaronhuey.com/#/national-geographic-magazine—pine-ridge/PINERIDGE_1200p_105

This photo story I chose for this assignment is titled, “Photographing and Listening to, the Lakota,” by Aaron Huey.  When I came across this story at first on the lens blog of the New York Times the opening image is what initially caught my eye. It’s striking and dramatic and, well, it’s beautiful.  As you progress through the story, however, you see the depth and the purpose to the photographer’s work as he builds his layers of what life is like on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  The viewer progressively views preserved tradition intertwined with the present day condition of the Lakota people and their struggles with gang violence and poverty.  Huey further developed this story for  the National Geographic after concerns were voiced by the residents of Pine Ridge Reservation, that he had not captured the entirety of their story, just a small piece of it.  He returned to complete his work by first listening to his subjects, and then photographing. His work for both the New York Times and the National Geographic demonstrated two very important things which we have touched on already in class. First, without enough time spent on research you run the risk of misrepresenting your subjects and perhaps not getting close enough to draw the viewer emotionally into the story.  Second, that with greater patience and devoted attention, the photographer will be able to find and develop the story that emerges, which is something natural, not an artificial creation from an outsider’s perspective.

Aside from the story itself I enjoy his relatively simple and clean compositions, his use of color and light.  These are the kinds of compositional elements I have always tried to accomplish, and I enjoy seeing it well done in other’s work. I also really like the way he incorporates nature as the people interact with it; in images that portray how they once held their place in their environment and what that now looks like on the reservation.  For example, the juxtaposition between photo 11 and photo 19.

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