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Old School

May 13, 2009

I realized something. I like hanging with “old school” photographers. And when I say “old school” I mean..let’s say…anyone over…40? I was going to say 35, but that might be too young, not ripe enough, or entrenched in the new, and not the old.

What I like about the past generations is that these folks seem to be about ONE thing, and ONE thing only. The work. The images. The pictures.

Sounds simple right? Sounds obvious? “Of course you jackass, what do you think they would be about?”

Well, oddly enough, and I’m lumping myself in with this “new” crowd, we can get concerned about everything BUT the images.

When I hang with old school folks they have proven a level of commitment and closeness to their work that I just don’t see that often in younger photographers. The older school does not have the same level of entitlement our younger folks seem to have.

We count our chickens before they hatch. Again and again. Where is this work going to end up? Museum? Gallery, Editorial spread? Promo-pieces, Books? ALL BEFORE WE HAVE EVEN BEGUN TO MAKE THE PICTURES.

Again, I’ve been guilty of this, and probably will again, but all it takes is to spend some time with an “old school” patron of this field, and it can set your compass back to true north.

I’ve said this before, many times, all that matters is the work, but when you play the professional game of photography, things can get a little complicated, hence all the noise that is created by the industry and the need it places upon you. You have to get published to get known. You have to create a buzz. You have to show yourself, show your work, relentlessly, and this type of life doesn’t bode well for “dropping out” for extended periods of time to actually do the work.

So what happens is we make small shoots, start to create the work, then jump the gun and coat the world with the experience, long before the power of what we do is ready to be unleashed. In the end, we have fractures, fissures of life, but we rarely achieve the work of legend.

It’s not to say there isn’t good work being done. There is, lots of it, but I find truly great work harder and harder to find. The business of photography is all too powerful in shaping the work that is highlighted, represented and held aloft as a record of the best there is to offer. The young photographer today is hard pressed to avoid the trends, the pull of conforming and following what style, what look, what technology is the current, hot thing and running full speed in that direction. Again, you have to make a name, get published, get known, etc, and this is put before the actual work.

During the time of the older generations, the same situation existed but our collective attention spans were longer. There was time to make the work FIRST, and then make a name, based on the images. Now, the name is often made, and the images have only party begun to even form, but as long as you maintain the buzz you can make it.

It just all seems odd to me. There are certain photographers we always hear about, everywhere, all the time, but a surprising number of them don’t really produce imagery you can remember more than a few days after you see their work, but the buzz is constant, which allows them to continue, as if they are skipping across the pond like a flat rock.

I think the old school photographer needs nothing other than the work. The work creates the buzz. The work IS the old school photographer. There is no separation of commercial, personal, art, etc, It’s just what they do. It is who they are. It is what they are. And they don’t need to tell anyone else.

Their work speaks for them.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    May 15, 2009 6:19 am

    um aren’t YOU 40?

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