testing the water

I’m actually writing this while editing my “year in review” post because I need to express something that would completely disrupt the flow I’ve spent the last hour cultivating. Now, to jump right in:

  • I am not a risk taker. I play it safe. But I like to pretend that I’m not.
  • Photography is my passion. I would spend my life making photographs. But I know now that, while I am still an amateur, I have no business in formal education (see: grad school).

Ok, I think I can say it now, after much reflection: I respectfully hated my latest photography class. Maybe I just wasn’t in-tune with myself artistically when I signed up, but I was never nurtured into developing an idea; I was pushed, almost dismissively. I did learn a lot regarding technique – and what types of photography were not my strong suit/invoking passion. It’s taken some time for me to get enough distance to realize that. I really (really) enjoy production photography (like you couldn’t figure that out), but because productions are few and far between, and my style is intentionally non-invasive, I could never find a way to tailor that to the weekly class assignments, so my final series was the result of awkward tug-o-war with my professor. Sure, I walked away with some striking landscapes and a better working knowledge of Photoshop, but I lost my voice as a photographer. I put away my camera, only pulling it out for staged productions and behind-the-scenes documentation during filming. All year. That’s it.

photo

I’m writing this during a naturally contemplative time (end of the year, start of a new one) and am finally able to admit to what I’ve said above. But I have another: I’m scared of photography. And I’m still trying to figure out what that means.

A few years ago I received a copy of Annie Leibovitz At Work as a parting gift at the end of an internship, and it confirmed for me that photography is an essential part of who I am. The way she captured so much from each of her subjects, either by creating the moment or discovering it (isn’t it always a little of both?) in such a way that the viewer couldn’t possibly know for sure. But taking this volume of pure inspiration and applying it to my life? I was terrified! I thought for sure I could never do portraiture. I was too timid to lead my subject in the dance. So I assured myself that passive landscapes and lifestyle shots (candids) were all I really needed, and I would supplement that with my waning passion in the theatre and produce thousands of images of production photography.

Untitled by elizabolt Untitled by elizabolt

Theatre is a gateway drug. It’s just one of those universal truths, don’t ask me how. So it comes as no surprise that my non-invasive style of production photography soon invited requests for head shots and I finally understood why so many great photographers shoot actors!  Comfortable with exploring gesture and character alone or with direction, actors rarely ever shy away from the camera (or at least the ones I know). I think I’ve always worried that my portraiture would look more like the awkwardly posed senior photos peppering the final pages of high school yearbooks than the striking images I see published in books and magazines. And for that, I’ve never let myself try. But I’m putting an end on that silly behavior once and for all. Because I’ve finally realized something important:  If I’m true to my photography, there’s no way I can fail. I’m just sharing how I see the world.

Flipping coins

Alright. I’m getting back in the game.

I’ve obviously been on a photographic hiatus (or at least a blogging hiatus) and I’m done with it! This week I’ve been photographing (my much beloved mentor) Kathleen Campbell’s last theatrical production at Austin College, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Last night’s dress rehearsal, I seemed to be tripping over the other three photographers invited to shoot the performance, which made me thankful that I had sat in on the previous 4 rehearsals (especially when my camera died before Act II and I shot the rest on my iPhone 4S). Seeing the other photographers, with various backgrounds in photography, though not necessarily as theatrical photographers, got me thinking about the work I began last fall in my Shapers paper and how I’ve had so many more experiences as a theatrical photographer since then. I’m strongly considering revisiting the study, and possibly revising it – perhaps as a conversation between myself last year and where I find myself today. Some of my assertions in Ethics & Practices (2011) don’t seem to hold water like my naive, undergraduate self had hoped, which is actually pretty neat. It allows me to learn from what I had once believed as gospel, as well as re-evaluating my last tie to my beloved theatre department.

— It really has been nice to feel that I am still contributing to the department, especially in a medium that isn’t necessarily saturated, at least not in the way it had been in years past. [Thanks, KAE!] Yes, there may be several photographers on campus for the various campus offices (College Relations, Yearbook, Campus newspaper, etc), but when I shoot, I do so to give back to those who made it possible.

Ok, I’m going to stop myself before I start revising Ethics & Practices here and now. But hopefully I’ll be back again soon, and this time, less rambly.

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