Great Kevin Smith film. Next post.
The idea I really want to talk about is forcing yourself to do something because you’ve said you will … this is something I’ve thought about a few times over the past couple of months since I decided to abandon my 52 Week (Film) Project for this year.
The project was intended to ensure I was taking my photography seriously every week of the year, to see me dedicate a chunk of time at least once a week to making photographs with which I could be happy. In those terms, it was a good idea.
The idea was to do the 52 Week Project with Film this year, having managed to complete 2019 between Digital (up to September) and Film (September to December).
Then a global pandemic happened and we were confined to our homes for six weeks, only allowed out for essential items, so as to stop the spread of a deadly virus. I had neither a large supply of film, nor a large supply of things I really wanted to photograph. I decided that it made little sense to use film (and spend money) making photographs that were never really going to fit in with the overall thread of my work. I also decided not to bother rationing out my remaining film at ‘x frames per y weeks of lockdown’ in order to make it last, and that it was not worth making a delivery person come to my house in order to bring me film with which I was going to make photographs of the inside of my flat or its modest vistas – something I could do at no additional cost using my perfectly functioning digital cameras.
The original idea had been to get out once a week and make photographs with my film camera. I could no longer go outside, and was going to have to either absurdly ration film or force a delivery person to take unnecessary risks in order for me to able to stick to my original idea. Or, I could I accept that the conditions under which the original idea had been conceived no longer applied, that things had changed (and quite dramatically too) and that it no longer made sense to hold myself to an idea originally intended to motivate and challenge me to be creative in a positive way.
All of this makes complete sense and I shouldn’t really need to be detailing such apparently reasonable decisions but I did have to make these arguments to my brain in order for it to approve the cessation of an activity it had previously decided to embark upon. It sounds stupid and I’m not congratulating myself on acheiving this high plain of wisdom – I’m trying to share a thought process that might be common to others.
How many other times do we force ourselves to go through with things that are no longer beneficial or in line with our original intentions, just because we’ve said that we will?
In the end, I’ve still made photographs every week of the year so far. I haven’t photographed what I might normally like to, but I have photographed what I wanted to from what was available. I used my digital cameras for a while when I couldn’t justify Film as an ‘essential’, and when I wasn’t really going to put it to the kind of use I would ideally like anyway.
That doesn’t matter, and nor does the fact that ultimately I did make at least one (or a handful) of pictures each week. It doesn’t matter because the idea was meant to motivate me to do something positive, not become an absurd dogma by which I must live or else.
Or else what? What would have happened had I not stayed the course? Someone might have noticed that my blog posts on the matter had dried up … but there hasn’t been one since March and nobody has said anything. Even if someone had noticed and said something, would that have really mattered? More to the point, merely making a photograph each week just to meet my new, self-imposed obligations doesn’t even benefit me, never mind anyone else my work is supposedly benefitting. It also wasn’t the idea in the first place, the idea was to be spending a meaningful chunk of time making photographs with which I could be pleased.
It’s very easy for a good idea or principle to turn into harmful, restrictive dogma … there’s a few thousand years of history to back up this point.
Light Architect (I believe that is now his official title) Sean Tucker has an excellent video on YouTube about self-appointed rule-makers (not rule-takers) and gate-keepers in Photography. The video is mostly about exernal voices telling others how things should be done, extolling the virtues of the only true way to do Photography. These voices are very much present on the Internet, but they can also be inside our own heads if we’re not careful – either because we accept and submit ourselves to these exernal voices, or because we create our own set of strict rules about who we are, what we do and how we do it.
Having goals is good, and resolving to achieve things likewise. I’m not meaning to advocate giving up, merely warn against doggedly persisting in something that is no longer of any real benefit. Nor, in the case of a project, will it necessarily look like what you originally envisaged – projects develop, evolve and grow as we work on them. It’s important to start and work towards something but not to do so too rigidly and to the exclusion of change or new ideas.
Being as it was based around the 52 weeks of a calendar year, and began in January, my project was by most definitions a Resolution. A recent video by CGP Grey – another of my favourite voices on the Internet – proposed an alternative to the Resolution, namely the Theme. Where Resolutions are rigid and inflexible goals that we often either stubbornly try to tick off, or just abandon, in either case losing sight of their original good intention; the idea of a Theme is that it is more vague (flexible) and can take many different forms but the idea is that you are progressing and working towards an idea for a better self. What do you want to do more, or less? Which qualities do you wish to cultivate or increase in yourself and in your life? Any steps taken towards those ideals are positive, and there are no notions of failure for having not achieved a particular rigid target.
I do want to continue to dedicate chunks of time (as many and as large as possible alongside my other commitments) to my Photography – and that’s the real goal, not a photograph every week but more time spent making photographs, enjoying making photographs, and hopefully more work which I can enjoy as a result. Enjoyment being the key – if that isn’t there, then really, what is the point?
Great Kevin Smith film. Next post.