The Downtime


I’d like to thank the Society officers and chairmen who served us for 2011: Bob Jump, Orlando Morales, Jim Fife, Don Hill, Donna Kleb, Nathalie Brouard, and Les Stessel.

And, I’d like to give a special thank you to Bernie Levy who has decided to hang up his treasurer’s hat after many, many years of service—you leave big shoes to fill!

Thank you all for your service and I look forward to working with those officers returning again next year.

Message from the President
December 2011

Growing up on a farm this time of year was always a very self reflective time. All the crops are in and the equipment is mostly serviced and stored away for the winter. I spent most of my time that wasn’t in school either hunting ducks and geese around the house, hunting deer in the hill country near Leakey, Texas, or building things in the work barn.

For the most part, it was very laid back compared to the spring and summer. There was a lot of time to think and plan for the upcoming year.

I guess those old habits are just ingrained in me now.

I find myself thinking and planning more than doing. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing—it just is.

Click on Thumbnail to view full-size

Plans have been drawn up for a new mini-darkroom and storage area. Detailed CAD drawings, material list, and work flow. It could have been half built by the time I finished all that. Quite a bit of research has been done for diversifying what we grow on the land we live on. The live oak tree business has dropped off with the housing market, so it’s time to re-think what we do.

I’ve moved out of my studio space and looking for a new one. All the gear is still packed on a trailer in the barn until I figure out what I want to do for a new space. It’s busy. But it’s a plodding along kind of busy.

It’s a good time though, too. It’s the time of year where you clean off the chalkboard (okay, it’s a dry erase now) and write down what you want to do, then really think about how you want to fill in the space getting there. That’s what was so great about all those years of long drives to the hill country and hours in the deer stand—it gave you time to think.

At least that’s what I did with the time—just letting the mind wander to see what emerged.

Thinking seems to be under appreciated these days.

Work, work, work. Hurry up. Increased efficiency. Always on. Task oriented flurries of activity.

Sustaining that kind of lifestyle is a dream killer for most. It’s like driving so fast that your GPS can’t update fast enough until it finally sends you off a cliff instead of turning. It’s a road to burn out for what ever it is you’re doing.

Take some time to stop and listen to simple silence.

Get lost in it.

Don’t over think a single issue, but rather, let it wander into a completely new subject. You never know what you might find there.

I know this doesn’t sound like it has much to do with photography, but it has everything to do with it. It’s been said that every photograph is a self-portrait of the photographer. Done right, you bare a little bit of your soul in every shot.

The longer I photograph the more I find this to be true. I think other artists take this as a given truth. I don’t know why it can be a hard connection to make for photographers. Without that time for introspection, you don’t know what or how to share yourself through your photographs.

The time I spent in the hill country and in the fields at home is when I really made my start in photography. My camera saw where my wanderings took me. I wouldn’t venture that my photography was necessarily “good” by any standard. Rather, it was simply documenting where I went and what I did. Trying for “good” would come many years later.

Perhaps it’s because we have so much technical skill to master that we lose touch with the artistic part of what we do. We spend so much effort to get the best shot that we lose sight of what the best really is sometimes.

Work at the lighting. Work at the composure. Work at the printing. Better gear. More efficient workflow. Constant networking. Task oriented flurries of activity.

It can be a creativity killer.

Go somewhere and just sit down and think.

Get lost in some silence.

Go someplace familiar and wander it till you find something new there.

Make a project out of it. If you end up with a record of aimless wandering, that’s okay. You may wander into something special down the road.

The photos I’ve attached with this month’s letter were all taken in the mid to late 1980’s. I was somewhere between the ages of nine and twelve. It seems like a lifetime ago in land far away now. But, what I did then still echos in what I do today.

I just had to look back twenty years later to realize it.