Monday, December 14, 2009

The Public/Private World of Photography

This photo was made maybe 1939 or 1940. It is right before my father and mother married.

I love this photograph. It is one along with many other photos of my mother that are some of my favorite things. The value of a portrait of someone you love is priceless.

A friend of mine was telling me about a self assigned portrait she'd taken of a man who sold wood by the side of the road. Only months later the family of the man had contacted her for more prints of that portrait. It happened to be the last portrait of him. He had died a young man, unexplained in the middle of the night. I was so moved by that story. I know the value of a portrait of someone you've lost. The photo of this man was perfect. It was just him casually standing, comfortably engaged in the moment of the photograph, in his element. It is a pure portrait; simple, direct and honest.

This takes me to the topic of public vs commercial photography. I am a commercial photographer. I am mentally and technically set up in my business to work with the commercial industry. It is difficult for me to shift my operation, work flow, my emotional investment to deal with the public directly. I used to be resentful whenever I did. My skills of communicating were lacking and my ego hadn't separated from my work (I still have difficulty here tho). From time to time I will photograph a person or family for them directly. I don't know why but it never fails - it is so difficult for me to get into the grove of the work that comes along with the project. Their is a quick turnaround in the commercial world. The explanation and education isn't necessary with each job, neither is the coaxing, comforting and convincing. Then again maybe it is. We have to estimate (educate and convince), write a job proposal (explanation), send promos by direct mail, buy space in source books, send out email blast (coax), draw up production book, have pre pro meetings etc...(comfort). It is all there. It just looks different.

I believe decisiveness is unique in the commercial world though. And that is huge for me. If I had developed my photography in the public arena I'd be better prepared to communicate and maneuver myself within that world. Maybe I'd be more patient. Maybe I'd learn to see the value of being slow. I appreciate thoughtfulness, thoroughness and diplomacy, I just really like being fast with it. Right now I see myself as pretty decisive. You should see me behind the wheel of a car. There is nothing I hate more than someone who won't make a decision. They are afraid to be rude, or pushy or they're just scared. I see that as possibly getting someone killed, holding up the world and, yes, inconsiderate.

You know this post may have more to do with me breaking line last night at a dinner than about photography or frustration with the gov't.

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