Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Seeing without a camera...

I've been doing an awful lot of that lately. It's important for photographers who are geeks about their cameras and their craft to occasionally stop looking at life through a viewfinder and actually interact with it. Something about being behind a lens gives a photographer somewhat of a sense of detachment, which can be a good way to learn to be objective. That has its limits, however. 
Photo courtesy of John Brooks

I enjoyed going to live shows to see bands of all kinds for awhile. At some point, I stepped outside myself and asked where this was going. I was attending shows and working seriously (I don't know any other way to shoot) but it seemed the payoff was door cover, beer and seeing my pics on social media. I had a very nice web site for about a year, thanks to a good friend and musician who offered to work a trade. I took on a few projects that were outside my comfort zone and stretched myself. But what I learned was that in making this a business and dealing with attitudes I wasn't used to, it sucked the passion right out of it. I sold enough art pieces to cover the cost of the site, decided not to renew and after a year, went in another direction with a music project. That's when the writing muse returned.

Shows aside, I made money shooting a few weddings, events, parties, and sporting events over a handful of years. When I'm shooting, I'm shooting...I don't talk much when I do so my other senses begin to heighten. I heard a lot of funny anecdotes and stories at weddings. There were shows in particular that I enjoyed and others where I heard a lot more than I wanted to hear. Overhearing conversations can be fortunate (or really unfortunate depending on the club). The unfortunate ones cannot be unheard and that was another kind of burnout altogether. Drama gets old...especially when it's the same play over and over again with the same characters. The word of mouth from my work was good but in the end, door cover and beer wasn't worth the drama or the drive. What leads did come from it didn't pay, so I had to stop and ask, "Am I being taken seriously?" Because for awhile I felt treated like a twenty-something fan grrl with a camera.

Don't get me wrong, trades and backscratching are a good thing for artists to do for each other. It's good for networking and getting your name out there. Perhaps photography is just a different animal. There are a lot of decent digital cameras on the market so anyone can shoot a show and have decent shots to share. But if there is a particular style of photography you would like to use that's outside the realm of auto/point and shoot, you're going to need to find a photographer that knows manual camera settings for that. Point and shoot lacks a lot of feeling and that's not what good music photos should portray.

Being behind the camera is always more fun for me when there is music playing. It has inspired my photography since the beginning and now it's just a matter of getting back to the simplicity of the thing. Whether blaring tunes in the car looking around for a shot or listening while setting up shots in a studio...that's when I'm in my element. I will always be learning to see with my camera. Sometimes, it's just the photographer's vision that gets unfocused.

It's times like these that you just have to go with the flow and abide.


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