I need a new camera
Separation anxiety and my photography habit
Are you addicted to your camera too?
Kristen and I just got back from a 10-day road trip in Colorado. It was fantastic to (mainly) log off, hit the road, explore some mountain towns, and hike. Here's the problem: the lens on my smartphone camera got cracked right before the trip. It still works, but there's a massive lens flare that does not look good. There wasn't time to buy a new phone before we left, so I decided to see what it would be like to go on vacation without a functioning camera. Big mistake! Or was it? I don't know about you, but I use my camera many times a day. And not just for making personal pictures but for recording visual notes and collecting other ephemera as I move through the world. Sometimes I use my camera so I don't have to remember or write something down. Edwin Land's prophecy has finally come to pass.
Susan Sontag said, "Everything exists to end in a photograph." That was a long time ago, and boy, was she right. While we were traveling, Tim Davis posted this great image of a woman photographing her beer, and it really summed things up. It’s as if we need to photograph to prove we were there. Or at least we think we do. Photography is muscle memory — an unconscious addiction, or at least a deeply ingrained habit — for many of us. It is for me and I suspect I'm not alone. It's like that old phrase, "If a tree falls in the forest..." I've been thinking about this since my camera was my phantom limb on the trip. Tim's picture reminded me of this note I recorded on a walk during the pandemic. I was photographing the sunrise over Lake Mendota when I realized I should have been sitting still and watching the sunrise.
We all know Dorothea Lange's famous mantra, "The camera teaches us how to see without a camera." What she didn't mention was the inherent angst in not being able to make images when you see something that begs to be in a picture! The photographers out there know what I mean. It's unique to those of us who are addicted to imagemaking. I can't help but think that something is lost when we reach for our camera in those moments. Do we pause to soak up the ambiance before we think about making the picture? Or are we giving short shrift to our lived experience by defaulting to seeing the world through our lens? Of course, there's no correct answer, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. These are fun things to think about. Please leave me a comment or reply to this email. 📸
As usual, I wanted to leave you with some recommended reading before I go. I'm a big fan of Olivia Laing's writing, so I was delighted to see this piece of hers in Aperture's 70th-anniversary issue — an essay on The Midcentury Photographers Who Balanced Reportage with Artistry. Lots of terrific pictures in this one. Laing is a true gem.
I like it when people send me things to share with my readers. Danielle Jackson emailed the other day with a link to her latest piece in Artnet — a critical look at the photography of Deana Lawson. There is a lot to think about here. Grab a cup and make some time. It’s an important read.
FlakPhoto Digest is a reader-supported publication. If you like this post, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I've followed Leah Frances on Instagram for years, so I’m happy to see she’s releasing a new book, Lunch Poems. Her style is immediately recognizable — colorful, observant, and deeply rooted in place. There are 500 copies in this first printing from Aliens in Residence. If the American vernacular landscape is your thing, this book might be for you. You can see more of Leah’s images in Olivier Laurent's write-up in the Washington Post, and get your copy here.
I promised I'd share creative opportunities here from time to time. Molly Menschel and Neal Menschel are teaching a 4-month multimedia storytelling workshop beginning October 19. It's not cheap, but it looks amazing.
Finally, Paddy Johnson is launching a new podcast focused on the art business. Many of you are familiar with Paddy's Art F City blog. We've been online friends for ages, and she has always inspired me. These days, she's running VVrkshop, an online platform supporting working artists with educational insights. Paddy is one of the most intelligent people I know regarding the art world, so we're in good hands with her. The Art Problems podcast launches on October 3. That’s all for now. Have a great weekend!