Saturday, August 11, 2007

Snapshots to Art and Back Again

I began taking pictures during high school, I did so as a way of recording my experiences, memories, friends and family. I always enjoyed looking through the innumerable photographs that filled the albums my mother had made over the years. These pictures had a way of bringing back past times in a visceral manner that was not otherwise possible. Sometimes a smell or a song comes close, seems to place you back in a moment of time long past but it's rare and not something you can count on.

Somewhere along the way I become more interested in using the medium of photography to express myself and my feelings about the world around me than I was in recording my life. Early in 2004, when I began to dedicate myself to producing art, I ceased making snapshots altogether. It wasn't anything I though about, it was just something that happened. Maybe it was because I had begun to use a view camera, maybe it was because I was spending so much time in the darkroom and in the field that I didn't feel like taking a camera with me while relaxing or maybe it was because I was learning to work in a more thoughtful and methodical manner that I wasn't able to apply in social situations. Most likely it was some combination of all those things.

Whatever the cause my well kept personal albums had come to an abrupt end, relegated to the bottom of a bookcase, underneath my folders of new negatives and fine art prints. A couple of years went buy before I even thought about the change. What brought it to my attention was a purging of edited negatives last summer. As I went through my work deciding what would stay and what would go I found myself flooded with memories. Memories of early mornings in Moraine State Park, late nights at the Shenango Dam and noonlight blazing off the borax of Twenty Mule Team Canyon. Each of these exposures, whether they resulted in a successful print or not, brought back the intensity of my feelings as I worked with the camera, they brought back the heat of the days and the chill of the nights, the lunches with friends as we rested and talked.

I've realized that while I no longer take pictures in an attempt to record a memory, the photographs I work so hard to make and present as art are far better records of my experiences than any snapshot I made in the past. They're better because they not only record what was in front of the camera but also chronicle my thoughts and emotions in a way not otherwise possible.

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