Taking the work out of work

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“Paul Valéry ws right about the modern tendency to avoid any work that cannot be abbreviated; computers are abbreviation made manifest. They take a lot of the work out of work, which may be fine in some professions or occupations, but for a novelist to try to take the work out of work is profoundly self-defeating: keeping the work in work is all-important. I’m writing this book with a pen, unlike my twenty-two previous books, because I don’t want the sentences to slip by so quickly that I don’t notice them. They need to be the work of hand, eye, and ear.”

— Larry McMurtry, “Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen.”

He’s referring to writing novels, but I think the same can be said of many endeavors, photography in particular.

Analog in a digital world

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There’s something special about paper and pencil.

Permanence.

It’s something you can hold. Something you can look at. No further technological input required.

What I wrote earlier tonight — barring catastrophe — could be picked up 100 years hence and read.

It won’t matter what a computer looks like then, or even if they exist at all.

My great-great-grandchildren with their direct neural connections to the net could find the (paper) notebook in which I wrote this post and see what I had to say. This blog will be long gone.

It’s one of the reasons I prefer my photography as prints.

Physical analog copies have a staying power that bits and bytes cannot have unless the keeper of the information has the time and money for the constant upgrading of file formats and storage media.

Five-and-a-quarter inch disks made way for 3.5’s which were replaced by CD-ROMs until Blu-Ray came along. Hard drives are starting to fall to flash-based media. Computers are obsolete the day after you buy them.

My shoebox of prints and negs will also be there 100 years from now.

The upgrade cycle is great for tech company’s bottom lines. I am weary of it.

Free games and iPod camera

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I downloaded the free geoDefense Lite game the other day.

I enjoy playing it. But it is crazy difficult. Not sure I want to pay money to be so frustrated!

On the other hand I also snagged a lite copy of the new NHL 2K11, which is an excellent game. I’ve had a few issues with the game bogging down and crashing. But they will get those kinks worked out, so I’m definitely putting that one on my “to buy” list.

In other iPod news, the rumor-mill is running full speed ahead in advance of Apple’s Sep 1 press conference. Top of the list is the next gen Touch getting a camera, as well as Apple’s FaceTime. FaceTime interests me a bit, I could chat face-to-face with my Beloved whenever I’m away on a bus trip.

But nothing would make me happier than having a camera in my iPod! Being able to shoot pics and vid. Edit right on the device. And be able to post it on the net right from the device too. It will be a dream come true.

We’ll have to see what Apple reveals Wednesday.

Tools of the artist

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Every form of art has its own tools of the trade.

Obviously there are the physical implements: pens, brushes, cameras, guitars, etc. But I’m thinking more of the techniques by which we use those tools to express our vision.

You can learn these techniques, but at some point during the practice of them there will come an “ah ha!” moment where you suddenly get it deep down. Then you will be able to really use that technique to create your art.

I remember my “ah ha!” moment regarding the relationship between shutter speed and aperture very clearly. I was a very green photographer. I “knew” what aperture and shutter speed did. But one day I was out and about with some friends and we came to a water fountain at a shopping center. For some reason, I decided to shoot the fountain at every aperture. From as wide open as the light would allow, to the smallest available on the lens. When I got the prints back and saw the effect, it was then that I really knew what aperture and shutter speed did to my photos.

I was lucky in my career as a photographer to get a full-time job making photos very early. I spent 40-plus hours every week for almost 10 years being paid to learn photography through a lot of trial and error. It is the very best way to learn!

I got to thinking about this recently having committed myself to learning another art form — guitar.

I’ve loved music for a long time. And this is not the first time I’ve been involved with music. I’ve “known” what music could do, and quite a bit about how and why it does it for a long time. But learning the techniques on my own, and hearing the results from my own guitar has led me to many “ah ha!”s recently.

And I find myself energized not only by the creation of art, but also by the learning process itself. I eagerly await that next “ah ha!” I can’t wait to find out what I didn’t really know before, and for that next horizon to appear.

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