JSP Visual Week In Review | 01.18.14

(c)JerseyStyle_Photography_WIR 011814

Today I want to riff on what I call “Doing The Roadwork.”

You know how when boxers get ready for a fight? They have to do the roadwork.

Usually at 5 a.m. when it’s dark, they pull on their sweatpants and sweatshirt and get out to pound the pavement.

They do the roadwork.

I think all of us trying to get better at something, anything – photography, writing, carving, painting, sports, relationships – has to put in the roadwork. Malcolm Gladwell calls it the 10,000 hours rule. But that’s to become an expert.

But I’m not talking about becoming an expert here. I’m talking about getting better and better at something. Or mastering the equipment.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my challenges with the Fuji X-100s. I had it for four days. I’m sure if I had it longer – and put in the roadwork – it would become like an extension of me.

I don’t mean to call out my friend Stuart Sipahigil here. But he posted something on his Facebook about how the images in his Lightroom catalog have been going down. From 13,000 in 2010 to 3,820 in 2013. His goal for 2014: 24 (a role of film).

That post got me thinking. Is he shooting less? If so, why? Is he deleting more? Is he now shooting more film rather than digital (of course you’ll shoot more with digital than film – it’s more economical, more prevalent, easier to fire – all for better or worse.)

It’s a Facebook post so it wasn’t really all explained. Maybe he’ll do a blog post on it. I don’t often leave comments on FB, but I did in this case saying I think the roadwork still needs to be done. Does he want 24 keepers from 2014? Well, good luck clicking the shutter 24 times and keeping them. Or is he just saving 24 images? But why do that – how many times have we gone back into a folder and found a new angle, or a happy accident?

I don’t know his answers. Maybe he’ll do a blog post about it (hint hint). But it got me to thinking again about doing the roadwork – the weeks where I get busy or my eye doesn’t see anything and I shoot less. I feel then like I didn’t make progress. Sure, I may spray and pray something, get a quick shot out of the car window on the way to and from work. But I feel there’s cumulative buildup. It all helps me get better.

I’m certainly not saying that if Stuart isn’t keeping more photos he’s not progressing or creating. He obviously is – those images that open his website are beautiful fantastic. He’s getting it done for sure.

I recently found out about the artist James Victore. He’s quite the creative gent and I’ve been trying to get more and more of his thinking. He recently posted this video – There Are No Shortcuts – and I think it captures what I’m saying here. Give it a watch.

Tell me what you think about all this.

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This Week’s Links:

* From the JSP Archives: 52 Acres and Hope (January 2011) [this will be a new feature, where I delve back into some of my old posts. Photos may appear smaller due to a different WordPress theme I was running.)

* Capra in color ICP.

* Inside Malick Sidibe photography studio.

* The Best Documentaries of 2013.

* Roger May kicks off The Daily Yonder. (I love Roger’s work and storytelling. Check him out!)

* Because we all like to see unretouched photos.

* By Jeremy Cowart – Quite the story.

* “There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” -Nelson Mandela

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7 thoughts on “JSP Visual Week In Review | 01.18.14

  1. Intent and a reason for the photo not just making them because they would make a good photo cuts way down on the number. Having a reason for the image other than adding to the millions of ones just like it on-line is a good way to slow down and consider why you are making the image and/or keeping it. Just making pictures may be good for learning craft but it isn’t considered or intent or story that comes out of all those random photos made just because they make a good picture. Design and graphic art is a good thing but it should be inservice of something to say, not as a stand alone. Out of that lower number of images I am willing to bet there is a higher percentage of memorable and meaningful images.

    • I sort of see what you’re saying, Ray. But that leads me to more questions. Why must there be reason? If one wants to make a photo because it would make a good photo, I say go for it. Why DOES it need to be in service to anything but to the creator? If they want to shoot 20,000 images, good or bad, why must us on the Internet relegate them? Are you sure a lower number would be memorable? To whom? And what’s memorable – technically correct, in focus and proficient? What if it’s blurry, obscure and out of alignment. Maybe THAT makes it memorable. And memorable to whom? LIFE magazine? Ones Flicker or 500 Pix followers? Or to you, the person making the image?

      Since when are we graded on “memorable” images? We’re not graded on anything. You can’t grade on passion.

      My point of this post is to get people OUT of the thinking that every image they shoot has to be well-thought out and perfect. Shoot. Maybe I’m the result of the digital age. Shoot.

      But I’m sure Ansel shot crap, Hockney painted shit and yes, Mike Angelo carved some bumpkus too. It’s all lost in the winds of time.

      • i am not setting absolutes Mark – There is no reason at all for anyone to not use that motor drive to the fullest – to make pictures because they think it will make a nice picture. Camera companies depend on it and it was the thing that Kodak counted on when they began. Snapshots are the lifeblood of many companies. My point was about the numbers dropping off. When someone who has been doing it for a while and begins to find a purpose to making photographs or art they tend to think about intent or something to say instead of just using photography to point at things I am not endorsing a How-To recommendation or saying this is for everyone, I was saying there is a reason sometimes for less and that sometimes less is more. Making images with intent is not for everyone, sometimes it is just pointing and that is ok.

        As to the internet regulating i was just offering a possible reason the numbers have gone down to your questions on it.

  2. Ah. A small misunderstanding here Mark. My goal for 2014 isn’t 24 exposures; that’s how many I have so far. I actually went out today and shot about 50 more. I think it’s just taking fewer images for me to get to the one’s I see. I don’t delete images (!!), so those are actual counts of all the images I shot in those years. I’d like to think I’m becoming more focused and perhaps, even better at it.

    I’m with you on doing the work, though. I’m just doing more of it in my brain than in the camera.

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