Beautiful Los Angeles twilight from Griffith Park Observatory. Often in mind as we become mired in the short, gray days of winter here in Minnesota. Of course, I realize LA is not la-la land. I realize that in my conscious mind. There is massive homelessness, pollution, wildfires, gang warfare, etc., etc. But I can’t fight the romantic notions implanted in my head, of riches and the magic of Hollywood, and the gorgeous connections/connotations of mountains and beaches. It’s a fantasy that gets me through the grays.

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neilan and me-mirror.jpg

I don’t know why. The coffee is good, getting me to just the right pitch. But here I am. Wanting to put a few things down, mostly notes to myself, to see where it goes. I don’t have a better reason or explanation than that.

I have been a photographer of some sort since high school. A dabbler, mostly. But it’s been a long time. I’ve had aspirations, some success as a professional and an artist, and many low points. Many, many low points. I remember when I was going to drop my Nikon off a bridge into the Milwaukee River, just to get it out of my head. Just to say a permanent goodbye and try to get on to the next thing.

But I’ve still got that camera. And here we are again. There is such a ball of residue in my head from false starts, getting nowhere(s), shoulds, shouldn’ts, and why bothers, that it’s hard to see a path to follow. To know what’s real and true for me, rather than something construed.

Photography, let’s face it, is easy. Incredibly easy. Through the hard work of chemists, inventors and engineers over the past couple of centuries, it’s basically push-button easy for us now.  But, for me, the purpose of photography is elusive. When I think about it too much, the value of an image, or series of images, and all of the aesthetics involved, seems to evaporate.

This is one of my favorite images.

Because it is a picture of me with my son. It conjures up for me a world of meaning and feelings, which, if put into words, would not describe the image but rather abstract ideas about love and fatherhood. Which is good, because why should you describe an image? The image is already the description; hence, I hate captions or image titles. A good image brings up associations, memories and feelings– the more personally felt, the better..

I spent a little time as a photographer on a small town newspaper. Which you would think would be a fun pastime. I’d come into the office, grab some film, the hand-held police scanner, and the day’s assignment sheets. The assignments were usually to create an illustration for a news article or feature. Occasionally I’d enterprise a photograph of my own– something visually interesting that they could pop in for an eye-catcher. But most of my images were illustrations for written stories. I wasn’t the best at it, but towards the end it dawned on me that what they usually wanted was one decent photo per assignment, something colorful or dynamic. Of course, I would give them a batch of images, but they would choose one. I wasn’t the story teller, just the illustrator.

That got boring pretty quickly.

I hate to feel that photography is the illustration of an idea. I’d rather feel that it is the instigation of something– thought, mood, feeling.  Raw data + aesthetics. I need to operate in that realm. Forget the rest.