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Listening for the drummer

Published August 4th, 2011

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. - Henry David Thoreau

Tonight I had a photo, a quote and an idea, lucky for me they all sort of worked together. The photo is relatively recent, my New Year's trip down the Oregon coast with this particular shot being found at Shore Acres State Park and recorded by my Zero Image pinhole on expired film, how expired, I really have no idea. That, by the way, is where the magenta sky comes from. But expired film is the best film for cross processing, the unpredictability of it makes it even more fun. I have been trying to experiment more with self portraiture, especially with pinhole, as the long exposures allow me to trip the shutter and then run around in front of the camera.

As far as the quote, I found it just today in a hospital, Legacy Immanuel to be exact. Upon seeing it my mind immediately started churning along and before long I had an idea for a bit of a commentary I wanted to write and was just lacking the photo to accompany it. Actually in truth, it is a train of thought that I have pondered much and deals with the notion of talent.

Talent is a bit of a thorn in my side when it comes to photography, mine specifically and just in general. This is mainly because there are quite a few people, maybe even enough for it to be almost a general assumption, that some people are just talented, as in, talented in a way that others not only aren't, but cannot be. I really dislike this idea. I admit, that yes, some photographers are just plain more practised than others, not necessarily better vision, just a bit more experienced at refining it and capturing it in remarkable photographs. But I resist the idea, nay fight it, that talent is some inherent or finite trait that we either possess or do not. I believe talent can be learned, forgotten, bought, sold, borrowed, and in other ways acquired. What I do not believe, is that someone is either a good photographer or not, end of story. I think people who believe that either have forgotten their own humble beginnings, or are too humble themselves.

I do not even think talent needs to be considered in the equation. Photography is various parts imagination and technical ability. The imagination to see, the technical ability to operate a camera to make a physical remainder of what only one can see. And we all possess vision, we all are able to imagine, so all that is left is to learn how to operate a camera, which again is something we are all capable of. Sure, some learn quicker than others, some are more "apt". Because of their nature, some budding photographers certainly start with a bit of a headstart, and may progress faster than others, but they are not the sole owners of passion, dedication and determination, and if you possess any or all of those, it does not matter how apt or numb-fingered you are with a camera. Given enough determination, I believe even the biggest technophobe can learn to operate a camera proficiently enough to make wondrous images.

As this is beginning to get a bit long-winded, I just want to emphasize that we are all capable. Every person has a great photographer in them. Some of us jump into the quest to find this inner photographer. Some of us stroll along content whether we find them or not. Some shun their inner photographer to become instead great writers or musicians or whatever their hearts tugs them towards. I do feel a bit strongly on this topic, but mainly because I deal with it every day. And it can actually pain me to see those I consider to already be great photographers in effect put themselves down because they believe others are more talented or that they do not possess this necessary talent and can never acquire it. Quite simply, the notion of talent is hogwash. Just go take pictures and stop worrying about. ;-)



A self-portrait pinhole image made on expired slide film and then cross processed. The film was nearly as old as I was at this time.

  • Zero Image 6x9 pinhole
  • f/250

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