Over the years, I’ve become more and more interested in photography — in taking pictures, myself. When I was young and pursuing a degree in Art, with painting the focus, I was ambivalent about it as an art. I couldn’t really see it at nearly the same level as painting, as involving the same degree of talent, much less genius. Of course, at the time, my list of snobbish opinions regarding a host of different things was too long to detail, and would fill a book or two. Snobbery about books was, perhaps, at the top of that list.
But with age comes, if not wisdom, then at least some understanding of one’s limits — perhaps because those limits are starting to manifest themselves in ways we simply can no longer shrug off. Age, if utilized, causes us to slow down a bit, stop, take notice of our once take-no-prisoners declarations of likes and dislikes, and wonder: Could I have been wrong about this or that? Or, if not exactly wrong, could I have been a bit narrow in my focus, unwilling to consider things outside it?
Which brings me to the current dilemma of the amateur. Mustering enough humbleness in life to do away with many a youthful certainty, I now face another obstacle, and more than a few new questions: Should I invest in professional gear? Is my photography good enough to take another step? Would it make enough of a difference to go for superior tech, filters, learn the ropes of “manual” settings on the fly, etc. etc.?
Composition comes naturally. Painting and drawing and sculpture did that. The eye composes what, for lack of a better metaphor, the heart feels. And the sculpture, especially, helped me figure out abstract shapes in context, within a world that doesn’t always help those shapes, or couldn’t care less about them, forcing me to make them fit, make them work with or without that world. But is the end result lacking in too much polish, the kind of thing that could be remedied by expensive cameras, mad darkroom skills and umpteen specialized accessories?
Taking all my photos with a very inexpensive camera, or my phone, leaves me wondering what if. What if I dove headlong into the art of photography from the point of view of artists of the quick snap, with metal between the subject and me, between the object and my eye, with all of the paraphernalia and knowledge generally associated with that dive? Or should I just accept the way things are, so I can echo Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, and say “I coulda been a contender!”? Is it better to be Taoist at this point in life, and leave these things for the young, still in their take-no-prisoners mode?