I believe this existence is mostly meaningless. It’s by luck that we have consciousness, but that’s it. When this is over, it’s over. It’s both freeing and terrifying. I want to take that knowledge and use it to live a stress free life doing what I like, yet I still buy into the current system of which we are all a part of and find problems everywhere. I admit, I want a life for myself that seems to contradict most of my philosophical outlook. If this life is meaningless then I am free to do anything. Yet, the society we live in makes it seem so god damn important for us do what it wants instead. It’s not involuntary, but it’s pretty damn convincing.
Tomorrow the world may burn and I’m trying to make a dollar. That makes me sick.
A dollar that is meaningless unless one gives it meaning. I hate the dollar. I can’t imagine a world where it doesn’t exist, but god damn is it ridiculous.
It’s fucking paper.
No, it’s not even that anymore.
It’s a fucking number. Whatever.
I wrote an entry nearly a year ago about leaving Los Angeles and hitting the road. I felt stagnant, like I was part of a “Groundhog Day” situation that I wasn’t sure I enjoyed. That urge, fleeing, it’s returning with great weight this time. Not only am I making things I don’t like, but I’m worse off than I was this time last year. I’ve attempted many things to break the cycle but I ended up shooting myself in the foot. Both feet, actually. I’ve had a year’s long steady decline.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to hide the boredom and discontent from my face. When I am unsatisfied with a conversation or situation, I kind of shut down. As of recent, when people have conversations with me about topics of which I have no interest in, I don’t navigate it well. Instead of being the happy trooper and engaging in the societal norms of conversation, I just remain quiet until there’s an awkward ending. I just give up. It’s weird, because I do listen but all I can think is “Why the fuck do you care about this vapid horse shit?” It seems like the majority of the people in Los Angeles that I come into contact with deeply care about the most tedious and self-indulgent non sense. I can’t tell if I’m an asshole for wanting them to shut the fuck up or if I’m doing the world a disservice by not pointing out to them why they should. Either way, I think I’m in the wrong.
Obviously it’s not everyone or every conversation. My favorite thing on the planet is talking to people. When I find someone interesting or puzzling or even someone I can’t read right away, I get excited. I want to figure them out, understand who they are, and find out why they are different. Meeting someone worth talking to is like a breath of fresh air in a dark and stale room. It’s new. It’s invigorating.
So, that makes me wonder: Would I be happier on the road? I would definitely meet all sorts of people outside my “bubble”. Wouldn’t a new challenge and a new way of thinking be exactly where I would thrive? I could turn into one of those obnoxious traveling types that’s always talking about how travel saves lives, or... whatever? You know the type.
I still think my original idea of driving from state to state meeting new people and documenting it my way would be beneficial. At least for me. But that would mean I’m giving up on the system I still place so much weight in. Do I REALLY want to leave, or am I just unhappy with my current situation? What would happen if I got a job I actually liked? What would happen if I let down my guard and let people in? What would happen if I just left the house or stopped hiding from my friends and answered my god damn phone? Would I be happy?
I’m confused how most people can make decisions. I’m confused on how I should be living my life. The lack of meaning in life should be freeing but when I buy into the system it’s like there’s a weight on my chest every time I do something I genuinely don’t care for, which is most things these days.
The world could end tomorrow, but can I really live that way?
I don’t know what I’m doing these days. Things seem off.
All I can think about is if I’m fulfilled or not.
If being fulfilled is paying the bills by doing what you love, what do I love? Well, in short, I love photography. But, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
People in Los Angeles love to talk about their profession. Sometimes that’s all you end up talking about with new people. It’s dull. Maybe I moved here at a time in my life where that’s what is on everyone’s mind, or maybe it is really this region specifically. Regardless, it’s frustrating.
Let’s say I meet someone new, the whole situation (99.9% of the time) will unfold like this:
New person will introduce himself or herself, or vice versa.
The normal greetings and responses will happen, and then, BOOM!
“So, what do you do?”
When I answer, without fail, the follow up is always, “What kind of photography?”.
I get fucking anxious.
Here we go again.
I always reply, “Everything.” -which is never enough. The conversation always stays on topic. “Well, like what? What do you like to shoot?”
Fast-forward to about two minutes in and I’m dancing around the fact that I’m a pretentious cunt, but I rarely get to be one for a living.
I’m hearing myself rehash the exact same conversation I have had many times over. I’m ready to blow my fucking head off.
I get bored. How are they not? How is this not the most boring conversation anyone has ever had in the history of language? Aren’t they as bored as I am? Why don’t we talk about something new? Something else.. anything else. AM I THE ONLY PERSON SICK OF HAVING THIS SAME FUCKING CONVERSATION?
I get it, though. Most people like what they do. It’s an easy conversation. I suppose it’s interesting to learn things about new people, and profession is a safe bet. It's a socially acceptable topic that guides the conversation in a familiar arena. But if I’m bored of hearing myself, aren’t they bored of explaining to me what they do? Because of course I have to ask... other wise I’m the asshole.
The truth: Most of the photos I shoot aren’t gratifying, fulfilling, thought provoking or beneficial to anyone or anything. Well, they definitely help a client promote themselves or their products... but I’m most likely contributing to the over saturation of imagery and content that exists in our world. Content that is essentially meaningless.
Am I a Kardashian?
I understand I have no grounds to complain, but I will, for my name is Matthew Complains, of the house Unsatisfied, first of his name.
I love making things that matter. I love creating things that have a purpose, or speak upon real issues. I love conveying my ideas and what I would like the world to be through the lens of my camera. It is my most powerful voice, and my trade. But, most of the photos I take (maybe 99%) are filler content. They are made for the purpose of gaining a buck, and they serve their purpose... but they aren’t real. In fact, marketing in 2016 is essentially palatable imagery (video, stills, graphics, text, whatever) that people can relate to. It’s moved entirely to content creation with the goal of trying to get consumers to think they need whatever the product may be. It is massively successful and shows no signs of slowing down.
(Insert your Ad Here)
They may look pretty (objectively), they may look original (highly unlikely), they may even be saying something ("buy this thing"), but they are never beneficial to the overall human condition.
The kicker: I’m good at that! My creativity allows me to take the concepts and ideas a company or an individual may have and turn that into imagery that successfully conveys their message. Which, again, is always somewhere along the lines of: “Buy this thing.”
I get it... I feel your collective "Ugh's". When it comes to creating things: I’m idealistic, pretentious, and slowly approaching bitter.
So what do I want to say? Will people give a shit? Are my ideas as meaningful as I so arrogantly think they are? Do I actually offer anything of substance?
I think so.
So why don’t I do that?
I could list a billion reasons for why I shouldn’t, but it can be summed up very easily: Fear.
If I put my heart and soul into creating something, there’s a real world chance that upon looking at it, people will think “This. Is. Shit.”
Am I ready for that?
P.S. I don’t mean I want to quit doing what I do for an income.
Despite the bitching above, I am thrilled I get to use my camera for a living.
I’m good at it.
I just haven’t made things that are meaningful to me personally in a very long time.
It weighs on my soul.
Keep hiring me.
Cameras are fucking awesome.
The Camera is an amazing machine that has evolved and changed the world many times over. Since the Camera Obscura, people have been FASCINATED with the idea of recording life. The desire to make better and better cameras has existed since the first camera was invented. Innovation is humanity’s greatest gift. Personally, I have always loved old cameras. We had an old Brownie in our house growing up, my father had an old 35mm he bought in High School, and any time I saw a camera I didn’t know what it was I would research the fuck out of it. I liked the idea of knowing how to use cameras that not everyone was able to. It was a learned trade, which is something that I value and respect in society.
Any craftsman, who genuinely loves their chosen practice, will have beautiful ways to describe their trade. Also, they will know what the fuck they are doing. Learning film photography is important -It may be irrelevant, but it’s important. To learn all of the basics of camera operations, learn how to develop your own film, and learn how to make prints are all incredibly important if you want to call yourself a photographer. When I learned such things, it was enthralling. I remember being in the first dark room being hyper aware of the fact that I was discovering my passion as I learn. That’s a weird thing to be aware of. I fell in love.
The history of photography and cameras is like this enchanting world where science some how turns into art and then back to science. The ability to Record Life as precisely as possible, can be twisted, composed, conceptualized in all different ways which turns life into Art. I had an amazing professor in college, Alex Emmons, who works with “alternative processes”. (BTW, I hate that fucking word, “Alternative”. It just means older generations of processing techniques. i.e. Cyanotypes, daguerreotypes, etc.) She was incredibly influential in making me understand that this passion of mine, is a learned craft. You had to know what you were doing and how a camera actually fucking works before you could make anything in her classes. Seems like a bit of a no brainer, right? You’d be surprised. Alex Emmons is a brilliant teacher and a true craftsman.
Why am I being all nostalgic and pretentious?
It’s too fucking easy to take pictures these days.
Yep. The advancement in camera technology is amazing. It seems like science fiction. No one ever talks about how fucking awesome it is we have the ability to actually record life. It gets better and better, which is fantastic, but it also gets easier and easier... too easy, even. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet.
I have, many times, said that it’s too easy to be a photographer in 2016.
Let me give a dumb example:
Joesephine Somebody goes on instagram, sees some awesome photos with hashtags about all the gear used to make said photos. (#CanonRebelT74i or whatever number they’re on now)
Quick Google search of said camera, thinks, “Whoa! $300 is totally doable!”, and orders it via amazon prime.
The camera kit gets there the next day (or maybe even same day? Fuck man, Amazon is taking over. They got their shit together. Whatever.).
She switches that mother-fucker to fully auto mode and snaps her first picture.
She uploads to instagram with same hashtags (maybe even #JoesphineSomebodyPhotography because why not?), hundreds of people see, like it, follow her, and get excited by her “work”. She’s ecstatic. Good for her! It feels awesome to have people like your shit.
Someone asks her to shoot them for money.
She says yes.
She’s now a photographer.
Awesome, good for her. I know tons of people just like her. I think I read one of those shitty Kardashian types is now a photographer? Whatever, my point is, it’s too fucking easy.
Also, what’s actually “in” right now is very amateur stylized photography. Thanks, Terry Richardson, American Apparel, and everyone else who rips them off... myself included. You could argue that even going back to Nan Goldin and others’ early work who made candid photos with that Point and Shoot look Art, but whatever I’m getting away form my point.
So, the cameras are far more advanced than ever, the ability to take a high quality photo without even knowing how the camera works, and the fact that it’s trendy to take simple shitty photos is the magical combination of ingredients that make being a photographer the easiest goddamn thing in the world.
But should we be giving people money for this? I don’t know. I get confused myself.
Now, let’s take it a step further and say that Joesephine Somebody is actually a model with a large following on instagram. She is an “influencer” who is around cameras all the time, becomes interested in having a “new thing”, buys a camera, and BAM! Suddenly a photographer. She now talks about her “work” and all that douchey bullshit. What happens next is interesting to me, because her “work” is instantly a real commodity. She has an audience for her “work”. If a person or company were to pay her to photograph something, she might feature it on her social media platforms and expose it to her large audience. This is a valuable thing to people. It’s a little gross, but no one seems to care. It’s exposure. It’s marketing. But is it good?
Some would argue that if it’s a “good photo” then it must be good. But is it a good photo? Is it really? If it’s just a happy accident based on the simplicity and ease of taking a picture in 2016, is it really good?
Let me go off on another tangent, because this isn’t already too long:
Picasso knew how to paint. Like, really knew how to paint. To the layman, his most famous works might look simple (I know, they’re not really. But for the sake of argument, ok... just go with it) but I promise you, Google his early work and you will see that, Homeboy obviously knew what the fuck he was doing. (#Understatement of the year?) It drives me crazy when I hear, “I could do that!” in reference to major paintings. That’s probably not true, but whatever. With photography, though, it is true!
You can probably do whatever American Apparel ad is currently running within the first week of owning a camera, while not knowing a single thing about cameras or photography. It’s that easy!
But, should you?
There’s a story I heard about Picasso sketching in the park when some cunty* woman recognized him and then proceeded to ask him to sketch her. He did in less than a minute or some shit. She was amazed by how perfect he had captured her. She asked him how much it would it cost to take home, and he responded, “$5,000”. She was taken aback and said “But, Picasso! It only took you less than a minute or some shit!” Picasso responded, “It took me my entire life.”
(I’m paraphrasing, folks. I don’t even know if it’s a true story.)
This hits home with me. I see all sorts of people taking photos. Friends, strangers, people from my past, famous people... literally fucking everyone these days is a photographer. Yet, very few of these people take the time to get to know how their Magical Picture Boxes work. Most of them aren’t even making good photos, just trendy ones with mass appeal. This wouldn’t bother me at all, except I see that they’re charging for this craft that they don’t actually know how to perform. They’re missing the skill set that should determine whether or not they are able to be called a photographer. Yet, because of the technological advancements, the end product is still a quality photo. This freaks me out.
On one hand: Whatever, if the client is happy, the “photographer” is happy, I shouldn’t care. But, on the other hand: This is all a sham and no one knows what he or she is doing and it’s perverting the craft I love. If I were in that situation, I would NEVER charge anyone. I would adamantly tell people, “I am a beginner, let me figure this Scientific Magic Box out before I can morally charge you. Let me develop my craft before I boldly claim to be photographer.”
Whatever. The world would be better with less shitty content, and more craftsmanship.
Who knows though, maybe I’m just self-righteous.
Nah, I’m definitely self-righteous.
*Cunty. Yes, going up to arguably one of the best painters ever and asking them to draw you is in fact a "cunty" thing to do regardless of your gender.