Sunday, January 25, 2009

On The Trail Of My Avatar (my virtual self is always the best).

As the sun sets on a cold and sunny Sunday, recovering from a mild case of exhaustion due to overwork, I tend to feel the blues of the moment: a sense of spleen and vanitas. So googling up my own name seems as good a way as any to get some distraction and a change of perspective. My web persona is in fact infinitely more interesting than my own boring self. It is the result of casual contributions building up to a portrait larger than life, sometimes strange, mostly unexpected and fascinating as it would be to fathom the greatest mystery, that of what do the others really think of us. Every link is a dot on the line to draw the full picture of this virtual hero, a kind of avatar. But unlike those projected characters, leading their life on the web on the strength of their maker’s wishes, this one has a mind of his own: a way of popping up in strange places, of getting confused in homonymy and lost in anonymity, strangely true to life at times but then mostly as fantastic as those others. Fact is that we all leave a trail on the web, little is lost once put in, and even the tiniest of actions can set a ripple of vibrations on the surface of the communal pond. Whether this effect has any influence on our existence is open to debate. I guess it does.

Having followed the trail for a while I was able to delete some old ads I had put out to sell stuff, and forgot about. Then enjoyed for a while the trip, as egos do, and felt better about myself. Old recensions, news, some links that I couldn’t follow through that lead as far as the Baghdad museum of art (?) and deep into the unknown blue forests of German poster publishing, others much closer to home and still unexpected. Then the effect slowly wore off, and it was high time to log out. Mhm, this could get addictive although I haven’t’ worked out if this hobby would be closer to onanism or substance abuse. Better to quit either way, bearing in mind that the greatest danger would be to absorb these concoctions of casual information as if they were reality. It boils down to what the others and we chose to believe, and what our minds make of it. Much like our moods really.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Where You Are Going.

According to Oscar Wilde, passing it on is the only sensible thing one can do with a good advice. So this is what I am doing in quoting this true statement recently aired by the BBC through the mouth of Mrs. Thatcher (not the baroness, her daughter): “do not look back, it’s not where you are going”. Its implications are wide, connected with the process of moving on, related to the need to let go, possibly a warning against the dangers of nostalgia and an invitation to the future. But to look forward is usually not an easy thing to do. By definition things to come are uncertain, aleatory, so any decision taken today for tomorrow unavoidably involves a certain risk. And this is scary. Hence the temptation to ignore the passing of time and stick to the well known. Understandable it may be, but this attitude is a luxury very few can afford.
Think of your computer: if you were to stop updating it, it will be obsolete in one year, and in two years possibly you won’t be able to work well with it by the increasing incompatibility with modern systems around you. We are spurred on by this relentless logic.

Painful it is at times to let go, of trusted tools for instance, and then for a very low price. It felt quite uncomfortable to sell my Mamiya RZ system, body and five lenses in all + accessories, for less than what I had originally paid for the body alone.
Still I could count myself lucky – as I watched the back of a very happy amateur photographer walking away with his prize- for having sold at all, since the market for medium format analog equipment is totally frozen and my advertisment had been out one year with no reaction. To be able to look back on many years of professional use is a consolation, and one that will not be attainable with my present and future hi end digital cameras. Their value simply plummets steeply from the moment you buy them, and they are almost immediately phased out by a newer model. So your investment must pay for itself through its use in the short term, you must write them off quickly, and the object itself seems to have no intrinsic value to speak of. Is there a collector’s market for old digital camera’s? I doubt it.

So the future is dynamic: fast and constant motion. At 46 I count myself relatively young, but need to apply a few tricks to prevent my head from spinning out of control and keep some bearing and sense of roots through change. I feel it is a good thing to keep a few analog cameras around if I use them. Hasselblad, Sinar, Linhof, Leica range finder are for keeps, at least for as long as I will be able to find film. I only collect Nikon F’s, my weakness, as I actually do not use them much and have a penchant for those old “white” nikkor lenses from the sixties that do not fit on newer or digital bodies. Polaroids I am dumping fast, to the point of giving them away, and am probably stuck with the 8x10 manual processor for having been late in putting it out for sale. Also I have embarked on a studio lights renewal scheme, and plan on shifting to digital flash generators and suchlike modern amenities as soon as I can.

I have also made peace with the need to buy a new computer every year and a half of so, accept the must of the megapixel race to an extent, have become photoshop literate, embrace professional work on digital camera’s and yes, I will update them, change them, buy them on and on to their makers’ – and hopefully my own - content. But strangely enough I still need to spend some time making my own experimental wooden cameras, trying things out in the darkroom, and shooting on film. It’s where I come from, and part of where I think I am going.