Slideshow: Second Snow, Old West Side (Jan. 2012)

Looking back on this photo diary, which happened just a few days after the “Macro Digital on South Main” set I posted a few days ago, I can see some pretty similar strategies going on. There’s still at least one shot that’s abstract, mostly concerned with composition. There are a lot of strong lines leading to the horizon. No hard closeups of objects–the camera focus so tight that the objects themselves are a little defamiliarized–but still, there is a lot of carry over.

It’s pretty surprising looking back at how many photos I was taking. This set has been curated twice: first, when I put it up, I only put up 18 or so of the however many I took (30, 50, who knows); then, today, I clipped out 8 more photographs so that only the best ones were included.

I had a few guiding values as I sorted through the pictures, deciding which to keep and which to toss. I kept pictures with strong compositions and dynamic lines. Any picture with a figure in it, I kept. Anything that surprised me–like the little cartoon drawn in dust on the window–that made it through to the next round of voting.

Most of the pictures that I deleted had some strong central element–a tree or a street sign–which divided the composition into two parts, creating a (relatively) static construction, one that, back then, I think I liked because the solidness of the central figure contrasted against the more fluid feeling of photos with open squares/rectangles in the center. Now, I think these central figure photos feel turgid, stolid. Even the shot of Rackham (the building with the verdigris roof) that made it into the final photo set is only interesting to me because of the color and the foreground/background contrast. But back when I was taking these, I totally would have taken a shot of just the bench.

It’s interesting how few figures there are in these photos and the other photos I’ve posted. I started my photo diary as part of the work I was doing with the DS106 digital storytelling program, and, despite how interactive that community/course felt, much of the work that I did, I did on my own. That’s true, I think, of all storytelling. And in these pictures, that’s what I see–someone wandering around trying to figure something out on their own, chasing after some future, better self, one that knows what f-stops and ISOs are for.

At the end, though, is photograph of a shadow of myself as I take a picture of my shadow. The moment being recorded records the recorder. I was beginning, slowly, subtlety, to insist on my presence in the stories I was telling. That these weren’t just photos that anybody could take, that only I could take these.

What that voice is–that thing that makes one photographer or writer or storyteller unique–maybe that’s what I’m really chasing after, not some future self that’s more technically capable but some further, better articulation of who I am and what I care about and some awe at how that all of that abstraction gets translated through a lens the size of a thumbnail.