31 May 2010

the price you pay

What's the cost of street photography? Street photography is for me a self-initiated, self-indulgent, self-financed act. Part of the tension I bring to my work is that desperate pull between the worlds of earning a living and the intoxicating state of creating work for its own sake.
This issue was really brought home to me while reading the book by Sam Stephenson of The Jazz Loft Project featuring the images of W. Eugene Smith. In essence it's a document of the life and times of that photographer in a New York City of the late fifties, early sixties where the jazz scene defines my perception of the romance of that world, however misguided.
Ironically the words and the image that I responded to most were the references to his family life...
...Smith was thirty eight years old and at the top of his profession. But he was suffering through a harrowing stretch in his personal life. His misery made may of those closest to him miserable in turn. He had four children and a wife living at his home in Croton-on-Hudson, and another child living with a lover on Philadelphia. He virtually abandoned all of them when he moved into 821.
...In a 1976 interview he [Smith] recalled the time around 1958 as his peak as a photographer but his nadir as a human being: 'My imagination and my seeing were both - and I don't know if I can think of the right term - red hot or something. Everywhere I looked, every time I thought, it seemed to me it left me with a great exuberance and just a truer quality of seeing. But it was the most miserable time of my life'.
In the book, among the many of known and unknown jazz musicians of the day, there is a photograph of his daughter Shana in the stairwell outside the loft itself.
W Eugene Smith Jazz Loft Project
Jazz Loft Project, W Eugene Smith
This photograph really made me pause for contemplation of that moment and that gaze between father and daughter.
Such sacrifice is not for me. The price is too high. I can remember walking the streets of Shibuya in Tokyo, camera in one hand, a bag of toys in the other, and thinking 'I'm sure William Klein didn't do this...'
However I can't escape the question that by not "following the dream", that talisman of self expression, is my work never going to be good enough? Good enough for whom? Maybe good enough just is...

No comments:

Post a Comment