Sunday, May 20, 2007

NPR - Don't look back

We all know the words of Satchel Page, "Don't look back, something may be gaining on you." Well, it's what I do with my photography and writing. I try to live and work, and produce results, hopefully, where I don't have to look back about something. It's not really true, I'm like everyone and look back more often than I want, with regret, sadness, happiness, understanding, and all the rest of our emotions we look back with.

In fact, I look back every birthday. It's my routine review of the last year to see if I made my goals. I don't make New Year's resolutions, but birthday resolutions. Every birthday I assess where I'm at and where I would like to be by my next birthday. I don't see big goals, those I save for the big decisions in life throughout my life. I try to make my goals achieveable and manageable, but really the goal is simply to be a better person, the rest just happens.

But my point is that I try to say something that I can read down the road, and either say I still agree with it or say it's what I was thinking at the time. And while my views change over time, much of what I write stands my test of time, and the rest is that, something I said, and may say differently today but the point was there which I agree with. And yes, there are those times, I read something and, as the adage goes, "What the f..k was I thinking?" Hopefully with a smile and generally with a note of apology for my misunderstanding.

Photography, however, is different. You can't change what you did, the image is there in front of you. The best you can do is either make it better or learn from it to do better the next time. Since I like to take images I see and minimize the post-processing, I generally try to understand what went wrong and look for any trends in my work that I should focus on to be better. But that's the neat thing about photography, there's always something new to photograph, something to do to be better. All it takes is your camera and yourself.

In some ways that's also my problem, not looking back, but then, as I said, sometimes I do. Since I bought my computer system for photography work, I'm slowly going back through all my slides to find ones to scan for cards or the Web. It's sometimes amazing what time will do. I know whenever I get film back from the lab I just put the boxes on the light table for a few days. And often after downloading new digital images, I do a quick review for the obvious mistakes, but usually let them sit for a few days too.

After a few days, I'm usually more objective with the images, or at least I think I am, and I find I tend to find more I like and feel better about the mistakes. I can almost find where I went wrong, something I wasn't thinking or doing, and sometimes I just wasn't really being a photographer but a picture snapper. In some ways that's why I started in large format photography. You have to plug in your brain or get really bad results. There's little in the middle, especially with some film where they have a narrow latitude.

Anyway, what does it have to do with Satchel Page? I don't know, except it's about looking forward and keep focused on the road ahead, but don't forget your personal map and history.