the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

LIFE SUPPORT

By MICHAEL PERKINS

I WOULD EMERGE AS UNDISPUTED CHAMP OF ANY DRINKING GAME in which I took a shot for every time in my life that I’ve uttered the words “I love photography”. The same, I’m sure, can be said of so many of you.

But “love” is different than “need”. Some attachments are beyond any willful or voluntary commitment, existing in excess of any voluntary affection. We often love things we don’t need, and just as often need things we don’t love. But in the case of making pictures, even when my love flags, my need goes relentlessly on.

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The times we live in have generated a lot of anxiety and uncertainty, and in such times, the list of things we actually need becomes tighter, more focused. Photography, which is a coordinated act of the eye, hand, and heart, makes even my own most severely edited list of needful things. What it represents to me is beyond price, as it is an attempt to establish order, to, in effect, extract it from the random clutter and noise of life. Such times move my photography well past anything that the world at large finds essential to a realm in which I keep the things I desperately require for survival.

These words sound hyperbolic as I write them, and so I expect that they may strike you as such as well. Or maybe not. Maybe there are many of you for which the crafting of an image is an act of faith, a deliberate attempt to curse the darkness by answering it with something literally made from light. I suspect that, in any art, the artist is seeking a kind of life support. He is not trying to save the world so much as he is trying to save himself.

None of us has any objective way of knowing if the pictures we make will ever have an ameliorative or transformative effect on any other living person. But we do know what we ourselves derive from the process. And right now, that process is helping me put one foot in front of the other. And yet, I would describe myself as calm rather than panicky, clear rather than confused.

After all, I have my camera, and the curiosity required to make it speak for me.

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