work, photography, some updates, & a pic dump - 9/28/21
Writing this was inspired by randa's latest newsletter - i forgot how nice it felt to just read a longer piece about how friends are doing and what they're thinking about. so here i am doing the same. listenin to Ridin Dirty as i write this 🚗
i've been freelancing for almost a year and a half at this point - and all through the pandemy. it's been a really valuable learning experience but in some ways incredibly bad lmao. a few things i'm learning:
the biggest pro by far has been flexibility with work. Both on an emotional level (i feel separated from the contract work i do and ultimately am not as emotionally invested in it as i would be with a FT role) and on a physical level (i just have more time to do other things. Ive been semi-regularly gardening at the SF botanical garden on thursday mornings and im pretty sure i wouldnt be able to do that without a freelance work setup)
the flip side is that work feels incredibly transactional. This isn't necessarily a bad thing imo but has just been an adjustment for me - as someone coming from a work environment where i was extremely (maybe overly) emotionally invested in work, flipping to the opposite end of the spectrum took some time to getting used to (still taking time)
ive been struggling with motivation to work on stuff on my own time. I think i deeply underestimated how valuable the implicit structure / incentives inside a FT role are and how give you ambient motivation. dabbling on projects solo has been fun but i've found it hard to sustain myself for long periods of time
i wrapped up my current contract gigs this past week and am now thinking again about what i want work to look like for me in the near future. FT job, continuing freelancing, something else, etc
i've been spending more and more time on film photography, esp this past year. Specifically i've been going down the rabbit hole of medium format and large format photography - i just picked up a Linhof Technika iii
i started shooting digital photography 5-6 years ago at this point - but sometime in 2018 i just couldn't stand editing digital pictures anymore. it just felt so tedious and boring - and i hated that most of my time spent on photography was in front of a computer editing pictures. My assessment of digital photography is that at some point its just a numbers game - you stop trying to get the best possible picture and you try to get as many pictures as possible, just because you can. This formula makes sense and it works. This doesnt mean that all of those pictures are bad - but I think your prior when shooting digital is just 'let me get as many shots as possible so i can pick the best one later'. I think this is a totally reasonable way to shoot but as someone who already spent way too much time in front of a computer i really disliked it.
I can't remember what exactly prompted me but in 2018 i picked up my first film camera (a minolta x-700) and starting shooting film. My first few pictures were awful and it took me forever to learn (the feedback loop on film pictures is incredibly slow, but I've come to like this). It took me a long time to really get good - to understand the mechanics of how film works and how cameras work ultimately. But i kept pulling on the thread because 1) i loved how mechnical it all felt. understanding that taking pictures (but film particularly) was just a matter of manipulating light onto a piece of paper felt so crazy to learn but even crazier to really understand.
This is what i've come to really love about film - it's all about envisioning the shot. You just can't see what the final result will look like. Over time, through reading and largely experience, you learn how the different levers for manipulating light onto a piece of film (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc) interact and how to set the levers to get the shot you want. Ultimately film for me is about finding and composing a scene, largely mechanically and through intuition, and then trusting the process. I love to trust the process.
I shot on 35mm for a while. I didnt feel the need to upgrade because my pictures weren't good enough. But at some point as I got better I wanted higher detail and more control. I bought a bronica zenza etr (a cheaper medium format alternative - i also love that for film you can often get away with cheaper stuff. tougher with digital) shot it for a month, got obsessed, and upgraded to a large format. With each new format the time it took to take a picture got longer and longer
point and shoot 35mm - 30seconds
SLR 35mm - 1m
medium format 120mm - 5-10 minutes
large format 4x5 - 30min - 1hr (??? lmao)
its tedious and boring and slow and i've been really loving it.
ive thought vaguely what it would be like to try to make photography something to make money from. at some level i think it will take something away from the act - to focus again on commoditizing and selling it. im sure it will make me a lot better at it. Im also sure it will be really tough to do!
reading & other updates
with all this free time i do feel like im learning about a lot of different things and experimenting (even though it feels incomplete?). some random ones:
web3 (lmao im sorry) - i've been trying to understand and learn the space of crypto and web3 more. I think there are parts of it that i really like (shifts in how people are organizing and creating space online, governance, artists getting paid, different models of data ↔ software ↔ users etc. parts of it feel still tough to get over (costs of taking action / participating is high, costly on computing / physical resources, focus on private ownership, etc). not sure how i feel, still reading!
theology - continuing to go down this rabbit hole. I feel like im kinda relearning the same set of things again / hitting a wall with just reading books. but still thinking about this
Modern Monetary Theory - i heard about this first when i read Debt by David Graeber (really recommend). Wikipedia / online will explain it a lot better but basically its this macro econ theory that the government can just print more money and literally give it to people. Its kinda obvious / dumb to say out loud but it largely pushes back against the idea that government spending is a bad thing and needs to be balanced (aka it is bad to have debt / be in a deficit). It argues that managing inflation is just the real limiting factor in how much money the government can print - and that instead of making money by giving it to banks (which the gov does right now) it can literally print more money and give to people (the gov does this sometimes but not enough). Sorry go on about this lol, I'll end with this quote from Money from Nothing by Hockett & James:
The Fed now gives money to private banks, and just hopes they’ll lend more to citizens. But we don’t have to do things in this indirect, inefficient manner. We can simply cut out the middleman. The Fed can keystroke newly created money directly to us when needed and “apply the brakes” later, when the economy is at risk of becoming “overheated.”
ok thats it. In new york for a bit, incoming film dump from here. not rereading this for typos im sorry. brb