When we first moved to Bainbridge the house next door was occupied by a wonderful 90-year-old woman whom I adored. She passed away some years ago, and her sons now use her place as a vacation cottage.
One of those sons is married to a photographer, and since they were out visiting yesterday she called me over to discuss the two shows we're currently working on for our local gallery.
She had recently purchased a new camera, a Leica M9, and had taken it to Italy, so she was showing me spectacularly detailed sepia-toned photographs of one of my favorite places in the entire world. Of course I was enchanted -- and I was reminded of how much I adore fine black and white photography.
... which immediately translated into camera lust: you know, the kind where you think, oh my gosh, if I had a camera like that, imagine what I could be shooting. But I had JUST posted something on Facebook about how MUCH I hate it when people say to me, "What kind of camera do you use? I'm sure if I had a camera like yours I could create fabulous photographs, too," as if it's the camera, not the photographer, that makes the photo. How insulting!
So I had to stop a second, because it looked like I was saying the same thing... Oops. Convicted again! Funny how life has a way of doing that: just when you start thinking that whole "holier-than-thou" thing something comes along to show you you're just as guilty...
Fortunately she knows me well, didn't appear to be offended, and was able to caution me that shooting with the Leica (which, aside from any other considerations, is RIDICULOUSLY expensive) is a very different experience from shooting with the little Canons I've been using lately. It's manual focus, for one thing (not the best choice for someone with tri-focals); the monitor isn't especially accurate, the sensors are extremely sensitive and prone to dust, and the process is very slow and time-consuming. Plus, she's printing on a much more elaborate printer with many more inks, on fabulous paper -- all of which I would find daunting. She knows me well; I just don't have that kind of patience; I'm more of a hit-and-run photographer.
But it was a glorious moment, an opportunity to stop and ask the important questions: Who am I? What do I love? What is my way of being in the world, and what do I bring to the world? Which of course means it was a humbling moment, as well. One of the challenging aspects of being a creative person is this curious sense of possibility: because we know we can create, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between "things I can create," "things I could create," "things I should take the time to learn how to create," and "things I should just appreciate that others create."
So, yes, occasionally I have been known to produce a finely detailed black and white picture; I think the one above is probably the best example of that. But there are only a few in my collection, and they don't really work as large prints. The detail is only clear when they're small; my camera's sensors are just not fine enough, and my printer just doesn't have the range of grays you need to do this justice. It's good to be reminded that this possibility is out there, but also important to remember that this is not generally where my heart takes me, nor is it a place I particularly wish to invest my time and money. Color, bold and simple, is generally more my style; the trick is to remember that that work has value, too.
It's a bit like being on a path, I suppose: there will always be enticing little side trips. And sometimes it's a bit hard to distinguish -- especially when the going has been a little rough, or the scenery has gotten rather boring -- which path is the one we're meant to be following. At that point we just have to trust, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. As long as we're conscious about the steps, aware of possibilities, open to guidance, we should be fine.
But some days that feels a bit like whistling in the dark...