In talking to friends who are and have been photographers for many and many years, the undercurrent that permeates conversations these days is the overwhelming sense of isolation many of us feel. While photography has always been a loner’s discipline, the recent social and economic upheavals have played havoc with our sense of being connected to the world. The first erosion of this feeling of belonging came with our embrace of Photoshop. In our haste to control our digital files, we killed off the labs. Moreover, our logic-driven (but totally misguided) demand for the lowest price on everything we bought killed off most of the good camera stores. With the labs and the retailers gone we lost two points of intersection that were part of the fabric of the photographer’s (professional or amateur alike) social life. Unlike our Latin and European counterparts, who have rich history of men socializing over coffee during the day or drinks in the late afternoons, our Calvinistic society demands efficiency and frowns upon time spent unproductively. In order to preserve our sense of well-being I think us photographers must adopt new strategies to reincorporate ourselves into the every day fabric of communal life. We need to leave our dark caves and reconnect.
I have a program and I’m following it as well as I can:
1. Coffee outside the house. Find a coffee shop or diner with a fun crowd and go there for your coffee (yes, I understand the accountant driven “Latte Factor” of economics, but have you priced psychiatric care lately? Believe me, two bucks for a cup of coffee is a bargain…).
2. Have at least one lunch a week with a friend or peer. Complain, celebrate, talk “nerd-talk”. Bond.
3. Have a project to work on. I always try to organize exhibits of my work. It puts me in the public eye and it is a beautiful goal.
4. Find a cause you feel very strongly about and donate your photographic talent. You’ll get practice, exposure and move the game forward for your cause.
5. Help someone else get their project done. You get karma and you learn something new.
6. Stop making lists like this and get out into the real world. Life is still swirling around and, if we live it fully, we might make better art, meet nicer people, and feel less alone.