Life, on a dime

28 March, 2006

I had a fabulous weekend photography-wise. I'd have told you about it earlier, but today I had a really busy and stimulating day at work and I'm (the right kind of) exhausted.

I wish I could bottle spring. This always happens — everything seems to turn at once, for the better, in a matter of weeks. It's why I scheduled my defense last year to hit around now (April 5: first anniversary of Dr. Techne! Or is it the first birthday of Dr. Techne?). It's fascinating enough to make one switch one's career focus to SAD.

My weekend officially started when I walked into Ben's Chili Bowl for some pre-nightlife grub. Like I was the cue, Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me" started just a few seconds later. Very few things in music make me happier than Sam Cooke, especially as a sneak-attack, and very few places in DC make me happier than Ben's. OK, so that had nothing to do with photos. But it was a fortuitous kickoff and put a big grin on my face. Later that night I met one of the DCist editors, Martin, who recognized my flickr handle. (This comes up later.)

On Saturday I shot the kite festival, which brought back many a happy memory of the one I went to a year ago in Chicago right after handing in my dissertation. In fact, I bet I'll always love kite festivals from now on.


On my way from kite fest to meeting some friends, I came across 6 kids out with a mentor, working off steam by jumping off a low wall in front of a Mall museum. Decided to go for the challenge of motion-blur in bright light…but the kids noticed me….well, long story short, I walked on 20 minutes later, contact info in hand, lens stopped aaaall the way down, with a CF card full of blurry, hip-hop-star-posed, or almost-teenager-so-too-cool-for-school kids. I'm really looking forward to going through those and getting back in touch. I love shooting kids and this was both the oldest group and the biggest group of kids I'd ever photographed.

Sunday, I decided to head down to the GMU-UConn game to shoot crizazy-dressed fans. However, I got a late start and got there just as the game was starting….which meant instead of incipient drunk college kids, there were only desperate scalpers around. Well. I didn't live near Wrigley Field since age 7 without learning this game. (Although I did not factor in the rudeness of underselling scalpers with a big ol' camera on my shoulder. One was angry enough to point that out, and the tipoff helped my next negotiation.) Called a friend I knew'd be in (he's Australian) and got us in for the second half. What a damn game. As a fan who knows chronic-loser-team pain, hopping the underdog's NCAA bandwagon at the Elite 8 level feels like cheating. Or possibly hard drugs. Instant dopamine/adrenaline, for free; no months of ups and downs required. No wonder people who don't care follow college ball. I may start…
I got my photog chance after the game, when Aussie pal and I wandered about and found ourselves outside the exit nearest the GMU cheering section. I wish I knew why that 30 minutes of shooting was as much fun as it was. Was it because I'd taken a side? I don't think so–I also shot some of the sad UConn band members leaving, which was every bit as satisfying, but not because it was schadenfreudariffic. It was the capturing of emotion that made it rewarding. I think I have the right emotional makeup to be a wedding photographer. (Just not the actual skills, I made a lot of, er, technically poor choices…)

Ego-massaging coda: Before working the scalpers I had been chatting with a Wash Times photo intern (got him a ticket too). Maybe that's what made me think about the market value of what I'd shot. I asked around my photography peeps that night and people had good suggestions for how to get them out there. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take them cause my workflow is so damned slow (I have to talk to Mac ppl and see if it's the app or my system–how's lightroom work for other mac users?). So I just flickr'd them and went to bed.

Woke up to some nice comments on them. Went to work. Read more comments. One guy who'd seen my question — not a photographer — had some weird and discouraging answers that kind of missed the point that all the photographers understood: me thinking about publishing these was me looking at my work in a new way. (As "work," for one thing.) Here's a bit of our discussion:

Him: I'm guessing the local papers had photogs on hand.

Me: you're missing the point. It's not that I thought nobody was going to be taking pictures and they needed my help. How do you think those photogs got their jobs?

Him: Didn't miss the point, I just can't think of any outlet that would pay for crowd pics, even if they are awesome…..I watch a lot of sports, and even for local fans, there isn't much demand for postgame fans shots.

Literally AS he was writing this, I received a solicitation on flickr:

NowPublic is a public news service that uses stories and footage from non news sources. It would be great if we could use your photos…

And an email from Martin telling me that this post was about to go up.

I had me a nice chuckle.

The weekend made me think about what's next. My intent with photography was never to make money or even achieve recognition beyond getting picked by DCist sometime. I just knew, vaguely, that this was an identity I'd be able to occupy. I thought it would just be about the idiosyncratic stuff I saw and wanted to show others; something to do for myself and maybe people close to me. But now, what I also like about photography is the chances it gives to interact with others. I didn't post about the movie I saw Saturday about war photographer Jim Nachtwey — way too much there — but it occurs to me that this part of my approach is not dissimilar to his.


3 Responses to “Life, on a dime”

  1. furcafe Says:

    Nice to find another Sam Cooke fan (not that I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like him). If you have “Live @ the Copa” (the essential companion to “Live @ the Harlem Square Club”), you find out exactly where Otis Redding got the idea to cover “Try A Little Tenderness.”

    I’ve been (very) slowly going through a pre-publication copy of Peter Guralnick’s recent Sam Cooke bio (“Dream Boogie”) that somebody @ work (who knows Guralnick somehow) snagged for me in August of last year. The book went on the shelves in October, & it’s good.

  2. techne Says:

    I remember when the book came out, it started a bit of a Sam Cooke revival for me. I don’t think I have any of his stuff in live form, except a song here and there, like “A Change is Gonna Come.”

  3. furcafe Says:

    You definitely need to get the 2 live albums.

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