Beyond a Camera.

Blue-grey tanager [thraupis episcopus]I’ve made the time to go through my Flickr collection of photos to pull out some of the better ones for my FineArtAmerica page and my Zazzle page – something I had planned to do once I crossed the threshold of 20,000 images.

I’m down to 13,000 after a few days, having culled those that no longer matter or simply didn’t make the grade. It gave me an opportunity for me to look at what I had done and where I’d been over the years, something that we sometimes take for granted, and also my own motivations for photography. I didn’t set out to become a photographer.

Vegetables at Mon Repos marketSo why did I take all these pictures? There are different reasons. Writing on the web does better with pictures, and I couldn’t afford to buy the rights to the images I would have wanted to use – Creative Commons has helped me with that, thank you – but there were less images available online for free almost 20 years ago. To make matters worse, I’m probably one of a handful of people who managed to fail Art as a class (I failed Student Orientations for similar reasons).

So the early photos I posted online were guided by that – I’d take a lot of pictures and upload them because I thought I could use them for writing at some point. Some I did, most I didn’t – and image quality with the elder, lower class cameras I used just didn’t age as well as I hoped, with few exceptions (some are here in this entry).

From top to bottom - blue-grey tanager, yellow oriole and palm tanagerWhen my father died in 2005, I had a slightly better digital camera and had taken up my father’s habit of feeding the birds – and I studied them, their behaviors, and found some comfort in those  things as a distraction from the mess his Estate was, and the fact that the lawyer in charge of doing things was as efficient as stoned molasses moving uphill on a cold day. In a way, it kept me sane. And when I got the opportunity, I got a better camera and did better.

This Revolution Is For Display Purposes OnlyAnd all during this, I remained Nobody Fugazi in Second Life, wrote an eBook through O’Reilly that is now dated and useless, and was also looking at textures for prims in Second Life. Since I lacked graphic abilities beyond straight lines, a budget to afford software or copyrighted images, I pushed forward in that regard too. So, a lot of images of would be textures and a lot of images of my forays in Second Life that were no longer relevant were culled – Second Life is really a novelty now, where once it paid my bills.

Handful of bird peppers.The world changes, we change… and through all of this I had accidentally become a passable photographer. I say that because I noted that there were less and less bad images I uploaded over the years between the good ones.

People were asking to use my photos through Flickr, even NASA at one point, and I was letting them use them. A lighthouse picture paid me for the rights to what I considered a really bad photograph of the lighthouse in Port of Spain. I came to realize that the good photographs weren’t always what made the money. Pictures I have taken of bush-fires appear in textbooks in the Caribbean and some other places. I was actually making money with some really bad photography.

Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday at Presentation College Reunion (2010)And people and companies were actually using my pictures without permission, in contexts I did not agree with – so I had to battle over that, and I never let them pay me after their abuse as a matter of principle. Anyone who takes something without permission and tries to pay for it when they get caught is someone I don’t want to be associated with. But now, I found myself a guardian of something that I never expected to have, and I began to understand better how it feels when things you are emotionally invested in are taken without permission. It made me look at artist’s rights differently. You’ll note that I don’t have cheesy copyright notices on my images – I have my own methods for finding things that work well enough without destroying images.

Sloths gone wild! Arlene the Sloth gets her bearings as the humans leave (3)And during all of this, I traveled. I met other human beings in different places as I grew myself, and found humanity is generally mundane except for a choice few. But the creatures! The stories of the humans!

And so I stretched a little further even as the camera became less of a tool and more of an extension. Not a great extension, mind you, but I was learning through experience… and ultimately staring at some really bad photographs, most of which I have culled.

Other things became apparent. I have an aversion to photographing people – perhaps fodder for another post.

New Smyrna Beach Sunrise 12-22-2014And once it became an extension, photos started getting better.

So much better, in fact, that I sold prints for a while in Florida, bought some more updated equipment based on what I needed of an extension, and my photography got significantly better.
But if you ask me what I do, I won’t say I’m a photographer.

Nope. I still say writer. Neither pays well, but when I look back over the years they have become constants in a life of change.

I’ll be taking a break for a while… but I will be back after a relatively short retreat.

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