I'm a project oriented photographer. Well, I'm kind of a project oriented human being. I love a good assignment and thrive on always having one on the front burner. Even if it's just cleaning out the drawers in my closet. I take each one on with gusto and really sink my teeth into the endeavors. And because I'm a Virgo, I tend to be irritatingly organized as I work on the project. I mean, you should see my sock drawer.

At any rate, I've been itching to start a new photo project. I've been working on "Dreams and Other Things" for close to two years. While I love making these images - and I certainly love the fact that they sell well - I find myself thinking about new directions my work could take next.

When does a photographer know it's time to move on?

I participated in a portfolio review three or four years ago and found myself sitting across the table from a millennial who's a photographer, a writer about photography, and a teacher of photography. He didn't particularly like the body of work I was showing him, and after running his fingers through his thick black hair for several seconds he looked at me and posed this question: "Your older work is so good. Is this really the project you want to be working on at this point in your life?" I took that to mean: "You know, you're kind of old, without a lot of years left to make pictures, so I'm wondering if you really want to waste the last remaining years of your career making such mediocre work."

Wow. I was floored, I felt insulted, and I left the review quite upset.

But you know, he might have been on to something. 

As a photographer, I'm at the top of my game right now. I work hard, I'm prolific, I'm determined. My creative juices have been flowing at an all-time high, and I am pleased with the new images I've been making and how well they're being received. Sure, those calls from MOMA or the Fraenkel Gallery haven't come in yet, but I'm generally quite satisfied with where things are these days.

But...

I will admit that schlepping my camera gear causes the occasional back ache now. That getting things in focus (yes, I use auto focus, but still) is a little more challenging than it used to be. Sitting at the computer processing images does take a toll on both my eyes AND my back. And traveling to places other than my home base isn't nearly as easy and breezy as it used to be.

Maybe a photographer my age knows it's time to move on to a new project when he/she realizes he/she won't be able to photograph forever. And that the time left is diminishing at a startling rate.

There are still so many pictures to make!

My projects do tend to creep along for a while. I still add to the identical twins series I started in 2004. The same is true for my street work, my pictures about the sea, and certainly my "Grandmother with a Camera" project. I've been thinking of returning to Appalachia to do some more work on that series. But there are other ideas I have, and I'd love to bring them to fruition.

So, while it may be time to move along, I firmly believe it's possible to juggle more than one body of work at a time. I don't think I'm really finished with any of mine, and all of them challenge me and make me happy. So... I am, as of this writing, granting myself permission to dive into something new whenever the hell I feel like it and swim back toward the older work whenever I want, as well.

If I ever find myself sitting across from the black haired young reviewer again, I'll tell him I'm quite happy - thank you - making pictures, and that I believe the best is yet to come (regardless of which project I'm working on). When the great Imogen Cunningham was asked what her favorite image was, she replied, "The one I'm going to make next."

I'm right there with her, whether I have just a couple of days left to make that picture - or a couple of decades. All my work runs together, really, and each series gives voice to and informs the next in an organic, often unexpected way. I'm open to what lies ahead, and I'm pleased with what has brought me to this point.





My Blog

When is it Time to Move On?

1/9/2020

I'm a project oriented photographer. Well, I'm kind of a project oriented human being. I love a good assignment and thrive on always having one on the front burner. Even if it's just cleaning out the drawers in my closet. I take each one on with gusto and really sink my teeth into the endeavors. And because I'm a Virgo, I tend to be irritatingly organized as I work on the project. I mean, you should see my sock drawer.

At any rate, I've been itching to start a new photo project. I've been working on "Dreams and Other Things" for close to two years. While I love making these images - and I certainly love the fact that they sell well - I find myself thinking about new directions my work could take next.

When does a photographer know it's time to move on?

I participated in a portfolio review three or four years ago and found myself sitting across the table from a millennial who's a photographer, a writer about photography, and a teacher of photography. He didn't particularly like the body of work I was showing him, and after running his fingers through his thick black hair for several seconds he looked at me and posed this question: "Your older work is so good. Is this really the project you want to be working on at this point in your life?" I took that to mean: "You know, you're kind of old, without a lot of years left to make pictures, so I'm wondering if you really want to waste the last remaining years of your career making such mediocre work."

Wow. I was floored, I felt insulted, and I left the review quite upset.

But you know, he might have been on to something. 

As a photographer, I'm at the top of my game right now. I work hard, I'm prolific, I'm determined. My creative juices have been flowing at an all-time high, and I am pleased with the new images I've been making and how well they're being received. Sure, those calls from MOMA or the Fraenkel Gallery haven't come in yet, but I'm generally quite satisfied with where things are these days.

But...

I will admit that schlepping my camera gear causes the occasional back ache now. That getting things in focus (yes, I use auto focus, but still) is a little more challenging than it used to be. Sitting at the computer processing images does take a toll on both my eyes AND my back. And traveling to places other than my home base isn't nearly as easy and breezy as it used to be.

Maybe a photographer my age knows it's time to move on to a new project when he/she realizes he/she won't be able to photograph forever. And that the time left is diminishing at a startling rate.

There are still so many pictures to make!

My projects do tend to creep along for a while. I still add to the identical twins series I started in 2004. The same is true for my street work, my pictures about the sea, and certainly my "Grandmother with a Camera" project. I've been thinking of returning to Appalachia to do some more work on that series. But there are other ideas I have, and I'd love to bring them to fruition.

So, while it may be time to move along, I firmly believe it's possible to juggle more than one body of work at a time. I don't think I'm really finished with any of mine, and all of them challenge me and make me happy. So... I am, as of this writing, granting myself permission to dive into something new whenever the hell I feel like it and swim back toward the older work whenever I want, as well.

If I ever find myself sitting across from the black haired young reviewer again, I'll tell him I'm quite happy - thank you - making pictures, and that I believe the best is yet to come (regardless of which project I'm working on). When the great Imogen Cunningham was asked what her favorite image was, she replied, "The one I'm going to make next."

I'm right there with her, whether I have just a couple of days left to make that picture - or a couple of decades. All my work runs together, really, and each series gives voice to and informs the next in an organic, often unexpected way. I'm open to what lies ahead, and I'm pleased with what has brought me to this point.