Hanta Yo. Hanta Yo.
This book, Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebe Hill, has always been one of my favorites, ranking right up there beside Tolikien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and Steven Donaldson’s first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever trilogy. The paperback version of Hanta Yo, 2 inches thick, seemingly tissue paper thin pages and small print, resonated with me for whatever reason. The title, Hanta Yo, is to me like a jingle to others: once I get it in my mind, I have trouble getting it out again. It just repeats in my mind like a litany.
I think it is a very apt title for this blog post.
For whatever reason, since I got up Friday morning and during the drive to work, I’d been thinking and decided that I am unhappy with my photography. I have been teaching photography for several years both privately and in the community education system, and to some small extent I know what I’m doing. I understand my camera and photography basics. I have some reasonably good photographs in my portfolio. Yet, something seems missing.
Right now, it is as if I see my photography like my music: all technique and no soul.
Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy my photography, but something seems to be missing now. My last several hundred photographs, have just seemed soulless, mere snapshots instead of photographs. Just looking at the last 300 I took for myself, I see no photograph I consider worth sharing.
I am, therefore, going to remove all the photographs off my machine, including those I think good. I’m not tossing them, I’m just making sure I have them archived to DVDs up to, say, this next weekend, then I’m going to delete them off my computers and start from scratch again.
I’m going to focus on my technique more, and the quality of the photograph. I’m going to try and better capture what it is about the scene that drew me to want to photograph it in the first place. I’m going to try and instill more emotional empathy into my pictures so the viewer will not only see, but also feel, what I did. Standard photography goals, right?
Nothing new there, of course. I’ve been trying to do that for years. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. It’s especially hard with landscapes and astrophotography, my two favorite genre, but I want a fresh start. I want to set aside all my previous work and approach my work with nothing readily to hand to point to and say, “well, I have this, so I know I can do it so I’ll just try some other settings later.”
As well, I am only going to keep those photos that make my cut. No more tossing the blurred pictures and keeping the rest. No more “good enough” keepers. For at least the immediate future the only keepers are going to be either those that, as mentioned, make my personal cut or photo-document things such as the Vardo build. I’m tossing, too, my astrophotography ebook and starting it over.
Photography isn’t the only thing. My writing is in the same state.
Unfortunately, I can’t just toss aside everything I’ve written and posted to this blog, including the Pa’adhe short stories. For better or worse, they’re already out there. I see these stories, I see how I can maybe improve them, I want to write more, just as I want to take more photographs, but I want to improve…something…within me and within my stories. I want to focus on them more than I have been, just like I want with my photography.
Mid-life crisis? Perhaps, but I go through this somewhat regularly every 2 years or so. I prefer to think of it as a mental spring cleaning. Perhaps even a caamora.
I’m excited about this purge and moving forward. I’m eager to find out if I can meet my high standards and the fun and learning that’s going to come from trying.