Carrying Your Own Box

Three rolls of Neopan 400 120, three rolls of Acros 120, two rolls of HP5+ 120, two rolls of Ektachrome E100S 120, the B&W in Xtol 1+1, Rodinal 1+50, and in one case, Rodinal 1+100...

You do what you set out to do. Even if you fail, it's normal to frame the failure in terms of the original goal. Goals can be useful and powerful motivators, but they can also restrict. A common tragedy, told many times, is of a protagonist who pursues a goal only to find, as he approaches it, that it wasn't what he thought — everything looked perfect, from far away.

Goals can be lofty, but sometimes the most banal ones can have the greatest power over us. They are so easy to accomplish, they give us a little pat on the head each time. A thousand daily "atta boys" can be more compelling than a single house full of applause once every three years.

And those "atta boys" can be limiting, if after each little reward, each little and repetetive goal, we just stop. Good enough for today. Start over tomorrow. Never get much farther.

I've been feeling that way about the internet again, about my own use of it. It's so easy to post, so easy to collect viewing hits. But to what end? I keep finding myself making and selecting pictures not for their intrinsic value, not for their connection to me, but to illustrate a blog entry, or to round-out my flickr postings, or just to keep up with the traffic. These are all rotten reasons to make pictures, or to reject them because they're not amenable to being exactly 807 pixels wide on the blog or readable at 1K×700 (the photo that did get hung in the PAL-PHIG show was chosen — by me, anyway — partly because I knew that it wouldn't work on the web, that it played off fine detail; presenting it in a frame on the wall was the best way to share it — never on the computer).

Philip Perkis tells this little story:

A fly fisherman died. He awakes to find himself in the most beautiful river he has ever seen. In his hands is the most perfect fishing rod imaginable, with a "work of art" 16 Quill Gordon fly on the end of his line. He casts to a rising fish and hooks, lands, and releases an exquisite 20-inch brown trout. "I'm in heaven."

He casts again with the same result. And again, and again, each time hooking and landing a perfect fish. Slowly it starts to occur to our fisherman he may not be in heaven after all.

September 07, 2005

 

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