the Death of an Idea

So, this is the day of the shoot, the night has come, the models and help have come and gone, and there will be nothing seen of this effort, this day that took a month to make happen. In short, it was a disaster.

There are a lot of platitudes coming my way, and I appreciate the sentiment behind them, but none of them will reach me, none of them will lift the very dark mood this day has produced in me. This was my first utter failure in my work as a photographer. If you read the previous blog entry, you might think this was destined to be a failure, but that's not true, the stress depicted in that entry visits me every time I do a shoot, and every previous shoot has produced some work I am really happy with, even proud of. The only thing that would have made all the angst leading up to this shoot worth it all was the realization of my idea, the execution of something from nothing, or, at the very least, a few decent shots. None of that was achieved.

I rented a large studio with some wonderful, distressed rooms. A massive warehouse attic with cool debris strewn throughout, rooms of vintage furniture, hallways and staircases. To some, it's a photographic paradise, but for me, and this is the only lesson I have learned from all this, it was a nightmare, and a big part of the outcome that yielded nothing. Over the past year, I have been shooting in a very specific way, with the same lights, the same neutral gray background, and in a very tight space, which often frustrates me. But, see, it works, somehow, and it has led to a success rate of output, where I know at the very least I will have a well lit basic shot from which to build, After several shoots using this approach, I thought it would be good to go to a real location, to shoot somewhere new, with some mood built in.

This was the first and biggest mistake.
I am pretty bad at shooting architecture, shooting landscapes, shooting the world, really, I shoot people well. I am a portrait artist first and foremost. I make the focus of the images the people in them, and all else is there to support that. With an environment as big and detailed and busy as this space was, it was only ever going to compete for attention, and force me to pay attention to it. And also, the real thing about it is: I LIKE building my images from nothing, I LIKE deciding the background environments. Plus, not knowing the space well, I had to explore and decide on where to shoot at the same time, and there are problems in doing that, since your time is better spent lighting and working with the model. All this and the fact that I was renting a space per hour, and had only four hours, really put the pressure on.

The Comfort Zone should not be discarded for being comfortable…
Having my stuff all set up all the time in my home means I can go down there and in a few minutes be ready to shoot. It's not an easy place to shoot in; the ceiling is really low, but it works, or has so far. With the lights and background there at the ready, the only things to overcome have been acquiring props and costumes and models. With today's debacle, I had to take everything out of that space, dismantle standing lights, bring the 9 foot roll of paper and stands all to a new space. As a musician and now as a photographer, the grunt work of hauling gear was always the worst way to kill the mood, to sap the energy better spent on the performance, so to speak. And it eats up time, and by the time you are done, you are already tired, before you even shoot.

There are a lot of other things that contributed to this shoot failing, but the worst part of it is, I have nothing to work on. Bringing these things to life in editing is the main reason I do what I do, I love that part, I feel excited doing it, and it makes the difficulties of shooting worth it. This took me a month to bring together. I have exhausted my supply of prior shoots to edit, so this was to be a new food supply of images to add to the canon, to keep me engaged and challenged. To spend money on costumes, rented space, and eating time away from everyone's Saturday is heartbreaking and embarrassing.  Even if it were a nightmare shoot, if the results exceeded the expectations, if the results became something emotional or artful, it would have been worth it, but none of that happened.

I know myself well, and I think this shoot will do more damage than ultimate good, at least in the short term. This is not a case of an arrogant, cocky photographer getting knocked down a peg for the sake of deflating an insufferable ego. I have a lot of doubt at the best of times. I never enter the room as the master lenser, the elder statesman of pixels. I am always worried I will fail, and amazed that, until now, I have managed to sidestep failure on each shoot. This one just played on my constant fears, and it will take a lot for me to get past it, to not let it cripple the next attempt. I am not someone who lives by optimism for optimism's sake, to engage in platitudes, to "learn from failure" and make lemonade out of lemons. I am a realist, and very much in touch with how I operate. Yes, I will have no choice but to regroup; what other choice is there but that or give up? But it will take a little longer than I want, and this idea, this concept shoot that I put a lot of thought into, is essentially dead now, and will likely not happen again. It feels doomed, rife with bad memories of a day I'd like to forget.

Tomorrow i have to return a costume i rented for this shoot. I will drive 50 miles each way to return it, and it was a waste of money and time. I don't enjoy driving. The only thing that would have made that costume rental and the drives to get it and return it was the time I would be spending afterwards generating the series of images it was rented for. There will be none of that. Just a drive while I mull on the failure of the day before, and the month of planning that all went nowhere.