Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort.
--Three qualities necessary for zen training, from The Wisdom of Zen Masters, by Irmgard Schloegl
About a month ago I signed up for Photolucida's NW Reviews. At the time it was sort of a whim. The registration was filling up quickly and I figured I would sign up just to reserve a space. I could always cancel later, but at least this held the door open.
I've been stewing over my decision ever since. Some days I am gung-ho and can't wait to show my work. Some days I'm sure it's a mistake. Whatever I decide, my summer has already taken on several added degrees of stress. In fact one of the reasons I haven't been posting much lately is that these reviews have dominated my photographic thoughts. I've had a hard time looking at photo books lately, and even making new photographs has been difficult (a rare experience) because I'm devoting so much mental energy to the reviews. I know this may sound pathetic. It's just a two day event and I shouldn't build it into a life crisis. I think the reason it's been so consuming is that NW Reviews raises all sorts of major questions about my photography, why I pursue it, what I want to get out of it, and ultimately who is it for?
Arguments in favor of doing NW Reviews:
--A national event comes right to my backyard
--Forces me to edit and think about how to present my work which is valuable no matter what happens
--Smaller, less expensive, and less consuming than other reviews
--No man is an Island. At some point I need outside feedback and this is a great chance to get my work out there
--Could meet some cool photographers and see some good work by others. Swaps?
--Curiosity to engage in a new experience
--Wife and kids will be out of town, so timing is perfect
--Could be my last chance to avoid permanent entrenchment outside the mainstream photo community
--I'll need to spend all my spare time indoors preparing during the nicest season of the year
--Although cheaper than other reviews, $475 is still a lot of money for an uncertain payoff
--Why do I need affirmation from any outside source?
--The type of work I am fond of --small format street work printed in a darkroom-- is decidedly unpopular and will be dismissed out of hand by many reviewers. I have a pretty good inkling of how these reviews will go even before they start
--Opens me up to potential humiliation or (worse?) indifference
--I don't work on projects, yet the format of the reviews favors conceptual, execution-based projects
--What's so bad about permanent entrenchment?
--I still need to figure out how to make gallery grade color inkjet prints
I have a feeling that I've already decided, and that I made the decision a month ago.