Thursday, February 16, 2012

Alchemy Instructions

This recent Robert Leighton cartoon in The New Yorker made me laugh.

Sometimes I feel like this squirrel when I'm out making photos. I don't know how many photos I have at home in various states of edit. Piles and piles. By any objective analysis, the last thing in the world I need is to go out and gather more photos. And yet...yeah, you know the story.

At least an acorn can be eaten. A photo has no practical use. Fortunately I've found a way to convert them into a form of currency. I don't mean selling them. No, I'm talking something even better, a portfolio swap.

My local photo group does a swap roughly every year. Our most recent one was this past Tuesday. We met in the derelict cabin behind Faulkner's house. The eccentric tenant had been requested by neighbors to destroy the huge sculptures he'd built in the backyard. I guess they were blocking out the sun or something. I think tearing them down had broken the tenant's heart so he'd moved to Salt Lake City. The cabin was available.

Here's us inside it:

I suppose the fact it was Valentine's Day says something about our group. We're fucking nuts. Valentine's Day? Seriously? That was Tab's question when she first learned the date. But in the end she let me go. She knew I was married to photography. We all were. We should've been home with our partners discussing the day's acorns. Instead we were...yeah, you know the story.

Each person brought 13 prints of one photo and laid them in individual stacks on the table. After several minutes of swapping, my pile of 13 photos had been magically transformed into 13 different photos. Pure alchemy! I wish I could show the images here but at 11 x 14 they're too large for my scanner. You'll have to take my word for it. Every one is great.

But it got even better because Lisa spread the table with hundreds of weird photos she'd shot years ago in a New York nightclub. She said they were looking to go home with someone so I grabbed four. I thought they were perfect for Valentine's Day.

Fish head nude by Lisa Gidley

And the giving didn't let up. I got a print from George he'd shot of me in a bar. Missy and I swapped prints. I gave some music to Faulkner and I distributed copies of all the photos I'd printed of group members in the past month. Faulkner and I traded prints. Bobby gave out 4 x 5 Polaroids. It was a regular give fest. In the end I had about the same number of acorns I'd started with, but of far more variety.

Prints are currency. Jpegs are not. Most of us are sitting on a motherlode. Maybe we're hoping to sell our photos or have them collected by someone or using them to prop up the kitchen table or who knows. Why not let them circulate? Give them away. Swap them. Mail them to strangers. Post them on street poles. Get them out into the world. Maybe they'll meet a cruel end but some will wind up in caring hands, and at least every photo will have an opportunity. Chances are after you're dead, some of these photos will still be out there. The more you give the better your odds. Not to mention it feels good.

At the end of the night I wound up with an extra print of George's (below). I'll give it to the first person to request it via email (Sorry, no longer available).

1 comment:

crnigjuro said...

I hate it when other people make my ideas happen in real life ;)
For the last few months I have been cat-herding the local amorphous photo collective into exactly this direction - swapping prints, not just stories of great 800px jpegs. Glad to know that I am not quite as divorced from reality as my wife thinks :D