Yup, this is an old TED talk, but I thought I’d post because Taryn Simon is one of my very favorite photographers. I adore her work so much I’d even intern for her (well, almost). Her books An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar and The Innocents are both worth picking up. Here’s one of her quotes referencing The Innocents that applies to almost any photographic work.
Photography’s ability to blur truth and fiction is one of its most compelling qualities. But when misused as part of a prosecutor’s arsenal, this ambiguity can have severe, even lethal consequences. Photographs in the criminal justice system, and elsewhere, can turn fiction into fact. As I got to know the men and women in this book, I saw that photography’s ambiguity, beautiful in one context, can be devastating in another.
Photo work tends to take a back seat. For now, my snapping is limited to the occasional assignment from my wonderful agency in New York, Redux Pictures, and some freelance clients. In terms of personal work, well, my head is pretty much swimming with information related to the investigations I’m unravelling in my upcoming book. It’s been hard to muster the energy to shooting non-cerebral work. And so, I’ve been shooting just for pleasure. Yup, I feel like an art-school kid again.
But I have to say, it’s really nice. Shooting for the love of photography is something I haven’t done in so long. My old Toyo 4×5 studio camera recently passed into her next life, and I’ve been adjusting to shooting in a different format. I dragged that poor old Toyo to so many places- leaking Brooklyn warehouses, Wyoming plains, urban California bedrooms- that her bellows finally had to be duct-taped together.
Though I’ve kept my lenses and film backs for when I can replace her, in the meantime I’ve been shooting 2 1/4 work in the same vein as the “Brooklyn Hangar” series that initially made me fall in love with large format photography. It feels strange, but I think it’s just the newness of the format. I’m using a new used Pentax 645 with just one lens. Hasselblads never felt right in my hands, and I just can’t think in a perfect square. The Mamiya systems I’ve used are just so damn heavy and insanely expensive. The Pentax is less precious, too- something I like a lot.
I miss photojournalism, too, and my head is bursting with story ideas that I can’t wait to start. I swear, my idea list never shortens. But for now, “real” photo work is back-burnered. I’m shooting for the sake of shooting. And it feels good!