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Mike’s poetry and heart

Mike Johnston on The Online Photographer has a nice post about how he sometimes feels about the photography he remembers from when he was younger. The kind of practice, what it felt like, the work he saw, and how he misses it all. It’s not solely that photography has changed, but rather that the things he used to get out of photography then are harder for him to find now.

So much of the post echoes how I often feel — not always, but often — about the internet these days. The thoughts are so familiar that I assume similar posts could be written (and probably have been) by people in many other fields.

I started copying and pasting parts of the post to quote and ended up with most of it here. So go and read the whole thing after these exerpts:

[…] there are a lot of things I miss about the photography I grew up with. The primacy of black-and-white. The inherent necessity for prints and printmaking. The difficulty of it, or the nature of the difficulty of it (because digital is difficult too, just differently).


One thing I miss is […] the bygone sense that mastery was progressive and additive and that once you knew something, you knew it. Now, mastery is temporary and provisional and needs constant updating. […] It doesn’t matter how well I mastered the HP B9180 printer or Photoshop 5 or the various sharpening protocols for 3-megapixel camera files: none of that matters any more. Master something now, and the ground will soon shift underneath you. […] Some people love this (because they get to master new things!), and it’s possible it just appeals to people with different skillsets and mind-sets, and isn’t either bad or good. And maybe it’s just the nature of the business I’m in. But it seems like the tech stuff is harder to get past and put aside these days than it used to be.


Most of all, though, what I miss is the poetry behind reality that photography seemed to access so effortlessly, and the sense of heart that I felt I could detect in the work of various artists. Oh, please don’t take this as some sort of grand indictment or sweeping pronouncement—it’s just a matter of degree is all. Sure, there’s still poetry and heart out there. It’s just become a little harder to find, is all, a little more fugitive

There are differences, of course. But so many similarities. As Mike says, maybe you think “I’m just getting old and creaky”. And “might be you’re right […] But I feel kinda in need of renewal.”

I don’t know. Maybe this isn’t new and I could have written this post any time over the past 15(?) years. Or maybe it’s because this (internet) world is so much wider and deeper now, it’s harder to find the practices and things that still grab me, among everything else. And when I do it feels like they’ve flown by so much quicker. Or maybe it’s something else.

Anyway, go and read the whole post. It’s a nice piece.