Today I talked with my friend Parker (I call him green and he is green and captain and also Parker) about being dissatisfied with the camera. The camera in my hands, not anyone else's.
I told him that when I use a camera, it doesn't feel like I'm using or doing anything. When I press that button and look at the result on my screen and see something beautiful, I think "wow, that lake was beautiful" or "he really shines in pictures". Not once have I taken a photo or recorded a video and thought "wow, I just made something really good". I do sometimes think "that looks awful, I really fucked up," but in my mind that feels like a failure to capture the beauty of the objective reality before me. In my hands, still and moving pictures do not feel like art. Do not feel like craft.
Everything I hold dear is screaming at me right now. If someone said this about anything else I would be fucking pissed. I know that there's craft. It's a grand collaboration of human choices including everyone involved in designing my camera, all of the history of cameras, every contributor to the language of still and moving pictures, the entirety of human history shaping the ideology which guides my hand, and my own creative choices in settings and subject and framing and so on.
But it doesn't fucking FEEL like it.
My native art form is the written word. I feel the most comfortable within it, and I think it's where I'm the most accomplished. When I finish a poem or an essay or a story, I think "I made something good and I am proud of this". I love that feeling. There's something fundamentally different in the creative process there. Or rather, how that process feels to me. At the beginning there is a blank page, and at the end there is a filled up page. There's no getting around the craft there, it's directly in your face.
Pictures have the illusion of reality. I look at a photo of Niagara Falls and unless I have my critical goggles on, I don't think "that is a photo of Niagara Falls," I think "that is Niagara Falls" or, more often, accept it as Niagara Falls without any thought at all. Thoughts of craft are inseparable from the abstractions of written word, where they're an active process in images which must be willed by the viewer.
It's a beautiful and sinister illusion and is one of the central points to play with in those art forms. The novelty of unreality presented in a form that registers to the eye as reality is so commonplace that it seems ridiculous to describe as its own thing. That effect IS photography. It IS film.
Foundational shit here, the kind of thing you'll find in a film theory or visual rhetoric class for freshmen. There's nothing new to me and certainly not to anyone else. But every time I pick up my phone and open the camera, there's a tension between what I know to be true and the real experience of creation.
I like and appreciate film, but as a discipline that I sometimes dabble in, it's sadly purely utilitarian. I take a picture to remember something or put together a video to make a point. I'd love to make single-person experimental little notevenfilmstudent videos, but instead of being paralyzed by a lack of ideas or fear of failure or any of the normal creative roadblocks, I just can't squeeze creative satisfaction out of the act of filming.
I'm not a filmmaker. I'm not a photographer.
I love you green and all my other friends too. Getting to think with you is such a treat.