I haven't written here for quite some time—I haven't felt like I've had much to say—but I think I'll try to think a little through writing here.
Due to the covid-19 pandemic, I haven't been very social. This has been largely because I've been quite busy. For the last week I've been preparing for school as a distance learning teacher, for example. I've never taught distance learning before and look forward to the challenge, but I also dread being a vector of corporate branding; our school has regrettably depended upon Google's "Classroom" platform. But strange times lead to strange bedfellows, like me and the Google platform. For the time being, in our district, Google's the only feasible way to make the information work.
I've moved in with my partner. This means I've moved out of Agassiz and to New Westminster, close to Vancouver. We moved here at the beginning of March, expecting me to commute to Agassiz for work for at least the remainder of the year. However, the pandemic offered me a solution on this front: stay home... in New West. This will save an enormous amount of time and money, both of which are hard to come by.
I'm happy to have moved in with my partner. It's a bit of a surprise that it worked out. I had kind-of given up hope mid-February that we could find a place to live that fit our mutual professional and personal needs. But then... we found this. And it worked out. And I'm grateful.
The pandemic, however, also decreased the availability of gigs and supplementary work. I had done regular music gigs in Harrison Hot Springs until September, and then followed that with a few months of dog-walking. However, both of those opportunities have disappeared since the pandemic hit, so I have to live without the extra influx of cash each month, which I admittedly got used to. So be it; I can do it.
And that's all. Just for the sake of an update.
Stay safe. Wash your hands.
In the past, I've written about a lack of motivation to complete my musical and photographic projects. I don't feel like tracking down those posts, or trying to find posts I may have deleted. But my lack of motivation to get projects done continues, and I feel like I need to declutter my mind in order to do it.
Plenty of people suggest a big thing: delete your social media. I don't want to do that—I talk to my kids through Facebook Messenger and still enjoy posting my photos to Instagram. But I have noticed that I barely use Twitter and Tumblr, and the greatest suck on my time has been scrolling through Instagram, jealously looking at other photographers' work.
So I've started deleting people I follow on Instagram and Twitter, and may do the same with Tumblr one day. If I don't know the person, I might just not follow them. The FOMO, the envy of their curated lives, is just too strong. That envy of all the people I scan past... I feel that may be a severe hindrance to my motivation.
Of course, the real solution is to delete all the social media, or at least to make it inaccessible somehow. I don't want to lose my numerous "jeffnords" handles, but I don't want to spend time glancing at the social media stuff anymore. It's a tough choice.
Yesterday, I stopped following over 1000 accounts on Instagram, largely so I'd decrease the envy that drives me to go there. It's funny how much it seems I post for "likes;" I'm nervous that all my unfollowing will lead to a lack of "likes" for my photos, which does seem to produce a dopamine hit. I really like it when I get some "likes" on my photos.
But it's not real, is it? I've posted over 1500 photos to Instagram, but it's never really lead to anything but more likes. I haven't met many new people exclusively through the app. I know that's because I'm not being a professional photographer or anything, and I don't need to hustle the professionals and models that might lead to more connections. But when a photo doesn't get many likes, I genuinely feel bad, and then I see all the professional stuff and I feel worse.
So maybe it would be a good thing to delete it all and start over, and break out of this addictive cycle that leads me to spend too much time paying attention to Instagram likes. I don't expect likes from any other social media site; Instagram is the only one that seems to really affect me. So do I let it go?
It's tempting. I'm tired of not getting the motivation to finish my work, to make prints, to finish writing and recording songs, because it's too easy to scroll through a feed.
It's sort-of like how typing stuff online isn't political work, how people feel like they've done something political by posting online, but they haven't done anything to change a single policy. For me, with Instagram, I post things and like people's posts, but it doesn't actually help me do anything genuinely creative. It's a stumbling block.
I may have just talked myself into deleting my Instagram presence.
My friend Katrina Ryan helped me make an Electronic Press Kit. Here it is!
And here's the direct link:
I've read a lot of articles over the last few years about why fewer people buy cameras. This one, which I read today, seems the most concise: "Real reasons why the camera market is shrinking" by Robin Wong. His takes affirm my own inferences: the market for cameras stagnated with their affordability and ubiquity, and they lost their purpose to the everyday user. Wong writes,
Look at the legends Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Martin Parr and Ansel Adams, they redefined what photography was during their age. They reshaped the history of photography. They challenged the norm, they dared to push boundaries, they went the distance and provoked what was deemed right. They were visionaries and they successfully made photography truly meaningful. In stark contrast, today all we do are merely imitating what has been done before over and over again, a million times. What's new today? Look at the Instagram feed - sunrise, sunsets, long exposure photography, portraits of beautiful lady, more model shots, these are good photography yes, but they have been done to death and there is nothing new anymore. I don't see anything truly thought provoking and revolutionary from the work of today's photographers.
Fair enough. Photography can;t go much further than it already has. Photographers can make any image we want with older equipment. The market for new equipment no longer needs to exist.
I'm not a professional photographer. I like my cameras and I like shooting film, but I'm not being paid for it; I'm a hobbyist and I don't know if I'd want to pursue the craft beyond the level of hobby. However, last week a trade publication approached me to do a local shoot. Although I didn't "get" the shoot, it lead me down the rabbit-hole to upgrade my DSLR for times when I'm approached for gigs like that. In my search for an upgrade, it became abundantly clear almost immediately that I didn't need to get a super-duper, brand-new camera; there were plenty of people selling decade-old cameras with more features than I would ever need, and more megapixels than I'd ever need. The newest cameras seemed redundant and unnecessarily expensive.
For my casual hobby-work, I enjoy using older cameras. That's part of the joy of it for me. Lately, I've found joy in buying a cheap used camera, shooting a roll or two with it, and then selling the camera again. If I've been asked to do something slightly more professional, I have a couple cameras that I can use on a more trustworthy basis, but I've never had to use a really-fast shutter speed, so what I already own has always been enough. If I need crisp medium format photos, I have the Mamiya C3 and the Kowa Six; if I need crisp 35mm photos, I have the Konica T3 and T4 and a slew of lenses for them; if I need something more lo-fi, I have the classic Lomography cameras, or the Konica S2, and a bunch of other little cameras; I have a bunch of Cokin filters for added fun and effects. And for my purposes, that's ok.
But I do find it a little sad, even though it doesn't affect me, that the camera market has diminished as much as it has. As a fan of photography, I want people taking photos. And yet, admittedly, there isn't much "new" that photographers can do with the medium. Myself included.
A couple days ago, my girlfriend posted a professional portrait that she had done for her. It was a really excellent photo. In the photo, I could see the lighting setup in the reflection on her cornea: two softboxes, much like a school photo. And I was a little envious of this. But then again, if I didn't have all these pros to compare with, I'd probably be very happy with what I'm doing. I have enough as it is and I'm still improving.
And I guess that's a good place to be, no matter what's happening to the "industry."
I spent some time on Saturday trying to record some guitar parts. It was mentally painful and difficult and I haven't dared to listen to them yet. But I broke that ice and that's important, an accomplishment in and of itself.
My goal for this recording is simple: I want to make a product that reflects the style I play at my regular-ish gigs. Usually I've recorded my songs as big, full-band arrangements, but I want to make simple recordings that people can buy and think, "This sounds like what I what I just heard."
This is the first time I've tried to record at all for a long time. Demos that I started in 2012 stalled in 2014 or so as my life took some turns. The songs started to feel ridiculous: they were loud, overwrought, and just didn't sound right. They sounded like I was trying too hard, which was precisely what I was doing. I haven't listened to those demos for a long time; I can't really hear them anymore.
So I'm starting over with a minimalist approach. Instead of starting with the drum machine like I have in the past, I'm going to start with guitars, hoping to get some natural percussion put in at a later date, once the guitar, bass, and vocal bedrock is done. I feel like starting from a more natural approach—strings rather than drum machines—will make my recordings appear more balanced, so they don't come-off as compressed rock arrangements.
But it's hard. My motivation is next to nil. I feel like I have a bit of a time-crunch, but I don't feel like I have anything invested. When recording, I'm finding it hard to know which mistakes are worth messing with and when they're worth working with in post. I'm just not feeling it at all. I seem to think all my songs are terrible; I don't seem to be able to see an audience for them. I keep having critical comments from myself and others running through my head and I can't seem to shake the sense of futility in it all. I feel like they're already latently unfinished.
This is common Jeffrey-stuff, though: I never feel like my "work" is up to snuff. It always seems hackneyed and artificial. And I've never got my creations done to the degree that I want to. My songs feel weird; my photos seem uninspired. But I just need to keep pressing on.
This is why it's important to have a producer or an agent, someone to light a fire under your butt and tell you that you need to get things done. It always appears that there are all these people self-motivated people who seem to be driven enough to put their stuff out there without someone pushing them, but there's a good chance that a bunch of those people have agents and producers. They just have to get it out there, with help from professionals.
But I feel like I don't have the ego needed for that sort of self-motivation, at least anymore. Years and years of middle-class clock-plugging seems to have zapped a lot of my creative oomph.
So I keep slogging. And hopefully some good-sounding music will come out of it.
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