So let me begin, by way of introduction, with a bit of a personal tidbit. I am that sort of person who hates to not be constantly doing something. During the summer I go out and walk about and photograph things. During the winter I sit home and randomly blather on, writing about whatever comes to my mind, waiting rather impatiently for the weather to turn. It’s an epic and constant struggle in my head to figure out how to keep it properly entertained. When I read I prefer to read things that allow me to then write in response. I have to do, do, do, do do. And please don’t take that scatologically.
The only problem with this, however, is that I tend to do, do, do, do, do the same, same, same, same, same shit over and over and over again. I end up in the same places taking much the same photos (though hopefully better than before) every time. My writing about any topic, I hope, is more varied but even with the input of an entire book, I tend to focus on the same things and therefore write much the same thing each time. Read and response is just far too passive. I’ve felt that I needed input of a more interactive sort.
My response to this, in my typically naïve way, was to advertise for the desired inputs. I’ve offered my photographic services online, in the classifieds and repeatedly to anyone who would listen, for what seems like forever. Since I refuse payment, the price certainly isn’t prohibitive. Even with that, in two years of offering my time for free I’ve been taken up on the offer exactly three times. Somewhat desperate for results, I’ve recently started offering my writing services on the same terms and with similarly unspectacular results. Even the unphotogenic, I posit, may have a story to tell that they are disinclined to write themselves. Rather than choosing to be insulted by the impenetrable wall of cricket noises that has greeted my attempts, I’ve tried to ponder why on Earth anyone might not want something for free.
The first and most psychological theory I have on the topic is that of simple price perception. If something is free, the human brain reckons, it must be garbage. Since my services are offered free of charge, they must, ipso facto, be garbage. Alternatively, humans are a rather suspicious lot so it’s just possible that they believe that there must be some string attached. Perhaps my offer is simply an incredibly complex ruse by which I will capture my next victim. You cannot get something for nothing, my unwitting victim…er, customer, reasons and therefore declines the offer. I could, I suppose, start charging for my services but tear up the checks on the way home.
Following directly from the first proposition is the distinct possibility that my work actually IS garbage. I’m personally not a great fan of this particular position but it’s one that cannot be entirely ignored. I’m fairly well acquainted with what my work is and what it is not but I would argue that it is very nearly impossible to improve upon any craft without its repeated exercise. Therefore the recalcitrant masses who do not email me for photo sessions are only making the problem of my photographic mediocrity worse. Related to this is the distinct sense I’ve gotten of late that everybody already seems to BE a photographer so what possible need could they have for anyone else’s photography? This ubiquity of adherents to the great Muse Daguerre does give one the distinct desire to take up oil painting or some other hobby a bit less prevalent among the American leisure class.
The third potentiality that occurs to me is that people just don’t think their everyday world worth photographic examination. People revolve in their own well-worn ruts day in and day out and don’t tend to notice the visual beauty of the things around them that they see and use every day. To me that’s just epically tragic. Art and beauty surround us and sometimes it takes an outside eye to see what we’ve taken for granted. I do acknowledge too though that the request is rather an invasion of privacy. Perhaps we’ve all become so protective of our internal spaces that we just don’t want to share them with anyone.
After several hundred words I’m really no closer to an answer. Perhaps the offer is one that’s impossible to accept for all the reasons above? Perhaps the world is just too busy a place and nobody really cares about art in any form? Perhaps the offer is just too damn creepy. Who knows? Luckily the natural world teems with critters with no appointment necessary. If only the spring would hurry on its merry way.