Doug Bruns

Writing, Photography and Bliss

In Creativity, Photography, Thinkers, Writers, Writing on February 10, 2010 at 7:58 pm

I’ve read that if you have to write every day, you’re a writer. Conversely, if you are not compelled to write every day, if you don’t have to write every single day, then you’re probably not a writer. I recall seeing somewhere that Tolstoy said the writer, like the musician, must practice every day.

There is a passage in the book On Being A Photographer about Josef Koudelka. One of the authors, Bill Jay, relates that

File:Josef_Koudelka

Josef Koudelka (1983)

Koudelka was visiting him. Koudelka was “shooting pictures around my cabin. I couldn’t understand what he was seeing, as the images seemed to have no connection with his known work. He said ‘I have to shoot three cassettes of film a day, even when not “photographing” in order to keep the eye in practice.’ ” Jay goes on to say, “That made sense.  An athlete has to train every day, although the actual event occurs only occasionally.”

One my photography mentors, Magnum photographer Constantine Manos, a friend of Koudelka’s, told me that Koudelka had once been flown to Paris to accept a prestigious award. He was put up in a fancy hotel, but left it to go sleep on the floor of a friend’s apartment. Koudelka only cares about photography, Manos told me. Everything else is foreign to him.

Funny, Koudelka’s name came up in conversation recently. I was having lunch with my friend, documentary photographer, Thatcher Cook and was bemoaning the winter chill that had set it. It had killed street life in Portland, stalling my Portland project. (Not to mention that some days were so cold I could not feel my shutter to release it.) Thatcher said that Koudelka used the winter months to develop and print what he had previously exposed, presumably in the warmer seasons. I like that idea and find some solace in it, as it keeps the photography spark alive during the dark winter months of less activity. (Another good reason to shoot film!) But, I also know that when Garry Winnogrand died he left behind more than 2500 rolls of unexposed film. Imagine, 100,000 exposures he made but never saw (good reason to shoot digital, eh?).

The point being, photographers shoot. Writers write. Athletes train. Musicians practice. Joseph Campbell famously stated, “Follow your bliss.” It is a luxury, you say? No, if you want to be alive it’s a necessity. Go do what you do. Listen for the drum beat, follow it. Go. Do it.

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