stôl/, verb: meaning to stop or cause to stop making progress.
I've stalled in my photography, figuratively, in mid-flight. I was clipping along and coming up the ranks ready to emerge with the status of professional photographer. Having garnered respectful relationships with other professionals of note, well-known companies, publications and a healthy and beloved following, I was ready, so I thought. It's what I wanted, so I thought.
I was paid now for my writing and images and it was time to set up shop and work more seriously on generating a full-time income or was it? Did I feel I was ready or was there this nagging sense of having taken the wrong road. I certainly was not on the road less traveled. Photographers who have prints for sale are a dime a dozen just google Fine Art America. The question being, just how fine is your art America?
My goal for 2014 had been to print and set up a website for commerce and I was well on track and on schedule. I had done my homework, so I thought and found the right website and photo lab. I'd read about preparing my files for print and after months I was ready to test the machine. Then a funny thing happened, it failed.
When I saw the very first print from a well-known professional lab, I put the brakes on immediately and spent weeks contemplating my work and my priorities and that road I'd thought I wanted to take. The 16x24" print really wasn't that bad and in truth I could have easily sold it but I won't.
When I took a minute to look back on all the collective experiences I've had as an emerging photographer, the time, the effort, the hardships, heartbreaks, the successes and the passion, this printed image didn't do all that work justice. In truth, I knew inherently that what I needed now more than ever was to put more work and time back into the process, at least a year ,maybe five.
Those hours of sitting in the mud, sitting in the dark and waiting for perfect light were not in vain. Traveling distances and hiking for miles to find incredible scenes would all be for nothing if I didn't fully grasp the importance of the printed image. Not just a printed image that I could easily wisk off into someone's shopping cart for 40 bucks but one that as an artist I can say in all honesty, I'm proud of. I want an image that I've followed from camera and been involved with every single step of the way, fully understanding and implementing each progression until the final print is fine art. I'm willing to invest years right now, into this process.
There isn't one day and one second that doesn't go by that I ever take for granted the incredible amount of support, encouragement and mentoring I've had from some of the absolute best of the best in this industry. I am incredibly fortunate and blessed to have been guided and continue to be guided by some brilliant industry leaders and after consulting with a few of them I now know what my heart already knew. I'm not ready.
In truth, as I type this, my eyes well up for it's not easy to admit you're not what you thought you were. I've stalled my own momentum and that could have serious consequences on my career but will be much needed for my development into the type of photographer I see myself as. I'm choosing substance over hype.
I've decided to give myself a year or longer to study the art of printing. That will include color management from camera to monitor to printer. Post-production file preparation as well. I'll purchase my own printer and be immersed in the process from camera to the final print as an art form. My goal is to have the final print worthy of the photography by my standards and I'm pretty hard on myself. At that point, I'll feel prepared to move on to discussing print production with those in the industry and I'll be fully prepared for those discussions armed with knowledge and practice. Knowing then that any image that may move on to a print and possible sales will be a quality luminous example of my work and nothing less.
Now, having said that. I will continue to travel and write and shoot as I always have. I have some amazing trips planned this year and nothing will ever stop me from doing what I love. I think this change in course will add a new and welcomed dimension to my work and thought processes and will ground me a bit more in the medium I'm so in love with.
For those in the industry who have spent their time and effort behind the scenes in helping, teaching, mentoring and living by example, I graciously thank you.
I just look at it as taking a bit of a hiatus and as soon as I made that decision I felt the weight of the world off my shoulders. So I'll now make a u-turn and head down the road again, this time the one less traveled.
This is a good thing.