Deconstructing Your Swing

I'm not a huge golf fan. In fact, I'm not all that interested in sports at all, but back in 2005 while my father's body was failing, we spent a lot of time watching golf on tv. One thing I do remember is that Tiger Woods' swing was art, that's not hyperbolic at all. Seriously, I've seen dancers with less beautiful motion than that guy. I also remember that Tiger has changed his swing a number of times throughout his career. Changes for performance, changes for efficiency, changes to reduce wear and tear on his body. This is fascinating stuff. The pinnacle of sports mechanics with body as machine. He, with the help of coaches and other smart people I'm sure, would literally deconstruct the whole thing and build it back up piece by piece over the course of months.

At the beginning of these reboots, pundits would invariably make disparaging comments about how he ruined a good thing and that he'd never get back to where he was. Then just as invariably, he'd start kicking ass and everyone would go from hater to follower. This is why I won't bet against him even though he's not doing very well right now.

Anyway this post isn't really about golf, but rather about that deconstruction process. We all have our method for getting the pictures we take. That goes for the technical and settings side of things as well as how we approach our subject whether it's a person, sunset, or newly remodeled kitchen. It's comforting to know how to do what you do. It's empowering to have a process. It's nice to know that you can get what people want because that's how you got what you sold them on in the first place. But is there a point at which your Swing, to over extend the metaphor, begins to hold you back? Stops you from seeing that other great shot that's outside your safe zone? How do you even know where those boundaries are in the first place?

I can take a good portrait. I feel comfortable saying that. But lately I'm feeling encumbered by the realization that my work is not growing the way I'd like. Not that growth is always the goal. There are plenty of past and current photographers who have no qualms about finding something that works and doing it forever. But that's not why I do what I do. I want to change; I want to get better at this. I want to be great at this. And I think that my current Swing is holding me back.

People look at my work and say nice things like, "The people in your photographs are very authentic, very real". I'm glad they say that because it's one of my goals, and it's something I don't want to lose. But part of that process is about letting people be who they're going to be. Not to pose, not to tell people what to do or how to act. Hunting for the moment, recording the person in front of me. But as any hunter has told you, there are times when you come home empty handed. I don't want to lose that intimacy, but I'd like to attain more control over the final result. I'll admit that there are times when I compensate in post for something I find lacking in camera. There is power in that, but the results I get when both are really clicking is undeniable.

I'm not entirely sure what all this amounts to, except to say that I know it's real and that I can't stop thinking about it. It's been quite consuming for the past week or so. The way I work has gotten me this far, but it's not going to get me as far as I want to go. Something's got to change as I've been the rock for a little too long, might need to try being the water for a while.