Self-Portraits, The Wall, and A Library of Books

The world has just been too hard and strange to really comment on these past few days. I have been busy trying to reconnect with old friends and lost acquaintances which always has odd results. The challenge of this life is to not lose the foundational pieces of your friendships while constantly being able to shed the waste. As I head back to PEI, I hope to reforge the old connections into strong rings that I can fasten a new future to, I may fail, but it is my final attempt to make peace with my origins. I thought that for tonight’s photographs I would play with the idea of self portraits: a key for self promotion, but a real pain to focus and find a real vision of. I went with a full set of “looks”, none of which I think are the real me, but which I think would meet with more approval than my current Facebook icons.

I have been asked by a few visitors to the studio “Have you read all of these books?” My usual answer to such a question is “No…of course not.” Ironically, I believe the questioner is always disappointed that I have not read all of the books in my possession instead of seeing the potential within my library for learning within the span of my entire lifetime. I do not own all of the books that I have read, nor have I read all of the books that I own. I firmly believe that the purpose of a library is to provide a foundation form which a man can research, explore and become intimate with the great literatures of our world. I seldom read for entertainment, but rather I tackle the classic pieces of literature that I was too weak to read in earlier days. Reading deeply demands a readiness of its readers, and that is not so simple. Surely, I could speed through a few novels and pretend to be an aficionado, but I would rather keep my journey steady and constant.

Tonight, I picked my copy of War and Peace. It is a sumptuous limited edition produced by the Folio Society that I purchased to ensure I took the time to read it in it entirety; nothing motivates one to read more than having paid a large sum of money for a particular book. My fun books this year have been Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, H.G. Wells’  The Island of Dr. Moreau, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Dashiel Hamnmt’s The Thin Man and Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase. My challenges since January were Dostoevsky’s The IdiotThe New Testament, Franza Kafka’s Metamorphosis, and Dickens’ David Copperfield. 

My list is short. I would be misleading you, however, if I pretended that I did not regularly graze other novels to test whether I am ready to pick them for an entire read. Don Quixote, Infinite Jest, Mission to Tashkent and countless others have been begun, but reshelved because my brain was not prepared for what was being offered.

I have been silent about the business end of my photography. For the most part, I have been considering the state of the world at large and how that might affect what I want to do in the future. I should be clear that over the past three years I have shot, and been paid for, almost every type of photography I could have hoped for. From a book cover to an album cover, from a thousand catalogue images to a newborn session, from to the most complex food photography to shooting hundreds of rolls of film in a dozen countries – I have been living a dream.

A relative remarked [or at least I have heard it said through filters of other relatives] that “Anthony has such expensive cameras”. Yes. I do.  Fortunately, I have re-invested all of my money made from the business into classic cameras and lenses that would make any studio envious to a degree. I have purchased used manual lenses and bodies from the Hasselblad line and two of the best auto-focus prime lenses from Canon. I should note that since I made my own purchases the cameras and lenses have pretty much disappeared from the market or risen in price to new levels. I really feel like I came in at the right time and bought what was essential for the next decade of my work.

As well, I was given a Leica M3 and I recently bought into a large format Linhof camera with Schenider Kreuznach lenses. I run all of the cutting edge software on multiple hard drives, but my best work is always done on film. My equipment is not a hindrance, but rather it is a series of brushes that I am learning to paint with over a lifetime.


The funny part is that I have seldom been commissioned to shoot the same type of photography, and I believe that by September this year I had come to a slight identity crisis as to who I was or who I wanted to be as a photographer. So I did what any successful artist should do – shut everything down until I am certain of who I want to become as a photographer. I have not asked for work. I have not mentioned my camera. I have focused on my health, my family and my teaching.

Today, while writing my blog entry I took a look at my commercial work for the first time in months, and I felt a joy at the beauty I saw in the simple gallery. The vibrant colours, the unique styling and the consistency of that style awakened why I picked up a camera in the first place. My website looks perfect, and I expect it to evolve into a more interesting place over the next few months as I build content for photographers to come to.

I should also add that I have had a long, hard think about where V. fits into the business. Anyone who has seen her work has seen the validity in her vision and the difference in perspective between our work. It has been tough to find the proper, respectful way to mesh our work into a workable business model; not that I have not been trying. Age and life experiences are a major factor in my hesitations and inability to design a fair partnership that will move us both forward. I am so focused on the giddy idea that people pay for my art within the commercial realm that I just could not share; I could give the spotlight, but not share it in a way that was authentic and confident. I still do not have a full response to the proposal, but I am willing to wait it out until I can find a way to synthesize our work – within time a convergence will happen, and I am willing to wait for the right moment, as rushed ventures are only for angels.




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