“What I was before photography…”

I was a laborer much of my life, a “common laborer” as they say…mostly because I had a problem getting along with people, well, getting along with a “boss”, really.  But it was as if my “calling” was to be a laborer, I was a working foreman or a working supervisor of labor crews, which just means the boss tells me what to do and I tell the crew and we do it! Nothing sophisticated here, it was “work” in the purest sense, hard, physical labor you did by hand, using a chainsaw or spade or sledgehammer, or something else, but mainly with your hands and arms and back. It was the kind of work you did all day, finished, went home, then did the same thing or something like it the next day. There was no reflection or self-discovery involved, but there was a very real camaraderie you had with the other men, we were all doing the same work, I think we respected each other for that…everyone knew if someone was slacking and they were soon weeded out, one way or another. We worked outside in heat, sun, rain, mud, snow and bitter cold days…in a way it was “pure”, I think, and looking back I don’t regret it, I accept that this kind of work is what I could do well, visceral, physical, but at the end of each day, satisfying, and it was a place I could relate to those I worked with on a very basic level, and I had satisfaction that I could lead this kind of man. It had nothing to do with being clever or cunning or ambitious, but it had a great deal to do with doing your share of hard, sometimes brutal work, and being fair.
It may seem obvious that our experiences affect what we desire to shoot and how we shoot it, I think. I suppose I should qualify that by saying it affects how we shoot in certain genres, such as documentary, photojournalism, and perhaps fine art photography in many ways. I assumed that would be self-evident and yet I want to be clear. I had a desire when I returned from abroad to work on a subject that I was comfortable with, familiar with, and I chose the motorcycle club and bikers. And yet during the first few months of what turned out to be a two-year project with the bikers, I had the opportunity to shoot Lisa, my model that I have used for several thematic projects here, including “Obscure Poésie“, “Bronte dans le miroir”, and “L’amour l’après-midi” . The opportunity to photograph beauty…and grace…was exhilarating for me, it was the most formidable challenge I have encountered as a photographer. I like to think I just bully my way through photojournalism or documentary work, and working in the field just comes naturally to me, and yet the work with her required certain sensitivities and subtleties that challenged me more than anything else has. I have always prided myself in being able to remain aloof professionally, if not emotionally, from the work I was doing, the emotional impact of doing photojournalism and documentary work I have addressed in earlier blog posts, but I gradually realized this required a “partnership” with my model if I was to achieve what I visualized in creative portraiture…more to come on this subject. RG