I recently went to hear David Taylor, recent Guggenheim recipient and professor of photography at New Mexico State University. His work deals with the border and the lives, stories, policies, and politics that all happen along it. Being extremely interested in the subject and the myth of the West in general I had to attend.
What interested me most about his work was not his work at all but his stories. His stories enthralled me. He spoke of drug dealers being tazered while diving back over the 12 foot wall back into Mexico, of rocks being hurled over the wall back at the US forces as they tried to confiscate drugs, of lonely mountaintop encounters with drug mules, and conversations with US border patrol agents who didn’t really believe they were making any sort of difference at all.
He flashed pictures across the screen as he talked and told the stories and none of the pictures revealed anything at all about his stories. The pictures were quiet and spoke of a calm boring world. Why? I asked myself this question after the talk and one of the few answers I could come up with was this. David had a predetermined set of controls that he was working in. A 4×5 camera and a certain way of photographing. He should have been rolling with the punches more and let the experience determine what he was doing. If it was fast action, why not video and a fast digital camera. He was hung up on making very large prints which inherently dictated a large format camera.Large prints are like dinosaurs in my opinion. Yes there is a time and a place for them but this was not it.
This comes up often in my own work and I often find it hard to move out of my original and intended ideas for the project. This is where I find I have to just let go and experiment and try everything to see if something else more successful can be made of the project. So where is that line? When do you throw away everything that you have done and try something else? I think this is where a group of peers becomes important to bounce ideas off of. Not saying that you should let them decide for you, but you should definitely see if you are headed in the right direction.