If you have a regular gig—for me, Poetry & Beer photography—you’re probably familiar with this problem. The same event in the same location, with the same lights, and frequently the same people (performing the same poems). It’s a challenge not only to keep yourself focused, but inspired. I’m going to make my point here by way of analogy.
The last six months, I’ve gotten really into vinyl.
When I was a kid, my dad was beside himself when consumer digital playback hit. He said, “It’s almost magic. Every time you play it, it’ll be the same as the last. No degradation, no change.” One of the qualities of vinyl I love so much is that it degrades; that it’s so physical. The needle collects dust.The act of playing it melts the plastic. That’s the joy of analog. It plays by its own rules.
As I got to work last night I had two thoughts, neither of which I could have articulated:
- This is not the same as last time. Each performer will dig a little differently into their well, pull up slightly different water. This used to be why I went to slams in the first place, hoping I’d see a moment that surprised me and the poet.
- I haven’t yet done my best work here. I’m tempted to say I could walk away from Poetry & Beer when I’ve got a broad portfolio of aging stunners. But even for a master covering an unchanging event, that sameness becomes a canvas.
And that’s what Poetry & Beer photography is for me: a canvas.
A call to scoop deeper into my well. To question my instincts and embrace my quirks. To consider the postproduction in the moment of shooting. To practice, and appreciate my progress on, my basics. I have no better playground.