Recently, a fellow blogger introduced me to podcasts by Brooks Jensen of LensWork Daily, a photography website. My favorite podcast was about perseverance. It made me think about the number of shots it takes to get a good pinhole photo and the number of times I revisit a particular location until the stars align and a decent negative emerges. Of course people see only the final shot, not the trial and error leading up to it. Here’s what happened when I shot the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West. Photo above: two of my battle-scarred pinhole cameras.
First try: February 3, 8:00 a.m., 60 second exposure. Way too far away.
Second try: February 3, 8:05 a.m., 35 second exposure. Whoops! Too close and too low.
Third try: February 3, 8:10 a.m., 10 second exposure. Can’t really see what’s going on here. Try the south side of the museum next time.
February 10, 1:30 p.m., 35 seconds. South side now. Getting better, but still too far away. Like the branches coming into the photo, though.
Fifth try: February 10, 1:35 p.m., 10 second exposure. Nice! But the rest of the museum has disappeared in the distance.
Sixth try: February 10, 1:45 p.m., 60 second exposure. Hallelujah! A little dark on the right, but I like the mysterious mood.
Here’s the final image for display, which is finished with 4-5 coats of tinted varnish and sanded back, then trimmed out and floated in a window in an 8-ply mat. The edges of the photo curl up a bit, like a tintype. This pinhole is 4 x 5 inches.
The podcast is no longer on iTunes for some reason, so I can’t pass on the link, but this part of it hit home: “You never know how to do it right until you’ve done it the second time, and so almost anything you do you’re going to have to do at least twice in order to get a learning curve under your belt. One of the things that frustrates some of the people who are not successful in the arts, who give up being artists, painters, photographers, poets, whatever: they think they should be able to create something out of genius. Genius is not the most important criteria to be a successful artist. Perseverance is way more important than genius for the simple reason that you will have to do it over and over and over and over again in order to get it done right. That’s just the nature of the beast and the minute we try to bypass that, we invariably allow ourselves to accept less than our best work.”
Here’s the link to the LensWork Daily podcasts, where you’ll find a series of short podcasts about Structure and the Creative Life. Although the ideas are expressed in terms of photography, they apply to any art making.