Four Years (and a Day)
You turned four yesterday. It was a pretty good day--you got to open presents and have a special breakfast with your aunt and uncle; you rode on a real bicycle for the first time; you got to skip your nap; you went to your friend's party at Pump It Up and had lots of fun, and you were very gracious in making sure that he got to be the special birthday boy, even though it was your birthday, too.
You've been doing a lot of that lately, being reasonable and gracious and well-behaved. You do still have your outbursts, but you do seem to have left your threes behind. I love being able to talk with you, now that you're old enough to have real conversations. I love seeing you talk with your friends and your sister, too.
Speaking of your sister, when I wrote your birthday letter last year I mentioned some of the things you thought you'd do when you got to be a big brother. As it has turned out, you have given your sister lots of gentle hugs and kisses (and a few less gentle ones), but you haven't driven my car yet. I said last year that I thought you'd be a good big brother, and you are. I know that sometimes it's hard to have a baby sister, because babies get lots of attention and they don't know not to hit or bite or pull hair. Sometimes you get upset, but even then you're always sweet with Eva. It makes me proud to see the way you take care of her.
This afternoon when were watching gymnastics, you said that you were going to go to the Olympics. You said you were a really fast runner and a really good swimmer. (Then you were surprised that Mommy and I never went to the Olympics.) I don't know if you'll be an Olympian some day, but maybe you will. I love that you already dream big. I hope you can still dream that big when you get to be a grown-up.
I love you, buddy. Happy belated birthday.
Soundtrack: "Love Love Love" by Sunbeam. Used with permission.
Another trip through the archives tonight as I'm gearing up for Jason's birthday. This one was from our trip to Virginia to visit my parents this spring. I was testing out my medium format camera a lot during that trip, but, sadly, it turned out to be busted--only one shot in three was exposed properly. I really miss the experience of medium format; it was a lot of fun.
(I miss my parents, too, just so you know.)
As I'm sure you could tell, I was pretty lonely while Juliette and the kids were away. That was, for the most part, kind of pathetic. One good thing did come out of it, though: I spent a lot of time going through my photo archives, and in doing so I hit upon an idea for a new series.
This is the first image I made with the series in mind; I shot it two nights before the family came home. I like it, and I think it works to communicate what I had in mind, but I have a hard time judging my own work. So rather than telling you what I think about it, I'd love to know what you all think.
If you have a minute, click through to see it large and look it over. Leave a comment and tell me what you think the picture is about and how it makes you feel. What do you like about it? What do you think could be better? I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
The paint was cold, and he shivered when the brush touched his skin. The woman holding his head, the painter, felt him tense up and backed away, thinking he was afraid.
"Are you OK, buddy?" we asked.
"Yeah," he said.
Less than a minute later I handed him a fistful of bills and he turned and handed it to her. Then we walked on, a purple unicorn adorning his left cheek.
Just Keep Swimming
Juliette asked me tonight how I was feeling. Honestly, I'm starting to feel like I'm floating again. I've reached a plateau with my photography where I'm not advancing commercially or artistically. My portrait bookings are sporadic, and while my clients have universally been happy with the photographs I make with them, I don't feel like I'm making much progress, if any, toward a self-sustaining life in photography. Nor do I have the time to dedicate toward building that business.
On the other hand, while I'm proud of how far I've come artistically with my personal work, I have very few outlets for that work and essentially no useful criticism. I've gotten a few photos into some curated groups on Flickr, but even though that was and is exciting, there's nothing there for me to build on, and no real feedback as to what's working and what's not, whether my rejects have shown potential or are just crap. The few critiques I've solicited have been generally positive--some overwhelmingly so--but while that's a nice ego boost it does nothing to help me grow as an artist.
And so, I feel adrift, directionless. I don't have the time or resources to pursue further training, and I don't have much in the way of an artistic community to bounce ideas off of and to give me feedback and criticism. I'm just continuing to do what I've been doing, but it feels more like I'm treading water than making any kind of forward progress.
I'm not really sure where to go from here, except that I know I don't want to give up. I know that when I look at pictures like the one above, it makes me happy--happy because of the moment in the picture and happy because I was able to make that image. That ought to be enough, but for whatever reason, it's not. So I suppose until I figure things out, there's nothing to do except take Dory's advice: just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.