Wednesday, February 11, 2009

amateur vs. professional

by now i thought i'd be a rich and famous playwright. for that i'd gamble the whole shebang (a life). unfortunately, as my brother said, i wanted the money without the attention. as my friend jeff shore once opined, "you want everybody talking about you, but you don't want to be there." and my own personal myth is hiding in the center.

yes, in san francisco college days i'd ride the buses, pretending to be invisible and observing people, listening to conversations. that mode of living never quite died. now i do it to take photos in public places. invisibility is an art. many great picture-takers have practiced it. and as my friend marilyn moore observed, "you are always sketching."

ah, dang blast, couldn't i have made a living at it? oh, i suppose i do. what else is a fire lookout but a voice coming from the top of a mountain, heard, not seen? that is definitely hiding in the center, the round mandala fire-finder with the pin-hole in the middle where i sit all day, that is proof enough.

and i've had a chance to be various kinds of a pro. in 1969 i received a scholarship to stanford, one of two directing grad students. unfortunately, i spent a wild and free winter in new york theater the winter before and by fall i couldn't go into the staid academy. was i just protecting myself from corruption? or did it have more to do with loving the art, the theater? after all, doesn't amateur mean lover of?

and i could have worked in a bookstore or library. i did work a bit in the first and i hated how books became a mere comodity, so many bricks to be sold, indistinguishable from each other. libraries have always been a haven and i moved to where i live over 25 years ago for the local university version. had i had to spend all day in one, i doubt my love of the sun would have permitted it.

that said, this doesn't make me anti-commercial. these days i enjoy reading accounts of pro-photographers of all kinds. my god, it seems such drudgery, not glamorous at all. work, work, work. and the five years it takes to get a musical up and running, forget it. i'll stick with community theater. my heart already seems to belong to it.

professionals do take the best photographs, however. probably from necessity and oodles of practice. they must communicate, whereas the amateur can get by doing the art for him or herself. communication is the key. a playwrighting teacher in new york once told us the secret with this illustration. a city girl visited a farm. in the middle of the night she was called out to witness a calf being born. it seemed such a miracle she ran and ran until she found someone to tell about it.

as amateurs, perhaps we can remain too pure. and it's odd that the work professional photographers call 'personal' is far inferior to their commercial work. maybe it's like classical musicians trying to play jazz. they simply can't loosen up enough.

okay, speaking of loose, here are some dance photos taken last week. they'll never reach the classic stage, i suppose, since most of the best-ever dance photos taken under controlled conditions. i end up trying to snatch sparks from the process.