I know this is going to sound pathetic, but this monthly publishing schedule of mine is quite the arduous task. Thinking of an entertaining and imaginative topic (much less an unimaginative one) is difficult enough, but then having to illustrate those words with fresh photographic content? What am I? Superman?
Over the years, some readers have helpfully suggested that the photos aren’t necessary, and I should just write essays. Meanwhile, other readers have suggested the opposite — that I should just publish more photos and forget about the writing. But it’s my belief that both are essential. That way, one medium can prop up the other in the all-too-likely event that either is particularly substandard that month.
Living smack in the middle of North America’s largest (and only) temperate rain forest certainly doesn’t help with the photography aspect — especially in the winter, when weeks can pass without a break in the rain. Personally, I don’t mind donning the seam-sealed clothing, grabbing a seam-sealed camera, popping on a seam-sealed lens, and heading outdoors. Unfortunately, my fellow citizens don’t feel the same way — and when the rains come, the streets empty. So if you’re someone who’s fond of photographing humanity, the pickings get mighty slim.
There’s also a certain melancholy sameness to photos taken in the rain. One can only have so many poignant ‘lonely traveler beneath an umbrella’ shots, and I’ve probably achieved my lifetime quota. Now and then I’ll get lucky, like the time an unseasonable rain drenched a large street festival, resulting in a decade’s worth of such photos. But that was nine years ago, proving “now and then” is more often about the “then” than the “now.”
Consequently, prior to this year, I settled into a pattern of photographing ‘things’ in the winter and ‘people’ in the summer. But the current pandemic has locked my photography into ‘things’ mode for the past 13 months, and I’ve struggled a bit creatively. One thing I’ve discovered about ‘things’ is that there’s not a limitless supply, and I’m rather certain there’s not a single ‘thing’ in downtown Vancouver that I haven’t photographed a dozen different times, on a dozen different days, from a dozen different angles, and with a dozen different cameras. So the only way this winter differs from last summer, is that I’m now photographing what all those ‘things’ look like when wet.
That said — though I’m rarely happy with the results — I quite enjoy the act of photography. The arduousness of monthly publication stems not from a lack of enjoyment, but from a lack of quality content that springs forth from that act.
Far more burdensome is the essay itself. This probably has a lot to do with the fact I quite dislike the act of writing. What I do like, however, is having written something. Unfortunately, the latter isn’t possible without the former, meaning I spend two days a month living in the glow of self-satisfaction and twenty eight days a month irritated that I have to do it all over again. I’m sure this is some mild form of insanity. So to prevent the encroachment of more advanced forms, I just keep nurturing this one. ULTRAsomething’s in its thirteenth year now, and my walls still aren’t rubber, so I persevere.
Now and then, I do consider shifting my emphasis more toward music, and less toward wandering around aimlessly with a camera and self-flagellating myself into another essay — but my web stats are dismal enough without subjecting the site to such a seismic creative shift.
Fortunately, complaining is one of my fortes — so whining about writing essays has birthed this actual essay. Likewise, whining about taking boring photos has justified their publication for illustrative purposes. So, just like that, another article arrives. In a typical 30-day month, I would now warm myself within the two-day glow of self-satisfaction. But this isn’t a typical month — it’s February. And with only 28 days until the calendar turns, I’m forced to forgo this month’s glow and face the void of another looming publication deadline. I can already feel the tingle of onerousity.
©2021 grEGORy simpson
ABOUT THIS ARTICLE: As this month’s article is about the article, the “About This Article” part of this article is rendered superfluous. Check back next month when, more likely than not, “About This Article” will have returned to its usual function of providing artificial justification for whatever springs forth from the void.
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