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Different Kind of Funk

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This time of year it seems like every photographer goes through a funky phase.  Maybe it’s because a lot of us are trapped inside.  Or because sessions have wrapped up for Christmas cards and now we want to get back into the field.  Or because we’re fucking sick of being trapped inside…

I don’t know why, I just know it’s clockwork for me.  So I settle in and ignore photography.  Finally, I can’t any longer.  The camera is being very polite and begins to whisper, “Hey Lady…  I’m bored.  Pick me up and diddle me again.”  (Yes, my camera is polite and still likes to be diddled)  So I try to ease in, but the Funk still looms.  She sits a little longer.  “How about you look at old photos?  So and so needs something for an album/blog post/info.  Head to Flickr, Lady and then return to me.  I’ll be ready,” she says in a seductive tone.

And that usually works.  I scroll through years of photos and realize a few things.

  • I’m good at documenting our life.
  • I’m grateful that I’ve documented our life.
  • Life is full of photo ops, I just have to wait and find them.

But this funk didn’t end that way.  This Funk sent me in a different direction.  I sat scrolling through those same years and felt a weird pain.  It wasn’t nostalgia.  Sure, I love seeing the boys full of baby fat and chubby cheeks.  But do I want those years back?  I never have.  During those years did I cling to those moments knowing they were fleeting?  No and I don’t regret that even now.  I didn’t ache for their babyhood or romanticized about simpler times.  They looked simpler, but I know the truth.

This time, the scroll backwards made me yearn for the ease of Photography.  I realized that photography has gotten harder as the boys have aged, but the photos proved how difficult it has actually gotten.   I was given a strong slap across my face and it still stings.  I was given Moments upon Moments to shoot and document.  Blankets of toys.  Tables full of art supplies.  Brightly colored objects.  And bodies full of baby fat and chubby cheeks.  Every second there was something adorable and easy to frame.

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The boys are older.  It’s a fact.  And I’ve always known photography was going to be more difficult.  And I’m standing on that edge right NOW.  I’m looking down and this Funk is whispering awful things for me to jump.  I don’t have a lot of options.  I’m not going to take family sessions just to photograph young children.  It’s not the same thing.  My boys won’t get younger.  I can’t force them into activities for the sake of photography.  Be honest…  Those activities won’t be as precious or as sweet to document.  And I’m not going to have a baby just to save my photography (it did flash for about .5 a second and I actually understand/justify the notion.  I wish I was kidding).

So here I am.  Even though I knew this was going to be part of the journey, it doesn’t make it easier.  There’s no welcome party.  Just a dark and deep crack.  I want to scream back to the other people, “You write about fleeting moments and how the babies grow up so fast?  Fine that’s lovely.  But be grateful for the ease of your photography!!  Get prepared cause you’ll be here soon.”  But I know that’s a bitchy old Lady thing to do.  I’d rather be hip a little longer and not crotchety and bitter.   I know there are tons of women I respect who have crossed to same crevice.  They can give me pointers, but I’ve got to figure out how to navigate it.  My own way.

I’d really like to figure a way around it.  Jumping down isn’t an option yet.  I know on the other side is a life worth documenting.  And I know that I’m good at it.  I know there’s tons of photo ops waiting to be found.  It’s just different from the Life I’m used to documenting.  Different is never bad, it simply starts out as a challenge.  I think it’s time I started to tackle that challenge.  It’s time to evolve.

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I did get sappy just once…

I Fell Down. from Erika Ray on Vimeo.

  • Robin Geer Troxell - sigh – I think I understand where you are coming from. My oldest is 10, she doesn’t play sports or do anything fun – all of my photos of her in the last year are with her head in a book. I LOVE those photos, b/c that is HER right now. But c’mon, gimme something more….. The oldest two don’t love having their picture taken anymore and I don’t want to force it :(March 5, 2015 – 4:16 pmReplyCancel

  • Deirdre Malfatto - Oh yes, I relate. It gets harder and harder as my girls get older. It’s not just that younger kids are so CUTE (I’ve never been much of a portrait artist, so it really wasn’t that so much for me), it’s that we were involved in so many interesting things — crafts projects, frog catching, wildflower gathering, doughnut eating, mentos explosion making, etc., and there was always something to photograph. These days they are around less, and the things we are involved in together don’t tend to be as interesting to photograph. I’m realizing more and more how much I need to go get my own life, and it’s hard. I’m pushing myself to try new things and to “wander” at least once a week even if it’s on my own, just to try to find photographable moments, but part of me wonders how much of a point there is anymore if it doesn’t just come naturally. The other part of me knows I need to get a life anyway, and if it’s photography that’s pushing that, I’m cool with that.March 5, 2015 – 4:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Da Miec - What possible advice can a woman whose latest series is titled “scenes from an existential crisis” give you? This shift is trying on so many unexpected levels, photography Is but one of them. f I were closer, I’d offer whiskey and sympathy, insist you brought your camera.March 5, 2015 – 5:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Robin Stephenson - Yes. I’ve been in a photography funk for months. I look at old photos and think “why can’t I take photos like this anymore???” It was just a couple of days ago that I realized that it’s not me that changed but that it is my subject who changed (by growing up). I don’t really know how to fix things, but I have a little more incentive to figure out how to make my pictures better.March 5, 2015 – 6:37 pmReplyCancel

  • skeller - yup, ’tis bad timing that your realization and your FUNK are overlapping. Funks are just funks and eventually ease up. Your photography WILL evolve with your family. And your photos will always kick ass. ALWAYS. Here’s the thing. And it’s a simple thing. You just won’t take as many pictures. Older boys (mostly) just don’t have that kind of tolerance. But a photo here and there, so long as you’re quick on the trigger – treat your boys well & respectfully, and they will totally put up with your art.March 5, 2015 – 9:54 pmReplyCancel

    • erika - I knew you’d help. I kept seeing you on the other side of this Crack screaming, “You’ll be fine! Get over here!”March 6, 2015 – 8:50 amReplyCancel

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