kill your baby

2.02.2013

Engine howling, I firmly depress the accelerator of my 1985 BMW, with only 4-cylinders the objectionable byproduct is mostly useless racket. Shifting into 5th, the ‘rally car’, as I refer to it, eagerly tries to meet my every demand. Ten minutes... Nine minutes, I think I’ll make it with just two minutes to spare. As a photojournalism student at Brooks Institute of Photography, I am held to the same photographic standards as my professional colleagues, and today is the most stressful of all days; Critique day. Simply put, I must meet the deadline with my images or face the possibility of failing, being locked out of class, or worse; being dealt a skewed and scathing critique in front of all my peers.

Over the horizon, the campus appears, but like a pilot in distress lining up for an emergency landing on an unmaintained airstrip, I’m filled with mixed emotions. Nervous and heart racing with anxiety like a hopped-up meth-head, I deeply regret that 3rd cup of coffee. At 7:55:28 I exit the rally car off the highway at a clip of 93 MPH, I’m on a rapid final approach into the unknown.

Now, just two lefts and a right are the only things which stand between me and the ominous top of the hour. Luckily, the intrepid rally car and I have made this run before. With the flick of my wrist I drop down one, then two gears while madly braking the rally car for the first of three 90-degree turns. Like a wailing siren I hit the rev-limiter of the rally car, piercing the silence of the cool, damp morning air on the back-country road. The rally machine slows in time as I sight the first apex, 7:55:48, every moment counts; I can’t be late. The penultimate and ultimate corners come and go, the rally car flawlessly chomps them away and precisely delivers me with time to spare, 7:56:32. The first hurdle tackled, the critique looms ahead.

Kachunk - kachunk, slide after slide, student after student, my images creep closer and closer to the projection lamp of hell while riding the sick carousel of death. “I hope he is in a good mood,” I think of the instructor to myself, but it’s not clear. Frankly, all the images critiqued so far have been steaming piles of shit, and if he was in a good mood, he surely isn’t now. Sweat dripping, I fear my fate is sealed. Kachunk, the next slide appears and the projection death ray burns the image into the screen as if immortalizing and spotlighting every flaw and mistake. I hope, I pray, I beg for the emulsion to melt under the relenting gaze of the beam, it’s the only thing that can save me now.

This was a typical morning for me, once a week, back in the mid 2000’s. A lot has changed in ten years! It’s fun to look back and see what has changed and what hasn’t changed for me in 2013. I still drive a old beater, but now it’s a gas guzzling 4x4. The idea of punctuality hasn’t changed much for me, but I now realize some meetings will run on “Omani time" rather than on real time. The biggest change has to be my transition into education. I’m no longer the deer sitting in the hot seat, but rather the wolf in the back of the room.

A critique is an important part of any photographic education and a photographer must learn to deal, and be dealt fatal blows. I can remember my instructors emphatically telling the class, at times, to kill our “babies” (photographically speaking, of course). As photographers, we can be too emotionally attached to our images, and fail to see the flaws. This is where a good critique comes in. A fresh, informed set of eyes ready to point us in the right direction. This systematic, fact-finding process is, often times, a hard pill to swallow, but seemingly the only way towards better images.

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