Tuesday, September 29, 2009

David Foster Wallace -- ways of seeing

Back from 4 days of beautiful, uncrowded, scorchingly hot, chest to head high surf in Mexico. Feeling rested, recharged, and ready to get back to work.

I took my camera, and snapped a few pics on the way, but spent much more time listening to music (fell in love with
The Clash all over again -- thanks Justin) and reading nonfiction by David Foster Wallace. I brought along one of my favorite books, a collection of his stories called A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never do Again. Thought it would be interesting to reread it now that DFW is gone (he committed suicide in 2008).

One of my favorites is about the Illinois State Fair. Harper's Magazine sends DFW there without any real guidance or creative direction. The story is called
Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from it All (click to download PDF) and it is gut bustingly, pee in your pants, howl out loud funny.

DFW's unique, hilarious perspective has me thinking about photography, and on a broader level, what it means to be creative and prolific. Any writer can go to the Illinois State Fair and write a story about it. There were lots of writers and reporters there with DFW. So why is his story so much better? Why is his version able to make me laugh out loud and inspire me to tell others about it?

Ultimately, the real value of anything creative comes back to the core concept. Without some sort of interesting idea at the heart of a project, there is really no way to make it interesting. DFW was an insanely smart guy. He saw the world differently than most writers. Had he decided to put down the pen and pick up a camera, he would have killed it as a photographer as well.

A shift in perspective can be all it takes to stand out. I feel like this is the guiding principle behind staying productive as a photographer. Setting up the lights and releasing the shutter is the easy part -- the hard work is constantly finding new ways to see.

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