A Beginning

Patagonia, 2007 © Jon-Marc Seimon

Patagonia, 2007 © Jon-Marc Seimon

Duston and I were in Patagonia last year, exhilirating with the magnificent whales around the Peninsula Valdés. One morning we got up before sunrise and drove to the point, Duston in her PJs (one of her favorite things). It was still very dark when I took this picture – the shutter was open for 30 seconds. So what the photograph reveals is something that I actually couldn’t see with my own eyes at the time, and even if it had been light enough, it wouldn’t have looked at all like that because I would have been seeing individual swells and waves; the clouds would have been clearer. Then compound that with the fact that I soon started schnutzing* the image on my Mac... The original is murky and very blue and altogether quite sullen (see for yourself). Why wasn’t that good enough? Why did I change it so much? 

It can be difficult to get started. This is the third time I’m writing the “first” entry in this blog, and at this rate I’ll just keep rewriting it and never get around to writing anything else...

I feel this need to define and explain what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it – that somehow the whole exercise is meaningless unless my goals and motivations are articulated from the get go. At the same time, I recognize the potential that this is the very arena in which I might actually start to shape goals which – if they exist – are too nebulous for me to discern right now. So I’ll have to try and surrender a control-freaky aspect of my personality and just let things evolve on a daily basis.

Ultimately, the intention is for this to be about photography – mine, and others’. It’s pretty obvious - look at the rest of the site. My relationship to photography is a perfect reflection of the nebulousness I talk about above. On the one hand, I love taking pictures and then buggering around endlessly with them on the computer. Or sometimes just taking them (more on this soon, I’m sure) and not even looking at them afterwards. But then what? Some of them make it up onto this site, I’ll print a few and stick them up in my office, maybe email some to friends. That’s it. It doesn’t feel like it’s “enough”, but I also don’t want to turn into some sort of production machine. Hmm...

The other big thought relates to “well, what IS a J-M S photograph?” Is there a particular hallmark or characteristic that makes one of my pictures recognizable and distinctive? Years ago I saw the portrait photographer Gregory Heisler speak at the ICP, and he talked about trying to do a gallery show, and not knowing what a “Gregory Heisler photograph” really was. His analysis of this was that he approached every single assignment on its own terms – not “how do I impose my ‘style’ on this, but what would be the best way to tell this story”. He had a vast array of techniques at his disposal (a master, after all), and would pluck out the appropriate arrows from his quiver. Of course, ten years later, when he was asked to do a retrospective, he looked at all of his work – this varied, inconsistent mass – and the answer to his question was easy and obvious; in all of the work, he was immediately able to see what his “style” had become.

* schnutzing – a term that Peter Cunningham and I came up with in the darkroom on Gansevoort street eighteen years ago. Back then it referred to the act of softening the lines on an aging actress’s face by intercepting the beam of light from the enlarger with a piece of crinkled cellophane for a few seconds. The actress in question that day was Glynis Johns. Nowadays I refer to all post-production of photos as schnutzing.