Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Issues pop up in my life all of the time because I can never settle for just anything. Pretty much I knew what an undergraduate photography department would offer me but I remained naive. I knew and was told I was looking for a graduate style focus and was driven and motivated to work at that pace. I wanted to be pushed conceptually as well as be surrounded by students who cared as much, if not more, than me. So now I am frustrated with not only photography but many other things. I feel like I've found the end of my photographic rope. I've found the end of my artistic rope. I need to study other things. I completely agree with the idea of photography coming as it will. If I am meant to fall in love with something or someone that will turn into the next Sleeping By The Mississippi I don't believe that will happen because I went through four nauseous years of studying photography. I think it will happen by fate, blessings, and being in touch with other areas of study outside of photography. I view photography as a tool with which you can bring a perspective or documented view to the world. How can you possibly explore the world without knowing anything but studio courses and photo history classes? If we continue to obtain BFA's in photography it will only prepare us to regurgitate what we have studied for the past four years. And, by God, if I feel like I'm puking up references in my work every assignment after studying photography tediously after just one year, imagine four. With those thoughts come the next point. Have I cared to much? Is there a certain lightheartedness that photography and art needs? Can you have a obsessive workhorse personality and relax enough for ideas to naturally flow? Will my peers who don't leave the Loop to photograph and barely get by every assignment not care, stay sane, and then with that sanity make it through four years. Will they make it to their BFA thesis so nice and relaxed that they can produce what they need?

So as a BFA Photo student with those conflicting thoughts in mind I was writing about how these life changing thoughts start to edge their way into my life. Whether it's the idea of transferring schools last May or my newest thoughts this March they always start out small. But I'm overflowing at this point. These thoughts start out like a small pebble stuck in my shoe. I get a bit frustrated because you always find these pebbles in your shoe at the most inopportune times. But once you get over it and take the little bit to get the pebble out you are good to go. No worries. But as these thought/problem/issue pebbles grow they become less avoidable. My mind starts to dive in more. I start seeing day to day problems arise because of the pebble. Critiques are frustrating, assignments are frustrating and limiting, etc. But as I continue to live the pebble morphes into a larger form. So eventually I end up standing at the bottom of a mountain. I've blown this problem up. Everyday something else happens to where I start to analyze the problem more and more. I dissect it. I pick at it. I can't sleep knowing that my life could possibly not be at 100%. Where I might be wasting my time, money, education, passion, love, and air studying something I can't seem to be motivated to do.

There are a couple of factors that need to be kept in mind when analyzing why I might be going insane at this point. First off, I've never been at a more unstable part of my life. It's exciting but nerveracking. I am doing new things. I am thinking new things. Secondly, I take nine credit hours worth of photography. Each week I have at least 30-45 hours of shooting, scanning, and printing. That's without conceptualizing projects which probably incapsulates most of my day. Please don't misunderstand. I understand that you might be thinking a couple of things. (a) Pete, stop bitching. (b) Wow, I'm 17 and would love to be doing that. (c) "Pete, I thought you wanted a grad student atmosphere." Well, I wouldn't mind that. But I also think that I need an environment where I am bouncing ideas off of talented and motivated people. When Will, K-Dog and Hunt were in town this past weekend I actually felt like picking up a camera again. I need not only myself but that critical dialogue. (d) "Pete, this is your mom. Don't waste your money." (Just kidding, that's the least of my Moms worries) But I am exhausted. My escape is NOT studying photography. When I do look at photography I become cynical and pessimistic about my ideas. What could I possibly be doing that I am not just puking back onto myself? The most successful, passionate projects have stemmed from people who are thinkers, livers of life, and people. I can't help but feel that I don't have the personality to slide through a program. I can't just float along. I am constantly pursue something at the next level. I went and spoke to Paul D'Amato and he told me to "slow down". How can I slow down? I have a bar that is set from past work. I can't just live, produce a mediorce project here and there for class, go party, and sleep. I really wish I could. Maybe I would be better at this school thing. I never thought you could care too much.


Ian Aleksander Adams said...

This is strange because I feel like you are past me in some areas (some of the work I've seen you do) and yet I see part of my past in what you are going through now.

I'm just finishing my BFA and I think in some ways I've learned to relax. In others I'm just as obsessed. I've found the conversations I've needed, not often among my classmates, more often among teachers and people I've met elsewhere.

There is a lot of pressure and I understand where it's coming from - for you it's not the need to be famous but the need to be relevant. Right? Because why waste your time if it's not going to be seen? To not matter?

Unfortunately, I think, the person creating is not often the judge of that. If it wasn't important in some way they'd never make any work. So that's understood.

Worrying about being original is good. Seeing that things are cliched or trash is good. Worrying that you have no personality is useless. Everyone has a personality.

And you've obviously got that - more than enough. Obsession is a personality trait, worrying is a personality trait. It can be used in your work, it can be seen. I tend to think obsession is a necessary component of most good contemporary work.

It probably has to be paired with a certain amount of tunnel vision and a certain amount of patience. Become obsessed about ideas instead of about the general career path or use of your art. Those things will figure themselves out. You'll build the rest of your life around it.

Whether a BFA in photography is necessary, I don't know. I do know there is no specific program that is ideal, of any sort. There will always be more to know that could be helpful to you. But that's why there are books and that's why you're never limited in conversation.

I remember the technical and work oriented classes being annoying. I hated having to pump out so many useless projects, spend so long in studio, do all kinds of bullshit. I honestly can't tell you whether drawing made me a better artist.

But I can tell you that I got one heck of a work ethic and it's helped me later on. Surviving it is a point of pride, and I know exactly how much I can push myself and still have something I can point to at the end of a week. That's all part of the process.

And I do know there are plenty of people who have gone through the education to make extremely relevant and important contributions. There are plenty of interesting writers and thinkers with BFAs. And of course, there are plenty with BAs, PHDs, GEDs, whatever. It all has to do with what you put into it.

I CAN tell you that most of the people just coasting through will not somehow surpass you, if you're really giving it everything you've got. They'll just continue to coast. I can't tell you whether they enjoy themselves more, because I've never been anyone else. I wouldn't be able to exist any other way. I'm just not a coaster.

kohlton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kohlton said...

Is there a certain lightheartedness that photography and art needs?

kohlton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kohlton said...

"When Will, K-Dog and Hunt were in town this past weekend I actually felt like picking up a camera again"
Hell yeah!

And no, I don't think you can care too much.

Matt Bower said...

"Forget about the profession of being a photographer. First be a photographer and maybe the profession will come after. Don't be in a rush to make pay your rent with your camera. Jimi Hendrix didn't decide on the career of professional musician before he learned to play guitar. No, he loved music and and created something beautiful and that THEN became a profession. Larry Towell, for instance, was not a "professional" photographer until he was already a "famous" photographer. Make the pictures you feel compelled to make and perhaps that will lead to a career. But if you try to make the career first, you will just make shitty pictures that you don't care about."

You should take another look at the link you posted a while back about advice for being a photographer. I think there's some relevance to what you're going through.

Pete Halupka said...

@ Matt

Funny because I've been referencing that quote in my head for a while.

Justin said...

Once this year is over, maybe try taking a short break from photography and see how it goes. Seems like you might be a bit overwhelmed at this point.

Brit said...

hey pete, so I was going to send you a mix CD in the mail so that you'd have a mix to listen to on your trip (and to possibly help you cheer up some) but my computer is refusing to burn it. :/

Doo me a favor and download these songs:

1. America by Simon and Garfunkel
2. One of these things by Nick Drake
3. Put A Penny in the Slot by Fionn Regan
4. Ragged Wood by Fleet Foxes
5. Will it Grow by Jakob Dylan
6. The Way I am by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
7. I'll be the Lightning by Liam Finn
8. Free Till They Cut Me Down by Iron and Wine
9. Tunnels by Johnny Flynn
10. Homeward Bound by Simon and Garfunkel
11. State of the Union by David Ford
12. The Island Song by Chris Garneau
13. In Corolla by The Mountain Goats
14. Spirit and Skin by The New Frontiers
15. Without a Song by Vetiver

downloading it isn't as exciting as getting it in the mail.. but i hope you'll dig the mix anyway... should be pretty sweet for traveling.

I wish I had some sort of super insightful response or advice to help you grind that pebble into sand; and i know that thus far we don't really know each other that well, but if you ever need anything man I'm here... even if it's you just need someone to rant to or whatever.

Have fun on your trip and be safe.

deshazo said...