I have a friend whose making a radical change with his life. He’s leaving the city because technology and the internet are driving him crazy. He feels if he doesn’t leave now he’ll end up having a complete mental breakdown.
Because I respect his wishes and the new direction he’s taking his life and work, I can only refer to him as ‘Emerson’ from this point forward.
I met Emerson a few years ago on Flickr when I saw him commenting frequently on a friends stream. I checked his work out and liked it so I started following him. He was a few years older than me but we shared the same sensibility. He was a cubicle dweller and made a decent living but you could tell it wasn’t what he really wanted to do.
Over the years his work consistently improved. He’s been working on one main project and then a smaller side project but both are really good and he’s built a decent following. His work has showed up on blogs every now and again but they’ve tended to be smaller. He hasn’t busted through to bigger blogs yet.
He’s savvy when it comes to social networking. He’s the one who introduced me to Tumblr a few years back when he moved his blog there. He’s never been very vocal and tends to just show his photographs but every now and again he’ll do some writing about his work and it tends to be really interesting. He’s been hoarding photography books for years, so his collection is impressive.
There have been times when he’d disappear online for a few weeks, leaving me wondering if he’d ever come back but then I’d get an IM from him late at night. After that there’d usually be a flurry of activity on his Flickr and blog. I could sense he was getting a bit fed up with the internet but I didn’t think much of it. We all get fed up with it from time to time. We’re receiving messages and links from so many people every day, how is it possible to really give any one person much thought? Sounds cold, but that’s the reality.
He was coy about his work life and finances but I knew he had a decent camera collection that included a Leica M7 and Rolleiflex, so I figured he was doing pretty good for himself. He made vague references to girlfriends and nights out with friends so I knew he had a social life too. He definitely drank while interneting but was good about keeping most things private.
Some nights he’d get on a roll though. His rants would often be funny but as the whisky flowed, so did the bitterness and anger. I’d often tell him that he needed to stay away from the internet and more specifically photoland.
Google+ Was the Final Straw
About a month ago Emerson stopped posting to Flickr and Tumblr. In the few times we chatted I realized something was up. He told me was going to quit his job.
“To do what,” I asked
“Nothing,” he replied.
“What about money,” I asked.
“I’ve saved up,” he said. “Investing is another one of my hobbies.”
“Well, that makes things easier,”‘ I said. “I’d travel around the world.”
“That’s for the future,” he replied.
I didn’t hear from him again until last week. I figured he’d run away already and was too busy to give him much thought. Then he pinged me on Gchat.
“That’s it. Screw the internet. What is this Google+ shit? I’m done. Fuck all this social media shit and everyone who talks about it. It’s all boring. It’s all noise. Nobody writes anything interesting. They’re all drones churning out “content” for fascist overlords.”
“I don’t think it’s that bad,” I replied. “Just the world we live in these days.”
“The internet is destroying my creativity, ” he replied. “I can’t finish my projects. I can’t think. I have no attention span. Every time I check Twitter and Facebook I want to reach through the screen and punch people. It’s not healthy. This is no way to live. Have you read that book by Jaron Lanier?”
“No, not yet,” I said. “I’m too stupid to realize I need to read all the books about how the Internet is making me stupid.”
“The internet is making photography stupid,” he replied. “That much I know, which is why I’m done with it.”
“So what are you going to do,” I asked.
“I bought a piece of land in a remote part of the country,” he replied enthusiastically. “I can’t tell you where, sorry. I’m going to become a minimalist. I’ll make photographs. Grow vegetables. Build a darkroom, and just live.”
“The hermit photographer,” I said.
“Yeah, I guess you could look at it that way,” he replied. “I need to work on the ideas, on the philosophy. Photographers need to get away from hyper-connectivity, and all this internet shit. It’s making the work all look the same . All these anxiety ridden photographers hustling for attention. Tweeting frivolously, talking about their shows, or what stupid blog they’ve appeared in. Oh, you have a Blurb book! You’re an amazing visionary! Destined for immortality. The whole thing is whacked. Never before in the history of humanity have so many people been so delusional about their creative talents.”
“Yeah, it’s probably time you got away from civilization,” I replied. “Drastically changing the way you live will probably have an interesting influence on your photography.”
“Yeah, exactly,” he said. “Photographers get too caught up in their routines and mental patterns. Everything becomes planned, almost scientific. Chance, luck, fate, messing with it all. You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to mess with your reality, mess with your own brain to really make something unique.”
“Can I visit,” I asked.
“Yeah, man,” he replied. “I want it to be a destination, a place where photographers come and hang out. I’ll set up a room for showing work. It’ll be a gallery in the woods. With fresh vegetables and natural scenery.
“How are you going to get the word out,” I asked. “Thought the point was to run away and leave it all behind.”
“You’re my pointman,” he said.
“I’m not sure I want the job,” I retorted.
“I’m leaving all my work to you,” he said. “When I die, it’s in your hands.”
To be continued….