Sunday, December 14, 2008

Coming Home

This is a photo of the Galloway House in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The home was built by a lumber baron in the 1800's and now it is a museum. I grew up in Fond du Lac, and the Galloway House is located about three blocks from the house I lived in from age 13 to 19. In grade school my cub scout den toured the Galloway House. The only thing I remembered from the tour was the dog that the Galloway family had stuffed and kept in their living room. While living in Fond du Lac I must have driven past the historic house 1000 times. I never gave the house much thought beyond some mild teenage scorn towards things I considered nerdy.

Fast forward 15 years and I (and my family) have made a triumphant return to living in my mother's basement three blocks from the Galloway House. Since moving back a month ago I have become a little bit fascinated by the giant Victorian house that sits at the top of our neighborhood.

First of all the house looks amazing. Driving past for the first time in a year I noticed the big oaks framing the yard and all the details in the architecture of the house. My photographer's brain started racing with a bunch of ideas.

Secondly, I like to ponder what it must have been like to live in Fond du Lac in the 1800's when things were still wild. Imagine standing up on that widow's walk 130 years ago.

When I got into photography six years ago my main reason for shooting was to show my family back in Wisconsin all the exciting things I was seeing in my modern airline pilot lifestyle. After some limited success shooting I started to develop some crude ideas for a personal style -- a kind of dimwitted artistic vision. Photography quickly became a serious hobby, some would say obsession. I remember wanting to build a gallery over at filled with bright colors and contrasty light. That was the extent of the emotion I was looking for. My photography could have been best described as "Heavy Metal Nature Photography". Over the course of a year or two I learned how to play photographic power chords.

The next step in my photographic growth came when I joined Istock gave me a chance to sell my photos and learn how to create an image that someone else values or could put to use commercially. The unexpected consequence of joining istock was an enormous attention to detail and technical quality of my photos. The photo inspection process is brutal at istock. The slightest technical flaw and your photo is rejected. This caused me to reevaluate everything about my shooting and post processing in Photoshop. Over time I developed a complete vision of the technical process of taking a photo. Every technical aspect of my shooting was obsessed over -- from equipment, to the nature of light, to each little Photoshop tweak. It was no longer enough for me to shoot and process with blind gut feeling. I wanted to know the algebra behind each choice. Switching back to the musical metaphor; I was learning scales, minor chords, dynamics, and timbre.

And next came a period of disillusionment. One day I was looking at my gallery filled with colorful, bright, contrasty images and realized I was shooting nothing more than visiual cliches and I wasn't a genius. About that same time I started to notice that while I was successful at istock some other people were much more successful. What was I doing all this work for if I was only going to be average?

I started to look in a new direction. I started reading photography blogs. And I started this blog as a kind of outlet and method to sort things out creatively.

That brings us up to today and the point of this long rambling post. Photography made me interested in something I wouldn't have otherwise cared about, in this case the Galloway House. I stood in knee deep snow for a half hour with a -15 degree wind chill for this photo, and I was happy the whole time. I now realize my home town is full of amazing old oak trees and the sky in Wisconsin is always interesting. I used to hate this place. Now, I can't wait to get out and photograph everything before it's gone. Imagine if you could have set up your tripod and Canon 5D high up on that widows walk in 1880. Those pictures would be something to see even if they were cliche.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was enjoying your pictures of flying travels. I continued to see you had pictures of Wisconsin I than saw a picture of the Gallowy House and read your blog below it and was amazed you are from fondy I am originaly from there now live in the NYC area I am an amateur photographer,Mostly take pictures of flowers and nature One of my favorite places is to go in NYC and take pictures of central park and the archit When I visit family in fond du Lac area I often take pictures of the beautiful county side