Road to Seeing
Dan Winters muses on his journey towards becoming a renowned photographer, and about the meaning and significance of his art.
It’s the stillness of the photograph, not its beauty, that is responsible for its resounding voice.
Though the photograph earned Eddie [Adams] a Pulitzer and numerous other awards, as well as cemented his place in the annals of photojournalism, he spoke candidly about the photograph haunting him for the rest of his life. W. Eugene Smith, the celebrated WWII photojournalist, said he stepped away from combat photography when he had the realization that he was using dead bodies as compositional elements.
In the mid-‘70s, the area between 5th and 7th Avenue, extending from 15th to 23rd Street, was known as the photo district. An influx of photographers converged on the area to take advantage of its cheap rent and ample loftspaces. On any given night, one could walk down the streets and marvel at the lightning-like bursts of electronic flashes emanating from the windows of the studios overhead. The area has now become yet another piece of innocuous consumer culture, and photographers who can no longer compete with the impossibly high rent have fled. I’m grateful to have witnessed the dance of lights above the darkened streets of Manhattan before it all but disappeared.
While we undoubtedly live in the most documented era of human history, it saddens me that these pixelated dispatches will be as fleeting as the moments they captured. So few hard copies of these images exist; they are simply floating in the ether. Maintaining digital archives requires constant attention and is a chore for any professional, let alone the casual image-maker whose archives, in all likelihood, will cease to exist when they die.
If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, I have, at one point or another — especially early on my path — flattered many. This practice is not based in an absence of inspiration or ideas; rather it’s a method to gain inspiration. Our own unique voices will benefit by examining the paths of other artists, regardless of their chosen medium.