When I received an email in my Flickr inbox asking me if I was interested in a position as a Mortal Muse my first thought was, do they have the right person? I was maybe a year into my new blog and really only at the very infantile stages of mastering the DSLR. Looking back on those images, reminds me of those old Virginia Slims ads “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby.” I happily accepted and began taking a long hard look at what I could bring to the group, or lack thereof. Still green as as a digital photographer, I was struggling to find photos, my work was primarily in print, shoved away in unmarked bank boxes. The only recent photos were coming from Big Picture Class, a place where I also discovered contributors at MM. In a panic I began to photograph everything and quickly ran out of room on my hard drive. I bought external drives and invested in LightRoom to manage my digital clutter but soon realized that I could ‘alter’ my images through the magic of presets. This made me feel like I cracked the code, evened the playing field, uncovering the truth that what set the pros apart from the amateurs wasn’t the work, it was the pixel bending. I spent the next year amassing LR presets and enrolling in workshops. Mediocrity solved.
A year passed and as I was gaining up on that promise of attaining good images but I began to lose something, my happiness. Out went the joy of photography replaced with the anticipation of spending countless hours (many passed midnight) editing said photos. I wondered how long I could keep at this pace? I felt committed to upholding to the groups level of excellence, I didn’t want to let anyone down especially the contributors in our Flickr pools. Most days I felt undeserving of my place as a muse. It was that doubt that accelerated the decline of my work. I was routinely writing my MM posts in the final hours, often late. It was almost expected that I would be tardy on every assignment, even this post. I am a bit deadline driven.
I kept at this pace for another year until I could finally take no more. I wrote my farewell post and called it a day. Three months after leaving my MM post, I travelled with a small group of women (some fellow muses) for a week of reflecting and plotting to which the question was asked “What’s next?” I drew a blank. All I remember saying was “I just want to CTRL+Alt+Del my life.” We ended that trip with a commitment to begin a monthly 10 on 10 project, prompting me to pick up my camera. It was that project that inspired the series on my blog, Life In Session (which I unintentionally forecasted in my farewell post.)
The weekly project forced me into the daily practice of photography and writing. I had to adjust on so many levels and quickly tired of the DSLR looking to instant film to inject some mojo but that was getting expensive. By the fall I was convinced that my habit of overshooting and editing later was robbing my joy. I had received a few gems of advice from old school photographers who reminded me that if I really knew my equipment I wouldn’t have to crack open PhotoShop. They would send me home with the assignment to read my camera manual. Bo-ring. I bought a medium format camera and a box of 120 film instead.
I have never been so excited to get out and shoot now. Time has slowed down and I have effectively gained some with the removal of the editing step. Ironically the films scans look pretty much just like the digital ones of course after countless hours of editing with film emulating filters. To get to this place took months, actually years. I also had to abandon what wasn’t working in order to discover something new. I could not imagine reconnecting to my work as deeply as I have and finding happiness again in the form of a roll of film. I know much of that inspiration to go into medium format was born from the pages of Mortal Muses.
So as this chapter comes to an end we say good bye to the Mortal Muses and good luck with the new project. Thank you everyone who ever contributed and/or commented in this creative place where women and photography come together. I am deeply indebted to your wisdom, guidance and inspiration. Hold space for the possibility that like in life we are always creating through the process of death and rebirth. I hope you all find that connection to your work that brings you a sense of purpose and joy.