I created the idea of No Fly Zone Fridays as a way of "forced disengagement." The concept: One Friday every month, take the day off to do the things that truly inspire you. It had an obvious idealistic basis to it ("The world is full of adventure; this is why self-employment is so great!") as well as a practical tinge ("If you don't do this, you're going to burn out and lose your creative IQ, as well as your income.") Nearly a year into the experiment, keeping in mind that I've only managed to do about one out of every two months for various reasons, it has become something else. No Fly Zone Friday has become an exercise in self-discovery through non-obligation.
But perhaps the most interesting thing I learned about Soth had to do with the camera he uses: a rare, large-format 8x10 device. This is the opposite of your iPhone digital camera. It's huge. It's imposing. You can't just walk by and inconspicuously snap a picture of a stranger. The physical presence of the camera makes the shoot an event. Soth has to stop and talk to his subjects. He has to earn their cooperation, even when they have other things to do. Then he has to get behind what amounts to a curtain to look through the camera. The whole process takes a while, and what he likes about it is not so much the quality of print the camera's huge negatives produce, but what the process does to his subjects. It forces them to relax in a way, to turn inward even in front of this huge camera. When he captures that feeling in a print, then he knows he has something interesting. And it shows in the photos.
I left with a smile on my face, and just a tinge of jealousy. After viewing Soth's photos, as well as listening to him speak about them via my phone (a nifty system I didn't know The Walker had), I realized that I was in the presence of a true artist who seems to have no trouble with obligation. He's long been perfectly in touch with his vision, and he's done everything he needs to communicate it to a random stranger like me. His obligation is to his art.
It made me consider what my project would be if I thought in terms of having an exhibit ... with no limits, no oppressive concerns about audience and entertainment ... no time constraints, and no need for disability insurance.
I came up empty.