dante stella stories photographs technical guestbook

When I look in the mirror, I can't believe what I see
Tell me, who's that funky dude, staring back at me?
Broken, beaten down can't even get around
Without an old-man cane, I fall and hit the ground
Shivering in the cold, I'm bitter and alone...

Weezer, "The good life"

The day you became photographically uncool

Remember back in the 1980s when you saw that guy with the Penguin shirt with the butterfly collar, wearing the tan flat-front slacks, carrying that tired old Pentax with the cheesy K-Mart ("Focal") flash on it?  Remember what a dork he was?  Well, that's you in 2009 carrying around a Nikon D1x.  Or a Canon D20.  Or, heavens forbid, a Bronica medium-format SLR.  You just can't see it.  You bought the embroidered guitar-style camera strap because you thought it was ironic.

One of the biggest difficulties in a consumerist culture is that if your relevance is defined exclusively by the latest technology or what the "kids" are doing, you're only one step away from being meaningless.  And you can't run forever. 

I have my own theory on this, that everyone has a "Last Best Year."  Your Last Best Year is, in your own unconscious opinion, when you were at the top of your game. In response to your Last Best Year, you will either ( i) stop updating things or (ii) update things in a way that lags behind the rest of the world and keeps you as close as possible to your state during the Last Best Year.  The Last Best Year explains shoulder pads, beehive hair, and trousers that flare in a way that is not so millennial.  It explains why your neighbor has a 13-year-old car when you both know he could afford a new one in a heartbeat.  Being bald and having a gut is timeless, but a single-button, double-breasted suit puts you squarely in 1995.

Sometimes the Last Best Year is triggered by a milestone birthday.  Or it can come as the result of sending children to college.  But whenever or however it arrives, you are also well on your way to photographic uncoolness.  It's coming for you.  You'll start to slow down when your full-time job requires your attention.  Or when a new child demands your money.  Or when you get sick of photographing your cats and inanimate household objects.

  It is the conceit of youth to believe that you will upgrade equipment every year and that this day will not come.  It is expected, it is normal, and it is necessary.    Just as it was unseemly to see the old man from Death in Venice all tarted up with henna, paint and lipstick, it is equally unsettling to see the 60-year old buying a Holga to keep up with the Jones children.  Wear a mechanic's suit when you are 20, and you can argue it's ironic.  Wear it when you're decades older, and it looks like a career decision.