Those of you who know me are aware that I am usually juggling three or four tasks at the same time and putting in 110% to fulfill all of them 100% perfectly, while never thinking that I am doing enough or doing any of it well enough. I am aware that this process can be somewhat grating on the people around me.
For me, there is a constant struggle between this perfectionist, competitive side and my Zen side. I really want to slow down, focus completely on one thing at a time, and appreciate whatever results follow. I want to accept the beauty of serendipitious errors. This is a lifelong struggle and I don't expect it to be resolved anytime soon.
One thing that has helped is my increased time in the darkroom. An "old-fashioned," black + white, gotta do it slow darkroom. In the darkroom, I really can only do one thing at a time. I've been working in the Manhattan JCC's darkroom, which makes this even slower because I have to drive or take the train to get there. This past Sunday, I worked on three negatives. And that was a lot. And I'm not even sure that I'm done working on those three negatives.
Yesterday, I stopped by a local photography shop to buy some paper and a can of air. The salesclerk has told me in the past that he only works digitally now. And yesterday he asked me, "If you don't mind me asking, why are you still using film?" It was impossible to convey exactly why to a salesclerk I barely know, but I felt all of it inside, all of the happiness I feel when I process and see that yes, I did expose my film properly, or watch an image slowly appear on a piece of photographic paper.
Of course, it is entirely possible to be a competitive perfectionist in the darkroom. Many forms of photography lend themselves to that. I've made a conscious choice to reject this artificial standard and explore the beauty found in images that aren't "perfect." I've been printing images that were taken on gray days (less contrast) and working with a carved-out negative carrier to show my whole composition, rather than trying to crop or otherwise edit the image.
I bought some fiber paper yesterday. It takes a lot longer to work with than resin coated paper and I think it will make my images look even more beautifully worn down. And make me work even slower.