Wednesday, April 29, 2020

American optimism

In the course of the pandemic I have been posting occasional photo essays here on clerkmanifesto. I have found a few things to be true about me and photography:

1. I like wandering around the neighborhoods and river I live near photographing... stuff.

2. I'm okay at it. I mean, I'm not bad, but neither do I have those fits of absolute conviction that I am a genius either (see for contrast previous blogposts about writing: # 11, 19, 41, 42, 64, 68, 89, 99, 102, 111, 134, 147, 158, 188, 189, 190, 211, 233, 248, 266, 297, 339, 390, 459, 499, 588, 604, 667, 677, 700, 701, 782, 789, 819, er, ... and several hundred assorted through to 2,655 which you might want to read again because well, it is just sooooo goooood!). Ultimately, unlike with writing, I am just, you know... fine. I'm fine at photography, mostly. 

This, surprisingly, is kind of a pleasant relief so far. It takes the pressure off.

3. The super cheap camera I got is... super cheap, but I have a growing affection for it. I like the way it sort of bosses me around. "You want a decent picture of this flower?" It says. "Then you need to be precisely this distance away, in this light. And hold your hand steady for a long time!" And then it says "Nope, not good enough. Try again." So I do.

And that is where the story stands now.

Except I am American. And so it is ever my fervent belief that all that separates me from becoming way, way better at something is the quality of my equipment.


No, you're probably thinking of another country. Here you just have to buy the right thing. That's really all it takes.

And so through the many American years I have longed for a better baseball mitt, the right shoes, a nicer backpack, higher quality paints and paper, more expensive inflatable canoes, pricier liqueurs, and fancier computers.

Over the years I have gotten better and better at acquiring the things I want. I set my eyes on the hobby item two steps up from where I am and before you know it I am buying the one three steps up. It is very exciting when it happens.

On the other hand I have gotten absolutely no better at understanding that none of these things make me any better at anything. Nothing ever does. I don't catch better with that mitt. My paints are pretty but my painting is still just... me painting whatever I can paint. The canoes all float however rugged and streamlined they are, and ultimately my back ended up too hurt to use them anymore. The best of backpacks still had to be hauled up mountains that I was too wildly out of shape to climb. And the computers still play the same stupid video games and surf the same crappy Internet they always did.

So, naturally, I bought a new camera! 

It's really neat! I haven't gotten it yet because of all the shipping and supply delays, but I'm very excited. It has a super powerful zoom and all kinds of fancy settings and it cost money.

So, in the end, I just wanted to warn you:

The pictures I put here on clerkmanifesto are about to get super good!


  1. That, m friend, is a gorgeous picture.

    1. Thanks so much. I mean, the thing is... magnolias are just so pretty.


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